The Road to Cordoba

The Road to Cordoba

image image

The road to Cordoba was dry. It slithered along the flat planes, past the milky olive trees like a snake, zig zagging on and on into infinity. The sun was just creeping up over the hills when we stopped and had early morning coffee, at a simple wild western style dinner. The air was crisp still  then, a perfect temperature, just a bit hotter than the air-conditioned interior of our car. I skipped across the empty double lane to take pictures of the pink flowers growing under the watchful gaze of the lonesome bull, the bull of Osborne. We knew that soon though the damp earth would turn to dust under the scorching hot summer sun and so we kept on going under the stars.

DSC_0402

The sky was watery and the distant hills now flicked passed in a blurry haze. The hot streams of air distorted our horizon ahead and the earth seemed weaker, less rich, as if the sun had burnt it back down to igneous. Now, when a bull was near we would see it for miles, its silhouette standing out jet black against the vast expanse of pastel and grey. I am the Rider in the Song: Full moon, black pony, olives against my saddle. Though I know all the roadways, I’ll never get to Córdoba. And so we beat on, with the thoughts of Federico Garcia Lorca never too far from our minds.

As we rose and then topped the hills, we saw Cordoba down below. A sprawling mass of white houses shrinking, a city trying to press itself further into the ground, further way from the sun’s fierce gaze. It was only when we crossed the river that we saw the golden spires and the gleam of the fortified walls rising from the river bank. For us the road had ended, it had ended here at Cordoba.

DSC_0594DSC_0645

DSC_0650DSC_0626DSC_0627DSC_0619DSC_0612DSC_0614DSC_0600DSC_0586DSC_0590DSC_0565DSC_0581DSC_0557DSC_0552DSC_0523DSC_0522DSC_0518DSC_0516DSC_0461 DSC_0511

DSC_0505DSC_0509DSC_0441DSC_0457DSC_0460DSC_0462DSC_0491

 

The Alhambra – Fighting for Paradise

The Alhambra – Fighting for Paradise

image

For hundreds of years men have fought, cried and died for their share of this mystical place and this week would be no exception. I cried when they told me that tickets had already sold out 5 days prior to our visit. I died when my boyfriend told me that the only way we would go to see it was if we joined the most expensive and longest guided tour of place and I re tied the bows on my shoes and prepared myself to jostle and fight, if need, be for an uninterrupted picture of the Lion’s Patio once I saw the hundreds of people waiting outside the closed gates at 8.30am. Are they buying tickets?But you said it was full?! We could have just come and bought entrances but now we’ve got to do the tour!*Gremlin face*, which was accompanied by the same sort of feeling that you get sometimes when you manage to board a really full train and then after pushing in yourself, you turn around and start resenting anyone who squashes in after you. Can’t the doors just close already?! *THERE IS NO MORE ROOM!

DSC_0030 DSC_0032 DSC_0035 DSC_0038 DSC_0055 DSC_0057

When at 8.45 am an announcement was made to the people of the massive queues that all the on the day tickets had now been sold out, I no longer felt the need to mentally abuse the epic tour that had helped secure our place. “Aww! Those poor people!” I said trying to sound genuine but failing to mask the smug look which was spreading across my face as I rolled my ticket in my hands like Gollum… So silly thinking they can just arrive on the day… they should have booked the tour like we did*…

*and then turn and simply ignore the accusatory and damning looks and focus on your sugar frosted doughnut

DSC_0082 DSC_0083

We entered the gates and into an oasis of calm and beauty. Whereas Granada down below looked arid and dry, here we were emerged in lush green gardens and the sound of running water was everywhere. Water, was the first thing we saw and heard and interestingly was made the theme of our tour. Once Saltan Mohammed I conquered the province of Granada he set about constructing a fortress to protect it from invasion. However over the next 800 years the Moroccan kings would come to know this place as home and battle grounds and defense lines were turned into a royal city and into a vision of paradise with lush trees, plants and flowers – a far cry from the nomadic life and arid hills of Morocco where these peoples had originated from. Everything, from the sustaining of the live stock to the hammam spa where the Sultan would relax, was built and made possible thanks to the ingenious engineering feats carried out to bring this baron mountain side water. An irrigation system built on the concepts of gravity and upward force enabled this life garden of Eden.

