Another Warm Dutch Welcome!

As the wheels of the jet touchdown, the clouds break up and a big blue hole lets the low lying sun shine light up the city !  Ah, enjoy the moment, because it is sure to change back to a rain shower at any time.  We are becoming ‘old pros’ in the Amsterdam Airport;  land at 15:30, bags are waiting on the carousel when we get there, straight to train station, buy tickets from kiosk, pick up a couple of Dutch coffees and we are on the 16:40 train to Hilversum!

The town is often called “media city” since it is the principal centre for radio and television broadcasting in The Netherlands. Radio Netherlands, heard worldwide via shortwave radio since the 1920s, is also based here. Hilversum is home to an extensive complex of audio and television studios belonging to the national broadcast production company NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting), as well as to the studios and offices of all the Dutch public broadcasting organisations and many commercial TV production companies. As a result, many old AM radio sets in Europe had a Hilversum dial position marked on their tuning scales.

Even Van Morrison was listening to the radio in those days…before Rock ‘n Roll….
I am down on my knees
At the wireless knobs
I am down on my knees
At those wireless knobs
Telefunken, Telefunken
And I’m searching for
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Athlone, Budapest, A F N
Hilversum, Helvetia
In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
Read more: Van Morrison – In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyrics | MetroLyrics

But, I digress, here the story gets a little complicated….we are met at the home of our dear friends, Simone and Jaap, by Simone’s mother Connie.  Jaap and Simone are still enjoying sunny Spain and have made the generous offer for us to stay in their home in Hilversum until Sunday when we fly home.  What a wonderful way to end our journey!  Connie is a sweetheart…she drives us all over Hilversum so we can get our bearings ( and pick up a pannier from our German connection, Alexander, Toni’s son),supplied us with groceries, then took us to her place for a cup of tea!

After a very full day, we climb into a warm comfy bed and immediately nod off!

Adios y Hasta Luego España

Our last day in Spain…and we are up to watch the dawn (which is at 8:00 am, so we didn’t miss much sleep!)  another gorgeous day.  We drive to Cadiz and drop the car off, then to the train station, where we are whisked off to Jerez de La Frontera, the Sherry Capitol of Spain.  There are certainly many ‘bodegas’ where one can taste the different sherries.  Personally, it’s not my favourite.

The Alcazar is an interesting Moorish built fortress and residence.

A first fortress was probably built in the 11th century, when Jerez was part of the petty kingdom of the taifa of Arcos de la Frontera, on a site settled since prehistoric times in the south-eastern corner of the city. In the 12th century, a new structure was erected to be used as both residence and fortress by the Almohad rulers of southern Spain. Later, after the Reconquista of Andalusia, it was the seat of the first Christian mayors.

Features include:

a grossly quadrangular line of walls, with a perimeter of c. 4,000 m
the Octagonal Tower, in Almohad style
the Tower of Ponce de León (14th century), annexed to the keep.
mosque, the only remaining of the eighteen once present in the city. After the Christian conquest of the fortress in 1255, it was turned into a church dedicated to Virgin Mary by king Alfonso X of Castile. The minaret, still extant, was turned into a bell tower. The praying hall, preceded by a small room of ritual ablutions, features a mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, and a rib vault with a circular window at the top.
Palace of the Patio de Doña Blanca, dating to the 12th century Islamic structure, originally a leisure pavilion
Baths. They include an entrance area for undressing, leading to the cold and tepid rooms, the latter being the largest in the complex. The final room is the hot room, whose heating system is still partially visible.

The next day it’s “Hasta Luego” to sunny Spain and hello to cool wet Amsterdam!

A Day in the Oldest City in Spain

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A sunny Sunday and a drive to Cadiz.  We find a lucky parking spot (free!) on the outskirts of the old city walls and begin our tour by walking along some of the most beautiful beaches you could never imagine in a city.

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Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in western Europe, has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century.

Despite its unique site—on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea‚ Cádiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cádiz within the remnants of the city walls is commonly referred to as the Old Town (Spanish: Casco Antiguo). It is characterized by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios). In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World.

