Sunday 12 and Monday 13 January
Once we landed in Madrid, we were taken by minivan to the Customs and Immigration area; once we had our luggage and cleared all the requirements, John found an ATM for Euros and we caught a taxi to our unit.
After walking up the pedestrian-only laneway, we eventually found the door to our accommodation block – but it was locked. A phone-call elicited the access code for the front door; we were soon given a key and directed to our apartment which was small but very suitable for our time in Madrid. Once we had unpacked and sorted out the heating as well as the hot water service, we walked up to the local supermarket for a few supplies.
Every TV channel was in Spanish with no BBC, so we watched the European Games and Dakar Rally with no sound while listening to the local ABC News as well as the National News followed by AM.
Tuesday 14 January
The shutters worked very well – we didn’t wake until 10.30am; by the time we had breakfast and showered it was well after 1pm. After some more research, John went off to buy some chips for phones and iPads – this ended up taking longer than anticipated because the walk to the Orange Store was in the opposite direction – the sun was in the wrong spot again! After the Orange chips were finally purchased and installed, John then went to Vodafone for a chip for my iPad – that way we should always have coverage; all these activities took until early evening.
We headed out for dinner; there were lots of places we could have eaten, mostly small, confusing and dark with little English being spoken and not very welcoming – we finally found a place we could eat as well as be understood. It is hard to reconcile there being the National Tourism Expo on at the moment.
Wednesday 15 January
Sunrise was at 8.30 which made a mockery of leaving the shutters open so the light would wake us early. Today was Day1 of the 2Day Tourist Bus Pass (Historical Madrid) purchased as we walked from the Unit to the nearest stop. The bus took some time to arrive and then we were given a taste of people deciding they needed to enter the bus in a hurry – easy to tell we are from country NSW and manners are a way of life. Don’t let me start on the Spanish National pastime of “sniffing”; not something quiet nor dainty but really fulsome – yuk!
The bus trip took an hour and a half to reach the Cathedral where we decided to make our first visit.
We began with the Crypt and then the Cathedral – the photos give an overview of what we saw. It was good to listen to the Audio Guide in the Crypt and observe what was being described or just sit and gaze at the artefacts on display.
In the Cathedral, while John wandered and took photos, I just sat and took in the vastness of this edifice as well as the detail incorporated in its construction.
“Madrid’s cathedral, which stands in Hapsburg Madrid, has a short but tortuous history. The first plans for the church were drawn up in 1879 by Francisco de Cubas, who wanted to create a pantheon for the late Queen Maria de la Mercedes. The foundation stone was laid in 1883, but when Pope Leo XIII granted a bull in 1885 for the creation of the Madrid-Alcalá bishopric, the plans for the church were changed to become plans for a cathedral.
Cubas began a new project, more ambitious than the previous one, this time inspired by the French 18th century Gothic, adding elements from the cathedrals of Reims, Chartres, and León. The project, which was the first to include a large Romanesque crypt, served as the basis for the final construction. The Cathedral was conceived as a votive temple erected by the people, but the donations were insufficient and there were many delays in carrying out the work. In 1899, the Marquis of Cubas died and Miguel Olabarría, Enrique Maria Repullés, and Juan Moya were subsequently put in charge of the project.
The crypt was opened in 1911 but work was suspended during the Civil War and resumed with limited resources in 1939. After this, aesthetic criteria changed, and a Gothic cathedral was no longer considered suitable because of the contrast with its surroundings. In 1944, the Directorate General for Fine Arts announced a national contest to find a new architectural solution; Fernando Chueca Goitia and Carlos Sidro were the winners. In 1950 work was restarted, the cloister being finished in 1955 and the main façade in 1960. The cathedral was considered completed in 1993. On June 15th, 1993, it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on his fourth trip to Spain.
It also has a museum that houses effigies of the city’s patron saints: the Virgin Mary of la Almudena and San Isidro Labrador, and has an exhibition of the life of the Church through the seven sacraments.”
After leaving the Cathedral and a quick stop at the Souvenir Shop, we walked along to the Royal Palace; given how much walking had already been done and the distance back to the Unit, we decided to leave that activity for another day.
Thursday 16 January
An overcast morning and light rain did not assist in waking us any earlier today for Day2 of the Madrid City Tour – Modern Madrid. As we walked down to the required bus stop the police were erecting barricades at the top of our street and directing traffic to allow police vehicles with flashing lights go through unhampered. We waited at the bus stop for some time while the traffic slowly past and the No2 Bus finally arrived. We stayed on the bus for its complete trip with the Real Madrid Football Stadium being the highlight of the Tour.
Real Madrid Stadium History
Real Madrid Pitch
The Real Madrid stadium was inaugurated on December 14 1947. Previously to this Real Madrid played at Viejo Chamartín. The Santiago Bernabéu stadium has undergone several renovations over the years, which have resulted in it looking stylish today.
Works were carried out in 1954, 1982, 1993 and 2003. The final part of the renovations was to put in place a new cover for the Padre Damián side.
The first match ever played there was Real Madrid vs OS Belenenses (the Portuguese Club) on December 14th 1947.
Santiago Bernabéu was the man with the vision to create the stadium. Hence it is named after him, as at the time of its construction, the Real Madrid stadium was one of the best that there was.
The Real Madrid stadium has hosted several important events. These include the Final of the 2nd European Cup in 1957. There have been Commemorative Celebrations of Real Madrid’s 75th anniversary; the Final of the World Championship was held there in 1982; and Pope John Paul 2nd held a gathering there in 1982.
Just managed to catch the last Red Bus back to the city but it terminated at stop 6 which left about a 30 minute walk home, however I took a wrong direction and did not get home until 7.30pm after covering 9.4km for the day. Purchased a ticket for Saturday afternoon’s game at 4pm between Realmadrid & Sevilla.
