Spain

The “In’s and Out’s” of Spain

I love decorated doorways, courtyards and windows.  For some reason I tend to take a lot of pictures of these things.   In the country of Spain I had a wealth of them to choose from.  In every city we toured and in every region of Spain everyone seemed to like flowers in their window boxes and doorways or entrance courtyards with intricate carvings or decorations.  My last video on Spain is therefore a retrospective of the many decorated windows and intricate doorways and entranceways I found during our time there.

Mostly what I wanted was to create something using music with a Spanish guitar as the main instrument.  While Flamenco may by the most famous dance associated with Spain to me it is the playing of a Spanish guitar that invokes movement and rhythm and that which sets my heart racing.  The song Pure Paradise performed by Armik therefore does this slide show justice.  Enjoy.

Florence Lince

about.me/florencelince

Let Me Introduce You to Troglodite City

The stories of our time in Spain continue to invade my writing list. It would be hard to live in a country and not walk away with a treasure trove of stories to write about. For me sometimes it is in the taking of the pictures that helps me to formulate and create my stories.

On the day we traveled to Seville and Cordoba we stopped first in a little town called Purullena. Purullena is known for two things. 1. It is known for its cave homes. Roughly half of the population of the town (about 2300 people) actually live in cave dwellings which explains why it is also called Troglodite City and 2. They make and sell a lot of pottery here.

The town of Purullena dates back to 1800 B.C. The cave dwellings appear to originate from the Arab occupation of the town. The Moors were in control of the town from the 9th century until 1489, when it was reconquered by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, they of Christopher Columbus fame.

Agriculture, pottery and tourism all contribute to the economy of the town which is known for its fertile soil and for growing peaches.  On this day however we were in pursuit of pottery.

The pottery in this region of Spain is world famous.  These large platters with the bright colors make great gifts.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The pottery in this region of Spain is world famous. These large platters with the bright colors make great gifts. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Patatas means potato and these would also make great hiding places for homemade cookies!  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Patatas means potato.  I think these would make a great place to hide homemade cookies from little fingers.  No child is going to want to open the lid of a potato jar!  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They made vases and plates and paella serving dishes.  Anything you can think of for the home they can make.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They make vases and plates and paella serving dishes. Anything you can think of for the home they can make. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This man posing with Mike made all of the ceramics we found in this store.  He has been making pottery for over 50 years.  His work is beautiful.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This man posing with Mike made all of the ceramics we found in this store. He has been making pottery for over 50 years.  When we told him how beautiful his pieces were he smiled for the camera.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

These are real working lamps.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

These are real working lamps. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

I love all of the bright colors on some of the pottery.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

I love all of the bright colors on some of the pottery. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

These plates and other ceramic works really make me think of Spain.  They can ship anywhere in the world.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

These plates and other ceramic works really make me think of Spain. They can ship anywhere in the world. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

Seville – Feel the Flamenco Dancers Dance

There are times when the simple saying of a city name elicits a response or an ah moment from people.  Speaking the name Seville has always brought to my mind music and Flamenco.  Long before we traveled to this city in Spain did I think I knew where the heart of Spanish dance came from.

One of the most majestic attractions in Seville is of course The Cathedral of Seville.  It is the first place most tourists are brought.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville has more to offer than just music and dance.  One of the most majestic attractions in Seville is The Cathedral of Seville. It is the first place most tourists are brought. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville has a population of 1.5 million people.  Is the fourth largest city in Spain.  The Seville harbor is the only river port in Spain.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville has a population of 1.5 million people. It is the fourth largest city in Spain. The Seville harbor is the only river port in Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was from Seville in 1519 that Ferdinand Magellan departed for the first circumnavigation of the Earth.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was from Seville in 1519 that Ferdinand Magellan departed for the first circumnavigation of the Earth. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville is approximately 2200 years old.  Its mythological leader is Hercules.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville is approximately 2200 years old. Its mythological leader is Hercules. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

From 1492 when Columbus landed in the New World to the late 16th century Seville was the only port where trade would take place between the Americas and Spain.  All merchants from around Europe had to come to Seville to send their goods to America.  This monopoly made Seville grow to almost a million people during that time.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

From 1492 when Columbus landed in the New World to the late 16th century Seville was the only port where trade would take place between the Americas and Spain. All merchants from around Europe had to come to Seville to send their goods to America. This monopoly made Seville grow to almost a million people during that time. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The first Auto de Fé took place in Seville on 6 February 1481, when six people were burned alive.  This was the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition.  It would last over 200 years.  This building is the Royal Tobacco Factory - it is the second largest building in all of Spain.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The first Auto de Fé took place in Seville on 6 February 1481, when six people were burned alive. This was the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition. It would last over 200 years. This building is the Palace of San Telmo – the seat of the Presidency of this part of Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

 

This is the Metropol Parasol: The World’s Largest Wooden.  It is found in the center of Seville.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Metropol Parasol: The World’s Largest Wooden structure.  It houses a museum and a farmers market. It is found in the center of Seville. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

