Archive for the ‘buildings’ Category

The journey home

September 8, 2019

We waved our farewells, sitting in the back of the taxi blubbering, we valiantly pulled ourselves together to get a few words out to our taxi driver. He was already 30 minutes late due to traffic holdups and he was explaining to us that he would be taking us to Heathrow via a very roundabout route as there were major traffic holdups on the M25 – the motorway that circumnavigates London city.

The trip should take one and half hours, on a good day, 2 hours at the most we are told. He was telling us that we would be having a very memorable last drive in England, travelling through some very small country lanes, until we had to rejoin the M25.

Narrow country lanes

Then we meet traffic….who is backing up?

We went through a few pretty little villages, and we were enjoying the scenery on our journey through the countryside. His navigation system (Waze) was being constantly updated with reports coming in of accidents, holdups and other traffic info plus it had our expected time of arrival emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. We started off with an ETA of 6:00pm, which then extended to 6:30pm which then soon became 7:00pm, by the time we got to the multi lane motorway car park we had an ETA of 7:59pm. We finally checked in at 8:20pm.

During this travel time we were in contact with Alex as they were able to follow our progress through a tracking app on their phones as Ian had made the initial taxi booking for us. I’m sure they thought that we had been kidnapped and were being taken off somewhere deep into the countryside.

Back to our airport arrival. Fortunately, we always allow a lot of extra time for exactly this sort of event as we don’t mind being at the airport early. It means we can relax and partake of a favourite pastime, people watching. We didn’t have much time to relax or people watch as it was soon time to board but looking at our boarding passes, I was sure that we had not been allocated our preferred seats and on checking my phone app, I was right. When we came to board we queried why we had not been allocated our assigned seats, we were soon ushered to a senior staff person who apologised and reassigned us new seats, this time we were to have a whole row to ourselves…score!

I have to admit that the tears welled up again as the plane took off, it’s not easy leaving .

The flight was uneventful, we tried to sleep, I even managed to lie down along our row of seats but sleep eluded us. We were soon landing in Hong Kong where upon arrival everyone goes through a scanner to check your temperature. The current measles outbreak is worldwide and precautionary measures are in place everywhere.

Once through passport control and then customs we were met by our driver who was waiting to take us to our hotel in Central HK.

Streets of Hong Kong

By the time we checked into our hotel it was mid evening local time, a quick bite to eat, a shower and a good nights sleep was all that was on our agenda.

It was very hot and sticky weather in HK, not conducive to wandering around very much at all. Breakfast, repack and a late checkout we set off for the airport yet again hoping that any protests would not hinder our departure. We saw no evidence of any of the protests but we did note that our passports and travel docs were checked before we could take a step inside the terminal building.

Interesting shop seen on our way to the airport….can you read the sign?

Closeup of the sign

I did notice a shop sign on our return trip to the airport, a Bakery I thought. Just a minute, that says “Professional Barkey”, does that mean it sells keys for bars or maybe it’s something to do with dogs who bark a lot?

Once at the airport we settled in to wait for our flight and ended up chatting to a you g couple who were travelling with their baby. To cut a long story short, it seems that they had tried to book the seats that we had been allocated, being in the front row where there is a bassinet, they had booked the third seat in the row and the one on the row behind. After take off once the crew were out of their seats we asked if it would be ok for Roy to swap with the Dad so he could be next to his partner and baby. We couldn’t help notice that the exit row seats across the aisle were empty, the crew said please, you two move to the exit row (Roy & I) so the couple and their baby had the middle three seats to themselves and Roy and I had the two exit row seats. Everyone was happy and comfortable.

We were quickly through passport and customs in Auckland where I have to say that the NZ officials are the most welcoming we have encountered, they are always pleasant and polite making the homecoming experience a pleasant one.

Antony was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and we were soon on our way to Antony’s for the weekend.

All in all a memorable trip home. Now we start planning our return trip next year!

Tourist for a day

August 27, 2019

I decided that I need to play tourist for a day so I headed off into central London. Roy was coming with me as far as Woolich where he was getting off the train to catch another train on a different line that would take him into the Museums he was going to be visiting.

Roy getting off at Woolich

Me? Well I was heading into London Bridge and to get on one of the Hop On Hop Off bus trips and pretend to be a tourist for the day.

Tower bridge

Tower of London

Westminster and cathedral

Where the other half live

NZ memorial Hyde Park

Gates into the park

Horse guards

Where Boris lives, well it was Boris at the time of writing!

