534-535: Spanish Cultural Extremes

534 – Saturday 12th November 2016:  Granada’s Alhambra

I was to be the first of us to do the grand tour – we arrived at the ticket office before it opened at 0800 hours – and queued for over an hour! Oscar was much admired by everyone especially a group of young ladies from Cambridge…K had come with me to get her ticket for the afternoon visit.

My visit lasted for about 3 hours and I couldn’t possibly see everything – stunning again – the photos (later) will show a good flavour.

Potted History:  The first palace was built from 1237 for Muhammad 1 al-Ahmar; other rulers built / added on gardens and palaces.  The Dynasty ruled the Muslim empire which stretched from the Straits of Gibraltar to east of Almeria.  Muslim forces actually took over the area long before, but other regions fell to the Christians.  In the words of one of our guide books “It all went pear shaped” in the C15 with family in fighting over the succession, leading to a civil war.  The Christians took advantage and invaded leading to an 8 month siege.  Boabdil surrendered Granada in return for much of the countryside.  Isabel and Fernando then set up court in the Alhambra.  The Jews and Muslims were persecuted and largely thrown out of Spain

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Part of the Generalife (Architect’s Garden), the summer Palace were the Muslim rulers could escape the politics of the main palace.  Soothing flowers, light and water.

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From the exterior, the Alhambra is an imposing fortress of red and plain walls.

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Carlos V Palace: perfectly square with a circle inner courtyard.  Carlos apparently never much liked it and it is very out of place given its surroundings.

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Alcazaba: some of the oldest parts.  The military complex.

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The Nasrid Palaces:  the jewels of the Alhambra where 250 years worth of Muslim rulers lived, followed by the Christian royal family.  The balcony was added by the Christians for the choir.

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The detail in the stone carvings was phenomenal.

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535 – Sunday 13th November 2016:  Yeeha!  Spagetti Western Country

Rather than fork more euros for staying a second night, we drove to a free aire on the way to Europe’s only dessert.  A bit of an odd aire, as it was pretty full with a lot of Spanish who seemed to all know each other and had the BBQs out.  Behind it was a small park with numbered tables (no benches) and an area with rows of stone BBQs.  It must be a popular place in summer.  Having walked Oscar and set off all the residents’ dogs barking, we headed for the dessert, near Tabernas.  During the 1960’s and 70’s, Spaghetti westerns were filmed here and the full scale sets survive.  We had a choice of 3 film sets and opted for the middle priced one, as it allowed dogs in … yehaa!  Having paid the princely sum of EUR35 (with J’s senior discount, I might add) we wandered around the sets.  A lot of them we recognised, but could not place in which film.  Was it The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?  A Fistful of Dollars?  Who knows!  There was absolutely NO INFORMATION about the making of the films.  We really felt it was over priced, given how much more interesting the place would have been with some history / information.  All we were treated to was a can can show, followed by a bar brawl and a shoot out in the saloon!  Come on, J comes from Dublin, isn’t that a nightly event in Temple Bar?  I lasted until the first gun shot, and had to take our ‘special’ gun dog out.  We made rather a scene in exiting, as he wrapped his lead around the swing door in his haste to get away!  J was not long behind!

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Would you Adam ’n Eve it!  We’ve run out of wine and the blinkin liquor store is shut!

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The fistfight.

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El hombre!!!  Yeeha!

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The Mexican village.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

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Now really James, you don’t even like guns!

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The Fort …

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… and of course to complete the Western, the Indian Village.

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El Hombre again.  Yeeha!  Giving paying punters pony rides.  Tempting but we’ve spent enough.

We had thought it would be fun to stay in the dessert over night, as our entry ticket allowed us to park up there … but when on earth were we going to do all afternoon?  A quick soup and off to Nijar.

We headed for the free carpark adjacent to the local police … however, we had our first buttock clenching moment with Jez, where I ended up in front of the van, guiding J down a too tight road with cars that had no place being there!  It really does not help when a local tells you that you have no place being there either!  Nope … back to the lower car park we’ve just passed.  We wandered into the town … and relieved our driving angst with a half litre of red whilst consuming an early supper.  A further walk up the town revealed lots of narrow streets … would not have liked to bring a Fiat 500 there either!) and shops selling brightly coloured pottery and striped cotton rugs.

On the way down, we stopped off at another bar and I ordered us a glass each of 43.  This is a drink I remember from previous trips to Spain and I also (don’t remember) was told I got completely hammered on it once and could not face it again!  Anyway, I had to introduce J to it.  A telecon with the Aged P’s and mother said something along the lines … it taste good, but is lethal.  Despite that, we had another glass each.  And Spanish measures are LARGE!  We wobbled down the hill to Jez, with the intention of finding a spaghetti western on the hard drive to watch …. oops … I managed to get the laptop out … but then passed out …. somewhere around 8.00 p.m., I’m told.  Mr C was not long behind me.  Thankfully, I’ve not seen 43 in the shops (yet!).