In the 19th Century Seville unfortunately began expanding and in doing so demolished part of its ancient walls, and along with it its history.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In the 19th Century Seville unfortunately began expanding and in doing so demolished part of its ancient walls, and along with it its history. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Hidden behind many of the doors that line walkways are opulent and stunning open courtyards that lead into many of the homes in Seville.  During the month of May many of the doors are left open so that tourists can take pictures of what these open courtyards look like.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Hidden behind many of the doors that line walkways are opulent and stunning open courtyards that lead into many of the homes in Seville. During the month of May many of the doors are left open so that tourists can take pictures of what these open courtyards look like. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Flamenco dresses are worn by woman of all ages and are worn during Feria (festival) times.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Flamenco dresses are worn by woman of all ages and are worn during Feria (festival) times. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

During our day in Seville we rode the touristy hop-on hop-off bus.  The drive around Seville was only 90 minutes.  So much of old Seville has been demolished.  The tour mostly talked about what was located in a particular spot years ago.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

During our day in Seville we rode the touristy hop-on hop-off bus. The drive around Seville was only 90 minutes. So much of old Seville has been demolished. The tour mostly talked about what was located in a particular spot years ago. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

This is the Torre del Oro.  It was built as a watchtower.  Today it is a Naval Museum.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Torre del Oro. It was built as a watchtower. Today it is a Naval Museum. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Every major city in Spain has a bullring and Seville is no exception.  Many cities have begun to ban bullfights but learning to be a matador is still something many children still contemplate.  Bullfighting has a long history in Spain beginning as far back as 1726.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Every major city in Spain has a bullring and Seville is no exception. Many cities have begun to ban bullfights but learning to be a matador is  something many children still contemplate. Bullfighting has a long history in Spain beginning as far back as 1726. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville is a city where old architecture mixes with new high rises.  One must walk the streets of Seville to see the charms the city has to offer.  Seville is a very walker friendly city and treasures can be found on every street and around every corner.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Seville is a city where old architecture mixes with new high rises. One must walk the streets of Seville to see the charms the city has to offer. Seville is a very walker friendly city and treasures can be found on every street and around every corner. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The art of Flamenco in Spain has become a tourist trap spectacle.  We were asked if we wanted to pay outrageous sums to see a Flamenco show done by Gypsies in a cave in a remote location one night.  When a show is being produced for tourists it is no longer authentic and native and no longer holds any value for me.  It is sad that such a great dance legacy has been relegated to tourism trap status.

Flamenco is a learned skilled and not a simple dance routine.  Real Flamenco takes hours of training and skill to master.  When you see someone trained in the art of Flamenco you applaud because your heart is racing with each clack of their shoes on the floor and with every thundering tap of the music.  Great Flamenco reaches ones sole and applauding is the only way to show appreciation for that which elicits such emotion.  This is why I used the music I did when I created my video salute for Spain.  More than anything else the sound of Flamenco says Spain to me.

Ah, Seville…

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

The Rain in Spain…Is Mostly Dust and Comes From Africa

Living in Spain was not part of my bucket list.  It was my husband’s.  As so many of you reading will understand we sometimes do things for those we love that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.  Living in Spain was one of those things.

Mike had many cities and attractions on his list of must see places in Spain and we hit them all.  Number one on his list was seeing Sagrada Familia, the breathtaking and stunning cathedral begun by world renowned architect Anton Gaudi which is still being constructed over 133 years after work began.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike had many cities and attractions on his list of must see places in Spain and we hit them all. Number one on his list was seeing Sagrada Familia, the breathtaking and stunning cathedral begun by world renowned architect Anton Gaudi which is still being constructed over 133 years after work began. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

I therefore let Mike do all the research on Spain and make a list of the safest cities to live in; what area had a good infrastructure and a good transportation hub and mostly where would it be fun to live.  On a very short list of places he would be interested in living was the city of Torrevieja.

Torrevieja is located in south-eastern Spain directly on the Costa Blanca.  It is a seaside city with a population over 100,000 and at one time was a major salt producing region of Spain and a major fishing spot. Torrevieja is surrounded by two large natural saltwater lagoons that form the well-known “Salterns of Torrevieja”, which are considered to be the biggest in Europe and the second largest in the world.

The salt is extracted from the lagoons and piled high here.  It is then sent via conveyor belt to the ships waiting at the harbor.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The salt is extracted from the lagoons and piled high here. It is then sent via conveyor belt to the ships waiting at the harbor. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Many of the expats who live in Torrevieja come from the UK, Norway, Germany, Russia and Sweden.  Mike and I were the only Americans in our part of town.  In fact we were told that very few Americans have ever even been to this part of Spain.

The experience that stands out for me is that we were able to locate a pretty good place to live less than a five minute walk from the beach.  Mike and I are not beach people but we ended up buying a beach umbrella and sitting on the sand almost every day.  We would bring our sack lunches and then sit under our umbrella and read.  I like people watching and there was plenty of that to do there as well.

