Dubrovnik, Croatia – Pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik is sometimes referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” There does not seem to be a definitive explanation of how it acquired that moniker except that it has many attributes that are extraordinary.

Truth be told, I didn’t know precisely where Croatia was located other than it was in eastern Europe somewhere, but once I saw a few photographs, I was hooked. It took three years to finally get there due to the pandemic, but I have to admit…it was well worth the wait.

map including Croatia and other eastern European countries

map courtesy of Mapsland star added by JBRish

Our Croatian adventure began in Dubrovnik; recently popularized as a location for portions of the series Game of Thrones. One of the main focal points for tourists visiting Dubrovnik is Old Town. During its early history, the city protected itself against invasion by building large walls around the perimeter. Today, walking “The Wall” is a very popular tourist activity.

The picture below, shows the wall surrounding the Old Town. Of course Dubrovnik is much more than just the walled section, but I would suggest that it should be high on the list of activities to consider.

elevated view of Old Town Dubrovnik and the wall

There are several entrances to Old Town, but the main entrance is located near the Pile Gate and, as design would dictate, perhaps the best stairway to the elevated city wall is located nearby.

Pile Gate entrance to Old Town

Stairway to The Wall

Another problem, if it can be called that, is when walking the wall it is hard to stop taking pictures. Every few steps a new scene is revealed that is just as picturesque as the last. Make sure to bring enough digital storage space or film to capture it all.

Beautiful scene of the all and the Adriatic Sea

For those in good health and who walk or hike regularly, the steep sections of the walk and stairs should not be too much of a challenge and the remarkable experience is rewarding.

Elevated on a steep western cliff and visible from various points, Ft. Lovrijenac (Fort St. Lawrence) stands as one of the major landmarks. A visit to the fort is included as part of admission to the Old Town wall. Read more about the fort HERE

Fort Lovrijenac

The picture below provides some perspective regarding the distance from the city wall to Fort Lovrijenac.

Fort Lovrijenac and part of the old city wall

The orange tiled roofs of nearly all of the buildings in Old Town form a colorful backdrop for many of the prominent landmarks such as the Jesuit Church Of St. Ignatius rising above the nearby structures.

Jesuit Church Of St. Ignatius

For the alert visitor, views along the wall prove themselves postcard-worthy.

View through one of the openings in the wall

As the walkway meanders around the perimeter, there are occasional downward paths that provide a respite from the steps and uphill areas.

Downward path view of the Adriatic

From a start at the Pile Gate and coming down the home stretch, the bell tower of the Dominican Monastery and the protected harbor of Old Town come into view.

the Dominican Monastery and Old Town harbor

There is much more to report in following posts about Dubrovnik and the Old Town especially the juxtaposition of views from the wall and the streets of the ancient city.

Rocky Road: Desert (Not Dessert)!

It was a very different invitation when my wife and I were invited to join in an off-road experience. We had never done anything quite like this, but through social connections we received this interesting offer. We love nature, hiking and experiencing the wilderness, but I wasn’t sure about the roller coaster-like Jeep part.

Well, what is living if it isn’t an adventure? So we enthusiastically accepted the invitation. I have to admit total ignorance of the whole thing so I was wide-eyed the entire way.

We were heading for the remote town of Crown King, Arizona via N Castle Hot Springs Rd. which skirts by Lake Pleasant.

I didn’t know the plan, but as it turned out, off-roading is not a single-person adventure. Like most endeavors where danger is a tease there is safety in numbers and so I learned that most off-roaders don’t go it alone!

We connected with three other vehicles. The lead was taken by the driver of this Jeep.


Apparently to outfit a vehicle like this is a major investment so I got the joke. This Jeep was filled to the brim with tools that might be called into service including that air tank (on the left).

Why might they need an air tank? I discovered that many drivers let some air out of their tires when they arrive at the start of the wilderness so the Jeep can better grip the rocks and uneven terrain. Of course, air then needed to be replaced once again when pavement was reached and normal speeds were resumed.


The day had many ups…

and many downs!

Notice the pile of rocks on the right side.
Eyes had to see everywhere as there were potential hazards waiting to cause havoc.


