Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spain Lighthouses

For those of you that don't know, Jenny and I kind of have a thing for lighthouses. Here are some of the lighthouses that we visited during our trip.

Lighthouse at entrance to harbor at San Sebastian.

Lighthouse at mouth of harbor at Santa Pola.

Lighthouse at Cabo de Palos near Cartagena, Spain.

Lighthouse on the Isla de Tabarca, Spain.

Lighthouse on Spanish Coast Gaurd Building in Getxo, Spain.

Lighthouse near Benidorm, Spain.

The Santa Pola lighthouse at night and at day.

Spain I Alicante and vicinity

The first stop on our trip took us to Alicante. We stayed in a house that some friends were gracious enough to let us use. It was located in Gran Alacant, a city about 10 minutes from Alicante proper. It was the perfect place to stay, hang out a bit, and wind down after a long day of running around in the Mediterranean sun.

When we first arrived in Alicante after the loooong flight, we discovered that our luggage didn't make our connection in Madrid. It took until late the following morning to arrive. So, after about 2 days without clean clothes and a shower, we got cleaned up and ready to take on the town. Here is Jenny on the main Paseo (pedestrian area with shops and park-like atmosphere) sporting a scarf that I bought from a street-side Arabic shop.

Here is a glimpse down the paseo.

Here is a view of Alicante from a hill beneath the castle. Most of what is seen is the old part of the city.

Another view of the old part of the city. In the distance is the Basilica with the blue domed roof. All of the churches (well... most of them) have this blue-domes roof motif and is very pretty against the Mediterranean sun.

This is the City hall in Alicante.

This is a Dali statue in the City hall lobby.

One of the highlights of the city was the ENORMOUS CASTLE on the hill overlooking the city and the harbor.

Here is a picture of the castle from below.

This is the main square inside the castle with the surrounding gardens.

A view of the harbor through the crosshairs of one of the cannons.

The tourists on the castle overlooking Alicante.

Alicante from the castle. (again)

Jenny and I thought this was awesome. This woman was making pottery by hand within the confines of the castle. Of course she was selling them after firing them. We picked one up as a souvenir.

More castle.

Me on the lookout tower.

Me manning a guard post near the base of the castle. My task was to intimidate potential intruders. I was minimally successful at best...

These cactus trees were awesome. They grow and harden as they grow and die. The dead parts form a trunk for the remainder of the plant. They also had really pretty flowers.

Museum of modern archeology. One of several museums that we visited because it (unlike EVERYTHING ELSE) was open during siesta time.

We strolled back near the main paseo and found a great street-side cafe where we could sit and enjoy the Spanish favorite... paella. Jenny (with her stubborn unwillingness to try seafood) stuck with chicken paella.

I, on the other hand, had a delish paella with squid, octopus, and clam.

It was sooo delish that only a few grains of rice survived (and the stringy things from the squid... I think that it was the spine/central nervous system thing in the creatures... a little too much like eating fish bones...)

The old parts of the city offer incredible visual pearls. I love looking down short alleys like this and seeing the simple beauty and colors.

"Aserrin asseran los maderos de San Juan... triqui triqui tran triqui triqui tran..." This is one of the songs associated with the Festival of San Juan de las hogueras. During this festival, the population makes ornate sculptures of styrafoam and paper mache and decorates the city. We were told that each year hundreds of sculptures are put on display. There is music and feasting and dancing in the streets. (of course... because it is Spain... everyone is also intoxicated 24-7 and NOBODY WORKS... it is... after all, another excuse to avoid work) The whole city votes for the best sculpture on display and the winner is saved from the hoguera, or "bonfire." Essentially, they take all of the hundreds of losing sculptures and BURN THEM. Too bad we missed that festival by a couple of weeks... What do you do, right?

The next few photos are of sculptures that won, and were hence "saved" in the past:

Besides being party animals and alcoholics in denial, Spaniards really are connoisseurs of fine pastries. The Napolitana was Jenny's favorite. One is pictured in the following image. Jenny's favorite, however, had an egg-based vanilla cream inside. She would get excited every time we walked past a pasteleria (pastry shop) and we would stop.

