Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Views From Above

The land of southern Spain has such great diversity. Moving from coastal beaches, you suddenly encounter plains, rolling hills,valleys, and mountains all within a relatively short distance from one another. While I did spend much of my trip in the cities, I was able to experience some of the land contrasts as I traveled by bus and train. This time I'd like to share images taken from the high view, a different perspective than I am used to. I truly enjoyed the beauty of the mountains. At best, my Wisconsin home has high hills and not many of those. The photos in this post were all taken in the highlands, out of the ordinary from my usual vantage point.

A couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all unlike coastal southern Spain there were vast areas of unsettled land. This gives a very different feeling from the cities with their winding streets and intentionally closely packed houses.A second contrast was that due to higher elevation, the towns found in those higher areas were markedly cooler. In an hour's drive you can change from a short sleeved shirt to a down vest over a sweater (be prepared!). A third thought is even though the land was very different, it was not distant from the coast and it was,for example, very possible to find fresh seafood in a place like Granada. The relatively short distances were what amazed me the most. It would not be too difficult to have an early morning ski run near Granada, then change, take a drive, and spend the afternoon on the beach in Malaga watching the Mediterranean. Yes, it is possible to have it all!

I hope that you enjoyed the high view. Another time, we'll view the land from a different perspective. Thank you for visiting, please feel free to come again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Southern Spain: Culinary Delights

Discovery-if you enjoy sampling delicious food, southern Spain is the place do do exactly that. First of all, think about where you'll be located-near the Mediterranean with its bountiful assortment of sea food. Add a regional .love of pork and ham. Combine that with a variety of subtle herbs and spices. Wrap it together with a gusto for casual leisurely dining. What more could you ask for?

While breakfasts were good (eggs, various sausages, fresh fruits and bakery goods, excellent strong coffee) none of those samples are shown here I apologize. To be honest, it's difficult for me to take photos or do much of anything else before two cups of coffee have been consumed. By then, breakfast samples have been enjoyed and have vanished. Another factor-it was harder for me to get started in the morning when sunrises waited until 8:30 appear

After walking around for hours, the Spanish custom of having the main meal of the day at 1:30 or later seemed very good. Seafood (squid and prawns) were high on my list of things to sample. Paella was near the top (I first had it when I taught in Morocco). A large meal accompanied by either a house wine or a Cruz Campo (beer brand) and then a cafe solo (espresso coffee) was a fine way to spend an hour or so. Then it was back to walking for more miles and then perhaps a siesta.

The last meal of the day was later in the evening, 8:30 PM was an early start and you would see whole families out much later. A way to sample different taste treats is to go with a friend or four to a side-street tapas bar for an extended stay. Ordering a variety of small portions and then sharing will lead you to discover new food likes. Of course a bit more house wine (vino tinto, vino blanco), sangria, or more Cruz Campo is an excellent complement to the evening.

Obviously, I am "passionate" about the tastes of southern Spain.I am NOT being paid to promote them, I just highly enjoyed them. ;-} If you ever have the chance, I recommend that you give the region a visit and freely sample everything in order to have an authentic food experience. I'm taking my own advice seriously, and I did bring back a cook book titled "100 Tapas" to experiment with until my next visit.

Thank you for stopping by, I hope that you enjoyed your visit. Please feel free to come again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


p.s. I almost forgot about mid-morning snacks. A cafe solo(espresso) and a decadent confection such as the one shown here (it had a rich, orangey flavor) is an experience to be savored. Remember-you'll be walking for miles and can burn off those calories!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Southern Spain: A Brief Visit in Carmona

We only were able to spend an afternoon in the beautiful town of Carmona. Not being able to have a say in schedules one of the drawbacks of traveling with a group, something I did for the first part of my stay in southern Spain. Given the time constraint, how do you make the most of your stay so that your can get a feel for the flavor of a place?

One of the things I like to do when I have a limited time in a place is to just wander around and explore. Narrow streets with interesting tile work in entry ways, a plaza with families and friends enjoying each others' company, buildings and statues-all add to the flavor of a place. After a bit of wandering, a sidewalk seat in a cafe gives you the chance to sample local foods and also people-watch as you dine. (The eggplant with smoked salmon was delicious.) Last, but not least, another time of wandering to work off some of the meal that was enjoyed and then try to find that perfect view before being herded back on the tour bus for your next destination.

I enjoyed my brief visit to Carmona In the short time that we were there, I think that I was able to at least start to get a sense of what life in a small town in southern Spain is like. If it doesn't work out that I am able to return to Carmona , I at least got a chance to sample a bit of its flavor. Some flavor is, after all, better than none at all.

As you may have gathered from this post, I prefer not to travel in a group and also prefer to spend more time in order to get to know a place better. I was able to do so later on in Seville and Malaga. On the other hand, as one who choses to travel in other countries by public transportation instead of drive, the tour bus took me to places that were more difficult to access by public transportation. All forms of travel have trade-offs, don't they?

Thank you for visiting, feel free to come again. May your own travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Southern Spain: Expressions of Faith

Everywhere you go in Southern Spain you will find an expression of faith in one form or another. Giant cathedrals, rural chapels, icons on the sides of buildings, and monuments of the long and diverse Spanish history. It was very difficult for me to choose images that are truly representative. I tried to include at least one example from each of those settings. I included an image from the Alhambra that contains Arabic script as a reminder of the centuries of Arab influence in the region.

To be honest, the scope of religious influence on Spain is overwhelming. At best i can try to give you fleeting surface impressions that struck me during my short 2 1/2 week visit. Foremost in my mind is the fact that for centuries Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in places such as Cordoba in harmony. If only that sense of community could exist in the world again. Another impression is that of massive cathedrals with untold wealth of gold and jewels brought by Spanish conquest of the Americas. On one hand, they are places of beauty. On the other, they were furnished by the blood, sweat, and tears of the people of the Americas. A third impression is the diversity of styles in religious expression. Throughout all of those styles of expression, the severity of the crucifixion seems much more graphic to me that North American counterparts. A final expression of faith that comes to mind is that you can round a street corner, enter a narrow side street and discover a shrine with well-attended flowers is a common occurrence. All of these expressions of beauty and devotion make me wonder how people who could create them would also produce the horrors of the Inquisition as an expression of faith. I believe that it is something that is almost impossible for me, at least, to begin to understand. Fortunately, the Inquisition is behind us. The expressions of faith and beauty still remain.

I am not a religious person. I can, however, appreciate the beauty and sincerity in the expression of faith by others. It would not be possible to visit a place such as southern Spain without including expressions of faith as part of the understanding and appreciation of the regions's culture.

Thank you for visiting once more, please stop by again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable. I challenge you to,if possible, stretch your comfort level and search for places beyond your present horizon. There are so many new and different experience that await you.