Monday, December 19, 2011

Catching up a bit on the Spain/Portugal trip

Limited access to (free) internet limited post at the end of the Spain/Portugal trip. Spent several days in Madrid and Barcelona before flying home via München. Great view of the Alps on the flight from Barcelona. Trip was really an eyeopener regarding the cultural history of Spain and Portugal. Tremendous Islamic influence in the architecture with a long, long history. Old in Spain starts with the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors, new starts with the 16th century.

Of course Barcelona has all of this Gaudy architecture, alongside the Medieval cathedral, the Picasso Museum and other striking sites.

Gaudy's cathedral interior, needs to be seen to be believed.

Medieval Cathedral Nave

View of the Alps from the flight from Barcelona to München.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spain and Portugal, Toledo

A few photos from a couple of days ago on our way to Madrid

Ceiling in the Jewish chapel in Toledo dating from the 15th century

View of 16th century windmills on the way to Toledo from Ubeda. Don Quixote thought these were giants of course and they certainly are large enough.

Basset on our city tour of Toledo

View from Ubeda looking at the fields of olive tress that stetches as far as the eye can see.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spain and Portugal Day 11, the Alhambra

The Alhambra with the defensive towers and walls.

Left Ronda this am and traveled to Granada to see the Alhambra. The weather was not cooperating as it was raining a lot most of the day and pretty hard when we arrived at the Alhambra. We had a good tour of the Moorish palaces. The Alhambra was started in te 13th century and was added to over the next 200 years by each successive caliph. It was taken over in 1492 by Isabella and Ferdinand and the Moors were expelled a few years later.

View of the Alhambra from the Generalife (garden).

Patio with reflecting pool inside the Alhambra

Spectacular ceiling inside of one of the palaces (adjustment of light level to come later)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spain and Portugal Day 10, Ronda 2

Our guide in Ronda, Diego

Had a tour of the old city this morning. Very interesting tour guide named Diego. Lots of witty comments along the way.

Patio lined with Moorish Arcades.

Went into the Church were styles from the Moors, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque were exhibited.

Really spectacular Baroque alter.

The Bull Ring was quite the thing. It dates from the 18th century but is still in use. It is completely circular and the spectators are really close to the arena were the bulls and matadors play out the drama. Diego explained to us the this was not really a bull fight as the outcome was certain, the bull would die one way or another, and it would only depend on how well it was done. It turns out that Orson Wells and Ernest Hemingway attended bull spectacles here (not at the same time). The Mediterranean Sun Coast is close by and the VIPs come over to Ronda to see the bull fights.

Section of the Bull Ring.

Our Parador (hotel) as situated right on the edge of the gorge. We walked down into the ravine, great view back up at the "New Bridge" and a waterfall. From the down in the gorge looking up gave a nice perspective of the location.

Parador a the edge of the gorge.

New Bridge (18th century) from down in the gorge.
Parador is located on the upper left edge.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spain and Portugal Day 9, Ronda

"New Bridge" over Rio Guadalevin

Arrived in Ronda around noon today. Will be here until Thursday AM. Spectacular setting of the old city next to a deep, narrow gorge. There are three bridges crossing the gorge, the new bridge (18th century), the Felipe V bridge of the 16th century and an earlier bridge of the ~14th century.

Lots of narrow streets and white washed buildings.

Great view across the gorge at old buildings
with restaurants and other shops and apartments.

A little friend along one of the garden
paths along side the gorge.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spain and Portugal Day 8

Mosque in Cordorba, 12th century

Visited Cordoba today. Great former Mosque, now a church. In the ~16th century a cathedral church was put right in the middle of the existing Mosque, bad idea, even though the cathedral is spectacular in it's own right. The Mosque was built in 12th century.

Cordoba has what is termed a Jewish district, very narrow streets like a labyrinth, easy to get lost.

Heliostat tower shinning brightly in the distance. Mirrors too far away to see.

