15 November 2016

A Moorish Palace

Granada, Spain

Our fifth town in Spain was Granada. We are getting to the stage that we have done enough sightseeing but Granada is well known for its Moorish Citadel and Palace called the Alhambra. I had read that it gets 5,000 visitors a day and that they only allow a certain number of people to go in. Wow, it must be good. There were threads that said you needed to be at the ticket office at 6am in the morning. Who wants to stand in line at 6am? We were there in November which is not peak season by any means but could we take the chance? I looked online and there were no tickets available for our first day and only afternoon tickets for the second but when I tried to purchase them, it wouldn't go through. I found a post on TripAdviser that said that Australian credit cards didn't work and as you had to produce the card that you had paid with at the entrance, I didn't try our American one as we didn't have it with us. Our hotel suggested we go to the tourist office to get tickets and he directed us to a little place through a courtyard passed the church where we could get tickets. If he hadn't shown us a picture of the outside of the courtyard, I think we would have walked right passed it. The Alhambra is made up of many parts and you need a specific time allocated to the Nasrid Palace. Late comers will not be allowed in. We told the lady we wanted to go tomorrow and she asked whether we wanted morning or afternoon. So even though morning ones had not been available online, we were able to get them and the machine accepted our credit card.

The door we went through

Like most fortresses, it was built up on a hill. There are a number of entrances and we just followed other people through the first doors. No tickets needed as yet. The place is huge. There are audio guides in many languages on Galaxy phones so you got a few pictures to go with each section too. We got one each, though it was a bit hard taking pictures and concentrating on what they were saying as it was a bit dry.

Detail on the outside of a building
More detail
Amazing views of the city outside the windows
Incredible detail everywhere
this is a ceiling
There is a lot to see here and most people spend about three hours, so we brought some food with us as there is nothing to buy there.

Great views of Granada

Enclosed garden
On our way back to our hotel, Lindsay rolled his ankle while walking half on the pavement and half on the road. It put him out of action for over a week. Eating became restricted to places close by so that he only had minimal walking.

A nice place for a hot day

Related Posts:

Tapas Anyone? - Madrid

A Princess Castle - Segovia

Olé - Toledo

On the Moorish Trail - Córdoba

10 November 2016

On the Moorish Trail


Córdoba used to be the most cultural city in Europe during the 9th & 10th centuries. . It lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir river a few hours south of Madrid and is one of the hottest city in Spain during summer. Some of the old Roman walls can be seen but only four of the original 13 gates remain.

A gate in the old Roman wall, Córdoba was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC

The Roman Bridge
Calahorra Tower
The gardens of Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos taken from the Las Torres (tower)
Not a really exciting Alcázar but seeing as it had free entry before 8:30-9:30 Tue-Fri, it was worth a visit. It belonged to Ferdinand and Isabel who donated it to the Spanish Inquisition in 1482.

It's most notable building is the Mesquita, a Christian cathedral that has been built within a Mosque.

The Mesquite

The Muslims and the Christians
The Christian section
You can enter for free between 8:30 & 9:30am Monday to Saturday, and as our hotel was literally next door, I was able to go in more than once.

Amazing detail in the Mosque section
Part of the Christian church

The outside of the Mesquite is Moorish architecture that gives you no insight to the Christian church within. 
They are currently restoring the outside as the elements are eroding the stone. It will be a long project.

The unfinished Puerta del Puente - King Philip II arrived early, so why bother finishing it?
There were a number of mills of the Guadalquivir that used the water from the river to grind flour

8 November 2016



The e in Toledo is pronounced with a long a sound as in lay, like Tollaydoh. It's only half an hour by a fast train from Madrid. When I think of Toledo, the bull fights come to mind, but we didn't go to any. I wouldn't on principle as I think it's cruel. Apparently not many bull fighters die these days due to advances in blood transfusions!

Toledo at night

It is a very old hill top town in which the taxi ride took nearly as long as it would take to walk up the hill as it needs to drive around the outside. Dragging a suitcase up the cobblestone streets isn't fun, apart from the fact you don't know where you are going and besides I really don't want to loose the wheels.

the narrow streets are Arabic

Reflection in the pool near the Cathedral

Toledo is known as the city of the three cultures whereby Christians, Jews and Muslims co-existed together for centuries. 

A gate to the city

Our hotel was again in the old part of the city in a little street that makes you wonder how anyone would find it. The town has narrow streets that are really easy to get lost in, which I did! A day trip is probably all you need to visit this town.

Toledo train station

6 November 2016

A Princess Castle

Our destinations


The bus from Madrid to Segovia takes about an hour. But when we got there I had no idea what direction to take as I'd forgotten to look where our hotel was on a map. Leaving Lindsay with our bags I went in search of the Tourist office which ended up being halfway to our hotel. Our hotel was in the old part of town which you cannot drive to, so you have to pull your cases up the hill along the cobbled streets which I'm sure doesn't do the wheels any good. The hotel turned out to have quite a celebrity past and they had many photos on the foyer walls of their famous guests such as Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Michael Douglas and many more. 

