A popular tourist site near Barcelona

Have you ever visited Barcelona? A very interesting side trip is to the Mountain–The serrated mountain- Montserrat. The Monastery is sheltered and almost hidden in the rocks.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.The Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. It is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church, it is more likely a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century.
The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat.

Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. The statue’s sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage.

Upon his recovery from battle wounds, Ignatius of Loyola visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he laid down his military accouterments before the image. Then he led a period of asceticism before later founding the Society of Jesus.

On September 11, 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia (Saint George is another patron saint.)
Santa Maria de Montserrat

RE-living a recent trip to Greece and Italy

Venice is such an interesting city and there is a picture with a story around every corner, and over every canal:

The original site of the ancient Olympics is an area well worth visiting. According to the accepted date the first Olympic Games were hels in 776 BC and continued until AD393. An institution with incredible longevity spanning 1,169 years, and 293 Olympiads

The Greco-Roman city of Corinth has some of the original Greek structures still visible, as well as the Roman influence including a “paved” road. The poppies in Corinth are a special vibrant red.

Pisa– what a collection of Beautiful buildings including the “leaning” Tower, now stabilized.

Lucca interesting city with a Huge earthen Wall surrounding the City

Cliff Hanging Castle and Village

Cliff Hanging Castle and Village Guadalest Spain

Village/ Castle on a Rock

Located on the CV-70, 25 km from Altea, is the village of Guadalest. Occupying one of the most stunning positions in Spain, this small village is precariously perched on the pinnacle of a granite mountain, giving fabulous views across the valley carved out by the River from which the village takes its name.

Getting to Guadalest by the twisting road that climbs ever upwards, passing through the village of Polop, is almost as spectacular as the position of the village, but the breathtaking views make the drive worthwhile even for the more nervous passengers!

On reaching Guadalest you can see why the Moors, who constructed castles to defend the area, considered this place a site of strategic importance.

Some of these castles were unconquerable and the remains of several can still be seen today, even though they were bombarded in the 18th century during the Spanish war of Succession. A Cliff Hanging Castle was a good defensive plan.

Penon de la Alcala

Penon de la Alcala Guadalest, Spain

However the building you will see on most of the postcards is the whitewashed bell tower of Penon de la Alcala which seems to cling to the mountain face.

Intriguingly the old village and castle is accessed through a tunnel carved from the rock and when you reach the other end and see the ancient houses, you seem to have been transported to another age.

Entering Guadelest

View from Guadalest Castle

Alhambra on my mind

Alhambra on my Mind


Historical introduction

The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighbourhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba.

The Alhambra is located on a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and the meadow (la Vega), and this fact leads to believe that other buildings were already on that site before the Muslims arrived. The complex is surrounded by ramparts and has an irregular shape. It limits with the valley of the river Darro on its northern side, with the valley of al-Sabika on its southern side and with the street Cuesta del Rey Chico on the eastern side. The Cuesta del Rey Chico is also the border between the neighbourhood of the Albaicin and the gardens of the Generalife, located on top of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol).

The first historical documents known about the Alhambra date from the 9th century and they refer to Sawwar ben Hamdun who, in the year 889, had to seek refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress, and had to repair it due to the civil fights that were destroying the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated, although not yet as much as it would be later on, because the Ziri kings established their residence on the hill of the Albaicin.

The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city’s area within the ramparts in the 9th century, which implied that the castle became a military fortress with a view over the whole city. In spite of this, it was not until the arrival of the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), in the 13th century, that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This event marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period.

First of all, the old part of the Alcazaba was reinforced and the Watch Tower (Torre de la Vela) and the Keep (Torre del Homenaje) were built. Water was canalised from the river Darro, warehouses and deposits were built and the palace and the ramparts were started. These two elements were carried on by Mohammed II (1273-1302) and Mohammed III (1302-1309), who apparently also built public baths and the Mosque (Mezquita), on the site of which the current Church of Saint Mary was later built.

Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391) are responsible for most of the constructions of the Alhambra that we can still admire today. From the improvements of the Alcazaba and the palaces, to the Patio of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and its annexed rooms, including the extension of the area within the ramparts, the Justice Gate (Puerta de la Justicia), the extension and decoration of the towers, the building of the Baths (Baños), the Comares Room (Cuarto de Comares) and the Hall of the Boat (Sala de la Barca). Hardly anything remains from what the later Nasrid Kings did.

From the time of the Catholic Monarchs until today we must underline that Charles V ordered the demolition of a part of the complex in order to build the palace which bears his name. We must also remember the construction of the Emperor’s Chambers (habitaciones del Emperador) and the Queen’s Dressing Room (Peinador de la Reina) and that from the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned. During the French domination part of the fortress was blown up and it was not until the 19th century that the process of repairing, restoring and preserving the complex started and is still maintained nowadays. For more information:
www.alhambradegranada.org/en/