My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Can I Recapture Spain?

Flamenco Dancers in Seville, Spain
Flamenco Dancers in Seville

A year ago today, we flew home from Madrid, Spain after a delightful nine-day trip. During this trip, I lost myself in another world of delicious tapos, ancient cathedrals, Flamenco dancers, Moorish influence and a carriage ride with high-stepping Andalusian horses. A year later, can I recapture the magic of that wonderful trip?

Let’s set the stage. We journeyed with twelve square dance friends from New Mexico, joining up with about thirty others to make the tour with Bradley Dick, an amazing fun-loving tour guide with Insight Vacations (a top tour company that alters the bus, taking out seats to provide ample leg room for everyone).

When the trip ended, we flew home from Madrid on March 8, 2020, noticing many in the airport with masks but ignorant of the danger we faced. On March 8 Spain had about 500 coronavirus cases; on March 9 they had 1500, and the numbers increased exponentially daily. In researching the coronavirus online, I found several sites, but we ended up liking this one the most, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

As we watched the daily numbers increase in Spain, the fear mounted because we had spent the last two days in and around Madrid. In fact, we had our farewell dinner Saturday night downtown Madrid in a packed restaurant with strangers too close by today’s social distancing standards.

Thankfully, no one in our travel party became sick!

Today as I reminisce about this fabulous vacation, I realized we never told and retold our travel stories like normal. We never sat around a table with the other New Mexican travels and recalled special events and adventures. We can home and self-quarantined for two weeks, sure that the coronavirus lay in the corner of a suitcase or somewhere on our souvenirs. We’ve stayed close to home this year, so we had no opportunity to seat around a table with friends and share our Spanish adventures.

Therefore, I came up with a way I could recapture the memories: repost my blog posts about our trip. I also went through some of my pictures from our trip and realized I hadn’t organized them in folders like I usually do. So, what fun I will have revisiting all the Spanish places we went.

A map of our trip to Spain
A Map of Our Trip

Enjoy the magic of this haunting country:

A year later, I pinch myself as I review these posts! I fell in love with Spain, the people and the folklore! While I walk down memory lane, I stand in front of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and marvel at the outrageous architecture. Moving on to Valencia, I savor the flavor of the paella. In Granada, I feel overwhelmed with the Alhambra and the Moor influence. My favorite city, Seville, and the Flamenco dancing capture my dancing heart. I will never forget the gigantic cathedral/mosque in Cordova. Then in Madrid, I bask in the splendor of El Prado and its treasures and lightly say, “Holy Toledo!” in memory of the many churches in Toledo.

Yes, Spain continues to be a mysterious place to me. I hope you recaptured the joy of our trip! Have you been to Spain? Which is your favorite city? How long did you stay there? If you haven’t gone, is it on your Bucket List?


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My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Just How Much Did the Moors Influence Spain?

Lin and I with Alhambra in background
Lin and I with the Alhambra in the background

Our trip from Barcelona to Valencia, Granada and then Seville expanded my knowledge of the Moorish presence in Spain. We headed south along the coast and drove a couple days. As we traveled, I marveled at the sights. My awareness of the Moorish influence in Spain grew as I saw their presence!

Day 3: March 2, 2020

Our day started out rainy in Barcelona, and we face a two-hundred-mile drive to Valencia.

We stopped for lunch at Peñíscola on the Mediterranean coast. The hilltop castle was used for the filming of the movie, “El Cid.” Some of us braved the cold windy day and walked up to the castle winding our way through the narrow streets. I bought an expensive souvenir there—a deck of playing cards for twelve dollars. Hard to explain!

As we drove, Brad entertained us with facts about Spain, specifically about Catalonia and the Catalan dialect. He told us about Franco winning the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Franco trained Juan Carlos to follow him, but when he died and Juan Carlos took over, he said that Franco was wrong and organized the states as they are known now.

Brad also explained why Catalonia wants to leave Spain. He shared an interesting comparison of Shakespeare and Cervantes and told us about the “anti-pope.” His narrative helped make the day go by quickly.

Our day ended at Valencia. It is noted for “The City of Arts and Science,” “a cultural and architectural complex” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Arts_and_Sciences

I didn’t feel well, so I napped while my husband, Lin, and friends toured the complex and took pictures. Valencia is also known for paella and we had an extraordinary dinner seeing paella made by a master chef at La Cigrona restaurant. I recovered in time to eat!

