In the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema

One of the best decisions we made on our trip to Spain was to head off the main road from Sevilla to Ronda, and take a detour through the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema. The ‘park’ is an area of wild beauty, rugged, steep, sheer, spectacular, dotted with isolated farmsteads and whitewashed pueblos blancos – the roads making for some nail-biting driving, the countryside for some dramatic photos.

Here is the road leading into – or out of – Grazalema. The farmer was tending his pigs a few kilometres outside and a couple of hundred metres below the village.

 

 

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Grazalema

The little white village of Grazalema, one of the pueblos blancos of that rugged region, has the highest rainfall in Spain. True to form, lowering dark clouds clung to the hills and mountains when we visited. We parked on the outskirts of town, walked down the hill to find a beer and something to eat – and suddenly, while we were eating, the clouds burst like a sack full of liquid, and a torrent of water rushed down the street. Needless to say, we got drenched walking back.

Real Alcazar – Arches, Tiles, Ceilings

The delicacy of the decoration at the Real Alcazar in Sevilla is a breath of poetry, the colours of god….

La Giralda, Sevilla

Seville Cathedral stands on the site of a great mosque, built by the Almohads in the 12th century. It is the largest cathedral in Europe. Its bell-tower, La Giralda, was in its original incarnation a minaret, on top of which were erected a Christian belfry and Christian symbols.

You climb La Giralda not by stairs but via an internal ramp, built so that horses could ride to the top. As you climb, the views – of the cathedral, of Sevilla unwinding itself beneath you – are not to be missed.

The sense of the ages, the consciousness of ancient and multiple histories and cultures, the sheer drama of the spectacle, call for images in black and white. But the bright Andalucian skies, the warmth of the sun on the old stone, demanded colour. Take a look at these photos of the pigeon, looking out from a ledge: they are the same image, but how different in tone, mood, message!

 

The bells and the lattice-work, I think, because graphically so strong, work powerfully in black and white:

 

But when it comes to the view of the tower itself, I am torn, between the strong diagonals of the one view, and the warm tones of the brick and stone, in the other.

Break-dancing at the Metropol Parasol, Sevilla

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go up Sevilla’s Metropol Parasol in the midday sun; we went up in the evening, when it was cooler, and the city’s lights were on, and we could enjoy the night views and the soothing breezes.

The Parasol is the most extraordinary living sculpture, a vast structure of latticed timber that hovers over the Plaza de la Encarnation like an alien spaceship. A kind of a boardwalk winds and climbs its way around the top, several stories above the sidewalk, so that you find yourself level with the spires and turrets of the neighbouring cathedral, and looking back down into the square with a few tables where people are quietly enjoying a drink and some tapas.

Before we went up, by escalator and lift, I photographed these break-dancers, whirling like dervishes in the glow of the spaceship.

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Cafe Life, Sevilla

They call Sevilla, or so I am told, ‘the frying pan.’ And man, it is hot. Or at least it was when we were there, in September; the sun baking into the stones and reflecting back so that by mid-afternoon you were in an oven, and only beginning to cool after eight or so in the evening.

But the evenings are long, and the good citizens of Sevilla – like those of every other town we visited – know how to live. Living, in the Spanish way of life, means going out at 8 or 9, having dinner at 10 or 11, and wandering from tapas bar to tapas bar way into the small hours of the morning.

This image, of a cafe in Sevilla, in the evening, offers a more sedate but still typical portrait.

Did I tell you that we loved Sevilla? Oh boy, we did. We’d go back in a flash, Rob and I.

Cafe Life, Sevilla

Sangria, Limonada, Sevilla

When you have friends visiting from Germany, as we do – friends my wife hasn’t seen for twenty years, friends I have never met – you will understand, perhaps, why my series of posts on our trip to Spain has come to a (temporary) standstill. Throw in the pressures of work and business travel, plus the insouciance of age (I don’t have to do this; I’ll do this when I want to) you have the perfect narrative, if you need one, to show why I did not post on the weekend, as I usually do – and why this post is simply a stake in the ground, to say I will get round to this.

Here is one image, though, which to my mind captures one of the many essences of Sevilla – oranges, sangria, limonada, a shady bar off a tiny plaza, inviting you in out of the midday sun, promising refreshment.

Sangria, Limonada