Cordoba – 2/1/2019

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”

Ryszard Kapuściński


Between 987 and 1236, the Mezquita in Cordoba was considered the grandest and most important mosque in the Islamic Kingdom.  When the Christians reclaimed Cordoba they converted the mosque into a church.  Essentially the site is a mosque with a cathedral in the middle of it and the best place to see this is from the Roman Bridge where you can clearly see the church surrounded  by rectangular shaped buildings.

Abd ar-Rahman I purchased part of a Visgothic church and construction of the mosque began and was used for Friday prayers by the muslim community, later purchasing the rest of the church to complete the mosque.  The mosque is actually huge and the initial prayer hall was expanded on a further 3 times from its initial construction.  The red and white geometric shaped arches are beautiful and they vary in shape, height and width.

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The most exquisite and intricately decorated area in the mosque is the mirah and maksura, part of the extention carried out by Al-Hakim II.  Al-Hakim wanted a mosaic as splendid as that in the Damascus mosque and asked the Byzantium emperor for a mosaicist to do the work.  The emperor not only sent a mosaicist but also 1600 kg of gold mosaic cubes, which gives the mibrab its glittering appearance.  

The mihrab was created into a scallop shell, a symbol of the Qurun, from a single block of marble.  The marble was then covered with geometrical patterns, gold cubes and inscriptions from the Quran.

P1090630 (800x600)It is quite weird to be wandering around the arches in the mosque and find yourself stumbling into arranged pews that form the cathedral.  The cathedral like most in Spain is both ornately and lavishly decorated quite the opposite to the simple style of the mosque.

Both the entrance and exit to the Mosque is through the Patio de los Naranjos, which as you can imagine is filled with orange trees.  Also in the corner of the patio is the Bell Tower .(Torre Campanario) The Bell tower stands at 54 meters high and apparently offers panoramic views over the Mezquita buildings.  Entrance to the bell tower is restricted to only 20 people every 30 minutes.  The bell tower was originally a minaret that was constructed between 951 – 952 when the mosque was being expanded.  The tower was added in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Christians.

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When you exit the Mezquite buildings back on to the street you can see the exterior has a series of doors, made of some type of metal and are ornately decorated.  It appears that they are from different time periods as some of the doors are more detailed than others.  Very interesting to look at.

Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge or Puente Romano was built  Pompey the Great during the 1st century BC, however it received extensive renovations by the Moors during their occupation of the city during the 10th century.  P1090715 (800x589)The bridge is supported by 16 arches and spans the width of the Rio Guadalquivir. Half way along the bridge is a statue of San Rafael.

From one end of the bridge you have a view of the Torre de Calahorra, which dates from the 11th century and from the other end of the bridge you have spectacular views over the Mosque-Cathedral, the river, the Gate of the Bridge and the Roman Bridge of Cordoba.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed walking along the bridge and around Cordoba.

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Alcazar da los Reyes Cristianos

The Alcazar was constructed on the remains of an existing Moorish fort, under orders of King Alfonso XI, in 1328.  The castle was built in Mudejar style and so has retained a Moorish feel.  While some of the defensive walls and towers are from the Moorish era, the tower was built by the Christian monarchs.  The Alcazar’s structure with halls and courtyards filled with plants is very Andalusian style.

The highlight of the interior of the castle is definitely the mosaics hall which contains Roman mosaics dating from the 2nd and 3rd century and are really amazing.  The mosaics were discovered in 1959 below Corredera Square.

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We have only been in Andalusia for two days, but we are amazed at the number of orange trees that are growing everywhere; in the streets, plazas, gardens, on the islands between traffic and a huge number in the Alcazar. 

The gardens throughout the alcazar are beautiful, the fountains were running, the trees were overflowing with oranges, mandarins and lemons and there were even some roses still in bloom.  Of course there are also statues decorating the gardens, including one of Isabel and Ferdinand with Christopher Columbus. 

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The alcazar had far fewer tourists visiting than at the Mezquita-Cathedral and is a pleasant way to fill a couple of hours on a nice sunny day.

Tourist Information


Opening Hours:

  • November – February │ Monday to Saturday │ 8.30 am -6 pm
  • November – February │ Sundays and religious feasts │ 8.30 am -11.30 am/ 3 pm – 6 pm
  • March – October │ Monday to Saturday │ 10 am -19.00 * 
  • March – October │ Sundays and religious feasts │ 8.30 am -11.30 am/ 3 pm – 7 pm


  • Adult: €10 │ Children aged 10 – 14 years, disabled: €5 │ Children under 10, Cordoba residents, Andalusian people over 65: free
  • Audio guide: €4
  • Free explanatory map and leaflet.

