Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bussing around Granada

A posting from the Parque de las Ciencias (try saying that in Spanish) where we are using up all the freebies on our Granada pass. This morning we went to a very good Museo Arceologico with much neolithic etc. remains, and then got the round Granada bus which took us back to the Albaicin and Alhambra AGAIN, but thence to new things like this, which has a butterfly house and eagle rehabilitation among other things. Sound familiar to Melbournians.

Tonight is the big adventure of the Trenhotel, overnight to Barcelona.

Still in Granada

Today, Tuesday we headed off to the Cathedral after our ´usual´ breakfast in the corner cafe: pastry, fresh orange juice and coffee. The Cathedral is huge. Those Catholic monarchs sure were out to prove something. However, they couldn´t match the Moorish beauty of the Alhambra. Also, we discovered that Jeff Kennett obviously learned from Ferdinand and Isabella, who sacked the councils in Catalunya and replaced them with commissioners. Nothing new.

After ogling at the splendid Cathedral dual organ in huge baroque splendour, we went off to the Carthusian monastery, Cartuja, which is reputed to be the best example of barocca there is. Again, they were in the business of showing those Muslims they could do decoration bigger and better. They did, in terms of ornate and size and expense, though not in terms of good taste. A more splendid array of marble and gilt you would never see. Mountains of it, towering in gruesome splendour. Similarly gruesome were scenes on the paintings in the refectory of all places, of executions, hangings, drawings and quarterings, all to keep up the appetites of the monks during their once-a-week meal there. At other times they ate in their cells, and presumably did their own flagellations.

We finished with a delicious lunch at a kerbside cafe: spicy prawns and pate, with lots of bread and wine. Granada is really growing on us. It is a very comfortable town, and we are finally getting the hang of Spanish ordering. Small plates until you are full.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


OnSunday, we took a long walk across central Granada to the Plaza Principe for a tapas dinner and internet on the way.
Today, Monday, was Alhambra day, and after a minor imbroglio with buses we made it to the Alhambra. Another minor glitch was that it changed to summer time overnight without us knowing, but we still made it to the palace of the Nazarids on time. And very splendid it was too. After four hours of walking, and, warned by the guide book, eating our prebought picnic, we emerged exhausted but happy, and made our way back to the hotel.
The next two days in Granada promise to be very barocca, in the extreme. The Andalusians seem to be very strong on gilt and guilt.
Probably the next posting will be from Barcelona, in the land of the Catalans.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I hear the mission bells. . .

Well, here we are in Granada. Finding a mercy email from Melbourne about the contents of one´s own blog seems about as much of a storm in a teacup as one could imagine. The offending article has been deleted, and I wonder about how petty some people can be.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, on Friday the trip from Ronda back to Vejer was fine, after a hearty, free breakfast at the El Frenes Arte hotel. The one exception was that passing over the Pass of Doves, the highest point, we were encased in fog and there were a few hairy moments when we wondered whether we´d be able to see ahead. But we could and soon emerged into the sun again and a smooth road to Vejer. An afternoon on the terrace followed by a dinner of local specialities, and then off to Granada.

On Saturday, a very busy day´s travelling. Up early, then off in the fog back to Sevilla. A consummate piece of navigating by Pedro, plus a small ilegal turn by me, got us to the carhire place and off to the station, just in time for the earlier train to Granada.
Three hours later, we were in Granada. We walked to the hotel, a renovated 16th century building, then had a brief reconnoitre of the ´hood, followed by a wellearned siesta, then a simple dinner and an early night.

Especially for Sunday, we set off for the Convent of San Jeronimo, which was alternately sombre, the Room of Guilt, and gaudy, the church. Thence to the Royal Chapel, where Isabella and Ferdinand, plus Joanna the Mad and her husband, Philip the Fair are entombed. She was mad because she carted Philip´s corpse everwhere she went and looked at it every day. The Capillo also contained some good art for a change, and some suitably royal treasure.
Then a long climb to San Nicolas mirador for a panorama of Granada and the Alhambra, followed by lunch in a pretty square, halfway down. Siesta time!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ronda, not a la Turk

