Early morning stroll in Lima

Images of an early morning stroll in Lima, with coffee in an historical monument - the Café Cordano.


British treasure found in Madrid

TREASURE ISLAND: British Art from Holbein to Hockney is the name of the current exhibition at Fundación March in Madrid that runs until 20th January, 2013. Over 180 pieces of art by 100 artists.

Britain seen from the North - 1981 - Tony Cragg - ©Tate


Picasso and his barber

Earlier in the yearin my post Hidden Picasso and his barber, I wrote about the collection Eugenio Arias in a small village 74 Kms. north of Madrid, called Buitrago del Lozoya. Eugenio Arias was, for a long time, Picasso's barber and friend, and the collection is composed of the different works that Picasso gave him since they met in 1948 until Picasso's death in 1973. A very intimate collection, which we revisited recently.


Ikebana in Madrid

On 16th October, we had the pleasure of attending a masterclass of Ikebana, given by Prof. Yasuhito Sasaki of the Ikenobo School of Kyoto, with the assistance of Rikako Yano of the Japan art centre, Arte y Cultura de Japón, at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Spain, H.E.Mr. Satoru Satoh. The event was part of the celebrations to mark the 550th year since the name Ikenobo first appeared in historic records, in the diary of Unzen Taigyoku, a zen monk at Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto, when commenting on a beautiful flower arrangement made by Senkei Ikenobo, priest of the Rokkakudo Temple.


Autumn colours in the mountains of Madrid

The colours of autumn just outside the village of Rascafria, about 100 kms northwest of Madrid. Also in this small village you can visit the Monastery of El Paular, founded in 1390. Today, the palace that was attached to the monastery is a hotel. The monastery also owned a paper mill that produced the sheets of paper used to print the first edition of Don Quixote in 1604. Opposite the monastery is the Puente del Perdón (the bridge of forgiveness) where condemned prisoners could appeal their sentence for the last time.


Tablas de Daimiel

About 34 Kms. north of Almagro, you can find the nature reserve of Tablas de Daimiel .
I will just leave you the following photographs and videos and hope you enjoy them.


Aubergines and Old Lace

I am sure that many of you, upon reading the title of this post, immediately associated it with Arsenic and Old Lace, a play by Joseph Kesselring, better known by the film adaptation directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. You would be right, although the setting is not Brooklyn but the city of Almagro in Spain. Almagro is in the province of Ciudad Real, in the region of La Mancha, known for, amongst other things, its pickled aubergines and "encaje de bolillos" or bobbin lace, which was a large industry here until the 18th Century. The city was the birthplace of Diego de Almagro in 1475, who was to become one of the Conquistadores that was involved in the conquest of Peru. He was also in Panama, as was Teddy Brewster in Kesselring´s play (or at least he thought he was). Diego de Almagro was involved in various conspiracies and was killed in Cuzco, though not by arsenic. His servant took the body and buried it under a church in Cuzco, much like all the bodies that the Brewster sisters, in the play, buried in their cellar.
At the centre of the historic quarter of Almagro is its Plaza Mayor, the main square with its Tuscan columns and rows of windows. The square also houses the Corral de Comedias, a theatre dating back to the 17th Century that maintains its original structure and which is still putting on plays. In fact, every year the city is host to the  Almagro Festival of Classical Theatre. The importance of Almagro in the 16th Century is also evidenced by the large number of palaces, monasteries, convents and churches. One of such convents, the 16th Century convent of San Francisco, now houses the Parador de Almagro, which is a good option if you are planning to stay overnight. The local culinary specialties besides the aubergines, which you can buy homemade in a shop two streets down from the Parador, called Morris are the "pisto manchego", a kind of ratatouille (but much nicer) which is sometimes served with a fried egg on top; "duelos y quebrantos" which is scrambled eggs with local charcuterie products; and the "Manchego" cheese.


In a place in La Mancha, whose name I don´t want to remember

You would be right to associate the title of this post with the opening sentence of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Even if you dont wish to emulate Don Quixote by becoming a knight and going around the world with your weapons and horse seeking adventures and solving all manner of conflicts, you may wish to visit some of the places where he sought his adventures. Although there are quite a number of routes you can follow, in this trip we just visited the villages of El Toboso, to visit the home of Dulcinea and of Campo de Criptana to visit the "giants" that Don Quixote fought and that are still standing. You could make this a day trip from Madrid, but I suggest you take a bit longer and, maybe, follow a route staying in one of the Paradores.