People watching is fun and here I got to do a lot of it.  The beach was a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

People watching is fun and here I got to do a lot of it. The beach was a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

What I struggled with in living in Spain was the constant dust that seemed to cover everything in the house.  I would sweep the whole house (we had no vacuum cleaner and all tile floors) and the dust would be back by nightfall.  I watched the women of Spain literally sweep daily and wash tile floors every other day in order to keep up with the dust.  After pulling out my hair over this I finally asked another woman what the heck was up.  She smiled indulgently and told me that the dust was coming up from the African continent and when it rained in Spain everything turns a rusty red color from the water mixing with the sand.  She said there was nothing I could do about it so I swept daily and moped every other day.

The most horrible part of living in Torrevieja was dealing with all the dogs and their owners who felt that the sidewalks were the perfect place for the dogs to do their business and if no one was looking they didn’t need to clean it up.  There were doggie poop piles everywhere and if you didn’t look down when you walked you could easily step into a little surprise that would ruin your day.   Towards the end of our stay the dog owners wanted to be allowed to bring their pets to the beach and a loud outcry ensued because everyone knew that no dog owner would pick up the shit on the beach any more than they picked it up on the city streets.

As a transportation hub for our other travels Torrevieja was perfect.  The weather was mostly mild and pleasant.  The shop owners were friendly and very accommodating.  Cost of living was in line with the rents we had paid in other countries in the EU and food costs were less than here in the US.  I didn’t realize then but those wonderful bags of Valencia oranges that I was buying for 1.5 Euros were like gold.  I was able to eat two oranges a day if I wanted because they were so cheap.  Here in the US these same oranges cost almost a $1 each.

This is known as the Torrevieja cake.  It is available from only one bakery in town.  The story on the box is quite nice and it makes an excellent gift.  We gave three of these away to new friends.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is known as the Torrevieja cake. It is available from only one bakery in town. The story on the box is quite nice and it makes an excellent gift. We gave three of these away to new friends. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Torrevieja, being a beach town, has lots and lots of seasonal apartment rentals.  The rental we were in is usually empty until May or so and then full throughout the summer and into September.  Because we landed in January we literally had our pick of the rentals available.  The rental had no forced air heat and no electric heater.  We most likely wouldn’t have run it anyway since the electricity was so expensive so we learned to live bundled up in layers.  It was still bone chillingly cold so I made a lot of vegetable soups and drank a lot of hot tea.

This is one of the most photographed monuments in all of Torrevieja.  It is called The Musicians Monument and the Monument to the Coralista.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is one of the most photographed monuments in all of Torrevieja. It is called The Musicians Monument and the Monument to the Coralista. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The friendliest people we met in Spain were all expats.  We met shop owners from Cuba, Portugal, Colombia, Argentina and made new friends with people from England.  No Spanish national made an effort to be friendly or get to know us.  We certainly didn’t hide in our apartment; we went out every day to use the internet and mostly we used the free service located in the local library.

Culinarily Spain really doesn’t have much to brag about in the way of food.  We ate Tapas a time or two and it is Spain’s version of bar food in the US.  Most of it was uninspired and tasteless.  We still don’t know what all the fuss is over.  Mike attempted to eat many versions of paella and never found one that he liked.

Spain has a lot of history, and it was from Spain that Columbus sailed west and by mistake landed in the New World.  However he bumped into us he found land and it forever changed Spain’s place in the world as a world power.  Spanish is spoken throughout North, Central and South America and is said to be spoken in half of the countries in the world.  That is some legacy.

In our six month stay we visited Cartagena, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, Pilar, Benidorm, Alicante, and Granada.  We know there were many more cities to see and explore but as is often the case no matter how much time you spend in a country you can’t see and do it all.  In past blog postings I have recounted stories of many of the places we visited during our stay.

Spain has now been checked off Mike’s bucket list.  Funny thing however, the more countries we check off the list the more we add to the list. We returned to the US to rest up and to get our travel mojo back.  In the short number of days we have been back in the US we are already talking about our next adventure.  I’m thinking Germany, then Norway, then Iceland.  Decisions…decisions.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

Who Needs Two Buck Chuck*?

On the shelves of our local grocery store here in Torrevieja there is one of the widest selections of wines we have seen thus far in our travels.  The prices are amazingly low.  You can get a bottle of wine for less than a $1. All of these wine bottles made me wonder more about Spain’s wine industry.

Don Simon is to Spain what Gallo is to the United States.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Don Simon is to Spain what Gallo is to the United States. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Spain has 2.9 million acres of land planted with grapes to produce wine.   Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation but it is the third largest producer of wine in Europe, behind France and Italy.  This is due to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil. The drought currently affecting Spain is also hampering wine production and articles appear almost daily about Spanish wine producers seeing record low yields. It will not be the first time in Spain’s history that drought or climate change has had an affect on wine production.

