Saturday, November 29, 2014

Granada Two: Un Tesoro y Una Pickpocket

We decided to follow up yesterday’s adventure at the Alhambra by taking a walking tour through the old city. At the end of the tour, I thanked our guide Eloisa and commented to the tour director how good Eloisa was. The director replied that she is a treasure (tesoro). Exactamente!

The walk was a fascinating stroll through the old city, including the Moorish sections. And as we strolled I snapped as many images as possible. Eloisa is a young woman who has studied English for twelve years and is quite proficient. She was also wearing a Star of David so I asked if she was Jewish. It turned out not, she just identifies. She was thrilled, however, to find out that I am Jewish. The whole tour far exceeded our expectations and if you read this, Eloisa, otra vez muchimas gracias para todos.

After the tour we had lunch and decided to go back to see the interior of the Cathedral and stroll through the old Medina. When we were preparing for this trip, Sharon, having read of the pickpocket problem in Spain, somewhat sheepishly decided to buy a secure purse from Travelsmith. When a friend of ours got hit by a pickpocket in the Madrid subway, Sharon felt somewhat vindicated, and then as we walked the narrow streets of the market this afternoon, Sharon was jostled. She reacted, and got a hard look from the woman next to her. Then a few minutes later the same woman nudged her again, and Sharon noticed that she had breached the purse’s first line of security but failed to get into it. It was an interesting adventure, especially as we lost nothing.Here's hoping our erstwhile thief is spending the evening in lamentation over her waning skills.

This is the entry to an old Islamic building that was used by Christians as a coaling station. Note that part of the inscription to Allah was defaced with an obscure Christian symbol

The Cathedral

The Medina

Sharon and Elouisa

A wonderful view of the Alhambra from the town

A wealthy home below the Alhambra, now used by the University

The Baroque interior of the Cathedral. Usually I strictly follow the injunctions not to photograph, but everyone else was, so . . .

Friday, November 28, 2014


We spent Thanksgiving day at the Alhambra. It’s hard to know what to say about one of the great architectural, historical and cultural sites of the world, except Wow!

According to information, in summer the place hosts 6,000 people a day, hard to imagine, as it was plenty crowded as is.

I’m not going to say much about the site and its history. That information is easily accessible on the web. But what is notable is the site, on a hill overlooking the modern city , and the background, for the place was established by the Moors as a palace, supported by a virtual town and acitadel in the mid 14th century. It would go back and forth between Christians and Muslims for another 150 years before the Aragonians seized it.

Everyone seemed to recognize the structure’s significance and the Europeans overlayed the Moorish elements, added to them, abandoned some, but did not efface the Islamic aspects of the place. Most notably Carlos V added a palace and a citadel.

So, what I am going to post are some fairly random images with some captions. There is no way these pictures can convey the place, it has to be seen and experienced.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From Barcelona to Granada via Valencia

We decided to break up the 850 km drive from Barcelona to Granada with a night in Spain’s third largest city, Valencia. Sharon booked a hotel in the center of the old city so we got to wander a bit and I got some images. That’s about it.

Wednesday was a long driving day from Valencia to Granada pretty much without break, arriving here in early afternoon. We went out in the evening for a stroll and dinner. I decided to leave my camera, but got a few snaps off my iPhone.

Thursday, while all our American friends and family are gorging on food and (American) football, we will be touring the Alhambra.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

La Rambla Gaudí

 We began Monday with a walk along Barcelona’s famous Rambla after breakfasting just off the Plaza Catalunya.
The flags you see on these buildings and throughout the city are in support of Catalonian independence. A recent advisory referendum passed by 70% and raises interesting questions in Spain and throughout Europe about the nature of nationalism and the future of the nation-state.

As we went along we came across the Market St. Josep, which combined genuine food and produce stalls with those more attuned to the tourists who began flooding it at mid-day when we returned to, what else? Eat. Our lunch consisted of meat and veggie pies, olives and some lovely confections for dessert. Yum!  

At mid-morning coffee, I had to take an image of this old fellow, a real "type."

And that fortified us for our next experience, the iconic Casa Milá, or La Pedrera. You cannot say you know Gaudí until you experience directly his work and through it the man and his genius. I’ll let the images speak for themselves except to note that the house is beautifully interpreted by the foundation that runs it. I understand Gaudí far better now than I would have by just going through Sagrada Familia as brilliant a monument as that is.

The tour takes you first to the rooftop. One of the (many) things that Gaudí objected to were beautiful buildings that stopped with a simple rooftop. This rooftop is famous and it is a photographer’s paradise. Gaudí designed two arches among the other ornamentation (all functional part of heating and ventilation), one pointed to Parc Güell and the other to, of course, Sagrada Familia.

Your humble servant with the pen that was inspired by the Casa Milá, the Pelikan Spirit of Gaudi

This chimney pot inspired the packaging of the pen

Sagrada Familia in the background

From there you descend to the vaulted attic which served then as a play and storage place, but which now is an interpretive center where Gaudí’s methodology and craft is set forth. I have included a larger number of images than usual, so I am not including any of the attic exhibits, even though I want to!

On the 4th floor is a exhibit that represents the Milá family’s living quarters. Pere Milá died in 1941, but his widow Rosar Sagamon lived in the building that she had earlier sold until her death in 1964. For the next twenty years the building was effaced until 1984 when restoration efforts commenced.

At ground level there is 1,300 sq m of temporary exhibit space. I mention this only because it was devoted to the work of the Soviet Russian illustrator El Lissitzky, who did some work for Pelikan. I was so excited that I lifted my camera to phjotograph some of his Pelikan work, but could not do so, of course.

After La Pedrera we were a bit Gaudi’ed out, so to speak, and so we paid only passing attention to the Casa Battlo just up the street, but easily as remarkable a an accomplishment. It is part of the Block of Discord, a row of modernist homes built by wealthy Barcelonians trying to outdo one another architecturally. It was fun, though we were too worn out to give each of the houses the attention they deserved. Next time.

The north part of the block of discord

The ground floor space of the Casa Amatller

Interior of another of the houses on the block

Looking south (I think)

But we were not quite done. Earlier while we were being driven around the city, I happened to note this storefront.

As we left the Block of Discord Sharon insisted we visit the pen shop and who was I to argue? and I came away with a Super T. Who knew there was once a pen maker in Catalunya?