On the road to and from Cordoba we saw a Heliostat in operation. Mirrors focusing the sun into a central tower that then is turned into electricity by steam turbines.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spain and Portugal Day 7

It's been really busy and limited internet access the last several days. We're now in Carmona, Spain and using the Parador (old name for a hotel) here as a base for trips to Seville today and Cordoba tomorrow.

I will post a few photos from today's visit to Seville below and try to catch up on the last couple of days later tonight. Seville seems to have every building in the old section looking like a work of art. Strong influence of the Moors on the architecture. The Moors were defeated here in 12th century but the Spanish kings really liked their architecture and hired the Moorish craftsmen to build there Cathedrals and their Palaces.

Cathedral tower. Lower part is original Moorish tower associated with a Moskque but was made into a Christian church tower starting with the bell tower.

Hose and carriage in the central square of Seville.

This is the panel at the Spanish Square that was build in the 1920's. Each Spanish region had a panel, and this one shows Don Qixote and Sancho Panza, the mythical figure from Cervantes novel.

View from inside of the Alcazar Place showing the Moorish architecture even though this was built by a Christian King.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spain and Portugal day 3

Had an interesting day today. City tour of Lisbon. Palace, Cathedral, and then went to a great museum. Fado music in the evening. More to come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Portugal and Spain

Arrived this noon in Lisbon after a long flight from Boston to Frankfurt and then on to Lisbon. Took a walk in some of the older parts of the city and am posting several photos that I made on the walk. We had dinner tonight with the tour group and are now ready to start the tour in earnest tomorrow mornining.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rail Trip, from the east, to the west and back again, Day 1

In mid-September (starting on 9/11) Susan and I went on a little trip starting in Amherst; we flew to St. Paul, MN and boarded an Amtrak train to meet up with Susan's sister and her husband; went eventually to the West coast (Seattle), with a stop in Glacier National Park; turned north to Canada after getting to Seattle; stayed in Vancouver, BC for a couple of days and then turned back east through the Canadian Rockies; stopped in Jasper, Alberta for a couple of days; and eventually ended up in Montreal for two days before heading south to Albany, NY, were we rented a car and drove home. All of the trip was accomplished on the train except for our flight to St. Paul and our rental car ride home. We ended up back home on 9/24.

Of course I made "snap shots" along the way with my point and shoot camera. The following is a description of our trip on a day to day basis starting on 9/11.

9/11 Sarah drove us to the Manchester airport for a 7:00 am flight to Minneapolis. Took a taxi to the Amtrak station in St. Paul. Our impression of the St. Paul station was that it was situated in the middle of a desolate, run-down area.

As we were at the station mid-morning and the train to the west was not due until 11:30 pm we thought we would sight-see either in Minneapolis or St.Paul. The Amtrak agent told us we could take bus 16 in one or the other direction and we would eventually end up in downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis. We chose St. Paul and that's when our education of the underbelly of St. Paul society began. Number 16 bus (on a Sunday) has all sorts of folks on it going from home to a shopping center or back, apparently shopping for food or other stuff. It was jammed and we were on it for an hour or more so had a great look at this slice of the St. Paul population.

We did eventually reach downtown St. Paul and had a nice walk around. After a nice dinner in St Paul we took a cab back to the train station, having seen enough of the people on bus number 16 for one day at least.

The cab driver was from NYC. He apparently came to the U of MN in the late 60's or early 70's for grad school in Geology and ended up staying. Did not ask how he ended up in his current position as a cab driver.

The following photos are of St. Paul and the station before our departure on the train at the end of day 1.

Lucy and Charlie Brown chatting

Flowers and construction in St. Paul

Tall buildings and clouds in a blue sky

Sky and cloud reflection

Modern buildings in St. Paul

The St. Paul Library

View from the Library toward the Mississippi River

Library ceiling

Inside the library

The "Heritage" Building

Inside the library

Garden view from the library

View from a window of the library

St Paul Church

St Paul Building

Silhouettes in the Science building

St Paul Station (not too busy)

St. Paul station before the train arrived