Homeward Bound

December 9, 2015

Our taxi arrives right on time at 9:00 am and we are soon on our way to the airport. I snap one last picture from the cab window of an interesting looking building that is dripping with green foliage off every balcony. I wonder if it is an office building, and who takes care of all this greenery.FullSizeRender

We arrive at the airport in lots of time to relax a bit before we get on the plane, which I really appreciate.  I always like it when we are through security, and settled with a cup of tea. It is only then that I can relax and feel that we are truly on our way to wherever we are going.FullSizeRender

Our good friends meet us at the Edmonton airport with our winter coats.  Yes, we are certainly home. There is snow on the ground and it is a bit colder than Barcelona!  We were up early this morning and by the time we finally climb into our bed at home we have been up for well over 26 hours.  It is always hard to believe that we can travel halfway across the world so quickly.

Thank you to everyone who has been following along on our travels, especially those  who have waited so patiently for these last few posts.  I truly appreciated all the comments and ‘likes’. It helps to feel connected to everyone when we are away. I started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends and as a way to journal for myself.  I was surprised and delighted to discover that people in thirty-five countries were interested in reading about our travels! I also discovered many interesting blogs when I replied to comments and likes.  Blogging is certainly a phenomenon, and one I believe is here to stay.

So, I am often asked where we are travelling to next.  Right now, we have no travel plans for the rest of the year other than some short trips to visit family in Jasper, Revelstoke and Portland.  It is time for some gardening, a few home renovations and making art.  I will keep blogging, perhaps a post every week or two.  Stop by for some gardening and art photos.

 

 

Park Güell

Tuesday, December 8

Bob went out this morning to get a few groceries and all the local shops were closed!  He finally found somewhere to buy food for our last few meals in Barcelona. We discover that today is Immaculate Conception Day, a Spanish National Holiday, and almost all the shops are closed. I had planned on shopping for a few last minute souvenirs and some sketchbooks that I really liked. No luck, so we catch the metro to Park Güell, where we spend our last day in Spain.

Our walk from the metro to the park is all uphill! Luckily there are escalators for the very steepest part of the climb.  I liked the imagery of the two nuns walking in front of all the graffiti, and the ‘tree’ is actually a drain pipe with some sculptural concrete additions. I’m glad we don’t have to park here.Image-1

Park Güell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.  It was designed by Antonio Gaudi for Eusebi Güell and construction on a garden city started in 1900. There were to be sixty single family homes built but the project wasn’t successful and only two homes were actually completed.  One of these, Gaudi’s residence, is now a museum and the other, Güell’s residence, is now a public school. The park became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1923 after Güell died and in 1984 it was declared a UESCO World Heritage Site.

We bought our tickets in advance as there are ‘only’ 400 people admitted to the Monumental Zone of the park every half hour.  While we waited, we got some refreshments from a little shop that was built right into the rock cliff face.  We entered at the Teatre Grec, or Nature Square, which is partly dug into the mountain and partly held up by the Hypostyle Room. There is a long undulating bench in the shape of a sea serpent which surrounds three sides of this square. The back of the bench forms a balustrade and the entire bench is covered in mosaics made with coloured ceramic shards most of which came from demolition projects and discarded objects.FullSizeRender

I read that Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit on soft plaster so that he could figure out the correct shape of the bench seat so that it would be comfortable!”

There are great views from the square, both of the main entrance with its two whimsical buildings, and of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The house on the left was the porter’s residence and the building on the right is now the gift shop.FullSizeRender

The Hypostyle Room is under the square and it is a covered space that could be used for gatherings and markets. All the columns lean a bit this way or that, none of them are perpendicular to the ground.  The columns hold up the square and rainwater collected on the square is filtered down through the columns into a cistern underneath the floor. It is quite amazing.  Notice the dog’s head decoration.Image-1

At the main entrance there is the monumental flight of steps, flanked by two convex walls decorated with more mosaics, that leads up the Hypostyle Room.FullSizeRender

These are some of the many different, colourful mosaic tiles on these stairway walls. Image-1

There are sculptures and three fountains on this flight of stairs but this one is the most famous. This brightly coloured salamander, or dragon, depending on what we read is a favourite of the people of Barcelona and most visitors. Everyone wants to touch it and take their picture beside, or even sitting on the salamander. There is a guard assigned specifically to prevent people from touching the salamander to prevent further damage.  Thousands and thousands of touches eventually wear away the tiles and can cause breakage. It is an impossible job as nearly everyone attempts to make some sort of contact with this creature!FullSizeRender

