Category Archives: World Travel

Iory’s travels in the USA and abroad

Malaga 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Fifth Stop Malaga, All Aboard!”

Malaga was a big surprise to me. Leo was intrigued by the city having heard good reports from his parents because of its picturesque location on the Mediterranean surrounded by mountains. The Guadalhorce River that runs through the city divides the Sierra de Mijas mountain range which we see here to the west of the city and the Montes de Málaga to the east. This photo is taken from the summit of mount Gibralfaro where we were staying at Parador de Málaga overlooking the city and its busy port.

This is one wing of Parador de Málaga and our room was at the far left high above the city with the incandescent Mediterranean Sea stretching out beyond the horizon. The Parador hotel chain is the Spanish national system of elegant hostelries scattered across the country designed to promote tourism. All of the Paradors enjoy spectacular locations in historic and or traditional style buildings. Parador de Málaga is nestled into the surrounding pine forest of Mount Gibralfaro and has easy accesses to a system of pedestrian  paths meandering  through the trees and down to the city with charming views of the surrounding landscape and sea.  Directly above the Parador is the Castillo de Gibralfaro originally part of a Phoenician lighthouse.


This is one of the two balconies illuminating our room framed by a tangle of red and purple bougainvillea with orange trumpet vines both in perpetual blossom enlivening the Gibralfaro woods surrounding the Parador

This is a view from our principal balcony overlooking the seaside neighborhood of Plaza de Toros enthusiastically squeezed by modern apartment towers. You can see the shimmering Mediterranean where a cruise ship sails out on its nervous progress to the next port of call.


It is an easy walk from our hotel up to Castillo de Gibralfaro and we enjoyed exploring the picturesque ramparts with their distinctive pyramidal points atop the merlons of the outer walls. The Castillo crowns Mount Gibralfaro giving views in all directions. Here we are looking inland across the city and all the way out towards the Sierra de Mijas Mountains in the distance. 

The castle was built in 929AD by Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba, on a former Phoenician enclosure and lighthouse, from which its name was derived – gebel-faro (Arabic and Greek, meaning rock of the lighthouse). Yusef 1, Sultan of Granada, enlarged it at the beginning of the 14th century, also adding the double wall down to the Alcazaba.

The castle is famous for suffering a three-month siege by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, which ended only when hunger forced the Malagueños to surrender. Afterwards Ferdinand occupied the site, while his queen took up residence in the town. It was in use as a gunpowder arsenal and military base by the Spanish government until 1925.

One of the permanent residents of Castillo de Gibralfaro, a red squirrel, gracefully leaps over the ramparts on his way home in the towering Cypress standing guard within the ancient fortress.


A studious young visitor to El Castillo consults his map guide, making sure he and his family have not missed any of the exciting sights.

The most important monument of Malaga is the cathedral seen here from the El Castillo de Gibralfaro affectionately nicknamed “La Manquita,” loosely interpreted as “one-armed woman” because only one of its intended two towers was completed.

Quite frankly after trudging around Spain for the better part of three weeks and then landing in the incredibly comfortable and luxurious Parador de Malaga I was hesitant to leave the confines of our hotel. Especially after exploring the Castillo directly next door and enjoying a delightful luncheon at La Terrazita Café comfortably positioned within the Castillo gardens with great views out onto the Mediterranean. I thought I might as well take advantage of the huge bathtub of our room and plunge into the steamy perfumed suds of a bubble bath, hey, our suite was overflowing with all these cool and groovy bathroom amenities, so why not dive in?

However, the next day after an absolutely lux breakfast buffet on the second floor balcony of the formal dining room, yes this is the view from that perch, we decided that we could gather our energies and trundle on down to town on the winding pedestrian path that would take us to the town hall surrounded by gardens that you can see above. 

Along the very pleasant winding path to Malaga center we paused at a mirador where this handsome guitarist was playing selections from Enrique Granados’ “Goyescas,” Los Majos Enamorados one of my favorite pieces of quintessentially Andalusian music.

I am so glad we mustered up the energy for this walk into town because every step was a miracle of tumbling gardens with every imaginable variety of flower tree and vine, many in bloom and all beautiful.

As we approached the rose garden and orangery surrounding the city hall at the bottom of the hill, we came across neighbors walking their dogs and exchanging gossip with animated gestures while the canine contingent patiently awaited their respective masters to pipe down and get on with it. I like the guy’s coat that ingeniously reveals a light gray tweed pattern drifting like a cloud from the background of what looks to me like the soft black cashmere wool. Can I say that the effect echoes his beard and cropped hair?

