Lockdown Diaries: Day 51 (The Romans in Mérida)

Locked Down in London, Day 51:

A day as grey as a prison.

Virtual Escape: The Romans in Mérida

Time to escape to a quiet corner of sunny Spain… and wander among spectacular Roman ruins! Mérida – in Roman times known as Emerita Augusta – in the Extremadura.

 

Keep safe, keep sane – keep sharing! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 49 (Lisbon Views)

Locked Down in London, Day 49:

Another Friday evening … in lockdown.

Programme choices:

Yawn.

Virtual Escape: Lisbon Views

I really do hope that you’ve got something better to do this Friday night than reading this blog (and listening to the your neighbours’ whining kids). But in case you don’t, come for a virtual walk around Lisbon 🙂 :

 

Keep safe, keep sane – put your feet up! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 47 (Cape Sounion)

Locked Down in London, Day 47:

Every exit strategy that is discussed by governments, scientists, etc. have a common feature – that we’ll have no fun this year. Foreign or possibly even domestic holidays will not be worth taking; restaurants, museums, pools, places of fun will be the last things to reopen.

It sucks. But for most of us, there’s always next year.

Most of us; not all. Spare a thought for those who are terminally ill and this is their last spring/summer when they could have been doing something they wanted to do before their death.

Virtual Escape: Cape Sounion

Like travel to Greece…

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die.

(Lord Byron: The Isles of Greece)

Further Reading:The Isles of Greece by Lord ByronLord Byron
Keep safe, keep sane – read The Isles of Greece! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 40 (Of the Aegean)

Locked Down in London, Day 40: Holiday flight

An e-mail from my airline regarding my upcoming holiday flight – the one we postponed from April – left me in the quandary: do I transfer the flight to July (my only remaining free holiday time), do I accept the voucher that I can’t use and try to swindle my way round the fact that it’s not transferable, or do I sit tight and hope that the airline will cancel the flight and I can get my money back?!

On the subject of holiday flights: I saw the following video a while ago, and probably you all saw it by now… but just in case somebody missed out, something to cheer you up!

Virtual Escape: Of the Aegean

No comment:

Eros
The archipelago
And the prow of its foams
And the gull of its dreams
On its highest mast the sailor waves
A song

Eros
Its song
And the horizons of its voyage
And the echo of its nostalgia
On her wettest rock the betrothed awaits
A ship

Eros
Its ship
And the nonchalance of its summer winds
And the jib of its hope
On its highest undulation an island cradles
The coming

(Odysseas Elytis: Of the Aegean)

Further Reading:Sailing the Aegean with Odysseas ElytisOdysseas ElytisA Look at Greek Poet Odysseas Elytis's Best Poems
⇒ In case the video didn't work for you: Holiday flight
Keep safe, keep sane – keep smiling! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 34 (The Windmills of Don Quijote)

Locked Down in London, Day 34: Weary Face

Is the lockdown ever going to end?

Virtual Escape: The Windmills of Don Quijote

Remembering happier times… Campo de Criptana, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. Don Quijote country.

At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.

“Those thou seest there,” answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long.”

“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Don Quixote de La Mancha)

Further Reading:Don Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Project Gutenberg)
⇒ Castile-La Mancha, Spain - turism
Keep safe, keep sane – start reading Don Quijote! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 32 (Climbing Kanchenjunga)

Locked Down in London, Day 32: Where Is My Money?

Today we got a refund for one of the many things that was cancelled on us due to everything closing. Yippee! I celebrate the fact that we did get one refund and in fact in a couple of cases our direct debit for services that we subscribe to but can’t use at the moment was frozen – but what about the rest? There are at least half a dozen companies, museums, a school, etc. that owe us money and not a peep out of most of them…

What about you people?

Virtual Escape: Climbing Kanchenjunga

Remembering happier times… when we climbed the Kanchenjunga!