Then it was onto the water cruise on the Thames to Greenwich where I would catch the train back to Erith.

My attempt at a selfie

Oxo tower where we had lunch a couple of weeks ago

Canon Street Station as viewed from the river

The old and new, the Shard in the background, and a replica of the Golden Hind in the foreground between the buildings

Tower of London

Tower Bridge, including a view of the glass floor at the top span of the bridge.

I think the photos tell it all, not much more to say really. An uneventful trip back home with Roy and I arriving within 30minutes of each other.

Now Roy WILL write a blog one of these days on his visits to museums and libraries as well as his trips to various football matches, I just have to keep nagging reminding him.

Touristing over and done with for this trip. Until the next time.

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 2)

August 22, 2019

We continue on our journey on the trail of Black & White timbered villages.

After we left the church in Kinnersley, we meandered though some beautiful countryside, coming across this house which the owner obviously did not want to conform to the Black and White theme

Red and Black House

Next we came to Eardisley, which is a village on the border with Wales.

Eardisley

Then it was onto Kington which is just 3km from the Welsh border. However it is to the west of Offa’s Dyke so we presume that at some stage it may have been part of Wales. Offa’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after an Anglo-Saxon king, Offa, who it is believed to have ordered its construction in the mid 700’s.

We meandered the Main Street, a sad looking Main Street that needs a bit of revitalisation with some shops and cafes rather than the multitude of charity shops.

Main Street of Kington (top) and the covered market in the lower picture.

From here we continued on to the pretty village of Presteigne where the road signs are also in Welsh as the town lies just inside the Welsh border.

Beautiful ornately painted building in Presteigne

There are many interesting buildings in Presteigne including this one which had a Green Man (a pagan symbol of fertility) carved into one of the posts, well hidden from general view.

12th century building with green man carved in the wood

We paused for a cuppa in one of the cafes in the high street before making our way around the town.

This row of houses were obviously built at different stages looking at the roof lines.

Multi level roof lines

On our way back to the car we came across another church so we wandered in for a look around.

Martin, Roy and Sue on our way into the church

Saint Andrews church is primarily a product of the 13th century however it incorporates remains of a much earlier 9th century Saxon building. The most interesting historical feature is a Flemish tapestry woven in 1510, now hanging in a frame on the north wall.

Tapestry (sorry about the reflections)

Showing the original colours.

In the Lady Chapel is a 15th-century Italian oil painting and a worn 13th-century coffin lid is set into a recess in the north wall.

Stained glass window

It was back to the car and off to the next town on our list, expertly navigated by Sue, via a few more of those typical English narrow country roads with high hedges on either side.

A wide section of road!

Our next stop was in Pembridge, again with a lovely collection of interesting and very old buildings.

Not all the building were painted white

Information board

Alms houses 1661

Above the Main Street we walked up to another church, St Mary’s, with original parts dating form the 12th century however a loose Romanesque pillar piscina remains from the Norman church. This church had a very interesting bell tower which is separate from the church, built in an unusual shape and open at the top. Martin could fill us in on all the interesting details, as we discovered, he is a bell ringer of some 40years experience.

Bell tower

Information board on the Bell Tower

Inside the church were more beautiful windows.

Inside the church

Outside there are lovely views over expansive lawns

Views from the church

We walked across the lawns and through the gardens and came out onto another street where there is the old market hall.

Market

Markets have been held here since 1239 when it was granted a royal charter.

Sue making her way to the market with its well worn and undulating floor.

Time to return home, again through Eardisley where we came across a thatched roofed Black & White building

Thatched roof

Have you ever noticed that the trip home is always quicker than the trip to wherever you are going? It seemed like we were home again very quickly where we set to organising dinner of Raclette.

Me, trying to take a selfie, missed taking it of me, missed Roy and got Sue who was fishing around for an implement in the cutlery drawer……but I did get Martin!

We had purchased the Raclette cheese from the cheese shop earlier in the day (see previous blog entry). Of course someone was particularly happy with Raclette……who doesn’t like hot melted cheese??!!

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 1)

August 20, 2019

It was time for us to meet up with another cousin, this time from my Dads side of the family. I think Sue and I are actually second cousins, or maybe cousins once removed…oh I never did figure out which was which but in any case it doesn’t matter. Roy and I hopped on yet more trains to make our way to Worcester where we were being picked up. However the train journey was not to be as easy as it should have been.