Cathedral in Segovia

Segovia only lights up it's monuments on weekend nights and we managed to get some pictures of the cathedral just before it started to rain. It was about 10°C cooler than Madrid, with only a high of 4°C during the day which was freezing. The town is easy to navigate and unlike Madrid, I never got lost. All the places I wanted to visit were within walking distance of our hotel, so I was really pleased with the location I'd chosen. It is a walled city which sits high on top of a hill. Much of the wall is still in place and there is a walking trail around part of it. When I posted our itinerary on Trip Advisor asking for comments as I was at a complete loss when it came to inspiration for Spain, someone said, why do you want to go to Segovia? I'm glad I didn't take any notice of them as it was one of my favourite towns.

The town of Segovia
Segovia is known for it's aqueduct that incidentally has survived earthquakes
Alcázar - Royal Palace
We went down on Monday night to photograph the Alcázar but it wasn't lit up.

Segovia still has four gates (puerto) that used to be the only entrances to the town

1 November 2016

Tapas anyone?


After Greece we took a short flight to Madrid. I didn't really have a plans for Spain and had only booked our hotels in Madrid and Segovia as I'd lost all enthusiasm after travelling for so long. It's not the time of year that I would choose to visit so I wasn't planning on going any further north of Madrid as it would be too cold. Spain has a great train system which would give Lindsay a break from driving and let him relax and enjoy the scenery or watch a movie.


Puerta de Alcala (Alcala Gate)

My first impression of Madrid is that it was like the other great cities of the world: London, Rome, Paris - but all rolled into one. It has a great vibe. It's a great walking city and we started exploring it by taking a walking tour. It allowed us to get to know the area as well as get a bit of a history lesson. It's been inhabited for over 2,500 years.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) started out as a greenhouse but is now an exhibition space
There were times that we thought particular restaurants weren't going to open at all as there was no sign of life at 7pm, but then they would open at 7:30 or 8pm.

Our hotel was right in the heart of the city, just near the Opera House which made it very easy to get around to all the places we wanted to go.

Templo de Debod (Debod Temple)

The subway is quite easy to navigate once you work out the ticket system and it's very clean. The first time we used it we bought the wrong tickets, right price, but obviously the wrong direction and it wouldn't let us in. So the next time we used it we got help from one of the railway employees to navigate the complicated menu of the machine, because of course we never saw any ticket booths with people.

It's November and the weather is quite cold after being in Greece, so we wear our jackets out all the time.

Mercado de San Miguel is a market that also has bars and shops to buy tapas

Madrid was our first introduction to Tapas and we started off by having tapas at lunch with John & Lucille from Perth who we met on our walking tour. For those that don't know, tapas are small serves of savoury Spanish food usually served with drinks. Spain has topped my list as having consistently the best food we have eaten in the world, they are fantastic cooks.

Spiral staircase in the Telefonica museum building - he looks like he's running

Two hooves off the ground means you died in battle, but this guy didn't he just wanted to be remembered as a hero
Known as the stinky horse for centuries because birds could fly into the horse's mouth but they couldn't get out, it was only after someone shot the horse in the stomach that they found all the dead birds - the mouth is now sealed. This horse has a solid tail and hind legs so that he doesn't topple over.

One leg up means you were wounded in battle
Plaza Mayor is home to the stinky horse

I would navigate my way around by way of the plaza's, there are many of them. The Puerta del Sol - the sun square has one street for the horizon and then the other streets radiate like the sun's rays.

Parque del Retiro (Madrid's Central Park)
Parque del Retiro

Neutral Density Filters

Long Exposure

All long exposure photography needs some way of reducing the light which is where neutral density filters come in.

Types of long exposure photography

Waterfalls - to make the water silky
Seascapes - to make the water frothy and silky
Clouds - to make the clouds streak across the sky
Removing people - to remove tourists who walk through your photo (and hope they keep walking!)

Neutral Density Filters

At first I used my circular polarizer on my waterfalls, but often this wasn't enough as it only reduces 1.5 to 2 stops and I still had to use f/22. The proper filters to use are Neutral Density Filters. These are rated by the number of stops of light that they cut out - 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10. So which one or ones do you buy? That was my big question last year along with, which brand was best.

The first one I bought was a 0.9 (3-stop) which was great for doing waterfalls that didn't have too much sun on the water. Then as I progressed I wanted to use them during sunsets, to get rid of people who walked through my shots and seascapes. So I bought a 1.2 (6-stop) and a 3.0 (10 stop).

f/13, 8s, 3-Stop ND, ISO160

Filters are expensive, there is no reason why they should be but they are and someone is making a lot of money. It might be tempting to buy them on eBay and I have and been stung. It's just not worth wasting your money - there are too many people in China selling counterfeit filters.

I did a lot of reading on ND filters as some have colour casts. I settled on the B+W 3-stop as B+W have a good reputation and you don't notice any colour cast at that low level. They have schott glass and brass rings that make it easy to get on and off your lens. The aluminium rings can be nigh impossible to get off as they stick like glue. When it came to buy my next two ND filters there was an ad on facebook about Breakthrough Photography filters who are based in California. So we did a bit of checking and eventually I bought a 6-stop and a 10-stop and also replaced my counterfeit circular poloriser. They have no colour cast and the ridges around the ring make it even easier to get on and off. I'm really glad I spent the extra to get these ones as they feel nice and are easy to use.

f/13 4s 3-stop ND