Photography was a challenge with much of the traverse being a jostling experience.

While this was a remote desert location, there were a surprising number of homes along the trail. Where they did their grocery shopping or what kind of water supply they had was just one question to ponder.

Nevertheless, we would come across some relatively level areas.


This was the greeting we received as we passed one homestead. It might be difficult to figure out, but it is a “statue” of a hunter holding a gun. The sign says: “Redneck with a Riffle!” [I think they meant rifle!] The other signs on the fence were no trespassing warnings.


From a first-timer’s point of view, it was immediately apparent how easy it would be to get into trouble of one sort or another without experience.

This was one intersection we approached. The uninitiated might have missed that large rock on the left. Even after seeing the boulder, it might no register that the initials CK, followed by a stubby directional arrow was an indication that one should hang right to get to Crown King.



Normally, I don’t like to get into a rut, but when off-roading, there are lots of ruts. It is hard to appreciate from the pictures how narrow the rut was and the steepness of the walls. This would not be a good place for a standard SUV!


Care and skill is definitely needed. Once again, it is hard to see, but just ahead those are huge boulders buried in the dirt and over which we needed to travel!


In the picture below, notice that one Jeep (arrow) is just beyond the bend. Spacing is an interesting nuance of this sport. Each vehicle had a radio and there were communications back and forth indicating where the road had changed because of cave -ins or other obstructions.


So why go through all of this to go off-road?

For one thing, the solitude is wonderful. It is a treat to be so far away from what we consider civilization…becoming the proverbial pimple on the face of the earth surrounded by beauty.


I guess it is the same inspiration felt by those who climb mountains or go scuba diving. Nature is wonderful and is best viewed in its own frame.

Imagine my surprise when we came across an area under development out in the wilderness.


This was a mining operation and there was no actual road so we had to travel in the stream.


From time-to-time we would come across a sober reminder that this can be a dangerous endeavor. There might be a car at the bottom of a ravine or perhaps a more striking warning…


It was obvious that all of the riders this day were very cautious, but also adventurous. When there were two choices to be made between a smoother pathway or one that was more extreme, we often took the exciting route.

The main draw however was the beauty.

There was a section of mountains that had elevated radial walls made of large rocks. Apparently nature was building its own version of the “Wall of China” right here in the Sonoran Desert.


Without hiking for a significant number of miles, it is hard to enjoy these scenes of nature’s panoramic beauty!


Crown King

Crown King has a very small town center; don’t blink.

The General Store is the only place to fill up if you need fuel!


We had lunch at the Crown King Saloon & Cafe and I can give it an enthusiastic recommendation.

Picture courtesy of Trip Advisor


And of course, there are generally local dogs nearby!


We certainly enjoyed our first off-road experience and we learned a lot. With one trip under out belt, we are hoping for another adventure in a different wilderness area.

Read more miscellaneous stories on JBRish HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2020 — JBRish.com

The Hills Are Alive in the Sonoran Desert

During these times of sheltering in place, when the weather turns nice we are bound to get the urge to take part in an outdoor activity. Luckily, in Maricopa County (Phoenix and surrounds) the weather has been perfect.

Wildflowers generally bloom this time of year and because of the rather abundant winter rains, we were hoping they would be putting on quite a show. We wanted to share the hiking activity with my brother-in-law and his friend and naturally we needed to observe appropriate social distancing.

We decided to visit an area we thought would not be too crowded even though it is beautiful. The plan was that each couple would drive separately and meet up at Lake Pleasant near Wickenburg, AZ.

Once at the parking area, we used the amenities, reviewed the maps and headed out on the Cottonwood Trail.

This is a view of the lake from the parking area.

The Cottonwood Trail was in a direction opposite that of the lake and thus there we only encountered a few other hikers.

Almost immediately, we found a beautiful hedgehog cactus (chinocereus Engelmannii). The colors seem almost too intense to be real like those in an overpriced tropical drink!

Pink and purple were the dominant colors of the day. The hills were covered with owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta).

They found footing in and around rocks and in what appeared to be inhospitable spaces.

Some patches were so dense that the entire hillside was pink!

The combination of the flowers, green bushes and towering saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) highlighted the natural beauty of the desert.

There were also ample displays of orange globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

Anecdote: We had a Maricopa County Park pass which allows for an entire car to enter the parks (including Lake Pleasant) on the one pass. Since we drove separately and although we totalled only four in our “group,” we inquired as to whether under the circumstances, we would be allowed to enter under the one pass. The attendant thought for a moment and said: “How about a Coronavirus discount?”… and waived us along.

Everyone is doing the best they can!

Read more hiking and exploring stories on JBRish HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2020 — JBRish.com

Struggle for Life in the Painted Desert

The landscape in the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks in Arizona is both stark and beautiful. The colors and details were intriguing and would captivate anyone interested in geology, nature and the art of landscape painting or photography.

One of the main attractions of the Painted Desert is the Blue Mesa Trail. If you are going to this area and you are able to hike a bit, this is a must-see. The trail is paved, but there is a steep descent and of course a steep ascent on the return. If you take your time and rest along the way, it is not a difficult trail. This, of course depends upon your physical condition so your mileage may vary.

I am always intrigued by some of nature’s surprises. On the return trip back to the parking area while going uphill, I noticed this bush.

Painted Desert Bush along the Blue Mesa Trail

From this vantage point, this doesn’t look like anything special. There could be hundreds of similar bushes growing in these parks, but let’s take a look from the other side of the plant.

Painted Desert Bush along the Blue Mesa Trail

Do you see those yellow arrows? That is one long root running down the side of the sandstone formation following a crevice and into the ground where one can assume it takes hold and gets whatever moisture and nutrients it can.

This is a beautiful example of the the struggle to survive in some of the harshest environments and how living organisms often find a way to adapt.

Many visitors might pass by this “stoic” plant without ever taking notice of the ongoing fight for survival! I do hope a few stop to pay homage.

NOTE – The Blue Mesa area can be enjoyed from the rim without hiking down into the canyon. There are several lookout areas and quite a few parking spaces. It will be beautiful from those areas too!

Read more about the Blue Mesa Trail at Inspired Imperfection


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com

Petroglyphs: The Writing on the Wall

Petroglyphs are images scratched into rocks using other rocks or instruments. In the desert, rocks often gather a dark patina that can be chipped away to reveal a lighter surface underneath. These are ideal surfaces for creating petroglyphs.

These drawings are found in many locations around the world. and those created by ancient peoples tend to hold a certain mystique.

NOTE: – Paintings on rocks are referred to as pictographs or petrographs.

Some Petroglyphs are relatively recent, perhaps as young as the early twentieth century while others are tens of thousands of years old.

During our many hikes across the United States, we have seen a number of established petroglyph sites.

One of the most interesting encounters was Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument in Utah which can be found along the main road leading into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.

The photo above was of the left-hand side of the main display. A number of the images are self-explanatory while others remain mysterious. These are estimated to be 2,000 years old according to the park’s website.

This lighter section was a less “populated” area even farther left of the area shown above. It is amazing how well the petroglyphs have stood the rigors of weather over time. Notice that some drawings such as the feet and the quartered circle are repeated in a number of areas shown in the photographs.

The last section, located on the right-hand side of the monument, is carved on very dark rock. A variety of animals and hunters can clearly be seen.

What I find almost equally astounding is that these images do not seem to have been defaced. There is only a short fence blocking off this ancient canvas which could easily be breeched. Kudos to the thousands of visitors who have admired this precious view into the past and have kept it safe for others to witness.

Read more abut Newspaper Rock HERE

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

We were fortunate enough to have time to visit petroglyphs at the Valley of Fire State Park. Although these were not at ground level, a scaffolding was erected to enable easy viewing of the ancient artistry.

Picture courtesy of Park Ranger John website

Valley of Fire State Park

A number of the images were similar to those at other sites.



Unfortunately there was some alteration, or more accurately, violation of these ancient treasures, shown in the picture below via the circle.


The names Herman and Janine were carved into the face of the large rock.

Painted Desert – Another Rock, Another Newspaper

The Painted Desert also has a Newspaper Rock although it is not as easy to “read” as the Canyonland’s Edition.

