Monday, July 16, 2018
:) eKa @ 9:00:00 PM • 0 comments
Friday, June 15, 2018
I was getting disappointed and started to wonder if I was in the wrong path. I think I was right though, but there's just nothing. Eventually I found a small field with tulips of the same colours and stopped awhile and took pictures of them. I had to admit that I was hesitant about just parking and walk around, I was afraid that the owner would get angry and chase me away. However there's no one there. That being said I did haste a bit in taking the pictures. The tulips here are in bright colours and the strong wind kinda made them all bend. I love how the colours come out in this picture. Didn't have to do any editing at all.
It was kinda sad not finding more tulip fields :( I was earlier on visiting Keukenhof than last year, but even on the 1st of May, many of the tulips were already gone from the fields. Eventually I saw a bigger field with tulips of many colours. I saw that there were some bikes from the bicycle rentals and there were quite a number of people walking on the fields, so I felt better about doing the same. There was a freaking drone though when I was there and the buzzing sound annoyed me. I wonder if the drone was just taking footages or it was really there to buzz and annoy people and stop them from walking too deep. In the end luckily it went away. Here's some pictures from the fields. There's a canal by this field and across the canal, there's a field of what I think is daffodils. As for the tulips, I particularly like the section where it seemed that they're still quite early in their bloom that their petals are still small and together. Against the many green of their stalk, it just looked pretty to me.
After that I cycled again. Couldn't find anymore field and before I knew it I was back at Keukenhof. Took a bit of a detour before returning the bicycle to take some pictures of a small tulip field nearby, but this was gated so I couldn't walk in.
After that I returned the bicycle. So in the end, I didn't make it to the sea. I wonder if it's really far. All in all, I think I spent around 3 hours cycling. Before I got on the bus to leave I took some pictures at the flower beds in front of Keukenhof's entrance. The tulips were in many different colours and they looked so pretty being different. For pictures from this trip, please go here. Dare I say that I will not chase Keukenhof again? I don't know, if the time is right and I have a substantial transit time in Schiphol, what you're gonna do, better spend it looking at beautiful flowers right?
:) eKa @ 12:02:00 PM • 0 comments
Saturday, June 09, 2018
When I arrived, there was already quite a queue and from the Internet I learned that the queue for people who already have tickets are at the middle, but they all seemed to blend and chaotic for me. Found what I think is the middle. Asked a couple in front me if it's the correct queue. They thought so. Then behind me came 3 Chinese aunties from Xiamen. I think in languages I can understand better than I can speak. Somehow I had a bit of conversation with one of the auntie in my very broken pretty much non-existent Chinese. They also had bookings for the upper apartment, but theirs was at 11 if I'm not mistaken. I was in awe of the aunties. I think their English is like my very broken pretty much non-existent Chinese, but they made it travelling and doing this on their own. When the queue moved and all with booking breezed through, somehow they were gone from behind me. There was a bag check through the machine when you enter and after doing that, I saw that there were free maps by the entrance for people who buy ticket on the spots. Luckily I spotted that because I used that map to make sure I visited every corners.
Overall I think the Alcázar was so so, that is because after Alhambra, everything would fall short. It's definitely bigger and grander than the Alcázar in Córdoba, but the garden when I was there had less flowering plants so it's mostly green. Here are some of the things that you can see in the Alcázar of Seville. You can see the standard Moorish low fountain.
Then there are beautiful designs on the ceilings. The second picture below shows the famous one from the Hall of Ambassadors.
There are also beautiful ceramic tiles on the walls. Below is an example of one of them. They make you wonder how they're put together.
One interesting thing that I really like is the Doña María de Padilla's Bath. It's kinda hidden and luckily I had a map with me that told me it exists. It's not the same, but it reminded me of Istanbul's Basilica Cistern.
The outdoor garden is big and I stumbled into a musical fountain. I didn't know what it was, I just saw a group of elderly sitting and waiting and so I waited too. The fountain wasn't exceptionally beautiful and the sound / music coming out of it wasn't beautiful too (in my opinion), but it's a water organ. So I guess that's kinda cool. It started drizzling lightly, so I walked up the sheltered balcony behind it and waited for awhile. Luckily it stopped quite quickly. Then I explored the rest of the garden. Honestly maybe my timing was off, I saw mostly green and not many flowers. The garden is big, it has a maze (a group of German boys had so much fun playing in them), a pavilion, bigger fountains with pool, and also other smaller fountains like this one.
