Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grenada, Spain; One of the Most Beautiful Cities on Earth

Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.

Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.

What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but .  . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.

 

 

Grenada

 

This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.

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If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.

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This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”

Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???

That is the memory this photo brings back.

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Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.

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And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.

 

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Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂

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The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.

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The view was beautiful.

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After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.

 

I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?

It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.

Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.

We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.

Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Gardens, Health Issues, Hot drinks, Hotels, Morocco, Paris, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Underway on the Guadalquivir

 

Before we even get underway, we hear the big engines start to rumble. AdventureMan wants to sleep a little longer, but I am exited and want to watch us cast off and head down the Quadalquivir, which is Spanish for the Arabic Wadi El Kebir, or big waterway. Or valley. I always think of wadis as dry, a place to potty under the bridge when you live in a country with few public conveniences, but the Guadalquivir is big, and deep, as wide as the Neckar River when we lived in Heidelberg.

The sun is coming up as we depart:

 

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Most of what we pass is countryside, low and fertile.

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Now and then we encounter another boat.

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We meet and chat with other passengers as we watch the countryside go by. Soon, there is a lecture (none are mandatory, but all are interesting) about the context of the voyage, which is called Passage of the Moors. We get a lot of information from different lecturers, some of it repetitive, which is good, because when you hear it more than once, it might stick. There are lectures for the whole boat, and lectures for separate groups, and as we are in a gathering of the Smithsonian group, we pass Cadiz, en route for Casablanca. My heart grieves; I had dearly wanted to see Cadiz, but instead we had the wonderful day seeing Seville on our own, hopping on and off the bus and visiting the two museums.

 

This is an oddity. This is a small ship, and does educational trips, but educational trips for grown-ups. There is not one single child on board the ship, nor are there things for a child to do. There is a swimming pool, but it is outside, and unfilled; the weather is probably too cool. There is a spa, and there are lounges and a library, there is a lot to do – if you are an adult. (You can find the ship by Googling Voyages to Antiquity)

 

I skip the afternoon lecture to sit out on our balcony, which is large, and has beautiful wood fixtures, deck chairs, and a nice table. I read, I watch the waves go by, and wish I had a fishing pole. We are on the sunset side of the ship, so I get to take a photo of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

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And the next morning, we enter Casablanca!
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We dock, and for a while watch other ships come in, watch dock life in Casablanca, and pack for our day and overnight in one of our favorite cities in the world, Marrakech. The ship we are watching coming in is a sister ship to the ship that went aground in Italy not too long ago, a much bigger ship than we are on.

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Our entry visa into Morocco:

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December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cultural, ExPat Life, Morocco, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seville’s Folklorique Museum

Just across a large plaze is another wonderful museum, one I could happily spend many days in. Once again, they waved us through, they would not take our money. There were several exhibits showing us how things came about, how they developed wheat grinding, for example, how fabrics were woven, all with tableaux and short videos. We watched one very long video about a church that carries the Saint or Madonna around the town on a special cart once a year, and celebrates with a festival.

 

My favorite part of this museum is one whole wing devoted to textiles, embroidery and gossamer shawls, that remind me so much of the ancient, transparent “shayla” the elderly women used to wear as veils in old Qatar and old Kuwait. Nothing like the black opaque headscarves and face coverings of today; these were light and airy and as fragile as a spider’s web. I have one I treasure, but I keep it wrapped in a box because it can tear so easily. Here is a whole wing of a museum with glorious examples of exquisite handiwork of this nature.

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Hand embroidered cut-work:

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Hand worked lace and cut-work on fine linen:

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Decorative tools and utensils:

 

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The Folklorique Museum and tile patterns done in stone and mosaic:

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Gossamer lace work:

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Glorious white work:

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Finely woven and embroidered silk:

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We would haunt the flea markets of France, and find many similar treasures in France, tossed out by people who wanted new and glossy. I bought linens of all kinds, but nothing of this quality.

We were thrilled to have this extra day to see Seville more thoroughly, and to explore these two museums. Once again, and easy 10,000 steps 🙂

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Hopping off at Seville’s Museum of Archaeology

We had wanted to see this museum, and thanks to this bonus day, woo hoooooo, the Hop-On Hop-Off bus lets us off just a short walk through the park to the Museum. The Museum attendants waved us through, wouldn’t even take our money, and directed us to start down-stairs.

