Feb 28

Ups and downs at the beginning of 2018

Let’s get the down over and done with first… it was when our hire car was broken into on a visit to Tarragona. We believe that the thieves used some form electronic device which either stopped the door mechanism locking or which recorded the “bleep” and could replicate it to open the doors. Whatever, there was no sign of entry and it was about three hours after leaving Tarragona that we got a total shock when we opened the hatchback to find everything gone. [Not sure that you can actually “find” things that are gone but you know what I mean!] We calculate that the monetary value was over £2,000 – partly as a result of our two almost new sailing jackets, a new Olympus Tough camera [my Xmas present from Mike], a tablet, some prescription glasses and a bag full of clothes [have you bought Levi’s recently!!] The worst loss though was the irreplaceable silver earrings which I have collected on our travels. Not expensive but so valuable in other ways. As someone said – I will just have to start again.

We were clearly targeted as tourists and were probably watched as we put our rucksack into the back where it joined the travel holdall. In some way this may have worked in our favour as they didn’t realise that the I.pad we use as a GPS was actually tucked under the front seat and the phone in the drop down box. We were also lucky that our passports were safe back on the boat and Mike had taken the wallet in his pocket in case we had to pay entrance to the site so all our cards were with us. We believe “identity theft” is the biggest earner these days so, whilst they got away with a boot full of stuff it probably wasn’t what they wanted!

We filed a claim with the National Police which took us all day as we traipsed from Guardia Civil, to Policía Local and finally, the correct Police force. Confusing. But, to add insult to injury, even though we knew any property loss claim was limited, what we then found out was that the insurance doesn’t cover loss if there is no evidence of break-in! Again, on the bright side, had the lock been broken or windows smashed we would have had the whole hassle with the car hire people and then a reclaim on the insurance. So, maybe it was better the way it happened.

What we have learned is to actually lock the car door with the key rather than the button.

But, on to better things. We were in Tarragona as part of a trip north to Barcelona – to sort out an issue for Becketts [which was successful] – and to visit our friends in Cadaques.

We had a brilliant weekend. We arrived, having driven through snow in the mountains, to a damp and windy Cadaques but a really warm welcome from Jack and Christine. As usual a few drinks and lots of chat and a fairly late night ensued, but not so much that we weren’t up and ready for a trip into France the following day. Being almost on the border it is only a couple of hours from Cadaques into France. We took the scenic coastal route and stopped first in Banyuls-sue-Mer before driving on for a late lunch in Collioure.

Yes, it was still chilly and a bit damp that day – but Sunday dawned dry and bright and we enjoyed a walk down into the village….

Sunday antiques market – Cadaques

…. to have a drink overlooking the market and to buy local produce for lunch on the balcony.

A lovely, if short stay, topped off by a great game of Mexican Train.

Tarragona was chosen as our stop off place on our return journey because of its Roman ruins which made a change from the Moorish history, artefacts and remains we have seen elsewhere.

Our “all-in ticket” was a bargain and we started our day at the Murallas Passeig Arqueològic, a walk which runs around the inland part of the old town’s perimeter between two lines of city walls.

The inner walls are mainly Roman and date back to the 3rd century BC, while the outer ones were put up by the British in 1709 during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The earliest stretches are a mighty 4m thick, 6 m high and built of large irregular stones and reinforced by towers – one of the most renowned being the “Minerva tower” with the remains of what was a carved plaque representing the goddess.

Littered along the front of the walls are various pillars….










Built into one wall was a water system….

… and just prior to leaving the site we reached the  “Socors Gate” which is the only one remaining from the second phase of the wall.

During this second phase the large stones of each face were laid and the space between them filled with earth and smaller stones. Rows of ashlars were placed on top [no mortar], more internal rough stones added at the bottom which was then topped with loam bricks.

Representation showing second phase wall construction

Another information board told us that internal buttresses every eight to nine metres joined the two faces together.

Once outside the walkway we found ourselves in the heart of the old medieval town.

As one would expect, the cathedral dominates the centre…

…and we were quite surprised by the level of preservation of some of the statues.

We think it may have something to do with prevailing wind and rain direction because on the other side of the door the statues were much less intact.

Our next stop was the Pretori Romà where we saw the octagonal “Nuns Tower”….