Alcazar da los Reyes Cristianos

Opening Hours:

  • Winter: 16th September to 15th June │ Tuesday – Friday: 8.30 am – 8.45 pm │ Saturday: 8.30 am – 4.30 pm │ Sunday: 8.30 am – 2.30 pm
  • Summer: 16th June to 15th September │ Tuesday – Saturday: 8.30 am – 3 pm │ Sunday: 8.30 am – 2.30 pm
  • Closed on Monday


  • Adult: €5 │ Children and Under 14s: Free

Official site:

How the Andalusian Horse Dances – Show – 3/1/2019

Today instead of a castle, palace or cathedral, we decided to visit Jerez and attend it’s unique show, “How the Andalusian Horses Dance”.  Growing up we had horses, mine was a part Arabian and I enjoyed dressage, while my sister had a part Andalusian horse.  So while this excursion was my husband’s idea, watching it was like stepping back in time, for me, but obviously not to anywhere near the same degree of technicality.

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Prior to the show, which I recommend arriving by 11 am in order to get a nearby carpark, you can go to the outdoor arena and watch the horses being lunged and ridden and you are allowed to take photos.

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The show is described as an equestrian ballet accompanied by Spanish music and 18th century styled costumes and lasts for 90 minutes with a 10 minute interval. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos or videos during the show and it is strictly enforced. 

The show sequence begins with Doma Vaquera (country-style riding) and traditional equestrian chores. This demonstrates the skills used by traditional cattle herdmen, with the horseman riding one handed around the arena, demonstrating his change of rhythm and performing pirouettes.

This is followed by advanced dressage accompanied by music.  The next section involves carriage driving and while the introduction was in Spanish, I think it was comparing Spanish to English carriage driving.  The next section, which I think is probably the most exciting, judging by my husband and kid’s interest level involved a number of horsement and their horses carrying out a range of dressage exercises on long reins like levades, caprioles, courbettes and piaffe. 

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The show ends with the carousel, where a group of horses and riders perform dressage exercises in unison and sequence to music.  I have to say the music and movements did remind me of a carousel.

We enjoyed the horse show, but if you had young children or a partner not at all interested in horses, I think the thrill of sitting still for 90 minutes would wear off very quickly.  Coming from a background of dressage, I could certainly appreciate the amount of training that has gone into every piece of the performance and as a teenager that would have been an ultimate dream job, so if you are or have been into horses I would highly recommend it.

Tourist Information:

Information on the Show: How the Andalusian Horse Dances:

Opening Times: (see link for full details) Show commences at 12 pm.

  • January/February – show is only on a Thursday and one Saturday of the month
  • March – July – Show is on Tuesday and Thursday and one to two Saturdays a month
  • August – October – Show is on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and one Saturday a month
  • November – December – Most Tuesdays and Thursdays and one Saturday a mont


  • Ticket prices vary according to the position and row you choose.  An adult starts at €21 and goes to €30 for the royal seating area.  Likewise a discounted seat (children, over 65) starts at €13 and goes up to €19 (except the royal seating)
  • The royal seating area and includes a backstage pass is €100 per person


There is parking behind the Equestrian center.

Setenil de las Bodegas – 5/1/2019

On our drive from Posadas to our new accommodation in Olvera, we had a slight detour to visit Setenil de las Bodegas.  Unable to find a car-park in Setenil, as it was a Saturday and we didn’t arrive until 1 pm, we parked in the neighbouring village and walked down.

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A troglodyte dwelling in front of where we parked

Setenil de las Bodegas is one of Andalusia’s troglodyte or cave dwellings villages with about 3 000 residents.  These caves have been enclosed and give the appearance that they support the rock, unlike other troglodyte villages where the caves have either been extended or have extruding chimneys.  

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History of Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil is first mentioned in texts around the time of the Phoenicians, however, as the nearby Cueva de la Pileta caves with the cro-magnon drawings dates back 25 000 years, it is likely that Setenil has been around thousands of years.  

Setenil was initially used as a warehouse to store goods that were traded through out the Roman Empire until its fall in 496 AD when the warehouses were converted into homes and the town was largely ignored. After the Christians fought the Moors for 15 days at the nearby castle, eventually defeating and removing them, Setenil developed as an agricultural base growing almonds, wine and olives.  Although wine grops were wiped out in 1860s due to insects there remain roof top gardens growing both olives and almonds.

