On the Road to Valencia

Thursday November 26, 2015

Bob is loading the car and we will soon be on our way to Valencia.  This is the view from our balcony.  As you can see, we were right on the edge of Los Alcázeres, just fields beside us, so it was a nice quiet location.FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_5

Before long we are passing lots of salt pans, which are large shallow ponds of sea water. The water evaporates and leaves behind the sea salt, which is then harvested and piled into these enormous piles of sea salt.  Seems strange to think that the salt we eat is produced in this fashion. I had visions of workers out raking up sea salt from the salt pans, not bulldozers and big machinery.  A bit naive on my part I think.Image-1We stop to stretch our legs and have lunch near this beach.  It is certainly not as pretty as other beaches we have visited.FullSizeRender_2The view in the opposite direction.  This is an area full of condos and apartments and partially constructed buildings. FullSizeRender

We stopped for another break a bit further on… FullSizeRender

and found these strange hairy balls, hundreds of them all over the beach!  Some of them were several inches in diameter.  Does anyone know what they are? FullSizeRender_4

We detoured into what we thought was a little town called Alcoi, thinking we could go for a walk in a park area near the town, but we got a bit lost in what turned out to be a rather large city. We also discovered that the park didn’t have any easily accessible areas for walking, so we were soon back on the road. Next stop was the town of Xativa where we visited the ruins of a once grand castle with 30 towers.  FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_2

It was getting late in the day and we only had just over a half hour before closing so we saw as much of the castle as we could before the sun set and the castle closed. This was one of the water features in the garden area of the castle. FullSizeRenderThe view from the castle was quite spectacular.FullSizeRender_5

There are lots of market gardens visible in this photo.FullSizeRender_3

We still see lots of graffiti along the highways but we also see these murals. Too bad I can only glimpse them flying by in the car.FullSizeRender_2

There are numerous orange orchards and the trees are absolutely loaded with oranges, so many that they are falling on the ground. Sorry for the blurry image, this is another photo taken from the car.  I never did find a place to pull over and get a good picture of an orange orchard.  Too bad…FullSizeRender_4

Thanks to our trusty iPad and its GPS we find our next Airbnb apartment in Valencia and we were pleasantly surprised to find that our host had very kindly stocked it with all sorts of groceries! It also has lots of artwork as our host’s husband is Nico Munuera, a Spanish artist.Image-1

The Alhambra, Granada

Friday, November 20

We caught the local bus into Granada and walked down this wide pedestrian street on our way to the tourist information office. This pedestrian walkway is made with marble paving stones, certainly something we don’t see back home.image Outside the tourist office is a unique Christmas tree made with begonias.image

There is also a shrine for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  imageThe buildings in Granada are very beautiful, imagine living in an apartment in this magnificent building.image

Soon we are on the way to the Alhambra. This was a palace, fortress and medina all rolled into one. We decide to take a bus rather than walk up the hill to its location.  This turned out to be a very good decision, as it is a long winding road up to the entrance.

We have a timed entrance ticket into the Nazaries Palaces so we make our way there first. We pass through the modern day medina (shops) and peek into a few on our way.  This fellow is making the inlaid wood boxes, table tops and other items that are for sale in his shop. It is very exacting work.image

We just have time to visit one of the towers before our visit.  This area below the tower has the remains of houses and shops.image

The view is spectacular from the top of the tower, but we are surprised at all the smog.image image  We are once more reminded of Paris as the flags here are at half mast.imageThe Alhambra has a lengthy history and it was first built as a fortress in 889. There is more information here if you are interested.          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

The entrance to the palace begins in this room with beautiful coloured tile walls.

image  And then we walk through this little keyhole shaped door, image  and we are in the incredible courtyard.     image  From here we see one amazing sight after another.image image image I have seen lots of people taking selfies, but this one is definitely the cutest.image

The Court of the Lions has the magnificent Fountain of Lions in its center. This is an alabaster basin supported by twelve lions in white marble, which symbolize power, strength and sovereignty.imageAll the buildings are decorated with intricate carvings that were once painted.  In some places the paint is still visible.

image

Water fountains and pools abound in the Alhambra.image We also visit the Generalife which is a villa with beautiful gardens that was a retreat away from the rest of the palace.imageimage

image

Next stop is the Palace of Charles V. The palace was built around this round center court and there is an art gallery in part of the building.  There is a small charge fee to go in and we are impressed by the quality of the exhibits and how well organized the gallery is.image image

These sculptures were from the 14th century I think.  They were larger than life sized and stunningly beautiful.  image

There were also some very old books on display.imageNot sure why they were on the walls on the outside of the Palace of Charles V, but I sure liked these.image

We spent the whole day at Alhambra and catch the bus back down into town, walking along the ‘river’ as the sun starts to set. Bob is happy we will be taking another bus back to our apartment so he doesn’t have to drive and I don’t have to navigate!image

