Tag Archives: Culture

People Pictures – Unusual Headware

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in a street in Marrakech just outside of the busy Souk…

Why do you think she has got a plastic footstool on her head?

a – She has just bought it and it is the easiest way to carry it home
b – She supports Manchester City
c – She takes it shopping with her so she can reach the top shelf in the store
d – Health and Safety – a Moroccan Hard Hat
e – It keeps the flies off

People Pictures – Matching Shoes and Handbag

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on a fiercely hot day in the Catalan town of Besalu. We were sitting in the plaça Major with a plate of tapas and a beer when a wedding party began to arrive. The lady in red was the mother of the groom.

What do you think the people in the bar are saying?

A to Z of Balconies – Ovar in Portugal

We were in Furadouro in Northern Portugal, we had planned a few beach days but the weather was rather disappointing so we had to find something else to do. Suddenly I remembered that the nice lady in the Tourist Information Office next door had yesterday tried to persuade me to take a walking tour of the nearby city of Ovar on a trail of the ceramic tiles.

This didn’t seem especially thrilling to me at the time but it was now getting rapidly more appealing. It was only €2 each which seemed rather a bargain so we quickly made a return visit to enquire if there were still places available and luckily there were so we immediately signed up.

We considered ourselves fortunate about that because as it turns out there is only one official tour like this every month and she told us that this was the last of the season.

We had to make our way to Ovar so being too mean to take a taxi we walked to the bus stop and when it arrived we were glad to be going inland away from the persistent sea mist and we were encouraged to see some welcome brightness in the sky.

To be honest there isn’t a great deal to do in Ovar, at midday the street market was beginning to close down and we didn’t want to explore the streets in case this was the route of the tour and we might spoil it so instead we found a pavement café, ordered a drink and counted down the minutes to the start of the walk.

This is the railway station in Ovar where the bus set us down…

This seemed to take a very long time, the pace of life in Ovar is rather slow, not nearly as fast as our consumption of wine so we had a second drink and then made our way to the assembly point at the Tourist Information Office where we were separated into two groups, those that spoke Portuguese and those who didn’t.

Our guide was proud to begin the tour with an explanation that Ovar is considered to be the City Museum of the Azulejo since it has a rich collection of tiles on the facades of the buildings, more so than anywhere else in Portugal apparently and for this reason the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon has declared Ovar to be a city of historic national importance.

Nowhere in Europe has tiles like Portugal, not even next door Spain, they are everywhere and have become one of the iconic symbols of the country and are used to clad buildings both internally for decoration and externally as an essential component of construction for insulation in winter and for reflecting away the heat of the sun in summer.

It seemed to me that Ovar is a city desperately seeking a tourist identity, every town needs tourists after all and Ovar is exploiting the heritage of the Azulejo. The walk began with a pleasant stroll through the streets of the city centre with frequent stops for information from our tour guide and took forty minutes or so.

Overflowing with unexpected new knowledge we walked now to a ceramic factory on the edge of the city where we were invited to have a stab at painting our own ceramic tile. We applied the paint, tried to remove the smudges (unsuccessfully as it happened) and then left them behind for the oven baking process and a promise that they would be delivered to us later in the day. It was all rather like being back at school.

This was the end of the tour, the coach took us back to Ovar and we caught the bus to Furadouro where the sun was belatedly shining and we hoped for better weather tomorrow so that we could revert to our original beach plan.

Later we went to the Tourist Information Office to collect out painted tiles and were surprised to find that the baking process had seemed to surprisingly improve them. We use them at home now as oversized coasters.

Entrance Tickets – The Village of Peretellada in Catalonia

We were heading for the village of Peratallada which it turned out is a heavily visited tourist bus destination for holidaymakers having an afternoon away from the beaches but it was quiet this afternoon as we pulled into the car park and grudgingly paid the entrance fee before walking into the village.

Read The Full Story Here…

A to Z of Balconies – Naples

 

Naples – where my A to Z of Balconies meets my Washing Line Challenge…

“To see Naples as we saw it in the early dawn from far up on the side of Vesuvius, is to see a picture of wonderful beauty. At that distance its dingy buildings looked white, rank on rank of balconies, windows and roofs, they piled themselves up from the blue ocean till the colossal castle of St. Elmo topped the grand white pyramid and gave the picture symmetry, emphasis and completeness

But do not go within the walls and look at it in detail. That takes away some of the romance of the thing.”

Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

On this point I have to disagree with Mark Twain, the back streets are the romance of the place.

On This Day – Guadix in Spain

In the previous post I told you that I visited Granada but stayed outside of the city in the village of Romilla. We regretted that so two years later returned and stayed in an apartment in the City centre.

