Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Travels in Spain, Castillo de Almodóvar and The Game of Thrones

Castillo de Almodóvar 4

It was a glorious morning and although it was slightly chilly there wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the perfect blue sky and we interpreted this as a really promising sign and although this was November dressed appropriately in summer linens and short-sleeved shirts.  After all we were in Spain!

Together with a lot of local people we had a traditional breakfast at the Goya and this made a nice change from the usual hotel buffet arrangement that we usually have.  It was a simple affair with a choice of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and a thin tomato puree and topped off with thin slices of cured ham or alternatively, for those who didn’t care for the ham, toast and marmalade made from finest Seville oranges.

After breakfast we prepared for a drive to the city of Córdoba about a seventy miles to the east along the River Guadalquivir. Córdoba is a moderately sized place today but once it was the largest Roman city in Spain and later became the thriving capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba that once governed almost all of the Iberian Peninsula.  It has been estimated that in the tenth century it was the largest city in Western Europe and, perhaps, in the whole world with up to half a million inhabitants.  If this is true then only Constantinople and Rome would have previously been bigger and even today a population that size would be in the top three in Spain.

As always of course, be wary of biggest, highest, widest claims!

Andalucía-Almodovar-del-Río-4

We didn’t take the direct motorway route because we thought the alternative may be more scenic and anyway we were worried about paying unnecessary road tolls.  This proved to be a mistake on both counts because it wasn’t especially picturesque and there weren’t any tolls either.

First we drove to the town of Lora Del Rio along a road that took us through an agricultural landscape with fields all freshly ploughed and waiting for next year’s grain crops.  Although the highest mountains on the Spanish mainland are in Andalusia most of the Province, which stretches from the deserts of Almeria in the east to the Portuguese border in the west is a flat plain in the valley of the Guadalquivir, which at nearly four hundred miles is the fifth longest river in Spain and is one of the country’s most important because it irrigates a fertile valley, and creates a rich agricultural area.

Lora del Rio was an unexceptional working town and there was nothing to stop for so we continued along the road through the similar towns of Palma del Rio and Posadas.  On our left, to the north, was the Sierra Morena mountain range that separates Andalusia from the central plain of Castilla-La Mancha and there were some worrying accumulations of cloud that looked a little too close for comfort.  Eventually we came to Almodóvar del Rio where a large castle was perched strategically on the top of a hill and this looked well worth stopping for.

Carmona 01

The Castillo de Almodóvar is a grandiose Caliphal fortress erected on a high mound along the Guadalquivir.  Square towers flank its towering walls and the entire castle is surrounded by a large moat.  During the years of occupation it was a Moorish stronghold and after the reconquest it became the medieval home for members of the Spanish nobility.  It gradually fell into disrepair however and much of it was plundered for convenient building material by the people of the nearby town but the Count of Torralba rebuilt it a hundred years or so ago restoring the external appearance of the original Arab fortification.

The castle was used as filming location for the TV series Game of Thrones where it was used (if anyone is interested, I know that I’m not) to represent the castle of Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell in the Reach on the Mander River.

GOT Castillo de Almodóvar

At its elevated position there was a spectacular view of the plains to the south and the mountains to the north and although the sun was shining it was getting cold and the clouds were getting closer.  We visited the castle in the company of a school outing who were enjoying an interactive history lesson which must have been highly entertaining judging by all of the laughter and giggles.

It was a good castle and well worth the €5 entrance fee and we climbed the towers and walked the ramparts and when we had seen all there was to see we left and continued the drive to Córdoba.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

 

More Game of Thrones filming locations…

Entrance Tickets, Malta to Gozo Ferry

gozo-ferry

“Gozo remained an utterly private place and lucky the man who could find the key, turn the lock and vanish inside.” – Nicholas Monserrat

We had debated what to do today and we finally decided that we would visit the neighbouring island of Gozo.

Just to be clear, this is the island of Gozo and not Gozer the Gozerain from the film ‘Ghostbusters

This is Gozer…

gozer

This is Gozo…

Gozo Postcard

Getting there should have been straight forward but this morning we had our first experience of the inefficient bus service.  There was a stop at the end of the hotel drive and we arrived there at about nine forty-five which should have given us plenty of time to reach the ferry port about two and a half miles away for the eleven o’clock crossing.

We saw the first bus approach and we saw the first bus pass by without stopping – it was full.  A second bus came and passed without stopping and then a third, it seemed as though everyone was going to Gozo this morning.

