Throwback Thursday: The Mighty Dead or Does Homer Matter?

Last month when I reposted Return from the Stars for Throwback Thursday, it went weird and hardly any of you got to see it. I sought enlightenment from support and they told me I was doing it all wrong. I'm trying their way now.

The Mighty Dead or Does Homer Matter?

Originally published on 9 October 2015

Why Homer Doesn’t Matter

Now that’s a heading that nobody should have been expecting from me, given how I go on and on about Homer whenever I have nothing better to do. But I have finished reading The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson, and put it down with the feeling that sadly, it failed in what it set out to do: namely to convince skeptics that Homer mattered, that Homer should still be read, perhaps even studied, because he’s relevant to our lives.

CONTINUE READING →

How to Survive Semana Santa in Seville

Tips to Make Your Semana Santa Memorable

We spent Semana Santa in Seville this year – and although we enjoyed it, we could have enjoyed it so much better if we knew what we know now. (And it’s not like we didn’t do our research in the internet and guidebooks first.) So read this to find out how to make the most of your stay in Seville during Semana Santa!

Let’s start with…

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Canoeing in the Wilderness

In the summer of 1857, the American writer Henry David Thoreau – best known for his book Walden detailing his experiences of living in a log cabin for two years in the wild – went on a canoe trip in the still unspoilt regions of Maine, with a friend and an Indian guide from the reservation of Old Town.

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How to Live like a Local in Budapest

I just came home from home. The experience was slightly unnerving in both directions (as usual). To begin with, there was the inevitable confusion of languages: while at home, I tended to do it all wrong. I spoke Hungarian to Young Friend of the Elephants and English to my father, not to mention when I creatively mixed the two languages to the changing room attendant in the thermal baths. To end with, back home there was the immigration officer at Heathrow who asked cunning questions to find out if I was trafficking my child into the country to be some sort of a domestic slave. (She’s washing up after dinner right now but don’t tell that to the border police.)

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The Roman Theatre of Mérida

The Extremadura region (in the west, bordering Portugal) is not a part of Spain that’s particularly overrun by tourists. But although it hasn’t got beaches, it’s still well worth a visit for anyone who’s at all interested in history, in architecture or indeed, for anyone who’d just like to holiday somewhere beautiful and atmospheric without the crowds.

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Mérida in the Extremadura

Mr Anglo-Saxonist hates beaches – in general – and overcrowded Spanish beaches in particular. Which is why, despite of us having visited Spain three times so far, we’ve never yet been down the Mediterranean coast. On the other hand his dislike of beach holidays led us to visit a small town in the west of Spain which, quite simply, blew our minds.

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Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes

Read this in English (written in two parts)
⇒ Sketches of Spain: CastileSketches of Spain: Granada

Hay libros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque todo se ha dicho ya. Y hay otros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque lo único que puedes hacer es citarlos. Impresiones y paisajes por Federico García Lorca es uno de esos últimos.

La noche tiene brillantez mágica de sonidos desde este torreón. Si hay luna, es un marco vago de sensualidad abismática lo que invade los acordes. Si no hay luna…, es una melodía fantástica y única lo que canta el río…, pero la modulación original y sentida en que el color revela las expresiones musicales más perdidas y esfumadas, es el crepúsculo… Ya se ha estado preparando el ambiente desde que la tarde media. Las sombras han ido cubriendo la hoguera alhambrina… La vega está aplanada y silenciosa. El sol se oculta y del monte nacen cascadas infinitas de colores musicales que se precipitan aterciopeladamente sobre la ciudad y la sierra y se funde el color musical con las ondas sonoras… Todo suena a melodía, a tristeza antigua, a llanto.

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Hills (And What People Built On Them)

Hills are a natural choice as locations for some of the most beautiful structures mankind has ever erected: castles and temples, statues and palaces, lighthouses and crosses – I’m sure you all can think of many stunning examples. Today, in response to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme Hills on her blog Where’s My Backpack, I thought I’d share with you some of the hills I had the good fortune to climb in the Mediterranean. And I chose these particular hills for one reason: what people chose to build on them.

The Old Town of Toledo

Toledo
Toledo

The old town of Toledo was built on a hill which is almost fully encircled by the River Tajo. This view shows the Roman bridge across the river with the Alcázar of Toledo topping the crest of the hill. For this view alone, Toledo will always be one of my favourite cities.

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Nesebar: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today, a trip down memory lane – in more than one sense. First, the last time I saw the place we’re going to visit (when I took the photos) was in 1988 – I hazard the guess that a number of you weren’t even born then. Second, this is (or was then) a place forgotten by time and the world. And finally… photos from thirty years ago: look at their quality! That is, their lack of it (admittedly not helped by the scanner).

The Church of Christ Pantokrator, Nesebar
The Church of Christ Pantokrator, Nesebar

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How Blue is the Blue Lagoon?