As we walked back toward our Unit, we understood why there were barricades erected and traffic at snail’s pace. As we stood and watched, the Royal Procession go by; two different sets of mounted household cavalry, a large armoured vehicle with four large men aboard, the driver and three others – probably security personnel; the vehicle looked like something Ronal Reagan would have used as his Presidential conveyance (a real “yank tank”); this was followed by more cavalry and then the Royal Carriage, with King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia inside, slowly rolled past, followed by more cavalry and a police escort. A short time later the procession returned minus the Royals as well as their security team. A lovely surprise happening right in front of us.
Friday 17 January
The morning was spent exploring the streets around our Unit; we set out across Plaza Mayor and then wended our way downhill to Puerta Del Sol to Vodafone to sort out the problem with the chip in my phone – finally accomplished and now I should be able to use it without too many more hassles.
The were several young men in action poses on motor bikes for tourists to take photos and leave some money in the locked box on the ground in front of them. There would have to be a framework that supports the poses – still not sure how they manage to keep smiling for hours on end.
There is a quiet police presence always on the streets; we saw several different uniforms and vehicles but no indication of any differences. Officers may be sitting in the vehicles, standing and watching or just walking around; given the reinforced shutters on the doors and windows of the shops and accommodation, the crime rate must warrant this coverage.
For a change, tonight we walked up to Plaza Mayor for dinner. There were lots to options from which to choose, all with similar menus; we ended up with a pizza that was really good – even had a quiet drink while we watched the world go by as darkness settled.
Saturday 18 January
Overcast and raining today – it was lovely to wake to the sounds of gentle rain falling; cannot remember the last time.
As the sun only rises at 8.30am, we are a little slow to get organised and I head out at 10:30 to visit the Royal Palace only 10minute walk down the hill and at the back of the Cathedral.
I had intended to leave home at 9:45 for the 10am opening and paid the price of being a little later. About a 25metre queue which cost me half an hour. After collecting my smart phone audio tour device I headed to the main building and went into the Queen’s private collection of paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. No pictures allowed so I have little to show you, however I was most impressed by the first tapestry depicting a battle scene.
I moved across to the main reception area where guests are welcome from their car or in past times from their carriage before ascending a flight of stairs to the 1st floor rooms for presentation to the ruler of the time. Although the King & Queen do not reside at the palace these days, it is still used for formal occasions.
We passed through several reception rooms including breakfast room and evening meal room that the King had used in years gone by. Also the crystal room & the china room on the west side of the courtyard.
After I had finished, I walked a couple of blocks to located where the Sixt depot was so that I would not have to search around in the morning. I was told that I would receive a fine if I drove back to our residence and then out of the city without visiting an underground parking garage for at least 10 minutes. On Sundays cars are discouraged from visiting the city centre unless you are coming in for a special event and utilise a parking garage. Street camera’s are matched with the garage camera to fine the offenders.
Collected a bread role for lunch with Gae and then head out a 3pm to the football.
I took a taxi to the stadium which worked out to be 20minutes; I go to me seat in the front row of the upper stand in plenty of time to watch both teams go through their warm-up session. The goal keepers did not save many goals during the warm-up session and I realised their job is huge.
Sevilla scored a goal in the 20th minute but was disallowed after the referee checked the play on a small TV on the sideline. There are no big screens that we are used to as the play is continuous and there is no time to be looking elsewhere. Real Madrid scored in the 40th minute to take the lead into halftime.
I did not leave my seat as the halftime period is only fifteen minutes. Play was a little scrappy from both teams and Sevilla equalised in the 80th minute much to the disgust of the locals, however the home team sealed the game in the 85th minute to the delight of the locals.
I watched the on-field celebrations and then the maintenance team appeared to do their job. Eighty odd thousand spectators to leave the grounds, so I walked with them down the road until I found a Taxi home.
Sunday 19 January
Time to pack and leave the unit in Madrid to continue our travels in Spain as we headed to Toledo.
Rather than paying the €60 fine for not using a parking garage on the Sunday, we drove around and around until we found an entrance we could enter; we parked, waited 10minutes and John paid the 40c fee. When we tried to drive out, the ticket and the boom-gate did not want to talk nicely to each other; fortunately, a kind person manually opened the gate and we finally began our drive to Toledo.
“Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. The capital of the region, it’s known for the medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments in its walled old city. It was also the former home of Mannerist painter El Greco. The Moorish Bisagra Gate and the Sol Gate, in Mudéjar style, open into the old quarter, where the Plaza de Zocodover is a lively meeting place.”
We arrived in Toledo early afternoon, booked into our hotel and then headed out to begin exploring this old city. Our first stop was the Santa Maria La Blanca (the White Synagogue) Circa 1200 and rebuilt 1250 after a fire.
“The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca (literally Synagogue of Saint Mary the White, originally known as the Ibn Shushan Synagogue, or commonly the Congregational Synagogue of Toledo) is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo, Spain. Erected in 1180, according to an inscription on a beam, it is disputably considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church.
Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique among surviving buildings as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.”
Our next stop was a short walk along the street at the San Juan de los Reyes Monastery where we spent quite some time walking, looking, sitting, contemplating the number of footsteps it had taken to wear the floor tiles to what we see today.
We climbed the stairs to the cloisters and marvelled at the ceramics as well as the magnificent wooden ceiling. The blue spruce in the courtyard was nearly perfect in proportion; John would have loved to pick some of the mandarins off the tree across the courtyard.
This monastery was founded by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile to commemorate both the birth of their son, Prince John, and their victory at the Battle of Toro (1476) over the army of Afonso V of Portugal.
Prince John of Portugal also celebrate his victory over the Castilian army of the Catholic monarchs with a solemn procession on each anniversary of the battle. This apparent contradiction was a consequence of the indecisive military outcome of the battle: the troops under Afonso V broke while the forces led by Prince John of Portugal defeated the Castilian right wing and remained in possession of the battlefield.
