Saturday, 1 November 2014


Yesterday I really wanted to get away from Zaragoza for a while, so we went to Calatayud. It's 90kms drive, on motorway, but rather an old one which wouldn't get a seal of approval these days; steep slopes and sharp bends-often both at the same time. It's the road to Madrid and there was much more traffic than we're used to on the motorway to Huesca.
I wanted to see the castle in Calatayud; from the motorway it makes an impressive silhouette. Don't bother trying to get close to it! We did; struggling up a steep track finally to find a rather broken down wreck. Not romantic or picturesque, just broken down.
The town itself was rather nice. On the route up to the castle there were two Mudejar towers.

nice statue of man reading and dog

Statue of the Baron de Warsage

Detail of the Mudejar tower of the church of St Andrew

Really impressive Plateresque doorway, 16th cen

Outside the Modernist bullring

La Almunia de Doña Godina; another Mudejar tower
One thing we noticed: in these towns of Mudejar towers, where the Moorish inhabitants were evicted from their homes by the reconquest, their "descendants" are there again in considerable numbers, enriching the cultural "mix".

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Guided tour

Last Saturday I went on a trip; well, two trips with a group of Japanes tourists who had come to Spain especially to visit Romanesque buildings. They had a guide with them; a lady who could understand English. She spoke to the people in Japanese through a discreet mocrophone into the earphones they all wore. Although the trip was meticulously organised and the guide had printed sheets with all the information, I did a lot of explaining. Every little detail I could think about, concerning any of our surroundings. They were interested in everything!
I love showing off the amazing buildings we have in the area. There are some ancient and very singular ones, in amazing surroundings.
In the morning, we went to see three churches in the Serrablo, near Sabiñánigo.

This is San Martin, Oliván. The photo isn't mine; if I'm offending, I'll take it off.
Inside, it's a nice little 11th century church, extended with a double nave and a non-original tower, but the look outside is rather spoiled by such a showy graveyard. It does show that people are living and dying in the village.
To get to the village of Oliván, you have to drive up a long narrow road. Poor bus driver; he was rather worried about turning the bus round in such a small space; it was a 30-seater. Last time I did it, the driver wasn't at all nervous and his bus was much bigger! 
From Oliván we went the few kilometres to Lárrede. The church of St Peter there is probably the prettiest of them all and it's kept locked. You need to call and ask for it to be opened by its caretaker .
This one is Latin-cross shaped and has a tall, elegant tower with Mazarab windows at the top. It was heavily restored in the 1930s. The graveyard here is discreet, with small tombstones.
I deliberately left St John of Busa for last. We had to pass it to get to Lárrede; just a couple of kilometres, but it's rather special. The chapel stands on its own in an empty field, just off the road. Of the village it was made for there is no trace. It looks to me like an attempt which didn't quite work. The apse is covered with what looks like the prow of a ship; possibly they couldn't work out how to make the stone dome. One side is as crooked as the Tower of Pisa.
My tourists looked at the architecture, the flowers, the mountains, everything. 

In the afternoon the trip was to San Juan de la Peña (St John of the cliff). I love taking people there to see their reactions when they see the buildings nestled in the overhanging rock.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Jupiter tree revisited

Just down the road from us there is a roundabout covered in grass which is where you can see the jupiter tree. I wrote a post about it in 2011 and for some reason it's received 500 visits. Here are a couple of photos I took this morning:

Footnote from the previous post:  in English it's crape myrtle or  crepe myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, belonging to the  loosestrife Family. Pity. Jupiter tree is such an evocative name!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Paris part 6

These are all views of the Pont Alexandre III

A dance class we watched; the teacher began with a demonstration then called couples up to try.

Outside Musée Quai d'Orsay

Musee Georges Pompidou

Les Jardins de Luxembourg. Delightful public park, full of people.

It's my town and you're a visitor!

On the news today both in Spain and internationally, residents of the Catalan town of Barceloneta say they've had enough of drunken tourism. Three Italian men apparently wandered around the town for three hours yesterday, stark naked. I can't find out if they actually got arrested or not; they should have been. It's one thing to strip off on the beach; -even then other people's sensibilities should be considered- but in a town it's not acceptable. It's not fair and it certainly isn't polite. This is what The Guardian says:
The tipping point was a trio of naked Italian tourists. As photos of the group frolicking through the La Barceloneta neighbourhood last Friday morning circulated on social media, some residents said they couldn't take it any longer.
A hundred or so Barcelona residents took to the streets in several spontaneous protests this week, demanding that municipal authorities do more to help what they call a scourge of "drunken tourism".
"Here tourists do whatever they want," Vicens Forner told El País. A local photographer, he was the one snapping photos of the Italian tourists as they wandered his neighbourhood for three hours in the nude – even popping into a local shop – while horrified residents looked on.
The naked tourists were the latest incident in an ongoing conversation Barcelona has been having in recent years about the number and the type of tourists visiting the city. The number of tourists visiting has jumped drastically in recent years, from 1.7 million in 1990 to more than 7.4 million in 2012. As residents attempt to go about their lives in a city where tourists often far outnumber the 1.6 million residents, the number of complaints about noise, nudity, public drunkenness and littering has rocketed.
"Imagine that you're in a tiny house, with three children, unemployed with no money for vacations and you have to put up with the screams and fiesta of tourists next door. It's unbearable," said resident Andrés Antebi.
Municipal authorities have been slow to address the situation, said neighbours. "We're tired of low-cost, drunken tourism," said Oriol Casabella, who leads the La Barceloneta neighbourhood association. "It's killing our neighbourhood and dissuading other types of tourists. It's Magaluf all over again."
Tourism which allows those who pay to do whatever they want and behave just however they feel is a kind of prostitution. If a town wants to make money and nothing more it can prostitute itself in this way, but with the assent of the ratepaying residents. 
Tourism is a very important part of the economy in Spain, but does it have to be like that at the expense of inhabitants? There must be a balance, though. 
I've lived for many years in tourist areas, first Mallorca- not far from the infamous Magalluf, and more recently in Jaca, whose tourism in general is less scandalous.  What I notice is that some people behave as if they owned the place;  paying for a guesthouse or hotel gave them precedence over locals, and of course  that most locals, employed by the tourist industry have to defer to this bad behaviour.
It's selfishness, thoughtlessness, bad manners; not considering that others have the right to exist too. 
Local authorities need to examine their priorities and tighten up their legislation. These few inconsiderate people should not be allowed to ruin other people's sleep, especially not night after night. 
People shouldn't be obliged to confront full or even half  "Montys" while they are shopping.
Visitors should behave like visitors and respect their hosts.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Paris 5, street market

One of the things I enjoyed in Paris was the street market held every other day near our hotel. They seemed to have everything there. It was very colourful.
I liked the piles of herbs, vegetables, lovely fruit. We learned a few French words we hadn't known before. The watermelon = la pastèque, shrimp-crevette


Lovely lettuces

Enormous artichokes

More herbs

Masses of radishes

Yet more herbs

Paris part 4


 The Eiffel Tower is ....very big! There were hundreds of people in the Champs de Mars. Great big queues stretching between the feet of the tower.
Sunday in Paris

As with the pyramid at the Louvre, it was funny to watch people posing for photos standing at the perfect distance away so they looked as if they were touching the tip.