The short answer is: very. 🙂

So you picked up a Maltese travel brochure and saw these glorious photos of the Blue Lagoon in which the water is implausibly blue, a shade known by people who care about such details as ‘cyan’.  And you weren’t born yesterday, so you conclude that the colour of the sea water is the result of a photo filter and the name of the lagoon is probably an advertising gimmick.

And you’re wrong.

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They that Go Down to the Sea in Ships

A fit of September blues, accompanied by September skies. (That means grey; where I come from September skies are famous for their particularly beautiful deep blue colour.) My September blues, however, are not merely due to the fact that summer is over; my plans for rowing up the Thames à la Three Men in a Boat are over too. For reasons I don’t want to discuss here not only we didn’t succeed in following the Three Men upriver this summer, we didn’t even have a holiday. Maybe better luck next year?

So – for a while at least – this is the last post in the Upriver series. And what better way to wind up and lighten the September blues at the same time than to immerse ourselves into some books set on boats (and envy the people who get to sail on them)?

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The Hagar Qim Megalithic Temples on Malta

I’ve lived in England for more than a decade by now but I’ve never yet made it to Stonehenge or the stone circles of Avebury. We did set off to see them once, hiring a car for the occasion, only for one of the kids to fall ill on the very day. Instead of a day out at Stonehenge we merely managed an expensive tour of London’s major roads; and we didn’t discuss visiting Stonehenge since.

The truth is that much as I like history, neolithic monuments don’t set my pulse racing. Somehow – I can’t help feeling – our stone age ancestors didn’t manage to do quite as many interesting things as the Phoenicians or leave as pretty ruins as the Greeks. Nevertheless, if you ever go to Malta, where there’s an awful lot of history crammed into a very small area, you could do worse than take a couple of hours to visit the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim. Dating from 3600-3200 B.C., they are a tad older than Stonehenge – and there’s just a bit more than a stone circle to see.

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The Mezquita of Cordoba

This being summer , what I was going to say was: “The weather is nice and I’d rather be outside…” But the sad truth is the weather’s nothing to write home about, England are losing the test match (that’s me passing the Tebbit test!) and I’m too lazy to exercise my brain. So for today’s miscellany a few pictures, with somebody else kindly having written the words! 🙂

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The Amphitheatre of Italica

Italica, the birth place of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian as well as the poet Silius Italicus, author of Punica, a long epic poem about the Second Punic War, is an ancient Roman town – or rather the ruins of it – near Seville in Spain. The town was founded by Scipio Africanus who settled the veterans of the Second Punic War here. Nowadays the site is most famous for the reasonably well-preserved amphitheatre, which was one of the largest in the Roman Empire.

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Three Ways to Dock a Motorboat (Part II)

Continued from: Three Ways to Dock a Motorboat (Part I)

The first way was – as you hopefully read in the previous post – with precision. Well, the second way is…

The Second Way: With a Bang

Or How to Get Confused by the French

To dock a boat with a bang takes a bit more effort than the first method. To begin with, it requires involvement from somebody else on shore (although I suppose somebody else in the same boat might do just as well).

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Three Ways to Dock a Motorboat (Part I)

Continued from: What Price a Thames Skiff?

We went walking on the Thames path the only sunny day this spring. I was going to point out all the jolly people rowing upriver in their beautiful Thames skiffs to my husband – I thought he needed encouragement to see things in the right light. But all I could point out were motorboats.

motorboat on the Thames
All I could point out were the motorboats…

Continue reading “Three Ways to Dock a Motorboat (Part I)”

The Caldera of Santorini

P1000997.JPG
The collapsed caldera of Santorini. View from Fira.

“The most expensive lunch I’ve ever had in my life,” is how my husband refers to our visit to the island of Santorini – possibly the most photographed tourist destination on Earth – in the summer of 2013. The lunch in question, ferry tickets included, cost us some four hundred pounds. “But it was worth every penny,” he adds.

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Riggers Aloft the Cutty Sark

Different from most other museum ships is the fact that all the ropes were installed. It is the 8 miles of rope and 3 miles of wire and chain that help make Cutty Sark’s rigging so spectacular.
(Who’s Who at Cutty Sark: Meet Rigger Andy)

Salvaging something of a rainy day in half-term with Young Friend of the Elephants – visiting the Cutty Sark in Greenwich… and catching the riggers at work aloft. (Yes, those are real people in the rigging. 🙂 )

P1010165.jpg

“She might be static, but in terms of rigging all she needs is some sails and she’s ready to go sailing!”
(Rigger Andy)

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Oranges Like Blazing Fire

The oranges of the island are like blazing fire among the emerald boughs,
And the lemons are like the pale faces of lovers who have spent the night crying.