After three days in Granada we left the city on 25th April 2018 and drove to the town of Guadix…

Guadix was quiet, almost as quiet as Puerta de Don Fadrique and we needn’t have worried in advance about car parking because the streets were empty, the shops were closed and there was almost no one about. We found the hotel easily enough, checked in, unpacked only what we needed for an overnight stay and then went back out into the centre.

I liked it, it wasn’t Trujillo in Extremadura or Almagro or Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha, it wasn’t Santillana del Mar in Cantabria but it was authentic and rustic, Spanish and Andalusian and I was glad that we had chosen to spend some time here.

We walked around the centre, along the banks of the crusty dried-up river bed and through some lush public parks but in late afternoon there was never much sign of life. I looked for a shop to buy some wine but I had forgotten my corkscrew key-ring thingy that I can smuggle through airport security and there were no screw cap bottles anywhere in my price range so I was forced to buy a carton of Don Simon Vino Tinto which is really cheap and tastes just the same.

The product manufacturers make this extraordinary claim… “Don Simon Vino Tinto Wine offers an expertly and exquisitely manufactured wine with fruity aroma; light fruit flavour, crisp acidity, light body and dry, tart finish. Good for every occasion. Best when served chilled. It looks as good as it tastes.”

No grape variety information or expert tasting tips and in truth it is the sort of wine that at about €1.50 a litre, if you have got some left over you don’t mind pouring down the sink when you leave if you are not too concerned about environmental damage or taking the risk of destroying the hotel plumbing system.

We sat for a while in the lonely Plaza Mayor which was abandoned and quiet but decided anyway to return later for evening meal. Two hours after it was transformed, the square was busy and there was fierce competition for tables but we swooped on one and the owner talked us into a Menu Del Dia which, as it turned out was a brilliant bit of salesmanship by him although not a brilliant decision on our part, but we had a hearty meal which filled us up including a truly enormous portion of Tiramasu for sweet for Lindsay which arrived just as she was explaining her planned dieting schedule.

I liked Granada and I liked Guadix, two completely different places which all adds to the richness and diversity of Spain and keeps me wanting to go back again and again.

The following morning we had a good breakfast at the hotel and we cleaned them out almost completely of tomato for the tosta and then we checked out and drove a short distance to the cave houses.

This is the main reason for visiting Guadix. It is like Bedrock and the Flintstones. People still live in caves.

People still live in caves!

Just outside of the City old town there is a community of residents who cling to and persevere with the old ways which includes digging a hole in the limestone cliffs and then setting up home inside. Not just any old cave however and today the mountain homes have brick façade and all of the modern home conveniences inside.

After a walk to the top of the village to an observation platform and then down again a man asked us in to his cave home and invited us to look around. People in Andalusia used to live in cave houses because they are cool in summer and warm in winter and they are cheap to build. Some people, like those here in Guadix still do!

We spent an hour or so investigating the intriguing village and then we left and set off back east towards Rojales and the Mediterranean coast.

A to Z of Balconies – Milan in Italy

I came across this interesting high rise building in the business district of Milan.

It is called The Bosco Verticale or vertical forest and is the brainchild of Milanese architect Stefano Boeri and  uses more than twenty thousand trees and plants to adorn two high-rise buildings from top to bottom.

They certainly look good but their practical purpose is to absorb CO2 and help tackle city pollution.  It may be spectacular but it looks like a maintenance headache to me.

On This Day – French Language Issues

The prospect of travel seems as distant as ever. In the meantime I am trawling my archives. On 17th April 2007 I was in the delightful French City of La Rochelle…

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making them understand their own language.”, Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

It was still very warm when we walked back into the town and found the restaurant that had taken our eye earlier. It was called Les Camediens and was situated in an inviting little side street running back from the harbour and behind all of the expensive front rank eating places.

Now, the French don’t especially like making things easy for visitors and sometimes I get the distinct impression that they would rather not have us in their country at all and this place was no exception as it was clear that they could barely tolerate us. It is a feature of French Restaurants that waiters often think that some customers (especially English customers) don’t actually want to be served at all and this place was no exception.

The wine list was interesting because in France there is massive in-built prejudice in favour of French products. We were presented with a list of about twenty pages of wines – all French except for three, listed under a section generously entitled “wines from the rest of the world”.

The French are proud of their culture and especially their language of course and their reluctance to communicate in or even simply acknowledge English gives me the opportunity on holiday to demonstrate my fluency in everyday essentials and I had to use all of that knowledge here:

‘Vin blanc sil vous plait’; ‘Vin rouge sil vous plait’;’ bier grande sil vous plait’;‘bier grande vite’ and so on and so on.

Actually I would try harder but language is an area where the French are really quite rude.