  Peeking out from lush foliage of Mount Gibralfaro gardens tumbling down the hill side we glimpse Malaga’s stately town hall.


Here we see a view of the The Alcazaba peeking out from the surrounding woods of Mount Gibralfaro as seen from the rose garden at the bottom of the hill. The Alcazaba is a palatial fortification of Málaga originally built by the Hammudid Moorish dynasty in the early 11th century and it was respectively built on the ruins of earlier Phoenician and then Roman fortifications that extend all the way up to the summit and Castillo de Gibralfaro.

 Give Leo a bunch of flowers and he will equal their beauty with the brilliance of his smile. Can you see that he is sporting his cap from the Fenway Garden Society of Boston where he has tenderly cultivated his little piece of paradise for the last 28 years? This particularly vibrant bougainvillea vine has been pruned to blossom in a dense cluster of flowers

Punctuating a traffic round-about at the head of the rose garden by the town hall, this enormous fountain with its surrounding park full of impressive trees creates a pleasant relief to modern Malaga apartment towers crowding the Plaza de Toros neighborhood.

At the center of the rose garden is a lily pool and these tiled wall murals which are actually the backs of built in benches that face the rose beds. This mural includes flora and fauna with a towering cactus at the midpoint and a flutter of colorful butterflies hovering about a scattering of flowers.

“El Biznaguero” is a bronze sculpture by Jaime Fernández  Pimentel (1963) which enjoys pride of place at the center of the Pedro Luis Alonso Gardens next to Malaga town hall. Here we see the tops of orange trees softening the grandeur of the domed towers.

El Biznaguero is a street vendor who sells Biznagas, a traditional bouquet of fragrant jasmine blossoms woven into the dried flower heads of ammi visnaga a kind of wild carrot which I would call Queen Ann’s Lace. These arrangements have become a symbol of Málaga so much so that even the Málaga Spanish Film Festival awards a silver or gold plated Biznagas to the winners.  

I spied this ultra-cute wall mural inside the vestibule of a nineteenth century apartment house in the old city of Malaga

Approaching Málaga Cathedral from the north façade we can see one of the two distinctive towers of the north transept standing to each side of  Puerta de las Cadenas or door of the chains (see lower middle photo, column with chain) this demarks the place of asylum for those individuals seeking protection of the church against civil law. It also serves as the entrance to the transept of the Cathedral.

Beyond this is the one completed monumental bell tower of the west front or main ceremonial entrance to the Cathedral.

The interior of Malaga Cathedral built over two and a half centuries 1528 – 1782 and has a soaring multi-domed ceiling upheld by clusters of Corinthian columns extended by supports holding aloft the beautiful vaults decorated with scallop shells in the corners.

More of the remarkable vaults of Málaga Cathedral surrounded by stained glass windows

If you know me, you’ll probably know that I am a sucker for trumpeting angels and crystal chandeliers.

The choir of Malaga Cathedral (1633-1660) is a great Baroque wonder, carved from Mahogany, cedar and red granadilla woods all from the new world. The animated character of each sculpture pulses with life and exalted emotion depicting, apostles, saints and martyrs and doctors of the church. 

Soaring over the choir stalls are two organs in architectural cases that reach to the limits of the vaulted ceiling.

Before we leave Málaga let’s let Baby Pip-Squeak get the last word, “Green is more than a color, it’s is a philosophy!” And boy ain’t that the truth. I caught B.P.S. in the Málaga Botanical Garden where she was spreading the good news. Rock on Squeak!! 

To see more of Malaga click here


Sevilla 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Fourth Stop Sevilla, All Aboard!”

I know, I know you’ve already seen the handsome visage of Sr. Romero, but really, how can I resist this cute pose of my Little Darling? We were checking into The Casa Imperial Hotel in Sevilla and I caught him ready to roll and see that wonderful city literally pulsing with tempting delights. But first a few pictures of our hotel which was a humdinger and once again deserving of the, “Ay Caramba!” exclamation.

The main staircase of Casa Imperial is tiled with a cheerful array of colorful patterns on the steps and running up the walls with figurative panels inset at the middle landing. These designs are typical of the Mudejar style mixing the Moorish and Christian influences that blended after the reconquest of Spain. The early history of Casa Imperial is not documented but structural evidence places the construction date about the mid-17th century, somewhere around 1650.