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This museum is full of treasures, carefully curated, beautifully edited. The pieces they display give good information. We found something lovely in every room. MdventureMan often commented about how good this museum was about placing the find in a meaningful context:

 

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I am always interested in early needles 🙂  How man figured out how to make them from tiny bones, how they got the eyes in the needles without splitting them, fascinates me.

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Bonus Day in Seville and the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus

SunRise Over Seville

Our dedicated tour guide, Antonio, is very dedicated and very professional, and he works very hard to keep us all happy. When we see him the next morning, and ask him when the ship will be departing, he has a perplexed look. It’s past departure time. The ship isn’t moving. An hour later, the ship isn’t moving.

Then comes an announcement; because of all the rain, the Guadalquivir River has silted up and must be quickly dredged. We will depart tomorrow.

The schedule had been to go down the river to Cadiz, and for groups to go off to visit the sherry factories in Jerez. AdventureMan and I have travelled together well for so many years because we are quick to recognize when we just don’t care. We don’t care about sherry, or how it is made (OK, OK, yes we are passing on an opportunity of a lifetime, but . . . it’s OUR lives! We know what makes us happy!) We tell Antonio we are not going to Jerez; we will spend the day in Seville.

Tour directors always look a little worried when you tell them you are going off on your own. I can imagine they have experiences that back them up, but we don’t have to take a tour just because we paid for it, and we intend to have a great day on our own. He very graciously helps us get information for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus (I had ridden the one in Barcelona and loved it) and wished us well.

We weren’t sure where we were going, but there was a tourist office nearby where they pointed us down the street and told us where we could buy the tickets. They also gave us maps of the city and the bus routes.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
 

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The bull fighting ring:

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Tower in Maria Luisa Park

 

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Boarding the Agean Odyssey

Most people come back from cruises groaning about weight gain. We had no such problem I wore my FitBit and every day, we did over 10,000 steps without even trying. All these guided tours take you up, down and around; one day somehow I climbed 23 sets of stairs!

When we reached the dock in Seville to board our ship, we were delighted at how easy the process was. We showed some paper, they gave us a card, and as you enter, you are asked to use an antibacterial hand lotion. You are shown to your cabin; your luggage is already inside. Oh, we like this!

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We have closets, cupboards and shelves, we have a refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and a big bottle of champagne to welcome us (we never did drink it.) As we entered, there was a notice that the spa had a special on foot massages, and I quickly called down and reserved for two foot massages in half an hour. We unpacked, and went to the spa to have our feet soaked and rubbed – sheer heaven!

 

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Our steward, Sam, came by to introduce himself and ask if he could do anything. I asked if he could have the trash bin removed. I was joking, but by the time we came back from our foot massages, the bin was gone. I think that’s just a co-incidence 🙂

 

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We had a large walk-in shower, which we loved, and here is another feature I always love – a pull out drying cord! You can rinse out a spill, wash socks, you can do a million things with a drying cord, and best of all, it hung high above the actual shower area, so you didn’t have to worry about competing with things that were drying. I know, I know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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Within hours of boarding, we had a big evacuation drill. It was truly hilarious, and I am glad they mandate these things. It is kind of annoying, but I like knowing my escape route.

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Here is our view as the sun sets over Seville:

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This is the Terrace restaurant, where we ate our first night on board:

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And here is Seville, on a beautiful October night. I think that is the Golden Tower, where the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus stops. We are scheduled to leave on the high tide, early tomorrow morning, for Cadiz.

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Quality of Life Issues | , , , | 2 Comments

Bodega Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain

As soon as our guide finished talking, we quickly walked to the Bodega Mesquita and were greeted and seated within seconds 🙂 The menu was huge, but it also had photos to help us along. When we return to Seville from Cordoba, we are boarding our ship. We expect to stop in Cadiz, and have another opportunity for a dinner out, but eating in a country, in our experience, is a meaningful part of the whole experience, one we don’t want to miss!

 

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They bottle their own brand of oil and vinegar:

 

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When we got there, there were only a few people, but within minutes every seat was taken. This is the interior:

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We wanted to try real Spanish gazpacho; it was really good. AdventureMan says mine is better, but I think the taste was close. I like mine, too, but I was happy to taste REAL gazpacho and to find mine was not far off. We also had a mixed salad.

