Galicia – wine and pilgrims

The most famous thing about Galicia is probably the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, with pilgrim routes from all over Europe ending here at the tomb of St James. The area is also very famous for the wine that is grown here, particularly the white wine as the climate and the salinity in the soil gives it a unique flavour.

We had seen many vineyards on our previous trips and on the fourth day went to the town of Combados, which grew rich in the medieval period on the profits from wine. We were not expecting such a grand square where the palace was but it was stunning, with the church on one side and rows of beautiful shops and houses on the other.

There was an option to go on a little train tour, which most of the rest of the group did, but we decided to just have a wander round so we could pay closer attention to the gorgeous buildings. We even got to have a little peak in the palace wine cellar.

We did see a cute wine shop and bar but didn’t get anything there as the morning ended with a visit to a small vineyard and a tasting of some of their wine. Not only was it very nice but also came in a very pretty bottle, so I bought some as gifts.

The final day was one of the highlights of the trip, to visit the cathedral at Santiago. It was stunning, but I think the most amazing thing was watching the groups of pilgrims come into the square and seeing the expressions on their faces when they had finally finished. It was so moving.

There was time for a wander round the city streets, with lots of bars, shops and cafes displaying their wares in a very artistic manner, look at this for a display of ‘pulpo’, (octopus). There was also a little tribute to the Queen’s Jubilee in one of the bookshops.

We also encountered a couple of locals who were portraying St James and a medieval pilgrim and inviting people to have their photo taken with them. The costumes were brilliant and they were very popular with the tourists.

A truly wonderful end to our trip. It is an area I would love to return to, I do say that about most of Spain though so we shall see how things progress over the next few years. There are so many other places I want to see as well. Our next Spanish trip is to Cordoba in November and we have also just booked to go to Venice for Mum’s birthday next year in April which is very exciting!

I have to spend some more time next week getting my UK tour for 2022 sorted. I have booked my first two campsites for my first solo driving trip from Worcester to Whitwell which covers about 10 days. I have lots of other events apart from camping and also want to catch up with friends who I first met 40 years ago when I moved to Huddersfield to start my degree. It seems amazing that it was that long ago.

I will be back with a final crafting update next week, it is all progressing well so far, although I am definitely not going to be making any more costume in 30+ degrees again. It is completely my own fault as I should have done the costume first, then the camper cushions. There has been some blood, as I got myself stuck in the skirt once and the pin bit me 😦 a lot of sweat, but thankfully no tears during the making of this outfit.

Hope you are looking forward to a nice weekend whatever you are doing, my friends in the UK are also having really hot weather so I hope that you have a good time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Galicia, where rain is art!

Our second day of the tour was a bit wet, which was actually quite nice. Even though I love living in Spain and not having to deal with endless Yorkshire rain, especially getting soaked at the bus stop, there is something lovely about dramatic grey clouds and misty scenery.

We visited the city of Pontevedre first thing and as I was walking across one of the squares, in my sandals, two builders asked me in Spanish why I was wearing those when it was raining. I was able to reply in Spanish that I was English, so was used to rain, which is when one of them said, ‘ah, in Galicia, rain is art’. I think that is a lovely way of thinking about it and certainly means that the scenery changes all of the time.

The city was really surprising, the exterior of the city looks very modern but inside there are beautifully preserved squares and buildings, very reminiscent of Caceres with their shields on the walls.

We had a guided tour, with poor Jose having to stop and wait as people went off to look at a beautiful chemist’s shop with a gorgeous tiled floor, or an interesting drainpipe!

I am sure he is used to this but it was a bit like herding cats πŸ˜‰ At one point I nearly joined another tour group by mistake as I was trailing behind taking pictures.

In one of the churches there was another icon like the one we saw in Caceres with lights from her arms. There were also some very stunning doors, I particularly liked these white ones which were very unusual.

Our later stop was to visit one of the very interesting things that I had spotted on the journey in. At first I thought they were little roadside shrines, as most have crosses on them, but they are actually grain stores, designed so that rats and mice can’t climb up the legs.

