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).

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