The battle represented a decisive political victory for the Catholic Monarchs, assuring them the throne and paving the way for the future united kingdoms of Spain. As summarized by the Spanish academic historian Rafael Casas:
“…San Juan de los Reyes resulted from the royal will to build a monastery to commemorate the victory in a battle with an uncertain outcome but decisive, the one fought in Toro in 1476, which consolidated the union of the two most important Peninsular Kingdoms.”
Toledo was chosen as the site for building the monastery due to its central geographic location and because it had been the capital of the ancient Visigoth kingdom, symbolically reconstituted by Isabella and Ferdinand with the restoration of the lost unity of Spain, through the union of Castile with Aragon.”
Monday 20 January
One of the challenges of being tea drinkers in a coffee culture country, the concept of “hot” water can be quite different. Most establishments have those ubiquitous machines that produce a range of coffees, hot chocolate and “Hot Water” all at the same temperature, but not nearly hot enough for tea. It can take some time to convince staff that I mean boiling water, but I usually succeeded.
We had our day planned to visit the Cathedral and the Mosque; we headed out, up the hill via the route indicated by the hotel staff. John usually has a great sense of direction, but he was having all sorts of problems – mainly the sun was in the wrong place. After quite some time and a few more wrong turns we eventually found the back of the Cathedral and then had to find the entrance.
The cathedral of Toledo is one of the three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered, in the opinion of some authorities, to be the magnum opus of the Gothic style in Spain. It was begun in 1226 under the rule of Ferdinand III and the last Gothic contributions were made in the 15th century when, in 1493, the vaults of the central nave were finished during the time of the Catholic Monarchs. It was modelled after the Bourges Cathedral, although its five naves plan is a consequence of the constructors’ intention to cover all of the sacred space of the former city mosque with the cathedral, and of the former sahn with the cloister. It also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style, mainly in the cloister, with the presence of multifoiled arches in the triforium. The spectacular incorporation of light and the structural achievements of the ambulatory vaults are some of its more remarkable aspects. It is built with white limestone from the quarries of Olihuelas, near Toledo.
It is popularly known as Dives Toletana (meaning The Rich Toledan in Latin).
For many years, an unwritten popular tradition has held that there was originally a church from the era of the first Archbishop Eugene (Saint Eugene of Toledo) located in the same place as the present cathedral. This church was consecrated for a second time in the year 587, after having undergone some alterations, as testified by a 16th-century inscription preserved on a pillar in the rear of the nave of the church which states:
In the name of the Lord the Church of Saint Mary was consecrated as Catholic, the first day of the ides of April, in the joyful first year of the reign of our most glorious king Flavius Reccared, Era 625 [13 of April of 587].
The city had been the episcopal seat of Visigothic Spain. The numerous Councils of Toledo attest to its important ecclesiastical past. Also, the abjuration of Arianism on the part of Reccared occurred there. The Muslim invasion did not immediately eliminate the Christian presence and the bishopric remained established in the church of Saint Mary of Alfizén.
The Visigothic church was torn down and the main mosque of the city of Toledo was erected in its place. Some investigators point out that the prayer hall of the mosque corresponds with the layout of the five naves of the current cathedral; the sahn would coincide with part of the current cloister and the chapel of Saint Peter and the minaret with the belltower. Using certain certain archaeological data it is possible to discern an Islamic column mounted inside the chapel of Saint Lucy; the marble shafts that decorate the exterior of the choir are an improvement of an old Muslim construction, and the intertwined arches of caliphate style in the triforium of the main chapel and of the ambulatory coincide with the Muslim construction tradition of Cordova.
Once inside, it was time to sit and contemplate while listening to the audio-guide; the age of the building, the history and the workmanship in every area was truly magnificent – what these tradesmen achieved with the tools available in the 13th Century it a testament to them. The cost involved to create this cathedral and then maintain it through the centuries must be the equivalent of a large fortune – I wonder how an assessor estimates the insurance value?
After the Cathedral, we headed up to the Mosque; however, with no street going directly from one place to another, we walked and walked and had no success – time to call it quits and come back another time!
It was interesting to note all the references to Don Quixote and Sancho as well as the numerous souvenirs depicting their story:
“The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes; published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is said to be the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. A founding work of Western literature, it is often labelled “the first modern novel” and is considered by some to be the best literary work ever written.
The plot revolves around the adventures of a noble from La Mancha named Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight-errant to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Quixote recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire; Sancho often uses his unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote’s rhetorical monologues on knighthood, already considered old-fashioned at the time. Don Quixote does not see the world for what it is; he prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story.
Don Quixote finds an antique suit of armour and attaches a visor made of pasteboard to an old helmet. He then declares that his old nag is the noble steed Rocinante. According to Don Quixote, a knight-errant also needs a lady to love, and he selects a peasant girl from a nearby town, christening her Dulcinea del Toboso. Thus accoutred, he heads out to perform deeds of heroism in her name.
Don Quixote and Sancho, mounted on a donkey, set out and in their first adventure, Don Quixote mistakes a field of windmills for giants and attempts to fight them but finally concludes that a magician must have turned the giants into windmills. Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies and the expression is said to have derived from Don Quixote, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.
The book had a major influence on the literary community, as evidenced by direct references in Alexandre Dumas‘ The Three Musketeers (1844), Mark Twain‘s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Edmond Rostand‘s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), as well as the word quixotic and the epithet Lothario.”
Tuesday 21 January
Time to try and find the Mosque again – took a different way this time in the hope of achieving our goal. Once again, the roads were at all odd angles – going every which, what, way but never going anywhere directly. When we were nearly to the point on the map, we pulled out the phone to check the direction – and guess what! The Mosque was “Closed Today”! Maybe I am just not meant to visit. Next stop, a souvenir shop we had seen yesterday, but it was closed as well – not doing too well so far. We then headed back down towards our hotel to the “Antiquities Tour” that turned out to be an over-priced second-hand / come “junk shop”.