Today most of the Cave dwellings in Setenil house shops, bars and restaurants, although a few remain as homes.  In fact where we parked our car in the next village there were two houses in front of the park that existed as homes.

Walking around Setenil, the town still had a lot of their Christmas decorations up and I was quite impressed with the ingenuity of the house below.  I love the recycled reindeers made of water bottles, oil bottle and yogurt containers for decorations around its neck.

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The landscape in Andalusia is beautiful.  I particularly loved the drive from Setenil to Olvera.  The town of Olvera is gorgeous with its church and castle set on two high points and the white homes below

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p1100204 (800x555)We decided eat out tonight, although the kids opted to stay home and eat left over soup.  The restaurant sits in the main plaza, in the shadow of both the cathedral and castle.  We enjoyed a delicious meal of bull tail stew, followed by dessert, the kids missed out.  

As we were leaving the parade through the main street of town for the Three Kings started.  We joined the crowds and watched as tractors pulled trailers of adults and children dressed as kings and angels who threw candy at all the excited spectators and marching bands and dancers filled the street.  It was a fun experience and I wish we had of made the kids come, but we did collect some candy for them.

Zahara de la Sierra – 6/1/2019

So many pueblo blanco villages and only three days to see them in.  We have picked just a few villages to see and today we headed off just before lunch to explore Zahara de la Sierra.

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  • Zahara de la Sierra is located in the heart of the Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema, at the foothills of the Sierra del Jaral and on the shore of the Zahara-El Gastor Reservoir.  This little village of approximately 1 400 residents is part of the Route of the White Villages. The towns livelihood is based on agriculture, rural tourism and adventure.  For those interested in adventure it offers; hiking, climbing, spelunking, kayaking, biking, horse riding or 4 x 4.
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The town is believed to date back to the Ancient times, however it became important during the Middle Ages as an essential Muslim settlement.  The village was conquered by the Christians during the process of reconquistion of the Kingdom of Grenada.  It is now part of the tourist trail of white pueblo villages.

There is limited car parking in the town and we were fortunate to find one at the top of the town, with a beautiful view overlooking the reservoir.

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It had been my plan to walk up to the ruined castle, unfortunately nobody else was keen and then we found a little restaurant on our way to the town square with a great view, so we stopped for our three course lunch including drinks instead. 

p1100308 (800x521) The wine was just for the photos, the glasses of coke and 7up was their drinks

We did have a wander around the beautiful town after lunch before continuing on our journey to Grazalema.

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Grazalema, like Zahara de la Sierra, is also located in the Sierra de Grazalema Nature Park and also on the route of the White Villages.  Grazalema has the highest annual rainfall in Spain and behind the village is the Big Rock, where the Guadalete River originates.

Unfortunately our parking luck ran out and we were unable to find a park in the town.  We did however stop at a viewpoint, where we were able to get a photo, despite facing directly into the sun.

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Ronda and Olvera – 7/1/2019


I will admit it was a struggle to get moving this morning, as it was only just light and cold outside, but eventually we made it to Ronda, one of the most visited Pueblo Villages in Spain.

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The Puente Nuevo bridge drops a staggering 100 meters to the gorge floor and its iconic image symbolises not only Ronda, but also Spain. Although the bridge is referred to as the ‘new bridge,’ it was actually completed in 1793, making it the newest and largest of the three bridges that span the El Tajo Gorge. 

King Phillip V commissioned the first Puente Nuevo bridge to be constructed across the highest point of the gorge.  Unfortunately, its hasty construction over an 8 month period, resulted in a poorly built bridge which collapsed in 1741, killing around 50 people in the process. 

Following the collapse of the bridge, a second bridge was commissioned and its construction began in 1759, taking 34 years to complete.  The bridge spans 70 meters across the gorge and at it’s highest point it stretches 98 meters from the bottom of the ravine to the bridge.  Stone from the gorge was used to construct the bridge, enabling it to connect the modern town to the historic old Moorish town, La Cuidad. Certainly when you look at the bridge from the bottom of the gorge, it is truly an engineering feat to have created it. 

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Another interesting fact about the Puente Neuvo Bridge is that it contains a room or chamber in the central arch of the bridge, that at one point was used as a prison. During the civil war between 1936 – 1939, it is believed that both sides used the prison as a torture chamber and that some of the prisoners, met a rather unfortunate end plummeting to the bottom of the gorge, after having been thrown out of the window. The former prison can be visited and now houses an interpretation center on the bridge’s history and construction. 