Spain reportedly has over 400 varieties of grapes but only 20 varieties of grapes are used for wine production.  In a country that has been producing wine since 4000 – 3000 BC the abundance of native varieties of grapes fostered an early start to viticulture.  Spanish wine under Roman times was widely exported and traded.  When the Moors conquered Spain in the 8th Century the Moorish rulers held an ambiguous stance on winemaking and even though it was not an accepted Muslim practice many caliphs owned vineyards and drank wine. In 1492 grape vines and wine were exported to the new Spanish Colony in the New World.  In the 19th Century a phylloxera epidemic hit European vineyards causing a shortage of wine.  The epidemic hit Spain last but the remedy of grafting American rootstock to the European vines had already been discovered and saved the wine industry.  During the Spanish Civil War and World War I and II wine production ground to a halt and many vineyards were neglected and wineries destroyed throughout Spain.  It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the Spanish wine industry recovered. Several large wineries were founded during this period and an international market was created for bulk wines.

The full bodied and high alcohol in most Spanish wines make them favored blending partners for the “weaker” wines of other countries. Many Spanish vineyards will be planted on higher elevations, with many vineyards located over 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level. These high altitudes allow the grapes to maintain acidity levels and coloring. Regions with lower altitude vineyards are suitable for producing grapes of high alcohol levels and low acidity.

One of the largest wine selections we have seen thus far in any country is here in Spain where the many Spanish wines can be enjoyed for very little money.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the largest wine selections we have seen thus far in any country is here in Spain where the many Spanish wines can be enjoyed for very little money. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

As of 2009, there were 79 quality wine areas across Spain.  For the vintage year to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year’s harvest. There are three accepted aging designations on Spanish wine labels.  They are: Crianza – red wines aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak. Reserva  – red wines aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. and Gran Reserva – wines in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak.

Faustino has been producing wines for over 150 years.  It is a moderately priced Spanish wine.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Faustino has been producing wines for over 150 years. It is a moderately priced Spanish wine. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

By the way, the favored oak used in fermentation is American oak which tends to bring with it a rich and nutty flavor. Cava, the most famous sparkling wine in the world after Champagne, makes its home near Barcelona. Spanish wine makers must be doing something right because in 2013 the number one wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 was a red Spanish wine from Rioja.  It was the first time in the history of the Top 100 that a wine from Spain has been the top wine of the year.  In wine circles this is like an Academy Award. Wine production is so important to the economy of Spain that in the Valencia region vintners have been awarded a 56.6 million euro grant to launch advertising campaigns abroad for 2015-2016.  The money can also be used to extend vineyards, buy new machinery, and equipment.  They will be targeting sales to the US, China and Mexico.  So far 130 projects have been earmarked to be funded. Spanish wine exports increased 39% last year alone with the EU receiving 71% of the exports.

Mike and I have done wine tastings in many countries.   Domestic wines are served here in every restaurant; the dining option of Tapas comes with your choice of beer or wine for the affordable price of 2.50 Euros.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike and I have done wine tastings in many countries. Domestic wines are served here in every restaurant; the dining option of Tapas comes with your choice of beer or wine for the affordable price of 2.50 Euros. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are many wine tours offered here in Spain. One of the fun experiences that a life of travel affords us comes when we are standing in a liquor store browsing the wine offerings.  Mike and I will count the many countries we have traveled too and remember fondly the wines that we sampled while in those countries.  While we won’t be able to find any Spanish wines for $1 on the shelves in the United States we know what the quality of the wines will be, so when we get homesick for any of these countries we open a bottle of wine and it helps us to feel less homesick.

Mateus is actually from Portugal and is one of Mike’s favorites.  It is sold here in Spain but is priced above $5 a bottle.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mateus is actually from Portugal and is one of Mike’s favorites. It is sold here in Spain but is priced above $5 a bottle. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

  *Two Buck Chuck is the nickname given to the In-House wine Charles Shaw sold through Trader Joe’s in the United States.  Trader Joe’s is the budget friendly half of the Aldi food empire based in Germany.  Trader Joe’s has an extensive selection of wines on offer from countries around the world.  

Royal Pomp and Circumstance

Perhaps it is because we are American’s that we notice things others might not.  We have been traveling through some countries hit pretty hard by the economic collapse.  Many of these countries also have monarchies which they are still financially supporting.  We have asked many residents in both Spain and the UK why they continue to pay for the monarchy even during these hard economic times.  We never get a straight answer as to why, the reaction can be more akin to, ‘well it’s just something that is done’ and ‘how cheeky of us American’s to ask such a question’.

