A Couple Of Photos From La Alhambra

What with pads, pencils, rulers, compasses and a packed lunch, I didn't take my camera with me on Saturday, but these are a couple of photos I took with my phone.


A Step Back In Time

On Wednesday of last week I took the bus from Nerja to Granada to attend a four day workshop on The Art of Islamic Pattern, a subject I have become particularly interested in over the past year. The course was based in the Centre of Islamic Studies, alongside the Granada Mosque in the Albaicín district of the city, and also included a whole day visiting La Alhambra palaces and gardens, one of Andalucía’s - and, indeed Spain’s - major monuments from the later years of Al Andalus. Over the course of the four days I learned a tremendous amount about the construction of complex patterns and designs from what are essentially simple elements, together with a better grasp of the philosophy that underlies Islamic art. I also enjoyed the company of around two dozen fellow students, drawn from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds and covering a good spread of ages. But as well as benefiting from the teaching, I also had the pleasure of being introduced to the Albaicín, as the apartment that I rented for my stay was located right in the heart of this ancient community. The better-known Alhambra palaces were relatively late arrivals on the scene, construction of what at the time was an entire walled city, with many palaces, only began in the thirteenth century. By the end of the fifteenth century - the famous year of 1492, when according to the mnemonic, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, the Nasrid dynasty was defeated by the Catholic Monarchs ( Ferdinand and Isabela), bringing to an end almost 800 years of Arab rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The street where I stepped out of my taxi to be met by the owner and led down to the apartments, on the other hand, dates to the twelfth century, with most of the lower part of the Albaicín much older than that. My apartment was located in a carmen, which in Granada refers to a traditional Arab house from the medieval era or even earlier, which is built around a central patio. El Número 8 as it is called, is built on two storeys around such a patio and has been divided by Rafa and Carmen, the owners, into six units, one of which supplies their accommodation, with the other five let as self-catering apartments. In keeping with its age and style, the units are small and compact, but so well-ventilated that even in the full heat of the day you could be excused for thinking that they must have modern air-conditioning, but no, this is another of the skills which the Arabs brought with them to Spain. From the upper storey a flight of steps takes you up onto a small roof terrace with a view straight across the valley of the Río Darro to the ridge of La Alhambra, which looks so close that you imagine you could almost reach out and touch it. This part of the Albaicín is built up the steep slopes from the river, with higher status houses at the bottom near the river, and lower status the higher you climbed; and climb you did, so it is just as well that I have had plenty of practice here in Frigiliana. After a day or two my OCD streak kicked in and so I am able to tell that you that to reach the bar where I had my milky coffee and toast and tomato breakfast, I had to climb 153 steps, whereas after eating in the evening down in the Plaza Nueva by the river, I had to climb 75 steps to get back to the apartment. That is without taking into account the steep slopes between the steps. And there was no alternative to walking; the entire area is a traffic-free zone. If you are ever thinking of staying there, leave the car at home and come by public transport, and that is true even if you are flying in from abroad: Get a bus to Granada from whichever city you arrive at. You’ll save yourself a fortune in car hire and car park fees, which can then be spent eating out at the many bars and restaurants at your disposal.


More From The Wedding

A really nice thought at our nephew's wedding came from his mother who decided that the arrival of a new Mrs H should be marked by a group photo of all four Mrs H's, i.e. the groom's wife, mother, stepmother and aunt. Such a nice thought, in fact, that I thought you might like to see it. Right now I'm packing to head off up to Granada for a few days to pursue one of my artistic interests, Islamic geometric art at a workshop which is being held in the Albaicín and includes a guided tour of the Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra. More about this on my return.


A Congenial Start To The Weekend

The sun is shining on my knees and on my toes. Shoes, socks and trousers have gone away, to be replaced by sandals and shorts. We have had warm spells already this year, as I have mentioned previously, but the difference this week is that the air as well as the sun is warm. It may not be long now before I venture into the jacuzzi in the late afternoon. I got an email inviting me to learn about a new venture in the village, so it was off down to the cultural centre for eleven o’clock to meet Isabella and Antonio talking of their newly-established language school here in Frigiliana, and afterwards went to inspect the ‘escuela’. Initially they have taken the lease on a modern apartment which they have converted to provide three classrooms (aulas, if you want to build up your Spanish), and a lounge area with computer and AV facilities, as well as a modest library of Spanish-language books. Apparently, Antonio has been teaching in Nerja for many years, but not at the school I attended. Anyway, I’ll add their website to my blog for the benefit of anyone who fancies polishing up their language skills in the sun. If you follow it up, let me know when you’re arriving. I’m always happy to accept a copa as a gesture of gratitude for the introduction!


This Is Getting Silly!

I like to track activity on my blog - how many people visit, what they read, where they are in the world. Just general stuff; nothing sinister. The pie chart is taken from my sitemeter page. That overwhelming pink slab, labelled as America is actually visits by Googlebot to gather data. It's completely swamping everything else and there's no way I can block it.


It's Not All Fiestas

It dawned on me this morning that it’s over two weeks since I last posted anything on here. Then I thought, “Well there hasn’t been anything happening to write about.” And after that it occurred to me that that in itself is perhaps worthy of a mention. A blog is an artificial creation, after all. It sets out what a full and interesting and vibrant life I am leading here in the sun. Well, sometimes life is like that. But lots of other times, it’s just like life everywhere; long spells of nothing much happening, interspersed by bursts of activity. The past couple of weeks have been quite full, but of little, inconsequential things which are also enjoyable but don’t make for fascinating reading. Perhaps there will be something exciting next time..... or the time after.