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)

 

Kanchenjunga here (as I’m sure you all guessed) is not the mountain in the Himalayas; it’s a mountain in the Lake District in England, and in real life it’s known as the Old Man of Coniston. It’s called Kanchenjunga in Arthur Ransome’s children’s book about the Swallows and Amazons and we climbed it because we love the books! (See the link below for more information and pictures about our following in the footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons.)

Further Reading:In the Footsteps of the Swallows and AmazonsLake District
Keep safe, keep sane – keep sharing! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 30 (Hiking Vulcano)

Locked Down in London, Day 30: Our New Pet, Ede

About three weeks ago we acquired a family pet, whose name is Ede (that’s Eh-deh, not Eed). We feed it every day and it’s now feeding us in turn, and in fact we’re giving away one of its children today… no, it’s not a hen, much less a cow, although if this goes on much longer maybe we’ll be forced to start a farm!

Ede is a sourdough starter and took five days to grow; much to our surprise it then survived six days without food or water while we were locked down in Lancashire. We feed it regularly with flour and mineral water and then use portions of it to make bread without yeast. The bread is so tasty that half of of the first loaf went within five minutes of coming out of the oven, as we all “tasted” it.

As my contribution to the worldwide fight against coronavirus, I translated the recipe and passed it on to family via e-mail; and a local friend of ours is coming to collect one of Ede’s children later today (she’s collecting it from the doorstep because we’re good and law-abiding citizens)!

Virtual Escape: Hiking Vulcano

Remembering happier times… so today, we’re climbing Vulcano again, off the coast of Sicily, in glorious sunshine.

We arrive by ferry from the Sicilian town of Milazzo; and as we’re disembarking we’re assaulted by the overpowering stench of rotten eggs. Don’t panic! The smell is pervading the harbour, that’s true, but not the entire island; it comes from the nearby mud baths. Start the climb towards the crater and the smell will fade away, soon to be dispersed entirely by the sea breeze.

It’s an easy climb; small children and school groups are doing it too. As you go up, you will see the seismologic equipment (and the scientists working it) – this volcano is dormant, not extinct.

Seismographic equipment

The views open up as you climb:

View from halfway up

And on top, you’re rewarded with the sight of a classic geography textbook volcano (well, it is called Vulcano!). Sniff at the sulphur and touch the ground: it’s hot.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

An unforgettable experience even if you’re not a geologist.

Happy climbing, amici!


Further Reading:
⇒ For those in need: recipe for the sourdough starter & and the sourdough bread made from it
⇒ I'm not the only one who thought their pet needed a name: Your Amish Friendship Bread Starter Needs a Name
Keep safe, keep sane – bake bread!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 12 (Historic Greenwich)

Locked Down in London, Day 12:

Would you like the bad news first or the bad?

As you’re not here to answer, we’ll have to go with my preference:

Bad news: the council now closed the park around the local boating lake (a couple of days ago it was still open and I sent some glorious sunny pictures – ignore effing cold Arctic wind – to my family via Facebook).

Good news: I survived a visit to the fishmonger and bought two slices of salmon, 200 g each, for my daughters’ dinner tomorrow because it will be our wedding anniversary and we’re excluding them from our peppered fillet steak with dauphinoise potatoes and cheese and port to be consumed at candlelight – we were going to celebrate in the local French restaurant but… coronavirus! (Perhaps I should also explain that when it comes to food I hate all animals that came out of water with a passion.)

Virtual Escape: Historic Greenwich

Although we’re forbidden to take the tube and we can’t now pretend to drive the DLR, nor take the timetabled riverboat on the way back, we can still roam freely in historic Greenwich thanks to the photos I’ve taken over the years. It’s my favourite place in London – the Queen’s House, the buildings of the Old Naval College, the Cutty Sark, the Meridian Line and the Royal Observatory, the Park, the Planetarium, the river bank, not to mention the National Maritime Museum… the shop selling nauticalia and the market with is quirky wares. 🙂

So much to see, so much to do, so wonderful at any time of the year. Don’t miss it when you next come to London.