Map of the journey

We left Alex’s by catching the bus to the local train station in Erith, we got onto the train and had not long left the station when Roy went off to use the toilet. Some few minutes later the drivers very quiet voice came over the intercom saying something about a problem, and I think he said something about the toilets but I didn’t really hear or take in what he was saying. Next minute the train comes to a halt, again the drivers voice came over the intercom, with indecipherable announcements. Next I see the driver walking through our carriage, I think to myself – oh, there must be a problem, oh and Roy seems to be taking an awfully long time in the loo!!!

Yes, you guessed it, Roy was locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out so in desperation he had to activate the emergency button attracting the attention of the driver. Apparently this then activates the stopping of the train which cannot be deactivated until the driver manually deactivates it from the original activation point. And did I forget to mention that we were in the very last carriage of the train so it was a long way for the driver to make his way through the train to release the button, and Roy of course!! As a result the train was then running 18 minutes late. To top that off the train was now not going to Charing Cross due to another issue further along the line so we had to change at London Bridge then take the tube with one change of lines to get ourselves to Paddington Station. Fortunately we always allow a bit of extra time for events such as this so we still arrived at Paddington with 15minutes to spare to catch the train to Worcester.

We were met at the train station by a Sue & Martin who then took us to their home a few miles out in the beautiful countryside. Now, it’s rather special to be able to meet up with cousins after such a long time and instantly feel comfortable and at home. We spent the afternoon in the garden talking, laughing and reminiscing. They live in a lovely old farmhouse which just feels so comfortable and welcoming. We also have a bit in common, one being that they also have a motorhome in which they travel all round the country and Europe as well.

The following day we were off on an all day drive to do what is called the Black & White trail which takes in a number of villages which are known for their black and white Tudor style architecture.

The general route

Close up view of the route

First we had to negotiate the odd narrow country road

Expertly driven by Martin

Through the village of Bromyard which was our first view of the black and white timbered buildings

Pub in Bromyard

Our first port of call was the town of Leominster where we were stopping for morning tea. After finding a car park, we wandered off into the village where we found this establishment.

Someone thought this was his place!

And no, we didn’t partake of the delights available in Roy’s cafe, we were to venture further into town.

Martin striding ahead in the town square.

We were heading to another cafe for morning coffee, I came across this model in the centre of the square

It is a model of the market house erected on the site in 1633 and subsequently saved then moved and renamed Grange House. It is the finest remaining example of work done by the King’s carpenter John Abel.

Grange House today

Passing narrow alleyways with buildings overhanging and not a straight line in sight, we made our way to the cafe.

Coffee for morning tea

Oh, and guess what we found just around the corner from the coffee shop? You guessed it, a cheese shop! Yes, we did sample lots of lovely cheeses and possibly some purchases were made.

Cheese shop in Leominster

Narrow alleyway and sheepy art work

Time for us to continue on our travels.

Next town on our travels was Dilwyn.

Dilwyn houses

a lovely collection of black and white buildings, all beautifully kept as well.

Onto Weobley next, where we were to have lunch in a local pub. But first a wander around the village to check out some of the unique architecture.

Weobley architecture and magpie statue

We had a lovely lunch at the pub, whilst in the pub I noticed these stained glass windows which look very much like some of the windows we had in the private spaces of Pen-y-bryn Lodge.

Stained glass window

Further along the road in Weobley we came across the Old Grammar School dating from 1660.

Old Grammar House, note the angles of the walls and windows

Now a private home with all its interesting wonky lines, the school was in continuous use until the late 1880’s. It catered for up to 25 pupils on the ground floor with the masters accomodation upstairs.

From here we continued on our journey, but along the route to the next village we came across this church in Kinnersley. Actually, I say in Kinnersley, but this just really an area rather than a village as there was no evidence of a village apart from the church.

Kinnersley Church

The 12th century church has an unusual slightly separate tower. It has intricate paintings and coloured stencil work decorating the ceiling and arches of chancel and nave. These were done by the famous Victorian “Arts and Craft” architect Bodley, who is buried in the church yard.

A very good, well carved marble 17th century monument to the Smalman family is on the wall inside, however it is now strapped to the wall as you will see in the picture below. The monument was described by the architecural historian Pevsner as one of the best of its kind in the country.

Detail from inside the church

More detail from inside the church

Outside the church there was evidence of old entrance doors, later bricked up.