The Real Alcázar, aka The Water Gardens of Dorne

Saturday, November 7

We had a great day visiting Seville’s Real Alcázar. It is a magical place in its own right but it was also the setting for the Water Gardens of Dorne for part of Season Five of The Game of Thrones. imageI am going to post my pictures without too many explanatory comments as I have included two links that have more information about the Game of Thrones settings and they also explain very nicely about the Alcázar.

http://travelphotodiscovery.com/game-of-thrones-set-for-andalucia-spain/

http://scribblerinseville.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-the-water-gardens-of-dorne-aka-the-alcazar-of-seville/

We climbed to the walkway you can just see in this photo.  It is behind the arches in the wall past the pool.  We had great views of some of the gardens from here.imageWe spent four and a half hours wandering through the palace and gardens, and we still didn’t see all of the gardens.imageIn the background you can see one of the many bridal couples we saw today who are here taking pictures.  Interestingly, there was always just the bride and groom and one or two photographers, there were no bridesmaids or groomsmen.image  Can you figure out how the goldfish are flying through the sky?image  I love the intricacy of the carvings and details on the walls and ceilings.image

imageThis was a popular spot for a bride and groom to stand and get their photo taken with their reflection in the pool. Bob tried to take a photo of my reflection but there were too many people around.imageWe did find a quiet spot in the garden to sit for a few minutes. Remember, we walked in the Alcázar for 4 1/2 hours!image

We asked a bride and groom if we could just take one picture before they started taking their own photos in the Queen’s Baths.image

The sun was low in the sky when we left near five o’clock and I liked the way this fountain was silhouetted against the wall.imageAfter we left the Alcázar we followed a walking tour map that Bob had picked up at the tourist office, through many of the old narrow streets of Seville.image

I peeked inside one doorway and spotted this beautiful garden courtyard.image

I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with this beauty!image  One more photo of the bell tower we climbed yesterday. Can you spot another bride and groom? We probably saw a dozen brides today!image

We stopped for yummy ice cream and sorbet, walked the streets, watched some crazy amazing break dancers, and finally caught our bus home around eight.

Palacio Real and Templo De Debod

Wednesday, October 14

The Palacio Real is the official residence of Spanish Royalty and the building we tried to visit Monday that was closed for a State Function.imageBob read somewhere that there are over 2000 rooms in the Palace but we are quite content to visit the twenty or so that were open to the public.  This is half of the grand staircase at the entrance, there is also a set of stairs on either side of this one that continues to the second level. The red crest at the top of the stairs is the personal crest of King Felipe IV, who we almost saw on Monday!imageThis is the view up above the staircase.  It was very ornate but only a taste of what we saw inside the Palace rooms.imagei did take one picture of the Royal Chamber of Carlos (Charles) III also known as the Gasparini Room.  We spent about an hour and a half touring these lavish rooms, each more ornate and incredible than the last.  We even visit the Throne room and the Crown Room where the Royal Crown and Sceptre are kept along with other State treasures.  There are the ordinary sort of Museum ‘guards’ but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of security inside the Palace.  Mind you, there are lots of police everywhere outside the palace.imageDo I look royal walking down the Palace stairs?  Just picture me in a beautiful ball gown, all decked out in jewels!imageWe visit the Armoury through these old doors. imageTurns out it is one of the most important collections of parade and tournament armour in the world!  Everything is beautifully displayed on two floors and there is even armour for children and ponies.  No photos allowed, but here is a photo of a photo from a little calendar we bought.

imageAfter a tea break in the Palace Cafeteria I do go back and sketch this interesting old helmet from the 1400’s. It was one of the first exhibits we saw when we entered the armoury, and of course I love dragons.  It was also small enough to sketch in a short time.

image

We walk through the Palace Gardens on our way to the Parque del Oeste which is on a hill high above the Palace.

image

There we visit the Egyptian Temple de Debod.  The neat thing about seeing this temple is that we actually visited its original location, where the Aswan Dam flooded many temples, several years ago. Now here we are in Madrid, seeing this temple that was saved and given to the Spanish people in thanks for their help in saving the temples at Abu Simbel.

image

Two of the original entrance arches to the temple.imageA view of the back of this 2000 year old temple and some of Madrid’s newer buildings.image  I thought this dome was different all in coloured tiles.image  A view of the Palace.  We can see for miles from the top of the park behind the Temple of Debod.imageOn the way home we stop for tapas at the Mercado de San Miguel that we visited the other day.  This is basically a glorified food court in a neat old iron and glass building.  We find some tapas for Bob, and one for me.  Bob has two delicious pastries and I have to be content with taking pictures of desserts. It is hard to find any for me when I don’t eat gluten, eggs or dairy.  I do get a fruit cup…imageThis picture is for L & M, yummy little hedgehogs and Marzipan fruit and veggies with faces.image