…which was part of the medieval defensive wall built in 1366 taking advantage of the interior face of the roman “circus” façade.

The “Torre Romana” was built in C1AD and used as a royal residence in C14.

From the top were views over the modern city out past the commercial port to the marina in the far distance….

…and you can also see [flat yellow gravelly bit] what was once one end of the “circus”.

The circus was used for chariot racing, popular since C8BC. There were races for both two and four horse chariots and what I found fascinating was that the arena, and the participants, were representative of Roman beliefs. The arena symbolised the earth and the chariots, the sun. There were four teams whose colours, green, blue, red and white symbolised the four seasons. Three chariots from each team meant 12 racing which represented the signs of the zodiac/months of the year with each race of seven laps charted the days of the week. The Circus Maximus in Rome seated 125,000, the one in Tarragona, 25,000.

This impression shows what it used to look like.

The end of the circus nearest to the amphitheatre is what can be seen from the tower and what was the other end is now a street with the government building at its end.

A good view of the amphitheatre was also gained by climbing the tower…

… whilst this picture, taken later when we visited it, shows part of the now derelict church which was built within it long after it had been abandoned by the Romans.

Our favourite part of the Pretori was the underground passage…

…. and vaults.

Below what is now Calle Enrajolet is one of the longest [93 meters] and best preserved circus vaults. The Romans had apparently stopped using it by early C8 and it remained that way until C13 when a series of holes was made in the roof so it could be used as a dumping ground for businesses operating in the street which had now replaced the circus. In C17 it was used as storage for the nearby military barracks.

The underground part of the tower contained the bottom of plinths…

….and this statue…

…which was found in a park outside the city and probably was once placed along one of the roads leading in. It is dated to C1/2AD and was likely a funerary monument.

The final site visited in Tarragona city was the Roman Forum where the layout of the houses can be easily seen….










Running between them is the “decumanos” – paved street. In “Tarraco” [Tarragona] these strrets were mainly six metres wide.

All in all, a very interesting predominantly Roman morning and, although obviously not Roman, I became distracted – as is often the case – by colourful graffiti.

We then drove out of the city to see the “Aqueducte de les Ferreres”…

….an amazing structure at 217 metres long and 25 high.

Its other name is the “Pont del Diable” and I guess it lived up to its name because it was in this car park that the theft of our stuff took place!

As well as our little trip we also had the pleasure of hosting visits by James, in January and Claire, in February.

James came just after New Year. The weather was rather fine which gave the guys a chance to do some remedial work on the dinghy.

Interesting life forms – just two months growth in the marina

Get scraping and scrubbing boys

All clean – well as clean as can be expected for an old dinghy!

James wanted to just chill but we did venture into town on a couple of occasions and between craft beer stops we managed to take in some culture with a visit to the Ceramics museum which is housed in a palace that dates from the 15th century and was refurbished in 1740 in rococo style.  It was equally fascinating for its rooms as its contents.

Japanese room

… in the entrance hall


Beautifully painted ceiling.

In another room a very differently decorated ceiling was displayed

Over time it had had three layers of painted decoration, the third [top] layer dating from the late C15 Plateresque period. The name comes from “Plato” [silver] because the ornamental style of the period was silversmith like.

Three boards are exhibited on the wall with paintwork from the first period dating from C14 and having an Arabic style.

There was a reconstructed kitchen….

…several ewers….

……and a number of “Safa Barberas” – C18 shaving bowls.

Some of the ceramics were designed by Picasso….

…. but I was more taken with these.

They are chocolate warming saucers. Candles were put into the holes to keep the chocolate warm. It seems that C18 Spanish aristocracy was much taken by the whole art of chocolate making and drinking – a tradition which remains today – churros and chocolate being a favourite mid-morning snack.

Our “snacks” were more tapas based…

At Casa Montana

…. or just completely liquid!

Marina Sud weekend bar

Claire’s visit in the middle of Feb wasn’t quite as warm but despite one day of rain we had a lovely time. Of course, she had to be introduced to Agua de Valencia…

… which she probably enjoyed more than the local Horchata – a tiger nut based drink which she politely described as “sugary”. Like hot chocolate, it is a must taste Spanish tradition though to be honest I am happy to let others taste it and report back!