Bricked up entrance

On wandering around to the rear of the church we came across a very large castle, Kinnersley Castle.

According to Wikipedia “The Castle of Kinnersley, was originally a stone structure, thought to have been built during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135 C.E.). The Elizabethan building that now occupies the site has obliterated all but a few traces of the medieval castle.

Although it looks predominantly Elizabethan on the outside, it has many features of different periods. It was ‘renovated’ in the 16th century by the Vaughn family and houses a fine example of an intricate plasterwork ceiling in the solar, thought to be one of the oldest in Herefordshire. There are many green men and serpent hounds to be found on this ceiling, a lot of the detail is picked out in gold. On the stone overmantel of the fireplace, carved into the stone is a boy’s head with a serpent around its neck.

Kinnersley Castle

View from over the fence

Apparently the castle is only open to the public a couple of times a year.

Enough rambling, part two will be posted in a day or so.

Bletchley Park

January 29, 2018

We are now back in New Zealand and after getting over jet lag, the flu, and sorting ourselves out, some of us are now back into the swing of things, although the male member of the touring party has now developed pneumonia so there will be a delay before he feels up to doing his bit. We are so far behind with blog entries and we have some serious catching up to do with our last few weeks of travelling. You can look forward to blogs on lots of museum and library visits, shows we went to see, people we farewelled, and a few days stopover in Singapore before getting home.

Here is the first of the catch up blogs.

Part of our journey was to make a trek to Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes and as we were visiting family up that way it was an opportune time to set aside some time to visit. We had attempted to visit Bletchley on our previous trip to these parts which was thwarted by heavy snow and the roads were blocked, you can read about that trip here

I’m sure most of you will know exactly the history of Bletchley but for those who are unfamiliar Bletchley is where during WWII some of the greatest minds collaborated on breaking codes, inventing machines, techniques and computers to form a major part in the Allies overcoming Hitler, all the while Bletchley was kept very secret even from the partners of those who worked there. You can read more about the Park here on their excellent website. Some of you may be familiar with a couple of movies which were made about some of the work done at the Park, one being Enigma and the other The Imitation Game. As an aside, as Lodge owners we hosted the main actors of Enigma a few years ago.

Back to the visit. We arrived at the Park straight from the train from London before midday and spent the next few hours wandering through the complex until closing time.

the entrance sign

The Park covers around 23ha made up of many buildings including the main mansion house. The huts, as they are known, housed the serious work that went on in code decryption and interception, cipher, and the associated technical machinery invented and modified as part of the intelligence work. As an interesting aside over half of the workers were women.

the mansion where the headquarters were located.

inside the main entrance was this room with its ornate glass ceiling.

The Park has had extensive upgrade over the past few years with displays and interactive modelling set in each of the huts explaining the workings and daily life of the people who worked there. Work went on in these huts intercepting not only German messaging but Russian, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Portugese languages as well as naval, army, airforce and police intelligence.

decoding equipment

early enigma machine

As well as the small machinery, there is the Bombe, the large machine built to decode the Enigma machine. We managed to arrive at this point in the park when a 45minute talk on the history, the people and workings of the Bombe were carefully explained. As well, a working demonstration of the machine was given. It was totally fascinating.

the reverse side of the Bombe, the computer designed and built by Alan Turing and his team

I later asked how long a modern computer would take to decipher the same code as the Bombe (which took a couple of hours), and was told that it wasn’t until around the year 2000 when dual processors came into being that a modern computer could tackle such a feat.

Our walk around the many huts continued with lots to keep us entertained until closing time when Jackie & Hossein were arriving to collect us.

this sign piqued my interest, where female translators has the title of Lady Translator. I wondered why male translators did not have a similar gender classification?

The following morning Jackie returned us to Bletchley for the morning as we still had plenty to see. I wanted to peruse through a few more of the huts whilst a Roy wanted to visit the National Computing Museum which is also on the premises. This was to see, amongst other things, Colossus, the super computer built and used at the complex. I shall let Roy elaborate on this subject.

Even after having two good goes at seeing everything at Bletchley we could have easily spent at least another day there, and with more work being done on more huts, we look forward to a return visit in the future.

Around Granada

December 16, 2017

After five days our time in Granada is coming to an end, a lovely stay again with lots to see and do and a very friendly and easy place to find your way around. Our last day was spent seeing a few last sights and also doing a little bit of shopping for a few reminders of our time here.

Church in Centro Sagrario, just behind our apartment .