Malta Bus Chaos

By this time it was almost ten o’clock and Kim made the decision that we should walk.  I said that we wouldn’t make it in time, Kim said that she was confident that we would, I said we wouldn’t, she said we would and so we set off at a brisk pace.

Well, just in time, we made it and that took care of all of the breakfast calories and eventually we calmed down, cooled down and enjoyed a thirty minute ferry journey to our destination, passing as we went the third of the Maltese islands, Comino.

For our day on Gozo we had booked one of those open topped tourist buses.  I don’t usually like these because they seem to spend a lot of wasted time going to places that you don’t want to go but the man at the hotel reception had persuaded me that this was a good option because we could be sure of seeing all of the places of interest in one day which could not be guaranteed if relying on the privatised bus service.  We found the bus, made our way to the top deck and waited for it to fill up with passengers and leave.

Xewkija Gozo Parish Church

The first really noticeable thing about Gozo was how less busy the place was compared to Malta and we drove through villages and open fields on practically empty roads.  First we came to the village of Xewkija which was a modest place but has an enormous church with what is claimed to be the third largest unsupported church dome in the World.

To put that into some sort of perspective the largest is St Peter’s in Rome (fourth largest city in Western Europe) and the second largest is St Paul’s in London (population 7.5 million, give or take a thousand) Xewkija is a village in Gozo with a population of about three thousand, three hundred people.

Our plan was to stay on board the bus and complete the route to the very far side of the island at a place called Dwejra where there is a natural rock formation called the azure window which attracts people like bees to a honey pot mostly it seems on account of the fact that it was used as a location for the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ although I cannot confirm this because I have never watched it.

Azure Window Gozo Malta

It was an interesting little stop and we clambered over the erosion scarred limestone rocks, rock pools where nothing lived and the salt pans which was the reason why.  It was very busy so we made our way back to the shabby little ring of tourist trap shops and bars, had a beer and then on account of the number of people who might be competing to get on the bus made our way in good time back to the stop ready to move on to Victoria.

Victoria is the capital of Gozo.  It used to be called Rabat but in 1887 the British renamed it to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  I can’t help thinking that it is rather arrogant to go around changing place names in such a superior way.  A lot of people on Gozo still call the place Rabat – Good For Them!

The bus dropped us off and we made our way to the centre of the city, to St George’s Square and the Basilica of the same Saint.  As it was 23rd April there was a lot of bell ringing and celebration but the disappointment was that the square resembled a construction site as it was in the process of restoration and improvement.

Victoria Gozo Malta

We tend to think of St George as an English Saint but a lot of the rest of Europe has claimed him as well because St. George is also the Patron Saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia and I wouldn’t mind betting that all of them will do an awful lot more to celebrate 23rdApril every year than we do!

We moved on from St George’s building site and made our way to the Citadel at the very top of the city which as the name suggests is a medieval fortress city in the most defensible position on the island.  This also turned out to be rather a disappointment because this was another construction site.  The Citadella is on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list and it looks as though the Gozians are putting in a bit of extra effort (courtesy of EU heritage funding) to give the application a boost.

saint-george

The time was passing quickly now and there was still more of the island to see so we returned to the bus station, stopping briefly to buy a Maltese cheese pie for lunch (very tasty by-the-way) before rejoining the tour bus for the remainder of the trip.

First we went to the fishing village of  Xlendi where due to the fact that I was confused by the schedule we forgot to get off and so we stayed on and went back to Victoria and then to the other side of the island to the holiday village of Marsalforn where we stopped for forty-five minutes and walked around the sandy beach and the pretty harbour.

Rejoining the bus we went next to the UNESCO site megalithic temples at Nadur and the directly back to the port to catch the six o’clock ferry back to Malta.  Twenty years ago the ferry used to arrive and drop passengers off directly on the quay side but now there is a posh (EU funded) ferry terminal with ticket desks, lounges and rules and regulations. I preferred it the old way.

Mgarr Gozo

 

Ireland, North or South?

Ireland 03

There was a short flight delay at Belfast International so that gave me another forty minutes or so to make my comparison between north and south Ireland.

We started our journey in Belfast so I made my first judgement between here and Dublin.  I liked Dublin, it was fun, it was more Bohemian, it was shabby chic compared to the Victorian starched collared style of Belfast which reminded me of the great cities of Northern England.