One of the most famous “Horchaterias”

A very Valencian tradition which we are looking forward to is the “Fallas” and Claire had read up about it and wanted to visit the museum. We were happy to go along because it was one we hadn’t visited before. A very interesting experience with the Niñots being a little unexpected!

What I mean is that the characters the Niñots represented were unexpected.

I had expected politicians/famous stars/Disney type characters – and there were a couple of these.

I hadn’t expected weird folk.

Some, however, were very colourful and funny….

… decorative….

….or just characters that we know and love.

We look forward to see the 750 [yes, 750 – that is not a typo] or so which will be erected all over the city overnight on 15th March ready for viewing on 16th.

I have a feeling that a whole blog will need to be dedicated to this festival – especially as we will have the added fun of having Andrea and Fiona with us during part of it. As another preview to what that blog might contain, below is a family in the traditional Fallas outfits.

Amazing – even the girl’s shoes match her dress.

As I said above, there was one day of rain during Claire’s visit but the rest of the time it was sunny and bright. We enjoyed watching a drumming band…

….in the Plaza de Ajuntamente…

…. and visiting Dénia and Xàbia on a day trip down the coast.

Xàbia we stopped at only briefly to take a photo of its coastline and strangely formed beach which looked quarried?

In Dénia we enjoyed lunch “al fresco”…

…. before visiting the castle.

As can be seen from the shape of the gate, the fortress is of Moorish origin dating from C10/11.

It is built on a rocky promontory, dominates the town and overlooks the harbour.

During the latter part of C14 it was remodelled and its outer and inner walls improved.

A wide embankment circles the castle and we walked along it thinking it might lead to a different way out. It didn’t! But, we were really glad we had made the walk because we came across these…. Look closely!

They are the hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth which live in silvery nests in the tops of pine trees throughout Mediterranean Spain. The nests are most obvious in the early winter months and now I know about it I realise I have seen them. These insects rarely leave their host tree until they are ready to find an adequate place for cocooning.

This normally occurs in March – mid April but probably, as with other things, warmer winters may have brought this phenomenon forward as we are only in February.

The word processionary comes from the fact that they follow each other in long lines that can reach several meters long, as we saw. They are considered to be one of the Mediterranean’s worst pests! If they are touched, their hairs cause an extremely nasty skin reaction. Fortunately none of us did.

So obviously spring is here, early maybe but there are definite signs everywhere.

Delicate almond blossom

We have been very lucky not to actually know that there has been a winter as temperatures haven’t dropped below about 5degreesC even on the coldest nights and have reached the high teens most days. But even so it is nice to know that spring is here and we can soon go sailing.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/02/28/ups-and-downs-at-the-beginning-of-2018/

Jan 24

The Alhambra

So, as promised, the magnificent Alhambra [thanks Wikipedia for this photo – a view I didn’t get but taken, I think, from the Albayzín] …….

It takes its name from the Arabic “al-quala’a al-hamra” – the red castle and I will start with a potted history, gleaned mainly from our Lonely Planet guide, which really helped us to understand what we were looking at as we wandered around.

The first palace on the site was built in C11 by a Jewish grand vizier for his Zirid sultan. In C13/14 the Nasrid emirs turned the area into a fortress palace, adjoined by a village of which only its ruins remain, and the Generalife was built as a summer palace. After the Christian re-conquest, the mosque was replaced with a church and a convent, now a Parador (hotel), was built. Emperor Carlos V had a wing of the palaces destroyed to make space for his huge Renaissance structure. During the Napoleonic occupation the Alhambra was used as a barracks and nearly blown up, so some of what we see today is very careful restoration work.

Our tour started half way up the winding street “Cuesta de Gomérez when we passed through the gate of “Las Granadas”, adorned with three pomegranates, the symbol of Granada.

It was not the original main gate – that being accessed through the Alcazaba – but became the principal entrance after the transformation of the rugged terrain, formerly its natural defences in the Sabika ravine, and the formation of a poplar grove with walkways, created in 1730 for a visit by King Philip V.

It is a very pleasant way to approach the Alhambra and turning round at various points means you get lovely views of the city.

