FITUR Travel blogger 2014

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A story of nymphs and satyrs...and it´s not about politicians

In Greek mythology, Orchis, the son of a nymph and a satyr was torn apart by the Bacchanalians for attempting to rape a priestess of Dionysus. His father asked the gods to restore him but, instead, they decided to make him into a flower and, thus, the orchid came into being.
A few photographs taken at an exhibition recently organised in Lima by the Peruvian Orchid Club. 


The Maltese Falcon, found in Lima

The other day, I felt like Sam Spade, the private detective created by Dashiell Hammett. In his novel, The Maltese Falcon, made into a film by John Huston. Sam Spade - played in the film by Humphrey Bogart, encounters the "Fat Man" and his dubious associates who are searching for a statuette of a falcon encrusted with jewels. Well, I found it in the Central Bank of Peru in Lima!!!!
I should explain, though, that the bird in question is in the museum run by the Central Bank in Jirón Junín 781, which has exhibits from the different cultures that have existed in Peru, as well as a coin and gold collection and a collection of paintings. The museum is close to the Plaza de Armas in the centre of Lima.

Could be The Maltese Falcon


Bansky, George Orwell, Peter Pan, the Michelin Man...

...and a large tea pot, ducks and swan lake. All to be seen on a Sunday morning in London.

Bayswater Road


Portobello Road


A minimalist hotel by the park

On a recent visit to London, I stayed at La Suite West. The hotel is Anouska Hempel´s latest opening and continues the design tradition for which she is known. Standard rooms are small but they are fully equipped (including laptop safe; UK, US, and European sockets; bathrobes; and Rattan flip flops) and the marble bathroom has a heated floor. The hotel is a one minute walk from Bayswater tube station, which is only one station away from Paddington and, thus, very convenient if you arrive at Heathrow and take the Heathrow Express into central London. The area can get a bit rowdy at times, but on the plus side you are besides Hyde Park. Staff are friendly and very helpful and believe it or not, WiFi is complimentary. A good choice to stay in London.

More posts about the United Kingdom:
Stand in Piccadilly and meet everyone you know
The lost land of Lyonesse
What Merlin brought from Ireland


A secret park in Madrid?

If you have visited Madrid, you will have visited the Cibeles Fountain and the Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Gate) along the street called, Calle Alcalá, but what you probably have not visited is a park called La Quinta de los Molinos which is located at the very end of the same street. In fact, I would venture that only those people that live or work close to the park will know of it´s existence. The park is outside the usual tourist routes and possibly only worth the trip if you happen to be in Madrid in February and want to see almond trees in bloom. At least, now you know. (Tube station: Suanzes - Line 5).

Quinta de los Molinos

Quinta de los Molinos

Quinta de los Molinos

Quinta de los Molinos
More posts about Madrid:


In the land of the Queen of Saba

I visited Yemen in 1998 and recall it was quite an experience. It was a business trip and I only stayed a couple of days in Sana'a. The unification of North and South Yemen happened in 1990 but a short civil war erupted in 1994 which was won by the North. The country was, and still is, very unstable, and it appeared that the Government did not have full control, especially outside of the capital, where tribal leaders held the real power. These tribes were also behind the kidnapping of foreigners, sometimes for money and others just to obtain advantages for their regions.
Arriving in Sana'a airport, the first hurdle was to go through passport control - even with a valid visa it took quite a long time whilst officials slowly checked every single page of the passports of each of the people waiting in line. I arrived at the Sheraton Sana'a Hotel, which since January 2013 has been taken over by the U.S. State Department to house it´s diplomats. The hotel was advertised as 5-star though, in reality, it was more like a 2-star hotel in Europe. In a way it reminded me of the T.V series Fawlty Towers. The rooms were very basic, we had a reception hosted by the Swiss manager of the hotel to welcome us, the entertainment was provided by a Bulgarian group and the food was...well, not what you would expect.
Sana'a is a city of contrasts, where you would see the newest model Mercedes trying to drive through a herd of sheep; a city where a lot of people walked around with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and all the men wore a dagger called jambia; and where all activity slowed down from around 1 PM when the men engaged in the ritual of chewing khat, a plant that contains an amphetamine-like stimulant. The architecture of the city is very particular with multi-story buildings that look like mini-skyscapers. The markets in the city, especially the one for spices, are unmissable.



