Ronda photos

Group shot

The gorge formed by an earthquake that split the mountain and caused a deep lake to rush through.

Arrived at the Parador in Ronda after trying unsuccessfully 40 years ago.

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Ronda

Almost 40 years ago I was with friends and we tried to drive to Ronda from Malaga over Christmas break from our studies at Middlebury in Madrid. The road at the timé winded up through the mountain with no guard rails and trucks passing us and coming down the hill. It was too scary and we never made it to the town of Ronda. Today in an air conditioned bus on much better roads, I made it to Ronda. X

Another of the amazing towns tucked away in Spain due to its strategic location and defendable terrain. The town is split by a gorge several hundred feet deep it is today a tourist attraction swarming with Sunday visitors from Malaga and other towns. X

We arrived in time for lunch ( life is all about timing) and this evening we will have a walk about town. We will spend two nights in the Parador before we move on to Granada and it’s treasures. Group shot from the gorge. X

Having bandwidth issues in the hotel. Pictures are meant to be inserted at the Xs. Will try later to send separately.

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Carmona

The Parador In Carmona is of recent (1976) construction but on ground occupied for 5000 years. We had a tour today by a very passionate resident who put the history of Carmona in perspective. It was situated on the aRoman road along the south of The Iberian peninsula. Occupying the strategic high ground and the only road, it was an amazingly rich town for the taxes it collected. It boasts an original Roman gate in and out that are still standing and most of the land is still owned by the original 6 families from the 16th century. If anyone is interested there are many houses for sale here for very low prices but the restoration costs will likely be in the half million neighborhood.

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OMG Córdoba!

If the cities continue to get more beautiful each day we will be in Shangri La soon.

As each of these cities served as the capital if its world at different times, one must understand that they all have been amazingly important. Today we visited the famous Mesquita de Córdoba, the Córdoba mosque. It is the second largest mosque in the world. I recall from my graduate school course that the continuous repetitive arched in the mosque were designed to demonstrate the continuous and enduring presence of God. The mosque was constructed over hundreds of years and under a number of califs beginning in the ninth century. It’s art and construction are still impressive today.

One gets into Córdoba by crossing the Roman bridge. It has been restored and is now only a pedestrian bridge so that generations after us will be able to enjoy it.

Today’s group shot on the Avenida denlas Flores with the bell tower in the background. The original minaret is inside the bell tower.

The Christian conquest in 1288 both preserved the mosque and defiled it by placing a gothic cathedral in the center. As our guide explained to us quite expertly, although the construction of the church does destroy the lines and the continuum of the arches, it’s presence is likely what saved the mosque for us to see today.

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Sevilla

Our purpose in staying in Carmona is its magnificent parador. One of the finest on the Iberian peninsula, it’s location on a commanding hill makes it historically important and today its location allows us to spend three nights here with day trips to Sevilla, Córdoba, and Granada. The view from my room:

It will be impossible to include all the photos of Sevilla. There are so many treasures. We walked the old city in 110 degree heat to focus on the principle locations in world history. Situated miles inland along the Guadalquivir River, this spot has been occupied for all of human history. It is the launching place for Magellan and Columbus as well as the port that received all the gold and silver from the new world. It is also a center of art boasting names like Surburban, Velazquez, The Barber of Seville, Carmen, and modern film like Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, and even Game of Thrones.

Decorated in the Mudejar style it is a curious mix of the Muslim and the Christian. We visited the oldest continuously operated palace in Europe in the Alcazar, occupied since the 12th century.

Among other sites, we visited the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the grave of Columbus.

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España

We had a long travel day today from Evora crossing the Guadiana river into Spain. We stopped to see some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Merida. Established in 8 BC, the town of Merida was a retirement community for Roman Legions. At its peek it was a town of 40,000 Romans and support that has a classic Roman Bridge, aqueduct, amphitheater, forum, temple, and collusion. It is an amazing site surrounded by a modern city of 60,000 today.

We continued to Carmona where we will stay at one of the oldest and best preserved Paradors in Spain. We will stay here for 3 nights doing day trips to Sevilla, Cordova, and Granada before we move on to the mountain town of Ronda.

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The good, the bad, and the ugly

This is tourism up close and personal. Today after a classic European breakfast we did a slow paced walking tour of Evora. Situated on a hill it occupies an important strategic site that commands the high ground. It has been occupied over the millennia by every dominant culture, each leaving their mark.

We began by touring the remains of a Roman temple and wall around the city.  From there, we visited the largest medieval Christian cathedral in Portugal. Dating from the 1200s, there are unusual treasures. Of particular note is the statute of a very pregnant Virgin Mary. One of my favorites is the painting of the last supper which includes the serving of a roast suckling pig.

We continues through the town of 10,000 and caught glimpses of 21st century life surrounded by ancient buildings. These scenes include the gathering of the retired ladies of Evora, and around a shaded bench in the town square, scores of cigarette butts among the cobble stones. A reminder of our smoking past

We ended our morning with an amazing visit to the meditation room in the cloisters of the Franciscan church. It is known as the chapel of bones and designed to remind all who meditate there that all our bones are the same, rich or poor, devout or unfaithful, it is our soul that distinguishes us from everyone else. It was a bit too macabre for most of us.

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Day 3

We finished our tours of Lisbon last night with a dinner and Fado show. Fado are sad songs and music. Think flamenco with out all the shoe pounding and colorful dresses.

We started today with a long bus ride south out of Lisbon into the arid and very hot region of Alentejo. The temperature was over 100 and we learned that there are often summers that are much hotter. Along the way we stopped for a visit and lunch in Monseraz with its moorish castle and superb view of the Portuguese/Spanish border and the man made lakes used for irrigation and recreation. We stopped for a group photo in from of the church.

From Monseraz we continued inland to visit a winery (yes it seems that there is wine in Portugal also). The winery in Esporao was established in 1267 on land that was used by the Romans even earlier. We drove through the 450 hectares of vineyards and toured the processing, learning about the aging process and the American and French oak barrels. After tasting a couple of the products, we got back on the bus for our trip to the Pousadas in Evora. A converted convent with its fabulous location if luxuriously austere rooms.

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Details of a proud city

Today’s first official day of the Odyssey tour took us to many of the most iconic sites of Lisbon. Our tour guide, Ines, was a treasure as she was knowledgeable and the pride in her country was palpable. We began as one would expect with a visit to the cathedral or Se.

As in most Christian sites, the Cathedral of San Antonio is placed upon the site of a moorish mosque. No surprise as the land of Lisbon has been occupied by many civilizations of the millennium as well as suffering a major earthquake in 1755. The resulting cultural and architectural lasagna has created many layers.

We then moved by bus to the tower of Belen. An architectural treasure that was used originally to guard the port city. It is now a major tourist attraction. It is not far from the Explorers monument dedicated to Henry the Navigator. There is an amazing schematic inlaid in stone that depicts the dates and places that the Portuguese explorers founded and settled.

In the afternoon we traveled by bus to the royal residence of Queluz where we learned about the Portuguese royal family succession and saw the beautiful gardens.

Pictured here are Mary and Ton Lujan part of our group of 15 that includes a brain surgeon, a lawyer, a police officer, and a Major General.

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