A glorious luminary in Madrid

If you happen to be in Madrid and you are attracted to the paintings of William Blake, you have the chance to visit an exhibition at CaixaForum, showing around 100 works on loan from the Tate Britain, which runs until the 21st of October. In 1890, George Bell & Sons of London, published the book "The poetical works of William Blake, Lyrical and Miscellaneous." The preface was written by William Michael Rossetti, brother of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and it was he who referred to Blake as a "glorious luminary". The inside cover of the book also quotes a poem by Shelley:

"He wanders, like a day-appearing dream,
Through the dim wildernesses of the mind"

With recommendations like these, who could miss the chance of admiring the works of William Blake.



A room with a view

Not the one in the novel by  E.M. Forster, but the one we stayed in recently at the Gran Hotel Elba Estepona and Thalasso Spa in Estepona (Málaga). The hotel is a very good option if you want to relax on the beach and the staff are very friendly. The rooms are spacious and all have sea views, and although the beach is narrow and with stones, it is not crowded. Enjoy!


Hemingway was here and Orson Welles still is

Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent a number of summers in the city of Ronda in Malaga. Both were drawn to bullfighting and in 1987, two years after Welles died, his ashes were buried in the country estate of his bullfighter friend Antonio Ordoñez, just outside Ronda.
The location of Ronda is, in itself, one of it´s main attractions. The city is perched on a ridge with a drop of around 100 metres and the canyon is known as el Tajo. The old part of town is joined to the new part of town by the Puente Nuevo (the New Bridge). Just by the bridge is the Parador, housed in the former Town Hall dating back to 1781. Even if you are not staying there, it is worth having lunch or a drink with great views. The bullfighting ring which is around the corner from the Parador is the oldest in Spain, built in 1784. The house of San Juan Bosco, so called because it was donated to the Salesian religious order by the owners, is worth a visit.



Madrid skyline

Pictures of Madrid skyline and the answer to the quiz in twitter.


The other Santiago and the other woman

Santiago de Chile was named after Santiago, the patron Saint of Spain, by Pedro de Valdivia and the "other" woman, Inés Suárez with whom he had an extramarital relationship. But rather than reading their quite remarkable story from me, I would recommend you read the novel by Isabel Allende, Inés del alma mía (Inés of my soul) - she writes better than I do and was also related to the President of Chile, Salvador Allende.
Santiago is different from other Latin American cities. Even though it can become quite lively, as you can experience in the rowdy bars of Bellavista, on the whole I found it to be a relatively tranquil place, especially if you wander around the upmarket Las Condes district, where you can also find an open air antiques market in Plaza Peru every Sunday. It is also quite easy to get around and the underground is clean and efficient.
Visit the Cathedral; the sadly famous Palacio de la Moneda, bombed by General Pinochet during his coup d'état and where Salvador Allende died; the central market; the Cerro San Cristobal - a hill dominated by a large statue of the Virgin Mary; the Cerro Santa Lucia, where Pedro de Valdivia was pinned down by the native indians for 2 years; and the home of the poet Pablo Neruda called "La Chascona" the nickname of his lover at the time. Another site that you will not easily forget is the closeness and the immensity of the Andes.

Going up Cerro San Cristobal
Going up Cerro San Cristobal

La Chascona - House of Pablo Neruda
La Chascona- House of Pablo Neruda

View from Cerro Santa Lucia
View from Cerro Santa Lucia

View of the Andes from shopping mall of Las Condes
View of the Andes from shopping mall of  Las Condes


The town of Mystics and of someone who was played by Mel Brooks and Monty Python

The mystics were Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross; the other was Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, and the town is Ávila. St. Teresa and St. John were both born in Ávila and Torquemada, famously played by Mel Brooks in History of the World, Part I and by Monty Python in one of their sketches, died there. There is an even weirder relationship between St. Teresa and Torquemada. The grandfather of St. Teresa was a converted Jew who was accused by the Spanish Inquisition of re-embracing his faith and was condemned to walk in procession, together with other condemned, wearing what was known as a sambenito.
The historical centre of Ávila is small and pleasant. The town is best known for being the birthplace of St. Teresa and for its medieval Walls that span 2.5 Kms. encircling the town.
A good option to stay in Ávila is the Parador, set in a restored 16th Century Palace, adjacent to the Wall and with a very pleasant garden and where you can also savour the local food, famously, the Chuletón de Ávila if you like meat and the sweet Yemas de Santa Teresa.