We had pre-booked our tickets – including the Palacios Nazaríes, which is probably a good thing because we heard several people being told there were no more tickets available that day so they had to be content with walking around some of the gardens and parts that don’t require a ticket. But the Palacios Nazaríes is what everyone really comes for. We had left in good time for our allocated 2pm slot and were able to meander through some of the gardens, past what seemed to be new digs – perhaps more of the original village?

Entrance into the Palaces is through the Mexuar….

….initially an antechamber whilst awaiting audience, but later converted to a chapel. Right from the start you get an idea of what is to come – colourful mosaic tiles……

….. stunning carved and stuccoed arches and walls……

…… and amazing ceilings.

The antechamber/chapel also contains this tile plaque…

PLVS VLTRE [or Plus Ultra] meaning “Further Beyond”. In Greek mythology these words were carved on the Pillars of Hercules marking off the west entrance to the Mediterranean and the edge of the known world. The words have inspired many travellers to seek out the unknown and in C16 were adopted, by the future King of Spain/Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V, as a personal motto.

From the Mexuar you pass into the Patio del Cuarto Dorado – a forecourt to the main palace with two symmetrical doors.

Those visitors hoping to see the emir who were ushered through the right hand door were disappointed. It leads back outside! The left hand one passes through a dog-leg passage….

……into another patio.

There are numerous passages and corridors throughout the palaces which were designed to keep the interior rooms private and/or to provide views to the outside and allow light to get in.

Obviously we must have passed muster as we made it through the dog-leg and into the Patio de los Arrayanes.

This “Court of the Myrtles” was the centre of a C14 palace built for Emir Yusuf I and there are several doorways….

…..leading to rooms….

……which look out onto the rectangular pool.

Traces of cobalt paint cling to the “muqarnas” [honeycomb vaulting].

Yusuf’s visitors would have been presented to him in the elaborate Salón de los Embasajores….

…..crowned by its marvellously domed parquetry ceiling which is made up of more than 8,000 cedar pieces creating a star pattern – an intricate representation of the seven heavens.

Next is Patio de los Leones…

….the restored mid C14 courtyard built by Mohammed V. However, the centrepiece which channeled water through the mouths of 12 marble lions has been in the palaces since C11. Incredible.

The proportions, symmetry and exterior stucco work in this patio are examples of the artistic heights to which Granada’s emirate’s architects and craftsmen reached.

The rooms surrounding the patio are equally amazing.

The eye catching tiles on the walls of the Sala de los Abencerrajes….

…are outdone by one of the most spectacular ceilings I have seen and this photo does not do it justice.

Even more jaw dropping muquanas covered the corniches, walls and ceiling in the Sala de Dos Hermanas…..

The photograph of the underside of the arch doesn’t adequately show their breadth but above were corridors which were used mainly by women to peer down from above, without being seen, through the elaborately carved wood screens.

It is suggested that perhaps others, involved in palace intrigue, also found these screens useful!

If that wasn’t enough, there is also some spectacular carved calligraphy running around the room at eye level …

….  a poem praising Mohammad V for his victory in Algeciras in 1368…..

In another, smaller, room we saw evidence of where Carlos V had added a lower ceiling….

… and finally we emerged into rooms built specifically for Carlos which were so dull in comparison that I forgot to take any photos except of this plaque…

…which commemorates a short stay in them by Washington Irving in 1829 which prompted his book “Tales of the Alhambra”.

That last passageway took us past the domed roofs of the baths which were accessed from the patio on the floor below. We weren’t allowed to enter, but you could get an impression of how the carved holes created muted light.

Here we exited the Palacios Nazaríes and emerged into an area of terraced gardens created in early C20.










Looking back across the reflecting pool the oldest surviving palace of the Alhambra can be seen, built by Mohammed III between 1302 and 1309.

From these gardens we looked up at the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra.

We had passed the opposite side of it when we first arrived….

…. and its prominent elevated position means it can be seen from much of the wider Alhambra grounds and buildings.

Late afternoon shadows over the church, seen from the Generalife

After some reviving refreshment in the gardens we walked down to the west end of the grounds, to the Alcazaba – the original village…..

……ramparts and towers. The Torre de la Vela [watchtower]….