The four patios that meander back from the surprisingly narrow entrance façade are divided by “screens” of marble pillars and enticing hallways leading to the next open space where delicate fountains fill the quiet with the calming trickle of water. Each courtyard patio has two levels surrounded by suites of rooms that open onto the central spaces. The gardens are filled with neatly trimmed fruit trees and potted flowers. Along the covered walkways surrounding the gardens comfortable seating furniture is grouped and interspersed with antique wooden chests that hold the household linens used in the guestrooms.

On the second floor of the middle patio cloister, a mysterious hallway leads to a narrow set of steps guarded by ancient wrought iron banisters with fancy grillwork. From this passage you can ascend to the roofs of Casa Imperial from whence you can see the surrounding church steeples and roofs of the town.

Sevilla is a city of sumptuous surprises in the form of palace museums. Here we are at the front gate of, “Palacio de las Dueñas” The palace name derives from the monastery of Santa María de las Dueñas, which in 1248 sheltered the nuns and servants of Alfonso X. Today it is the Sevillano residence of the 19th Duque de Alba and before him its most memorable Dueña was his mother the celebrated Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba who was the most titled aristocrat of Spain, Europe and the world in her era (1926-2014) and one of the country’s richest individuals.

In the Duchess’s later life she became infamous for her two marriages to younger men, first to a defrocked Jesuit priest who had been her confessor and then after his death to a businessman 24 years her junior. As a result of excessive plastic surgery she presented an alarmingly messed up visage that one would not want to meet inadvertently all upon an afternoon. Despite this loss of face the old broad was beloved by the populace who would call out, “Ole!” in response to her trembling Flamenco dance maneuvers of later years.

In a corner of the main courtyard of Las Dueñas this handsome marble statue of Bacchus is brilliantly lit by the afternoon sun that also casts a clear shadow of a hanging lantern and crenulated arch.

The main courtyard of Las Dueñas is planted with beautiful roses beneath palm and ficus trees with a tiled fountain sounding a trickle of water from a marble bowl.

This is one of a pair of  antique Mudéjar courtyard doors that protects the carved stucco and tiled arch leading to the “Hall of the Gipsy.”


This is the “gypsy” dancer the room is named for. Here we see, “Pinrelitos” a bronze statue by Mariano Benlliure, 1909, of a young “Bailaora” or flamenco dancer from Cádiz. Pinrelitos looks a lot more cheery than most flamenco dancers I have seen who tend toward the impassioned heart rending agony of emotional turmoil that a gypsy “outsider” can express with authenticity- free of the restraints of propriety.

I have read that Mariano Benlliure was a friend to Duchess Cayetana’s father. I do not know when this statue came to be in the collections of Palacio de las Dueñas or who purchased it.  I suspect that several other sculptures of the palace that caught my eye are also by Benlliure because of their mischievous and dynamic revelry. In all of these sculptures there is an iconoclastic “twinkle in the eye” of the bon vivant that reflected or perhaps inspired the character of Duchess Cayetana who was an avid fan of flamenco dancing and bull fights. This is the quality that endeared her to the public as when on the occasion of her third wedding when she was 85 she slipped through the front gates of Las Dueñas where the ceremony took place and entertained the crowd with a brief impromptu flourish of Flamenco dance. Putting aside her venerable age and exalted title of Spanish Grandee, the most daring part of this performance was her completely ravaged face distorted by excessive plastic surgery. But judging by the warm applause of the assembled audience on the street, apparently what everyone saw was the indomitable spirit of a woman way beyond the restrictions of Spanish formality, so phooey on you Philip II and all your dour decorum.

And here is a daring little darling held high on a marble pillar gracing the cloister of the main patio. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that it is also by Mariano Benlliure who included various rascally babies in his oeuvre. More to my point, here I feel the palpable presence of Duchess Cayetana permeating Las Dueñas as expressed in this brazen baby tripping the light fantastic and having a dammed good time in the process!

This is a corner of the library of Las Dueñas with comfortable seating furniture and book cases stuffed with a collection of volumes both antique and contemporary. The palace is very much a lived in home with collections of bibelots decorating all available surfaces, some precious and some simply charming.

This is an intimate view of the private chapel of Las Dueñas. The walls are half covered with Mudejar tiles of lush colors incorporating the coppery iridescent glaze that adds depth to the overall impression.