Another claim to fame for Valencia is the fallas—celebrations that last from March 1 – 19, “a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. . .. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt during the celebration. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the noted dish paella, a specialty of the region.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles

Day 4: March 3, 2020

Because of the planned seat rotation, Lin and I sat up front on the right-hand side of the bus and had a clear view ahead—it was awesome because this was another drive day to Granada to see the Alhambra. Again, Brad shared his knowledge of the area we were traveling through.

In preparing for our time in Granada and the Alhambra, Brad shared that the Arabic world arrived in Granada in 711 and captured it in twenty years. Three faiths, Jewish, Christian and Islam, lived side-by-side here for many years.

The Moslem control was defeated in 1492 at the Battle of Granada, the “Reconquista.”

“The Battle of Granada was a siege of the city of Granada. It was fought several months and lead to the surrender of Granada on January 2, 1492. The forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile fought against the armies of the Muslim Emirate of Granada.

This relatively small campaign was of enormous consequences because Granada was the last outpost of Al-Andalus in Spain and its fall meant the end of 780 years of Muslim control in the Iberian Peninsula.”

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Granada

In 1492, the sultan gave the keys of the Alhambra to Ferdinand and Isabella. Brad talked about the Arabic triangle in Spain: Granada, Sevilla and Toledo.

When we arrived in Granada, we drove immediately to the Alhambra for a two-and-a-half-hour tour—exhausting but exhilarating! Our touring group split into two groups, and our guide was Elena, a knowledgeable and personable woman.

The Alhambra is “a palace and fortress complex. . . 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 by the Nasridemir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. 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). . ..”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

Washington Irving’s presence at the Alhambra

Washington Irving wrote his “Tales of the Alhambra” here.

I had no idea of the extent of the Moorish influence in Spain. This palace took my breath away. The mosaics inside and the Islamic calligraphy graced numerous walls. The sheer size spoke volumes as to the position this palace played throughout Muslim and Spanish history.

The Alhambra

Situated on a hill, the fortress’ protection and presence commanded the area.

As we were walking back, Elena told us to go to the Zara store not far from our hotel for great prices on women’s clothing, so I made note of that!

After our tour through the Palace and the Generalife, a walk through gardens to the Summer Palace and walk back, I was exhausted. So we headed to our hotel and napped. We ate dinner at the hotel, then Lin and I walked to the square a few blocks away and took pictures of Queen Isabella and Columbus.

Day 5: March 4, 2020

During the morning, Lin and I chose to do an optional tour to the Albaicin neighborhood which used to be the Moslem Quarters of Granada that we could see from the Alhambra the day before. This fascinating walking tour wound us around through narrow streets with beautiful balconies covered with flowers and our guide, Elena from the day before.

Acorn – Welcome

She shared how many of the houses had acorn statutes as welcome signs to visitors.

“The traditional type of house is the carmen, consisting of a freestanding house surrounded by a high wall that separates it from the street and including a small orchard or garden.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albaic%C3%ADn

The beautiful doors fascinated me as we wandered through the narrow streets, so I took several photos.

Elena shared that one of the ways the Moslems showed they had converted to Christianity was the image of the Virgin Mary on their walls. They were desperate to show their conversion after the Reconquesta.

After this tour, our group stopped for a break and I bought Washington Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra.” Next we visited the Royal Palace and saw five crypts: Isabella and Ferdinand, Prince Charles, the Handsome and his mother, Joanna, the Crazy and Miguel. We were not allowed to take pictures in the Royal Palace.

Gula con gambas
Gula con gambas

Afterwards, we ate lunch in a small street café and I split “Gula con gambas” with Mary Beth. It was a delicious shrimp and noodle dish. Then we shopped at Zara’s, finding some great buys.

We spent the afternoon traveling through olive country to Seville. We stopped for a break and bought olive oil souvenirs. Brad shared an English tourist joke. What’s ABC?  “Another Bloody Church.”

We settled in our hotel in Seville and for an optional excursion, we went out to dinner, sampling delicious Spanish food in a seven-course meal. A singer, a friend of Brad’s, entertained us, then we had a memorable end to the night—a carriage ride back to our hotel, stopping at the Plaza America for pictures.

One of the horses in a carriage next to us was a black, high-spirited Andalusian, beautiful prancing and gorgeous body!

We visited two beautiful cities and saw so much in three days, my head is still reeling! I’m glad I have this blog to go back and peruse my pictures and remember–ah!!!

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