Dublin has Temple Bar, Belfast has the Cathedral Quarter, Dublin wins hands down on that score but Belfast has the River Lagan, the Titanic Experience (which is way more interesting than the Book of Kells) and the history of the troubles.  I only spent a day in Dublin so I might be being unfair here but my vote goes to Belfast.

Titanic Museum Belfast

North 1 – South 0

Next my thoughts turned to coastal road drives.  Fresh in my memory was the glorious journey along the Antrim Coast, never before have I driven along a road so close to the seashore and with so many wonderful places to stop and admire the natural environment but then I was instantly reminded of the Ring of Dingle with its high level looping journey around the headland where Charles Lindbergh first reached Europe on his solo trans Atlantic flight and where Fungi the Dolphin entertains people on a daily basis.

Ireland Dingle

North 1 – South 1

Ireland is so photogenic that it is no surprise that it has been used extensively in film locations over the years.  In the North they have the Game of Thrones but I admit to having never watched that but in the South they have Father Ted and I have watched every episode time and time again.

Ireland Father Ted Tour Craggy Island Parochial House

North 1 – South 2

I turn again now to the natural environment and the glories of nature.  In the South there is the Cliffs of Moher and in the north there is the Giant’s Causeway.  I like them both but you cannot get anywhere near the cliffs of Moher because of barricades and fencing but on the Causeway you can climb all over the rock formations and really appreciate what it is all about.

I was disappointed by the Cliffs of Moher but I liked the Causeway so much that I went twice.  Also, the Causeway was free but there was an entrance fee to the Cliffs.

Northern Ireland Giant's Causeway

North 2 – South 2

I was thinking about what to compare next as a decider when Kim asked me what I was doing.  I explained that I was drawing up a comparison between north and south. She raised an inquisitive eyebrow and asked me why and she was right.  What was the point of a comparison.  I am not making any political, religious or sectarian judgements here but Ireland should be seen as just that without any geographical divisions and on that basis I declare the contest a draw!

I need to go back…

Dingle Ireland Murphys Pub

Game Of Thrones – Film Locations

PB290423

I have never been a fan of ‘Game Of Thrones’, I didn’t get past episode 1, series 1 but more and more I get the feeling that I know a great deal about it because there are so many places that I have been that have by coincidence been used as filming locations for the programme.

I took all of these photographs completely oblivious to this fact and without a glimmer of interest in the series.  The picture above is the Alcazar de Sevilla  which for GOT became the Water Palaces of Dorne.

There are a lot of Roman bridges in Spain, they could have used those in Merida or Salamanca but they chose this one in Córdoba in Andalusia…

Roman Bridge at Cordoba

This is Þingvellir National Park one of several locations used for filming in the photogenic country of Iceland…

Iceland Landscape

A lot of the filming for the early series was done on location on the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta, this is the Azure Window on the island of Gozo,  it also appeared in films such as Clash of the Titans and The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as the television mini-series The Odyssey.

Azure Window Gozo Malta

Also on Malta they used the medieval walled city of Mdina

Mdina Malta

After exhausting the filming location opportunities on Malta the filming moved a few miles east to the Balkan country of Croatia.  This is the Krka National Park  or for GOT The Landscapes of The West

Dubrovnik featured prominently as The Red Keep and the site of the Battle of Blackwater…

And the Roman Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian was a certainty to be used…

Next time I go travelling I will pay more attention to more possible GOT film location sitings.

Has anyone else come across these or other GOT locations?  Send me your pictures and I will see if I can make a post!

The Dark Hedges Northern Ireland

Malta, Ferry to Gozo and a Tourist Bus Ride

Gozo Postcard

“Gozo remained an utterly private place and lucky the man who could find the key, turn the lock and vanish inside.”  – Nicholas Monserrat

With a room that faced west we were woken early by a shaft of sunlight piercing the gaps in the curtains and finding its way into the room like a stiletto knife.  We were on bed and breakfast board arrangements so as soon as we were ready we made our way to the busy dining room where we enjoyed a very acceptable buffet breakfast.

We were undecided about what to do today and we finally agreed that we would visit the neighbouring island of Gozo.

Mgarr Gozo

Malta Bus Issues…

Getting there should have been straight forward but this morning we had our first experience of the inefficient island bus service.  There was a stop at the end of the hotel drive and we arrived there at about nine forty-five which should have given us plenty of time to reach the ferry port about two and a half miles away.

