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Canary Islands

by Robert Bovington

The Islas Canarias are not part of mainland Spain or even Europe. They are located just off the coast of Africa – the nearest countries are Morocco and Western Sahara. There are seven islands and all are volcanic but that is where their similarity ends – all of these semi-tropical paradises are quite different from one another.

 

Tenerife is the largest and has more to attract the visitor including parrot and penguin parks, tropical gardens and the Las Cañadas del Teide National Park where Spain’s highest mountain – Mt. Teide 3,717m is situated. 
Las Cañadas del Teide National Park

La Palma is lush and green and is perfect walking country.

La Zarza, La Palma
Gran Canaria is quite diverse with a coastline ranging from awesome cliffs to golden dunes. Inland there are stark mountains and tranquil valleys.

 

Gran Canaria dunes

Lanzarote is startling! The island has over 300 volcanoes and the locals raise all manner of fruit and vegetables that grow profusely due to the abundance of volcanic ash. A visit to the ‘Montañas de Fuego’ – ‘Mountains of Fire’ is a must in order to witness the bizarre landscape of lava flows and red mountains. The island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Playa de Papagayo, Lanzarote
Fuerteventura is only 60 miles from Africa and has miles of golden sandy beaches.
a golden sandy beach in Fuerteventura
La Gomera and El Hierro are less well known than the other five islands. The former consists of steep green terraced hills and tranquil valleys. It is another good place for walking, especially the Garajonay National Park.
La Gomera

El Hierro is the most westerly and the smallest of the islands. It is mountainous and steep cliffs surround the island except at Valverde, the capital, where wooded slopes meet the sea.

Echedo, El Hierro.

The islands are split into two provinces. Tenerife, El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera belong to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is also the administrative capital. The eastern province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria comprises Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

Panoramic view of the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Spanish Impressions”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

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Parque de María Luisa in Seville

by Robert Bovington

This lovely romantic garden was donated to the city by the Infanta Maria Luisa Fernand at the end of the nineteenth century.  The famous landscape gardener, Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, added further enhancements. 

Parque de María Luisa in Seville – Monument dedicated to Bécquer © Robert Bovington

In 1929, the park became the centre of the Ibero American Exhibition. Adjacent to the park is the beautiful Plaza de España which was used to showcase Spain’s industry and technology exhibits.

Seville – Plaza de España © Robert Bovington

 more blogs by Robert Bovington…

 

“Spanish Impressions”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

Elche

The Moors formally laid out the ‘Palmeral of Elche’ in the 10th century. They installed elaborate irrigation systems and these are still functioning today as are the agricultural practices developed by these enterprising people. Elche is a World Heritage site because the palm forest is so impressive and important.

Basilica de Santa María

Elche has a number of historic monuments and one in particular is worth a visit – the ‘Basilica of Santa María’, a spectacular building with a bell tower and an imposing blue dome. The present Basilica is the fourth religious building occupying the same site. It was the site of a Muslim mosque when Jaime I, King of Aragón, conquered the town in 1265. The present building was started in 1672 and finished in 1783. A visit to the bell tower is worth the effort. From the top, panoramic views of the city can be enjoyed – in particular, the groves of palm trees. On the different landings of the tower information is displayed about the building of the Basilica, its architectural styles and its importance in regards to Elche’s other claim to fame – the ‘Misteri’ or ‘Festa d’Elx’ – a medieval sacred play. This ‘Passion play’ is acted out in the Basilica every year on the 14th and 15th of August. It is listed as ‘World Heritage’ making Elche one of the few places in the World to have two ‘UNESCO World Heritage’ awards.

The ‘Huerto del Cura’ – the Priests Garden. It is known as ‘The Jewel of the Palm Park’ and rightly so – it is a calm relaxing place – a delightful garden of palm trees, tropical plants and cacti. It even has a pond with ducks!

Imperial Palm

The tree got its name following the visit of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria in 1894. The spectacular tree clearly impressed her. She commented to the proprietor “…the date palm has the power and strength of an empire”. The Empress was just one of many prominent visitors to the ‘Palmeral’ of Elche.

I like the cacti garden – La Rocalla has many types of cactus ranging from small spherical specimens to tall pipe-shaped ones that almost matched the palm trees for height.

I would recommend anyone who visits the Costa Blanca to pay a visit to Elche and to the ‘Huerto del Cura’ in particular. Magic!


Las Murallas de Ávila

Las Murallas – the walls – are magnificent and encompass the whole of ancient Ávila. Building started at the end of 11th century and they are 2.5 kilometres long, 14 metres high and around 3 metres thick. They are still in pretty good nick. 
 

Ávila © Robert Bovington
Alfonso VI ordered their construction after his conquest of Ávila in 1090. Moorish prisoners were allegedly employed to build the wall. I don’t suppose they were paid though!
Ávila © Robert Bovington
There are eighty-eight towers and nine gates that include the imposing Puerta del Alcázar and the Puerta de Rastro. Visitors can walk along the walls between these two points. The walls are beautifully illuminated at night.

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Spanish Impressions”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

Diverse Almería – Baños de Sierra Alhamilla

Los Baños de Sierra Alhamilla is a small village dominated by a spa hotel, situated next to primitive but nevertheless attractive houses amidst an oasis of palm trees.
 
An attractive indoor garden is set in a central courtyard. It is quite delightful; an oasis of peace and tranquillity. It apparently took eight years to restore the old building and the hotel ‘Balneario de Sierra Alhamilla’ is splendid. It provides a range of health treatments; some of them based on the health-giving properties of the mineral waters of the Sierra Alhamilla.
Many birds inhabit the sierra, though most occupy the areas above 800 metres because of the increased tree cover. Finches, stone curlews, little bustards, crested larks, short-toed larks, lesser short-toed larks and black-bellied sand grouse inhabit these mountains, as do blue rock thrushes, crag martins, alpine swifts and black wheateaters. In the highest peaks, birds of prey including eagles, buzzards and kestrels soar.

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

 

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

Diverse Almería – El Cabo de Gata

On the south-western edge of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park is the small village actually called El Cabo de Gata. It is a pleasant little seaside resort beside a beach of white sand. The whitewashed buildings, that line its promenade, are mainly holiday apartments, interspersed with the occasional bar.



The village still supports a small fishing fleet and the fishermen’s boats, nets and lobster pots pepper the beaches at the southeastern end.



Nearby is the Salinas de Acosta area of the natural park. Between spring and autumn, thousands of migrating birds stop here on their journeys between Europe and Africa. Apart from flamingos, there are storks, avocets, eagles and many other types. Only a few remain in the winter when the Salinas are drained after the autumn salt harvest.

blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

Al-Andalus

by Robert Bovington

 In 711 an army of 7000 under the command of the Berber Tarik-ibn-Zehad crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and defeated Roderic the Visigothic King of Hispania. The Muslim armies swept through Hispania and conquered Toledo which was then the capital of the Visigothic kingdom. This marked the beginning of Muslim domination of a large chunk of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Lions Courtyard
Alhambra
photo: Robert Bovington

The Arabs named this vast region Al-Andalus. Initially it comprised five administrative areas roughly corresponding to Andalucía; Galicia and Portugal; Castile and Léon; Aragón and Catalonia; and Septimania which apparently was where the modern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon is located. So Al-Andalus was pretty big! At that juncture, Al-Andalus was merely a province of the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus.

Over the centuries, Al-Andalus was ruled by varying Arab dynasties. For example, the Abbasid dynasty assassinated the Umayyads and seized power, and Al-Andalus became a kingdom also known as the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750-929). Successively it became the Caliphate of Córdoba (929-1031); then a collection of Taifa kingdoms. The last of the Arab kingdoms was the Nasrid kingdom of Granada (1232-1492), which by then was merely the territories of Almería, Málaga, and Granada. This gradual yet massive reduction in the size of this once great kingdom was, of course, due to the Reconquest of Spain by the Christians. Al-Andalus ceased to exist in 1492 when Boabdil surrendered the city of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs.

an extract of my Pinterest pinboard ‘Al-Andalus’ is shown below…

To see more pics click on:-

http://pinterest.com/robertbovington/al-andalus/
more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Spanish Impressions”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”