because this town was almost the last to hold out when the Christians retook Spain. We´re taking a break from Vejer because it´s a long drive along windy mountain roads to here, check on a map. However, I need to do a massive backtrack as there seems to be no internet in Vejer, and our trendy hotel in Ronda for the night has it.
The Alcazar was exceptional, beautiful gardens, tilework, ceilings. Then on to the Plaza d´Espana which was less of a thrill. Our last dinner in Seville was splendid. I had langostinos and P. had fritto misto.
Several false steps after picking up the little red car, including an unwanted round of Cadiz and then on to Vejer de la Frontera. Driving on the right side proved less difficult than I expected.
The cattos outside our flat are eloquent, they say hello to Frank´s Pushka in Spanish; P. had another fritto misto in Vejer and I rescued the remains for the kitten.
On Monday, we went on a shopping expedition to Barbate, a nearby seaside resort. A good find on the way home was the Parco Naturale where we went for a walk through a pine forest to a tower bulit against piratos in the XVIth century. A nice drive through the countryside took us back to our hilltop in Vejer and our first lunch at home.
Vejer is great to just walk around, the old convent, the castle and various gateways designed to ward off the many intruders.
The flat is small as I expected but very well equipped with a terrace with a superb view. Nearby is a delicious local bakery and many places to eat. We´re working our way through them.
In the last couple of days we´ve been doing the nearby pueblos blancos: Medina'Sidonia, Arcos de la Frontera, and today Ronda, after a drive by Algeciras and a view of Gibraltar. Ronda is superb, bisected by a huge gorge with a high bridge onto the main square.
Don´t know how long it will be before we find more internet, maybe Granada, maybe Barcelona.
And the little red car was a treat on the mountain roads with stunning views.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pres des remparts de Sevilla

Couldn´t enter for a day or so as the hotel internet broke down, probably as the result of a lot of over-eager novices trying their hands out. I´m now looking very naff in my blogger hoodie in an internet cafe in Seville.
We´ve just been to the supposed largest cathedral in the world (by cubic size, they say), and it´s incredibly BIG and very vulgar: lots of gold and silver but in the end, not very nice. The old Moorish tower and courtyard is much better.
The highlight of the trip so far was yesterday´s long visit to the Thyssen Art Gallery in Madrid. It contains a huge number of absolutely beautiful works which chart the history of Western art up to modern American. We stayed for about five hours, till our feet had had it again, and our brains were about to explode.
After that, for recreation, we went to an old convent where noble and royal women were put into hiding or banished for various reasons. The door bitch was one of the most impressive ever, with her red cord across the door, and the atmosphere redolent of the days of Franco. Like the Seville cathedral, the atmosphere of Spanish catholicism was very thick, with lots of iron bars and gloomy pictures and statues. It was good to see for the horror of it.
Meanwhile, we´ve been doing well on the food front. No one will be surprise that I took the chance to have anchovy toast for breakfast with my coffee this morning.
The train from Madrid to Seville was expensive (about $70 each) but took only two and a half hours and was smooth as glass. Both stations are exemplary (eat your heart out Southern Cross) and it all seemed very easy.
Tomorrow, the Alcazar! Then on Saturday, the big challenge, driving to Vejer-de-la-Frontera. Our hotel here is very quaint, an old palazzo, but comfortable.
Off to dinner; no time to linger.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Wandered down to the Cathedral this evening, and the Palacio Real, then had dinner at an´authentic´Spanish bar. Domani, we´ll be doing more art, more monasteries etc. Feeling very good.

Oh my feet

Having worked our feet to death yesterday, today was the coup de grace: the Prado. It really is absurd to try to get to all of it in one day, and we didn´t. Sorry Rubens, for my part. Sorry, Murillo, for Peter´s part. However, there was more than enough El Greco, Bosch, Goya, etc. to keep us satisfied.
Now it´s siesta time again.
Last night, we had a garlic-soaked dinner in a little restaurant. I had a replication of our dinner at the Robbie Burns: garlic prawns and patata bravas (which we shared). P. was more adventurous and had yummy blood sausage; very rich. We´ve also got the hang of Spanish breakfasts: just head to the local bar for coffee or chocolate, and your pick of savoury delights. Today, croissant with butter and jam.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We´re Here

Just a short entry. Our hotel in Madrid might be a pit pokey and on the fifth floor (there is a lift) but it´s very centrally located, just down the road from the Prado and near the Plaza del Sol.
The trip here was fine, efficient and VERY tedious. However, the night at Narita was quite fun, having a dose of Japanese on the flight and overnight. We had Japanese dinner and a good sleep. The next day was even longer. Both Narita and Amsterdam airports are HUGE. You get tired walking from one end to the other.
Today we´ve been to the Park Retiro, and the Modern Art museum, and saw Guernica. The original is a knockout. I take back everything bad I´ve ever said about Picasso.
Now it´s siesta time.
And the email works, and this hotel has free internet. What could be better?