Stand in Piccadilly and meet everyone you know

It used to be said that if you stood long enough in Piccadilly Circus you would eventually meet everyone you knew. I am not quite sure whether that is still the case today with all those thousands of "friends" that suddenly appear in Facebook. What is the case, though, is that London continues to be a great place to enjoy things from all over the world. A few of the things we enjoyed during our last trip:
- Delicious Japanese sweets at Minamoto Kitchoan. I try and visit on every trip. Besides the sweets, just looking how they gift wrap is an experience akin to a tea ceremony.
- Dim Sum in Chinatown. Service in the many restaurants in Chinatown can sometimes be erratic. We ate at the Golden Pagoda in Gerrard Street. Another option is CCK in Rupert Street.
- Coffee at Amalfi. A classic in Soho since 1963. There was a time when it was one of the few places in London where you could get a decent espresso or cappuccino!.
- An oriental dinner at Bam Bou in buzzing Fitzrovia.
- A visit to the Tate Modern and to the British Museum.
- Strolling along the many parks to be found in London, with Regent´s Park being a personal favourite.
More to follow!!!


Courtesans and Saints along the River Tormes

Salamanca in Spain has not one, but two cathedrals. In addition, in the nearby town of Alba de Tormes there is a monastery that is the final resting place of the Spanish saint Santa Teresa de Jesús or, rather, just parts of her, since other parts of her body can also be found in other Spanish churches as well as in Rome, Paris and Lisbon - it is even said that the dictator Franco had her right hand tucked away in his bedside table. Salamanca was also the city that had been chosen for the wedding in 1543 between a very pious Phillip II and Maria Manuela of Portugal. You would think that all these facts would make 16th Century Salamanca one of the most somber cities in the world, however, the city was also, and continues to be, a university town. At the time there were around 8.000 students in Salamanca and to give you an idea of the magnitude, the capital city of Madrid had a population of 11.000. All these students were attended by an army of courtesans (and I use the more polite term) that made some observers compare the city to Sodom and Gomorrah. Amongst those that held this view was Phillip II himself, who passed a law forcing all the courtesans to be taken to the other side of the River Tormes before Lent and not to allow them to return until a week after Easter Monday. This imposed period of "fasting" meant that the return of the courtesans was celebrated raucously by the students who came out to the river to welcome them back with wine and food. The parties that ensued are part of the legend of the city but nowadays the festivity, which is called "lunes de aguas" ("Monday of waters"), is still celebrated by students and families alike by having a picnic with friends and eating Hornazo, a pie which the students shared with the courtesans.

Monastery in Alba de Tormes

Monastery in Alba de Tormes

Bridge where students waited with Cathedral in background

The River Tormes


Fiddler on the Roof

If you happen to be in Madrid, you only have two days left to catch the Marc Chagall exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The exhibition is in two venues, the other being at the Caja Madrid Foundation and ends on the 20th of May.


Photomontage in Cuenca

An exhibition at the Fundación March in Cuenca exploring the beginnings of the photomontage.

Cuenca revisited

In a recent post entitled Babylon in Spain I wrote about the town of Cuenca. We recently drove by the town and decided to stay at the Parador for the night and revisit the town. Some pictures of our visit.


Astrid y Gastón - The World´s 35th Best Restaurant

The 2012 winners from The World´s 50 Best Restaurants awards have been announced.
At number 35 the Peruvian restaurant Astrid y Gastón mentioned by us in our post Cebiche and Pisco Sour.
Our congratulations to Astrid and Gastón!


