Driving through mountains

Many years ago, before I had even thought of moving to Spain I read a book called, ‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart, in which he talks about his life in Andalucía on a farm. It is a wonderful book, full of humour and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience more of real Spain.

We have spent lots of time over the past few weeks driving through Andalucía on the way to and from Granada and I am looking forward to returning to the area one day. These latest coach trips have been more local, and more about driving through some spectacular lower level mountain scenery than the Sierra Nevada. There haven’t been any lemons but some wonderful views!

It is hard to get good pictures from the coach, I have tried to capture the scale and the beauty of the mountains but to see the splendour for yourself you can look at the following websites that have the most glorious photos. We visited the town of Javea (or Xabia), which is a really beautiful town set on some stunning coastline. I would love to return to the area for further exploring, hopefully in Katy someday, as there are some amazing natural parks in the mountains.

The first trip was to visit the gardens at L’Albarda, set high up on the hills overlooking Javea. This is a new coach trip that the local company has just started doing and we passed many stunning villas on the way there.

The house is closed to the public but we were able to wander around it and it is absolutely stunning, with a very inviting pool. It definitely looks like a film set for a very glamourous Hollywood movie.

The gardens themselves are a beautiful mix of formal and more wildflower, with lots of shady spots, really appreciated as even though it was only 17 degrees that day, it felt hotter. There were the more formal water features that reflect Spain’s Moorish heritage, as well as more natural looking pools and waterfalls.

The views from the gardens over to the mountains were amazing, there was one stone seat in a shady wooded spot surrounded by lavender with the most stunning view, I could quite happily have stayed for hours with a good book!

We particularly loved this amphitheatre, within what we thought was an ordinary conservatory. The symmetry of the pots, plus the beautiful cascade waterfall, was really unusual.

After the garden visit we went to Javea itself for a delicious lunch with the prettiest salad I have seen for a log time, and a rather nice sea view.

We just had time after lunch for a little wander along the seafront and some fabulous Spanish ice cream, I always have the fruit flavours then it counts as one of your five a day 😉

The sea was the most wonderful turquoise. Javea is a very beautiful town, and is very unspoilt, with few high rises, possibly as it has a pebble beach so has not suffered the fate of other places on this coast that have been very overdeveloped.

It was a truly wonderful day, another one of those I keep having where I have pinch myself that this is actually happening, and on a school day as well! I have never been able to be here at this time of year and it is lovely, just the perfect temperature for me. It is around 23 degrees, so I have been able to take the bike out and sit on the terrace in the evenings reading. I did get some very bad mosquito bites the night I was out with friends, so it is not all perfect in my little paradise, but thankfully a friend from sewing group gave me some good spray to take the swelling down.

We are now going to have a few quiet weeks before our next trip. I have spent a lovely weekend, apart from a quick trip to the beach and a deep paddle, (it is not quite swimming weather yet), making the first of my campervan cushions for Katy. A few more bits of hand stitching and then I can show you the results. I have had great fun doing it and so will be making a couple more at least. I am taking them back flat so they won’t take up much room in the luggage!

We have had exciting family news as well as my latest great-niece arrived safely on Friday! You may remember I posted about her baby shower and the rabbit and Moses basket covers I made. Willow is home from hospital and safely tucked up in the basket. We are all very happy and can’t wait to meet her in July.

I will be back soon with another fiesta, this one involving horses with the most stunning embroidered coats and head dresses. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Poetry in plaster

The Alhambra, in particular the Nasrid Palace section, is such an amazing place. This was my second visit and to be able to go again, and to see the exhibition in the museum there, answered some of my questions about how the palace was decorated and what some of the designs mean.

I found this very informative post which talks about how the building was designed and what some of the inscriptions mean, many are poems or sections from the Koran.

The ‘muqarnas’ in the ceilings, which you can see in the middle picture in the bottom row, are fascinating and the museum had a display of how they are put together, an eight piece 3D jigsaw of plaster pieces. The relief plasterwork, as seen below, was so regular, we wondered if that had also been done using moulds.

The sheer scale of the carving, mosaics and woodwork is incredible and you get a real sense of the work that goes in to conserve it as there is live conservation going on everywhere, which is fascinating.

We were really lucky with the weather as well, although rain was forecast it was just dull and we were able to see the Generalife gardens, where I tried some ‘arty shots’ looking past the flowers to the palace.

An absolute must see if you come to Spain, such an important part of the history of this region.

Now for my very difficult task of choosing something to turn into a design. One of the aims I had for retirement was to create some designs based on the many architectural features I love to take photos of, and I have challenged myself to do one by the end of this visit to Spain. I have lots of ideas for possible blackwork, goldwork and quilt designs but have narrowed it down to three pictures. I think I would like to do blackwork as an homage to Catherine of Aragon, and as I have not done any blackwork for a long time.

These are some of my favourite blackwork makes from previous times. The first two are a picture I made for my aunt, not sure where I got the frame but love it. The last one is a needlework set I made for a re-enactment friend. These were all patterns from stitching magazines so I would really like to have a go at designing my own work this time.

