Seville, Spain – The Alcazar

We were excited to begin our second day in Seville because our walking tour was going to take us to the Alcazar, one of the oldest palaces currently in use by monarchs. Spain’s royal family resides there when duties call them to Seville or nearby towns. The Alcazar has also gained a bit of notoriety as the setting for some episodes of The Game of Thrones.

The Alcazar first served as a fort and was later used as a palace for the leaders of the cultures dominating the area. As noted in prior posts, centuries-old buildings contain vestiges of the societies that claimed ownership of them over time and the Alcazar is no exception.

Tourists will note elements reminiscent of the Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as architectural influences of the Arab and other cultures. The main entrance is through the Lion’s Gate adjacent to the Plaza del Triunfo which is just one of the first of many interesting sights visitors will see.


The Lions Gate of the Alcazar

Here is a close-up of the lion inlay.


The Lions Gate of the Alcazar

Picture by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
via https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41790903

Visitors pass through an archway to arrive at the Patio de la Montería (The Hunting Courtyard).

Entrance archway to the Hunting Courtyard.

This is a photograph from the other side showing the manicured hedges and roses as well as other garden and architectural accents. The stonework is old and it looks its age!

Entrance archway from inside the Hunting Courtyard.

There are many notable characteristics of the Alcazar, but the numerous courtyards creating outdoor and indoor rooms must be high on that list. As the name implies, the Hunting Courtyard is where the royalty would gather those participating in the hunts. It currently serves as an entrance to the Royal Palace of Seville.

 Royal Palace of Seville.

The striking facade of the Mudejar Palace, or Palacio del Rey Don Pedro, located inside the Alcazar was constructed around 1360.

the Mudejar Palace

Notice the intricate patterns which I found remarkable considering the time in which it was built.

intricate patterns - facade of the Mudejar Palace

Other buildings framing the palace entrance were vibrantly colored which does not show as well in this shaded area.

vibrant colors of the buildings

The Dolls Courtyard (Patio de las Munecas) in the Alcazar had incredible structural details. The name is derived from the small abstract stucco faces that decorate some of the arches. I did not know about this “hidden” feature at the time, but the Internet has come to the rescue!

One of the dolls
A close up picture of one the dolls heads, a “hidden” architectural element in the Dolls Couryard of the Alcazar.
Photo courtesy of https://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/spain/seville/alcazar/alcazar4.html

Square skylight dome of the Dolls Courtyard

The square domed skylight of the Dolls Couryard (above) allowed filtered light to fill the area which enabled the play of light and shadow to accentuate the detailed stucco work (below).

Dolls Couryard with intricate carvings

The Ambassador’s Hall (Salón de Embajadores – below), sometimes referenced as the Throne Room, was a very important area of the Alcazar because it was used for public events and affairs. The arches were beautifully decorated with shades of blue. The pronounced curves have been referred to as “horseshoe arches.”

The Ambassador’s Hall

Here is a closer picture of some plaster details!

Arch details and colors

If this was not enough, a stunning dome made of gilded wood in the Ambassador’s Hall added an even more decadent accent.

Golden Dome Ceiling of the Ambassador's Hall

The Courtyard of the Maidens (Patio de las Doncellas) has a reflecting pool which would be integral to a Moorish design. The name refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia. [1] Recent research indicated that the sunken garden was an original feature and thus was recently restored replacing a marble courtyard with center fountain.

Courtyard of the Maidens
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<p>Additional plaster artwork among the arches of the Alcazar</p>
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When visiting a building of such historical importance and magnificence, it is really difficult to appreciate all it has to offer in the moment. In addition to all of the beautiful architecture and artwork mentioned thus far, the tile work along the walls was impressive.

The colorful tile below contains portraits of Charles V and Isabel of Portugal. [2]

Beautiful tile work with portraits of Charles V and Isabel of Portugal

Tile work pattern with blues, green and brown

Beautiful tile work

And then there was this wooden, door-like panel with a Moorish design…

Wooden panel with Moorish patterns

Once again, much like a child in a candy store, there was almost too much to take in at one time as we came to displays of beautiful tapestries. This tapestry was hanging above a doorway in the hall of Charles V.

Coat of Arm Tapestry

Here is a better picture of the entire hallway and notice the tiles and additional tapestries along the wall.

In the Sala de los Tapices (Room of Tapestries) the walls are covered with tapestries depicting various explorations and conquests. The originals were destroyed and these are reproductions. The Tapestry Room had to be built from scratch after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. [3]

Hall of Tapestries

Don’t forget to look up. The ceilings are also works of art.

Beautiful ceiling with wonderful colors

Another beautiful ceiling

As we walked through the palace, there were some striking rooms that looked out on to the vast gardens.

Sun room overlooking the gardens

One of my favorite spots in the garden was this curved tile bench with a hedge mimicking the outline.