Plaza Nueva, despite its name (New Plaza) this is the oldest square in Granada and is lined with beautiful old buildings.

San Ildefonso area with decorative roundabout with old town wall in the background.

Albaicín Quarter gateway, which is one of the oldest parts of the city, with narrow winding streets dating back to Moorish times.

View over Granada from the Albaicín Quarter.

There was a a couple of interesting sights around the city such as the following

Artificial grass is laid between the train/tram tracks throughout the city making them look very tidy.

narrow pedestrian-only streets are everywhere off the main thoroughfares which makes it pleasant to walk around the city.

Just behind the information centre we found this beautiful courtyard area.

the above two pictures are of the interesting street lighting.

And after all that sightseeing we just had to reward ourselves with a hot chocolate and some churros

And on the subject of food, one of us had a birthday whilst we were in Granada so what better way to celebrate than with a nice meal out.

Bubbles to start off the evening

And entree was a lovely black sausage dish. The rest of the meal was enjoyed without taking any more photos as we were enjoying the food and atmosphere too much!

Alhambra

December 6, 2017

One of the main reasons of coming to Granada was to visit the Alhambra. The Alhambra (The Red One) was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century and is a reflection of the culture of the last centuries of the Moorish rule. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333, then after the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings were occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. It’s had a very mixed history, with periods of ruin, rebuild, wilful vandalism and some ill-judged restoration nevertheless its stands today as an amazing building decorated with mosaic tiles, carved plaster, intricately carved wood all set around large courtyards with water features.

Lots of photos to follow, but I have to say that photos do not do it justice, it is truly amazing to the extent of sensory overload.

at the entrance is a fountain dedicated to a Washington Irving, author of Rip van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as many books on Spain, US ambassador to Spain in the early 1800’s.

the entrance gateway has carved over the lintel a pair of hands in prayer,

And inside is another gateway that has a key engraved

It is said that if the key and hands ever meet then the site will be obliterated.

You have to pre book a ticket online to gain access into the Palace, they do not sell tickets at the Alhambra we had booked our tickets the previous night and downloaded it onto my phone. We arrived and queued to gain entry, with access limited to I would guess around 50 people, and entry every 30minutes.

Every surface is intricately covered in patterns either mosaic, scripts, patterns, all elaborately coloured however over time some of the colours have faded but you can imagine how brightly coloured it must have been.

examples of mosaic tiles

carved script and intricate patterns

intricately carved ceilings

Water is an important feature of the Alhambra.

gardens and courtyards are beautifully laid out.

There were so many interesting features that I could go on adding more and more pictures but I think that I have to stop somewhere before this goes on forever. But I will leave you with this one last picture

this is one of the courtyard areas where we stopped to have a drink and where a large number of cats frequent looking for food from visitors. This was just a small sample of the seemingly huge numbers of cats everywhere throughout the complex.

An amazing place to visit and spend a day, it now makes me realise how lacking my history knowledge is for this part of the world which is something I shall have to rectify.

Córdoba

November 30, 2017

Just a quick note before this post starts, my sister Sue tells me that a programme on TV called “Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi” has been on TV in NZ recently and she had just watched an episode on Jerez and Seville. I found the programme on YouTube…it’s episode 4. We shall now have to watch the rest of the series to see what we have missed and what shall go on the agenda for the next trip.

After our successful trip to Jerez, we had planned to spend the following day checking out some more of the sights around Seville but first we needed to take a quick trip to the train station to book and collect our tickets for the following day to Granada, our next destination. Granada tickets were quickly sorted however, whilst we were at the station, we asked purely out of interest how long would a trip to Córdoba take? 45 minutes by fast train we are told, if you want to go, there is a train leaving in 6 minutes…yes please, we said and book us a return ticket as well please. Tickets in hand we hurried to the correct platform with a couple of minutes to spare…talk about spur of the moment decisions!!, this time we had to go through a security check as well, a first so far on our train travels.

Córdoba, like many other Spanish cities, has an Anglicised name of Cordova, and is yet another magnificent city with a rich history encompassing many cultures. As well as being a traditional centre for silk manufacture, it was also a centre of education with universities and medical schools particularly during the Muslim reign from the 8th century through to 1236 when the Christians took over. Córdoba can also lay claim to have the highest summer temperatures in Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37 °C (99 °F) in July and August, however for us it was a pleasant 26C.