So I am thinking of turning one of these plaster motifs into a blackwork design. For the first picture it will be the bottom motif. The second picture it would be the central one with star and fruits. The bottom picture it would be motif on the lower left (or right as they are both the same).

I can’t promise to have the whole thing stitched by the end of June, as I have costumes to make for re-enactment and Steampunk, but my aim is to at least have the pattern drafted. If you have a favourite please let me know in the comments.

We have lots of exciting textile related things coming up with my sewing group as well, the group are having some outings and social events which is lovely. I am so happy to have met another group of like minded people who are so enthusiastic about all things textile related!

It is looking as if it might be a sewing day tomorrow along with the second session of my writing course. I am working on one of my quilt WIPs as well as costume so am looking forward to a few crafting days in over the next week. I will be back soon with the coach trip to the gardens. I hope you all have something nice planned for the weekend. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Two kings and two queens

It is easy to forget how closely linked England and Spain have been throughout the years. Especially in today’s political climate when the UK has left the EU, when many people may be feeling that we have less in common with Europe than ever before. However, things change constantly throughout history and a longer perspective is often helpful.

I remember watching the Michael Palin series, and reading his book, ‘New Europe’, about all of the changes in both membership of the EU at that time and the changes in countries such as the former Yugoslavia. I was reminded of this again during my new writing course this week as we were reading an extract from a book written about memories of that country by a former citizen living in Germany. The course is all about writing about place and identity and we have started with thinking about our own identity.

At the weekend I was out with a French friend, who now lives here in Spain, and a Dutch friend of hers. We were talking about all sorts of topics, including our own identity, empire, and how we had all ended up here, in a little bar halfway down the Spanish Costas. I love the very multicultural nature of my new life. Yorkshire was also very multicultural, but in a different way, and I like the fact that I am spending time with people from lots of other parts of Europe as well as Spain. It is so nice to meet lots of different people here as well as on my travels.

Our recent visit to Granada really brought home how closely England and Spain were connected, and in particular, for me, the very fascinating period of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and their daughter Catherine of Aragon and Henry the Eighth. You will know if you have read some of my previous posts that Catherine is someone I am very interested in, both from a historical viewpoint and from a textile one as she is credited with bringing blackwork to England.

I know less about Ferdinand and Isabella and need to read more, but Granada is so important to their story, with their reconquest of Southern Spain in 1492, when they captured the city from the Moors. The ‘Reconquista’ is celebrated every year in Spain in many places and we have been lucky enough to visit several of the spectacular fiestas that celebrate it.

Our final day in Granada was all about catholic heritage, with a visit to a monastery, the cathedral and the chapel where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried. The chapel is so beautiful, an amazing testament to the stonemasons who built it.

No photos were allowed in the chapel but I have managed to find some information and pictures from various sources. This blog has some additional information and a copy of this painting which was at the entrance to the tomb.

It shows a glorious depiction of Isabella and Ferdinand as they have the city surrendered to them by Bobadil, the Muslim ruler. The first day of our visit we went to Bobadil’s mother’s palace and the Alhambra visit and the chapel tour completed the story. I think it is a wonderful piece of art, so full of detail, from Isabella’s gown to the Alhambra and the Albaicin in the background.

The chapel itself is wonderful, the tombs are very impressive, as to be expected but there is also a very good interpretation and a wonderful collection of medieval art there as well, which we loved. There is lots more information and pictures on the chapel web site.

The most amazing thing for us was that underneath the marble tomb there is a crypt with the coffins inside, picture from Pinterest. There are also the coffins of their other daughter Joanna and Philip and the Prince of Asturias. I think this was the most amazing thing about that day for all of us, the tombs and the gold altars were all stunning but this was very poignant and something that I have not seen with other memorials.

The monastery, Cartuja de Granada contained many paintings detailing what happened to Catholic monks in England after Henry’s split from the church while trying to divorce Catherine. I didn’t take pictures of them as it was rather gory but the architecture of the monastery was beautiful. I loved the simplicity of the cloisters and the refectory buildings.

The chapel there was just unbelievably ornate. I don’t think that we have ever seen anything like it and we have seen a lot of Catholic churches! There was a main larger chapel area and then behind the mirrored altar a smaller chapel.

Our other visit, to the cathedral, was also stunning, as much for the many books of music on display with their gorgeously illustrated pages, as for the altar, organs and other grandeur.

I loved the ceiling of the cathedral altar space, not my best ever Spanish cathedral ceiling, as that honour goes to the one in Valencia with its musical angels, but still very beautiful.

My next post will be about the Alhambra itself, once I have decided which of the many pictures I took to include! So much wonderful architecture and decoration in the place it is a difficult decision.

We have also just been on a couple more day trips, to a wonderful garden on a lovely sunny day, and to another fiesta, so will post about those soon as well. The weather has been variable, so one of our trips has not been able to take place, due to the event being cancelled, but we still have one more to come this week.

We are then going to be having a quieter few weeks, which gives me chance to get out on the bike and visit the outdoor pool when its sunny. If it does rain there is the opportunity for more sewing days, watching the clouds!

I hope that you have all had a good week. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.