Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco

A trip from March 24 through April 12, 2008

The core of our trip was an Elderhostel tour addressing the cultural and historic links between Spain and North Africa, Morocco, in particular.  This led to a strong emphasis on architecture and the evolution of religions in the area.  We augmented the Elderhostel tour, which commenced in Toledo, with a couple of days in Madrid, a city we had never visited before.

Madrid was the first stop.
Goya at Prado
When in Madrid for the first time, the Prado is a mandatory stop.  We were hoping for Goya, but his statue was almost the best we had.  All the major Goya paintings were being prepared (and restored) for "Goya in the Times of War," which opened after we left for home.  (We did see Goya's tapestry cartoons, and we did enjoy El Greco and Valázquez.)
Major thoroughfare
Madrid, with its population of 3½ million, is a big city.  It has a lot of parks, but it also has the other stuff, like congestion and traffic.  This is a view down Calle de Alcala, just past the Bank of Spain.
Janet and Lichtenstein
Our preferred museum, so far, is the Reina Sofia, which is called MNCARS for its full name, El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.  It has a much richer collection of modern art, including Picasso's Guernica.  Here is Janet in the courtyard with Lichtenstein's Prying Mantis.
Caixa Forum Lobby
The newest museum, and the most modern, is the Caixa Forum.  We were too "museum-ed out" to pursue it in detail, but its lobby gives an idea.  The Caixa's forecourt is adorned with a vertical garden, 50 or 60 feet tall.
Palacio Real
The Palacio Real de Madrid is the largest in Europe, but the king and queen have chosen to live in a smaller palace.
Mystert Building
This building, very close to the royal palace, remains a mystery to us.  We find it interesting as a piece of architecture.
Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor was the site of both bull fights and auto de fés.  It is said that blood stains (from bulls) are still there.  We didn't look.
Atocha Station
This part of the Atocha railway station was designed by Alberto Palacio y Ellisague, with assistance from Gustave Eiffel in 1892.    A hundred years later, an adjoining wing took over for the trains, and the historic wing has become a garden and mall.  The Atocha station was the one bombed by Al Qaeda sympathizers in March, 2004.
Barajas T4
Madrid's Barajas Airport has a very modern Terminal 4, which was designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers .  This terminal has a satellite, equally modern, but remote enough to have caused us some trouble.
Next stop was Toledo
El Greco
This View of Toledo, which is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was El Greco's vision, around 1600.  Prominent and to the right of center, are the Cathedral and the Alcazar.
Our view of Toledo
Our View of Toledo, fairly early in the morning, with much better weather than El Greco had.  The Cathedral and the Alcazar are still prominent.  And note the river Tajo, which almost circles Toledo.  This was probably a big reason for its emergence as a fortified city for the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors, and finally, the Catholics.
Cathedral of Toledo
The Cathedral of Toledo, seen in relative isolation.  Closer views are all obstructed by Toledo's narrow, winding streets.
Cathedral Tower
The tower of the Cathedral is a useful landmark, but only when you can see it.
Facade of the Cathedral
Like most of the historical buildings in Toledo, the Cathedral is lighted at night.  This is just at dusk, not quite dark.
Hotel Carlos V
Our hotel was named after Carlos V, King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire until 1556.  The hotel was on a narrow, restricted street, and our bus always parked  some distance away on one of the few streets in old Toledo where it could pass.
Alcazar of Toledo
The Alcázar of Toledo.  This started as a Roman palace in the third century, but it present form probably dates to about 1535, when extensive renovations were done.  This was used as a fortress by Spanish Nationalist (Franco's) forces as recently as 1936, during the Spanish Civil War.  They were under siege by the Republican forces.
San Martin Bridge
The Puente san Martin crosses the Tajo river, and connects old Toledo to the suburb of San Martin.  This may be the bridge visible in El Greco's painting, but there is another candidate, the Alcantara bridge.
Santa Maria La Blanca
Santa Maria la Blanca is a culturally confusing building.  The architecture is moorish, i. e., Islamic.  The name is Christian, and its function was a synagogue.  Go figure.
In transit to Granada - Quixote and Olives
Inn at Puerto Lapice
The inn at Puerto Lapice was frequented by Miguel de Cervantes, before he went to jail.  While in jail, he wrote some of Don Quixote's adventures into this tavern, including his being dubbed a knight.  (Chapter II)

This is in the provence of Castille-La Mancha, which is a region of castles and windmills.  Today, modern windmills fill  the hillsides along with the traditional white cylinders.
Janet with the ghost of Quixotte
No inn in the novel could pass up a chance to remind us of the connections with Don Quixote.  No tourist should pass on this photo-op.
Olives growing near Baeza
For miles and miles and miles, through the Province of Jaén and approaching the town of Baeza, olive trees reach from one horizon to the other.  For the most part, these olives end up as olive oil, but we certainly enjoyed a lot of excellent table olives, too.

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