Visiting Hobbits and counting down

The countdown has begun. Our sailing date is set for May 29 at exactly noon. Funny this is a Sunday and we have to be out of our house (we have sold it) on midnight May 31 so gee – isn’t that a coincidence?

Vinni had her last day at work on February 4 and there was a big reception – lots of people an speeches an she got praised to the high heavens by her co-workers (they obviously don’t know her as well as I do).  The next day we took off for spain for a 2 week golfing holiday.

Ok – so why spain – you guys have a house in Portugal.  Well our house in Portugal is rented out for the next 5 years so we have to go somewhere else. Besides, we haven’t been to Spain to play golf for 20+ years. Time to go. Although the last time we went, 20 some odd years ago, it poured down in buckets the entire time we were there. It rained so much that the tees on the course simply started to fall apart, as did a number of the greens.

Of course that wasn’t going to happen to us this time – was it?  Besides, even though we didn’t know it at the time, we were going to meet some Hobbits and see their houses. Hobbits – you know those kindly creatures from Lord of the Rings etc. More about them later.

No rain for the wicked

Yep, it barely rained at all. Instead it was windier than all get out. The wind blew at something like 25 – 30 mph virtually the entire time we were there. It is inspiring to play golf in that kind of weather.

Play we did. Three days of golf and one day off. I was actually pretty happy, I played my handicap a couple of times and my long game was superb. Vinni’s game was also good.  She  played her handicap a couple of times and her drives were also long and straight.

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Hey – great stance!

We’ll take a short break here so my golfing buddies, Wayne an Marshall and my son-in-law, Jamie, can go barf in the corner.

Why are they barfing in the corner?  Because I had some very long drives while golfing this time, the longest being 337 yards (yes it was measured). They’re barfing because they can’t drive the ball 337 yards (eat your hearts out!).

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That green down there is 319 yard away – I drove it a couple of times

Ok, ok – so my long game was actually pretty good, but my short game sucked. That’s called golf and if I ever got both to work well  at the same time, I’d be a pro.  I’m not – which tells you I just a duffer like everyone else (but a duffer who can drive the ball a long ways  – eat your hearts out!).

But we had some days off and we used those to drive around southern spain a bit. First off, we went to Gibraltar. Vinni had never been.  I was there a few years ago when I sailed with Opus One. That time, Per, Pernille and I climbed the Rock, straight up.  Vinni and I weren’t quite ready for that (time constraints – yeah right – admit it you’re just too lazy). But there is a cable car that goes up  just our luck ti was down for maintenance. We didn’t feel like taking a tour bus up so we ended up walking around town an seeing the sights.

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Unmistakeably – the Rock

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Scooters are the only way to get around on the Rock

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Part of the original Moorish Castle from about 1000 years ago

Meaning we did not get to see the wild monkeys that inhabit the top of the Rock.  Lunch was good and we did get to see the marina where Opus One had docked, so all in all a fine day out.

Cordoba

Our friends Marianne and Tonny had told us we should visit Cordoba and the famous La Mezquita Mosque there. I had some vague recollection of reading about the Grand Mosque of Cordoba and the fact that it supposedly is extremely beautiful, but I (we) hadn’t expected what we saw.

A little history. The Mosque was built on the site of an early chritian church and built with the express purpose of rivalling any mosque in the middle east, even the grand mosque in Mecca.

Take my word for it – it is huge.  It had 856 arches inside when completed and could hold close to 8000 worshippers at a time. Normally mosques are built to face Mecca, which in this case would mean that this mosque should face south east.  It faces south which perhaps is a comment on  the thought that it should rival even the great mosque in Mecca.

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Lots and lots of arches

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More for you arch lovers

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A close-up. Actually they are magnificent

Good thing it doesn’t face north west – then everyone would be backwards and instead of kneeling an facing Mecca and therefore God all 8000 would be facing the wrong way and they would be showing their derrières towards Mecca and God.

Good old God might not be too pleased with that.

After Spain was reconquered in the 1200’s it became a Christian church.  In the 1600, 100 of the arches were removed and a catholic cathedral was built inside of the mosque.  Yeah – build a cathedral inside a mosque – tells you just how big this thing is.

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Part of the cathedral built inside the Mosque

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Part of the organ in the Cathedral

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Gotta wait in line to buy tickets

Cordoba is a beautiful city and the old part around the mosque is a thoroughly enjoyable place to spend a day.  Wonderful old roman bridges and viaducts.

 

Granada

Our next day off from golf (and 300+ yards drives – eat your hearts out) we drove to Granada to visit the world famous Alhambra. We’d been told we should buy tickets via the net ahead of time because otherwise it might be sold out.  They only allow 8000 visitors per day there.

I have to say, buying tickets to this world famous attraction via the net is an exercise in patience. The website is so confusing that only the webmaster can figure it out. I finally gave up and called the Spanish Ticketmaster (an paid an additional 20 euros) to buy the tickets.

They have two entrance times for the Alhambra, 830 in the morning and 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I’d purchased tickets for 8:30.  So when I checked the e-mail confirmation it said 6pm (18:00).  Now 1800 just doesn’t cut it – since I’ ordered 8:30.

Call ticketmaster again (of course you don’t just call, it is “you are now number 4 in line etc etc”). The ticketmaster guy says “I can’t help you – you have to call customer service”

Customer service????  Is this some type of Spanish joke?  I called and get the “press 1 for… press 2 for” well you get it.  6 options and I went through all of them. Each one was a tape recording that basically said could take a long walk off a short pier.  All sales final and no recourse.  Of course at the end of every option, the phone automatically hung up so I had to redail.  Good thing I have the patience of Job- if Vinni had been doing this, the phone would have been smashed against the wall

Reduced to tears at this point (yes even me), I called the Ticketmaster guy back and said, “Look do not tell me to call that masochistic tape recorder again.  Please I just need to know why this says 1800 hours when I ordered 8:30”.  It must have been my lucky day (I should have  purchased a lottery ticket), because he said – just a minute.

Well it turned out to be more than a minute but he finally came back on the line and said “I can’t tell you why it says 1800 hours – but all the tickets say 1800 hours. Your entrance is for 8:30”

I’m just stunned – I mean how inefficient can something be?????

The above was rhetorical question, but I was going to learn just how inefficient things could be when we got to Granada.

Granada

Ok here goes. We get to Granada, an find the parking lot and find the ticket offices. There is a sign that says “Ticket pickup”.  Now that’s us – because we have purchased tickets and we just need to pick them up. Unfortunately the sign has an arrow that is point into the middle of nowhere. Look around and we see a guard. Ok why not ask. Unfortunately the guard didn’t speak any English. But he did understand what we wanted and pointed over to a double door with 2 lines.  Fencing with his arms we understood that we should use the door to the right, the door to the left (with the long line) was for those buying tickets.

Aha! This is now easy. Yes indeed – and you’ve been smoking what this morning? Through the door, up to a window, give the woman behind the window our ticket claim number.  Now believe it or not, here she is selling tickets to Alhambra, a world famous tourist site with thousands of foreign tourists coming through every day (most of whom do not speak Spanish, but do speak English), and she doesn’t speak English.

Granada is a university town, surely they can recruit some students who speak English. She does manage to make us understand that we have to go to the group tours office (in another building).

Ok, frustration building, but both Vinni and I are handling it nicely (if we say so ourselves). Go to the group tours building and the woman there says “Oh not here (in very bad English) but we should go use the machines out in back of the building.

Machines??? In back of the building?? We wander back there (yes it truly is in back of the building along with the garbage cans), and yes there is a row of machines I key in our ticket number on every machine an each one proudly tells me it doesn’t have any tickets for me, try another machine.

At this point I am not handling the frustration nicely any more. We march into the group tours office (at least they did speak some English there) get hold of a man that I could hear speak english with someone else and plead with him to help us.

He did, finding the tickets on his computer and printing them out. When I asked why it all was so difficult, he shrugged and said that was just the way things worked.

Ok – so we finally got into the Alhambra which if you’ve never been there is certainly worth a visit. Hell it is worth a special trip just to see it.

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A small part of the guest cottage in Alhambra

Magnificent gardens and old buildings. The Alhambra was the Palace of the Moors during the years they had conquered Spain /roughly 6-700 AD to 1200 AD. Now those old Moors certainly knew how to build palaces. Wonderfully intricate wood and stonework. Unfortunately the paint was worn by the weather so all the plaster carvings were “only” white.  In one or two spots there was some of the original color left so it was possible to get an impression of how beautiful it must have been. It takes 5-6 hours to see the Alhambra and you can easily spend twice that amount of time.

Various pics from inside Alhambra

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Lion fountain inside

Gaudix

It was afternoon when we came out of the Alhambra and vinni had decided she wanted to see some Hobbit houses.  There are lots of Hobbit houses in Gaudix, about an hours drive from Granada.

Hobbit homes?  Yeah, I know, what had we been drinking that morning? But Hobbits live in homes dug out of the hillsides an guess what?  In Gaudix there are 800 some odd houses dug out of the hillside.  There are others in Spain, but Gaudix has the greatest concentration.  And people still live in them.  They start by digging a home when they get married as they have kids they simply dig additional rooms.  Quite nice houses actually and very nice inside  Just look at all the pics.

Inside a Hobbit home

You can see the chimney oming out of the hillsides and notice how the entire house is inside the hill

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Vinni and her own Hobbit – notice how he is smaller than vinni (you have to be pretty small to be smaller than Vinni)

Sailing

Back to our sailing. The house is sold, the furniture is being sold and the boat is almost ready.  We can feel the countdown daily.  Stay tuned for more updates!

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Vinni reading about sailing

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