…has a narrow staircase which leads to the top terrace from where you can better see the outline of the houses in the village.

You may remember that I included a similar view looking SE across to the Sierra Nevada in my previous post. This time, looking North and West you see the city with the Albayzín district at the right hand side.

Looking back at the Palaces it is hard to believe that such splendour is hidden behind these plain walls.

Clashing dramatically with the Muslim palaces, the large building on the right is the Palace of Carlos V. It is an imposing building…

with its lion and eagle embellishments…










….. in which neither Carlos, nor as far as I can make out anybody else, ever actually lived in. He commissioned it in 1526 and building commenced in 1533 overseen by the designer, Pedro Machuca, a Toledo architect who studied under Michaelangelo. Pedro died in 1550, then his son, Luis, took over and developed the circular courtyard.

Carlos died in 1558 before any roofs were added. Work continued until 1568 when the building was abandoned for 15 years following the Moors rebellion. In 1619 the construction of the high colonnade of the courtyard was completed….

……but it was definitively abandoned in 1637, leaving the roof still unfinished. It remained in that state until Leopoldo Torres Balbas, a renowned restoration architect from Madrid, devised a plan to recover it in 1923. It was Balbas who also did much of the work in the Patio de los Leones inside the Palacios Nazaríes.

Our final port of call was the Generalife, but on our way to it we passed the small museum of Angel Barrios.

For part of C19 the building was apparently the home of the guitarist Antonio Barrios, father of musician and composer, Angel, who donated it to the Alhambra as a museum. The building contains the baths built for the Mosque of the Alhambra which was on the nearby site now occupied by the above mentioned church of Santa Maria.

The steam bath [Hammam] is a most characteristic part of Islamic culture and this kind of building is often found near, or in, a mosque. As well as being for worshipers to undertake major purifying ablutions, they were also places to meet and socialise.

The Generalife comes from the Arabic “jinan al-‘arif” [the overseer’s gardens] and the area lived up to its name. The area was full of garden, patio, pool and fountain and views over the city and Alhambra….






















……and a lovely setting for the summer palace which sits at its north end.

In the second courtyard the trunk of a 700 year old Cyprus tree remains…

… with this plaque beneath.

“Legend has it that this Cypress of the Sultana witnessed the affair of an Abencerraje knight and the wife of Boabdil”. You might remember that one of the ornate rooms was the Sala de Abencerrajes, a family who supported the young Boabdil in a power struggle between him and his father. The story is that the lovers met under the tree’s shade in the moonlight and were denounced to the last Arab king of Granada. The rage of Boabdil was so great that in retaliation for this, he ordered the beheading of several knights of the noble Muslim Abencerrajes tribe. According to legend, even today the iron rust stains at the bottom of the fountain of the Sala de los Abencerrajes contain the blood that was shed in revenge. Alternatively this could have been made up by romantic C18 travellers, maybe even Washington Irving.

It seems Carlos V had to make his mark on these grounds too…..

Now partly hidden, the lion once guarded the steps down to the final garden and small “Casa de los Amigos” – a very fitting end to a brilliant day at the Alhambra.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/01/24/the-alhambra/

Jan 21

Christmas and New Year 2017 – Valencia, Cartagena and Granada

Well, if you don’t like seeing any photographs of friends having fun together then this blog post might not be for you! There are some cultural bits as well but, as it’s all about Christmas and New Year in Valencia, Cartagena and Granada then, of course, there has to be fun and frolics.

We were delighted to be invited to spend Christmas with “Coriander” and “Destination Anywhere” in Cartagena but before we went there we had a couple of Christmassy things to do in Valencia.

Firstly, on 22nd December, there was the circus…

Circo Raluy was created more than one hundred years ago by Luis Raluy Iglesias, an acrobat, circus man and collector of old wagons – which are still in use today.

The ticket office

His legacy passed to his eldest son, also Luis, and then to his grandsons Luis and Carlos who separately head up two travelling circuses.

Circus entrance

In Valencia we saw Luis, [the Pierrot]…

…. who, with his wife, daughters and some of the wider Raluy family, are currently touring Catalonia following the route of the legendary Cirque Raluy. Prior to the performance we went into the “bar”….