The artifacts can be viewed from a fenced-off, elevated area just a short walk from the large parking lot. Don’t expect to get a good picture of the actual drawings unless you have a camera with a fairly large telephoto lens.

This is what you will see from the viewpoint above the rock formation. I have placed yellow arrows where the petroglyphs are located. On a sunny day, there is shade covering much of the surface (obviously depending on the the time of the day) making them difficult to see with the naked eye.


There are free viewing machines (mechanical binoculars) that assist visitors in visualizing some of the drawings. These are not always optimal as dust and dirt on the lenses and loss of definition related to location in such a harsh environment degrades the lenses.


I am not suggesting that people be allowed to approach these ancient treasures and, as demonstrated above, perhaps it is a good thing for their own protection.

The pictures below were not captured with a standard 35mm camera and thus the ranges given are approximately estimated for a full-frame digital camera.

With a telephoto lens ( 80mm +/-), we can get closer…

At approximately 300 mm (+/-) the drawings become quite clear:


Moving in a bit closer, we can see even more detail.


At the maximum length of the crop sensor lens on my canon HS50xs Powershot, we get a closer look, but some detail is blurred.

Once again, we see similarity to petroglyphs from other sites.


Tours by the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center are available for some of the petroglyph sites at the Petrified Forest.

Read more about Petroglyphs and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more miscellaneous stories on JBRish HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 — JBRish.com

Holy Toledo – Spain

The last city visited during our trip to Spain was Toledo. Some have suggested that the expression Holy Toledo refers to this Spanish city which is the seat of the Cardinal Archbishop of Spain. During our stop in Toledo, we noticed numerous churches which might lend support to the Holy Toledo reference as well.*

Let’s start at the beginning. The first views we had of this beautiful city were from a nearby hillside.

We arrived on a Sunday and many of the holy shrines were closed to tourists, but we were able to appreciate the grand architecture of this urban center from afar.

At the turn of the current century, the city fathers realized that the historic streets could not handle the overwhelming pedestrian and vehicular traffic. To help alleviate congestion and difficulty of navigating the narrow streets, they constructed a large parking garage at the foot of one of the hills. Understanding that this climb might be difficult for travelers, they decided to build a unique system of six angular escalators.

We soon arrived at the Plaza de Zocodover which was city-center for Toledo through most of its history. The town is decorated for tourists with flags and banners festooning the the buildings and hanging across the busy streets.

This arcade leading up to the square from below also hosts a statue of Miguel de Cervantes which can be seen in the middle, lower part of the picture.

As part of our walking tour, we passed city hall…

and the historic Cathedral of Toledo.

Along the way, we passed a number of colorful residential areas.

While we visited Toledo on a Sunday when many houses of worship do not allow tourists, one part of the Church of Santo Tomé is available for a very special viewing.

Don Gonzalo Ruíz, the Count of Orgaz, was a church and city benefactor who died in 1323. The famous painter, El Greco, created a large painting symbolizing the burial of the Count of Orgaz which has a religious symbolism associated with it. This painting resides in an anteroom of sorts of the Church of Santo Tomé and is open for visitors.

The line to view the painting was long and entrance was metered so be prepared to wait. No pictures are allowed inside.

Read more about the painting and its history HERE

There was a significant Jewish Quarter in Toledo…

The street sign translates to: The crossing of the Jewry

We visited the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. Interestingly enough the shrine was built by Muslim architects. It was later converted to a church and currently serves only as a historical site.

This oil painting of the Holy Land with Hebrew lettering hints at the Jewish this building’s Jewish past.

A Jewish star is also visible among the sculpted details of the interior.

During our visit to a souvenir shop, I noticed a most interesting drain downspout!

This attractive facade of the School of Arts and Crafts shows a relief of what appears to be the school’s coat of arms.

The Alcantara Bridge is one of the main access points in Toledo.

Below is a view near the bridge looking back at the city of Toledo.

This was our last city to see in Spain and Portugal. Of course there was more we would like to have seen and perhaps some day we will return.

* You can read more about the derivation of the phrase Holy Toledo HERE.


Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com

Caught by Fire While Hiking

In mid September we traveled to the White Mountains in northeast Arizona near Pinetop/Lakeside for some hiking. After much research, one of of the daily hikes we selected was the Los Burros Trail in the Apache Sitgreaves Forest.

“Killer hike” is how you’d describe Los Burros if you were writing a postcard. Even the historic red barn, which greets hikers at the trailhead, is alluring. Or maybe “mystical” is a better word. It’s the kind of place Django Reinhardt might have hunkered down with a bottle of Château Margaux, despite the “no trespassing” sign.


While the hike was nice, it was somewhat rocky with little else to see except trees and a couple of meadows. There were no distant mountain vistas or breathtaking mountain views. Having said that, it was a typical forest hike with plenty of canopy. It was a good forest hike if that is your goal.

During our hours of hiking we passed one trio of horseback riders and a cyclist; that’s it!

Little did we know what an adventure this would ultimately become. According to our Garmin GPS device, we had hiked a bit over eleven of the 13.8 (+/-) miles and we noticed that the sky was turning dark. Initially we thought a storm was brewing.

We heard helicopters circling the area several times. We saw them and they should have seen us as there were many times they passed overhead and we were in clearings along the path.

We continued along the trail and then we saw this…


There was a tremendous amount of smoke and haze. Part of the forest was on fire. It was nearly four o’clock on what was a sunny day.

Luckily, we were close to a rather wide service road. As we began to walk along the road to get to where the trail continued. At this point, flames were clearly visible.

see detail with flames below

detail from photograph above

We were really in a quandary regarding what would be the “best” strategy; especially when we saw exactly where our trail led…

The trail continued directly behind the sign along that path!

At this point, it was obvious we could not take the trail so we began to walk down the service road in the direction of the trailhead. We knew then and there that this had the potential to be a very long day.

We were prepared with headlamps, extra food, water, etc., but we had no firefighting mechanism and we were breathing smoke from the surrounding fires.

A fire truck came rambling along the road and after being flagged down, the driver was able to shout some vague directions to us, but it still left us guessing. We had a map and to the best of our knowledge of the area, we continued to walk.

After ten minutes or so, we caught a lucky break. A woman on an ATV was approaching along the road. She heard about the fire and wanted to see what was happening. After some conversation, she agreed to drive us back to the trailhead; apparently we were going to be spared an ordeal!

NOTE: We learned that the fire along our trail was set deliberately to prevent a lightning induced fire farther south from ravaging the area.


The story has a happy ending, but it still leaves me with some interesting thoughts:

    1 – If the firefighters knew they were going to set a backfire, shouldn’t they have considered that there might be hikers along the Los Burros trail?

    2 – Shouldn’t the helicopters have reported that there were hikers on the trail and request help/rescue?

    3 – Wouldn’t it have been nice under the circumstances for the firemen on the truck who offered us “directions” to have given us a ride to the campground? We later saw firetrucks and firefighters at the trailhead just yards from where we parked. I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the driver of the truck that stopped was among them.

    4 – Couldn’t the men on the truck call to get someone to help us get safely back to our car?

In the end, it all worked out and I thank that wonderful woman for giving us a ride to the trailhead. She wanted no reward, just to be remembered for a good deed. We thank you Susan! You saved us much anguish and consternation!


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com

Madrid, Spain – Anticipation & Surprises – Part 2

If you spend any significant time in Madrid, sooner or later you will find yourself in or near the Plaza Mayor located in one of the oldest parts of the city known as the Hapsburg district thus named because it was governed by the Hapsburg Dynasty from 1516–1700. This is the general area that has the Botin restaurant mentioned in my previous post. The plaza is a symmetrical, building-lined square which at first may appear to be completely enclosed.


Visitors to the plaza enter through strategically placed arcades.


As a chief tourist destination it is a natural stage for street performers and artists. For a fee, this headless military officer will gladly pose for a picture.


We visited the square on two occasions and there was ample tourist traffic and activity to make it an interesting stop. Some readers may have read about the love lock fence in France. Continuing this tradition, Madrid has its facsimile surrounding the lamp post in the picture of the arcade above.