The village of Combarro has a lot of these at the back of the houses and one street has been turned into a lovely row of shops and little bars, where you can sit, often underneath the barns, and admire the sea view. We bought some gorgeous cream liqueur from one of the shops and got a chance to go and have a look upstairs at the balcony. The house had been beautifully refurbished and there was a great view across the misty estuary.

Most of the afternoons on the rest of the week were free time so we went to the beach near the hotel that afternoon for a slightly mizzly walk. The scenery was stunning and there was a little costal path out to the edge of the estuary.

It was lovely to see so much beach, our local beach is suffering from the effects of global warming as the tides are getting higher every year. Now there is only a very narrow strip of sand between the bars and beach houses and the sea, which will mean that the summer visitors will have to go elsewhere for access. They have also had to remove all of the sun beds and umbrellas that we used to rent for the day. It is is very clear reminder of the power of climate change, sadly our favourite beach bar will probably be gone in a few years, or we will all be paddling to get to it.

It is a bit cooler today and we are due thunderstorms, I will be be using the inside time to finish the last few bits of the Steampunk outfit. I then have to try and make a bustle of some sort so that will involve some fabric fettling and experimenting as have not made one before. It is difficult to take pictures of the outfit as I haven’t got a mannequin anymore but will take some of the hat and jacket at least and then get some good ones when I wear it in July. I am so happy to have finished it, only 18 months in the making πŸ™‚

I hope that you are all having a nice time wherever you are, and happy Summer/Winter Solstice to you. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another ocean

One of the exciting things about being in Galicia was the chance to see, and paddle and swim in the Atlantic, rather than my usual Mediterranean. Of course I have been in the Atlantic before, from the UK,but this was a different coastline so still exciting.

Last year I read a fascinating book about the history of the Atlantic by Jeremy Black. It was a really interesting mix of the history of sailing and exploration, as well as economics, such as the laying of the first telegraph cable and links between migration and empire. There were various points on this trip that I was reminded of that book as we were in the area where Columbus’s ship that sailed to America in 1492 was built.

The coastline is very different to ours, the mountains come down to the sea and there are lots of rocky inlets, which makes it very beautiful. The area is also quite industrialised and on the first day of our tour we visited the city of Vigo.

There were great views from the old fort, destroyed by Frances Drake during the 1500s, (sorry about that Spain!). The area has been turned into a park and there were lots of people enjoying the views over the port and inlets.

The area is very dependant on seafood for its economy, with lots of mussel beds. When we stopped for a coffee we took the opportunity to make friends with some of the live crabs on display in a local restaurant window.

Vigo was full of wonderful old buildings, the city went into decline in the 1990s but is now being extensively restored and it was great to see so many apartment blocks that are being refurbished. I loved the grey stone in the city as well.

There was a very different architectural style with lots of covered walkways, I think due to the climate as it rains a lot more here. It reminded me a lot of visits to Italy.

After Vigo we had a trip out to the island of La Toya, which is famous for its healing mud, used in lots of soaps and cosmetics. The island is full of very expensive apartments and a spa complex. There is a donkey sanctuary here as it was found that the mud helps the donkeys recuperate as well! There was also a little chapel which was completely covered in scallop shells, the symbol of St James.

Half of the island is a nature reserve with some amazingly tall pine trees. Mum was very taken with these, and with how green everything was. As she has not left Spain for three years she is very used to our dusty and quite bare landscape.

A quick stop at O Grove for my first paddle in the clear cool Atlantic was followed by a very exciting stop.

We were viewing a little Romanesque church on the headland, next to some Celtic ruins, when someone spotted dolphins off the rocks.

Sadly no pictures of those as they were too quick, you will just have to trust me that they were by the rocks in the picture above. The scenery was stunning as the sun started setting with the clear turquoise sea. A brilliant end to a very lovely first day in Galicia.