One day we decided to take a short trip to the Island of Tabarca near the Mediterranean coast. Tabarca is about 1/3 mile wide by 1.5 miles long with a small town, lighthouse, and beaches. We boarded the ferry in Santa Pola.

The smokestack in the background was the only one we could find that had sufficient capacity to handle Jenny's exhaust. There was a group of school kids taking a field trip. 3-4 of the puked all over on the inside of the ship from seasickness. It was really safer outside... exhaust and all...

A cathedral on the Island of Tabarca.

A huge mansion/castle on the Isle of Tabarca.

Me at the mansion door. Nobody's home...

They wouldn't even open up for Jenny.

One side of the island had rocks that we could scramble around on between the waves crashing. It made for some beautiful sights and sounds.

That type of cactus mentioned earlier on was all over the island and was in full bloom.

A shot of the town on the island. Very quaint.

The mainland seen from the ferry heading back from the island.

We returned to Santa Pola just in time for mediodia (siesta time) where everything is closed. So we grabbed a bite, called the kids, and took a look around.

We landed at the main plaza in town and Jenny couldn't help but catch a quick wink.

After a bit she woke up and we found an uber cheap museum open (hey... it was something when EVERYTHING is closed!) We found the following pieces of "fine" art within... after seeing the exhibit, we wished that the arrow had landed about 6 inches lower than it actually did...

Jenny was particularly fond of this one... apples...

One day we decided to take a train to several pueblos and cities that were a moderate distance away from Alicante. We rode the Renfe Cercanias train to our destinations...

Destination #1 was Elx (Elche). This beautiful city was dominated for many years by the moors and had a heavy Moorish influence in its vibrant, green gardens .

I thought this water fountain was particularly nice.

In the basement of one of the ancient churches was a Moorish bath house. (Per the guide the church used it for storing grain.) Apparently there was a nearby source of geothermal energy that kept the place nice and steamy. The Moors would come in on different days to both bathe and perform ceremonial rituals. (Men and women on different days.) This is a skylight through the rock ceiling into the bath chamber.

This is the bath area proper. This area was filled with water and had seats where people could sit and hang out while cleaning their gluteal clefts.

This was a small castle in Elx near the cathedral.

The Elx cathedral. Again, note the beautiful blue dome typical of the region.

This was Jenny's favorite, the bustling Saturday outdoor market in Elx. People were scurrying around and bartering for goods. More common goods included pastries, meat, produce, shoes (Elx is a major shoe manufacturing center in Spain), fish, cloth, & clothes. It was a great glimpse of what "real" Spanish life is like and was fun for both of us to participate in.

I mentioned Jenny's borderline addiction with pastries... well... here we go again. Great selection and great flavors.

Another thing that Elx is famous for is its immaculate tropical palm tree gardens. The most famous is the Huerta del Cura. These flowers grew abundantly in the garden.

Foliage-a-plenty for shade and a bench... priceless in the hot Mediterranean sun.

Palm trees, palm trees, and more palm trees. Apparently the majority of the palm trees that the Catholic church uses for Palm Sunday come from here. They tie strings around the bases of the palm fronds to bleach them and then they harvest them annually.

Jenny enjoying a rocking tortilla de patatas sandwich in Elx while waiting for the next train.

Then we caught the train and jumped to the next town on the line, Orihuela. It was mediodia and most things were closed. We did, however, thoroughly enjoy the old part of the town.

Cathedral in Orihuela. Inspiration for a painting that I commissioned (well... I asked a street painter to make a rendition on the cheap...) during our stay.

More Orihuela in the old part.

Later we headed back to Alicante. This is the Plaza de Toros (Bullfighting rink) and Bullfighting academy. Unfortunately, bullfighting season has yet to begin this year.

A bullfighting sculpture in front of the Plaza de Toros.

Jenny and I again in Alicante. The city is in the backdrop and the HUGE castle there is on the horizon.

Next on the hit list was Guadalest de Segura to see the castle and town there. Here is the castle as seen from the town below.

Jenny and I thought that this was cool. There was a miniature sculpture museum in Guadalest. The following 3 naked ladies were carved ornately into the lead of a pencil. retty cool.

Again, the tower of the Castel of Guadalest perched above the valley and town.

The entry was into the castle and the town within the castle.

The town below the castle from the castle.