We saw the first bus approach and we saw the first bus pass by without stopping – it was full and it turns out that this is one of the biggest complaints about the new Malta bus service with people stranded for hours at bus stops.  A second bus came and went and then a third, it seemed as though everyone was going to Gozo this morning.

By this time it was almost ten o’clock and Kim made the decision that we should walk.  I said that we wouldn’t make it in time, Kim said that she was confident that we would, I said we wouldn’t, she said we would, I lost the debate and so we set off at a brisk pace.

I still didn’t think that we would make it but Kim told me not to be so negative.

By ten past ten we were walking very quickly and by fifteen minutes past we were actually jogging.  Luckily we found a path that was a short cut which reduced the distance a little but I still couldn’t see how we could possibly make it.  At twenty five past we had about five hundred metres to go so we increased our jogging effort to Usain Bolt sprint speed and made it on board and collapsed, panting and sweat streaked on the sun deck with about a minute to spare.  I couldn’t decide between going to the bar for a beer or trying to find the on board defibrillator.

Malta to Gozo Ferry…

Malta_Map (1)

Well, that took care of all of the breakfast calories and eventually we calmed down, cooled down and enjoyed a thirty minute ferry journey to our destination.

The crossing took us close to the third of the Maltese islands in the archipelago, the tiny islet of Comino which except for a couple of hotels is virtually uninhabited for most of the year and we just watched it slowly slip by on the starboard side of the boat as the throaty diesel engine kept a steady course for Gozo.

Gozo Hop on-Hop off tour…

For our day on Gozo we had booked one of those open topped hop on-hop off tourist buses.  I don’t usually like these because they seem to spend a lot of wasted time going to places that you don’t want to go to but the man at the hotel reception had persuaded me that this was a good option because we could be sure of seeing all of the places of interest in one day which could not be guaranteed if relying on the privatised bus service.  We found the bus, made our way to the top deck and waited for it to fill up with passengers and leave.

Xewkija Gozo Parish Church

The first really noticeable thing about Gozo was how less busy the place was compared to Malta and we drove through villages and open fields on practically empty roads.

First we came to the village of Xewkija which was a modest place but has an enormous church with what is claimed to be the fourth or perhaps even the third largest unsupported church dome in the World.  To put that into some sort of perspective the largest is St Peter’s in Rome (fourth largest city in Western Europe) and the second largest is St Paul’s in London (population 7.5 million, give or take a thousand).  Xewkija is a village in rural Gozo with a population of about three thousand, three hundred people.  They didn’t have Christopher Wren to design it or Michelangelo to do the interior decoration – they built it themselves!

Gozo and the Game of Thrones…

Our plan was to stay on board the bus and complete the route to the very far side of the island at a place called Dwejra where there is a natural rock formation called the azure window which attracts people like bees to a honey pot mostly it seems on account of the fact that it was used as a location for the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ although I cannot confirm this because I have never watched it.

Azure Window Gozo Malta

It was an interesting little stop and we clambered over the erosion scarred limestone rocks, shallow pools where nothing lived and the salt pans which was the reason why.  It was very busy so we made our way back to the shabby little ring of tourist trap shops and bars, had a beer and then on account of the number of people who might want to get on the bus made our way in good time back to the stop*.

The French don’t like queueing…

We were there first but the number of people was beginning to increase, a lot of them were French and it was clear from the look in their eyes that they had no intention of forming an orderly line.  Whatever people might think of the British, one thing they are good at is good manners in a queue and stoicism in taking their turn.  Not so the French and as the bus arrived they surged forward and formed a unruly mob as everyone competed to be on the bus first.

The whole thing was rather like the first set scrum of a British Lions/New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Test Match, muscles bulging, eyes popping, sweat dripping, elbows flying and fingers gouging and this, let me tell you was only the women!

Kim was having none of this and she sharpened her elbows and held firm.  As she reached the step onto the bus she put out both arms and clung like a limpet to the handrails on each side so that no one could pass.  I watched her.  She was like a hundred metre runner at the Olympic Games approaching the finishing line and glancing left and right, left and right just to make sure that no one crept up on her and overtook at the final moment.

So we got on board and stayed in our top deck seats until we reached the island capital of Victoria.

Gozo Countryside

There is a rather sad postscript to this story because in a mighty storm on the morning of 7th March 2015 the stack and the arch were overcome by the wind and the surf and crashed into the sea.  Sadly the Azure Window on Gozo is no more and presumably the sightseeing bus tour will have to rearrange its itinerary.