Life in La Marina continues to be wonderful, and very hot, it is 32 degrees today. The local charity shop on the way back from sewing group has been having a 1 euro sale so I have got some more cool clothes in the last couple of weeks to add to my Spanish wardrobe. Unsurprisingly I have never needed this many summer clothes before πŸ˜‰

I have been working on the Steampunk jacket this week, as the hat is now finished so I am making very good progress. We have lots of social events coming up over the next couple of weeks as it is my 60th birthday soon. I am having a series of afternoon teas, drinks and meals out to celebrate that before flying back for some re-enactment events the first two weekends of July. It will be brilliant to catch up with everyone, some people I haven’t seen for three years due to the pandemic, so it will be an amazing time.

I hope that you all have a lovely weekend ahead, I will be back with more of Galicia soon. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another country

Galicia really does feel as if it is another country as it is so very different from anywhere else I have been in Spain. This is partly to do with the climate, as it rains a lot so the area is very lush with forests and vineyards. All of the houses have beautiful gardens, many with large vegetable plots.

The architecture is very different as well, due to the climate. The houses have sloping roofs, dormer windows, covered terraces and traditional balustrades and fencing made of the local grey stone, rather than our ironwork railings. Many have crosses outside to protect the houses from the local witches.

It is also a very long way away, 13 hours driving time on the coach each way, passing through many different regions. It is a journey of 1000 km and is actually further away than it would be to drive to France. As it is so remote compared to the rest of Spain it has a very different feel and a different language, closely related to Portuguese as the area we went to is very near the Portuguese border. The country was originally part of Portugal and has a long and fascinating history, if you want to read more this blog has a useful summary.

One of my ambitions for retirement was to see more of this beautiful country and I have certainly achieved that this year. This map below shows where I am, near Alicante, the blue star. Since last Nov I have been to Caceres, the orange star, Granada, the red star and now Galicia, the purple star. This coming Nov I will go back down south to Cordoba which is near to Seville.

The journey was wonderful, passing through the wheat fields, vineries and castles of La Mancha, on to the vast plains of Castile and Leon, before reaching the mountains and forests of Galicia. We were very happy to just sit and watch the scenery and think about places that we would love to go back to one day in Katy.

There were also many different varieties of cloud to admire, Mum and I love clouds and there were a vast array over the plains and fields, including some stunning low lying ones between the mountains.

We left nearby Torrevieja from the coach pick up at 7.15 in the morning and arrived at our hotel at 10.15 at night, 15 hours later with the rest stops we had made. To our great delight our hotel room had a sea view. One quick dinner later and I was on the terrace with a glass of red wine, listening to the waves with this amazing view.

It was equally lovely the next day as well.

The hotel helpfully had an ariel photo on the reception wall and it showed the hotel in relation to the peninsula it is on. The hotel was just off the main road that you can see at the bottom left, minutes from the beach.

We were staying just outside Sanxchenxo, in a region known as the Rias Baixas. These are the estuaries of the Atlantic and the region is full of wonderful islands just of the coast and beautiful beaches with such fine white sand. We were just north of Pontevedre on this map which meant that everywhere we went involved travelling along the estuaries.

This is the first time I have ever been on a coach trip where you stay with the group all week and have daily tours out together. It was a really interesting experience, there were certainly some characters in the group, (great material for my novel writing!), but we met some really lovely people who all enjoy travelling.

I have split the trip up into a few blog posts as there were so many interesting and very unusual things to see so will be back soon with some more lovely Galician delights.

The Steampunk outfit is going well. I have the cuffs to fit onto the jacket and the top of the hat to stitch and then it is just the skirt to sew which is hopefully a simple process πŸ˜‰ There are only 19 days now until I return to the UK to pick up Katy and start my adventures there! I am so excited and looking forward to an amazing summer. I am nearly at the first anniversary of my retirement and I have had such a brilliant first year, it has exceeded all of my expectations and I just keep getting happier.