During our visit to Madrid there was an art installation throughout town highlighting sculptures reminiscent of Diego Velázquez’s Meninas which are featured in his paintings at the Prado Art Museum in Madrid. More information about Las Meninas


In parts of the city that were under construction and the environment was not safe for the actual Meninas, they had simple representations to include as many locations as possible.


Just west of the Plaza Mayor is another interesting stop that will not disappoint.


The Mercado San Miguel (Marketplace) is more than a hundred years old and started as a wholesale food market.

Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

From the finest Iberian ham and freshest fish and shellfish brought in daily from Galicia, to Mediterranean rice dishes and the most exquisite cheeses from Castile, Asturias and the Basque Country – at the Mercado de San Miguel, you’ll find all the highlights of Spanish cuisine. Spread out over more than 20 stands, the common denominator here is a commitment to high-quality tapas and pub fare.**


Fruit presentations are hand crafted providing the most pleasant displays and hopefully encouraging more purchases.


There are gastronomic delights for every taste and of almost any imaginable food group.


Whether it is Iberian ham …


or a memorable vintage, the Mercado has you covered.


We enjoyed this somewhat snarky mileage sign reminding us how far away from home we were.


We always enjoy seeing how different cultures represent products or events that are similar to those we have in America. This advertisement for car security system or insurance with chains placed around a parked automobile was quite clever. [Sorry the shot is a bit blurry as it was taken from our moving bus!]


We do quite a bit of gardening at home and naturally we gravitate to gardens whenever we have a chance to visit other destinations. The Parque (Jardines) del Buen Retiro is a large park with many displays of flowers, trees, shrubs, etc.


There is ample space to relax and enjoy the green atmosphere.


Amid one of the water features, there was a family of ducks!


One of the hubs in the park was a large fountain with a sculpture of Lucifer which is somewhat remarkable…

“The country’s capital city holds unique bragging rights for having what is commonly acknowledged as the only public monument to the Devil himself.

Located in the gardens of the expansive Parque del Buen Retiro, this statue is 666 meters height above the sea level. The Fallen Angel (Ángel Caído) is set atop a marble pillar in the midst of a fountain decorated with sinister demonic entities and some rather miscast reptiles. Lucifer is depicted at the moment he is cast out of Heaven, as inspired by a passage in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

This location is also a place to acquire snacks and perhaps take a restroom stop!


A bit farther down the walkway there was an impressive rose garden.


After admiring a dog or two, and having had our fill of plants and flowers for the day, we started to head back to our hotel. On the way, we walked through a residential section of town that had a few quaint, small restaurants like this eatery using ceramic hats to cover the al fresco place settings.


Always a sucker for impressive, old-looking wooden doors, I had to take a picture of this beauty.


Crossing the street near the Prado, we encountered this LGBTQ traffic signal.


This was our last day in town and we were going to make the most of it. We were eager to explore the neighborhoods near our hotel even those that were a bit of a walk away.

This interesting sign for a Cervantes restaurant was just a few blocks from our room.


We made one last dash to the Puerta del Sol or Gate of the Sun (not far from Plaza Mayor), another very busy, touristy stop in center of Madrid. This public square has the distinction of being the starting point for the six major roads emanating from the Puerta del Sol and there is actually a marker denoting kilometer zero for those streets..


One of the most popular statues in Madrid is “El Oso y El Madroño” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree). The reasoning behind this particular statue is a bit murky, but you can read about it at the link below:


El Oso y El Madroño

We certainly had our share of adventures in Madrid and it was now time to call it the end of another day.


Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com

Madrid, Spain – Anticipation & Surprises – Part 1

Little were we aware of the “surprise” awaiting us as we disembarked the bullet train from Cordoba and made our way to the streets of Madrid just outside the railroad station.

Madrid Atocha Train Station

Cars had abandoned the streets and were replaced by large groups of people briskly walking toward our hotel at the Plaza de las Cortes.

Our guide explained that the bus was not able to reach our hotel and we had a walk of several large blocks. The result was that the luggage could not be delivered until some time later (which turned out to be close to midnight). Anyone needing medications or other important supplies was asked to stay behind to retrieve a small quantity of items to carry with them. And thus the walk began!