A slaughterhouse that is now an art centre

The old slaughterhouse in Madrid which stood derelict and abandoned for many years has been transformed into an art centre called Matadero Madrid - Slaughterhouse Madrid - not the most attractive of names but there you are. The centre has regular exhibitions, community activities, concerts, theater, film and quiet an impressive "reader´s house" funded by a private foundation. It is a 10 minute bus ride from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. I leave you with a few pics from a recent visit; the first two are from current exhibitions.

Bedtime reading

Is this what hell looks like?

Matadero Madrid

Matadero Madrid


Tulip mania

In these days of speculation and bubble bursting, the first speculative bubble comes to mind - the tulip mania that took hold of Holland in the 17th Century. It is amazing how something as beautiful as a tulip could have been the cause of misery to so many. The Dutch, however, made the best of it and adopted this flower which was originally brought to Holland from Turkey, developing a striving industry. The blooming of the flower has just begun and to see it in all its splendour it is worth making a journey to Keukenhof, a park in Lisse, about 35 Kms. from Amsterdam. I leave you with the link to my past post about Amsterdam and a picture of the main "culprit" of the tulip mania: the Semper Augustus tulip. Ironically, the coloured stripes that made the tulip so sought after were caused by a virus.

Semper Augustus tulip in a 17th Century print
More posts about Amsterdam:
Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds


Where a Prime Minister hid his bonsai

Just besides the Prado Museum in Madrid you can find the Royal Botanical Gardens, a quiet place to reflect on the paintings you may have seen in the museum or simply to enjoy the tranquility and colours of nature. It is here that you can find the bonsai collection of former Prime Minister Felipe González, who found in bonsai cultivation a form of relaxation. Enjoy!!!

Bonsai in Botanical Gardens, Madrid

La Menorah...like going to a friend´s house for lunch

One of our favourite restaurants is La Menorah in Estepona (Malaga). I am glad to see that they now have a web page for all to see - but just tell your closest friends. 


"We'll always have Paris..."

In the film Casablanca, Rick tells Ilsa: "We'll always have Paris..." whilst on the airfield the engine of the plane to Lisbon turns over and the propellers start turning. Just thinking I have to go back soon.


A small town in La Rioja and the British Imperial State Crown

Many of you may have visited the Tower of London and would have seen The Imperial State Crownre-made for the coronation of King George VI and worn by Queen Elizabeth in her coronation, and every year since, for the State Opening of Parliament. What you may not know is that the big red ruby in the crown was a payment in kind to Edward of Woodstock, the Prince of Wales, also known as the Black Prince, by the Spanish King of Castile and León Peter of Castile for the help the former gave to the latter in one of the many wars of the 14th Century. The ruby adorned the figure of the Virgin Mary which up to this date is kept in the Monastery of Santa María la Real in the town of Nájera in La Rioja region of Spain.

© Crown copyright


A Madrid art centre you have not seen

If I appear certain that in your visit to Madrid you have not visited the Centro de Arte 2 de mayo (CA2M)it´s because it is located in the town of Móstoles, about 18 Kms. southwest of Madrid. Móstoles is nowadays, basically, a suburb of Madrid and is best known for having formally declared war on France on the 2nd May, 1808, following the popular uprising of the people of Madrid against the troops of Napoleon. CA2M is well suited for "installation art" and is currently showing: Pop Politics: Activism at 33 Revolutions and works by the Turkish artisit Halil Altindere.
A tip from one of the works by Altindere shown below: Some of the carpets sold in bazars in Turkey are laid out in the sun to wear down the colours so that they appear old and are sold as antiques.


Dinner with Madonna

Well, not quite, but you can have dinner where Madonna filmed the video clip for her song Take a Bow. The restaurant La Espuela  is inside the bullring in the Spanish town of Antequera in Malaga where the video was filmed. The town claims to have the most religious buildings in Spain and whilst I have not been able to confirm this, walking around the town would seem to support the claim. Antequera is bang in the middle of Andalucia and, thus, an important logistic centre, connected to Madrid, Cordoba and Malaga via the high-speed train AVE. About 16 Kms. south of Antequera be sure to visit the karst landscape of El Torcal and its geological formations.