We head towards Portico of the Washerwoman, which starts near the main entrance, with a spiral ramp and columns in the shape of a spiral curve that ends at a rough caryatid known as the Washerwoman because she carries a basket of washing. Image-1This ramp takes us back to the Nature Square and we spend some more time here, enjoying the sunshine and the views, along with a bit of people watching. FullSizeRender

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On the other side of the square there is another walkway called Planters Viaduct, which we follow and end up in an interesting area with more strange leaning columns and stone chairs. This is such an incredible place!   I can only guess at the hours and hours it took to create all this and wonder at Gaudi’s incredible vision and imagination.FullSizeRender

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There are so many fascinating details everywhere.  It really is a visual feast and almost too much to absorb in one visit. I would have loved to draw some of this but there just isn’t enough time to see everything and draw too.  Image-1On the way back to the square we meet this rather strange fellow.FullSizeRender

I rather reluctantly say goodbye to this wonderful place. Just outside the park gates I see a building, which appears to be unoccupied, and announce that it would make a perfect studio for me!  Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?FullSizeRender

I love these zebras we see on the walk back to the metro.
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It is a good thing that we got most of our cleaning and packing finished last night as we had some unexpected excitement tonight.  The stairway in our apartment has one of those elevator chairs that run on a rail for handicapped people.  Tonight a woman was on her way down the stairs on the chair and it stopped working.  She was getting very upset and, even with Bob’s help, her husband was not able to get her out of the chair and down the stairs. Finally we suggested calling the fire department and soon they arrived. Six of these strong firefighters finally managed to get this poor lady out of her chair and safely down the stairs.  It was quite the procedure, and it meant that for almost two hours no one could go up or down the stairwell .Image 2016-05-22 at 12.09 PM

Finally, to bed, all packed and ready for the long flight home.

Teatre del Liceu

Monday December 7

We spend most of today cleaning and packing so that we will be ready on Wednesday for our flight home. Packing always takes me longer than I think it will and I want this all taken care of so that we can enjoy our last day in Barcelona. I finally got a photo of the man who sells propane for the on demand hot water heaters and stoves.  He walks up and down the streets everyday banging a wrench on the side of these large canisters.  The noise can be heard for blocks, even inside our apartment with the windows closed. So different from home.FullSizeRenderFinally we are ready to go to the opera.  We are going to see Lucia Di Lammermoor, which is a tragic opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. Here is the floor plan and the seats range from the €14.00 we paid for our seats to €300 for a seat in Zone 1.  Imagine, it would cost €600 or $900 Canadian for a night at the Opera!Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 7.07.57 PM

Zone 1: €299.00     Zone 2: €199.00     Zone 2B: €187.00     Zone 3: €161.00               Zone 4: €117.00     Zone 5; €80.00     Zone 6: €56.00     Zone 7:€38.00                            Zone 8: €14.00     

The first lime green dot on this plan, on the lower right side in zone 8,  along with the red dot beside it were our seats.  Right up next to the ceiling, with no view of the stage at all!  However, we did have a little TV screen to watch the opera and there were English subtitles which were a huge help in following the plot of the opera.  The picture quality was quite poor but it was great having the subtitles.  Bob summed up the plot this way ”It took the heroine two and a half hours to die!”                         DSC02951

The music and the singing was wonderful and of course the venue was absolutely stunning.  I didn’t know if I would enjoy it, not being able to see the stage, but really it was OK.  Of course it would have been so much nicer to see the actual stage instead of a fuzzy rendition but the only tickets available were in Zone 5 and it would have cost €160, or about $240.00, a bit too expensive for us!

Here is Bob standing by our seats, right up near the beautiful ceiling, and a few more photos showing the theatre, the orchestra way down below us, the cast, and the lobby after the performance.DSC02934

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DSC02963The Teatre Del Liceu.DSC02966

On the way home we see many beautiful lights and some sad sights too.Image-1

Picasso Museum, Frederick Maré Museum

I know I am terribly slow finishing these last few posts from our trip but finally, I am going to get it done. Thanks for hanging in and being patient.

Sunday, December 6, 21015

We only have four days left until we leave for home and there is still so much we haven’t seen. It is difficult to believe we have been travelling for almost three months and now it is almost over.  Today we are going to visit the Picasso Museum and the Frederic Maré Museum.  They are both free today as it is the first Sunday of the month.