Concorde to Venice

I was looking through some old tapes and found some footage of a trip I made to Venice on Concorde back in 1989, which I thought I would share with you. The trip was a private charter of Concorde and was quite an experience. The video is taken from the original VHS tape, which I have then edited so the quality is not great. At the end of the film, I have included the boat ride from Marco Polo airport to the Hotel Cipriani
I should point out that the flight to Venice was longer in Concorde than in a conventional plane! But that was only because we flew over the Atlantic first so that we could experience Mach 2 and then turned to fly to Venice at "normal" speed.

(All the footage inside Concorde and the boat trip was taken on the day. Additional footage by British Airways).


Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes

In a previous post writing about the Art Triangle in Madrid, I also mentioned the exhibition centre  CaixaForum. The current exhibit that runs until the 3rd of June is dedicated to Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th Century. The collaboration of composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Manuel de Falla and Stravinsky; painters such as Picasso, Braque, and de Chirico; choreographers such as Léonide Massine; and dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky created such masterpieces as The Firebird, and The Three-cornered Hat.

From the Web of CaixaForum


The lost land of Lyonesse

You may not have heard about Lyonesse but you probably have heard of Land's End, which is the most extreme western point of England. You may even have heard of the Isles of Scilly, which lie about 45 Kms from the coast. Well, the mythical lost land of Lyonesse was thought to have been located between the Isles and the mainland. Lyonesse was also the homeland of Tristan whose tragic romance with Isolde has been told many times and in many languages, we have seen it depicted in paintings and we have heard it sung in Wagner's opera. Legend has it that Lyonesse sunk beneath the waves some time after Tristan's story. The pictures below were taken from Land's End and I cannot help thinking that somewhere out there, at the bottom of the sea, lays a magical land and untold stories of knights and adventures.


What Merlin brought from Ireland

Arthurian legend claims that King Ambrosius Aurelianus wanted to erect a monument to the nobles that had died in battle with the Saxons. He asked for the advice of Merlin, who told him of some healing stones in Ireland that had been taken there by giants all the way from Africa. The King sent Merlin and Uther Pendragon (Arthur´s father) together with an army of knights to bring the stones to Britain and, thus, Stonehenge was built. Today, there is still no agreement as to what this 5000 year old Neolithic monument was built for, though it could have been a cemetery, a place of worship or even a place of healing - I will stick with the Arthurian legend. Take a bus to Amesbury, from there walk 2 miles to the site and once you arrive lose yourself in the mists of time.


The Way of Saint James

According to Catholicism, Santiago de Compostela is the place where the remains of the Apostle Saint James are buried. According to legend, the burial place was found by a shepherd in the 9th Century and since then Santiago became, together with Rome and Jerusalem, a popular destination for pilgrims. The building of the Cathedral, where the remains were eventually re-buried, began in 1075 but was not wholly completed until 1211. Nowadays, people make the pilgrimage to Santiago for different reasons. There are those that do it out of faith, and why not say it, maybe a bit of self-interest, since if they walk a minimum of 100 Kms. receive full or partial remission of the punishment for their sins. Others make the pilgrimage as a challenge, to get away from it all or as a cultural trip. The different routes are known as The Way of Saint James, which pilgrims, or at least those that wish to obtain indulgence, have to do on foot. Along the way, you can stay at special hostels reserved for pilgrims for which there is a nominal charge of 5 Euros per night.
When you arrive to Santiago it may well be raining, but this is to be expected and many people would be disappointed if it were not. The Plaza del Obradoiro is the heart of the city and in this square you will find the Cathedral and the office that attends the pilgrims arriving to the city. Here you can also find the Parador of Santiago, housed in what used to be a hospital for pilgrims founded in 1499.
Santiago and the whole region of Galicia have a well earned reputation for good food. Amongst the local specialties, there is a wide variety of seafood, including the typical pulpo a la gallega (octopus), empanada (a large filled pastry) or caldo gallego (stew). All of which taste much better if accompanied by the local wines, Albariño or Ribeiro. For dessert, the tarta de Santiago (almond cake) and filloas (pancakes). At the end of the meal you may be offered an orujo, but careful this is liquor with high alcohol content.