Happy roaming! 🙂

No book accompanies today’s wanderings in Greenwich, because, frankly, I don’t know any! But if you have a good book to recommend, please do so below!

Keep safe, keep sane – keep smiling!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 5 (Venice)

Locked Down in London, Day 5: Is Bread Now Rationed?

Yesterday the kids finally began to realise the seriousness of the situation!

Young Friend of the Elephants – who was practically bouncing off the walls in delight on Friday afternoon after her school closed indefinitely – commented that all other things being equal, she actually prefers GOING to school to online school – and it was only the second day.

And after lunch, Sophisticated Young Lady (who is actually a grown up now) asked if she could have another slice of bread or are we now rationing bread at home? (No, I was just trying not to become fat pig!)

And this was in the news:

Can’t wait for a handsome para to turn up on the door step with my shopping!

Continue reading “Lockdown Diaries: Day 5 (Venice)”

Vulcano, la forja de los dioses

Read this in English

Hefesto y Vulcano

Hefesto, el dios herrero, era tan enclenque cuando nació que su madre Hera, disgustada, lo arrojó desde la cima del Olimpo para librarse de la vergüenza…

Robert Graves: Los mitos griegos

Bueno, exactemente aquí ya puedes ver de dónde sacaron los espartanos su idea de arrojar los recién nacidos con defectos físicos o enfermos de los acantilados del Taigeto. Pero en cuanto a Hefesto, el dios del fuego y de la forja, el herrero de los dioses del Olimpo, él tenía suerte en esta primera caída: se cayó en el mar, donde la ninfa Tetis lo encontró y lo llevó a casa. Unos años más tarde, Hefesto estableció una pequeña forja submarina, y le pagó por la amabilidad con unas chucherías domesticas, por no mencionar unas joyas estupendas que llamaron la atención de Hera. Debido a lo cual no sólo se le permitió regresar al Olimpo sino que también se le dio Afrodita para su esposa… Pues eso acabó bien, o, al menos, hubiera acabado bien, si Hefesto entonces calló. Pero no, dedicó unas palabras poco prudentes a Zeus, quién, de nuevo, lo arrojó de la montaña… Esta vez tenía menos suerte, como que se cayo en tierra, y se quedó cojo para el resto de su vida inmortal.

Adelanto rápido a los tiempos romanos. Como sabemos, los romanos fueron muy ingeniosos en la ingeniería (mi favorito es el corvus, una puente para el abordaje de las galeras cartaginenses, la solución clásica para el problema de cómo-cambiar-una-batalla-del-mar-en-que-somos-inútiles-en-una-batalla-de-tierra-en-que-somos-mucho-mejores), por no mencionar sus varios otros éxitos que llamaron la atención. A pesar de esto, parece que los romanos no tenían ninguna imaginación cuando se trataba de su religión: tanto que no se molestaron en inventar la suya propia, sino que sencillamente importaron la antigua griega. Y así Hefesto, el griego, se convirtió en Vulcano, ciudadano de Roma. Larga vida a los dioses, bajo un nombre u otro.

La forja de Vulcano por Jacopo Tintoretto [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Pues pasó que cuando Hefesto volvió al favor de Hera, abandonó su herrero submarino y establició una forja nueva en el Olimpo. O al menos eso dice la leyenda pero las leyendas son sujetos a cambios… y dicen que Hefesto tenía forjas en lugares distintos.

Los colonos griegos en Sicilia ya tomaron nota del lugar, pero probablemente debemos la ubicación de la forja de Vulcano a los romanos, quienes elegiron el lugar perfecto: una isla pequeña cerca de las orillas de Sicilia, convinientemente llamada…

Continue reading “Vulcano, la forja de los dioses”

Vulcano, the Forge of Gods

Leer esto en castellano

Hephaestus and Vulcan

Hephaestus, the ugly and ill-tempered Smith-god, was so weakly at birth that his disgusted mother, Hera, dropped him from the height of Olympus, to rid herself of the embarrassment…