Thursday, March 09, 2006


The picture is just to make you jealous. Soon we'll be buying jambon for lunch from said market.

Meanwhile, it's been an orgy of farewells - well, not that exciting, but pleasant. I went to see George P. and Helen on Wednesday. She is about to give birth; in fact, Wednesday was the due date, but she hasn't yet. They seemed in good form infanticipation.

Then dinner with Sally S., the market photographer, at the oddly named Robbie Burns in Smurf Street, for the full Spanish bit, patata bravas, garlic prawns, garlic mushrooms, followed by Spanish style barramundi and special sand crab. Sometime later we were soused with garlic and tomato sauce and right in the mood for more Spanish. We finished off with Spanish cheese (not very impressive) and yummy quince paste.

Today, I took the car out for minding at the Olds, and had a very nice hamburger lunch at their local snack bar. Just finishing off the final things for work which seem reasonably manageable. Tomorrow, all will be focused on anything left before going away, clearing out the frig, and having Frank for tea for the final farewell.

With any luck, the next blog will be from Madrid.

Barcelona markets (Sally S. photo)

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I've forgotten to post because I've been too busy. The weekend was fairly humdrum but nice. Normal shopping followed by a nice pub lunch with Frank at The Retreat Hotel. On Sunday, very delicious roast pork and crackling lunch at the Olds with my sister and her husband. Then Victoria Street dinner with Frank and David, which was a first instalment of an extended farewell.

Lots of work ferrying to and fro which will continue until stumps on Friday, but Warlukurlangu is going well. Most contributors are coming to the party and putting stuff in on time.

Last night, Pierre did a Spanish chorizo and lentil dish which was scrumptious, and tonight Frank came round (another part of the extended farewell) to clear up the leftovers. Also, P. tried a grilled watermelon dish (I kid you not), with tomato, basil and pistachios, and a reduction of balsamic vinegar. It turned out a treat both nights. It is meant to be molecular food, so is normally very expensive in restaurants. However, all food is molecular last time I read a science book.

All the booking and preparation for departure is proceeding. On Monday, I went to the bank to get Euros in cash and travellers' cheques, and it seemed to work out all right. Our travel folder of vouchers and what-have-you is nearly complete. Oh, and some essential clothing purchases of smalls, sox and new jeans has been done. Tony the Tailor in Smurf Street is adjusting the length as we speak.

In spite of my offer of a substitute proofreader for the Ring Cycle during my absence, other avenues have been sought. It will be interesting to see whether it resurfaces on my return from Europe. My admiration for Wagner continues unabated.

If all this seems a somewhat eclectic mess, it is, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I probably feel more fulfilled (whatever that is) than I ever have in my life before. However, six weeks in Europe won't do any harm either.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Conference, conference, conference

It's been a busy week, trying to finish off stuff. I signed off on the Darby endmatter, which is the last I have to do, though I hope the final proofs arrive before I leave. If they don't, the designer, author and production person can sign them off. There is a good show of getting most of the Warlukurlangu text finished, if all the respondents cough up by next week. One won't, as she's in India, in regions which won't let her into attachments, but the rest should be okay.

We had a very good phone conference on Warlukurlangu last night: a very focused session, pinning down the specifications and parameters.

Today, back to the publisher's report and The Novel, to try to knock those off, so that next week all I have to bother with are Warlukurlangu finishing and, of course, preparations for travel (traveller's cheques, dosh, packing etc.) P. did his financials yesterday and is now the proud possessor of Euros and TCs.

Also today, a check on The Ring cycle, and likely occurrences in the next six weeks. The Melbourne Writers' Festival meeting this week was good. I have no idea who is reading this blog, and why they should be even the slightest bit interested, apart from my friends: however, for the very first time, a deletion done on request,

Last night, we had a re-run of P.'s delicious ocean trout salad, with beetroot, kipflers and asparagus. What leftovers!