DSC_0094 DSC_0095 DSC_0119 DSC_0126 DSC_0129

I loved the view from the Alhambra, sometimes through arched windows and sometimes peeping out from behind flowers. The gardens were immaculate and in full bloom. Flat, calm water fountains reflected the sky and linked the Earth to the heavens, Oranges hung from the trees and the sound of running water was everywhere. It was so cool despite the hot summer’s day. It was simply lovely.

DSC_0134 DSC_0135

Alhambra means the Red One and it was called this because the walls are terracotta red color but also because it was said that its founder Mohammed I had red hair and blue eyes.

DSC_0151 DSC_0153 DSC_0154 DSC_0155 DSC_0158 DSC_0160 DSC_0166 DSC_0173

It became a labor of love and a real jewel in the crown of the Moors and when the Catholics eventually took back the mountain side, the young King having been defeated in battle and forced to yield up his family home broke down into tears. He was told by his mother “to not cry like a woman what he could not defend as a man”…And you thought your mum was harsh to you sometimes…*Tough Love

DSC_0190 DSC_0192 DSC_0198 DSC_0201 DSC_0202 DSC_0204 DSC_0206 DSC_0208

A treaty was signed and the Spanish agreed not to destroy the fortress and such was the love that the moors had for the Alhambra that they didn’t destroy it either and preferred to hand it over. They were told everything would be preserved except for all religious buildings and sites. The bodies in the cemeteries were dug up and taken into the mountains by the King in order to save them from the wrath of the “invaders”. As we gazed down over Granada we saw 22 Church bell towers which had once been Minarets and were converted once the moors conceded.

 DSC_0210 DSC_0211 DSC_0212 DSC_0216 DSC_0218

The palaces were beautiful and had some great architecture. I loved the ceilings and the ornate walls, mosaics and ceiling stars. The Lion’s Patio was particularly spectacular, with the animals required to be represented imperfectly by the makers because Allah was the creator and humans were not. Interestingly people still live in the Alhambra and there are a few family houses which now operate as hotels which are now passed down from generation to generation. They may however not be listed on Expedia, although I’m sure someone’s given it a damning report on Trip Advisor * Poor Location, no shops, far from city center…

DSC_0235 DSC_0242 DSC_0249 DSC_0250 DSC_0251

So it came down to the french (trust the bloody french!) and Napoleon to be main bad guys of this story and who are regarded as the main destroyers of the Alhambra. Having been defeated by the Brits at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon lost his grip on Europe (well directly or indirectly, sooner or later, whatever… I had to get the Battle of Waterloo in somehow!) and on the night of the retreat from Granada, they planted explosives throughout the palaces and the gardens. Some were detonated and this destroyed large parts of the walls, the souks and the fortresses, but luckily before anything else could be blown to smithereens a Spanish soldier disconnected the bombs and saved the Alhambra. Hurray!

The Alhambra was huge, larger than I could of imagined and the quality of the buildings, the gardens and the views was incredible. I really loved my visit and can not recommend it enough! Make sure you book in advance though and it can get very busy in the summer (the day we went around 10,000 people also went!), to take some money to buy food once through the gardens and to go if you can early in the morning when it is less hot. I wore converse trainers which were essential for over 4 hours walking and a bottle of water to avoid having a cheeky drink from one of the fountains. I would also recommend the guided tour (Water!) 😉

image

image

Wearing

Top – United Colours of Benetton

Jean shorts – Bershka

Trainers – Converse

Sunglasses – Ray Ban

What Lies Between the Yellow Lines of Andalucia

What Lies Between the Yellow Lines of Andalucia

image

image

        In Andalucia I am alive. I am closer to the rich red Earth when I pick the olives and the oranges from the trees and when I watch the glowing sun go down behind the Eucalyptus trees and the tumbling hills. Everything including life seems simpler here when I drive by the horses in the arid fields and more magical when I hear the dresses and the dance of the women and the song and the voices of the men. Be careful because a trip down here could turn your dreams on your head, could make you loose your heart and throw riches to the wind for love and simple pleasures. I gaze at the little white washed towns. I gaze at the tanned strong men with dark hair, dark eyes and mysterious ways taking their well groomed stallions with shinning fur and plated mains down to the village fair and all I can do is watch and long to run away from my comforts, money and possessions and leave it all behind to spend a life in the arms of a raggle-taggle gypsy-o.