On the way to the Picasso Museum we pass the MEAM (European Museum of Modern Art) where we saw the Odd Nerdrum Exhibit way back in September. All the streets in this area are very narrow and I am glad Bob seems to know where we are going, because I certainly don’t!FullSizeRender

The Picasso Museum is always busy and today we need to line up and wait to get in but the line moved fairly quickly and we were entertained by this very talented group of musicians while we waited.FullSizeRender

There are no photos allowed inside the museum and they are very strict, so I have no pictures of what we saw, but here is a link to the museum collection if you want to see some of the work on display. FullSizeRender

FullSizeRenderThe Picasso museum is located in five large town houses or palaces. The original palaces date from the 13th-15th centuries, and the buildings have undergone major restorations. The museum is quite ornate and has many interesting architectural details and courtyards. We spent several hours here, there is so much to see; there are 4,251 works in the permanent collection!

On our way to the next museum we stop to visit the Santa Maria Del Mar.FullSizeRender

This church was damaged by fire in 1936 and we can still see soot on the walls and ceilings, and the damage that the fire did to its columns.  FullSizeRender FullSizeRender

The columns are spaced 43 feet apart, the widest of any Gothic Church in Europe. This church was built in just 55 years, from 1329 to 1384 and it is the only surviving church in the Catalan Gothic style.  The interior is quite beautiful, and full of light even though it is not ornately decorated like so many of the churches that we have seen.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender

We climb some old stone steps and there is a great view from the second floor behind the altar looking towards the front doors and beautiful stained glass windows.
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Next stop, the Frederic Maré Museum.  We had a very brief visit to this museum in September but it was closing so we had to dash through the little bit of it that we saw. It was a fascinating place and we wanted to return for a more leisurely visit.  There is a lovely secluded courtyard right outside this museum so we stop for a much needed rest and a rather late lunch.

This quote from the museum’s site explains this rather curious museum, and a virtual reality tour gives a better idea of our visit to this fascinating museum.

“The Museu Frederic Marès is a unique collecting museum that preserves the collections assembled by its founder, sculptor Frederic Marès (1893-1991), which came to form part of the patrimony of the city of Barcelona through his donation in 1946. Two years later, this museum was inaugurated in a part of the old Royal Palace of the Counts of Barcelona in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Its original Verger or courtyard garden, still remains intact.

Frederic Marès turned sculpture into something beyond his artistic calling. Throughout his lifetime he amassed an extensive Hispanic sculpture collection which ranged from the ancient world until the 19th century, in which religious polychromed carvings predominated. This now makes up the most uniform section of the museum. Marès also donated part of his own sculptural oeuvre, which is on display in his Library-study.

The Collector’s Cabinet is the home to a display of tens of thousands of objects that make up a vast collection of collections that documents past lifestyles and customs, mainly from the 19th century. There you can find amusing, unique items like fans, pipes, clocks, jewellery, photographs, toys, keys, pharmacy bottles and reliquaries, all presented in an intimate atmosphere evoking Marès private universe.”

Here are some of my pictures of this incredible collection.FullSizeRender

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There was an old picture of the Liceu Opera House, where we will see an opera tomorrow.FullSizeRender

We make our way back to the Barcelona Cathedral to get a picture.  Last time we were there, a large tent and stage ere erected in front of it which made picture taking difficult.  Today there is a Market in the square in front of the Cathedral, so there are balloons in my photo and lots of people everywhere.  FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderThere were Christmas tree vendors, and several families were buying their trees,FullSizeRender

and there were rows and rows of stalls selling nativity scene figurines and crèches of all styles, sizes and shapes.Image-1

We leave this busy street and catch the metro back to our neighbourhood and our narrow, quiet street.FullSizeRender

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FC Barcelona and Life Drawing

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bob went to see FC Barcelona play another Spanish soccer team in the Spanish Cup competition. Barcelona easily won 6-1 against this weaker team. Barcelona didn’t play its top three players but it was still exciting to be there. His ticket was in the first row of the 3rd tier near the center so there was no one in front, just the walking aisle. As this wasn’t the Championship League, the crowd was only 67,000 instead of 100,000, and because it wasn’t the Championship League the ticket was only 30 euros instead of 350 euros for this prime seat. Lots of noise and cheerings and drum beating.  Everyone (except Bob) either had a FC Barcelona cap, scarf, or jersey, and of course everyone tried to take the same bus home after the game.image