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To reach one of the lookout points (miradors in Spanish) you pass through the Plaza de Toros, the second oldest bullfighting ring in Spain.  The Bullfighting Ring was constructed in 1785, with a two tiered seating area for spectators.  This area’s claim to fame is having created the present day rules for bullfighting, during the 18th and 19th century, by the Romero dynasty of matadors (Francisco, Juan, and Pedro).  On the pathways near the ring are the names and images of various famous bullfighters, including the Romero’s.

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After visiting the miradors at the top of the bridge we began the descent down to view the two older bridges, stopping at a couple of other miradors on the way.

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The next bridge as you head down the gorge is the Puente Viejo or the Old Bridge, makes sense. This bridge was constructed during the 16th century and is a single arch bridge. On one side of the bridge is the Felipe V Arch, which would have been the only entrance into the La Ciudad from that end in town. The small wrought iron balconies were an 18th century addition to this pedestrian only bridge. 

The final bridge is the Puente de San Miguel and is a Moorish bridge, although it was abandoned when the Puente Viejo was built.  This bridge is often referred to as the Roman Bridge, as it is believed to have built on the foundations of a previous Roman Bridge. After Max and I reached the third bridge, it was of course time to start the arduous climb back up. 

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While there are a lot of beautiful plazas and of course cathedrals, we opted to take the journey down the ancient roads to the bottom of the gorge in our little Peugeot, to really get an idea of what an amazing construction was done on the bridge. Going down the hill was okay, but trying to find somewhere to turn the car around on the single lane road that was not flat, was somewhat of a challenge for Andrew.

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After returning to our house in Olvera for lunch and a rest, the kids and I headed up our steep little street, dodging cars as we went to reach the castle. 

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Unfortunately as it was a public holiday, so the castle was not open, oh well, I’m sure the kids were pleased that they didn’t have to climb the steep staircase.  So we wandered around the cathedral and admired the castle from afar.

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Tourist Information:

Plaza de Torros

The day we visited was the Three Kings Holiday, so it was not possible to tour the bullfighting ring and you can view bullfighting but only during the summer season.


  • Individual € 7 │ Audio guide: €8.50

Opening Hours:

  • January – February: 10 am – 6 pm │ March: 10 am – 7 pm │ April to September: 10 am – 8 pm │ October: 10 am – 7 pm │ November to December: 10 am – 7 pm
  • Closed on bullfighting days in September and to celebrate the Festival of Pedro Romero

Official site:

Interpretation Centre of the New Bridge

A museum that shows us the history of the bridge that connects the city.


  • 2 euros for tourists.

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 6pm
  • Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays: 10am to 3pm

Gaudix and Sacromonte – 8/1/2019


We diverted on our route to Granada for a brief stop at Gaudix.  Spain has the largest 
European population of cave dwellers and one of those areas is in Gaudix.  In stark contrast to the natural backdrop of ocher-coloured, craggy cliffs, are the whitewashed chimneys of the troglodyte dwellings.  The dwellings are not made from natural cavities, but are in fact man made by digging the caves from the soft sandstone rocks.

Although Gaudix is where most tourists come to see these man-made cave dwellings, you can also see them from the main highway and also in many of the little towns surrounding Gaudix, but with a smaller concentration and less touristy.

Gaudix was originally a Roman town where silver was mined.  It’s importance rose during Arab reign as it provided a natural pass between the coast and the city of Granada and this is why the Moorish fortress was built to protect it.

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Although there was cave dwellers back during the Arab occupation, it was after the Christian reconquest that an influx of cave dwelling took place.  When the Moors lost power and feared persecution, they fled the cities and established their homes in dwellings like those found in Gaudix and the surrounding hills.

It is estimated that around 10 000 people are living in caves.  Why would you live in a cave you may ask?  There are actually some advantages, like a constant year round termperature of about 20 degrees, so while the temperature reaches 40 degrees outside in the summer and it regularly snows in the winter, the cave is the perfect temperature. Another advantage is the natural insulation provided by a cave making it a quiet home. 

The hills surrounding Gaudix are littered with older, abandoned caves, evidence of a simpler past, where the caves were little more than rooms with simple doors and windows and unpainted.