From the “Antiquities”, we walked along to the El Greco Museum and then spent a fascinating couple of hours wandering through his home that is now a permanent Museum. An insight to a painter that had an interesting way of viewing / painting his subject. After some lunch and souvenir shopping, it was time to seek solace at the hotel.
Somewhere in my walks yesterday I came across a church with twin towers and they advertised the fact that from the top you could take the best photos of Toledo. I set out to find the church again and after several wrong turns I stumbled across it. A small fee of 3 Euro and I was on my way to the top. The churches official name was Iglesia de los Jesuitas, the staircase on the left lead to the next level before I could make the final assent to the top of the tower. The management has installed a complete new metal staircase to the latest regulations. The view was certainly worth the climb and I was able to take some great photos across the city.
I then headed up to the armoury however it was within 30 minutes of closing time and they refused my entry. Returned via a different walkway to our hotel for the night.
Wednesday 22 January
On the road again today for our drive to Granada – some three and a half hours south. The drive was through rich country with olive trees on every vacant piece of land; further south, the land became very rough with hills all around, but still the olive trees grew – the Spanish must be very fond of the olives / olive products or they have a great export market.
As we neared Granada, we came to the Sierra Nevada Mountains looking magnificent in the sunshine; the peaks were covered in dazzling, white snow with the snowline well down the valley and provided a wonderful backdrop to Granada.
After several wrong turns, we finally found our hotel down a narrow street and were very pleased to hand over the car to the chap to garage it and return the day we leave. With the unpacking done, John promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours. After going for a walk around the local area, we found a place for dinner and decided that was enough for one day.
Thursday 23 January
We caught a taxi to Alhambra and spent the day wandering, listening, in awe and just sitting to reflect on what we were seeing and the history that was there to be discovered.
“The Alhambra was a palace, citadel and fortress, residence of the Nasrid sultans and senior officials, court servants and elite soldiers, reaching its full splendour in the second half of the 14th century, coinciding with the sultanate of Yusuf I (1333-1354) and the second reign of Muhammad V (1362-1391).”
The history of the Alhambra is linked to the geographical location where it is located, Granada; on a rocky hill of difficult access, on the banks of the river Darro, protected by the mountains and surrounded by forest, among the oldest districts of the city, the Alhambra rises like an imposing castle of reddish tones in its walls that hide to the Exterior the delicate beauty of its interior.
Designed as a military zone at the beginning, the Alhambra became the royal residence and court of Granada in the mid-13th century after the establishment of the Nasrid Kingdom and the construction of the first palace by the founding king Mohammed ibn Yusuf Ben Nasr, better known as Alhamar.
Throughout the 13, 14 and 15th Centuries, the fortress became a citadel of high walls and defensive towers, which housed two main areas: the military zone or Alcazaba, barracks of the royal guar, and the medina or palatine city, where the famous Nasrid Palaces and the remains of the houses of nobles and plebeians who lived there. The Palace of Carlos V (built after the city was seized in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs) is also in the medina.
The monumental complex also has an independent palace in front of the Alhambra, surrounded by orchards and gardens, (The Generalife) which was the solace of the Granadine kings,
The name Alhambra has its origins in an Arabic word meaning “red castle or vermilion”, perhaps due to the colour tone of the towers and walls that completely surround the hill of La Sabica, which under the light of the stars becomes a silver colour, but in the light of the sun acquires a golden tone. Although there is a more poetic explanation, narrated by the Muslim chroniclers who talk about the construction of the Alhambra “under the light of the torches.” Created originally for military purposes, the Alhambra was a fortress, a palace and a small medina, all at the same time. This triple character helps us understand the many characteristics of this monument.
There is no reference to the Alhambra as a residence of kings until the 13th century, although fortification had existed since the 9th century. The first kings of Granada, the Zirtians, had their castles and palaces in the hills of Albaicin, and nothing remains of them. The monarchs Ziries were in all probability the emirs who built the Alhambra, beginning in 1238.
The founder of the dynasty, Muhammed Al-Ahmar, began with the restoration of the old fort. His work was completed by his son Muhammed II, whose immediate successors continued the repairs. The construction of the palaces (called Casa Real Vieja) dates back to the 14th century and is the work of two great kings: Yusuf I and Muhammed V. The first is awarded, among others, the Fourth Comares, the Door of Justice, The Baths and some towers. His son, Muhammed V, completed the beautification of the palaces with the Hall of Lions, in addition to other rooms and fortifications.
The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs conquered Granada. Later, several structures were built to house prominent citizens, military barracks, a Church and a Franciscan Monastery.
We spent all day at Alhambra in the palace, the towers and military zone or Alcazaba and going through the Alhambra Museum. We had really good views over the city, across to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the River Darro as well as the Summer Palace and Gardens (known as Generalife).
By the time we returned to the hotel, it was time for a drink, dinner and bed.
Friday 24 January
After breakfast it was out walking again. We started with “the prettiest street in Granada”, the Carrera del Darro that begins at the Plaza Nueva, a bright, busy square favoured by street performers, opposite the Alhambra.
When we left the river, we headed uphill just to see where we would go. The streets off the river area are cobbled, narrow, wide enough for a car and not much else and a challenge to walk around. Between the streets are tiny alleys, that when the hills become too steep, you are given steps to climb – I needed quite a few rest breaks during these couple of hours.
Eventually we made it back down to the Granada Cathedral where we spent the next two hours exploring. The audio-tour was full of wonderful detail, giving insight to the history of the Cathedral, the architects, builders and those responsible for the ornamentation; this guide added an extra dimension, making our visit all the more meaningful.
“Unlike most cathedrals in Spain, construction was not begun until the sixteenth century in 1518 in the centre of the old Muslim Medina, after acquisition of the Nastrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers in 1492. While its earliest plans hadGothic designs, such as are evident in theRoyal Chapel of Granada by Enrique Egas, most of the church’s construction occurred when the Spanish Renaissance style was supplanting the Gothic in Spanish architecture.