Greek Myths by Robert Graves

Well, right there you can see where the Spartans might have got their notions of throwing sickly newborns off the cliffs of Taygetus. But as regards Hephaestus, god of fire and the blacksmith of the gods of Mt Olympus, in this first fall he was lucky: he fell into the sea, where he was found by the nymph Thetys, who duly took him home. A few years later, Hephaestus repaid the kindness by setting up a little undersea smithy and making for her some useful household odds and ends, not to mention some fancy jewellery which caught the eye of Hera. Owing to which not only he was allowed to return to Olympus but was given Aphrodite for his wife. All’s well that ends well, or would have, except that he then said some unwise words to Zeus, who once again hurled him off the mountain… This time he was less lucky, because he fell on hard ground and remained lame for the rest of his immortal life.

Fast forward to Roman times. As we know, the Romans were quite ingenious when it came to engineering (my personal favourite is the corvus, a bridge for boarding Carthaginian galleys, the classic solution to the conundrum of how-to-turn-a-naval-battle-at-which-we’re-****-into-a-land-battle-at-which-we’re-so-much-better), not to mention their various other achievements that clamour for attention. Despite of this, the Romans seemed sadly lacking in imagination when it came to their religion: so much so that they didn’t bother to come up with their own – they merely imported in the Ancient Greek one. And so Hephaestus the Greek became Vulcan, the citizen of Rome. Long live the gods, under one name or another.

Vulcan’s Forge by Jacopo Tintoretto [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Now it so happened that when Hephaestus returned to Hera’s favour, owing to his ability to make fancy jewellery, he abandoned his undersea workshop and set up a new smithy on Mt Olympus. Or at least so says the original myth but myths are subject to change… and Hephaestus is reputed to have forges in more than one place.

The Greeks settlers on Sicily have already noted the place, but ultimately we probably owe the location of Vulcan’s forge to the incoming Romans who have hit on just the spot: a little volcanic island off the shores of Sicily, conveniently named…

Continue reading “Vulcano, the Forge of Gods”

Asturias Is Spain…

…And The Rest Is Conquered Land

There’s a popular saying in Spain, principally in Asturias, a province on the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, which goes:

Asturias es España, y lo demás tierra conquistada.

Asturias is Spain, and the rest is conquered land.

It makes reference to the Battle of Covadonga, 722 A.D. when the troops of Don Pelayo, king of Asturias, defeated the invading Moors. The battle is considered the starting point of the reconquista, the reconquest of Spain from the Moors (a long process of wars which ended with the taking of Granada in 1492). Legend would have it that Pelayo and his 300 defeated an army of 180,000 Moors. Historically speaking, it’s more likely that the Moors were not quite so numerous, nor Pelayo’s lot so few but – why spoil the legend? It’s still a famous victory for those defending their homeland.

Don Pelayo in Covadonga by Luis de Madrazo y Kuntz, 1855. Courtesy of the Museum of Prado

As a consequence of Don Pelayo’s victory, Asturias has never been conquered by the Moors which explains the above saying.

Continue reading “Asturias Is Spain…”

Land of Giants

Leer esto en castellano

Or The Windmills of Don Quixote

Unexceptional

The Lonely Planet guide about the La Mancha town of Campo de Criptana reads:

One of the most popular stops on the Don Quijote route, Campo de Criptana is crowned by 10 windmills visible from kilometres around. Revered contemporary film-maker Pedro Almodóvar¹ was born here, but left for Madrid in his teens. The town is pleasant, if unexceptional.

Actually, unexceptional doesn’t even begin to describe the town if you arrive by train (Campo de Criptana is on the mainline from Madrid to Albacete, the capital of Castile-La Mancha). Downright ugly might be a better description: as in many Spanish towns, the railway station is on the outskirts, in this case surrounded by industrial buildings of little appeal. Luckily, Campo de Criptana is a small place and fifteen minutes walk will bring you to the centre of town.

