Archive for the ‘Travels and Adventures’ Category

Out and about in the Kent countryside

My wife and I took a day off over the Jubilee weekend from our hectic working lives.  We decided to trundle around the Kent countryside, winding our way through the quiet back lanes and enjoying the serenity of a landscape which never fails to delight, both in terms of wonderful rural scenery and the vernacular architecture.  Even a short tour such as this rejuvinates the soul and refreshes the mind.

The rural shots are from around village of Frittenden and the buildings are in the village of Smarden, very much the quintissential English village:


June in the fields of Kent


Cottages backing on to the graveyard of St Michael’s Church, Smarden


The Chequers Inn, Smarden




RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

The heat has sapped my energy so completely that all I can manage are a few photographs I took from our visit on Tuesday; hopefully they speak for themselves:

The Satoyama Life garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory

The Satoyama Life garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory

M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon

M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon

The lavender walk in Arne Maynard’s garden

Pleached copper beech walk in Arne Maynard’s garden

The L’Occitane Immortelle Garden by Peter Dowle

The Telegraph Garden by Sarah Price

Dappled evening light in Sarah Price’s garden

Joe Swift’s garden

London Plane tree in Joe Swift’s garden

Topiary in Cleve West’s garden

Planting detail in Cleve West’s garden

Water detail in Cleve West’s garden

And last but not least:

Corgies for the Golden Jubilee

La Mezquita Catedral, Cordoba

For the final post of my Alhambra photo-series we  move from Granada to Cordoba and La Mezquita Catedral.  Built on a site that was first a pagan temple then a Visigothic Christian church, the Umayyad mosque is regarded as one of the finest monuments of Islamic architecture.

After the Spanish Reconquista the building was converted into a Roman Catholic church.  A cathedral building was built in the centre of the Islamic structure and this forms the source the anger mentioned in my first post of the series; I appreciate that one religion will always seek to erase or absorb the symbols and structures of another, hence the Islamic building being built on a former pagan and then Christian site.  But to see the garish monstrosity of the Roman Catholic cathedral within the surroundings of the former mosque was to my mind appalling and nothing short of an act of vandalism.  The minaret that once existed has also been replaced by a bell-tower which again sits somewhat jarringly within the context of the Islamic architectural surroundings.

Inside La Mesquita courtyard

The archways were bricked in after the Spanish Reconquista; they once would have been completely open allowing light to flood in to the interior of the structure and worshipers to move freely between the courtyard and the prayer hall.

Christian bell-tower at La Mezquita

One of the doorways on the perimeter of La Mezquita

Hypostyle hall in La Mezquita

Detail of the rich decoration surrounding the mihrab of La Mezquita

Highly ornate dome of the mihrab in La Mezquita

Islamic tile work in La Mezquita

Courtyard in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba

Pool and fountain in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba

Islamic architecture at the Alhambra

Having looked at the Alhambra from afar in my first post, followed by examples of the Islamic tile-work found within the palaces in my second and the Generalife in my third, this fourth post in my Alhambra photo-series takes a closer look at the architectural detail of the palace complex.

"Honeycomb," "stalactite," or "mocárabe" vaulting in the Hall of the Abencerrajes


The honeycomb architecture is a wonder.  I have seen this previously in pictures only and they really don’t express the intricacy and quality of the work.  To see it up close takes one’s breath away.


Honeycomb roof in detail

Honeycomb and carving in close up

Mind bogglingly stunning relief carving

Juxtaposition of tiles, carving and door

Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles)

Cuarto Dorado


This was a difficult shot to get as there were so many people packed into the room.  I knelt down on the floor and waited for a gap to emerge, which one eventually did for just  a second, and I was able to get the shot.  The pool looks very serene and the whole room opens up to sky above, particularly impressive when seen at night and I would certainly recommend the night visit aswell as the day visit.