The next day we found this picture online. The spectator in the turquoise coat with the white hat, on the right side of the players uplifted hand is Bob!imageWhile Bob was at the football (soccer) game I went to a life drawing class at the same studio that I was at the first week of our holiday. This is a great group and it has a couple drawing sessions a week but this was the only one I was able to fit in. Their next meet up is the day we fly home.Image-1

I snapped these photos after life drawing.  The studio is upstairs in an interesting old building on a street near the Opera House. DSC01855

From the street all there is to see is an ordinary, graffiti covered door, that opens onto this medieval looking courtyard. I find it quite fascinating that so many Spanish doors open onto courtyards and gardens. You never know what you will see behind a door, which is why whenever I see an open doorway I try to peek inside! DSC01858This little fellow peeked out to say hello on the subway on my way home.  It is the only rodent of any kind that we have seen on this trip. I wondered if we would see any rats, but not a one.DSC01862

Walking home past one of the narrow side streets in our Sant Andreu neighbourhood.  It was late but I felt safe walking home from the metro by myself as there were still lots of little cafés and shops open.DSC01860

The Christmas lights are pretty even if there isn’t any snow.DSC01864

 

 

Valencia

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our apartment in Valencia is a short metro ride from the old part of town.  We bought four tickets to get us into town and home again.  However when it came time to go home our tickets weren’t working. Turns out we purchased four tickets that had to be used all at the same time so the other two were no longer valid.  It cost us over € 9 for two one way tickets because we had also chosen too many zones.  We bought two tickets to get home for only €3, however we later discovered that we could purchase ten tickets for €7.20, only €.72 a ride!

First stop today is the Mercado Central, a market held in a huge iron, glass, and tile Art Nouveau building. The meat and fish aisles are always interesting, so different from our stores back home.Image-1

Hams are a big seller in Spain and I still find it strange to see them hanging in shops.  No refrigeration seems to be needed, and take a look at the prices, up to €149 a kilogram!Image-1

We bought some fruit for a snack and then headed towards the Valencia Cathedral.  Yes, another cathedral!FullSizeRender

Some refreshments and a rest in this lovely plaza and we are ready to check out the cathedral. FullSizeRender_2

After skirting past the gypsy women begging on the streets and the church steps we enter yet another magnificent cathedral. Originally built in 1262, it has been added to throughout the centuries and it now has three entrances. The one we chose gave us this view of the cathedral as we walked through the doors.FullSizeRender

The day light just before the altar comes from this beautiful octagonal dome.FullSizeRender_3

There is another gorgeous dome over the Chapel of St. Joseph, which is one of twenty eight smaller chapels located in this cathedral. Most of them are incredibly ornate with lots of gold and jewels and carvings. Although these magnificent cathedrals are truly awe inspiring, we wonder about all the money that has been spent building them and we are also quite aware of the church’s role through out history.  So many horrors have been perpetrated in the name of religion. It is a strange sort of paradox.FullSizeRenderThe high altarpiece and the frescoes are amazing.  We sit for quite some time just in contemplation.  This is Bob’s favourite altar of all that we have seen so far. The frescoes of musical angels on the dome above the altar were only discovered in 2004 during some restoration work.  They had been covered by a wooden ceiling and no one knew they were even there.   Click here if you want to read more.

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Here is another view of the main aisle and one of the side aisles with the smaller chapels.FullSizeRender

These life size statues of the Apostles are from one of the entrances to the cathedral.  They have been replaced by copies and the originals are now kept inside the cathedral museum for safe keeping, but it was closed for renovations so they were displayed in an alcove.FullSizeRender_5An intricately carved altarpiece, built in the 16th Century holds the Holy Chalice, which is said to be the chalice Christ drank from at the Last Supper.FullSizeRender_3

And here is the Holy Chalice, aka the Holy Grail.  There is more information about the history of the cup here.  We were told that there is more scientific investigation currently taking place to prove that this is indeed the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper.FullSizeRender_4

We climb 207 steps to get to the top of the Torre Del Micalet. Construction of this bell tower started in 1381 and it is one of the most important landmarks in Valencia.image

Here is El Micalet, cast in 1539, and weighing 11,000 kilograms.  Shortly after this photo the bell chimed the hour.  It was very loud!  All cathedral bells have names, and this cathedral has 14 bells ranging in size from 11,000 kg to 260 kg.FullSizeRender