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Then we had a pork steak of the region. Things came one by one, there were also some meatballs, but somehow we didn’t get a photo of those.

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By the time this little tuna steak arrived, we were stuffed. We had split the dishes, and thought it would be about right, but we ordered too much, and we also ran out of time. AdventureMan had to pay the bill while I used the (very clean) restroom, and we raced to try to find silver filigree jewelry in our ten minutes before the meeting up time, which was a hopeless thing to do. Oh well, I do have enough jewelry 🙂

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Cordoba, The Mezquita, and Sharing Sacred Spaces

(Yes, it is Christmas Eve, and my part of the preparations are all done. AdventureMan is cooking a duck for the family dinner tonight, the Gulf Coast jumbo shrimp is all cooked and shelled and de-veined, the Rotkohl spicing up the kitchen, the salads and side dishes ready to go. 🙂  I have time, oh, the great luxury of time, to write . . . )

When we lived in Amman, we often went to Syria. I went once with an archaeological group, visiting several sites in the bleak cold of the Syrian winter. One site I didn’t see a lot of hope for, the site of St. Simon the Stylite, a hermit who sat atop a pillar and was considered holy. In truth . . . I scoffed.

I scoffed until I reached that isolated hilltop, and saw the giant pillar, and felt how very cold it was as the icy wind blew. We were there two or three hours. I had to confront my unwillingness to believe and the fact that with every zinging atom in my body, I could feel that this was a sacred place. Saint Simon chose a weird sort of sacrificial life, but in God’s eyes, I suspect it mattered. I know visiting that site changed me, and changed my ideas about sacred spaces.

Today, I get to write about a visit to another sacred space, a space you can feel resonating from the moment you enter, the Mezquita.

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It’s early breakfast for the Smithsonian group, and then we check our whisper guides and board our bus en route to Cordoba.

Traveling with a group is a novelty for us. It means using an alarm clock to be at scheduled breakfast and getting on a bus for a 2 hour drive. On our own, we wake when we wish – usually early, but not so early as with this group. We are not usually at a breakfast with a lot of people looking for food at the same time. We are not used to coffee makers that make one cup of coffee at a time while a 100 people line up for coffee. These are things that are not normal in our experience. We might find a local small store, pick up some water and some small snacks, and hit the road, stopping here and there to take a photo or just savor a view, have some water, soak in the fresh air. On the other hand, these bus drivers know where to go and there is no getting lost trying to find the right route out of town.

 

En route to Cordoba, most of the jet lagged Smithsonian group slept. Wide awake, I watched as acres and acres of olive groves and wind farms passed by. We saw an ancient fortification on the side of a hill that had a view to die for – 270 degrees plus of visibility.

It is raining once again as we arrive in Cordoba, but almost immediately it stops, and by the time our group has walked up the hill by the Mezquita, the sun is out and the day shows great promise. Cordoba is beautiful. Everywhere you look is some exquisite detail. Cordoba is a treat for the eyes.

 

Even the police are polite and helpful, directing tourists to where they need to go:

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Art Nouveau bench:

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Flower pots on the stucco walls:

 

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Tourists coming up to The Mezquita:

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Masques in a local art shop:

 

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Finely wrought silver filigree jewelry:

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At one point, we had a choice: Do we go shopping or do we have lunch in a highly rated local place? I bet we could do both, and we opted for lunch – more on that to come. At the end of lunch, we had only ten minutes to shop and not enough time to get back to this wonderful shop. I won’t call it a regret; lunch was a wonderful experience . . . and I do love filigree, and this artisan had beautiful silver filigree . . .

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Ben Maimonaides, a Jewish scholar and ethicist, with wide influence. This was a continuing theme on the entire trip, that the interaction between Jew, Christian and Moslem in this period led to a great leap in ideas and artistry. The interaction was like pollination; science and the arts and mathematics and medicine bloomed.

I wonder if this is happening today, as Moslems, Jews and Christians study together in universities, to they interact and inspire one another? Is it possible that in spite of dire political headlines, under the radar, people are learning to cooperate and collaborate in the interest of a better world?

(Wikipedia: Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic and Arab sciences and is mentioned extensively in studies. Influenced by Avicenna (c. 980 – 1037), Averroes (1126–1198) and Al-Farabi (ca. 872–950/951), he in his turn influenced other prominent Arab and Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds.