Garden tile bench

There were a myriad of intersecting pathways to explore leading visitors to roses and other beautiful plantings.

Garden paths

Another garden path

Did I mention they have peacocks?

Peacock in the garden

Closer and more colorful picture of the peacock

As we left the gardens we used a beautifully carved portal near the Jardín del Retiro del Marqués.

Intricately carved stonework of the exit portal at the Alcazar's garden

This is one place in Seville where the more time a visitor has, the better. It was hard to see all of it while on a schedule with other planned stops!


[1] – https://globetrottinggardener.com/2015/09/01/sevillas-alcazar-the-courtyard-of-the-maidens/

[2] – http://paulbuddehistory.com/europe/the-hapsburgs-in-the-low-countries/

[3] – https://www.seville-traveller.com/alcazar-seville/


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Read previous posts about our adventures traveling in Portugal and Spain:

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 1

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 2

Portugal – Lisbon Streets & Garden

Lisbon Portugal – The Belem and Tejo River District

Sintra Portugal – National Palace and Quaint Streets

Portugal – Seaside Resort of Cascais

Portugal – Lisbon’s Edward VII Park

Lisbon, Portugal – Walking the Avenue to the Rossio District

Lisbon, Portugal – Unique Gift Shop

Portugal – Evora’s Capela dos Ossos

Portugal – Historic Evora

Merida, Spain – Ancient Roman Ruins

Seville, Spain – First Impressions

 

Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


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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



Gardening – Winter Garden in the Desert

When we transitioned from the northeast to the southwest, it was a dramatic change on a number of levels. We left many of our friends and relatives behind and there was a huge void in our lives because of this.

While most noticeable, friends and family were not our only loss. We also lost our gardens and plants that we relied on for our three seasons of flower-filled joy. There are a number of plants we grew easily in the Northeast (Hunterdon County, New Jersey) such as hostas, astilbes, hydrangeas, morning glories, dahlias, etc. that either struggle in the Sonoran Desert or just downright die.

We have learned, of course, that there are trade offs. We have come to love gazanias which grace us with their bouquet of striking colors throughout the year and we are likewise able to grow geraniums in the spring through early summer and then again from late fall through the winter and spring if we avoid a hard freeze.

Here are some of our gazanias growing strong in January when football on television shows snowstorms in the northeast.





It is a bit unusual to have the alyssum (above) so full and lush this time of year, but we nursed them along. It is so delightful to experience that honey-like smell during a winter’s afternoon.

We have had a couple of light frosts which leave our gardens looking funky when festooned with frost cloths. These are only temporary for a day or two and then they are removed and kept at the ready should we need them again. We haven’t had a significant frost in quite a few years. Last year there were no frost days in our particular area, but we stood ready to take action if necessary!



Our mid-fall planting of geraniums on either side of our front door are still doing well.



In a previous photo, we took a peek at the alyssum currently in bloom, but what wasn’t obvious was their potted companions; pink geraniums.



They really make a great team especially during those chilly winter days when we are glad to be reminded of the inevitable spring.



Here is wider view of the “companions” putting on quite a performance.



It isn’t always fun having these delicate plants “out-of-season.” In the middle of the covered array below are the same plants pictured above during one of our light frost days.



Another geranium giving us significant winter color is a pink trailer situated between two very large pots of twisted myrtle creating a floral exclamation point.



Whenever we pine for our morning glories and dahlias under the blazing 110 degree heat we recall these winter scenes and we are grateful and happy!

NOTE – Fresh plantings of gazanias and alyssum will continue to do fairly well through the summer with ample water and some shade. The geraniums struggle through the heat and are often treated as annuals.



If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section and I will answer to the best of my ability.

 

Read more gardening posts HERE


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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



Merida, Spain – Ancient Roman Ruins

Merida, Spain is approximately two hundred miles southwest of Madrid and only a 3.5 hour ride from Lisbon. Tours of both Portugal and Spain often stop at this UNESCO World Heritage site to gaze upon the well-preserved ruins and monuments dating back to a time prior to the Christian era.

What makes Merida special among other cities on the Iberian peninsula is that it was one of the ancient Roman Empire’s most important cities and as such is home to numerous ruins. There are apparently more Roman monuments in Merida than any other Spanish municipality.

Just a short walk from the visitors center, the ruins become visible.

Distant view of the Ancient Roman Ruins of Merida, Spain

As we walked closer to the ancient structures, there were signs of the modern city which envelops this unique part of history (notice the rooftops and tower rising above the rim of the ancient walls in the background).


A closer view of the Ancient Roman Ruins of Merida, Spain

On the way to a central area, our guide pointed to a series of horizontal rocks (below) strategically placed in the middle of the “road.” Notice that there are three large structures that elevate well-above the surface. These served the purpose of our modern day speed bumps. Ancient vehicles would have to navigate these hindrances by slowing down to keep the wheels on each side of the middle obstacle.


Ancient Roman Speed Bumps

One of the two main attractions is the amphitheater. Visitor access is through the entry arch.


Archway leading to the amphitheater.

This is a view of one side of the circular area which is not fully restored.


Part of the  amphitheater partially restored

Perhaps this a better view from a bit farther away. The partially restored amphitheater shows the contrast between how it probably looked during the Roman Empire and how it was discovered; a then and now comparison.


A better view of the restored and unrestored amphitheater


Another view of the  amphitheater ruins

As depicted in many Hollywood films, this structure was used for gladiatorial combat. One can imagine the combatants walking through the entrance tunnels knowing what was facing them at the other end.


Gladiator tunnel leading to the activity circle of the amphitheater


Tourists walking through Gladiator tunnel leading to the activity circle of the amphitheater


 Opening of one of the tunnels leading to the activity circle of the amphitheater

With large crowds shouting for the victory of their favorite gladiator, the throngs needed a place to take care of their biological needs. A latrine area is pictured below.


latrine for attendees

As we walked through the restoration project, we noted some stones had a large “R” chiseled onto their face. The guide explained that the “R” signified that this was not an original stone, but a reproduction.


Restoration stone, not original

There were many original stones that have survived the centuries.


Many old original stones remain

Leaving the gladiator ring, we headed to the theater which is still used for summer productions.


Distant view of the theater nearby

Amid the scaffolding notice the statues between the columns. These are beautiful works of art representing this historic period.


A closer view of the theater, scaffolding and statues

Let’s take a closer look at some of these statues


Closer view of some of the statues


Closer view of some of the statues


Closer view of some of the statues

Some had names of their likeness (Tiberio Claudio Nero and Druso El Mayor)…..


Closer view of some of the statues

and Cayo Julio Cesar Agusto


Closer view of some of the statues

Walking through these old and almost unfathomable ruins, one cannot help being awestruck by the history and craftsmanship represented by these stone structures.


Beautiful ancient stonework

See a brief video of the Theater.

The areas immediately surrounding the ruins have been modernized with gardens, paths and water features. Rather than detract, they frame the Roman creations.


Light pink and purple flowers among the ruins


Gardens enhance the surrounding area

The importance of the UNESCO World Heritage site does note escape visitors as there are reminders throughout the town. This was a view from the front window of our bus. Notice the replica of a Roman column ruin at the center of the traffic circle.


Traffic circle with replica of a Roman column in the center

As with many magnificent finds such as this, there is often a yin and a yang. As the town plans for modern buildings, additional ruins are often uncovered. In many instances, construction must then stop and assessments made. This often delays, or in the worst case, cancels any renovations or building. As we can imagine, this must be very frustrating to current residents of Merida wanting to upgrade their properties.


Modern reconstruction delayed or canceled because of finding ruins

On the way out of town, we passed another impressive sight, a portion of the Acueducto de los Milagros (Miraculous Aqueduct). Only a small portion of the aqueduct bridge stands today. Many of the granite blocks were taken to be used on other structures before the aqueduct was a protected legacy.


Acueducto de los Milagros

Storks are fond of nesting atop tall structures and being an ancient, historical piece of history does not concern them. The White Stork is given protected status in Spain and many towns make sure they are cared for because they are of interest to tourists.


Storks nesting atop the Miraculous Aqueduct

Of course after such an excursion, we needed to stop for lunch. This is the Parador de Merida.


Parador de Merida - a fine lunch or dinner stop

The ride through the countryside to our next stop, Seville, was charming and picturesque.


Countryside on the way to Seville

Even the requisite rest stop provided intersting sights such as large pig legs and other meats offered for sale. One sign is for Paleta Ibérica Bellota, acorn-fed free range pigs. Interestingly enough hams from front and rear legs are differentiated: paleta is ham from the front leg while jamon would be from the rear leg. One famous producer is Fermin in Salamanca, Spain. (read more HERE)


Hams for sale at a highway rest stop

Learn more about The Roman Theatre of Mérida HERE

 

Next stop, Seville


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Read previous posts about our adventures traveling in Portugal and Spain:

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 1

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 2

Portugal – Lisbon Streets & Garden

Lisbon Portugal – The Belem and Tejo River District

Sintra Portugal – National Palace and Quaint Streets

Portugal – Seaside Resort of Cascais

Portugal – Lisbon’s Edward VII Park

Lisbon, Portugal – Walking the Avenue to the Rossio District

Lisbon, Portugal – Unique Gift Shop

Portugal – Evora’s Capela dos Ossos

Portugal – Historic Evora

 

Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


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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.

Adventures in Oregon: State Parks: Umpqua to Shore Acres


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As anticipated when traveling along a nation’s coastline, one is likely to find a number of lighthouses. Although technology has rendered them less important than in the past, the lure of the sea and the mystique that accompanies them gives lighthouses a certain panache.

I am as much of a sucker for this type of thing as the next person and was therefore anxious to see the lighthouse at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.


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This was one stop, however that was somewhat disappointing because the lighthouse was not open to the public. It was fenced in and surrounded by houses. While it had all of the requisite characteristics of other lighthouses…


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it was not as picturesque or architecturally engaging as others we had seen.

The Umpqua Lighthouse State Park had much more to offer than the lighthouse as we pulled into one of the main parking lots near the beach and put on our explorer’s garb. I have always liked beach combing because of some of the treasures Davy Jones tosses our way.

There was a series of jetties and one in particular seemed interesting because of this…


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We could not discern exactly what this boat was doing in the water. It was surrounded by barrels and there was a floating platform about twenty five yards behind. The craft seemed functional, but did not give the impression it was used for seafaring adventures very often. Here’s a closer look:


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As we walked along, we appreciated that we were not the only living creatures on the beach. This set of bird tracks went zig-zaging up the rocks toward the water creating an interesting pattern.


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With much to do this day, we did not linger before heading farther down the road. Sunset Bay State Park was a worthy stop. The tide was low and the colors of the water, surrounding rocks and trees were picture-pretty.


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We read about yet another lighhouse at Cape Arago near Charleston and were once again tempted to stop and capture some photographs. These were all from a distance as we could not get close to the building.


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This was a beautiful day. The sky was blue with wispy clouds and a soft breeze. After a number of days of mist and rain, the sun was most welcome. The seaside offered wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean.


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Anyone who spends a bit of time reading posts on JBRish.com, knows that I like gardening and I enjoy flowers. If you also appreciate plants, gardens and beautifully arranged formal garden settings, I would encourage you to stop and spend time at Shore Acres State Park garden near Coos Bay, OR.


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This display of Rudbeckias, which we grew in New Jersey, was thick and dazzling.


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Dahlias have always been one of my favorite flowers because of the intricate petal patterns and nearly unlimited variety in size, color and shape.


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The Hot Poker Plant (Tritoma) was one I have never grown, but these specimens were very colorful placed along the nearby hedge.


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There were a few greenhouses that had open doors and we took advantage of the “invite” and stepped inside. There were baskets of Impatiens, Angel Wing Begonias, Tuberous Begonias, Streptocarpus, Gloxinias and more.


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Visitors couldn’t ask for a more exquisite setting. There were an abundance of plants in a manicured and beautifully hardscaped botanical venue.


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Read previous posts about our adventures hiking and exploring in Oregon:

Exploring Astoria, Oregon – Part 1

Exploring Astoria, Oregon – Part 2

Exploring Astoria, Oregon – Part 3

Adventures in Oregon: Warrenton to Seaside

Adventures in Oregon: Hiking at Indian Beach

Adventures in Oregon: Views from Ecola Point

Adventures in Oregon: Movin’ On Down the Road

Adventures in Oregon: Garibaldi’s Graces and Pier

Adventures in Oregon: Tillamook – Cape Meares Lighthouse

Adventures in Oregon: Pacific City, Neskowin & Lincoln City

Adventures in Oregon: Cascade Head and Hart’s Cove in Lincoln City

Adventures in Oregon: Cape Foulweather & Drift Creek Falls

Adventures in Oregon: Newport to Yachats

Adventures in Oregon: Heceta Head & Sand Dunes

 

Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


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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 – 2018 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot – Larnach Castle Garden, Dunedin, NZ


When we visited New Zealand in 2009, the only camera I took with me was a very small point-and-shoot Canon AS590 IS, which at that time was considered fairly good for its class. Even with this small-ish 8 megapixel count, I was able to capture some amazing pictures.

The photograph below was taken at Larnach Castle in Dunedin, New Zealand. The sky was overcast and the colors were vibrant in themselves. This photo was edited a bit in Lightroom, but trust me when I say that this was a striking picture before the editing process.

I encourage everyone to record their adventures as large or small as they may be with whatever camera or smart phone they have with them. The images will be a treasure to review and appreciate over time.

Interestingly enough, there were a number of plants in this garden that we grow in our Sonoran Desert area.


Stormy skies over Larnach Castle Garden, Dunedin, NZ
Stormy skies over Larnach Castle Garden, Dunedin, NZ

You can find more information about the Larnach Castle & Gardens HERE

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Metadata

File Name: larnach_cast_grdn_)133.jpg
Capture time: Early Afternoon
Capture date: December 17, 2009
Exposure: 1/1000 5.8mm
ISO: 80
Camera: Canon PowerShot AS590 IS
Lens: 4.3-215mm

Edited in Lightroom

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Read more photography posts HERE


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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 – 2018 – JBRish.com