Foundations for the church were laid by the Enrique Egas starting from 1518 to 1523 atop the site of the city’s main mosque; by 1529, Egas was replaced byDiego de Siloe who worked for nearly four decades on the structure from ground to cornice, planning the triforium and five naves instead of the usual three. Most unusually, he created a circular capilla mayor (principal chapel) rather than a semicircular apse, perhaps inspired by Italian ideas for circular ‘perfect buildings’ (e.g., inAlberti’s works). Within its structure the cathedral combines other of the Vitruvian orders of architecture.
Subsequent architects included Juan de Maena (1563–1571), by Juan de Orea (1571–1590), and Ambrosio de Vico (1590–?). In 1667 Alonso Cano, working with Gaspar de la Peña, altered the initial plan for the main façade, introducing Baroque elements. The cathedral took 181 years to build. It would have been even grander had the two 81-meter towers included in the plans been built; however, the project remained incomplete for various reasons, including financial.
The Cathedral had been intended as the royal mausoleum by CharlesI of Spain, but PhilipII of Spain moved the site for his father’s and subsequent kings’ tombs to El Escorial outside of Madrid.
The main chapel contains two kneeling effigies of the Catholic King and Queen, Isabel and Ferdinand by Pedro de Mena y Medrano. The busts of Adam and Eve were made by Alonso Cano. The Chapel of the Trinity has a marvellous retablo with paintings by El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonso Cano.”
Saturday 25 January
Heavy rain greeted us this morning, so the time was spent writing, reading and generally relaxing. By lunchtime the rain had eased enough to go out to buy a baguette and bananas to consume with a cup of tea – having the kettle, mugs and teapot ensures we can have a decent cup when we want; finding decent teabags was difficult until we found a supply of Twining’s today.
Early afternoon I decided I needed to go for a walk so I headed east into the Jewish quarter to see if I could track down a couple of their worship centres. First, I came across a museum and wandered upstairs to have a look around, not much of interest however I found a plan of the city dated 1894 and a photo of a similar date. What was interesting was that there appeared to be not main behind the Cathedral as it exists today. In fact, as I walked down the main street later I noted that most buildings appear to be from around the1880 to 1920 period.
I crossed the street and headed down a back street and discovered a very old building that was named with tiles as Santo Domingo and a plaque that was erected in 1988 suggested that the building was commenced in 1504 and completed in 1588. I was unable to gain entry so took some photos and headed off again up a steep hill and arrived near the entrance to the Alhambra.
I then followed the path back down to the town which came out almost at our hotel. Still had some time left so I walked down the main street and back and around the Cathedral and the shopping centre before returning to our hotel to take Gae to dinner just around the corner.
Sunday 26 January
After packing and driving out of Granada, it was a fairly easy drive to Ronda. We had driven through Ronda in 2015 when John was playing a tennis tournament at Malaga. On the day before the tournament began, we went for a drive; we were really impressed with Ronda but couldn’t find anywhere to park and we were running out of daylight so had to keep going.
After the usual few wrong turns, we arrived at the hotel in Ronda about 2.30pm. This time, John picked the hotel overlooking the Puente Nuevo (new bridge – 1793) and across the chasm to the “new” part of town; this area had some buildings prior to this bridge as there was a smaller one upstream. After checking-in, admiring the view, unpacking, admiring the view and taking photos, it was time to go for walk and headed to the old part of town.
We had seen lots of open restaurants while out walking, but when we thought it was time for dinner, the restaurants were all closed (lunch 1-4 and dinner 8-11); after another walk, this time over the bridge and we eventually found McDonalds.
It was dark by the time we returned to the hotel and the lights had been switched on to illuminate the bridge. Sitting in our room with the balcony doors open we could hear the water cascading down numerous waterfalls to the floor of the chasm – a delightful sound.
“Ronda is a mountaintop city in Spain’s Malaga province that’s set dramatically above a deep gorge (El Tajo) that separates the city’s circa-15th-century new town from its old town, dating to Moorish rule. Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge spanning the gorge, has a lookout offering views. New town’s Plaza de Toros, a legendary 18th-century bullring, is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks.
Around the city are remains of prehistoric settlements dating to the Neolithic Age including the rock paintings of Cueva de la Pileta; it was first settled by the early Celts in the sixth century BC, who called it Arunda. Later, Phoenician settlers established nearby at Acinipo, known locally as Ronda la Vieja, Arunda, or Old Ronda. The current Ronda is of Roman origins, having been founded as a fortified post in the Second Punic War, by Scipio Africanus and received the title of city at the time of Julius Caesar.
In the fifth century AD, Ronda was conquered by the Suebi, being reconquered in the following century by the Eastern Roman Empire; Ronda was part of the Visigoth realm until 713, when it fell to the Berbers. After the disintegration of the caliphate of Cordoba, Ronda became the capital of a small kingdom ruled by the Berbers. During this period, Ronda gained most of its Islamic architectural heritage.
The Islamic domination of Ronda ended in 1485, when it was conquered by the Marquis of Cádiz after a brief siege. Subsequently, most of the city’s old edifices were renewed or adapted to Christian roles, while numerous others were built in newly created quarters. The Plaza de Toros de Ronda was founded in the town in 1572.
On May 25, 1566, Philip II decreed the use of the Arabic language (written or spoken) illegal; this led to several rebellions. Soldiers defeated the Spanish army sent to suppress them; the massacre of the Spaniards prompted Phillip II to order the expulsion of all Moriscos in Ronda.
In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic Invasion and the subsequent Peninsular War caused much suffering in Ronda, whose inhabitants were reduced from 15,600 to 5,000 in three years. Ronda’s area became the base first of guerrilla warriors, then of numerous bandits. In the 19th century, the economy of Ronda was mainly based on agricultural activities. In 1918, the city was the seat of the Assembly of Ronda, in which the Andalusian flag, coat of arms, and anthem were designed.