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Bulls everywhere, LOL

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An artistic courtyard

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Love the little blue pots, and love the people who take care of them!

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After our walking tour of Cordoba central, we gather in the gardens while our guide goes to pick up our tickets to take us inside the Mezquita, built as a mosque, becoming a cathedral after 1492.

Did I mention we learned two major dates on this trip: 711, when Tariq crosses into Spain (Jebal Tariq . . . Gibraltar) and 1492? Americans know 1492 as the year “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety two, but 1492 is the year that the Moslems were driven out of Spain, weeping at the loss of Andalusia, Al-Andalus.

When the Moslems were driven out of Cordoba, the huge, beautiful mosque, Al Mesquite, was not destroyed, but recycled, repurposed, space holy to one faith became holy to another. I love it that the original mosque, with its spectacular soaring arches and inspirational proportions, was recognized, and re-utilized. Holy space is holy space. We worship the same God. We saw the shrine to John the Baptist in the Grand Ummayad Mosque in Damascus; why should we not share holy spaces?

 

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Cathedral Cordoba

This is what you see immediately upon entering the Mezquita – a gorgeous kind of meshrabiyya covering the windows, patterning the light as it enters, keeping the harsh heat out and shrinking light in star like patterns across the floor.

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The interior of this mosque/cathedral takes my breath away. It was crowded with tourists, but it just swallowed them up and maintained its sacred integrity. We could wander off and still hear our guide, thanks to this whisper-technology, where we all had headphones and our guide could broadcast. This was a place where I needed to wander off and experience it on my own, but felt some responsibility not to get too far afield from the group. I didn’t want to be a pain in the neck for the guide. And I also didn’t want to be a part of the group within this structure. It’s a problem.

Just look at these spaces:

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I’ve always had a thing about light fixtures, LOL, I probably should own a lamp show except I would only stock what I like and I would have a hard time selling anything in the shop. Guess it’s just a good thing for me to admire light fixtures and not to have to manage them.

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The beautiful Mihrab (points you in the direction of worship in a mosque) from the original mosque:

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The Christian altar built in a structure added to the original mosque:

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With a piece depicting King Ferdinand holding a globe:

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As the tour ended, our tour guide warned us that we had only an hour and a half for lunch, so not to go to a restaurant, just find something quick, or shop, and BE BACK ON THE MEETING PLACE AT TWO!

We had seen a restaurant we wanted to try, so raced to it. We hate being rushed, and part of the fun of traveling is trying new kinds of food in new places!

 

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December 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Aladdin; Back to our Roots in Seville

We have discovered this tour group stuff isn’t so bad as long as we have time and opportunity to go off on our own, stroll the cities, find delicious places to stop and eat  . . .

 

But this evening is the Smithsonian gathering, where we all meet one another, and it is a lot of fun. The group is from all over the US, and is full of people about our own age who love travel and love to learn about the countries they are visiting. They have all lived such interesting and varied lives.  There are little appetizers, mostly the famous Seville ham, sliced into transparently thin slices, and cheeses and olives. The wine if flowing freely. We all introduce ourselves, visit a little, and then it is over.

 

We never thought we would want to eat again, after our lovely lunch at Al Tobaso, but decide we need a little something so we won’t be awake at four in the morning, starving. Just down the street from our hotel, we see just the place. We are hungry for something light, and here is Aladdin, with it’s menu of Arabic “tapas,” so we order grape leaves, hummus, baba ghannoush and felafel. It is fresh, and delicious, and we drink it with mint tea in beautiful Moroccan tea glasses, in preparation for our departure, tomorrow, for Cadiz and the voyage to Casablanca.

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We slept well!

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Sunny Afternoon Stroll in Seville

 

 

(Sorry for the lengthy break; Paris terrorism, Thanksgiving, Pre-Christmas and grandparenting takes its toll 🙂  We are taking care of our grandson when he gets out of school, and 5 years olds have so much ENERGY!)

From a torrential morning, we have landed in a warm, sunny afternoon. After lunch, we stroll the avenue, spotting monuments to Ferdinand, Isabela, Columbus and a memorial on the back of the Alcazar.

 

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The Cathedral is glorious in the sun:

 

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And when we see the line going into the Alcazar, we are so happy we went in the morning:

 

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December 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Travel, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment