Europe 2013

Belfast and Lytham (September 19 - 21)

The day after Paul's birthday, we flew to Dublin and drove up to Belfast. After spending a few hours with Freddie, Kristine flew to Blackpool, to see her mother. Two days later, we flew separately to Malaga, where we were met by Ken and Jenny.

Malaga (September 22 to 26)

We stayed at Ken & Jenny's apartment in the small town of Benalmadena. This is the view from their terrace

And this is their cat, enjoying the view. That's Ken's legs in the background.

We spent most of our time relaxing and enjoying the pleasant surroundings. This was dinner in the main square of Benalmadena.

This was the marina at Benalmadena. We spent a pleasant couple of hours looking at the boats and snacking on local dishes. 

One day we took the cable car to the top of the mountains which run along the coast

And we did get to spend one afternoon at the beach:

Another day we went to Mijas, a pretty "white" village not far from Benalmadena.

Seville (September 27 to 29)

After five very pleasant days in Benalmadena, we took a high speed train to Seville.

We walked through the pretty streets of old Seville until we found the Cathedral.

Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic and the third largest Cathedral in the world.  It was completed in the early 16th century and contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Part of the Gothic facade

The Altar

The knave

The tomb of Christopher Columbus

The next day, we visited the Alcazar, which was (and still is) a Royal Palace, although it was originally a Moorish Fort. It has been expanded and improved may times, but the original buildings date back to the 16th century.

Waiting to get in to the Alcazar

The Courtyard of the Maidens

The ceiling of the spectacular Hall of the Ambassadors

The walls of several rooms are covered by huge tapestries. This is a detail - it HAS to be a whale!

The gardens are more recent but are still impressive.

One our last evening, we went to see a bullfight. This was a first for both of us and I think we both had reservations, but Kristine has been reading Hemingway recently and I think she wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The bullring was completely sold out. We only bought our tickets that morning and we were on the very back row. 

This was the poster. Who knew Obama works as a bullfighter on his days off? 

Not an empty seat anywhere

First there is a procession. These are the horses used to drag the dead bull away.

Then the bull is released into the ring and "worked" by the matadors, to tire him out.

Barbed spikes are jabbed into his shoulder muscles to weaken him and to cause blood loss.

The the matador uses his cape to get the bull to charge him. This is supposed to be the most "artistic" portion of the fight as the bull passes within inches of the matador.

And of course finally (although not shown here) the matador kills the bull with one thrust of his sword.

Hardly a "sport" - the bull always loses - but an "art" in the eye of the experts. Bull fighting probably goes back to the Romans and would have been part of ancient Roman spectacles, so historically, it's quite interesting. However, as a spectacle, it does leave quite a lot to be desired. We felt that once was enough for both of us.

Marrakesh (September 30 - October 2)

We flew to Marrakesh, courtesy of Ryanair and stayed in a very comfortable B & B, the Riad Alwachma, in the old part of the city.

The Souk (market) and the Djemaa El Fna (the main square) are the two big attractions. There's lots to buy in the Souk.

The square comes alive at night, with food stalls and all manner of entertainment.

Dinner at a food stall. The employees applauded every time a customer sat down

Selecting dessert (small cookies really) from a cart to eat later back at the hotel

And dinner at a proper restaurant overlooking the market square.

During our two days in Marrakesh, we visited a variety of old buildings and tombs.

The city walls which surround the Old Town

The Koutoubia Mosque at dusk

The Saadian Tombs - only rediscovered early in the 20th century. The Saadians were local rulers during the 16th century

A traditional water seller - now it's just a good photograph, but until bottled water came along, this is how you grabbed a quick drink. in the marketplace.

The Bahia Palace built by a rich merchant in the 19th century.

A beautiful architectural detail in The Palace - inlaid tiles

Bilthoven, near Amsterdam, Holland (October 3rd to 6th)

Once again courtesy of Ryanair, we flew from Marrakesh to Eindhoven and then by train to Bilthoven, a sizeable town about one hour Amsterdam, where our friends Christine (with a C) and Ivo live.

Chris and Ivo's thatched house in Bilthoven

The next day, we went to a classical concert at the the Concert Gebouw, a very famous and very old concert hall in the center of Amsterdam.

The following day, we went back to the same area, to visit the  Rijksmuseum, which is the equivalent of the British Museum in London. The Rijksmuseum recently reopened after a renovation which took TEN YEARS!

Us in front of the "M" of Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum the outside

And an inside view of the main gallery

The Rijksmuseum is much more than an art gallery, but it is most famous for it's collection of paintings. Here are three:

"The Night Watch" by Rembrandt

   "Farm Cottage" by Van Gogh

A self portrait by Van Gogh

After the museum, we were unexpectedly given a boat tour of the canals by Ivos' brother in law who had just bought a boat and wanted to try it out. We happy to help.

The houses and houseboats which line the canals

Sightseeing boat (The Flying Dutchman)

Kristine and Christine

Ivo and his sister

And Ivos' brother-in-law, who was our captain for the afternoon

Paris (October 7 to 9)

We again took the high speed train from Holland to Paris and arrived in the early afternoon. We stayed in a small hotel (The Elysees Niel Hotel) not far from the Arc de Triomphe. It was a nice area of small streets with a daily street market.

Next day, we visited our favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay, which is a converted railway station and has a wonderful collection of Impressionistic paintings. Unfortunately, they don't allow photographs of the paintings!

 The Musee D'Orsay from the outside

And the main hall

We also visited a very famous cemetery, the Pere Lachaise, which is where the rich and famous are buried. There are many interesting graves - here are a  few.

Oscar Wilde - covered in lipstick kisses

Jim Morrison - fenced off but the fans still seem to be able to get in

George Melies - famous filmmaker

And for those not rich or famous enough - a niche in a wall for their ashes.

After the cemetery. we went up to Montmartre. We had forgotten how steep the steps are:

The sketch artists were out in force

And Sacre Coeur dominates the skyline as always

Even on a chilly day, still a great place to sit and have a "cafe au lait" and watch the world go by. Paris is still one of our favorite cities!

On our last night in Paris, we went to the Opera bastille to see "Lucia de Lammermoor" which was well done. although, as always, everyone dies at the end. Just for once, it would be nice if at least one or two of the main characters survived.

London (October 10 to 13)

We took the train through the Chunnel from Paris to London, arriving in late afternoon. This time we stayed at a brand new hotel in Soho called The Nadler.

 The entrance and the ultra modern reception area of The Nadler Hotel


We had already booked tickets for two shows in London and bought tickets for a third while we were there. Here are the Playbills.

"The Light Princess" by Tori Amos at The National Theatre 

"The Book of Mormon" - very funny and the best musical we saw, although it was rather rude and crude. Nothing wrong with that, though.

Cast photos from the Playbill

"From here to Eternity" based on the original book, which was the basis of the film. Set in Hawaii just before Pearl harbor, it didn't quite work for us.

We also went to a major exhibition of Lowry paintings at the Tate Britain. It was nice to see so many of Lowry's paintings in one place, although I had hoped to see some of his later works, which have never been shown in public.

We also spent a couple of hours in The British Museum. This time, we focused on the Greek and Egyptian exhibits.

The main entrance to the British Museum

Kris smiling in front of the British Museum

The Elgin Marbles, which originally adorned the Parthenon in Greece and which the Greeks would like back! Not much chance of that!

Another section of the Elgin marbles

Now in the Egyptian section, a mask of a Pharaoh which would have covered the face of his mummy after death

A hidden or false door (not a real door at all) covered in deeply incised hieroglyphs

Details from the door - does that look like Obama on the right ?

An onyx cat decorated with gold 

A young Pharoah identified as Nabuman hunts in the marshes of the Nile. This image was taken from his tomb and shows his power over nature

Another detail from a tomb drawing. This seems to support my theory that a pretty girl is a pretty girl, no matter what her race, place in history or location.

Cattle being driven to market. They seem to be smiling.

Finally, small figures placed in the tomb to serve the Pharoah after his death. 

On the Saturday evening we had dinner with my nephew Thomas and his girl friend Fiona. They are both very interesting but next time we will chose a restaurant with a slightly lower noise level. We old people have difficulties following conversations when the noise level gets above a roar. We forgot our camera, so there are no pictures, but here's a photo  stole from Facebook!

Lytham and Belfast (October 13 to October 30)

We drove from London to Lytham and spent a few days with Joan. We also drove over to Yorkshire and spent two nights with Felicity. We took Joan to see her brother Dick.

Joan and her brother Dick

Joan at home

Leyburn market - not exactly Paris but a nice selection of veggies

We also went to see Sarah's new house, about 45 minutes south of where she lives now. When it's been renovated, she will use it for weekends and holidays.

The side of the house facing the beach (the road is behind)

The living room with the sea behind. That's my Mum in the wheelchair.

The spectacular view from the living room window

Two Paul's and Sarah (and Jonty the dog) on one of the terraces leading down to the sea 

The view along the beach

Finally, on October 30, we flew home  from Dublin to Orlando.