On a table protected beneath the cloister surrounding the main patio these two sculptures reference both bull fights and Flamenco dancing, two of Duchess Cayetana’s great enthusiasms. The jacket of the Maja on the left is recognizable as a matador’s chaquetilla or short jacket and along with her cap tilted at a rakish angle she presents the saucy attitude of a gypsy dancer with her tambourine and rose pinned to her breast.

Leaving Las Dueñas, we wandered the streets of Sevilla and came across an area of fashionable shops displaying glamourous wedding gowns. Here we see a supremely chic evening ensemble with a variation of the matador’s chaquetilla as an evening jacket, proof of the abiding fascination for Traje de Luces (suit of lights) referring to the sparkling “bling” created by the reflective sequins and gold braid of the traditional matador’s costume.

A little further on, at 8 Cuna Street we came across Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, a gem of Mudejar Renaissance revival style embellishing an original 16th century palace. Doña Regla Manjón y Margelina, Condessa de Lebrija bought the palace in 1901 three years after the death of her husband and spent 13 years renovating and installing her collections of archeological and architectural artifacts including a large display of ancient Roman floor mosaics which were primarily from the ruins of Italica an ancient Roman town near Sevilla. Condesa Lebrija collected many other ancient artifacts from Rome, Greece, Persia and China that are displayed in handsome cases around the rooms and hallways of the first floor of the Palace.

Doña Regla Manjón was granted the title of Countess of Lebrija in 1912 in recognition of her abundant cultural and charitable work. She was a scholarly person who loved and collected books all her life. She and her husband Federico Sánchez Bedoya, who had been the mayor of Sevilla, amassed a considerable library of over 6,000 volumes including the historical archives of their respective families which The Condesa accommodated in an impressive library at Palacio Lebrija. In 1931, when the Condesa was suffering from failing eyesight she donated the major part of her library to the University of Seville. She and her husband also collected fine and decorative art and those collections are displayed in the sumptuous second floor private apartments also open to the public by guided tour.

I think that it is a telling detail speaking volumes about Condesa de Lebrija that she decorated the front entrance of her palace with an ensemble of tiles that incorporate vignettes of women as artists practicing the fine arts and letters. Above we see an attractive and apparently competent young woman practicing the fine art of “La Escultura” or sculpture. In the four spandrels of the two arches in the vestibule one can see, sculpture, painting, music, poetry. These women are definitely not muses of the arts inspiring male artists but rather they are the artists themselves practicing the noble arts. It is my supposition that Condesa de Lebrija who was an educated and creative person in her own right intended to send a message of her pride in the valuable contribution of women to the cultured world.

This is the mosaic floor of the central patio of Palacio de Lebrija. It was created in the 3rd century BC and is from the ruins of Italica an ancient Roman town near Sevilla. The god Pan is at the center with pictures of the various amorous exploits of Zeus surrounding. It was found in an olive grove close to the Italica forum and reassembled at the Palacio in 1914.

This is a corner of the main patio of Palacio de Lebrija. The elaborate Mudejar carved stucco work decorating the arches is characteristic of Andalusian Spain and provides endless material for close examination to trace the elaborate designs. The equally complex geometric patterns and sumptuous colors of the tiled wainscoting provide lively color to the overall design scheme. An unusual ingredient in the collection are the terracotta wellheads scattered about the periphery of the patio, each one has a unique wrought iron stand.  

Here we see a corner of the main patio showing one of the fanciful doors that contrasts dramatically against a festival of textures, patterns and colors. The detailing on the custom made display cabinets complement and enhance the collections within. I especially appreciated the fragment of a diagonally fluted pillar sitting on top of the cabinet. This is an example of the thoughtful arrangement of the art and artifacts in the Palacio de Lebrija. Even though each component part enjoys its own complexity of design the individual pieces are arranged to exhibit their own importance and intrinsic beauty.

The landing of the grand staircase is lavishly decorated with tiles rescued from a 16th century ruined convent. The proportions of the staircase are immense and also includes a carved renaissance frieze with portrait busts and above that a soaring antique ceiling in Mudejar style. These important architectural elements were from other palaces and incorporated into the Lebrija by La Condesa.


Here is a marble bust of La Condesa de Lebrija with a lineup of antique dignitaries gracing an adjacent cabinet keeping her company. Would it be irreverent for me to say that she reminds me of Gertrude Stein? In my defense they were both imposing women collectors at more or less the same time although of vastly different tastes and interests in art.  

La Condesa de Lebrija as a younger woman in the costume of Cleopatra at a fancy dress ball. Now, my regular readers know that I am a sucker for fanciful pageantry and this portrait is a wonderful example of what to wear at a grand bash. Right on Condesa!