Ronda’s Romero family 1698 to 1839—played a principal role in the development of modern Spanish bullfighting; responsible for such innovations as the use of the cape, or muleta, and a sword especially designed for the kill and transformed bullfighting into “an art and a skill in its own right, and not simply … a clownishly macho preamble to the bull’s slaughter”.
Ronda was heavily affected by the Spanish Civil War which led to emigration and depopulation. The scene in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, describing the 1936 execution of Fascist sympathisers in a (fictional) village who are thrown off a cliff, is considered to be modelled on actual events of the time in Ronda.
Monday 27 January
The sun was just painting the tips of the mountains with glorious pinks and oranges when we woke at 8am. After a very pleasant breakfast (real tea, made with boiling water in china pots) while admiring the view, it was time to head out for the day.
Most of the day was spent exploring Ronda, beginning with a walk over the Puente Nuevo and around the cliff-top walk to the Plaza de Toros de Ronda built in 1795 (updating the original ring built in1573 that had been built for the Real Maestranza de Caballería (the second oldest riding school in Europe). The complex was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1993; Ronda is preparing to celebrate their 450th Anniversary in 2023). The tour of the bullring included the Matador Museum; this was a well displayed history of this facility; highlighting the riding school developed from the need to have a mobile fighting force as well as the development of the Matador’s art, role, skills, wardrobe and previous celebrity status in Spain.
The Plaza de Toros de Ronda now has a changing role as bull fighting rapidly loses popularity among the younger generations.
“The Plaza de Toros de Ronda is a Bullring in Ronda, a diameter of 66 metres, surrounded by a passage formed by two rings of stone. There are two layers of seating, each with five raised rows and 136 pillars that make up 68 arches. The Royal Box has a sloping roof covered in Arabic tiles. The design of the main entrance to the bull ring features two Tuscan columns and the royal shield of Spain surround by baroque edging. The main door is large enough to allow horses and carriages to enter the ring, and above the door is an iron wrought balcony that embodies the bullfighting culture.
The city of Ronda is home to the Real Maestranza de Caballería, the oldest and most noble order of horsemanship in Spain since 1485. In that year, the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella won Ronda back from the Moors and ended over seven centuries of Islamic rule. Construction of the bullring started in 1779 and finished in 1785. It stands on the western edge of Ronda, near Puente Nueva and the El Tajo canyon. The design is attributed to the architect Martin de Aldehuela and may not be the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain, but it is one of the first entirely constructed from stone, instead of a combination of stone and brick. The architecture is also unique in that all seating in the ring is covered. It is considered a rather small arena with only five thousand seats, but the bull ring itself is the largest in Spain.
Ronda’s inaugural bull fighting event in May of 1784 resulted in a partial collapse of the stands, and the structure had to be closed temporarily for repairs. It reopened the next year in May of 1785 with its second inaugural event, which is known as one of the greatest bullfights in Ronda’s history. Rivals Pedro Romero and Pepe Hillo faced each other in front of the most noble families in Ronda.
In 1923, the original Espinel theatre in Ronda was built next to the main entrance of the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Subsequently the entrance was relocated to Virgen de la Paz, where it still stands across from a restaurant named after the famous Pedro Romero. In the 1980s, the old Espinel theatre was demolished and relocated, and gave way to a parking lot. In 2009, that parking lot was finally removed. The city of Ronda opened up a competition for designers to construct new gardens next to the entrance of the bullfighting ring; some historians argued that the entrance should be restored in its original locations, but today gardens that embody the golden era of bullfighting in Spain now stretch to a scenic outlook next to the ring.
The Mueso Taurino holds two centuries of famous bullfighting regalia and important outfits. The collection also includes an extensive display of weapons used by the Real Maestranza in the Spanish war.”
Plaza de Toros de Ronda
In the afternoon I decided to visit the internal chamber of the bridge for a history lesson on is construction; the bridge was completed in 1789 (one year after Australia was discovered).
I then visited another part of the old city upstream from the bridge. There was a hole in the wall and a garden behind which I decided to visit. It turned out to be part of an old Moorish king’s residence which had a 15m water wheel, powered by Christian slaves, installed inside the water mine to bring water from the river up to the city. In 1485 Ronda was under siege by Castilian troops. The Marquess of Cadiz’ troops crossed the River Guadalevin, got to this wall and opened up a hole through the stonework. Then they destroyed the water wheel, cutting off Ronda’s water supply. After that, the city’s surrender was just a matter of days. The fall of this defensive bastion in the western part of the Nasrid Kingdom was the beginning of the end for the whole kingdom and its culture.
Further down the hill I came across the old city gate which still stands and then another bridge crossing.
Just outside the city wall is the Arab Baths which date from the 13th to 15th centaury and are basically still intact. A short video was playing in one of the chambers which gave me a great insight into its workings.
While out exploring, John found a restaurant that didn’t close between 4 and 8pm and we thoroughly enjoyed a delicious meal and a quiet drink.
We returned to the hotel via some more narrow streets, passed a school where parents were collecting children and then driving off at a rapid rate; I they must be use to negotiating these confined spaces in their vehicles, but there was very little room through which to drive or pass any pedestrians – it was up to us to stay out of their path
Tuesday 28 January
It was time to leave Ronda, but we took the opportunity to drive down the steep, narrow streets to the floor of the chasm to look back to the bridge and our hotel – quite a different perspective.
After that photo opportunity, we drove further down the valley before joining the road to Seville.
As we had plenty of time and not a great distance to travel, we took a detour to Zahara, a hilltop town with a watchtower, that we had seen from the road. Driving into the as well out of the village was a series of twisting, narrow and very steep one-way roads that even had google maps confused which certainly made navigation an exhausting time. After directions from a police officer, we eventually found a parking area and wandered down the hill and found the village square and somewhere to have lunch (homemade tomato soup and tortilla). The climb back up the hill to the car was challenging enough for me, so John carried on up to the watchtower (the equivalent of 34 flights of stairs according to Apple) but he thought the view was worth the effort. The road out of Zahara met the main road at such a steep angle, the front bumper beeper really let us know it was not happy. Thankfully we managed the exit with no damage – except maybe to our nervous systems.