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Today most of the caves are modernised with electricity, running water and all the normal domestic appliances.  Some cave dwellings have been extended out from the caves adding extra rooms and patios and some are even fitted with marble floors. The further from the centre of town, the more isolated the homes are, with only the odd chimney, door or window which can be seen.

There are a few miradors around town that offer views over the chimney swept landscape, although some are a little tricky to find. To reach one of the miradors in the centre of the troglodyte homes, you have to walk past a few homes and we were invited in to have a look, be aware that there will be a charge for the opportunity.

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Some of the more elaborate dwellings below the mirador

After visiting Gaudix we had a bit of time before we could check into our apartment in Granada, so we decided to stick with the cave dwellings and visit Sacromonte as well.  I must say driving the very, very narrow, windy, uphill streets of Sacromonte, requires not only nerves of steel, but constant folding mirrors in and out and both the driver and passengers looking for oncoming traffic. Parking is a premium and I can’t image summer, but it does mean you don’t have to walk the steep streets.


Sacromonte is far more touristy and less authentic than Gaudix, but if you don’t have a car or the time to make a side trip, it will still give you an idea of cave living.  Sacromonte is the original home to the gypsies who settled in the area after the Christian reconquist in 1492. It is believed that in the 16th century, when the Jewish and Muslim populations were driven from Granada city, that they began to build their own individual and unique caves and mixed with the nomadic gypsies adopting some of their customs.  The area became the home for those marginalised, who couldn’t live within the city walls.

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The Cave House Museum of Sacromonte

The museum has used 11 caves to re-create what life was like living in the caves, but also to display the typical trades and crafts that were carried out by the gypsies. 

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There are caves that illustrate the layout of the kitchen, always at the front of the house, a bedroom and animal quarters.  What was interesting was that sometimes the animals would be kept in an adjoining room to those living in the house, with the purpose of sharing the animal’s warmth and their smell no doubt.  Apparently chickens and pigs were kept in separate caves, it was only the horses and donkeys that lived close to the owners.  If the owners where really lucky, they also had a room to store all their tools and equipment.

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Along with the caves illustrating the home-life of gypsies, there are also caves showing their crafts and trades.  Some of the crafts shown are basket weaving, pottery, weaving, metal work and information on Flamenco.

Tourist Information on the Cave House Museum of Sacromonte:


5 euros per person, groups of 10 or more people the price is reduced to 3 euros


  • Winter (October 15 to March 14): From 10 am to 6 pm (Monday to Sunday)
  • Summer (March 15 to October 14): From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Monday to Sunday)

Alhambra, Granada – 9/1/2019

Alhambra receives more than 2 1/2 million visitors a year and is Spain’s most popular attraction.  Alhambra was a complex which contained houses, schools, baths, palaces and gardens, all enclosed by impregnable walls and defensive towers.  Today  all that remains to visit at Alhambra is the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palace, Carlos V Palace and the General Life area. Alhambra’s construction was begun by the first Nasrid King, Mohammed ibn al-Ahmar in 1238.

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While I had pre-booked tickets a few days prior, I didn’t open the tickets until we were lined up for the Nasrid Palace for our allotted time, only to discover we had to go the ticket office to collect them.  Unfortunately the ticket office was a long walk, about 15 minutes up and down hill and we only just made our allotted time.  Turns out if you buy discounted tickets, ones for seniors or children, you have to take your passports to collect them.  What a pain!

Nasrid Palace

The Nasrid Palace is amazing, its filled with endless, intricately decorated halls, arches, patios with fountains, cupolas and windows, incorporating materials ranging from wood, plaster, tiles and marble.  Although it was started by the first Nasrid King, Mohammed I, it was primarily constructed by the kings Yusuf (1334 – 54) and his son, Mohammed (1354 – 91) 

Here are just a few of the beautiful doorways found throughout the Nasrid palace, with their exquisite decorations.

The attention to detail throughout the palace is amazing, especially on the ceilings, around the windows and on the walls.

The Nazrid Palace is divided into three sections, the first is the Mexuar which was used for business, government and palace administration.  The second was a series of state rooms and the final section was used exclusively by the King and his family and only his most trusted servants were allowed in, many of them eunuchs.  Each of these sections of the palace are further divided into halls, rooms and patios, it seems endless.

One of the first patios you come to in the Nasrid Palace is the Court of the Myrtles, although it has had many names throughout time.  Its current name is derived from the Myrtle bushes that surround the central pond.

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Another interesting room is the Hall of the Abencerrajes, named after the abencerrajes knights that are believed to have been beheaded there.  Some believe a rust stain at the bottom of a fountain, is in fact the blood from the knights.