The home team had just won a recent soccer championship. Celebration and merriment were the theme of the moment!

As we made our way through the ever more crowded streets, we passed a massive living green wall. This was perhaps the most exceptional example I had ever seen so kudos to those vertical gardeners of Madrid!

This was the scene just outside the hotel as we arrived.

We had some time before evening was upon us so we headed out to do a quick walkabout and gain some familiarity with the local sights. We continued to be impressed by the beautiful colors of the houses as well as the interesting contrasts in this urban district.

On the following day, it was an early breakfast and off to visit the The Palacio Real or Royal Palace, located at the Plaza de la Armeria.

“The structure itself is enormous and an awe-inspiring sight (both inside and out). It measures 135,00 square metres and is separated into 3,418 rooms. That’s almost double the size of England’s Buckingham Palace or France’s Versailles.**”

Once the home of the Kings of Spain, the palace today serves as the site for state ceremonies, official banquets and other government functions. Upon entering, visitors are soon rewarded with a magnificent staircase and and royal trappings of red velvet and golden accents.

“The Grand Staircase is composed of a single piece of San Agustin marble. Two lions grace the landing, one by Felipe de Castro and another by Robert Michel. The frescoes on the ceiling is by Corrado Giaquinto and depicts Religion Protected by Spain. On the ground floor is a statue of Charles III in Roman toga, with a similar statue on the first floor depicting Charles IV. The four cartouches at the corners depict the elements of water, earth, air and fire.**”


This area of the palace can be very crowded at times which makes it difficult to arrange for a good photographic composition without milling crowds.

On the ceiling above the grand staircase is a painting by the Italian artist Corrado Giaquinto which is titled Religion Protected by Spain.

Regal ornamentation was on exhibit throughout the rooms in the Royal Palace.

Tapestries and opulence on display

There were a few tell tale signs of modernity such as the painting of the family of Juan Carlos I by Antonio López.

Pictured are King Juan Carlos I, Queen Sophia and their 3 children – Elena, Cristina and the new King Felipe IV.

“The Manchegan painter Antonio López has devoted 20 years to the painting The Family of Juan Carlos I. The final version of this work, after numerous modifications, is the culmination of the exhibition The Portrait in the Royal Collections…**”


As we left the palace, we took a brief walk to one of the “balconies” accessible via the plaza to view an area that is now a park, but once served as the hunting grounds for the Spanish Royalty.

Located south of the Royal Palace (at the other end of the Plaza de la Armeria) is another architectural wonder, the Cathedral Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena. We did not have an opportunity to visit the Cathedral, but if we return to Madrid, it will be on the list of things to see.

As we were aboard the transport heading to another destination, we passed some of the beautiful gardens and parks surrounding the palace and cathedral.

There is plenty to see and admire in Madrid. A very popular tourist attraction is the Botín restaurant recognized as the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Tourists stop by to have their pictures taken in front of the wooden-paneled facade.

Read more about the history and current status of Botín

While strolling through the same neighborhood, we came across this whimsical modern art gallery.

There were numerous shops and floral displays to please the eyes and interests of passersby.

Closer to our hotel, we took another walk just about dinner time. Parking, as in most major cities, can be an issue in Madrid as this car parked along the side of the narrow street which appeared to be a walking only thoroughfare.

A visit to the Prado, Spain’s venerable art museum, was on our “things to do” the following day, but as we passed by on this day, there was a line going completely around the museum for blocks and blocks.

Out of curiosity, I stopped to ask a gentleman waiting in line what was happening and he cheerfully explained that there was free admission between 6 and 8 pm from Monday to Saturday (and other days as well) – check this web page if interested – https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum

That was enough for this day. It was time to rest a bit and prepare for tomorrow’s adventures.


Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com

Cordoba, Spain and the Olive Country

Granada had a wonderful mixed ambiance of the old and the new which is very inviting, but after two days, it was time to move on to Cordoba for a very brief single-day stop. There would be no overnight stay, just a quick day of touring.