Watching the two hour, low key, swearing in ceremony, military parade and reception for the new King of Spain, Felipe VI, and seeing the Palace Real decked out in its regal splendor, I sat and wondered, what does it cost to keep this pomp and circumstance going?  What does it cost for the guards, the cleaning staffs, the royal residences and the every day expenses to keep people in such opulence that literally are paid to wave their hands at the masses assembled on major events, cut ribbons at the opening of buildings, and who slam champagne bottles against the side of ships to christen them.  I’m still thinking; nice gig if you can get it.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The stunning Palace Real in Madrid, Spain. King Felipe VI and his young family greeted tens of thousands of people here after he was sworn in as the new King of Spain (June 19, 2014). © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are three types of monarchies; absolute (where the monarch has no or few legal restraints in state and political matters); constitutional (the monarch maintains a unique legal and ceremonial role, but exercises limited or no political power) and elective (there are three of these still in existence the most famous of which is the Papal appointment in Vatican City).

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City, Italy. Many people do not think of the Pope as a Monarch but he is an elected one. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Most countries used a monarch until the 19th Century.  In the 20th century after World War I and II many countries abolished them.  There are still 44 monarchies in the world today.  Only two of them are absolute (the Kings of Swaziland and Saudi Arabia).  The majority are ceremonial monarchies including those in Spain and the UK. A monarch’s powers and influence depends mostly on tradition, precedent, popular opinion, and law. Popular opinion is now at the forefront of both of the monarchies in the UK and Spain due to the misconduct of the generations that have come after the King or Queen.  This misconduct has caused many to question whether the role of the monarchy is worth the money being spent on them.  The calls for the monarchy to be abolished here in Spain increased dramatically in the last few years with the abuse of power by King Juan Carlos and also the business cheating scandal of the Infanta Cristina’s husband.  The UK has had its share of scandals over the years as well.

Juan Carlos I of Spain became King in 1975 after helping to free Spain and depose the fascist rule of Francisco Franco. King Juan Carlos made Spain a democracy with himself as constitutional monarch.  He enjoyed many years of high favorability ratings with the people of Spain.  The tarnish began to gather on the crown in 2012 when people discovered the king took a luxury elephant-hunting trip to Botswana as they struggled to find jobs in a recession.  When the king’s elder daughter Cristina was named a suspect in her husband’s allegedly corrupt business practices the resentment grew to a crescendo and talk began that perhaps it was time to abolish the Monarchy totally.  Demonstrations to end the Monarchy are gathering steam here in Spain as the economy worsens.  The King then decided, conveniently for health reasons, that it was time to abdicate his throne and hand it down to the younger, good-looking, vibrant Felipe whose approval rating is around 76 percent.  This is no coincidence.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Cathedral of Madrid where King Felipe VI married Queen Latizia in 2004. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Most monarchies are hereditary where the position is given in an established order of succession which means that the heir to the throne is known well in advance of becoming monarch to ensure a smooth succession.  Most Monarchies however were male heir to male heir no matter their place in the birth order.  In 1980, Sweden became the first European monarchy to declare equal primogeniture, meaning that the eldest child of the monarch, whether female or male, ascends to the throne.  Many countries have since followed suit such as the UK and this would have begun with any child produced from the union of William and Kate.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Loch Leven Castle, the last home of Mary Queen of Scots, Scotland. Her history reminds me that people will do anything to stay in power, and why not, being King or Queen comes with very big purse strings. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The British and Spanish Royal Families are financed mainly by public money. Both Governments meet the cost of the Sovereign’s official expenditure from public funds including the costs of the upkeep of the various royal residences, staffing, travel and state visits, public engagements, and official entertainment. In 2012 the Queen received £7.9 Million pounds ($12.64 Million) to perform her duties.  The King of Spain received 7.8 million Euros ($10.14 Million) for fiscal year 2014.  The costs to run the rest of the empire in the UK in 2009 were £41.5 million ($66.4 Million), which did not include the cost of security provided by the police and the Army. In the UK the Queen and her family feed off multiple revenue schemes.  In addition to her salary she feeds off the profits of the Duchy of Lancaster for expenses not borne by the Sovereign Grant. In 2010 they received £13 Million pounds ($20.8 Million) in income.  This has to beg the question; what expenses?  So far the Queen doesn’t pay for the upkeep of the palaces, the staff to keep the palaces running or for the security to keep her safe.  The money from the Duchy is in addition to her stipend as Queen.

The madness doesn’t stop here however because The Duchy of Cornwall is a property portfolio held in trust for the people of England but used to meet the expenses of the monarch’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales, who receives revenue from it to pay for his official activities and property. Also feeding off this fund are his wife (the incredibly disliked Camilla), his son Williams’ entire family and his second son Harry, who all have their official expenses paid from Duchy income. For the fiscal year 2011-12 the Duchy paid Charles £18.3 million ($29.28 Million). Seriously, is Charles worth 18.3 million pounds?

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Queen Isabella of Spain and King Ferdinand (she gave him the title but the rule was hers by birth); they were the Monarch’s who began the Spanish Inquisition to purge Spain of non-Catholics. Sometimes Monarch’s with power did not spare the people from madness. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Even the Duke of Edinburgh (the Queen’s husband) receives the princely sum of £359,000 per year from the Treasury ($574,400).  What exactly does he need to draw a salary for since all of his other expenses are covered?  Isn’t anyone adding up the real cost of the Monarchy to the people who are supporting it?