We spend quite some time up here, admiring the view, and enjoying the sunshine. The octagonal tower on the roof in the center of the picture is the outside of the white dome above the altar and the dark domes are above the side chapels.FullSizeRender_5The two curved buildings just visible on the skyline on the far right hand side of the picture are part of the City of Arts and Sciences Complex. We are going there tomorrow.FullSizeRender_2

Now we need to descend the 207 spiral stairs that we climbed to get to the top of the tower. We have certainly done our share of stair climbing this trip.FullSizeRender_3

Valencia has a ‘dragon house’ so of course we have to find it.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was a bit disappointed to only find one small dragon sculpture over the doorway and two pillars with a little dragon on the bottom of each of them. In case you didn’t know, I love dragons.image

Bob finally gets to try the seafood paella he wasn’t able to have on his birthday.  image

We make our way back to the Cathedral for a concert. Bob thought we would be way too early but when we arrived about forty five minutes before the concert it was already packed. We managed to find seats in the side aisle near the altar, which was actually behind the stage, but there were TV screens so we got to see most of it.  We both enjoyed the performance even though we weren’t exactly sure what it was all about. A young boy sang several songs and it seemed to have something to do with Christmas.image

The Christmas lights were on after the concert.  It still seems strange to see Christmas decorations without any snow.image

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

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

Merry Christmas


Wishing Everyone a Wonderful Holiday Season.

Remember what is really important is spending time with those you love.

Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year

I’ll be back in the New Year to finish up our trip.

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Troglodytes!

Sunday, November 22

This was our Airbnb apartment near the village of Alhendin, about 20 minutes outside of Granada. It was very nice and quiet but it is time to hit the road again. We need to be in Los Alcázeres, a small coastal town in southeastern Spain by evening.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.18 PM

The drive is interesting as the scenery changes often.  These are photos shot through the car window so they aren’t the best, but they give a pretty good idea of the countryside. This is on the outskirts of Granada.  I find it so strange to see apartment buildings and then countryside right beside them.  There are no suburbs around here, it is city and then it is country, nothing in-between.DSC01195We are surprised to see snow on the mountaintops.DSC01200

Before long there are fewer trees and the land is much more arid looking.DSC01199It is hard to tell from the photo, but this area is much like Drumheller, Alberta, with fields suddenly giving way to steep, dry ravines. DSC01206

Soon we are seeing weathered and eroded hills that have what look like caves or tunnel openings.DSC01207

A quick bit of internet research revealed that many people in this area live in caves.  We stop in a little town named Purullena, and visit the Museo Cueva Immaculada.  This was quite the experience.  As we entered the museum we realized that we were walking through a family home.  There were footsteps painted on the floor and we were told  to follow the footsteps and then we were left to explore their house! We passed what looked like the grandparents having something to eat with their grandchildren in the dining room.  It was rather bizarre.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.48 PM

Curtains separate the rooms so that air can circulate, and there are also chimneys for air circulation. We climbed a flight of stairs to an area of their home that was set up as a museum, with old farm implements, photographs, kitchen utensils, and a whole lot of other assorted items.  Here are some pictures of the cave houses in Purullena, and another little village we drove to nearby.DSC01242The temperature in these homes stays between 17º and 21º C year round. The ceilings are dome-shaped so that the caves will not collapse and to distribute the weight of the hills above to the thick outer side of the walls. DSC01233Thirty years ago everyone in the town lived in caves, and today about 1,100 of the towns population of 2,700 still live in caves.  The soil here is called arcilla, which is a special type of clay that is compact but still very soft so it is easy to dig.  It is also an impermeable soil which stops the rain from entering the cave.DSC01221The cave homes are dug out of the mountains and there are no other construction materials used. The homes are painted with white chalk which breathes so the air can circulate, and this prevents humidity from building up in the caves.DSC01230We saw this ‘troglodyte’ busily hanging up her laundry before she went back into her cave home. These cave dwellers call themselves Troglodytes, which is from two Greek words meaning hole, and dying to get into  If you want to read a bit more about these unique houses check out http://www.spain-holiday.com/blog/cave-settlements-in-andalucia.php DSC01240

We were quite surprised to discover that the public washrooms were also the family bathrooms, complete with the family laundry, showers, kids toys and other personal items! These were located just outside the cave home, sort of like modern outhouses.  We thought it must be difficult to put plumbing inside the caves.

As we continued on our way to Los Alcázeres we passed lots of huge market gardens, many of which had these tunnel hothouses, field after field of them. It was quite the sight.  DSC01254