Olive orchards on the way to Cordoba
picture snapped through our speeding bus window

On the way, we traveled through Spain’s premier olive-growing region of Andalusia and of course we made a requisite stop at one of the local olive mills. There were plenty of products for sale and we acquired several tins of the famed olive oil as well as some decorative bottle stoppers.

The grounds had interesting artifacts. Whether they were originals or not, I had no way of knowing, but they were engaging just the same. The picture below is of a large urn for storing part of the season’s olive oil bounty. The metal wheels would most likely be parts of the grinding machinery used to crush the olives.


This is a view of the beautiful plantings. Notice the urn in the distance.


After our brief stop, we boarded the bus and arrived in Cordoba. We had a brief lunch and then enjoyed a walk through the historic part of the city which is a delight for anyone who enjoys the beautiful contrast of solid colored building facades (mostly white) generously punctuated with colorful flower-filled pots and planters.



We also spent time wandering through city’s historic Jewish Quarter. Casa Pepe de la Juderia is one of the well-known restaurants in this part of town.


Markers were embedded among the paving stones to differentiate the Jewish Quarter streets.


Towering over the center of Cordoba, and visible from many streets, are the towers of the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba) which is perhaps the main draw for many tourists and adventurers. The structure is referred to as both a mosque and a cathedral because of its complex history.

he Bell tower of the Mosque of Cordoba
The Bell tower of the Mosque of Cordoba

The Torre del Alminar (Minaret Tower) has been converted to the Bell Tower with steps leading to the top for impressive views of Cordoba.

Even before entering the building, an examination of the beautiful exterior details revealed the uniqueness and the age of this Mosque. The nine entrances are referred to as gates; each with a distinct name. I believe this is the Gate of Holy Spirit Espiritu Santuto.

Gate of Holy Spirit Espiritu Santuto

Our group began the tour by gathering in the main courtyard.


The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba – Which has a unique combination of Christian and Moorish architecture and religious cultures. The original structure had, for a time, dual occupancy with different sections being used by the Visigoth Christians and the Muslims, but was later destroyed to make way for a grand Mosque (Mezquita) constructed over a period of more than 200 years.

In the 13th century, the building was taken over by the Christians and converted into a church. **

** Source

There is a huge columnar prayer hall that is astonishingly beautiful because of the colors and the manner in which the light plays off the surrounding walls, ceilings and floors.


There are reportedly an excess of 800 columns supporting the structure.


The picture below is particularly interesting because of the golden hue, the ornate carving and the hanging lights.


The focal point in the prayer hall is the unusual horse-shoe arched prayer niche or mihrab beautifully painted with exquisite detail. Gold-backed glass was used in the construction and provides some of the striking contrast.**


** Source

Wherever one looked, there was magnificence on display. The intricate arches were stunning.


When the Christian rulers gained control of the structure, they took to the task of constructing the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption inside the mosque. This is the High Altar of the main chapel.


Not to be outdone by all of the detailed artwork of the mosque, the chapel dome is also very ornate…


As is this nearby ceiling…


There is a Museum in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption where this gold and green artifact is on display.


After our visit to the Mosque/Cathedral, we returned to the quaint streets of Cordoba with the mosque peering through the narrow skyscapes.


Cordoba is also known for its courtyards and during May, there is a courtyard festival:

Every year in May, the city of Cordoba in Andalusia celebrates its famous Courtyards Festival, a tradition which was declared a part of our Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO in 2012 and during which many of the courtyards or “patios” in the historic quarter are open to visitors for a few days. The festival is a competition to discover the most beautiful courtyards in the city, and fills the streets with colour, the scent of jasmine and orange blossom and the strains of flamenco.**

** Source

While this was not part of the festival when we were in town, it was an interesting, colorful courtyard that we were able to admire.


There was time for one last stop before we headed for the train station and I wanted to see the Roman Bridge (Puente Romano) and the Roman Arch Gate which is within easy walking distance of the Mosque.



The afternoon shadows were growing long so we made our way to the train station in Cordoba to take the two-hour (+/-) ride to Madrid.

Members of our group served to create a Norman Rockwell moment.


The bullet train was very sleek and fast! Next Stop Madrid!



Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com