City of eternal spring

With an average year-round temperature of 19 ºC, Trujillo in northern Peru can well call itself the city of eternal spring. Trujillo was the first city in Peru to declare its independence from Spain in 1820 and today, the city is host to quite a number of cultural events including the very popular Marinera festival, the Marinera being a typical Peruvian dance. Most of the sights are close to the Plaza de Armas where you will find the Cathedral and some very fine examples of colonial houses. The Hotel Libertador can also be found in one of the corners of the square and it is a good option for your stay in Trujillo.
Just 5 Kms north of Trujillo, you cannot miss the citadel of Chan Chan, the ancient capital of the Chimú Kingdom and the world's largest city built with adobe. Further north, around 8 more Kms, you come to Huanchaco beach, a surfers paradise and some would say where an ancient form of surfing started 3000 years ago when the fishermen here began to use watercrafts made of reed, known as Caballitos de totora.  Another archaeological site worth visiting is about 5 Kms south of Trujillo, Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, the political and ceremonial centres respectively of the Mochica culture.


Where Lawrence of Arabia asked for lemonade

You may recall the scene from David Lean´s film, when Lawrence of Arabia walks into the Officer's Club in Cairo accompanied by his Arab servant, Ferraj and orders two large glasses of lemonade. Well, that scene was filmed in Seville, in the Plaza de España. This square has also featured in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. But Seville, is much more than a set for film locations. Let´s start by saying that Seville is not one city, it is in fact two, Seville and Triana across the Guadalquivir river, with a certain degree of competition between them. However, as a foreigner you will be forgiven for not taking sides.
Seville has always had a special allure for other Europeans and it is somewhat ironic that the city owes much of its international recognition to, amongst others, Bizet´s Carmen, adapted from the novel of Prosper Mérimée; and Mozart´s The Marriage of Figaro based on a play by Beaumarchais, who aso wrote The Barber of Seville.
There is plenty to do and see in Seville and if you go in April you will catch the Feria de Abril, a fair held every year for five days in April, and that this year runs from the 24th to the 29th. The whole city celebrates this festivity and many locals dress in typical flamenco dress. The best way to enjoy the fair is to pop into a few of the more than 1000 casetas (huts) where people dance, drink and eat. Unfortunately, entry into a lot of the casetas is by invitation only, but there are plenty of others where you can get into and have a feel for the fair. One of the drinks most favoured during the fair is sherry, mainly dry sherry in the varieties of fino and manzanilla (not to be confused with chamomile tea also known as manzanilla).
On the sightseeing front, the Cathedral with the remains of Columbus; La Giralda, which is the name by which the bell tower of the Cathedral is known; El Alcázar, from the 8th Century, the oldest of the European palaces still in use; the tower known as Torre del Oro and the Archivo de Indias which was built to keep all the official records regarding Spain's colonies in America and the Orient. I have already mentioned the Plaza de España, built for the Iberoamerican Exhibition of 1929 and besides it, the park Parque de María Luisa.
In between you will walk around the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarters and cross the bridge of Triana to arrive at the other Seville or Triana, the cradle of flamenco, sevillanas, and where the processions of Semana Santa (Easter) are followed with devotion.


Your gin and tonic, Peru and the Spanish village of Chinchón

What on earth is he talking about? I hear you say as you read the title of this post.
Well. its simple really. Your Gin and Tonic has tonic water; tonic water has quinine; quinine is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree and was used for medicinal purposes by the Incas of Peru; in 1629 the Count of Chinchón is appointed as Viceroy of Peru by the Spanish King; on arrival at Lima, the wife of the Count of Chinchón became very ill with high fever and was cured by taking extract from the bark of the cinchona tree. In fact, Cinchona, the generic name of the plant, is derived from "Countess of Chinchón". All very simple!
The main attractions of the village of Chinchón, which is 45 Kms. south of Madrid, are its very lively main square, Plaza Mayor, where the funny bullfighting scene with Cantinflas from Around the World in Eighty Days was filmed, and the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción that has a painting by Goya.
For lunch (and a Gin and Tonic if that is your poison) I can recommend the Parador of Chinchónhoused in a 17th Century convent. You may also wish to try the local anisette, which is known as "Chinchón".