531-533: Spanish Decisions Unmade

531 – Wednesday 9th November 2016: Arrived in Avila

Steep steps up to the walled city – birthplace of St Teresa….she ran away to be a martyr, hoping to be killed by the Muslims … at age 7 (!) but her Dad brought her back – to rejoin the nuns later.  Nice market square and the usual bustle of Spanish town streets.

We really wanted to walk the town wall on the top – but ‘no dogs allowed’. Spain is definitely not as dog friendly as other countries…  we contemplated our next move over a glass of vino tinto and decided to walk the wall … but inside and out.  This was where the locals were perambulating …. the tourists, having paid, were on the wall!  Us – we mix it with the locals!


One of the city entrance gates, and pretty much our view from the Parking.


The market square.


Entrance to the cathedral… slight strange stone sentries on duty.


Saint Teresa (the Spanish one) church and birth house here.


Granada is known for the storks … only spotted a nest.


Stone pigs were supposed to bring the merchants good luck.  This one was still in situ in a garden.  You could buy a miniature from the tourist shops.


The Medieval wall circumnavigates the whole town: over 2 km long, 88 turrets, 9 entrance gates, 12 m high in places.  Lit up at night it really was impressive.  


Whilst in the town, we criss crossed trying to find a large jubilee clip … needed for the kitchen sink to prevent our cutlery drawer collecting all the dish washing suds and washing (!) all the cutlery again.  Despite K’s drawing and a translation, only small ones in stock, or none at all.  On the way back to our parking, K spotted an animal alimentacion and goods place the other side of the river.  We’d been contemplating a waterproof coat for our Oscar … never thought we’d come to this, but he does seem to feel the cold and doesn’t much care for the wet either.  I’m sure we might have mentioned that he is rather ‘special’!  Having queued at the counter where the man was dispensing advice and medicines … lots of racks of kit behind him, but not ‘ickle wee doggy coats.  On the opposite side of the road was motor mechanic …. ahh, though K.  Her thought was correct – he had large jubilee clips.  EUR4 and the leak into the drawer is (mostly) stemmed.

532 – Thursday 10th November 2016:  Spontaneous in PL

A beautiful and brand new parking with services at PL (we cannot remember the actual full name).  Only stopped to use the motorhome services and have lunch, overlooked by some of Don Quixote’s white windmills.  We were on the way half out of the gate – when K met Pauline and Michael (we had chatted to them when we arrived earlier). Now while I was in the van awaiting my K directions – our good lady had decided that we should spend the night and have drinkies with P and M!!!  Not the first time we ‘flexed’ our plans – purely in the interests of neighbourliness…

An afternoon stoll and glasses of vino at the town square – is that a new thing for us, readers? I think everyone knows the answer to that one…

A lovely evening – and they fed us too!  Many thanks to you two – we really hope to meet you again and to return the favour…


Some of the scenery on our way to PL…



And again, we are in awe of the flat and smooth empty roads.

533 – Friday 11th November 2016:  Greetings from Granada

Cordoba was our destination, buy J spoke to another English couple by the services, who advised that there had been 2 motorhome break ins on the aire in the last week.  Shame, but we’ll have to see Coroba another times .. it is just not worth the risk.

We changed our plans and decided to go straight to Cabo de Gata, a peninsula that is a nature reserve.  We had wanted to also see Granaga, but there seemed to be an expensive parking by the Alhambra, or you found a campsite and caught a taxi … we’d investigate a train from somewhere.  However, on the journey, we changed our minds again … we are allowed to!

To Granada and Al Hambra it was.  It must be one of the very top attractions in Spain!  Dog welcome? No. We decided to tour separately in the morning.  Evening time saw us doing the Barcelona equivalent of the “Las Ramblas” family strolling. Wine and supper snacks.  We met an English father, son and grandson who resided in Granada … the son was called Arthur.  We’d previously met a Spanish family who had called their little girl Alice.  Is there Spanish fashion for English childrens’ names?  Granada was an amazing place to wander – young, slightly hippy and buzzing.  K even managed with the aid of another drawing to buy a stitch holder from a knitting shop … yes her art skills must be improving!



img_5804-1Columbus and Queen Isabella … check out her train.


We were the only van in the very convenient parking, although it was quite a walk back up the hill at the end of the evening – no wonder at Euro 29 per 24 hrs!