I am very late in joining Jude’s Photo Challenge #51, but here I am. She invites us to make a collage of images, some of which have strong geometric shapes, others of which are organic in form. I had fun looking back though my collection. And what I soon realised was how hard it is to determine what makes a good photo when those images are so bound up with the memories they represent. I suppose that’s what makes me a snapshot-ist rather than a photographer.
I also found myself choosing photos which were primarily geometric – of buildings and so on, but which were enlivened in some way by more organic forms. So Jude, I may not have quite stuck to your brief (again!) but you’ve made me think (again!)
The featured photo shows Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire. Nobody could accuse them of being geometric.
Look out of that window. Who wants to go out unless they have to? Instead, I’m inside and cosy, seeing if I can find photos that fit Jude’s 2020 Photo Challenge for February, Patterns.
I decided to go with the built environment. I looked not for deliberately created architectural motifs, or applied ornamentation, but for reflections, distortion, or for other elements that weren’t intended as the main event. Except in one case, where reflection and baffling the eye was definitely the main story. Which one was that do you think?
Sightseeing in Granada by looking at, rather than through a window.
The new entrance to the V&A, London.
Glimpses of El Escorial, Seville, from the balustrades by its water features.
Garden at the Gasholder development, Kings Cross, London.
This is my last post about Spain for a while, and it includes images from previous visits too. Browsing through my collection, I see that windows feature – a lot.
Views through, of, and reflected from windows; views through spaces that serve as windows; and finally, views of things outside windows (washing lines!) that have me imagining the lives lived behind them . You’ll see all of these here – mainly, but not exclusively from Barcelona.
But let’s start in Granada, at the Alhambra. This young woman was impossible to get out of shot, as she had to take a selfie from every angle. In the end, I decided to put her centre stage.
A real view from a real window: our go-to tourist attraction in Barcelona: the Modernista Hospital de Sant Pau.
I’m a sucker for reflecting windows. This high-end grocery store in Barcelona offered those reflections in bright light, as well as showing the goods on offer inside (this one’s for you, Becky)
More windows where it’s the reflections providing the views.
Patient horses and their carriages wait by a public toilet window in Plaza de España, Seville.
And now it’s time for those washing lines.
View from Casa Vicens, Barcelona.
A window, a balcony, washing: Vic.
Two contrasting views through not-a-window: in a garden in the Jewish quarter, Córdoba: and at El Clot-Aragó station, Barcelona.
Finally – this isn’t a view through a window at all. But who could resist viewing this window in Barcelona?
My recent blog posts have been a bit of a guide book. Perhaps I should be working for Lonely Planet.
Let’s get back to basics. Food.
We’ve been beginning the day as the Spanish do. In a coffee shop. Emily’s boyfriend wouldn’t consider eating breakfast at home, and neither do we. A huge glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Maybe a roll, with jamon, or cheese, or sobrasada (a Mallorcan spreading sausage) or simply olive oil, then lightly toasted. Coffee, obviously.
It’s hard to resist tapas later on. Order a drink, and you’ll be served with a tapa too. Olives maybe, or patatasbravas. You may get a choice. Maybe not. It’s easy to knock up enough food for a light meal by ordering another drink.
We’ve been struck by the difference between the food in Granada and that in Córdoba. Granada celebrates making delicious treats out of very little: patatasalopobre – potatoes with onions and peppers. Migas – fried stale breadcrumbs with peppers, onion, garlic and fatty bacon. Both simple. Both good.
Both cities celebrate the pig and lamb in many forms: lots of piggy sausage dishes. Lots of chick peas too.
Córdoba pushes you in the direction of berenjenas – aubergine slices deep fried in batter and drizzled in honey. Every restaurant here has an oxtail dish, and is proud to tell you that the city is a foodie capital.
Berenjenas con miel.
Every shopping street has a selection of independent greengrocers. Just as well. After all that stomach-lining food, a piece or two of fruit is more than welcome.
Today we went to a poor man’s Alhambra. We sought jaw-dropping beauty, tumbling cascading water, refreshing cool…. and peace. Javi delivered us a day in which, only some 12 km from Granada, we experienced soul-soothing quiet, dramatic views – and just a touch of adventure. And not a tourist in sight.
We started our day climbing from Monachil, a village set among arid yellow and red tinted slopes. As we went on, dramatic rock formations scrambled high above us.
Our path narrowed. We were obliged to hang onto nearly sheer rock and manoeuvre ourselves along a route whose path followed a stream. Swaying bridges too.
As our gorge widened, there were different views, and a grassy plain for a mid-morning rest. We watched choughs wheeling high above us, preparing to nest high on the mountainside.
There were Mediterranean herbs, gorse, butterflies. And suddenly, over there in the distance, Granada.
Our circuit was almost complete. We’re refreshed, invigorated and renewed. Especially after our tapas, eaten sitting in a sunny riverside bar in Monachil. Don’t choose. Get what you’re given. Perfect.
What can I say about the Alhambra in Granada that hasn’t been written a hundred times before? I shan’t even try. Since the 9th century this striking hillside site just outside Granada has been a fortress, an Islamic palace, a Royal palace, gardens, a whole city. It’s even been an abandoned ruin. Javi’s grandmother used to come up to this abandoned place with her friends for picnics.
Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We tried to imagine what this place meant to those who lived here over the centuries. Southern Spain is hot. For months it’s rarely cool, even at night. Here are cool courtyards; formal canals and ponds; trickling or cascading fountains; elegant chambers with exquisitely, delicately carved tracery; slender columns; magically evanescent roof spaces reaching heavenwards.
I offer you a scrapbook of images. You can find history lessons, detailed descriptions elsewhere. I don’t offer you selfies. I left that to the – mainly younger – visitors who wanted only to pose and pose and pose again for yet another image against a beautifully wrought backdrop to which they paid no attention whatever.
Southern Spain once upon a time was Muslim territory. So Javi’s mum decided we should begin getting to know Granada by visiting Albaícin.
This was a quarter, then outside the main city walls, developed by the Muslims between the 6th and 15th centuries. It’s a warren of tiny characterful streets interspersed with grander dwellings, ‘carmen’. These houses had large courtyards at their core, planted with vines, with fruit trees, with sweet smelling climbing shrubs. Cooling fountains played.
And for us there were views too, across to the snow-crusted Sierra Nevada, and to the Alhambra. That’s where we’ll go tomorrow.
In December 2017, I introduced you to my Spanish teacher Javi, and the parallels between his life and that of my daughter living in Spain. Fast forward a year, and Javi is still my teacher and our friend, and planning a treat. He’s taking Certain Selected Pupils (two of us anyway) and Malcolm to his home town of Granada for a week. He’ll not only be our tour guide, but will get us behind the scenes of his city in a way that only a native can.
He’ll introduce us to its Moorish history (the Alhambra, of course), and to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. He’ll take us to his favourite haunts. We’ll eat together. We’ll meet his mum.
I can’t wait. On Saturday morning, bright and early, we’ll be at Leeds Bradford Airport, then airborne for Málaga, and Granada. Watch this space.