In a corner of Jardín Inglés (which I assumed is English garden), I saw this peacock. I think there were more than 1 peacock and they were quite loud.
For pictures from the Alcázar, please go here. I think I spent too much time in Alcázar so I quickly went to my next destination, Seville Cathedral. I actually contemplated that perhaps it's okay to not book this beforehand, but how glad I was that I did. The queue was long and it felt good to just breeze through. Booking included free audio guide, but the queue was quite substantial and it wasn't moving, so I was like forget it. The cathedral is big and there's quite a lot to see and I have to say, it's quite stunning.
It has a lot of precious thing. Like this one below is just a small part of a big golden altars that was gated. You couldn't really come close. Wikipedia's caption on the picture it has is that, Pierre Dancart's masterpiece, considered one of the finest altarpieces in the world.
Another one of really interesting thing in the Cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's so grand, it's like I think I've never seen a tomb fancier than this. My thought went to poor old Vasco da Gama whose tomb in Lisbon's Jerónimos Monastery was like so plain in comparison. Wikipedia told me that the 4 figures in Columbus' tomb are the kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. I tried to find more information, but I couldn't find if Columbus' remain is on the box the kings carried or on the one below that they stood on. You have kings at your tombs. Do you think Columbus is deserving of this? I have like mix feeling about this. On one point, it's like yep, it would be so cool if my tomb is like this too. On the other hand it's like it's kinda over the top. Too much. Mix feeling I say, mix feeling :D
Moving on, I saw that the queue for the Giralda / Bell Tower is quite long, but I wanted to do this, so I quickly joined in. Me, tower? Yes I did write many times that I don't like climbing enclosed stairs but I was promised ramps for this tower. It's actually quite spacious and airy inside the tower. The windows in the tower are sufficiently big. Wikipedia told me, The tower has a ramp with 35 segments wide and tall enough to allow a person to ride on horseback to the top of the Moorish tower. Fascinating right. By the way, part of the cathedral and this tower used to be a Moorish mosque. The ramps were built to make it easier to go up the tower and make the Muslim call of prayer. While it wasn't tiring to get up, it took quite long because it was basically a queue all the way to the top. I wonder if it would have been tiring if I had walked all the way without stopping every few seconds. I think that would be more enjoyable than my experience in the queue. I hate people you see. So being with so many people and noise and not being able to just get out, I had to like calm myself. Behind me were these 2 Italian dudes, one of them kept bumping into my backpack, adding to my annoyance. One of their conversation was about how Spanish words could be misleading for Italians, like the word salida.
Some of the bells rang when I was there. Being at the top, it was obviously loud. The way down was faster and a better walk. I walked inside the Cathedral a bit more and then I exited. By this time the drizzle had stopped. I took some pictures of the Cathedral and tower from the courtyard. Just like in La Mezquita in Córdoba, the courtyard is filled with orange trees.
By this time I think it's around 3 pm. I needed to have lunch, however the restaurants all around were still busy and crowded. I waited at one, but like no waiter was willing to help me out, at least to greet. So I walked to another one and again it was busy, but luckily I managed to get an attention of a waitress and she was willing to hear me out and I got a table. This place serves mostly paella. Didn't plan to have paella in this trip, because it's a Valencia thing not Andalusia, but beggar cannot be chooser. Thankfully it's a single person serving. My paella had pork, chicken, prawn, and it's pretty good. After lunch, I made my way to Church of El Salvador. The ticket for the Cathedral includes this too. However when I was there, there's no one manning the entrance or checking ticket. It's Monday though and quite late in the afternoon, so maybe it's their free time. In Seville, many places are actually free Monday afternoon. I like places that give free entrance even though only for a particular time. I like it for obvious reason because it's free, but also because it gives a chance for people who cannot afford to pay to also have access to these wonderful places. Church of El Salvador is not very big, but the altars inside it are so out of this world. I don't think I've seen anything like it before. It's in baroque style. I'm first to admit to not have any knowledge of any artistic style or how to identify one. In Wikipedia it's written, The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, art and music that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the late 18th century. It properly explains how extravagant the altars are. So many angels and saints, so many things, so crowded, so mesmerizing :D
After the church, I made my way to La Maestranza. I was so looking forward to this especially because Monday afternoon it's free, but darn that was like my big disappointment in this trip. It seemed it is free, but I think they have like limited slots and by the time I was there it was way passed 3 pm and I think they weren't accepting any visitor anymore. It's not very clear, there were a lot of people trying to get in, but all of us were turned down, very sad, very very sad *sigh* so I only have picture of La Maestranza from the outside.
Then I made my way to the nearby bridge, Puente de Triana, and took picture of the Guadalquivir river and Seville. This picture below is from just before I reached the bridge.
From here, I walked all the way to the tower, Torre del Oro, where's there's a boat cruise along the river, but I decided not to do that. I walked a bit more in the old town and then decided to call it the day. So that was how I explored Seville. I don't think I explored much. For pictures, please go here.
:) eKa @ 8:48:00 PM • 0 comments
Sunday, June 03, 2018
Then we continued on our way. It was drizzling a bit that the guide decided to take us to an olive oil factory first. When I said factory, it's not industrial, it's like old-school family factory. I was surprised myself upon realizing that from all my travels, it was my first time going to an olive oil factory. I've been to vineyards with olive trees, but this is my first time learning how olive oil is made. I also learnt that Spain produces the most olive oil for the world, even more than the Italians and in Andalusia, olive picking seems to be one of the jobs that are still really done by the Spanish while other fruits or vegetables picking may have some foreign workers helping. As mentioned this family is old school, been doing it since many generations back. The olives are picked by hand in September - October, if I'm not mistaken. Then they go into a machine that will make them into some sort of paste. Then like lasagna (as the guide put it), the paste is layered between filters, layered upon layered until it reaches like very high. I forget how high, maybe 2 m or so. The filter is round like a table mat and is made of nylon rope. Then this stack is pushed into the presser and it will squeeze out all the oils. I can't remember how high the stack be after the press, perhaps it's down to half. What I learn is that because this is old school, the factory is like only getting 20% oil (if I'm not mistaken) from the olive. Industrial factory may be able to get like 35%. In fact I think this factory can still sell their used paste to the industrial factories. I saw that the paste was like brown and it made sense when I saw that the oil they have there was like darker. I'm glad I got to learn something new.
Then it was to the next village, Grazalema, which was also not very big nor interesting. So far the trip hadn't been going amazing. We were given time for lunch. When I was waiting for my change, this uncle / older guy just came and sit in my table and talked to me. I think he might be American. I thought it was kinda weird, but okay the place was crowded, there's witnesses if something bad was going to happen. He asked where I'm from. Upon knowing Indonesia, he mentioned Jogjakarta, which amused me because that's not the first thing people normally say about Indonesia. He said he'd been there during his hippie days :D Then it got weird when he said he's thinking of buying a hotel nearby. Mind you this uncle dressed so normally, like didn't look not rich at all. By that time my change came, so I just said okay, well nice talking to you, bye :D Then I walked around a bit, but really there's nothing much.
Then we're off on our way to Ronda by way of passing forest of cork trees. I'm not sure how corks are made. I just googled it. Turned out they take the bark to make corks. Good I guess, because I wondered if they have to cut down the entire tree. The trees I saw in the forests were not tall, so I wonder if those were really the cork trees. Anyway Ronda, it seemed it's quite famous though I have never heard of it before now. As we walked towards the town, there's a bullfighting ring with a bull statue. We didn't go in though and I didn't as well during my free time. Nearby there are statues of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. They liked it there in Ronda. The lookout point nearby provided a view of the mountains.
Then we're given map and a free time to explore. Up to this point, the day was just going so so for me. Even arriving in Ronda was just so so, I thought there's nothing much too. I saw the bridge, Puente Nuevo, but the view wasn't that great for me so I was rather disappointed.
Not knowing what to do, I just followed the suggested walkabout in the map. First stop was Plaza de María Auxiliadora and at the end of this look out point, there's like many steps down and I saw some Korean tourists coming up. An uncle in particular who's like breathing through his mouth. I figured the hike down will give you a good view of the bridge. Seeing the uncle, I wondered if it's really hard or if it's because he's older. Since I had nothing to do, I went down. Obviously going down was easy, though with my luck I was afraid I was going to trip and roll over and fall. I have this kinda illogical fear sometime and one of them is like I'm not good in this kinda thing, which is basically just walking. I'm not good at walking, that's how silly I am. I like don't have confidence in myself and I'm always thinking I'm bound to fall. Anyway, reached (in one piece) a place where it provides a really good look of the bridge and what I didn't know looking at pictures before this was that there's a waterfall under the bridge and it was pretty. The water pooling under it has a nice colour.