The paradox that they have created for themselves is that whilst they would like visitors to speak French and visitors would like to speak French they stop them doing so because they mercilessly take the piss out of us when we make a mistake – so it’s hardly surprising that rather than be subjected to ridicule we stick to pointing and shouting.

I remember an incident in a hotel when I was trying to communicate in French. The receptionist quickly lost patience, looked down her nose at me, sneered and said “Shall I speak English, it is easier”.

It was easier I concede but I was trying, I really was trying. In Spain and Italy and Portugal and Germany they never behave like that.

Sorry but I am going to say it. The French consider themselves superior in almost every respect. They assume, routinely, that given the chance, everyone would live in France, be French, eat French food, eat stinky French cheese, drink French wine, watch impenetrable French films, visit the French Riviera and enjoy the Tour de France.

It gets worse the further south you go which is why when I go to France I generally stay in the north,

When he finally condescended to take our order I attempted some multilingual conversation with the waiter but he was clearly not impressed and I gave up therefore when he announced with the hint of a sneer that passed for an apology that there were no mussels left tonight and I had been really looking forward to mussels.

We ordered an alternative and then we had an incident over condiments. He didn’t provide us with any and forced us to request them one by one in what little French we knew while he kept up a bulwark against improving international relations while steadfastly refusing to understand us. We progressed past salt and pepper but got stuck in a cul-de-sac over vinegar. Now the French for vinegar is vinaigre which most people would agree isn’t too dissimilar but he was determined to make this difficult. He totally refused to comprehend and brought us a selection of various sauce accompaniments one at a time but never any vinegar. I am convinced he knew exactly what we wanted but was enjoying seeing us struggle.

We finished our meal and left and I made a point of collecting up every last cent of change and didn’t leave him a tip (Mon Cul, as the French would say) and we agreed that we wouldn’t be dining there again that week and left with a single backward ‘You should have been more helpful” sort of glance.

On This Day – Sigüenza in Castilla-La Mancha

Hopefully we are on the countdown to overseas travel but until that happy event happens I continue to trawl through the archives.  On 11th April 2014 I was in the town of Sigüenza in Spain…

It was raining so we took our time over breakfast and it was mid morning by the time we left the hotel and there was a simple choice – up the hill to the Alcazar or down the hill to the Cathedral.  We decided to start at the top of the town and make our way to the bottom.

Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the inevitable Parador Hotel.

Read The Full Story Here…

Entrance Tickets – The Island of Tabarca

I am cheating this one a little bit because this is a ferry ticket to the Spanish islet of Tabarca on the eastern coast of Spain near Alicante.

We just about made boat departure time, which was a good thing because the next one wasn’t for about two hours or so (in high season they run a lot more regularly) and after purchasing our tickets we made our way to the top deck and selected seats in the sun ready for the short thirty minute crossing and after being invited to view the marine life through the glass bottom in the boat (really not worth it) we arrived in the small port and disembarked.

Before 1700, the island was known as Illa de Sant Pau or ‘Saint Paul’s Island’ on the basis that this is where Saint Paul was washed up about two thousand years ago. He must have got around a bit because he seems to have been washed up in quite a lot of places in quite a short space of time which begins to make him look very unlucky and me sceptical about the whole thing.

Personally, if I was inclined to believe any of it then I would come down on the side of the story of St Paul’s Island in Malta. The Acts of the Apostles tell the story of how Paul was shipwrecked on an island (somewhere) while on his way to Rome to face charges. You can call me a coward if you like but I wouldn’t have been going back to Rome to face charges that might result in crucifixion or beheading and I would have been inclined to stay on the island wherever it was but to be fair you don’t get to become a Saint by hiding in a cave!

In the eighteenth century it was used as a convenient base for Berber pirates from North Africa who regularly raided the mainland coast so in 1760, to put a stop to it, Charles III of Spain ordered the fortification and repopulation of the Spanish island.

A group of Genoese sailors who had been shipwrecked near the coast of Tunisia, mostly coming from the islet of Tabark, were rescued and considered convenient settlers and the islet was renamed Nova Tabarca. The Genoese were moved to the island together with a Spanish garrison.

The King ordered a fortified town and as a consequence of Royal Decree walls, bulwarks, warehouses and barracks were built. The garrison was removed in 1850 and the buildings began to deteriorate and collapse through lack of maintenance but the Genoese stayed put and now a hundred and fifty years later it is a tourist destination and a thriving fishing community.

We maybe could have done with another hour on the island but if we missed the next ferry back we would be there for another four which was too long so we made our way back to the small fishing port of the island and boarded the boat back to Santa Pola where we had previously found a nice pavement restaurant with a very reasonably price Menu Del Dia and we simply sat and let the afternoon slip through our fingers.

Later we sat on the terrace and drank wine and ate pizza and just wasted the rest of the evening away as well!