Last week I was an idle woman; an idle woman in Sicily.
“Of where?” I hear you all saying.
Spain’s Best Kept Secret
Ribadesella is a small town in a spectacular setting at the mouth of the River Sella right under the Picos de Europa. Cliffs protect its wide sandy bay. You can surf, swim, go kayaking on the river or hiking in the mountains. Plus there’s a cave with 30 thousand year old cave paintings, practically in town.
Well may you wonder why you’ve never heard of it.
Perhaps because Ribadesella is the place where the Spanish go on holiday. You hardly hear a foreign word in the street. This is a different Spain from the Spain of package holidays.
Enjoy this short pictorial history of the town – brought to you by the Municipality of Ribadesella (and Waterblogged).
Having taken a somewhat negative view last week with 7 Things You’ll Regret Doing in Lisbon, I think it’s time to look on the bright side!
Good Enough for Byron
We’ll take our cue from Byron:
On, on the vessel flies, the land is gone,
And winds are rude in Biscay’s sleepless bay.
Four days are sped, but with the fifth, anon,
New shores descried make every bosom gay;
And Cintra’s mountain greets them on their way,
And Tagus dashing onward to the deep,
His fabled golden tribute bent to pay;
And soon on board the Lusian pilots leap,
And steer ‘twixt fertile shores where yet few rustics reap.
(Lord Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto I, XIV)
(Welcome to Lisbon.)
If it was good enough for Byron, it should be good enough for you: Byron had a real talent in picking the most memorable places in Europe to visit (and then writing them up in his poetry).
Just having come back from Lisbon, I thought I’d share the kind of insight that you should be able to gain from guidebooks – but you can’t always.
So seven mistakes to avoid when in Lisbon:
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).
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! 🙂
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.
Halicarnassus, the birth place of Herodotus (nowadays Bodrum, Turkey) was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Mausoleum, a colossal tomb of Mausolus, a Persian satrap and a ruler of Caria (377-353 B.C.). The word mausoleum as used today originates precisely in the name of Mausolus and his tomb.
“Halicarnassus, the royal residence of the dynasts of Caria,” wrote the Greek geographer Strabo two thousand years ago. “Here is the tomb of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders, a monument erected by Artemisia in honour of her husband.” (Strabo: Geography, XIV.2)
Mausolus made Halicarnassus his capital and spent a huge amount of money on improving the harbour, fortifying the town and embellishing it with temples, palaces and statues.
About halfway up the curving slope… a broad wide street was laid out, in the middle of which was built the Mausoleum, a work so remarkable that it is classed among the Seven Wonders of the World. (Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture, II.8)
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
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.
Apologies for being a day late with the Mediterranean Miscellany but I was on holiday – in the Mediterranean (of course).
So today: Venice, a fantastic city with loads of history, since I just came back from there.
If you ever go to Venice, don’t begrudge the 5-euro entry fee to the loggia of San Marco (the church itself is free). From this loggia the Doge and Petrarch watched the tournaments held in celebration after Venice had successfully quelled a rebellion, the so-called Revolt of St Titus, in Crete in 1364. And the view over St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the seafront is indeed delightful but the most memorable thing up there is…
Day 20 – the final – assignment called for a picture on the theme of triumph. I decided that’ll have to be the best picture I’ve taken on this course… when I actually stopped and thought about what I wanted to do, remembered the various things I was being taught, and then I managed to do what I wanted to do.
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.
My Sophisticated Young Lady has jetted off to Rome with her Classics class a couple of days ago. This lead to three immediate consequences:
- 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.
- I have to do all the housework.
- 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:
Coordinates: 41°54′N 12°30′E
Time zone: Central European Time
Founded: 753 BC
Population: 2,9 million
Current weather: 17 C, sunny
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…
What kind of a book would a chain-smoking former Special Operations Executive officer write? A man who at 18 had thought he had nothing better to do but to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople with a volume of English verse and Horace’s Odes in his pocket? A man who felt equally at home in shepherds’ huts and in aristocratic palaces?…What kind of book?!
And English readers, who know exactly whom I’m talking about, here answer in unison: a travel book, of course.
A travel book, yes. Er… sort of.
The archeological site of Knossos, near Heraklion on the island of Crete, was discovered in 1878 and excavated by Sir Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1935. The palace of Knossos was the centre of the Minoan Civilisation and was abandoned towards the end of the Bronze Age. There’s a theory that the Minoan Civilisation collapsed as a consequence of the explosion of the volcano at Santorini, with the ensuing tidal wave destroying the low-lying coastal areas of Crete and volcanic ash falling over the island; there’s another theory that the Minoans’ downfall was brought about by large scale Mycenaean invasion (who destroyed Troy too). Or you can take the two in combination – how the Minoans, weakened by the consequences of the volcanic eruption, were unable to resist the invading Mycenaeans.
First impressions matter – at least to me. Hugely. And it is perhaps for this reason that I remain captivated by Toledo – Toledo, the Imperial City, once the capital of Spain, a city some 70 km to the southwest of Madrid in the province of Castilla-La Mancha. Toledo, the City of Three Cultures (Christian, Muslim and Jewish), a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a long and fascinating history stretching back to Roman times.
“Seen from this tower, the night is an array of wonderful, magical sounds. If moonlit, a vague, deeply sensual mood invades the chords, if there is no moon… the river sings a unique, dreamy melody… but it is twilight that generates the most original, intense variations where colour assumes the haziest musical expressions. The ground has been prepared from mid-afternoon… Shadows slip over the bonfire that is the Alhambra… The Vega lies flat and silent. The sun hides and infinite waterfalls of musical colour burst from the hillsides and hasten soft and velvety over city and mountains, and the music of colour melts into the waves of sound… invoking melody, ancient sadness and lamentation.”
You might also like: Sketches of Spain: Castile The Palace of Charles V in Granada A Day Trip to Granada
Let me just say straightaway what this book is not: it’s not a travel book. Not that it won’t inspire you to visit places:
Federico García Lorca was a poet (and a playwright) and this is a book of poetry, written in prose. Take this:
“Eternal death will lock you into the gentle, honeyed sound of your rivers, and hues of tawny gold will always kiss you when the fiery sun beats down…”