Our train journey took us past kilometres of orange trees, then olive trees but as we got closer to the city another change in trees with what we thought were apricot trees with their autumnal colours resplendent but on reflection we think they were more likely to be almond trees.

oranges, almond trees and olives, seen for miles along the journey

Córdoba station was a larger station than we anticipated and a very modern building to boot. We found an information centre within the station and bought ourselves tickets for the hop on-hop off bus which just so happened to have a stop right outside. Perfect.

We had a great tour of the city and we surmised that we could have come and stayed here for sometime to explore everything in depth however an overview would suffice this time. Lots of pictures to follow.

the view from the top of the bus as the driver carefully and skilfully negotiates the narrow streets. In some streets pedestrians had to stand in doorways to let the bus through, in others, shopkeepers had to roll in awnings so that the bus did not hit them.

Calahorra Tower

Roman temple of Córdoba

Santa Marina Church built in the 13th century

Bridal party at Puerta del Puente or Roman Gate by the Roman Bridge.

one of the gates in the old wall around the city the ever present orange trees lining the streets

Detailed statue of San Francisco Church

one of the narrow side streets

moody scenes over the river looking toward the Roman bridge

Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River, you can see the gate and the mosque in the background. This was the main access point to the city, across the bridge and through the gate.

looking across to the Mosque cathedral

Overlooking the Roman Bridge and next to the Mosque-Cathedral is the Triunfo de San Rafael column, the most elaborate of many devotional columns and images in Córdoba commemorating the Archangel Raphael’s promise to protect its inhabitants.

the other side of the Roman gate

horse and carriage ride anyone?

convent of Saint Ana

Christmas decorations over the shopping streets of Córdoba. Although decorations are being put up all over Spain, none are yet illuminated, this does not happen until December.

anyone for a helter-skelter ride? Seen in one of the streets in the centre of Córdoba.

Córdoba is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city, namely Hamilton in New Zealand, but surprisingly the cities are not twinned.

We wandered the back streets admiring the sights however our time was running out so with a quick sprint via taxi we were back at the train station ready to return for our last evening in Seville before tomorrow’s journey to Granada.

Sevilla

November 26, 2017

Another very pleasant train journey from Huelva to Sevilla, this time passing through what seemed like thousands of acres of oranges and olive groves as well as vegetable crops and glasshouses. We must say that the Spanish do know how to do train travel, with comfortable seating, plenty of room and up to date information on the screens.

As you can see we were heading to Sevilla Santa Justa, travelling at 136km/hr at that moment (it did get up to 165kph), the temperature a balmy 25C, this was about two thirds of the way through our trip.

We arrived at Sevilla main train station and caught a cab to our lovely apartment where our host Antonio greeted us and showed us in. We are staying again right in the centre of town in an older apartment block that is just three stories high and set around a large central courtyard, very Moorish in its design. After our quick familiarisation, it was a trip to the supermarket to get some basics before we headed just 50metres along the road to a local tapas bar that Antonio had recommended, as he said it was a place that he ate at and mostly locals frequented, sounds perfect. All the tapas plates were priced at around the €2.50 mark, we made a few choices and waited to see what would be presented.

But first a note about prices, we tend not to compare costs to NZ dollars, we have Euro€ and think of everything as 1 NZ$ equaling 1€ or 1£. The only time we compared prices was in Switzerland using the Swiss franc but even then we compared the franc with the euro or the pound. It’s all about when in Rome…. now back to the tapas!

my goodness, how delicious were these dishes! Sardines, peppers, tomatoes, patatas bravas, pate, deep fried goats cheese and croquetas.

Vowing to return again soon, we made our way home for the evening.

A tour around the city was in order for the following day to familiarise ourselves with Sevilla and where we would want to see in greater detail later. But first of all the early riser headed to the local market for a look, and yes I did visit the market with him later in the morning.

The array of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish was impressive, especially the fish roe which reminded us of Gary who we know loves eating this delicacy as whenever we have been fishing with him and there is roe in the fish, it is quickly put to one side for a delicious treat to be cooked up later.

Also of interest was this large tank of live snails,

Hmmm, one thing I am not particularly keen on is snails.

Off now for our trip around Sevilla to see the sights. Sevilla has a long and varied history being settled by the Phonecians, then Romans, Arabs and then Christians with all of these cultures having an influence on the city in both the architecture as well as the people.

Clockwise from Top L: Torre del Oro, Giralda, Arenal (bull fighting arena), Maria Luisa Parque buildings.

