Archive for 13th December 2006

Archive

The playground of royalty

A different world opens up an hour away from Lisbon – the rolling hills and lush slopes conjure up images of Bavaria and it is not too far from the truth to say a rather homesick King who married a Portuguese Princess chose to dwell in relative peace in such surroundings. Introducing Sintra, the playground of royalty in the 19th century. The quaint town is itself about a pleasant 10 minutes walk through the winding road filled with greenery. And the boo-moment of the day happened when I read the map wrongly, and thought the palace was situated in the heart of town. To my chagrin, it was actually 5-6...

Old world charm

One wonders at the tripartite heart of Lisbon – the Bairro Alto (now the clubbing district), the Baixa Chiado (the centre piece and shopping area) and the Alfama (the oldest quarter that survived the 18th century earthquake), yet Tiago merely called it a big village. He is not wrong, for all 3 areas are interconnected, but the Alfama, followed by the Bairro Alto is undeniably the most compelling with its winding, uneven streets, and its stunning views at various look-out points. Up the Castelo Sao Jorge, a Visigoth battlement enhanced by the Moors with which the Tourism office makes a quick buck out of mere ruins, yields a magnificent panorama...

Lisbon and its Taxis

I reached Lisbon after a rather harrowing 7 hour bus-ride, in which the driver in Jekyll-Hyde form, turned sanguine to nasty as he neared Lisbon Sete Rios Bus station. By the end of the journey he was already yelling at someone for some unfathomable reason, and I thought it wise to walk away before it escalated into some full blown quarrel. Then it was into a taxi from Sete Rios to Rua de Augusta (an apparently famous vein of the city) and found it most disconcerting to find that the cabbie himself didn’t know the way. “Cruzamento Rua de Augusta com Rua de Conceicao…” I had said to him curtly, attempting to pronounce the tilda-ed word properly. Either he did not understand a word I said, or my accent was so bad that...

The Mezquita of Cordoba

I grab every opportunity to hop on high-speed trains whenever I can and on a whim this morning, took the AVE high Cordoba from Sevilla Santa Justa (a mere 45 minutes that covers 150 km) to see the Mezquita – only to find out after a trek of 20 minutes from the Cordoba station to the old town that the Cathedral/Mosque would only be open to visitors from 3.30 pm – 7 pm. Today is some kind of Catholic holiday (the woman at the tourist office found it way too difficult to explain what kind of holiday they were celebrating and thus left it as that), and elaborate processions/services were underway. Hanging around...

Heat and Unrestrained Passion in Winter

I bade Grenada goodbye at an early hour for a 3-hour bus ride to Sevilla and found Pension Cordoba with relative difficulty, and it is amazing what desperation can lead one to say despite an immensely flawed command of the language. It is a lovely hostal in a quiet side street, and is in itself, a renovated home, with a colourfully central, square patio. The owners’ West-highland terrier Otto (though ageing and quiet by now) sniffs and inspects the guests as a detective would. I have 3 days here, and will instead spend hopefully, the whole of tomorrow in Cordoba, yet another Moorish stronghold that houses the Mesquita. The argument begins when...

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

*Memories of La Alhambra – Also a classical guitar piece by Francisco Tarrega. This week is kind of a special week for the Spaniard (or the lazy Spaniards as said rather wryly to me by Karina, the young proprietress of Apr RamCat in Barcelona – where the unofficial weekends begin on Thursday nights) , when 6th and 8th Dec are Catholic holidays. The last day in Barcelona was spent in Parc Guell, another quirky, fantastical playground of Gaudi. And suddenly, after a flurry of phone calls, I find myself in Granada after flying Spanair nonetheless, with a ticket booked mere hours before the actual flight. And I have God to thank...

Parts of Barcelona

A typical Spanish breakfast is carbohydrate and fat-laden, a supposed hangover cure for the party-goers. It is admittedly, the thickest chocolate I’ve ever seen, the secret (according to the waiter) being cold milk that must be stirred in for consistency. It has become my morning drug of choice, for as long as I’m here. The decay of the city becomes apparent once one moves further away from the touristic nerve towards the western elevated area called Montjuic. The Raval region just right of the Ramblas is home to an incredible number of immigrants, and in the Raval Square, drug pushers and abusers abound. The port area is a mystery –...

Gorgeous, Gaudy Antoni Gaudi

Jet-lagged, smelly and tired, the chaos of an airport is as jarring as a stick shoved up my nose. I jumped into a taxi with 3 other German women (whom I obviously don’t know and who obviously half-think that I’m up to no good), praying that we were headed in the same direction. Apparently such boldness is still unheard of and they thought me strange, mildly speaking. The moment of communal distrust and anger came when the driver conveniently forgot to add the 12 Euro surcharge that comes when one hails the cab from the airport. I found myself thanking God that I was working and would not feel so much...