Friday, May 17, 2013


Today I thought I'd tell you a little about the patios of

Córdoba. All of May is fiesta time in Córdoba, but for two weeks it is the fiesta of Los Patios. Certain folk throughout the city, belong to the "Association of the friends of the patios", and each year they decorate their courtyards/patios with flowers and open them to the public, and this was the main reason for our visit there last week.

Our first stop was at a tourist information booth where we picked up a map showing the six walking routes in the city, with the location of each public patio clearly marked. They were open from 11.00-2.00 and again in the evening from 6.00 until 10.00 during the week and midnight at the weekend. I managed to get to see most of them. Chris came to some with me and others I did on my own. Our senses have been assaulted by colours, scents, noise and heat! 

They were mostly easy to find, even when they were up a side alley, as each one had two slim fir trees in red pots, one placed on either side of the entrance.

When I did the most popular route on Saturday morning (not good timing on my part!), I was surrounded by large coach parties all trying to see as many as possible in the time they had. Many patios are quite small so only 8-10 people were allowed in at a time, so inevitably there was some queuing, usually in the full sun, but the lines moved quite quickly and everyone was friendly and patient.

There were constant surprises, like when I walked down a side-street so narrow I could touch the walls on both sides, and came to an uninteresting row of plain terraced houses, and then stepped through an old wooden door in the wall to find myself in a beautiful courtyard, overflowing with flowers, and with little nooks and crannies hung with ferns to provide cool spots to sit. (For some unknown reason, google has decided to squeeze this photo. Sadly I am not that thin, but one can dream...!)

Some yards were quite big, some were built around a large tree that was probably there before the house was built. Some had a shady cloister around them while others had balconies all around. Almost all of them had a water feature ranging from the plain outside sink, sometimes complete with built-in scrubbing board from the days when the washing was done there, to original wells which now provide water for the plants but which would have once supplied all the water for the house, to elaborate fountains. The sound of trickling water added to the peace of each patio despite the crowds of folk milling around. One evening I entered one of the larger patios to find a group of singers, all in flamenco dresses, standing around a central fountain and singing with great gusto. One lady had great expertise at using castanets.

The flowers themselves were beautiful. Pelagoniums and petunias were the most commonly used along with kalanchoes, azaleas, verbena and a few roses. There were just a few I didn't recognise including a couple of quite exotic ones. There was an interesting use of foliage, coleus and tradescantia being the most widely used, and there were a surprising number of ferns, which shows how cool some of the patios are. In some cases there was an open window or door allowing glimpses of studios, passageways and old kitchens.
The patios were all judged and prizes were awarded under categories such as Use of colour, Use of architecture, Use of props, etc. These were highly valued, and several patios had a display of plaques won in previous years.

It is hard to describe what the patios were really like, and there were quite a variety of them. Many simply packed as many flowers in as they could, with pots attached to the wall right up to the roof. We couldn't help but wonder how they watered them all. Others were more sparsely planted, but featured more trees, often with little singing birds in cages, suspended from their branches. There was very little plant-able soil in the patios, and apart from the trees, 90% of the plants were in terracotta pots.

Probably the most strange patio of all was completely made out of white marble with just an occasional green plant to relieve the starkness. The only hint of flowers was their names stamped into marble blocks! 

It was divided into three areas by heavy duty plastic 'walls' which had large shapes cut out of them. The cut outs were then 'decoupaged' on other walls. I didn't like it at all. It offered no comfort or welcoming feel, and I could see many visitors were puzzled by it, but I suppose it appealed to some artist who designed it, and maybe to others as well.
Needless to say, at least a third of my photos were taken in the patios, and it was hard to chose just a few to try to give you some idea of what it was like to be there. So again I have put together a slideshow not necessarily of the best, but just of a random selection. Some were taken in bright sunlight, and some on the evening sessions as the light faded. I have ended with  several close-ups of flowers that caught my eye. I hope you feel the 'wow' factor as you look at them. We certainly did.
You can view my slideshow by clicking this link. The background music is again my son Ben playing the piano. It is not a set piece, just a recording of him as he sat and improvised one day and I like it so I hope you do too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm back!

Well I am back from holiday anyway, though not really into the swing of things yet. We had a lovely week away visiting both Seville and Córdoba, two cities that we had heard of but never seen. We enjoyed them both but we preferred Córdoba.
Seville was rich in architecture, monuments etc. We did a very pleasant boat trip down the river, and a few rides on the open-top 'tourist' buses  which enabled us to see a lot of the city in a few days.
On Wednesday we drove to Córdoba mainly so that we could visit the Mezquita and see the flower decked patios, which is a fiesta that happens every May.

We drove back home on Sunday, and I uploaded 1,415 photos from my camera to the computer! I have spent the time since, organising them into folders, and I shall now do a blog post for each folder.

Tom had been staying at our house to look after the animals for us, which he did very well. Having a puppy to look after was a new experience for him, but they seem to have got along together just fine. But we did laugh at a facebook post he did while we 

were away. There was a photo of a very innocent looking Kim with the caption, "Taught the puppy how to play football today but he didn't take his crushing defeat very well and got his revenge by weeing on my flipflops..."

Tom had to return for work on Tuesday, but the day before that, Mikey, our grandson, arrived for ten days, so we haven't really had time to sort ourselves out yet. Mikey is 18 now so he doesn't need entertaining and just wants to relax, dip in and out of the pool, and spend some time with the son of our local bar-tenders, who he made friends with when he came out with the boys last October. He soon made himself at home and it is nice to have some young company around the house for a while.

So back to  today's photos. I decided to start with a
 little piece about the Mezquita in Córdoba. This was originally a Christian church, built in the old part of the town. The work began in the year 600. In 784 it was refashioned into a mosque by the current rulers of the city. From outside it almost resembles a castle, with high thick walls, some turreted, and of course, the minaret tower. There is a garden area planted with orange trees which makes a cool place to rest after your visit. This photo shows it at night, viewed from across the river. It is raised up and can be seen from all over the old part of the city.

Inside there is a huge prayer hall with 856 columns and arches. It is an awe-inspiring sight, and has become the recognised symbol of Córdoba. In 1236 it was returned to the catholic church and a small, very ornate cathedral was constructed right in the centre of the building, with a bell tower built around the minaret. It makes it quite an extraordinary place. The cathedral is in two sections and the back section houses two organs, and rows of carved, dark wood, choir stalls. Everywhere there were lovely stained glass windows that threw pools of coloured light onto the floor, and beautiful carved and decorated domed roof areas. I have put together some of my photos into a slide show that you can watch by clicking on this link.  (For those of you not used to viewing videos etc, when you have pressed the 'play' button, the pictures will appear about half-size, but below them there is a black bar and the last symbol, bottom right, is like the four corners of a rectangle. If you click on this the pictures will fill your screen. When it ends, press the 'escape' button on your computer to close it again). The music playing in the background is our son Ben on the piano, playing one of his own compositions. I hadn't realised that it wasn't quite long enough and I should have looped it, so it actually runs out about three frames before the end of the slideshow! As I said, I am only learning. I have been sending trial runs of this to Jean today and this one worked for her, so I hope you can all view it OK. Please let me know if you cannot open it. This is my first attempt at showing them in this way, so I need to know I have got it right.