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.

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