CIMG4595imageCIMG4574CIMG4581CIMG4596CIMG3381

Indeed each little community, each little cluster of white houses could be an ideal setting for such a love story, or the inspiration behind such a scandalous and romantic love song. This field was where they lay, and that horse was the one that the Lord used when he rode out to try to get her to come back to her servants and goose feathered bed. The little church overlooking the sea of the a fisherman’s village El Terron where we had lunch could have been the place that they got married one warm summer’s night, in secret, witnessed only by the stars and the gaze of moon.

imageimage

image

Those are all the things which rush through my mind as we travel deeper into the countryside. But who really knows what lies behind those low houses with tiled porches and barred windows? And what life fills the gap between the yellow lines framing both humble and noble buildings alike?

IMG_5780imageimageIMG_5793imageimage

Are these lines an attempt by men to bring some order to a life otherwise determined by God, or are they just a way of marking where order ends and where the passions of the human spirit begin?

Wearing

White top – SALSA JEANS

White shorts – BAY

Wedge Flip Flops – GUESS

Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O is a famous Scottish folk song which I came to know through the Walking Wounded ‘s (Hackney) version of it. It has come to be one of my favorite songs 🙂

Click For more my post and photos of Seville – Colores de Sevilla

Click For my photos and post of my trip to the Sierra of Huelva

Click For more pictures of my Andalucian inspired outfit

Kimono and The Magical Island

Kimono and The Magical Island

Travel can, for me at least, be a great way to see what sort of state my subconscious is in. In the same way as psychologists use ink drawings to see what your mind is thinking (black splodge = death; black splodge = skull and cross bones), the unknown of transport and destinations and the way that one reacts to this can be very telling.Today we are off to El Rompido to visit a nature reserve and beautiful island. Is it strange that whenever someone says “Island” I think shipwreck? That the Leonardo Di Caprio film (the one where he goes nuts whilst living in a hippy colony in Thailand) springs to mind when someone says “Beach” or indeed that I keep wondering whether its normal for all that water to be washing over the sides of the boat as we speed off into the blue and into the sun. (colorful splodge = apocalypse). OK, so maybe I need to relax a little, after all a fit pensioner could probably swim the channel which we were about to cross. But still… WHAT IF THEY FORGET US?

SNC01100

This boat trip was one of the first thing which we did after arriving in Islantilla. We drove to the small port of El Rompido and took a boat out to a nature reserve – a long large sand bank which stretches along the coast. The walk over the sand dunes on the wooden walkways is lovely and the beach has fine white sand and is almost deserted, a great thing to do to experience some virgin water and get away from the crowds. Here are some of the pics and of course I wore my Primark Kimono which was just perfect in the hot weather 😉 After my fear of drowning, capsizing, getting stranded subsided, this trip was really magical!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

 

Before leaving for Spain I made a few quick last minute purchases and found some absolute beach essentials in Primark for next to nothing. I always love going there first just to see if I can find the things that I am looking for as Primark tends to copy and follow trends but charges half as much for almost identical products sold elsewhere. The white sandals cost £5, the black ones £10, but I was was happiest with my new Kimono (£12-15 can’t remember!) which I wore for my day trip to the magical island in El Rompido Spain.

image

SNC01335

WEARING

Kimono – PRIMARK

Gold Top – FRENCH CONNECTION

Wedge Sandals – GUESS (sold out)

High waist shorts- H&M

Bikini – LA SENZA

Sunglasses – TRUSSARDI

5* Islantilla Golf Resort & Mirador del Golf

5* Islantilla Golf Resort & Mirador del Golf

At only a 70km drive from Faro airport,the stylish resort of Islantilla can be found on Spain’s ‘Coast of Light’, often referred to as the ‘Spanish Algarve’ or ‘Spain’s Best Kept Secret’. Its beautiful sandy beaches stretch for miles and its lack of over-development means that it has retained its natural beauty with its backdrop of sand-dunes and pine trees between the sea and the promenade.We found beautiful star fish and walked past a lagoon to a deserted beach.

IMG_5579

DSC_0357

CIMG4491

I particularly liked the small fisherman’s village with its little white chapel. At night after a hearty meal we would walk about along the promenade and see their little lights bobbing out at sea. In the morning we went and bought fresh fish straight from their nets and saw how they pulled their boats in and mended their nets. Islantilla is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a lovely scenery in a very stylish and beautiful Spanish town. There are many shops and restaurants, some cocktails bars but no night clubs. In the summer half of Madrid and Sevilla escape the hot sun and come down for a couple of weeks to play golf, tennis and eat some of Spain’s best sea food. Make sure you can speak Spanish or don’t mind giving it a go, as there are not many foreign tourists here and lots of people can’t speak English.

Here are my recommendations of where to stay in Islantilla:

www.miradordelgolf.co.uk

A lovely two bedroom house in one of the most exclusive urbanisations of Islantilla, ‘Mirador del Golf’, 5 minutes walk from Islantilla Golf Club- rated Top 100 Best Courses in Europe by Golf Digest, and 8 minutes from the beach. It is a peaceful & securely gated complex with a stunning pool, sea views and own parking. It was really clean and had been newly refurbished to a great standard. The pool was beautiful and the kitchen was really well equipped. We enjoyed using the DVD player and watching the wide screen TV. This is a really cheap but good quality alternative to a hotel as prices start at £350 per week and the house sleeps 6!

Another wonderful place that I have stayed in is the 5* Islantilla Golf Resort, which is 3 minute walk from the house Mirador del Golf. It is very large and its grounds are really impressive. With both indoor and outdoor pool, a beautiful and world famous golf course right in front, this is the place to go for all golf lovers. It is around 10 minutes from the beach, but a little train goes passed every half and hour and it is free for guests. An additional perk of staying here is the ability to use the Beach Club which is a luxurious pool and lounge area right on the sea front reserved for members and guests of the hotel. The golf coaches are great and when we went they offered a free lesson to anyone who came every Saturday morning. The rooms were large and had great views. The only slight downside would be that it was a little empty and thus the services normally on offer at a 5* resort were slightly absent.

IMG_0375 IMG_0372 IMG_0370 IMG_0368 IMG_0363 CIMG4439 CIMG4434 Islantilla golf 2 club islantilla

 

 

La Sierra de Huelva, a window into the past

La Sierra de Huelva, a window into the past

13082010578

I would say that Huelva’s countryside is the biggest attraction and most beautiful thing it has to offer.  Drive away from the lagoons and the industrial port and get transported back in time and taken on an incredible journey.

CIMG4544 CIMG4568 CIMG4596 CIMG4602 CIMG3350

The road is long and winds. The roads are dry and the fields seem void of color. But then, further into the mountains we go and here the browns turn to ochre and the yellows turn to gold. Old oak trees twist, their branches knarled by time and by work. The faces of the workers toiling in the fields are tanned and leathery, their eyes are light against their faces. The sun catches and glares off the little, humble white washed houses which dot the countryside. The road veers up and now we can see everwhere, the whole world it seems. Tiny enclaves of people, little structures and in the middle their faith, large against the sky. The air is scented by the eucalyptus trees and the orange blossom. We need to be careful, deer hide and then come ridding madly down the bank. They are hard to see, they are the color of the Earth.

13082010490

13082010514 13082010494 13082010515 13082010522 13082010517

Our journey has gone on forever. We must be higher up, as the trees have turned to pine and water now appears on either side of the car. A gash of red, an opening into hell. These are the mines, the mines of Rio Tinto. Machinery rusts on the side of the road. This is the age of iron, man and fire.