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My favourite section was most definitely the patio of lions, which was part of the private section of the Sultan.  Its name is derived from the 12 marble lions supporting the fountain basin.  Some believe that the choice of 12 lions signifies either the 12 months or the signs of the zodiac.  At the base of the basin is a carved poem written by Ibn Zamrak, however you can’t get near the fountain, so you can’t really see it.  The patio was constructed by Mohammed V and its appearance resembles that of a Christian cloister.  The gallery is supported by 124 marble columns all finely decorated.

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One of the most beautiful ceilings was in a room off of the Patio of the Lions and is in a star shape, the detail is unbelievable.  

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You can see the ceiling from the inside above and how it appears on the outside below

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From the Patio of the Lions you enter the Hall of the Kings.  There are three domed ceilings which are covered in leather and have paintings on them.  The middle painting is of the first ten Nasrid Kings (except the usupers (wrongly kinged) Ismail I and Mohammed VI) and the other two are of hunting and romantic scenes.  It is believed that the paintings are Christian and from either the reign of Mohammed VII (1395-1410) or Yusuf III (1410-1424).

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The oldest part of Alhambra is the alcazaba, started by the first Nasrid king, Mohammed I,  who used it as a royal residence, as did Mohammed II, while the palace was being constructed. Mohammed I expanded the original castle adding ramparts and towers.  After the palace was constructed the castle was only used for military purposes. The alcazaba was taken over by the Christians after the reconquist, but was abandoned until the late 19th to early 20th century when restoration began.

Within the Alcazaba are a series of ruined buildings, that once provided the services for those who lived in the fortress. 

We left behind the Alcazaba to visit our final stop in Alhambra, the Generalife.  To reach the Generalife you have to follow a pathway through gardens, past towers and through another ticket checkpoint.  But it is a pleasant journey.

The Generalife

The Generalife is situated on the Cerro del Sol (Hill of the Sun) and it was the summer palace of the Nasrid kings.  The Generalife was originally located outside the walls of Alhambra and lacked direct communication with it.  The first set of gardens in the Generalife is called the Lower Gardens.

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In 1921 the state acquired the Generalife and it was decided to create a park that joined Alhambra to it.  The park was built in three consecutive phases.  The first stage created a a labyrinth style garden with arches of roses and cypress and incorporated fountains and was started in 1931.  Phase 2 was started in 1951 and created a Muslim garden with cypresses and a pergola with a view to Alhambra and the city.  The final stage in 1952 was an open air theater for festivals of music and dance.

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The next section of the gardens is called the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch, not a romantic sounding name is it?  This patios garden varied according to the current tastes in society, it currently has myrtle bushes, orange trees, cypresses and rosebuds.   On one side of the garden is 18 arches which lead to a lower garden, while the other side leads to the upper garden.

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The next section of garden, ‘The Court of the Sultana’s Cypress Tree’ has a very interesting story behind it.  The patio itself is pretty ordinary, a central pond with a stone fountain containing a face on one side of the bowl and is surrounded by myrtle hedge.  The court is named after old cypress trees that were on the verandah.  Legend has it that Boabdil’s wife used to meet a knight of the Abencerrajes family at one of the cypress trees.  The affair led to the death of 16 knights who had their throat’s slit in the Hall of the Abencerrajes in the Nasrid Palace.

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Leaving behind the Generalife you get your final glimpses of the towers of Alhambra.

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Tourist Information for Alhambra

TIPS: I highly recommend booking your tickets before going to Alhambra as they often sell out, particularly in Summer.  We visited in January and there wasn’t a lot of choices of time to choose from.  Check your tickets if you buy them online.  If you buy a discounted ticket for a child or over 65 you will need to go to the ticket office with a passport to prove the age.  Allow plenty of time to get to the Nasrid Palace as you are given an allotted time and if you aren’t within the hour of the time you won’t be allowed in.