The Queen is reportedly worth $450 Million dollars based on personal real estate, jewelry and other assets.  The King of Spain has not had his personal wealth disclosed.  Neither sovereign is transparent in the filing of their income taxes so no one really knows how much either one is really worth.  Would the CEO of any major corporation be allowed such secrecy?

If one takes away the need to fund the Monarch’s and just let them exist on their own wealth the countries could put that money to better use by building a better medical environment for the poor, fund food and other lifestyle programs for the needy, perhaps even decrease the tax structure of the country as a whole; it is staggering to think of the programs that could be funded. It is hard as an outsider to see the poverty in the streets in these countries and then to see the pomp and opulence of the palaces that exist and wonder why would anyone continue to fund the lifestyle of those that can afford to live on their own while those that cannot feed their families beg for food or coin in the streets.  Or am I the only one who finds this absurd in this day and age?

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike with the Queen of Knin, Croatia. All Monarchs’ should be as wonderful and warm. This Monarchy disappeared millennia ago, as perhaps all Monarchies should. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Yes, the new Royal Family here in Spain is incredibly good looking, youthful and of good moral character.  And William, Kate and little George are wonderful in the UK.  If the people in these countries insist on keeping the hand waving monarchies going who am I to pooh pooh their loyalty.  Back in the United States I will keep abreast of the activities of both Monarchies and secretly I’ll be hoping that Elizabeth II will find a way to abdicate, and give the crown to William, but there’s that cheeky American thing again.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

Pilar de la Horadada

Some cities are automatically on our travel radar; Madrid, Barcelona, Seville.  Some cities are added as we learn more about an area, and a small city like Pilar de la Horadada which might not otherwise have made it on our travel wish list we were drawn to visit after meeting a couple of fellow expats who call this city home.  New friends Ruth and Mick came from the UK 12 years ago and settled on life here in Pilar.

Pilar is the southernmost city in the Valencia region of Spain.  It was less than a two hour bus ride from our base here in Torrevieja.

During Roman times Pilar was called “Thiar’s Mansion” and was a trading post situated at the foot of the Via Augusta, one of the oldest and most important Roman roads in Hispania.  It is believed that this was the main route between Illici (Elche) and Carthago Nova (Cartagena).

Pilar was settled by the Moors in the 8th Century and remained under Muslim control until the 13th Century.  Between the 13th and the 17th Centuries this region saw many attacks by pirates.  The Watchtower of the nearby village of Torre de la Horadada was built in the 15th Century to protect the inhabitants from pirate attacks.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Watchtower was built in the 15th Century. Today it is a private home. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The beach along this area of Spain stretch’s for over 4 kilometers and the crystal clear blue waters and the good visibility the sea offers provides a great location for scuba diving.  For their added pleasure off the coast is a sunken wreck which can be explored by the most experienced of divers.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Tourism hasn’t invaded this area of Spain as of yet. Most of the visitors are vacationers. There are plenty of apartments to rent for short stays scattered throughout the area. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In the main town square stands the Our Lady of the Virgin of Pilar Roman Catholic Church.  The present church stands on the site of a chapel built in 1616.  That chapel was demolished in 1745 but rebuilt in 1752.  That church stood until 1975 when it too needed to be demolished.  The present church seen today was built in 1982. The bell tower was built in 1899 and stands at a height of 24 meters.  The bell tower houses four large and several smaller bells.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Our Lady of the Virgin of Pilar. The bell tower was built in 1899. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Pilar is a very expat friendly city with the majority of expats coming from the UK, Germany, Norway and Canada and the population of the area is around 25,000.  Most of the region is holiday housing so on the day we visited we were the only people in the complex where Ruth and Mick live.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Our new friends Ruth and Mick who have lived in Pilar for 12 years. They are originally from the UK. We met them while on our excursion to Seville and Cordoba and they invited us to explore their little part of Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Every Friday the city hosts a Farmer’s Market and we timed our visit to coincide with market day.  There was a wonderful selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, dry goods, clothing, cooked meats, candies and baked goods.  Mike loved the fresh cherries he bought and I love the new house dress I got.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Pilar is on the famous Camino de Santiago.  Rough translation of the photo says, ‘from this point in the city of Pilar de la Horadada is the beginning of the southern route of the Camino de Santiago of the southeast.  Its distance is 1240 kilometers (740 miles) to Santiago de Compostela’ (the location of St. James Church in Santiago, Spain).

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Pilar has a laid back and quiet vibe, beautiful beaches, plenty of restaurants to choose from, easy to walk streets and good public transportation.  They even have a senior center where seniors gather to get a hot noon day meal.