Caruso, Karajan, Domingo, Pavlova...in Buenos Aires

The list of artists that have performed in the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires since its inauguration in 1908 contains the names of some of the greatest all-time composers, conductors, opera singers, musicians and dancers. The theatre is considered one of the best of the world for its acoustics and the 2013 season is about to start with a programme of opera, ballet and concerts. A tip: On certain Sundays at 11 AM, starting 10th March, the theatre offers free concerts! Tickets can be collected from the ticket office 48 hours before each concert.


The Beatles in ...Claudio Coello Road

Many of you may be thinking that I have made a mistake in the title of the post and that I surely meant Abbey Road. Not quite. The Carlos de Amberes Foundation in Madrid (Claudio Coello Street) is the venue for an exhibition of Beatles memorabilia in the private collection of Carlos D. Chardí. To be honest, I expected much more, but if you are in the area and grew up with The Fab Four, it may be worth it just to take you back briefly to the swinging 60s.

Spanish records

Going native


Wonder what St. Andrew would have thought

Yellow submarine


Lima to Asia in one hour

No, we have not tested the next supersonic jet. The Asia we are referring to here is, in fact, about 100 Kms. south of Lima. This is the Peruvian equivalent of The Hamptons, where the affluent have their summer beach houses and a shopping and entertainment centre called Boulevard Asia, to be able to stock up on all the necessities of modern life, and mingle with the same people you normally mingle with in Lima during the rest of the year.


"Shaken, not stirred"...and with chicken

I just can´t imagine James Bond eating chicken and washing it down with a martini but, if he did, he would definitely do it at La Granja Azul, just outside Lima. This popular restaurant has been around for over 50 years and is a popular venue for celebrations. The menu is simple and one of the most popular choices is composed of: anticucho (grilled beef heart and chicken liver) and all the chicken you can eat, washed down with huge cocktails. Better not to drive there!


The bar

In case you forgot your wallet


Lima coast

Photographs of Lima taken from the district of Barranco.


MATE but no chess

MATE is the name of the cultural foundation recently opened by the Peruvian photographer Mario Testino in the district of Barranco in Lima. The centre will house works by Testino and other Peruvian artists. The current exhibition is called Todo o Nada and is composed of around 50 works by Testino that have appeared in different fashion magazines.


Monet´s favourite flower...in Lima

Claude Monet loved water lilies. He had them at his garden in Giverny and depicted them in hundreds of paintings, which today hang in museums all over the world. We found some water lilies in the botanical garden of Lima´s Agricultural University in the district of La Molina, a small garden outside the usual tourist itineraries. The university also has a small shopping area before entering, besides the main entrance, where you can buy plants, fruit, vegetables, local roots and herbs like maca.


Flamenco in a box in Lima

If you have seen a performance of flamenco, since 1977, you may have noticed that one of the instruments was literally a box. In that year, the renown guitarist Paco de Lucia, performed in Peru and noticed a box-like instrument called cajón. He was so captivated by the sound that he incorporated the cajón as one of his accompanying instruments. Since then, el cajón has been part of flamenco music and if you happen to be in Lima, the ICPNA is staging its annual flamenco festival running between the 10th and the 25th of January. The photographs below are from the performance entitled Sentidos given by the Cuéllar sisters, Diana and Jimena on the 18th.


Cebiche in the Panamericana Sur

For anyone travelling south of Lima, a stop at El Piloto is a must. This roadside restaurant offering traditional Peruvian food in big portions is an institution in Peru and with good reason. In a recent visit, two of us shared a very good tiradito (cebiche) and causa, which you can see below. The bill, including two beers and mineral water came to around 30 euros. Not cheap for local standards but reasonable considering quality and quantity.
Since the construction of the new motorway a couple of years ago, the restaurant is in the "old" Panamericana and you have to make a short detour in order to get to it, but it is worth it.
Panamericana Sur Km 138, San Vicente de Cañete (Tel. 91052552).
They also have a branch in Boulevard Asia and have recently opened in Pisco.




Dakar 2013 - Stage 1

Photographs and video of Dakar 2013 - Stage 1 - Pisco.


Dakar 2013 base camp in Pisco

First photographs of the Dakar 2013 base camp in Pisco (Peru). One day before the start of the race, we visit the Dakar 2013 base camp, which was still being prepared for the first stage of the race.

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