Opening Hours:

Daytime general visit

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 8 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 6 pm

 Visit to the Gardens

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 8 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 6 pm

Evening visit to the Nasrid Palaces

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm to 9.30 pm

Evening visit to the Gardens and Palace of the Generalife

  • 1st March to 31st May │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • 1st September to 14th October │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • From 15th October to 14th November │ Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm to  9.30 pm
  • Closed: 25th December, 1st January


  • Daytime visit – Adults: €14 │ Children under 12: Free │ Children 12 – 15 years: €8 │ Senior citizens 65+ €9 │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €9 │ People with disabilities > 33%: €8
  • Evening visit to the Nasrid Palaces – Adults: €8 │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €6 │ Children under 12: Free
  • Evening visit to the Gardens – Adults: €5 │ Children under 12: Free │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €4
  • Visit the Gardens, the Alcazaba fortress and Generalife – Adults: €7 │ Children under 12: Free │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €6

Consuegra Windmills – 10/1/2019

Due to time constraints, (a plane to catch) we only had time for brief stop to view the exteriors of the windmills and castle of Consuegra. 

Both the windmills and Castle of Consuegra are located on the Calderico Hill, with views overlooking the La Mancha plain. The La Mancha area was the setting for one of the greatest literary works of all time in Miguel de Cervante’s novel, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha or in English, The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha.  

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Brief Synopsis of The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha

The novel involves the adventures of a noble, Alonso Quixano who after reading many romance novels on chivalry has decided to become a knight with the purpose of reviving chivalry and he assumes the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. The secondary character, a peasant, Sancho Panza, becomes Don Quixote’s faithful squire and joins him on his journey.  Don Quixote is tall and thin, wealthy and well educated, while Sancho is short and fat and an illiterate commoner, they are the perfect mismatched couple.  Throughout the novel Don Quixote give elaborate speeches on outdated ideals of knighthood and Sancho responds to those with popular proverbs and wit, thereby providing comic relief.

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An artistic statue of Don Quixote in front of one of the windmills

One such conversation between Sancho and Don Quixote, 

“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”

“It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”

This began Don Quixote’s battle with the windmills which he thought were giants.  The windmills in Consuegra are believed to have inspired Miguel de Cervante to write this famous scene in his novel.  The phrase, “tilting at windmills” comes from this scene and basically means battling a foe whether it is real or imagined, for pointless reasons. 


The Mills

Originally there were thirteen mills, today there are 12 restored ones, each named from Miguel de Cervante’s novel; Bolero, Mambrino, Sancho, Backpacks, Vista Alegre, Cardeño, Alcancía, Sparks, Caballero del Verde Gabán, Rucio, Espartero, Clavileño.   The Sancho Mill, has the original working mechanisms and is still used on special festivals. The mills, dating from the 16th century were used primarily to grind grain and were passed from father to son for many generations.  The mills were officially retired in the 1980s.

Two of the windmills, named ‘Espartero’ and ‘Rucio’ from Miguel’s novel

You can understand why they were in a good position if you visit, the wind was whipping through when we visited and it was freezing cold.

You can visit the windmills, one of them houses a gift shop while another is a small museum. There’s even a working mill so visitors can see how it works. 

Tourist Information:

Windmills of Consuegra

Opening Hours:

  • 9 am – 7 pm


  • General: €1.50
  • Reduced: €1
  • Children: free

Madrid Royal Palace and Mayor Plaza – 5/12/2018

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

Miriam Beard

Our first full day in Madrid and we set out to explore.  Max, Ava and I wandered around the Plaza Mayor while Andrew found somewhere to repair his watch band.  The plaza is very austere and was completed during 1620 during Felipe III reign.  The plaza has quite a history being the site of burning of heretics, the canonization of saints, executions of criminals, royal marriages and even bullfights. 

As its near Christmas time the plaza has stalls set up selling everything for Christmas from trees, holly, ornaments and nativity scenes.

I think the most interesting building in the Plaza is the gray spired building covered in murals.  Apparently the building is called Casa de la Panaderia, (bakery house) in honor of the bread shop which was once housed there.  The building is now a tourist office.


We continued down to the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard, similar to that held at Buckingham Palace.  The ceremony is only held on the first Wednesday of the month so we were fortunate to be able to see it.  The changing of the guard incorporates about 400 people, many of whom are part of the band.  Also involved in the ceremony are about 100 horses, some looked like Andalusian and others some form of draft horse.  It was a very grand and pompous event.

When the Palace re-opened at 2 pm we went on a guided tour of some of the 2 800 rooms in the Palace.  Having a guide was great and a lot of the hidden details you would never notice, like a table top covered in mosaic pieces so tiny you would never have known it was a mosaic or details about the chandeliers.

The palace was built in the early 18th century by Felipe V.  Apparently Felipe spent some of his childhood at Versailles while visiting his grandfather Louis XIV which inspired his design of the Palace. 