Our time spent with Ruth and Mick always seems to fly by and we never seem to run out of things to talk about, so when they suggested we come to Pilar so they could show us around their little town we jumped at the chance. On this day we spent 8 hours walking, talking, exploring, and taking pictures, lots and lots of pictures of this small coastal town. While Pilar does have tourist attractions and would make a worthwhile stop for other travelers what made our time in Pilar so special was the time we got to spend with new friends, and that is something that you won’t find in any guide book.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

The Call of the Mar Menor

From our home base here in Spain we are less than an hour’s drive from the ancient city of Cartagena.

Cartagena is a port city located in the southeasterly coastal area of Spain.  It has been inhabited since 227 BC.  Being a most advantageous Mediterranean seaport helped to grow Cartagena’s importance to the local economy of the region and also helped to make it the epicenter of the Spanish Navy.  Even present day this is still an important naval seaport, the main military haven of Spain, and home to a naval shipyard.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

With such a long history and being such an important port Cartagena was conquered by many people such as the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Byzantines even the Moors.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Roman Theater built near the end of the 2nd Century BC in Cartagena. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Roman Baths © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Roman Amphitheater found near Concepcion Castle. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Cartagena was limited in its boundaries by five small hills which also acted to protect the city from attack. So important was Cartagena to Roman expansion that Julius Caesar gave the town Latin Rights and the city was central to the Carthaginian and the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In 298 AD Diocletian (famed for Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia) constituted a new Roman province in Hispania called Carthaginensis and made Cartagena the capital.

During the turbulent years to come this region of Spain was ruled by many factions.  In 1245 King Alfonso X of Castile (Alfonso the Wise) conquered Cartagena.  In 1270 he created the Order of Santa Maria de Espania for naval defense of the Crown of Castile and established its headquarters here which is where it still remains. Cartagena is also a cruise ship port. One to three ships dock here every week from March until about November. Cartagena also has 10 beaches, the most of any Spanish city.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

For the princely sum of 12.50 Euros a person, a tourist can get a three for one all day tourism ticket.  Included in the price is a visit to the Roman Theatre, a ride on the Cartagena tourism bus (a 40 minute ride around the city with recorded commentary on the city’s history) and entrance to Concepcion Castle, which is today the Centre for Interpretation of the History of Cartagena. If you have one day to spend in the city and you don’t mind walking a bit this inclusive tourism ticket is well worth the expense.

Not included in the ticket is entrance to the Naval Museum and other items of note around the city but all of the main attractions of the city are located within a few minutes walk of each other.  You can literally see all of old Cartagena in a day’s time.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Today this is an office building, it used to be the main entrance to the Palace of Cartagena. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Before returning home we stopped in the tiny town of Los Nietos and walked the short distance to the Mar Menor beach front. The Mar Menor is a salty lagoon separated from the Mediterranean by a sand bar. It has warm and clear waters with high salinity, and incredibly high winds perfect for wind surfing.  This inlet has been sanctioned by the United Nations as a protected area and along its coast line you can see the five volcanic islands (Perdiguera, Mayor or del Barón, del Ciervo, Redonda and del Sujeto).

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Mar Menor is Europes largest salt water lake.  It has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic Era.  Today the Mar Menor is a major tourism center and many of the hotels found along the inlet are first class resorts.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 

 

 

Looking Good Six Hundred Years Old and Counting

This is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, otherwise known as the Cathedral of Seville.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Groundbreaking took place in 1401 and ended in 1506.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It is the largest Gothic and third largest church in the world.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It is the largest cathedral in the world (the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St. Peter’s Basilica are not the seats of bishops).  Yes there is a difference between a Cathedral and a church with and without a Bishop.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The length of the Cathedral is 443 feet; it is 330 feet wide by 138 feet high.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The interior has the longest nave of any church in Spain at 135 feet.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The choir loft section of the nave. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Through to the main altar in all its gaudiness.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Through to the main altar in all its gaudiness. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are 15 doors that surround the cathedral.  Not all are being used for entry into the cathedral but they make a great photo opportunity.  Many of the doors are only opened during special feast days.

This is the Door of the Prince.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Door of the Prince. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

This is the Door of the Conception whichopens onto the Court of the Oranges and is kept closed except on festival days. It was built in the Gothic style to harmonize with the rest of the building.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Door of the Conception which opens onto the Court of the Oranges and is kept closed except on festival days. It was built in the Gothic style to harmonize with the rest of the building. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

This is the Door of Forgiveness. This entrance actually gives access to the Patio of the Oranges so it is technically not a door into the cathedral.  It has been here since the time of the mosque.  More sculptures were added in the 16th Century.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Door of Forgiveness. This entrance actually gives access to the Patio of the Oranges so it is technically not a door into the cathedral. It has been here since the time of the mosque. More sculptures were added in the 16th Century. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

This is the Door of Palos. No information was given.  The relief depicts the Adoration of the Magi, created by Miquel Florentin in 1520.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the Door of Palos. The relief depicts the Adoration of the Magi, created by Miquel Florentin in 1520. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are stained glass windows scattered throughout.  I counted well over 30.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Cathedral has its own treasury.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The crowns are covered in gold and precious gemstones.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The crowns are covered in gold and precious gemstones. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

