Monday, January 18, 2010

A rare Monday morning visitor


A surprise visitor to the garden on Monday morning; this female pheasant just popped over the fence and had a good look round. She sampled some apple and the nijer seeds that the goldfinches spread out under the feeder, then hopped off next door. What fun!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

With Scott to the Pole

Just been to see this wonderful exhibition of superb photographs taken by Herbert Ponting, ‘camera-artist’ on the ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1910, The Terra Nova Expedition. The images are taken from photographic albums donated to the Royal Geographic Society by Captain Lawrence Oates’ family, following his death on the return journey from the Pole.
The exhibition, formerly part of the RGS’s contribution to International Polar Year, features photography of the Antarctica's astonishing natural beauty as well as preparations for Scott’s expedition, including the vital scientific work undertaken whilst preparing for their assault on Earth’s last great wilderness.
The exhibition also provides a fascinating insight into lighter moments amongst Scott’s team. It includes the iconic image of Scott and his team at the South Pole, crushed to have discovered that Roald Amundsen and his team had beaten them to it by a matter of weeks.
Below is one of the pictures, borrowed from the archive, showing Cpt Scott busy with scientific work in his 'study' before they set off for the South Pole.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Holiday in Andalucia

We flew back today, but as we didn't need to leave until 13.00, we packed after breakfast, then took a final stroll around Seville. Our footsteps took us down to the river, and we finally managed to indulge in churros and chocolate. On our initial walk we had passed a roadside cafe by the bridge, selling these, and he was doing brisk business on Sunday morning. We ordered a portion of churros with a cup of hot chocolate each and enjoyed dipping into the thick warm liquid and getting it into our mouths without dribbling down our clothes. Great fun!

Walking back, we came through the main shopping streets which were fuller and more open than all the time we had been in Seville, and the sales were starting by the looks of things. People were enjoying being out and about. But we had to get back to the hotel and finish off the packing. We shared a van up to the airport with another guest, and were soon checked in on Vueling Airlines, the Easyjet of Spain.
Back at Heathrow, we waited for ever for the cases, then caught the bus to T3 business parking. The car wasn't too frozen and started straight away - and we were soon on the M25, homeward bound. What a really enjoyable time we had visiting three superb cities of Andalucia.

Hospes hotels

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Holiday in Andalucia

Everything would be open today, so we got up and were on the way just after nine. We joined a queue to enter the Real Alcazar which opened at 9.30. Once again we saw the mixture of Muslim and Christian styles overlaying each other in beautiful craftsmanship throughout a maze of rooms; tiles, plasterwork, woodwork and architectural design. It was extremely cold as the sun did not penetrate into any rooms or courtyards.

At the end of the route we could walk along part of the old Arab walls giving views into the garden, but the garden itself was closed following bad weather. Before we left, we stopped by the coffee shop for a quick standing coffee to warm up.
Outside again and we had to walk across to join the queue for visiting the Cathedral and Giralda. This moved pretty quickly and we were soon entering the vastness of the largest catheral in Europe. Arcades of columns assail one, each leading the eye to a stained glass window. It is very impressive. We found a stone set into the floor commemorating C. Columbus, then walked down the side to see some of the paintings in the side chapels. There is also a large organ surrounding the choir and in front of this a very large altar screen made from wood covered in gold. At the side entrance we could go out into the orange tree garden, then back inside we made our way to the Giralda tower and began the climb. Over thirty slopes around the square tower takes the visitor up to where the bells are hung. This is also the height of the original minaret on the old eighth century mosque. There are some fantastic views up here. Coming down was bad for A's knees, but was achieved quite quickly. Now we went to complete our circuit and found a large mausoleum depicting personifications of four regions of Spain bearing the coffin of Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) on their shoulders. This was our last object of interest so we exited and found a coffee shop for a coffee and a sandwich to warm us up properly.
Our last visit of the day was to the Palacio de S Andres or Casa de Pilatos. It began as a sixteenth century palace with courtyards and tiles in the mudejar style. Then followed extensions in the seventeenth century. A huge collection of Roman remains - brought from Italy - are housed here in courtyards and gardens all around the house. We also joined the Spanish/English tour of the upper rooms where they have rooms set out with paintings, porcelain, tapestries and furniture. There are some amazing ceilings in the earliest rooms.

At 5pm it seemed like a good idea to walk back to the hotel for a cup of tea and our feet up before dinner at 20.30. A quiet dinner, with just a couple of other tables for most of the evening. We had Mushroom ravioli with truffle oil; roasted vegetables with Iberican ham; followed by nut and breadcrumb coated lamb chops on cranberry chutney, all served with lovely small home baked rolls. We drank Enate MERLOT-MERLOT 2003 from Somontano. It had quite a lot of sediment, but with careful pouring, we were able to enjoy its blackberry and new oak flavours.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Holiday in Andalucia

A late start to the day as everyone had a late night. We know most places will be shut, but the receptionist told us the cafés will open in the afternoon. We set off on our guide book's 90 minute walk around the main areas of the town. Our route takes us down to the river and across to Triana. This is famous for the beautiful tiles used all over town. As we walk through Triana we see lots and lots of ceramics and tiles used to decorate the façades of the houses, advertising shops and businesses as well as decorating churches. This is done all over Seville. Across the river we can see the Torre del Oro and decide to walk down to it even tho' the route takes us the other way, as maybe there will be loos there. No luck, and we are both a bit desperate, but a bit further on is a café. Oh no, only a kiosk, no loos, so we hurry on and find a coin operated self cleaning loo. In goes 20c and eventually the door slides open. After use, one has to go out and the door closes to flush and clean the loo. There is a warning that you only have 3mins to get out before the door closes, locks and the cleaning process starts, so you can't slip in and use it without paying. A had to firmly discourage a couple of young women from trying it after he'd been in!

We could now carry on with the walk, but felt the need for sustenance and one of the few places open for coffee was a Starbucks. We sat outside, watching trams sidle by between us and Alphonso XIII Hotel. After coffee we thought we would go and inspect this posh place, which was very well appointed. It had been built in 1929 for the American-Spanish Exposition. Next door is the tobacco factory that stars in Bizet's Carmen. Further down this road we found our way into Plaza de Espana that was also built for the expo. The plaza was apparently used in 'Attack of the Clones', the second Star Wars film. It is being renovated, thank goodness, as it has become terribly 'run down'. Seville will be EU Culture City 2016, so lots of renovations are being undertaken. We thought we would then wander through the Parc Marie Luisa, but it was padlocked shut. Lots of folk had the same idea and were staring at the gates, guide books in hand.

So back to the town and across to the theatre and the bull ring, then up one of the pedestrian shopping streets to find the tile picture of the Studebaker. On the way we found a Pasteleria selling wonderful cakes. As it was seething with people, we just bought two palmiers and took them off to a hidden plaza and sat on the edge of a fountain to eat them. Definitely tired now, we began walking back, stopping for another coffee on the way. We put our feet up for a couple of hours, then went out for dinner. We timed it badly - halfway between tapas and dinner but managed to get a paella and beer in a street café at nine pm. Then a swift walk back as there's lots to do tomorrow when the monuments are open again.