I hope you are all well and happy in your lives. Thank you all so much for reading my blog, it is very much appreciated and I am thrilled every time I get a new like or a new follower. I now have 396 followers and last year had 16,490 visitors which is just mind blowing. Whoever you are, and wherever you come from, you make me very happy! As always, until next time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks a million for visiting πŸ™‚

La Marina Wildlife

Although I live on what is called an ‘urbanizacion’ it is very rural and not urban at all. The word just means residential development and there are many in this area. To one side we have the mountains, in front of us is the sea, and behind us endless farmland. I have never seen so many artichokes in my life πŸ˜‰ and that is why we have such lovely fresh, and cheap food in our local markets.

I have posted previously about the verdes, the green areas in between the housing blocks, and the lovely gardens that many people create there. Most of the verdes are natural though and they are lovely to walk though. I usually chose that route to my Mum’s house, in the hope that I can spot squirrels who live in the more forested ones.

The squirrels here are very different to those in the UK, they are neither red nor grey in colour but a beautiful brown with cream stomachs, and are very tiny and nimble. Apologies that my pictures are not that clear as I was using zoom but I found this great blog with some clear pictures and lots of information so this close up is from there. They have such cute ears as well!

They are a species of red squirrel but are a lot darker and their coats can appear black. The Spanish word for squirrel is ‘ardilla’ (the double l is pronounced as a y).

The very wet weather in March, (where we actually had rain here for about 3 weeks!), has meant that the more open verdes have been transformed into the most gorgeous wildflower areas.

There are so many lovely yellow and purple flowers that have bloomed here, lots of varieties of what look like daisies and a small purple bell shaped flower which covers large areas. You can see that one on the top left of the above picture.

I love to explore the farmland on my bike, as well as great cycle trails there are also the ‘caminos’ which are the rougher roads into the farmland area. Often these run along the ‘azarbes’ or irrigation channels. There are amazing views out towards the mountains.

This week I came across a wetland area on one of the fields where one of the irrigation channels had pumped water onto the field and flooded it. Whether this was deliberate or not I don’t know but it had created a wonderful habitat for birds.

As well as a large flock of ‘gaviotas’, seagulls, there were also white egrets, which we see often here on the azarbes. There were also a few darker egret type birds with a wonderful dark purple plumage under their wings. I think they might be a glossy ibis from my research, this site has some great close up pictures which is where I got this one from.

We also have little lizards that I encounter on my bike rides or walking around, they are far too quick for me to take pictures of but I love to see them!

A little further away we also have the salinas where the flamingos live. I was very excited the other evening as a whole flock of them flew over my house while I was sitting on the terrace. I have seen a few flying over before but never as many of this and it was an amazing sight. No pictures sadly 😦 as the camera was inside.

I did take these ones of the sun setting over the salinas on the way back from Caceres last year. They always look amazing when there are clouds. They are are often a pinky grey colour in the sunlight which is why the flamingos come as eating the sea creatures there turns them pinker. These salinas are some of the best places to see flamingos in Europe. I love the fact that the Spanish for flamingo is ‘flamenco’ πŸ˜‰

I am really enjoying finding out more about all the birds here, my sister is really into birds and so I have got more used to looking out for unusual ones. Many of the salinas are bird reserves now, as they are no longer used commercially for the salt.

It really is a lovely area to live in, so different from my gorgeous moors and reservoirs of Marsden but still with the same all important access for me to rural areas.

I am looking forward to more nature exploration in the autumn, it will probably too hot in June to go far on the bike so I will be planning lots more cycle routes for when I get back in October. I have also started planning where I will spend January and February next year, nothing confirmed yet but I am very excited!

Meanwhile there are cushions to be finished, the hand stitching is taking a lot longer than I envisaged but I am hoping to done this weekend, so will be able to share that soon. I hope that you have lots of nice things planned for the weekend as well. Do have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

For the love of God

Our final coach trip recently was to the little town of Gandia, further north again so through the same wonderful mountains as the trip to Javea, and a little inland.

We went to see the Ducal Palace, which dates from the mid 1300s and is very closely linked with the Jesuit order of monks and with one of its most famous Dukes, Francis de Borja, in the mid 1500s. Francis wanted to become a monk but had instead to take up his family inheritance. After the death of his wife he joined the church.