When everyday objects were works of art

If you are going to me in Madrid between now and 1st of July, don´t miss the exhibition  The Avant-Garde Applied (1890-1950) at the Fundación March. Art applied to books, magazines, advertising posters... William Morris would have been proud!

From the web of Fundación March

From the web of Fundación March

From the web of Fundación March

From the web of Fundación March

Surfing between an Ocean and a Sea

Tarifa in southern Spain has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. Situated just 14 Kms from the coast of Africa, its beaches are a surfers paradise.

(All photographs courtesy of @diloumt)


The bullfighting nun

If you are reading this post, it means that you were as curious as I was to learn about a bullfighting nun. In 1766, a nun that had joined the convent more out of necessity than conviction, was called upon to assist the Doctor of the Ronda bullring and was so impressed by what she saw that she became a bullfighter. María, as she was called, was not very successful in her new chosen career and after a couple of years, she returned to the convent. The nun was from the village of Gaucin in the mountains of Malaga (Spain), a charming white village only 30 minutes from Estepona and the coast. Just walk along its narrow streets, go up to the castle and have some wine and tapas in the terrace of Bar Casa Antonia (Plaza del Santo Niño). There are two hotels that I recommend: Hotel Hacienda La Herriza and Hotel Caballo Andaluz (see also my previous posts about these two hotels).


Open air museum in the Gardens of the Vizier

In the mountains of Málaga, 45 Kms from Ronda lies the town of Genalguacil. This small town traces its origins to when the Moors ruled over this part of Spain and it´s name comes from the Arab "Genna-Alwacir" or Gardens of the Vizier.
The town would be just another of the charming white Andalusian villages scattered along this mountain range where it not for the Genalguacil Arts Festival that takes place here from the 1st to the 14th of August, every two years. This year (2012) will see another edition of the festival, when artists from all over the world will descend on the town to work on a piece of art that they will donate to the town. If you are going to Malaga it is worth a visit.


Hidden Picasso and his barber

We are used to admiring the works of Picasso in Paris, London, Madrid, Málaga, Barcelona...and now (in fact since 1985!) in a small village, 74 Kms. north of Madrid, called Buitrago del Lozoya.
The collection Eugenio Arias is composed of the different works that Picasso gave to his friend and barber, Eugenio Arias (1909-2008) since they met in 1948 until Picasso's death in 1973. A very intimate collection.

Picasso and Arias in 1960 © Raph Gatti
From the web of Colección Eugenio Arias


King (and/or) Queen for a day or two

Continuing with our series on the Paradores of Spain, today I recommend a visit to a 12th Century Medieval Castle, housing the Parador of Sigüenza. Whilst ghosts are not guaranteed, the battlements, keep, barbican, four poster beds and your imagination can make your stay a memorable one. But do venture out of the castle walls and take a walk down to the town of Sigüenza, where the Cathedral with the sepulcher of the "Doncel de Sigüenza"  merits a visit.

Parador of Sigüenza

Parador of Sigüenza

Cathedral of Sigüenza


Babylon in Spain

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are rediscovered in Spain!!! Well, not quite...but close.
The town of Cuenca has a large number of churches, convents and monasteries but what most people will remember are the three "hanging houses" of Cuenca - "Casas Colgadas". Dating back to the 15th Century, they are perched dramatically overlooking the canyon formed by the Huécar River, as you may appreciate in the slideshow that follows. Two of the houses are occupied by the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art founded in 1966 by the Spanish painter Fernando Zóbel and now run by the Fundación March.
But Cuenca has another surprise in store for us, in the form of an "enchanted city" - the Ciudad Encantada, about 36 Kms north of the town. Nature has chosen this site to be capricious and centuries of exposure to the elements have resulted in rocks taking on various distinguishable shapes (an elephant, a dog, bears, etc).
Cuenca is fairly close to Madrid (169 Kms) and, thus, a couple of hours drive or just under an hour if you take the high speed train (AVE). If you decide to stay overnight, the town has a Parador, just opposite the "hanging houses". Another good option is the Hotel Cueva del Fraile, just outside Cuenca.