To see more of Sevilla click here


Cordoba 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Third Stop Cordoba, All Aboard!”

Puerta de San José, one of the nine doors in the eastern wall of the Mezquita Cathedral of Córdoba

This vast structure was begun as a mosque in 784 by Abd al-Rahman, first Emir of Córdoba and underwent four major expansions until 987 when it reached its present outward dimension.

Today the Mosque Cathedral has been extensively cleaned, restored and maintained and Puerta de San José, as seen above, is a fine example of the meticulous work being done. In the bay to the left you can see how the mark of time has deteriorated the original façade.

In 1236, King Ferdinand III of Castille reconquered Córdoba and converted the Mosque to a Roman Catholic Cathedral. In 1523 the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, was constructed in the center of the old Mosque. The cathedral was in continuous construction well into the eighteenth century.

Torre del Alminar stands 305 feet high and is the bell tower of the Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba. It is in the same position and replaces the original minaret of the mosque. Here we are looking from the cloister of the eastern wall surrounding the Patio of Ablutions where the Muslin faithful cleansed themselves before entering the mosque for prayer. This is now referred to as the Patio de los Naranjos named for the orchard of orange trees neatly planted in rows.

The original fountains of the Patio of Ablutions were supplied with water from wells dug into the then unpaved courtyard and from cisterns collecting rain water. These were later replaced by aqueducts bringing water from springs in the Sierra Mountains. Here we have the Fountain of the Olive and you can see behind the boy, gazing into the clear water, the silver-gray foliage of an Olive tree.

Patio de los Naranjos as seen from Torre del Alminar or bell tower. I was amazed by the good repair of the vast stretch of tiled roofs covering the cloister and original mosque of which you can only see a small section in the upper right of this photo.

While climbing up the interior stairs of the Alminar tower one can see these horse-shoe shaped arches supported by marble pillars which are remnants of the original minaret. In the foreground iridescent tiles cover a dome over the interior entryway of the Puerta del Perdón which is one of the main entrances to the Patio de los Naranjos.

One of the old bells in the Alminar tower

Inside the ancient mosque of Córdoba a forest of 850 pillars upholds the wooden ceiling. Some of these are reused from the original Roman temple on this sight and others were collected from the Visigothic ruins of Saint Vicente monastery that also stood here. Still other pillars were fabricated of granite, jasper, porphyry and marble for the original mosque and the several expansions over a period of 200 years. All the capitals are of different designs executed with highly refined craftsmanship.

These columns support a unique design said to have been invented here. The design consists of double arches with their distinctive poly-chrome masonry enabling the wooden ceilings to be an elegant 35 feet high.

A closer view of the famous double arches of the Mosque

Poetry in stone tinted by the light of stained glass windows

The most important arch of the Mosque marks the Mihrab, the empty niche that points toward Mecca where the faithful direct their prayers. The floral and vegetal decorations are created by tiny glass tiles backed with gold and colored pigments. They make an awe-inspiring effect of spiritual magnificence.  

This is the ceiling dome of the Macsura, located directly in front of the Mihrab. The Macsura is where the Caliph and his court prayed. It is also covered gold mosaic decorations flowing easily over the complex scallop shapes of the dome. In my photo I was thrilled to be able to capture the “ladders” of light penetrating the stained glass windows creating an ethereal effect.

Some cute kids on school tour horsing around when they caught me photographing them

Saint Juan of Avila despairing of respect from the kids on tour or is he just flummoxed by the task of writing “Audi, filia” an ecclesiastical treatise that took him 42 years. Either way, as a writer myself, I can identify with moments of weary perplexity.

In the center of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Córdoba Cathedral) is this magnificent Choir, all carved from Antilles mahogany. It was conceived and created by Pedro Duque Cornejo y Roldán, the most prolific sculptor of the 18th century in Spain. Begun in 1748 he worked on it until his death in 1757 when his sons and select pupils completed the work in 1758. It seems like lightning speed to me considering it is composed of 109 stalls with a blowout Bishop’s Cathedra flanked by additional thrones on either side which you can glimpse behind the shining brass eagle pulpit.

Details of the lineup of choir stalls on one part of one half of the Choir of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. The whole ensemble is of staggering complexity, superb artistry and wild extravagance, just my kind of thing!

Christ in glory, the point of it all. For me this depiction of the final evolution of Jesus is the important message of Christianity, revelation of the divine as radiantly beautiful.

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