Citrus_myrtifolia_2
Chinotto oranges. Photo by Nadiatalent via Wikipedia.

Two widely quoted lines from an obscure poet. If you can name the island this quote refers to, I’m impressed. If you can also name the poet, you know far too much about literature and history – would you be interested in writing a guest post for me?

As for the rest of you, the hoi polloi, the mere mortals 🙂 reading this:

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The Bridge of Sighs

I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on each hand.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV. by Lord Byron

P1010832 View from Bridge of Sighs reduced
View from the Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs towards the Ponte della Paglia with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. To the left, the New Prison, to the right, the Doge’s Palace.

I blush to admit it here but before I read City of Fortune, before I stood on the Bridge of Sighs myself, looking out at the view towards St Mark’s Basin, I used to be under the impression that the Bridge of Sighs in Venice had to do with sighing lovers, like some sort of a Juliette’s balcony. In fact, the Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge’s Palace to the new prisons on the other side of the canal and the sighing was done by the condemned men as they were led across the bridge, this being their last glimpse of the views of Venice.

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Spanish Ballads from Southport

Lord Street, in the small Victorian seaside town of Southport in Lancashire, has the airs and graces of Paris. Except that, if you’re to believe the locals, it’s the tree-lined avenues of Paris which have the airs and graces of Lord Street: the exiled Napoleon III lived here before he became king of France and afterwards he had Paris rebuilt in the same style. In any case, Lord Street is the main shopping street of Southport which you can’t avoid en route from the railway station to the pier (there’s a lovely stretch of sandy beach too although you’d have to question the sanity of anyone who wanted to go for a swim in the Irish Sea) and in between two bright and modern shops with their sparkling clean plate-glass windows, belonging to well-known chains, there is a narrow and uninspiring passageway.

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Downriver

Continued from: Upriver: Jerome K. Jerome Comes Out of the Woodwork

Sometime in January, I suggested to my family that we should go rowing up the Thames. À la Jerome K. Jerome. They didn’t take me seriously but I didn’t see why that should stop me. So a few weeks later, I was back on topic…

“We will need to get fit,” I said. It was a Saturday night and my husband and I were alone in the living room with a bottle of red. “We’ll need to practise.”

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Upriver (Jerome K. Jerome Comes Out of the Woodwork)

“Let’s row up the Thames.”

I said this towards the end of dinner sometime in January . “Like in Three Men in a Boat,” I specified, in case anyone around the dinner table was in the slightest doubt.

My husband gave me a wary look from the opposite end of the table. On my left, Sophisticated Young Lady tried (and failed) not to look immensely relieved that she was old enough to be excused family holidays. I can’t remember whether Young Friend of the Elephants was in favour or not. But either way, she got over-excited. She always gets over-excited.

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A Day Trip to Granada

I only visited Granada once but hope to go back there someday. And when I go back, I’ll make sure I pack a jumper.

We were staying in Seville for a week and we took the train for a day trip to Granada. It was the end of October but it was warm and sunny, and we had been wandering around Seville in summer clothes, eating a lot of ice-cream. On the train, the ticket inspector took one look at us, in t-shirts, shorts and summer dresses, and exclaimed, “It’s very cold in Granada!” Assuming that we didn’t understand Spanish, she proceeded to illustrate what she meant by treating us to an excellent pantomime: she hugged herself, gave a huge shiver, stomped her feet, then rubbed her hands together, repeating, “Mucho frío…” (Very cold.) After she moved on, we laughingly agreed among ourselves that the Spanish obviously considered anything below 20 degrees as cold… but naturally, as ‘hardy northerners’, we’d be fine. Well, we should have taken her more seriously, although it was too late to do anything about it by then of course. Because what we didn’t realise was that Seville is down on the plains and Granada is up in the mountains. It was cold, windy and it was raining on and off all day. The kind of weather you get in London at the end of October, in fact.

And so my picture of the Alhambra is suitably overcast.

The Alhambra of Granada
The Alhambra of Granada

A Visit to Rome

My Sophisticated Young Lady has jetted off to Rome with her Classics class a couple of days ago. This lead to three immediate consequences:

  1. Young Friend of the Elephants acquired her own e-mail address so that she could send e-mails full of anguish to her big sister.
  2. I have to do all the housework.
  3. I was left ruminating enviously about books set in Italy.

But while I’m ruminating about those books set in Italy, I’d like to invite you for a fleeting visit to Rome:

Rome

Italian: Roma
Coordinates: 41°54′N 12°30′E
Time zone: Central European Time
Founded: 753 BC
Population: 2,9 million
Current weather: 17 C, sunny

image1.jpeg
The Trevi Fountain in Rome. Toss in a coin, and you’ll come back…

Some sayings about Rome:

All roads lead to Rome
To see Rome and die
Rome wasn’t built in a day
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
And some more…