Arch through to the Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions)

Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions)


The Court of the Lions was closed for renovation on our visit so we could only see the top part of the court above the boarding which blocked the view.  I was disappointed by this as the Court of the Lions is meant to be the jewel in the crown of the entire palace complex.  We were able to see the lion statutes which had been removed to another room and cleaned up (no photos allowed though) and they did look better for it.  Maybe We’ll have to go back one day to the see the court restored to all its glory.


Recess in the Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors)


The Generalife, Granada

Adjacent to the Alhambra is the Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers of Al-Andalus with its splendid gardens, and this is the subject of part 3 of my Alhambra photo-series.

The Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Fountains in the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Flowers in the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Long Pond) at the Generalife

Archway carving at the Generalife

Gallery at the Generalife

Fountain and pool in Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana at the Generalife

Looking out from the Generalife towards the Alhambra

As with the Alhambra palaces, patience is key when visiting the Generalife; it seems near impossible to access it at a quite time so the best advice is to go in (you can only enter once by the way, multiple visits are not permitted) and to simply wait for breaks in the crowd.  In one of these rare moments you can then view and fully appreciate the gardens and buildings without trying to look over or around someone else.

My wife and I used the same trick in the palaces; simply hang back and let the flow of people pass you by.  It amazed my how quickly people moved through the palace complex; a click of the camera here and there and they were off to the next room leaving one to wonder how many visitors to the Alhambra actually see it, rather than just glance, point and shoot?

The palace rooms are places to linger, to allow oneself to be consumed by the detail and exquisiteness of the architecture and craftsmanship and to imagine them as they once were at their most opulent; to move through them in a manner that lacks in focus or concentration and as though one is in a great rush to reach the end is perverse: why bother going at all?

Before I finish I implore you to do one thing should you visit the palaces: sit on the floor and look around you.  You may get some odd looks but who really cares about that?  What you will also get, however, is a great perspective of the buildings; the Nasrid rulers would have filled the floors with cushions and sat on them and so you get to experience the rooms as they may have done, to a degree at least.

Islamic tiles in the Alhambra, Granada

This post forms the second part of the series relating to the Alhambra, Granada, displaying photographs taken by my wife and I during our holidsy there last September; this time we look at Islamic tiles, giving examples of the vibrant tilework that adorns many parts of the the palace complex:

Islamic tiles with inscription above

Stunning, fluid design

Bold colour in this strong design

So which one is the Circle Line then?

Incredible intricacy and precision

Another example of the intricacy and precision achieved in the tilework

Tilework sitting below equally detailed carving

Hypnotic pattern

I find these tiles truly amazing; the quality of the craftsmanship is mind-boggling and can only be aspired to in any work of art or design.  As a gardener I find the geometrical patterns a source of inspiration from a design and layout perspective, as too are the bold colours used throughout.

Alhambra, Granada and the Mezquita-Catedral, Cordoba

There are many places in the world that one would wish to go but that one may never have the opportunity to do so: Persepolis, Sana’a, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan …

Fortunately for my wife and I one of the places we have considered visiting for some time, the Alhambra, can now be removed from the wish list; in September we spent a week in Granada, ostensibly to see the Alhambra, but we did also make the journey to Córdoba and to the Mezquita-Catedral.

This post forms the first of a series displaying a handful of the 600 or so photos that were taken on our visit.  I shall begin with a couple of views of the Alhambra and of the surrounding area that was visible from the roof terrace of the wonderful apartment in which we stayed in Sacromonte; later posts will show some of the amazing tilework and architecture, the gardens, and a few shots of the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, a truly inspiring site but one that left me feeling slightly angry and appalled (all shall be revealed!).  So here we go, the first set of photographs:

A full view of the Alhambra looking across from Sacromonte

A close up view of the Alhambra looking at the Palace of Charles V and the tower within which is the The Hall of the Two Sisters (Sala de Dos Hermanas)

Looking down the valley from Sacromonte towards the centre of Granada and hills beyond

Looking up the valley from our roof terrace

Roof tops of Granada

I think that the next set will be of the tiles, the craftsmanship of which is astonishing and only bettered by the intricacy of the architecture in which I could happily sit and loose myself for many an hour.

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