We carry on along the outside of the old city on a paved walkway above the sea with wonderful views. We come to one of bastions and decide to check it out. Inside, the old buildings are intact and in one of them is a temporary display of “The Malaspina Project”. This caught our attention, since we have done a lot of sailing in the Malaspina Strait so went inside to investigate…

The Malaspina circumnavigation expedition is an interdisciplinary research project whose overall goals were to assess the impact of global change on the oceans and explore their biodiversity. The 250 scientists on board the Hespérides and Sarmiento de Gamboa embarked on an eight-month expedition (taking place between December 2010 and July 2011) combining pioneering scientific research with training for young researchers, while advancing marine science and fostering the public understanding of science.

The project is under the umbrella of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Consolider – Ingenio 2010 programme and is led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) with the support of the Spanish Navy. It is named after the original scientific Malaspina Expedition between 1789 and 1794, that was commanded by Alejandro Malaspina. Due to Malaspina’s involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the Spanish government, he was jailed upon his return and a large part of the expedition’s reports and collections were put away unpublished, not to see the light again until late in the 20th century. (Wikipedia)

The tiny sea creature was painted by one of the scientists who is also an artist …

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These trees were supposedly brought back from the New World by Columbus….

And here is a pic of an old photo showing how they fish for tuna here, the method being introduced by the Phonecians about 2,000 years ago and is still used today…

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The Roman town of Baelo Claudio

Later the same day with Jaap and Simone we carried on to the next cultural adventure…the town of Bolonia which is home to
Baelo Claudia on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The town was founded in the end of the 2nd century BC as a result of trade with North Africa (it was a major port for Tangier, in Mauretania Tingitana, for example). It is possible that Baelo Claudia had some functions of governmental administration, but tuna fishing, salting, and the production of garum were the primary sources of wealth.  The city was eventually successful enough to be granted the title of municipium by Emperor Claudius.

The life of the inhabitants reached its greatest splendor during the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. In the middle of the 2nd century, however, the town declined, probably as a result of a major earthquake which wiped out a large part.[1] In addition to such natural disasters, by the 3rd century, the town was beset by hordes of pirates, both Celtic and Barbary. Although it experienced a slight renaissance later in the century, by the 6th century, the town had been abandoned.

Excavations have revealed the most comprehensive remains of a Roman town in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, with extremely interesting monuments such as the basilica, theatre, market, and the temple of Isis. The spectacular setting in El Estrecho Natural Park allows the visitor to see the coast of Morocco. A modern Visitor Centre showcases many artefacts and has a comprehensive introduction to the site. (Wikipedia)

 

Peace (?) and Quiet!

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We watched this kite surfer take off from the top of the waves and get airborn!

Murphy’s Law in Spain….just when you think you have found the perfect situation…all hell breaks loose!  The day after we settled in to our new digs, the army shows up across the valley and  quiet country lane.  They set up camp, brought in the tanks and guns and choppers….it was like watching an old WWII movie being made, sans John Wayne or Steve McQueen.

Luckily they only stuck around for a couple of days….and it was somewhat entertaining??????

We had our Dutch friends, Simone and Jaap, over for dinner during this fiasco.  They are staying about a half hour away in Conil de la Frontera where the kitesurfing is very popular and that is what Jaap likes to do when he is not skiing or bicycling!  It was a fun evening and the next day together we drove down to Tarifa, the southernmost point in mainland Europe, only 18 kms from Africa across the Strait of Gibralter.  We toured the Castillo which dates as far back as the Phonecians and could see the Rif Mountain Range in North Africa from the top of the castle walls.  It was a fairly windy day as is common here in Tarifa and we saw a few windsurfers and kite boarders taking advantage of the situationimage

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Life is a BEACH!

So many beaches, so little time!  Miles of soft white sand, gentle surf, clear azure waters and few people.  But watch out when the wind picks up!!!!  Then we head inland, but on those light breezy days , there is nothing more invigorating than being barefoot in the surf and the sand!

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You can just barely see the town of Zahara de Los Atunes.
You can just barely see the town of Zahara de Los Atunes.
The cliffs of Barbate
The cliffs of Barbate

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