…and there found posters and photographs of the circus performing all over the world – including in the UK where they apparently had a somersaulting car. Unfortunately we didn’t get to witness that spectacular event but really enjoyed being in a traditional “Big Top”…..

….. seeing historic memorabilia….

….and watching the customary tightrope walkers, flyers, balancing acts etc. Whilst most of these were the fourth and fifth generation family members they also had a visiting celebrity act….

…Iya Traoré, a Guinean football player and freestyler. If you want to see some of his skills just type in his name and You Tube videos will come up.

Circo Raluy is just one of three circuses that performed in Valencia over the Christmas period. It is obviously a very popular thing, as is the Fair…..

….which arrived at the end of November and stays until the end of January. It isn’t Mike’s cup of tea so we haven’t been – even though it is near the marina, opposite the waterfront.

Secondly, on 23rd Dec we went to the Botanic Gardens auditorium for a jazz evening. Rather like “The Jam Factory” [who Mike and James used to play with] it was quite a family affair and at times there was perhaps more enthusiasm than talent. But it was entertaining and well attended and even though it didn’t start until 9.30pm there was still time for a drink afterwards in the old town. It was an amazingly still, balmy night and walking back to the boat from the bus stop we got a great view of one of the party venues across the marina inner basin channel.

Whilst Spain celebrates the Christmas period with events, there are no overpowering displays. Decorations are minimalist and tasteful in shopping precincts….














….and on houses.

Santa hats in Granada

Balcony lights in Cartagena – they are there!











Perhaps the most “gaudy” things we saw were these colourful balloons which were popular on Christmas Eve.

It was mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve was when we arrived in Cartagena and we soon settled in aboard “Coriander”. Malc and Nikki were out in town with Barbara [Nikki’s mum] so missed out on the first round of wine and mince pies….

On board Coriander with Steve and Gill

…but they had ample chance to catch up later. We missed some of the festivities which apparently started around noon – when all the bars put tables out into the streets and squares – but there was still sufficient activity in the evening to keep us entertained and we enjoyed a bar crawl through the town.

Cartagena is a popular over wintering marina with many liveaboards [unlike Valencia where we are the only ones!] and a committee was formed – with Gill and Nikki being two of the members – and a brilliant Christmas Day BBQ was arranged.

The Three Wise Men!!!

Piled plates for all

It was especially good to meet up once again with friends Dorothy and Duncan [“Hunda”] …..

….. who we first met in Isla Mujeres in 2013, but haven’t seen since. They hadn’t changed one bit and the catch up continued during an Indian meal for nine a couple of nights later.

Cartagena is full of history and with the marina being right on the edge of town we were easily able to access some of its sights. Steve and Gill took us on a whistle-stop tour……

Pavement pillars and mosaics…

“Star of the seas help your children”

The Roman Theatre

The Town Hall

…. ending in the Plaza de los Héroes de Cavite.

We were told that the plaza and statue were to commemorate slavery. The Spanish word for slavery is actually “esclavitud”, which is close – however, when I looked up “Cavite” I found it was a town in the Philippines which was, at one time, colonised by the Spanish and to where galleons travelled from Spain via Acapulco. There is a strong possibility that Filipinos from Cavite were enslaved and they are the heroes? I guess I will never know.

Just off this square is the Museo Nacional de Arqueología Subacuática where we spent part of the afternoon. It was another of those museums where some bits of it had strange coloured lighting, which may be to preserve the exhibits or, in this case being blue, to give visitors the impression of being underwater.

Remains of a Phoenician ship

Ceramics moved from the water should be kept in similar conditions

Anchor from a C18 Spanish Frigate

It was all quite interesting and I was particularly taken by this sign….

…..and will try to remember that “trinca’s” are to be avoided!

Gill and Steve left the museum before us and returned to the boat before it rained. We also missed the shower – as Mike took rather longer than everyone else to take in the museums exhibits – and on leaving we were treated to some quite startling light/sky….

….and to a double rainbow over the marina.

Cartagena is in the province of Murcia and we all visited its capital, Murcia City on the day after Boxing Day [not that Spain has Boxing Day, but you know what I mean].

Built in 1394, Murcia’s cathedral, like many others in Spain, stands on the site of a mosque.

Once again we were stunned by its interior…..