A gold and gemstone encrusted clerical adornments.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

A gold and gemstone encrusted clerical adornments. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The cathedral has 80 chapels; less than half of which are available for visiting today.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The Renaissance Vault.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Renaissance Vault. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They have their own museum as well.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Detail of one panel in the museum.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Detail of one panel in the museum. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Cathedral is filled with artwork of course.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

No Cathedral would be complete without a pipe organ.  This cathedral had two of them, one on each side of the nave.  They are two independent pipe organs which suggest that both organs might be played at the same time in order to fill the Cathedral with music.  Or one is the backup to the other.  We could not get a solid answer to this query.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The bell tower of Seville is called The Giralda.  It stands 343 feet high and 44 feet long.  The tower was originally a minaret for the mosque that stood on this ground; in 1376 an earthquake destroyed the minaret and it was converted into a bell tower.  It was not until the 16th Century that the belfry was added and on top of all of this in 1568 was placed the statue called “El Giraldillo”, which represents the triumph of the Christian faith.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It is believed that Christopher Columbus is buried here.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

The Holy Ground of Cordoba

In every city there is one attraction that is deemed a ‘must-see’.  For the city of Cordoba, Spain most people cannot draw a breath without listing the Cathedral of Cordoba, or the Mosque of Cordoba among the ‘must sees’.  They are the same building you see; this undisputed holy ground also has two histories.

The present day name of this building is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady.  It is indeed a functioning Roman Catholic Church and a Cathedral since 1236.  The Cathedral of Cordoba is unlike any other church we have seen thus far on our little ABC (Another Blessed Cathedral) tour.  It is half Catholic altar and half Mosque.  It is filled with Mosque like arches and with paintings of Catholic Saints.  It is walked through in hushed tones and in silent prayer because one does not know which way to go first but surely in this place, unlike anyplace else on this earth, no matter what you call him, God is listening.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

From the beginning of modern time this land has held a church.  First a Roman Catholic Church from 1 AD to 600 AD, which is when the church was lost in a military campaign by the Visigoth Kings and taken by the Muslims.  The city of Cordoba was then ruled by and a fair and incredibly wealthy Caliph and he saw no problem with both religions using the building for prayer.  He did however begin the construction of a Mosque on and around the Church.

Construction of the Mosque began in 784.  Construction ended in 987. As is always the way construction was begun by one ruler and various changes, improvements, new adornments and new ideas were tacked on by other rulers of the area over time.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It must be said that a respect for both religions is undeniably visible inside this holy place.  Even during the construction of the Mosque the Roman columns from the Catholic Church were incorporated into the construction. Most striking on entry is the 856 columns and double arches of the Mosque construction.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In 1236 the city of Cordoba was once seized as a spoil of war and this time it was King Ferdinand III of Castile who turned the building back into a house of worship for the Catholics.  He did not however tear down or destroy the Mosque.  He further added to its design and turned the minaret into a bell tower which still stands today.  At the top of the bell tower he placed a statue of the archangel St. Raphael, patron saint of Cordoba.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The incredibly stunning Renaissance nave was purposefully built-in the center of the structure beginning in 1523 and it incorporated the caliphs gothic, renaissance and baroque creations into its design.   This was not the end of the construction however and chapels and other adornments were continuously added up until the 18th Century.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Built around the outer walls are 45 chapels to various saints.  Each chapel is unique in design and adornment.  The chapels were built by believers as their final resting place.  Each is dedicated to a patron saint.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Mosque of Cordoba; the Cathedral of Cordoba is today a World Heritage site.  The cost to enter is 6 euro’s.  There is no time limit for your visit.  Our visit lasted three hours.  The flyer we were handed on entry says welcome to the Cathedral of Cordoba.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is a house of worship with a long and turbulent history.  It began as consecrated holy ground and a roman catholic church.  After the city of Cordoba was seized in war the building was added to and used as a mosque; it remained a mosque for almost 500 years until such time as the city of Cordoba was once again conquered and became a spoil of war.  Leaving the mosque intact but adding a royal chapel it was converted back into a catholic church this time adding 45 chapels and a nave created in its center.  Layer upon layer of history has been added to this building but in all cases the original building was never torn down and destroyed.  Every conqueror of the city of Cordoba has simply added to the structure.

Did each conqueror of Cordoba mean to keep constructing around the building before it?  Why did no ruler destroy or demolish completely the structure they found standing?   The Cathedral of Cordoba is striking because it is unlike any other Cathedral in the world today.  No other building that I am aware of has incorporated so much of two religions into its standing structure.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Calling this building the Cathedral of Cordoba, or the Mosque of Cordoba, does it an injustice.  It is not either one, but both.  It is the epitome of what all religions preach; love thy neighbor as you would love thyself.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince