Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011

Greetings from Valencia,

When I last wrote, we were on the verge of a train trip to Granada from Malaga. Well, the trip was fairly long, as we had to go through Córdoba, wait, then change trains. We arrived in Granada in the mid-afternoon, a city in the highest mountain range in Spain, the Sierra Nevada. We found the his station, with our usual successive approximation, got tickets for the bus the next day, then jumped on a city us in search of the hotel, which somehow ended up being on our bus route. We were exhausted from the excessive heat, so found the 30 minute Internet spot in our hotel, fortunately in the bar, and sat quietly for a while. Afterward we went on a bus tour of the city, shopped a bit, had dinner in one of the squares, then walked around a bit. Granada centro was lovely at night, with all it's fountains, marble sidewalks, brimming with people out on a Monday night, eating, visiting, enjoying the 15 degree drop in temperature.

The next day and evening proved to be quite extraordinary. In the morning we were retrieved from the hotel by the Alhambra touring company who took us on an extended tour, with interpretation,through this very well restored site of a Muslim city on the topr of the hill above the main city of Granada. The grounds were extensive, with multiple, lush gardens of tall trees, reflecting pools, and vine-covered walkways. The buildings, representing two cultures, as in Córdoba, Muslim and Christian, showed the difference in the representation of power through architecture. The former, large buildings, simple on the outside, but extravagant inside, with detailed tile and intricate plaster work. The latter with extensive filagree on the outside, and more opulence on the inside. The latter also built a church and palace directly in front of the former, yet not destroying the former. Interesting.

We had lunch at the parador hotel on the grounds, then at the advice of a shop keeper, took a city bus to the other side of the hill at st Nicholas point, and viewed the city and the Alhambra from this vantage point, then walked down the long hill, then used back to the Alhambra for the night tour. Our guide this time was an art historian, and we were his only two listeners. Our time with him was to be spent in the same lecture as the morning, ut turned into an intellectual discussion of art, history, culture, architecture, all in the magnificent setting of this glorious palace, in the glow of darkness and soft lighting. Our guide walked Us to the path that led to our hotel, which was soft gravel, in a forest, with yellow street lamps, where we reveled in our Granada experiences, wondering what caetegena would hold next.

It was another long day of travel from Granada to caetegena, and as we have found in towns where we arrive on the bus, it is wise not to judge town by its bus terminal and surrounding area. We found the hotel, which was near the waterfront, a tavern with safire and tonic, and awaited our boat ride in the bay. The ride was pleasant, aboard a catamaran, and the view of the bay and outer boundaries of the bay beautiful. It was apparent that the water surrounding caetegena was cordoned off for military, industry, mining, pleasure boating, and shipping. Dinner at a small restaurant was lovely, as we joined the many who start their dinners at 10pm

We spent our morning, after an early breakfast, walking around roman ruins, a mideaval castle, and a museum of the history of cartegena. The port had been in use for over 3000 years, and mining and shipping a part of the life for all those years. It was apparent that he modern, living part of th city grew pretty far away from the original roman setting, as we noticed from the highest points of the hill. There were no obvious vestiges of Muslim settlements, but the history showed that they had been there, then expelled. We boarded our us headed for alicante, not knowing what to find there.

Again, the story of the bus terminal was one of no information, and unng and pcking, until we found the train station for our next day's trip. The train station supplied better information, and we found our hotel in then late afternoon. We were a few blocks from the port, found a sunset boat tour, then settled in for the daily clink of GT. The tour was on a catamaran sail boat, which went quite far from the harbor seawall, raised the sails, and turned northerly n time for us to catch the sunset. It was a glorious ride in the Mediterranean, with seas running at about 4-5 feet, rolling the boat slightly, but never raining it onto one pontoon. We returned to the GT spot for tapas, and enjoyed the lights on the water, where only a few hours earlier we watched expert rowing teams, sail boats, and viewed gigantic yachts of all types. We walked along the malecon to the beach where we saw scores of people out, dining, playing on the beach, in the water, at the casino, watching entertainment of all sorts, families out having fun. It was truly exhilarating.

Saturday we woke early, and began the 30 minute walk to th train station, and found desayuno at a cafe on the street, the usual in andalusía, toast with Serrano ham and zumo (fresh orange juice). It was nice to be back on the rails. We arrived in Valencia in mid-morning, and were immediately overwhelmed by the immensity of the buildings, the extensive details on the divides and roofs, and vibrancy of the city. We found the hotel, not far from the station, and had lunch at a sidewalk cafe, then stepped out of the heat for a few hours. We started the maritime bus tour of the city around 5:00, got off to find our boat for the next evening, and around 7:45, flopped back on the tour bus, exhausted and still giggling about our Lawrence of Arabia hike to the boat terminal, where we settle tickets for th boat ride to Mallorca today. While on the tour we noted that Valencia has grown and regrown itself over and over, knocking down ancient walls, buildings, etc, in the effort to bring more and more commerce to then place. The city is an odd mix of ultra modern, a few ancient gates, and Rocco buildings, reaching to the sky with eagles and strong women, in the name of finance. We plan to return to the newest addition, the aquarium and science place, designed by Calatrava, who designed the new bridge in Dallas.

We have one week left to our seven month adventure, and plan to spend it soaking in the wonders of españa. Hope all is well for you and yours. Love jt

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