“Zahara de la Sierra is a municipality in the province of Cadiz in the hills of Andalusia, southern Spain; it is perched on a mountain, overlooking a valley and a man-made lake formed by the dam that provides access to the town. It is considered to be one of the pueblos blancos or “white towns” because the overwhelming majority of the buildings are white.
The town was originally a Moorish outpost, overlooking the valley. Due to its position between Ronda and Seville, it was a perfect site for a castle to be built to serve as a fortress in case of attack. The remains of the Moorish castle still exist. It was ruled by Arabs until 1407 and was recaptured by the Emirate of Granada in 1481. This capture gave a pretext to Castile’s war against Granada. It was finally captured by Castilian troops under command of Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Duke of Cadiz in 1483.”
We arrived in Seville about 6pm; after we made the obligatory few wrong turns, we eventually found our accommodation – nearly. We had to park in a small area and wait for the hotel valet to come and assist us; thank heavens the valet had a trolley to take our luggage from the car, to check-in and then to our unit. By the time we unpacked, the valet was back with the car keys and he gave us directions to the nearest supermarket for supplies. It was good to relax after an exhausting day
Wednesday 29 January
A slow start to the day – a late sunrise as well as shutters on the bedroom window meant we didn’t wake till 10am. The mornings tended to be cool (8-100C) and maximum (15-190C) not reached until 4 or 5pm.
With the laundry organised, John went out walking while I worked on the newsletter as well as did more research on sightseeing in Seville and then Lisbon.
The laundry mat here is not self-serve, so I left our bag full and said I would return in 2 hours. That gave me the opportunity to walk around the city and check out the lay of the land. The first port of call was the Plaza de Espana, this building was built for the Iberoamerican Exhibition of 1929 and was built in a corner of The Maria Luisa Park. The building is in a semi-circle with a huge courtyard in the centre and water fountain. Many of the balustrades are made of porcelain and are a striking feature of the foreground. The justice department is the main occupant of the buildings, and there are many function facilities in the centre section.
I walked through the large park at the front of the building which contained many fig trees that we see around Sydney and on Buckajo Road. Other imported tree were in the park which stretches to the banks of the river. A walking & bike trial runs alongside the river with stops to relax and enjoy some beverage. I did see a picture which showed sailing ships along the shore in past days. We have to remember that Christopher Columbus sailed from here on his discovery of the Americas.
I returned via the Cathedral and Old Town to collect the laundry and head back to our unit.
We had dinner in a courtyard near our unit and then went for a stroll down some of the laneways. The accommodation we chose for Seville is part of a hotel, suites and apartments complex that appears to take up several blocks – hard to tell whether the building came first as another entity or was purpose built. Our apartment is quite comfortable and provides a great base for seeing the sights we had on our list.
Cars are banned from most of this area; they wouldn’t fit! The few delivery vehicles we have seen were vans rather than trucks. On one occasion we saw a shop owner having to wind in their shop awning to allow the van to pass. The streets are cobbled stone, are reasonably flat and a little easier to walk on than some previous examples.
Thursday 30 January
The day began with the City Sightseeing Bus Tour and spent an hour driving around parts of the city close to the river, past several monuments and places of interest, but did not give any insight to the old city, the Cathedral or the Real Alcazar (Royal Palace). The tour was a rather underwhelming experience.
These buildings were erected for the 1929 Exhibition by South American countries.
We left the bus, adjacent to the river and near the river cruise terminal and decided to see the sights from a different perspective. Another hour spent seeing Seville with this being a much more positive experience. We saw many of the sights described on the bus, but we were closer, had a better view and the commentary more relevant.
After the cruise we walked along the river path, stopped for a late lunch and decided that by the time we walked back to the unit that was nearly enough for today.
After some rest I headed out around the streets & lanes of the Old City and came across three columns from the Roman times and the adjacent sign confirmed that they were from the Emperor Hadrian’s rule around 200AD. Two further columns were relocated in the 16th Centaury so I put the address into my phone and used the direction to arrive at the location some 20 minutes later. After inspecting and taking photos I headed back and noted a number of interesting buildings on my return.
Friday 31 January
We spent from 10.30 to 2.30 at the Cathedral; once again we had audio guides to give the detail to what we were seeing as well as the history of this edifice. Our time was spent listening, pondering, wandering, sitting, gazing and contemplating; again marvelling at the skills of those involved to create this cathedral. It does not matter how many churches we may visit, each is unique; we do not become tired of just sitting and reflecting on each one – they are so different and present a differing perspective on veneration.
“The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville, Andalusia, Spain. 1198 the Seville Mosque and minaret(tower) was completed and the Giralda belltower is still in use today; 1248 reconquest of Spain by Ferdinand III, it was declared a Cathedral. 1430 to 1928 various sections of the Cathedral were completed. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the adjoining Alcázar palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies.in July 2010, Seville Cathedral was declared as a Site of Exceptional Universal Value.
The Seville Cathedral is said to be the largest gothic cathedral in the world; the total area occupied by the building is 23,500 square metres; the Gothic section alone has a length of 126 metres, a width of 83 metres and its maximum height in the centre of the transept is 37 metres. The total height of the Giralda tower from the ground to the weathervane is 104.5 metres. Since the world’s two largest churches (the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St Peter’ Basilica are not the seats of bishops, Seville Cathedral is still the largest cathedral in the world.
Seville Cathedral was the site of the baptism of Infant Juan of Aragon in 1478, only son of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Its royal chapel holds the remains of the city’s conqueror Ferdinand III of Castile, his son and heir, Alfonso the Wise and their descendant king Peter the Just. The funerary monuments for cardinals Juan de Cervantes and Pedro Gonzalez de Mendosa are located among its chapels. Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are also buried in the Cathedral.”