13082010586 13082010585 13082010583 13082010594 13082010584

13082010572 13082010578 13082010604

13082010552

A hearty meal of large olives and wine corked with bark from the bare trees outside in the garden. We sit on dark wooden chairs and at dark wooden tables. The meat is succulent and melts in my mouth. I would make this journey again just for these few simple pleasures. It is hot and we venture into dark caves. They are nice but really I am impatient to get back, back into this lovely world which now seems such an age away.

WEARING

FRENCH CONNECTION LACE TOP

H&M BLUE TOP
ACCESSORIZE SANDALS

JEAN SHORTS

 

Huelva- Gambas, Choquito y Cristobal Colon

Huelva- Gambas, Choquito y Cristobal Colon

22072010449

For such a small place, Huelva has played a large part in the world’s history. It is home to the oldest football and tennis club in Spain but most importantly, in a little Monastery overlooking the sea, Christopher Columbus planned his first voyage. He would set sail from here, with ships maned by locals, whose families still fish and live in the area.  It would be Seville’s poorer, run down cousin who would ultimately fill their towers full of gold and bring the country international dominance.

CIMG3116 CIMG3169 CIMG3412 CIMG3414 CIMG3415 CIMG3416 CIMG3429 CIMG3472 CIMG3473

Life here is a little bit slower, a little bit more enjoyed. The food is cheap, fresh and locally caught. I had a great time going to the Cup of the King, a big tennis tournament, going to a Joaquin Sabina concert, eating gambas and partying in outdoor clubs and bars. Las Colombinas was on, a huge outdoor fair which has little white houses which do great food and where locals go with their families to see the lights and go to the free concerts on offer.

22072010449 22072010458 22072010462 22072010430 22072010447 22072010452 22072010453 22072010461 22072010465

Flowers bloom and grow in the lovely gardens of the white washed walls of La Rabida. This is a wonderful little part of Andalucia. Close by an enormous towering statue of Columbus and a Christian cross look out over the calm waters the sea.

CIMG3267 CIMG3256 CIMG3255 CIMG3253

We went to where he set sail and walked around the tiny delicate replicas of the ships which discovered the Americas.

CIMG3292 CIMG3282 CIMG3318 CIMG3310

All I can say is that I can’t wait to go back 😉

 

Colores de Sevilla

Colores de Sevilla

The first time  I went to Sevilla, at the height of summer, I didn’t like it. Everything was so dry, so spaced out. The palm trees seemned like their leaves would crumble like cigarette ash and the sand turned my shoes brown. Around the Cathedral I had rosemanry thrust into my hand and if I didn’t pay money I would be cursed. Apparently it wasn’t the curse I should be worried about but the people waiting to get me around the next corner.

IMG_5780 IMG_5720 IMG_5660

I have returned many times to this city and I have grown to love it. The sunsets over the river, the warm night air. The architecture and colors are so vibrant and so different. Reds, oranges and yellows and of course the dark green of the ornate orange trees which line the grand boulevards and the beautiful squares. Fountains, tapas, laughter and music. The people of Andalusia are warm, charming and beautiful. The best time to visit in undoubtedly April to experience not only Semana Santa and the wonderful devotion of Seville’s people to their faith, but also la Feria de Sevilla to see the beautiful dresses, the horse drawn carriages, women dancing Sevillanas in the street and men serenade their father’s under the moon light on horseback.

This is a deeply traditional place, with all the wonders of Spanish culture and tradition. Here are some of my photos of this colorful city

IMG_5673 IMG_5695 IMG_5706 IMG_5708 IMG_5712 IMG_5725 IMG_5736 IMG_5746 IMG_5750 IMG_5757 IMG_5767 IMG_5769 IMG_5792 IMG_5812 27062010236 IMG_5672 IMG_5735 IMG_5705 IMG_5720 IMG_5740 IMG_5744 IMG_5764 IMG_5778