The palace is spectacular and has some amazing tiles. Much of the artwork relates to the story of Francis Borja and his family. The family were related to the infamous Borgias, and the notorious Rodrigo Borgia who was a pope in the 1400s. There were some great inspirations for crafting patterns in the tiles and woodwork as well, that window shutter has a fantastic quilt block design on it!

There was also a little bit of textile interest from the 1500s, the family crest and a priest’s robe.

The ceramics were of many different styles and this painted panel had some wonderful detail, I assume the striped flowers are tulips which I know were very popular from the 18th century.

My favourite room was the wonderful Neo-Gothic chapel, the artwork in there was just stunning. It reminded me of the decoration of Cardiff Castle and Castle Coch, which is decorated in a very similar style. The ceiling was amazing, I do love a starry ceiling!

This was one of my favourite paintings, I do love representations of nuns and she looks so peaceful.

The altar was beautiful as well, the painting around the cross was so delicate.

Such a beautiful place, I could have stayed there for hours looking at all the detail.

The later part of the tour covered the later baroque style rooms, wonderful ornate wood and plaster work and some very impressive ceilings. The guide explained that they were actually painted canvases rather than some Sistine Chapel style mammoth ceiling artwork.

This picture was so sweet and I love the ornate frame. Something like this would be great for blackwork!

The palace went into decline as the family in Spain died out and in the late 1800s it was bought by the Jesuits and restored. It has been a national monument since 1964 and is well worth a visit.

We had time to have a very nice lunch in the old town and admire the cathedral and the town hall.

We also made a quick visit to the museum, which was based in the old nunnery and hospital. There were some beautiful pieces of medieval art there as well that had been collected by the order.

I am very tempted to try and link this order, which unfortunately I forgot to record the name of, with life in medieval England as I would love to add a flower head dress to my nun’s outfit.

Although I love the paintings themselves, it is the detail in the backgrounds that is the most interesting part for me, such gorgeous architecture and landscapes.

There were also some musical angels, I really love these depictions and have only seen them here in Spain.

These were a group of interesting and very unusual reliquary heads, there were about 10 in total.

I am very much enjoying being able to explore much more of Spain, this is such a fascinating country and I am planning to read much more of its history over the coming months. I have read quite a lot about the civil war period, but less about the 1400 – 1600s so will be concentrating on that next. The history is very interesting in comparison to that of the UK, in terms of the many separate kingdoms that existed. The relationship between Spain and its empire is also something that I would like to read more about.

It is lovely to go out and practise my Spanish as well. I am still studying every day and when we go on trips get lots of opportunity to use it. One of the things that I am finding is that I can now understand a lot more. I listen to what people are saying around me and it is starting to slowly make sense which is brilliant and makes me feel as if I am making real progress.

It has been unseasonably hot here, 33 degrees earlier this week, which is more like July weather, so I have been to the pool three times this week. Between 5 and 7 they have half price rates and it is virtually empty so I have the whole pool to myself to swim. So far this week I have done 150 lengths which I am very pleased with. I have been able to take my bike out as well and have been doing some more off road exploring.

I have also been busy with my writing, I am half way through a new writing course with the WEA which is centred on Place and Identity. I am finding the exercises that we do really helpful in stimulating different aspects of the novel writing. I start another creative writing course with them in a couple of weeks, with the same tutor I had in January.

I am so, so happy that I spend my time at the computer doing fun things now, in previous years May and June was all about marking thousands of words of dissertations and essays. I still can’t believe I never have to do that ever again πŸ™‚

I hope you are enjoying life wherever you are, I will be back soon to share some more crafting with you, I have been doing a little bit in between all the adventuring πŸ˜‰ In the meantime, have fun, take care , stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The stuff of legends

The festival at Caravaca celebrates a legend that dates from the 1200s, the period in which Spain was occupied by the Moors and there were constant battles. This legend says that the people of the town were trapped in the citadel by the Moors and they had run out of water. The Knights Templars at the bottom of the hill in the town, couldn’t find any water that hadn’t been poisoned, so they tied skins of wine to the horses and they ran up to the citadel. The people there dipped the Holy Cross in the wine which cured all the sick and dying.