After some lunch and a rest, we went walking again and ended up taking a horse and carriage ride along the streets of the old city, into and around the Princess Maria-Luisa Gardens to the Ministry Offices, fountains and ponds before heading back to the Cathedral Square through different streets. Our driver pointed out the monuments and sites of interest as we passed each one – certainly a lovely way to view this part of the city.
Saturday 1 February
Gae rested this morning after yesterday’s visit to the Cathedral, so I headed back to the Cathedral before 11am to beat the crowds and walk up the Giralda Tower. This is the first tower I ever visited that has no steps and wheelchair access; it would be a good push up some 35 levels. It is a square tower, so the ramps are against the external walls and are about 2 metres wide. As usual the tower dominates the city but the main interest to me was inspecting the roof of the Cathedral, I was not disappointed and took many photos. I waited for the noon bells but was disappointed not to have the full 12 gongs.
Out the back gate and headed towards the bull ring which is only about 500 metres from the Cathedral and over by the river. Arrived around 12:30 and just in time to join a conducted tour for around 45 minutes. The museum was not as extensive as the one at Ronda but interesting in its own way.
“La Catedral del Toreo: this magnificent bullring is considered to be one of the finest in Spain and is one of the oldest and most important in the world. Although many of the younger generation in Spain abhor the sport, it remains phenomenally popular, especially in Seville, and the ‘Catedral del Toreo’ is the perfect place to experience the electric atmosphere of a corrida (bullfight).
The building, with its impressive Baroque façade, dates from 1762 -1881 (under a succession of architects) and was immortalized in Bizet’s Carmen. The arena accommodates 14,000 and, despite its size, the acoustics allow you to hear everything wherever you’re sitting. The main entrance is the Puerta del Príncipe (the Prince’s Gate) with beautiful 16th-century iron gates, originally from a convent, made by Pedro Roldán. After an outstanding performance the torero (bullfighter) will be carried out through these gates on the audience’s shoulders. Look out for the slight slope in the arena; it’s higher in the centre than near the stalls to give the bullfighter an advantage – he can sprint downhill to get behind the barricade, while the bull has to come to a stop to avoid crashing into it.
The small but interesting museum traces the sport’s history from the 18th century to present day. Its collection of memorabilia includes costumes, posters and bull’s heads, as well as paintings of some celebrated Sevillano toreros such as Juan Belmonte and Joselito El Gallo, whose suits worn at the tender age of 14 are on display. Also visit the chapel, dedicated to the Virgen de la Caridad, where fighters pray before entering the ring, and an infirmary – in 20 per cent of bullfights the torero needs emergency treatment. (The bulls aren’t as lucky, of course. All are killed.) Famous visitors to the Maestranza include Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth (original name Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino; her father was Sevillano); and her second husband, bullfighting aficionado Orson Welles, who came to Seville in the 1960s to write about and learn the sport.”
A short walk along the river to the (Torre del Oro) Golden Tower, which was built around the year 1220, by order of governor Abu Eola. The tower was part of the city’s defensive walls and it was linked to an octagonal tower nearby. At the time the watchtower was used to control access to the city’s port. A large chain connected the Torre del Oro with yet another tower across the river. When the chain was raised, it would block all ships from entering the city. Today the Golden Tower is home to a naval museum which has a collection related to the city’s rich maritime history and its connection with the New World.
A walk to the shopping centre to recharge John’s phone and iPad chips; clothes shopping was a waste of effort (we needed to be a lot smaller); we did manage to find a suitcase to carry the current excess – we just seem to collect things along the way
Sunday 2 February
I had a pre-purchased ticket for 11am which allowed me to walk past the line of people waiting to purchase a ticket. Collected an audio guide and headed off around the palace and gardens.
“The Royal Alcazar of Seville is a royal palace, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville. The palace is a preeminent example of Mudejar architecture in the Iberian Peninsula, it also features Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque design elements from previous stages of construction. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as their official residence in Seville and was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In the year 712, Seville was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate; in the year 913, after a revolt against Cordoba’s government, the first caliph of Andalusia Abd al-Rahman III built a fortified construction in place of a Visigothic Christian basilica. It was a quadrangular enclosure, fortified, and annexed to the walls. In the 11th century, the second king, Al-Mu’tamid expanded the structure to the west with a new palace ‘Al Mubarak’. Various additions to the construction such as stables and warehouses were also carried out. As Seville was established as the capital of Al-Andalus, the Almohade caliphs made the Alcazar their main residence. With the exception of the walls, the previous buildings were demolished, and were carried out up to a total of twelve palaces. There are few remnants of constructions of that period. Archaeological remains of the Al Mubarak palace are currently preserved under Patio de la Monteria. Several wall painting fragments were found that are now exhibited in the Palacio del Yeso.
With the start of the Christian era in Seville, the Alcazar was converted into the residence of the Christian monarchs. Changes were made to the constructions to fit the needs of the monarchs and the court life. In the years 1364-1366, king Pedro I built the Mudlejar Palace, an example of the Andalusian Mudejar style. Under the Catholic rulers Isabella and Fernando, the upper floor was extended and transformed into the main residence of the monarchs.
The palace was the birthplace of Infanta Maria Antonietta of Spain (1729-1785), daughter of Philip V of Spain and Elisabeth Farnese, when the king was in the city to oversee the signing of the Treaty of Seville (1727) which ended the Anglo-Spanish War (1729).”
Late in the afternoon I took my last walk towards the main shopping area, this time going via another street. Sunday afternoon and all the locals were out for a stroll just wandering with their children & grandchildren. A different way of life in these old cities. Took a right turn at one street corner and came across a huge honeycomb structure which had a car park underneath, restaurants & playground above and a viewing platform over the top. Almost lost my way and had to resort to my phone map for a slight correction in my course for the way home.
This ends our visit to the south of Spain, tomorrow we head to Portugal.