From this point, you can go further down, but the path was looking narrow and steep and again I had no confidence so I decided to go back, but instead of going all the way back up, I followed up another path which I think would lead to a better view of the Guadalevín river. However the path again was getting treacherous and so then I decided to really go back. Going back up wasn't easy, heart rate was up, was almost breathing through my mouth, but I made it all the way without stopping. I sat down at the bench in Plaza de María Auxiliadora first waiting for my heart rate to go down. Then I followed the rest of the suggested walking path in my map. Nothing interesting to report. At one point, I took a wrong turn and ended up at the center again and so I decided to just go find a toilet and then go around the shops. On the walk back to the shuttle van, a Spanish girl in the group chatted me up. She asked if I was from the States. That was interesting because that's the first time anyone thought I'm from America :D She was travelling alone too and she's currently living near Madrid (I forget which city). In my head I was like, girl, why are you only talking to me now, you could have helped me with my boredom in the morning. Why didn't I start talking to her in the first place, you ask? Well she's always in the Spanish group. Then I was being the anti social shy me. I'm glad she talked to me even though for only a short while. That's pretty much day 7. The best part was the hike down to see the bridge in all its glory with its waterfall. For pictures, please go here
:) eKa @ 11:36:00 AM • 0 comments
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Now that it's a cathedral, there are many chapels for prayers all around. What's amazing and really beautiful for me is the many pillars, all in perfect alignment with each other. It has this block of red and white marbles, some looked older than others. Truly it's another thing that I'm truly blessed to have been able to visit.
I was planning to spend time there until the free time is up. About 10-15 minutes before 09:30 AM, the staff started to usher and shepherd all of us out. The official opening hour starts at 10 AM and in the courtyard filled with orange trees, I saw a queue started to form. There's also a bell tower, but climbing up enclosed stairs is really not my thing. After a few more pictures also from the outside, I made my way to the Alcázar. By the way, there were many entrances to the compounds, but not all of these gates are open. They also come in different design and are quite beautiful.
The Alcázar, its full name is Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and its ticket price is 4.50 euro, which I thought was quite cheap, so I decided to go in. There was not much of a queue when I got to the ticket counter. An Alcázar as Wikipedia explains it, is a type of Moorish castle or palace in Spain and Portugal built during Muslim rule. This one is not very big and I guess that's why the ticket price is not very high. It has towers which luckily wasn't that hard for me to climb. Inside the building, there's some art works and some mosaic tiles. The garden features long fountain with flowers all around. The flowers were blooming, including my favorite red poppies. At the far end of the compound, it also has a section of walls covered in roses. I thought the blooming flowers are what made this visit so interesting even though the whole compound is not really mind blowing for me. It's just nice and relaxing walking around looking at beautiful flowers.
Here is a picture of the Alcázar which I took from one end of the long fountain and also a view of one of its long fountain.
As I was about to leave, I met the Indian couple from the day before. We did talk about our plan of going to Córdoba the day before. They were in a tour. We just said hi hi and went on our way. Next to the Alcázar, there's this horse riding school, similar to the one I saw in Vienna. I had no interest though even back when in Vienna, so I didn't go in. Ticket is rather expensive too if I'm not mistaken. Honestly I didn't have much plan about what to do in Córdoba and I did become concerned if my trip there would get boring. What I knew I wanted to do after the Alcázar was finding this courtyard statue. When I found it, it was the start of something exceptionally wonderful.
Near this statue, there's a house and I saw people going in and out and I know they were going for the patio. I know that there's Córdoba patio festival. It hasn't started when I was there, but signs were everywhere. This year it started on May 1 for about 2 weeks. That happened to be the day I flew back to Singapore. So anyway I saw people going in and I followed them and I had a peek at the patio before and old uncle asked me for the ticket. He didn't speak English but I understood that ticket is required and he pointed me at the direction to get the ticket which I actually knew where exactly. Actually there were already people selling the tickets outside of the Alcázar, but I didn't even bother to find out more because I thought they would be speaking only in Spanish and I thought it was something to be done in group. So the house that the uncle indicated was a house that I already passed on my way to see the statue and I did see the sign. So I went in. There's a guy and I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to explain well in English when I asked, how does it work? Luckily the guy speaks English :) It worked like this, the ticket is 5 euro and you get access to 5 houses. There's a map with the ticket and all the houses are quite nearby to each other in the San Basilio area. There's like an uncle / older man in each house which will mark your ticket once you have entered. The first house was actually the house where the ticket was sold, so that was like perfect. The guy also promised to point me to the next house after I was done with the first house. So here's the start of the many pictures I took in Córdoba and why this trip became so memorable. It made up for the fact that I was super lost that morning. The patios were just breathtaking for me. I may have said this is insane or this is crazy audibly because they were just so beautiful, too beautiful. Like I so want to have this in my own house someday. It doesn't take a lot of space, but definitely a lot of effort. Pictures here are from the different houses, I forget which is which.