Caravaca’s full name is Caravaca de la Cruz as there is still a cross there, Vera Cruz, the True Cross and it has been designated a holy city by the Pope. Approaching the city by coach we had some amazing views, the citadel and the basilica stand on the top of a mound, dominating the landscape. Since I don’t have a drone I have found this picture to show you what it is like.

I did get a nice shot from the car park though.

We did not have chance this time to visit the citadel or the basilica so a return visit is definitely something we will do as I would love to wander around the town a little more. There were some stunning squares and churches and I always enjoy visiting towns outside of their fiesta days.

The first thing that we encountered was the parade of the horses, accompanied by lots of very enthusiastic supporters and bands. The fact that they sell a special wine for the occasion and there are lots of stalls selling beer obviously helped with the general mood, so I had a can of Estrella just so I blended in with the locals πŸ˜‰

The horses are decorated with beautiful coats, I am not sure if they are embroidered or some other technique, but many featured people. The horses, around 60 of them, parade through the town and up to the citadel. We watched a few come through and made our way up the back streets to the base of the citadel to get a good view.

We were a little concerned to see so many ambulances arrive a bit later, unusually for a Spanish fiesta there were warning notices so we knew it could be dangerous but the ambulances were thankfully just kept busy with people passing out from the heat. We were waiting for people to fall off the hill just below the citadel in front of us as it got more and more crowded.

Before the horses run there are parades of the monarchs and their armies up to the citadel. As always this is wonderful, I do love a good Spanish re-enactment, with marching and swords! I wasn’t able to get any clear pictures of the kings and queens and their armies in the parade. Next time we go I will stay at the bottom for a bit longer to see these as it was fantastic to see them all parade up the hill to the finish line. The Catholic queen looked as if she was wearing a similar outfit to the painting of her retaking Granada that I shared in a previous post. You can see the outfit more clearly in in this news report.

The Moorish king and queen were equally splendid, there are some more detailed pictures of them in this blog post. We will see more of this type of fabulous costume when we visit the Moors and Christians festival again in Alcoy next year.

The horses run a 80 metre course up to the citadel, one team at a time and their time is recorded. The team of four have to keep one hand on the horse at all times so we could hear the the groans of the few teams who didn’t manage that. We were helpfully right opposite the film crew who were display live footage and all the team times on a big screen. We then had a quick wander back through the town before getting on the coach.

The journey back was quite eventful as we had a hailstorm fiercer than any I have ever encountered in Yorkshire as we came back through the mountains. Luckily we had a great driver who kept on going, though many people were pulled up on the hard shoulder it was that severe.

A brilliant day out and I am so glad I have been able to see it, it is one of the fiestas that Mum has always wanted me to go to, but it was never the right time of year for me to get leave. I so love the way that the Spanish celebrate life and it was brilliant to be in the middle of things again, as obviously most fiestas haven’t run for a couple of years.

I have been busy this week with working on cushions for Katy, I have still got to do some hand sewing on the last one and then I can share those but I am very pleased with them. I also ran a little workshop at my sewing group on English Paper Piecing which everyone said they enjoyed. They are such a very talented group of people and it is lovely that we take turns sharing our skills.

I had my first sea swim at the weekend, it is a lot hotter now, about 28 degrees so it will soon be pool time as well. Bike rides are having to be done only in the evenings now as it is too hot for me otherwise, but I have had fun discovering some new routes along the back roads that run next to the irrigation canals.

Hopefully this weekend I will get chance to work on the outfit for Whitby that I started last year, in January as it turns out, before life got very busy with driving, doctoral submissions and house selling! There are now only five weeks until I return to the UK, away from my sewing machine so I really need to crack on! I hope that you have all got some nice things planned, whatever you are doing, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

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 AndalucΓ­a 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 AndalucΓ­a 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 πŸ˜‰

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.