Clockwise from Top L: The wide open boulevards lined with orange trees, Costurero de la Reina, the Guadalquivir River, La Palmera.

It was hard to choose just a few buildings from all the photos we have but we have to stop somewhere. There really is a variety of styles, cultures and even materials used in construction but what it has started to show is how little we know about the rich long history and culture of Spain. Something I need to redress.

At the end of a long day of sightseeing what better way to end it than with churros and hot chocolate.

On our way back to our abode we stopped to have a look at the new “mushroom” structure recently built in the centre of Sevilla, or Metropol Parasol as it is officially known.

it certainly is an innovative and interesting structure in amongst the old buildings. Apparently it is the largest wooden structure in the world and was finally completed in 2009 but not without controversy in design, construction, technical difficulties and of course budget overruns.

We arrived back at our apartment in time to freshen up a little ready to go out to Coloniales, the tapas bar where we are becoming known. Again we tried a few more tapas from the extensive selection, enjoying every single selection. Just as we had finished our meal and asked for our bill, our waiter said no, no, no….wait please, and then presented us with a complimentary local liqueur made from cherries!

Not a bad way to end the day.

Faro

November 21, 2017

A big day in Faro as we tried to fit in as much as possible in our short time here. As we arrived at nightfall there was only the opportunity to have dinner before heading to bed for the night. Again, we have been very lucky with our accommodation, in Faro it’s just a short walk from the train station and our host Vera was waiting for us to show us around the gorgeous apartment before sitting us down and telling us of places to see and what to do.

After a great nights sleep we were off into town to walk around the old town and to get our bearings. Roy had already been off to the market early in the morning so he roughly knew where we were heading. The following are a few scenes from the market, Roy got there just as they were setting up.

Plenty of fresh, fresh fish of all shapes sizes and species.

Plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables as well.

Into town and the marina area first.

we did not have too far to walk to the outskirts of the old town alongside the marina (checking out boats for you Steve!!).

Just outside the old town walls we came across a tuk-tuk, we thought it was a good oppportunity us to have a quick tour of the old town and parts further afield to orient ourselves.

Church inside the old town walls

the outside wall of the old town

After our short history filled tour with guide Ernesto, we walked along the outside old town wall to our next stop, which was to have a boat trip around the National Park wetland area called Ria Formosa.

There are five barrier islands that protect the wetland area from the ocean. Our boat trip took us throughout the low tidal flats that are home to many bird species, many of which we also have similar species in New Zealand, including the pukeko!

the old town walls as seen from the boat.

There are fish farms located within the waterways and we saw a few small boats out with men fishing. It seems as though there is no size limit and they catch and keep everything.

A flock of spoonbills grazing amongst the growth

Once back on land we went back into the old town to have some lunch at one of the restaurants that had been pointed out to us during our tour. We were keen to try the local dish of Cataplana, a fish dish in various forms that is cooked in a covered dish, similar to a Tagine. As this region was once settled by the Moors, it is no surprise that some of their traditions remain.

It was rather delicious and surprisingly light. And included shellfish and fish such as monkfish, bacalhau, clams, mussels and shrimps.

We even decided to try the local desserts, one of us had a portugese tart (rather like a creme caramel) and the other had a portugese cake which is made of almonds, orange and figs. Both were rather delicious as well.

Now very much replete, we headed back to the main square where we had arranged to meet Ernesto again, this time for a tour through the National Park and out to Faro Beach. Again, we learnt lots of the history of the area and also about local agricultural practises, as we passed many farms growing crops of raspberries, oranges and tomatoes to name a few as well as goat farms. This region also produces a large proportion of the worlds cork. Ernesto explained that you can only remove the cork from the tree once every 9 years, with the best cork for wine bottles taken at the third cut. The men that perform this task are very skilled and in high demand.

Tree with cork removed from its lower trunk.

As well as cork and olive trees there are also acres and acres of pine nut trees.

Also within the park are salt pans, all dried naturally in the hot sun.

Salt pans

The salt is settling around the edge of the pans as evaporation does its thing

and once collected, it ends up in large mounds.

There are a large number of birds that call this area home, including spoonbills and flamingoes, however, the flamingoes were too far away for us to get a decent photo of them, besides they were wearing mostly grey feathers today.

We rounded off the day watching the sun set at Faro Beach

with the knowledge that as it dipped down over our horizon it would be popping up over the horizon in New Zealand. Cheers and good health to friends and family at home 🍹.