Don Quixote... Where it all started

Just half an hour from the centre of Madrid, is the town of Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, foremost Spanish novelist and the author of "Don Quixote of La Mancha", considered as the first modern European novel. Cervantes narrates how Don Quixote came up with the strangest of ideas, in that he thought it convenient and necessary to become a knight and to go around the world with his weapons and horse seeking adventures and solving all manner of conflicts, for the greater glory of his "platonic" love Dulcinea del Toboso. In his adventures, he is accompanied by his faithful squire Sancho Panza.
It is said that Sigmund Freud, learnt Spanish in order to read "Don Quixote" and whilst a few phrases of the language will always come in handy, fluency is not compulsory in order to visit Alcalá.
The town also has a Parador housed in a former convent and I can recommend the restaurant.


A secret location - FYEO

For Your Eyes Only:
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is detailed below. This post will self-destruct in five seconds.
Go to Lima airport, take a flight to Tumbes in northern Peru. When you arrive at Tumbes airport, transportation will be waiting for you to drive you for about one hour to arrive at the Punta Sal Club Hotel . On arrival, you will check into one of the rooms of the main building, or at your discretion into one of the bungalows on the beach. Once settled in, your mission is to spend at least one week in this beautiful location, with an all-year-round average temperature of around 26ºC. Full board will be provided, except for drinks. Go deep sea fishing; bird watching, horseback riding or just relax on the beach.
A word of warning: Even the most seasoned traveller has been tempted to defect and stay there. After a wonderful week there, I know I was.


Last of the Seven Wonders

Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. Although the following photographs were taken some time ago and that it´s been a while since I have been back to Egypt, I remember my first glimpse of the Pyramids of Giza as if it had been yesterday. My first impression was one of awe. I was standing in front of a structure built over 4500 years ago by one of the world´s first civilizations! It´s not only thousands of years weighing upon you but also the immensity of the Pyramid and the size of the stones that make it up, something you don´t quite realise from a distance. I have been back to Egypt since and I always make a point of visiting the Pyramid. Obviously, Egypt is much more that Giza. From Alexandria in the north, to Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel in the South, the Sinai Desert and the Red Sea. A trip and experience I wanted to share.


Revisiting Valencia

A brief entry to post some photographs of Valencia. Always nice to visit and if you are thinking of going, maybe you should try and get there now when the city is gearing up to the festivity of Las Fallas.


Paella and other fare

A brief post on restaurants we visited during a recent stay in Valencia.
A very good option for a set menu lunch is to be found at the IVAM Cafe at the Modern Art Museum. The cafe shares the kitchen of the award winning restaurant "La Sucursal" located on the upper floors of the museum.
The set menu price is of 12 Euros (excluding drinks) and the food is excellent.
If you happen to be around Mercado Colón, the traditional El Timonel is still a good option for a Paella.
Under the Restaurants section of this blog, you will find a reference to the restaurant Ca 'Sento as one of the best restaurants in Valencia. I am glad to report that they have now opened a more affordable option near Torres Serranos, called Trencadish, which is highly recommended.


Burning the Ninots

In a previous post, Is Batman from Valencia?, I mentioned the puppets or Ninots that are burnt in the festivity of Las Fallas in Valencia. Here is a preview of some of the Ninots that will burn this year.
I should point out that, except for the Ninots representing politicians and equally disliked individuals (I wonder why), the burning of the Ninots representing actual people has to be understood as a kind of homage.


Relaxing in the Mediterranean

I was looking through my photo album and thought I would share our experience at the Gran Hotel Elba Estepona in Estepona (Spain). The beach, though small and narrow is, basically, part of the hotel and feels like your own private bit of sand. The rooms are spacious and all have sea views and the staff are very friendly. We have always enjoyed our stay.


From Lima to Paracas

Mad Men heaven

It appears that the Mad Men series may have originated in Peru. A few pictures taken along the Panamericana Sur.

(Pictures courtesy of @diloumt)


Dakar 2012 in Lima

Images of the Dakar Rally participants driving through Lima on their way to the Plaza de Armas.


Video of Dakar Rally driving through Lima

Today, Peruvians are very excited as the Dakar Rally finishes in the main square of Peru (Plaza de Armas). The participants have been given a very warm welcome on their way to the square where the official ceremony has taken place.

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