Apart from the entrance and the first couple of rooms, you are not allowed to take photographs, which is a shame because some of the rooms are so remarkably over the top opulent you want to capture them to share with others.  Some of the most spectacular rooms were in King Carlos III’s private apartments with their crystal chandeliers, stucco and painted ceilings, silk wallpaper and tapestries.

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The banquet hall which although the palace’s largest room it was originally three different rooms which have since been remodelled into one.  The table can seat up to 124 people, which takes up the entire room but can be adjusted to a much smaller size.  The current king uses this room when dignitaries visit.

During the tour we visited a room which houses five-stringed by Antonio Stradivari.  In order to keep the quality of these instruments they have to be played every two months and are often performed in concerts held at the palace.  Apparently one of Stradivari’s instruments sold for approximately $12 million dollars.

We did visit the Armería Real (Royal Armory), with historic suits of armor although by this stage everyone was getting tired so we did a cursory look.

On our way back to our apartment we stopped for a Spanish delicacy thick hot chocolate with churros.  I have to say it was very rich and filling I don’t we will be doing it often.

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Royal Palace Tourist Information

Opening Hours:

  • Winter hours: October to March │ 10 am – pm
  • Summer Hours: April to September │ 10 am – 8 pm
  • Closed: January 1st, 6th, May 1st, October 12th until 5 pm, December 24th from 3 pm, 25th, 31st from 3 pm


  • Adults – €10 │ Children aged 5 – 16 years, Students up to 25 years, people over 65 years – €5 │ Children under 5 years old – free

Duration of Visit:

  • Approximate time for visits without a guide to the halls – 45 minutes, the Royal armoury – 30 minutes


  • There are guides at the palace which charge €4 on top of the entrance fee to guide you through the palace and very worth doing.  I think our tour went for about an hour and half.
  • Alternatively you can get a google play guide download for your phone for your visit for $1.90 in 16 different languages.

Madrid – 6/12/2018

We had a very early start at about 3 am with lots of loud chatting on the street below, about an hour later there was even more people below and more noise.  By 5 am we gave up trying to sleep and Andrew googled if there was any special events today, turns out it was Spanish Constitution Day.

So what is Spanish Constitution Day?  It is a public holiday held on the 6th December and celebrates the Spanish people’s approval of the constitution in 1978.  After the death of Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco in 1975, a general election took place to convene a parliament whose purpose was to draft and approve the constitution.  The constitution was accepted by the Spanish people in a referendum held on the 6th of December and then proclaimed formally by King Juan Carlos on the 27th of December 1978.  The Constitution set out how the government would be run, its powers and the system that Spain would operate on.

We set off to continue our tour of Madrid beginning at the Basicilica de San Francisco el Grande only to discover it, like many other tourist attractions were closed for the holiday.  We did however get a great view of the Catedral de la Almudena, which we had visited the previous day.

Top and bottom left: Catedral de la Almudena; Bottom right: Basicilica de San Francisco el Grande

We continued walking back to the San Miguel Market, which we had visited briefly the day before and where the kids enjoyed strawberries and cream and Andrew some white anchovies.

After leaving the market we headed down to see the fountains, by now the crowds had grown considerably and was somewhat reminiscent of Oxford Street at Christmas time, something Max and Ava have never experienced.  In fact many streets were blocked off and there was a few small protest groups amongst the crowds.  We did pass one of the many sweet stores selling marzipan and saw this amazing building in the window.

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The first fountain was the Neptune Fountain which was commissioned by  King Charles III, in an effort to modernise the city and was constructed between 1780 and 1784.  Surrounding the fountain are many beautiful buildings many of which are now hotels.  Because of Constitution Day events there was a heavy police presence and you couldn’t get very close to the fountain.

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We wandered through the park, where the trees still have their autumn leaves and we are in winter now to reach the Cibeles Fountain.  The fountain is a symbolic monument of Spain and is named after Cybele, a Phyrgian goddess, who I’m guessing is represented as the female in the chariot.

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Cibeles Fountain with Linares Palace in the background

The Cibeles Fountain was constructed in 1782 and is surrounded by four beautiful buildings, the Buena vista Palace (the Army Headquarters), Linares Palace (the Casa de América cultural institution,), Palacio de Comunicaciones (which is now Madrid City Hall and can be seen in the photo below) and the Bank of Spain.

Bank of Spain and Palacio de Comunicaciones that surround the Cibeles Fountain.

I have to say the crowds did not thin and by evening it was packed and we were quite happy to retreat to our apartment after a late paella lunch.