A view of the 2 towers from the top of the castle with the 2 little love birds in the foreground...

The towers from a farther part of teh castle overlooking the valley below and the ocean off in the distance.
The town within the castle confines from the castle walls above.

Another view of the pueblo within the castle confines.

And, yet another view of the pueblo within the castle from below. The walls above the city are the castle itself.

This view was incredible. This is looking from the castle/city down to the valley on the back side of the castle. The greens and grays of the cliffs and valleys below were beautifully contrasted with the brilliant blue waters of the river and lakes below.

A night light within the city.

The main Bell tower in the city.

Near Guadalest there were these awesome springs that were originally used thousands of years ago by the Moors to build aqueduct systems to water their crops. They were beautiful.

We came across this pueblo at sundown and decided to stop. It was incredibly tranquil and beautiful.

Someone was getting as tired of having her photo taken as I am of typing at the moment.

With all of the citrus trees around (Not just on farms but also on the streets and in the wild), we were both in the mood for an orange so I scurried down this hill to grab a couple. Jenny thought is was amusing.

The next day we took our LOOOONG DRIVE TRIP. We first went up to see the beautiful cliffs along the coast north of Benidorm.

This was another beautiful blue-domed church we came across on the way.

As we were heading towards our next destination on this 2 lane freeway, the car in front of us was nailed head-on by an oncoming car. They were both going around 50 mph. I felt obligated to stop. Both women ended up being ok. I recruited some help to stabilize C spine and evaluated both drivers. One had a tib-fib fracture and the other one was fine. Definitely the beginning of an exciting day that only got better!!! (Jenny snapped this pic from the car inconspicuously). EMS could use some work in Europe. That's all I have to say about that...

This next pic has been censored for minors:


Yes... that's right... those are indeed bum cheeks... About 1/2 mile or so after seeing the accident, Jenny and I were driving (in the middle of freaking nowhere, mind you) and we saw a bottom that was bronzed like nothing that you had ever seen before. We stared at a distance and I snidely remarked something along the lines of, "Classy... walking with a thong on the side of the road." When we drove past Jenny turned around and shockedly remarked, "nothing but pubic hair there... Yes... she's bottomless!" Hello prostitute alley with ~10 prostitutes dressed in nothing to less than nothing and hello police officers driving past. We got so busy laughing in shock about all of the prostitutes that we missed our turn and had to make a second pass by one. We were told by locals that prostitutes actually save Spanish marriages, to which I replied, " Yes indeed. 1 Case of chlamydia at a time..." Next topic.

Lemons in an orchard along our route.

The route along this Valley was absolutely beautiful.

A small pueblo nestled in the hills in the valley.

A small watering hole in the valley.

More lemons.

Another pueblo in the Gallineras Valley .

Olive orchard in the Gallineras Valley

More fruit. (I don't know what it is.)

Another pueblo in the Gallineras Valley

Another pueblo in the Gallineras Valley

Some castle ruins in Another pueblo in the Gallineras Valley

We found food to be super pricey there so we made and carried our own. Jenny made this awesome pasta salad and we stopped on the roadside to eat it. Good times... noodle salad.

Our last stop along our route through the Gallinera Valley was Xativa. It has a HUUUGE CASTLE and was well of the beaten path, giving another great glimpse of real day-to-day Spaniard life in a family-friendly city.

We decided to take the a trolley to the top of the hill and castle instead of walking. Jenny couldn't resist getting some shut-eye.

Inside the castle there were all kinds of fun toys. I loved the cannons and swords.

The castle also had huge gardens. Very pretty.

Here we are on a pavilion in the castle overlooking the other half of the castle. It was easily 3/4 of a mile long.

Here is a scale model of the castle. HUGE.

These are bathrooms in the upper part of the castle. As you can see, it is a 2 seater with 2 holes that "release" waste out the back of the cliff onto the enemy storming the castle.

Hole through the toilet seat to the outside and down the cliffs. Splat.

Here I am checking out these stone chairs for the soldiers. They were surprisingly comfortable!

The castle from the far side.

A view of the city from through the notches in the wall.

another view of the castle.

Another pastry shop that Jenny wanted to stop in and see. Great pastries and EXCELLENT BREAD. We already miss the freshly baked bread... (both the tastes and the smells...)