The Altar

The Choir

…. the highlight being the “Capilla de los Vélez” …..

……. .with its filigree looking almost like icing.

Across the Plaza in the Bishop’s Palace….

…with its magnificent hammered, moulded and embossed copper doors….

….is where we saw the Murcia version of the “Belén”.

Belén is the Spanish name for Bethlehem and the elaborate nativity scenes include “normal life” as well as the manger and the three kings/wise men.

Thursday 28th Dec was a day of eating and drinking. For lunch we opted for a Menú del Día at Restaurante Mares Bravas at Cala Cortina…..

……..a five minute car ride from the marina, but feeling like miles away from the city.

Then in the evening it was Tapas time. Our favourite bar was “La Uva Jumillana”…

Mike getting a round in

Colourful floor….

and, some would say, even more “colourful” photos!

… though we also really enjoyed Mr. Witt’s – more about that later.

Having hired a car and travelled down to Cartagena, Mike and I also wanted to visit Granada – approx. 300km [180miles] west. Unfortunately it wasn’t good timing for Nikki and Malc to join us but we were really pleased that Steve and Gill decided to come along too.

The Tapas sampling continued….

In the Central Market…

Up market this time!

…and what is so amazing about Granada is that it is possible to eat enough, with the tapa included with every drink, not to actually have to buy any extra food.


…. glorious ham









Two fabulous evenings, with our first glimpse of the Alhambra as we walked down from our accommodation on night one.

We stayed in the Albaicín neighbourhood…

…..with its maze of narrow streets and passages dating back to the Moorish Nasrid Kingdom…..

…. and also had a lovely view over to the Sierra Nevada.

Even better views…

….were to be had from the Alhambra….

…. and not only of the Sierra Nevada but also of Granada Cathedral….

….and the town itself spread out before us.

The early morning mist had lifted, in the main, but just enough remained to create a quite beautiful scene.

You are probably now expecting a series of photographs and some information about the Alhambra itself. Well, I am sorry to disappoint, but you are going to have to wait for the next post. I just couldn’t decide what photos to leave out, therefore concluding that there were so many I wanted to include that it warranted a post of its own.

I do feel, however, that as the following two aren’t about the Palace itself I can include them here. These trees grow in one of the gardens…

Can you guess what they are? If so, you are better than me. I had to look it up. They are Caqui fruit – which you might know better as the Persimmon.

OK, so if I had put this picture first some of you might have known!

Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to look around the rest of Granada but did see the outside of the cathedral, by night, and just before going up to the Alhambra we passed by the tourist office which is housed in the Ayuntamiento [town hall] with this rather amazing statue on top.

It was apparently conceived as “a symbol of happiness, representing the achievement of a moment of triumph, of perfect, yet fleeting, balance – a moment you are only aware of when it has already gone by and the blindfold covering your eyes falls”.

So, it was now New Year’s Eve and time to return to Cartagena for a fabulous evening starting with a wonderful meal cooked for us by Nikki.

On board “Destination Anywhere”

We then wandered up to the town hall square for the midnight bells. The tradition in Spain is that as each of the twelve “bongs” are heard you have to eat a grape.

Steve checking he has twelve grapes!

If you manage to do this within the twelve seconds then you will have good luck for the year. Well, we managed to eat our grapes but, I have to admit, I didn’t do one grape per bong. As the first one sounded I just started stuffing them in and swallowing as quickly as possible. Hope that’s OK as far as luck goes!

You might have noticed in the above photo that there weren’t many people around. That’s because most people celebrate at home with a meal, including the grape ceremony, and then come out. So, on NYE the bars don’t open until 00.30.

I said you would hear more about Mr. Witts – because that was our bar of choice to bring in the New Year. We arrived not long after the bar opened…

….but it got a lot more crowded later. I have to thank Malc for these photos. Mine were rubbish. I’ll put it down to the phone [yes, even though I have two cameras I chose to leave them on the boat] but some of you might think it was more to do with the alcohol of which there was plenty.

Don’t be fooled by those coffees!!

Finally, although this post is now a little late it still seems fitting to wish all readers a Very Happy 2018.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/01/21/christmas-and-new-year-2017-valencia-cartagena-and-granada/

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