When I finished in house 1, there were actually many people so I thought the guy wouldn't remember me. He did though and when he saw me going out, he pointed me to the next house, but I already knew where it is. House 2 was the best I think and it has also won many prizes dating more than 2 decades. There's a lady selling some stuff there too. There are people living in these houses, I think she may have lived in one them. I think I would go crazy having many strangers entering my living space, but the patio is too beautiful and I think you do have to share beauty? I hope if I have something beautiful, I wouldn't be too selfish to not share it with others. House 3 was crowded when I passed by, so I went to house 4 first in which somehow there was a time when I found myself there all alone and it was like bliss. I wanted to stay longer but I realized there's a group outside the door. The uncle there was like talking to them, I think letting me have my time. When I went out, as the uncle took my ticket to mark it, he started talking to me in Spanish. I think he's asking me if I have had a good look and I said si, molto bella (Italian for yes, very beautiful). I don't know if he understood this. He called me mija which I always love when the father in Ugly Betty called Betty with because I thought that is so endearing. Somehow I understood him when he's telling me that house 3 was crowded and I responded yes hence that's why I went here first (in English), then he told me to go to house 5 first. His direction was different from the map, but we confirmed both paths worked. I was just amazed we kinda understood each other. I love the personal familial touch of this. Anyway, as I passed by house 3, I saw it's not very crowded anymore so I went there. After that I went to house 5, along the way finding myself alone on the street and I was so happy because I had been seeing beautiful things. House 5 was okay. Honestly all the houses after house 2 just kinda fell short. It may not be as beautiful as house 2, but if you happen to find yourself alone in the pretty patio you can't help having your heart smile. Another thing I noticed in these patios is that they have wells in them. I can't recall if all the houses have wells, but at least 2 of them do have. There were also 2 free patios that I entered too, but they're not as pretty. You can give a donation if you want to, which the stingy me didn't do. If you think about it, 5 euro for 5 houses is like 1 euro each. If you go to the free patio and give like 1 euro, it's more or less the same. Also my earlier plan was to visit Palacio de Viana's patios if I had free time and didn't know what else to do. The ticket price was also 5 euro and that was like further from the old town center or train station, so that's quite a walk. With my luck that day, very likely I would have gotten lost again.
The day was getting more crowded with tourists especially around La Mezquita. I took more pictures of its different gates and then had lunch in one of the restaurant nearby. Then I walked around to places like Calle de las Flores, which means flower street, but there were too many people and the alley was narrow and though there's potted flower pots on the walls, it just fell short in comparison compared to the pretty patios. I also made my way to see the old city wall that enclosed this old town.
After that I thought let's call it the day. I had walked a lot. I reached 20,000 steps that day. I was also quite concerned about getting back to the station. Going back I did have my moment of confusion, but when I found out I was in the correct direction, I was quite relieved, but still I ended up checking the map like every 5 minutes to make sure I was on track :D Arrived in the station quite early, but it's good I guess. When I got on the train, there's a lady sitting in my window seat. I was quite annoyed because I purposely booked a window seat, but I thought it's not worth the effort to tell her that, so I let her be and I sat on the empty seat next to her. This train back was not direct, we stopped along the way and in one of the stops a guy came and said I was sitting in his seat. In English, which I don't know if he understood, I guess he did, I explained that the lady was sitting in my seat so I sat at that seat. He talked a bit with the lady, but I guess the lady just told him to sit anywhere :( He did, but this is the reason why you do need to sit at your assigned seat. I'm just glad there's no drama. I'm also so glad, so happy, that I had such a successful day trip on my own. I know for some people this may be not much, but I feel happy that I achieved something, so happy. I had a really really really good day and I thank God for that. Okay, I have so many pictures, here's the links:
:) eKa @ 2:04:00 PM • 0 comments
tweets.Tweets by @ekabuntoro