Iberia 2016

September 14th – October 2nd, 2016
Transportation:  Rental Car, Horse Carriage
Accommodations: AirBnB, Hotel
Highlights: Barcelona, Malaga, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Consuegra, Toledo, Segovia, Avila

United Kingdom
September 22nd, 2016
Transportation: Rental Car, Funicular
Highlights: Rock of Gibraltar, Barbary Macaques

October 2nd-6th, 2016
Transportation:  Foot, boat
Accommodations: AirBnB
Highlights: Canal area of Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum

We started our Spanish vacation with a visit to Casa Batlló in Barcelona

Casa Batlló is one of a number of buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi that make up a UNESCO World Heritage site...we visited several in our time in Barcelona!

Casa Batlló from the inside
Gaudi's works seem never to neglect any detail.  Even this interior roof and lamp have character.
The  roof is remiscent of a dragons scales.
The Columbus Column at the end of La Ramblas in Barcelona.  60 M high, it depicts Columbus pointing West
Barcelona windows
Constructed in 1929, the Palau Nacional of Montjuïc is now home to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Looking out at Barcelona from Montjuic
Gaudi's most famous work - the not-yet-completed Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia was Gaudi's masterpiece.  He begun it in 1883 and continued work on it until his death in 1926.
When asked about the long construction schedule, Gaudi is said to have said simply "My client is not in a hurry."
The view of the city from the climb up the spires of Sagrada Familia
While this might look like a gargoyle, it was really just the shadow of a dove sculpture along the side of the cathedral
Spiral staircase inside Sagrada Familia
The cathedral was only about 20% completed when Gaudi died in 1926.  Obsessed with finishing as much as he could, he had taken to living at the construction site.  His clothes worn to rags, and his appearance disheveled, he was struck by a cart in the street and it was hours before anyone came to his aid, believing he was a hobo.  He died soon after.
With multiple architects taking over the project in the decades since Gaudi's death, each has left their own mark, and the figures on different parts of the cathedral bear very distinctive characters.
Sculpture of a choir of angel children above a set of doors to the cathedral.
The doors to the Nativity Facade were installed in 2014, designed by Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo.
Fish-eye of the Sagrada Familia
Construction continues to this day on the cathedral, with a targeted completion date of 2026, the centennial of Gaudi's death.  With delays from Covid, it may longer yet.
Another of Barcelona's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Hospital de Sant Pau was designed by Catalan art nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and is considered one of the earliest and best examples of Modernista architecture

Sagrada Familia from the windows of the Hospital de Sant Pau

On more look at the Hospital de Sant Pau
Back to more Gaudi with the wonderful Park Guell.
I really enjoyed Park Guell and the feel that it's a gingerbread world come to life.  Even before we left for Spain, this was a photo I wanted to take.
The weird and wonderful Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera
Another Gaudi creation, the roof of Casa Mila is covered with these odd head sculptures.
The creatures of Casa Mila
From Casa Mila towards Sagrada Familia
One more vantage point of Casa Mila
Looking down a street towards the Cathedral of Barcelona
Buskers in a Barcelona plaza
The Palau de la Música Catalana - a wonderful concert hall in Barcelona, again designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site
Concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana
The next stop on our trip was Seville - this is the interior of the alcazar, once home to Spanish royalty following the Reconquista on the site of a Moorish fortress and still is a residence for the Royal Family when they are in Seville.
Paintings in the Alcazar of Seville
Stained glass in the Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses (Church of Saint Louis of France) in Seville
Inside the gigantic Cathedral of Seville
When completed in the 16th Century, the Seville Cathedral was the largest in the world, eclipsing the Hagia Sofia
A tomb effigy in the cathedral
Today, the Seville Cathedral is the second largest in the world, having been surpassed by the Milan Cathedral completed in 1936
A view from atop the Cathedral
One more view from the top
The Plaza de España in Seville - now famous as the setting for a scene from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
And now for something completely different - a Beceite Ibex in El Torcal de Antequera
El Torcal de Antequera - another Spanish UNESCO site
An Iberian Black Redstart perching on a branch to pose
A young ibex looks curiously at me.  I was hoping to find ibex when I came to this park and they didn't disappoint as I found several females and youngsters.  No big males however.
The unique rock features of El Torcal de Antequera
A female ibex leaps across the path in front of me
One last look at the rock formations, then back to civilization...
The streets of Malaga - our home base for this part of our adventure
Malaga at night
Out of Spain and off to the United Kingdom!  We travelled for the day in to Gibraltar.  The white building is the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque - the southernmost mosque in Europe, and one of the largest found in a non-Muslim majority country.
The lighthouse at the end of Europe...and in the distance the cliffs of Morocco.
A short-beaked common dolphin in the waters off of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar - towering high above all the surrounding area, this limestone monolith and the area surrounding it has been been a British outpost since 1704, despite several attempts by the Spanish to repatriate the area.
Barbary macaques - the only primates found in Europe, and only here in Gibraltar.
It is believed that the Moors brought these monkeys over during their domination of Spain, but no one knows for sure how or when they arrived.
Early morning in Cordoba, Spain.
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
The famous candy cane coloured arches of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
Pews and an altar in the Mosque–Cathedral
More arches.  This mosque was another of the visuals I was most looking forward to seeing when we were planning the trip.
A burial site within the mosque-cathedral
Fisheye of the arches. The site of the mosque-cathedral has been an important religious site for centuries, with the Visigoths originally having a cathedral on this spot, which was replaced by a Moorish mosque, and then converted to a Cathedral after the Reconquista
The ruins of Medina Azahara - once a bustling Moorish city near Cordoba.  Berbers sacked the city in the 12th century and it was never rebuilt, and only rediscovered by archaelogists in 1910.
The yawning chasm that separates the two halves of Ronda.
This town is the site of a fictional massacre in For Whom the Bell Tolls, although the atrocity is loosely based on others that are believed to have taken place.
The gorge beneath Ronda is over 300 metres deep
One last look at Ronda
The Port of Malaga from the Malaga Alcazar
I first learned of the Alhambra watching a travel show when I was in my teens and ever since I'd wanted to visit the site.  It did not disappoint.
Windows in Alhambra This sprawling palace complex was built between the 13th and 16th Centuries, first by the Moorish kings of Al-Andalus, and then by the Christian monarchs, beginning with Ferdinand & Isabella who took the site as their royal home following the completion of the Conquista
Alhambra in bloom
Isabella's crown and Ferdinand's sword in the Royal Chapel of Granada - their final resting place.
The postcard photo of the Alhambra
The Alhambra at Sunset
Sunset on Granada
Beach day in Southern Spain!
The Renaissance era town of Baeza - yet another UNESCO site.  In the couple weeks we were in Spain, we saw 11 Spanish UNESCO sites, plus one more UK site in Gibraltar.
The windmills of Consuegra - thought to be the ones that Don Quixote fought valiantly, believing them to be giants in Cervates classic novel.
With very few other visitors, Consuegra turned out to be one of my favourite off-the-beaten paths stops in all my travels.
My favourite photo from Spain - Consuegra's Windmills by starlight
Aranjuez Palace - another Royal residence and another UNESCO World Heritage Site
A lizard on the walls near Toledo.  This is a Guaddarrama Wall Lizard, and apparently a rare sighting for this area - or at least, so say the good people on iNaturalist!
The natural fortress of Toledo.  Surrounded on three sides by river and cliffs, Toledo is nigh impregnable and as such, this has been a key defensive point since Roman times.
The Cathedral of Toledo.
I really like this little lion outside Toledo's cathedral
Light through a stained glass window
The altar in the Toledo Cathedral
Dragon crest in the Toledo Cathedral
A fisheye image of a gallery within Toledo's cathedral
Toledo by night
The Aqueduct of Segovia - this is thought to have been constructed in the 2nd century AD during the reigns of Roman emperors Trajan or Hadrian
The aqueduct was originally built to bring water from 15 kms away
A last look at the old Roman aqueduct
Segovia is famous for three things - its Roman-era aqueduct, its medieval castle, and this gothic cathedral built in the 16th century.
My postcard photo of the Alcazar of Segovia!  A castle has stood in this spot since the 1100s, and it is one of the castles that Walt Disney used for inspiration on his fairy tale castles.
Suits of armor inside the Alcazar (or castle) of Segovia.  This castle may be pretty, but it saw action in several battles over the centuries.
A turret atop the Alcazar
Looking out from the top of Segovia's Alcazar on the surrounding landscape.
Built between the 11th and 13th Centuries, Avila's walls enclose 31 hectares, and its 88 turrets would have been imposing to any foes.
Close up with some of the turrets of Avila
The Walls of Avila - the final UNESCO site on our tour of Spain.
Our last evening in Spain ended with a final look at the Walls of Avila.