Which is unexceptional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

But you don’t really want the centre of town. You’re a reader, a reader of Don Quixote at that, and what you want is the famous windmills, the giants that Don Quixote fought. Head uphill from the unexceptional Plaza Mayor with its obligatory Cervantes statue, through the Albaícin – the old Moorish quarter -, through the narrow cobblestoned alleys, between whitewashed houses edged in indigo blue… it sounds better already, doesn’t it? There. As you turn the corner, you spot your first windmill. And there are other nine to come.

Continue reading “Land of Giants”

Tierra de Gigantes

Read this in English

O los molinos de Don Quijote

Nada excepcional

El artículo de Lonely Planet sobre el pueblo manchego Campo de Criptana dice:

Una de las paradas más populares en la ruta de Don Quijote, Campo de Criptana está coronado por 10 molinos de viento visibles desde kilómetros. El respetado cineasta contemporáneo Pedro Almodóvar¹ nació aquí, pero se fue a Madrid en su adolescencia. El pueblo es agradable, aunque nada excepcional.

De hecho, la frase nada excepcional ni siquiera comienza a describir el pueblo si llegas por tren (Campo de Criptana está en la línea principal de Madrid a Albacete, la capital de Castilla-La Mancha). Feísimo podría ser una mejor descripción: como en muchas ciudades españolas, la estación de tren está en las afueras, en este caso rodeada de edificios industriales poco atractivo. Afortunadamente, Campo de Criptana es un lugar pequeño y quince minutos a pie te llevará al centro de la ciudad.

Lo que es nada excepcional.

Statue of Cervantes, Campo de Criptana

Pero la verdad es que no quieres el centro de la ciudad. Eres un lector, un lector de Don Quijote además, y lo que quieres son los famosos molinos de viento, los gigantes con los que luchó Don Quijote. Diríjase cuesta arriba desde la Plaza Mayor con su obligatoria estatua de Cervantes, a través del Albaícin, el antiguo barrio morisco, caminando por los estrechos callejones adoquinados, entre casas encaladas y bordeadas de azul añil … ya suena mejor, ¿no? Ahí. Al doblar la esquina, ves tu primer molino de viento. Y hay nueve más por venir.

 

Continue reading “Tierra de Gigantes”

Florence, City of the Renaissance

Renaissance – rebirth – is the Medieval realisation that the classical world, in particular Greece, has something to offer us. One of the places where you can observe Renaissance best ‘in action’ is the Italian city of Florence, in Tuscany, a northern region of Italy. For all that it’s a famous tourist destination, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you do enjoy immersing yourself in the Renaissance – because apart from that, there’s not a lot else to do.

Continue reading “Florence, City of the Renaissance”

The Aegean (Aqua & Azure)

 

My last minute entry to the Pic & A Word Challenge Aqua and Azure

You might also like:Sailing the Aegean with Odysseas ElytisThe Caldera of SantoriniThe Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

Guess the Picture (Adivina la imagen)

I’ve been out and about last weekend – despite of the snow and the freezing wind – and took this picture. It’s of a jaw-dropping exhibit in one of my favourite museums.

Estaba saliendo el pasado fin de semana, a pesar del nieve y el viento helado, y saqué esta foto. Es de una exposición alucinante en uno de mis museos favoritos.

Can you guess what it is? Then leave a comment below.

¿Puedes adivinar qué es? Pues déjame un comentario abajo.

You’ll find the answer in next Wednesday’s post, together with some less cryptic photos…!

Encontrarás la solución en el post del miércoles que viene, ¡junto con unas fotos menos enigmáticas…!

Out Of This World: The Brighton Space Elevator

After more than half a year of limiting myself to taking holiday photos, last week I suddenly remembered that I used to work my way through the 2016 Dogwood Photography Challenge. For those of you who don’t know, this is a 52-week challenge aimed at helping you to become a better photographer (it’s been extended to 2017 and now 2018 as well) and you can thank it for the only picture of me that you’re ever going to see on this blog – due to the fact that the week 1 challenge required a self-portrait…

Continue reading “Out Of This World: The Brighton Space Elevator”