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A few photos and a couple of videos I took this morning at the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve on the Avalon Marshes (Somerset Levels) before and at sunrise.  I had been to see the starlings’ murmuration yesterday evening, and was inspired to return to see them get up for the day.  A couple of hours later 30 of them were squabbling over the bird seed I put out in my garden. P1280546001P1280554001

My camera made some light conditions appear brighter than in fact they were, and I’m not clever enough to undo that effect in Photoshop.


Little egret








I must get to the reserve more frequently. It’s so near where I live …

Andalucia 11


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Andalucia: Felines, at last!  It has been suggested to me, from Canada, that if I wanted to see lynx I should have travelled to that country, where they are abundant.  Ah – but our quest was for Iberian lynx!  There are estimated to be only about 400 of these left in the wild, though recent conservation efforts have meant that this figure is fourfold what it was 15 years ago. It remains the world’s most endangered feline species. The two places we tried to see them, the Doñana National Park, and the Sierra Morena, are the best places to do so; there are more in the latter, but they are much more widely scattered there.  Naturetrek did not guarantee a sighting – how could they? – but 80% of these trips had had positive outcomes.

The Iberian lynx, considerably smaller than the Eurasian version, is about the size of a boxer dog, and has wonderful ear tufts and a short stubby tail. Its main prey is rabbit, and there is great concern for its future because the rabbit population has considerably declined in recent years, the result of myxomatosis and other disease.

We saw no lynx during our first, morning, drive – but a pug mark, thought to be made the night before.


Notice the claw marks

And on the roads there were warning signs. P1270674 copieAs we set off for our second, late afternoon, drive, we were told that a lynx had been spotted that morning eating large prey.  We (Sergio and the driver) found the prey:


Probably a small deer

The lynx would not be likely to be far away from such a larder, and could well be sleeping its meal off.  And eventually he – a magnificent nine-year-old male named Dardo (dart) –  was spotted resting in the shade.   P1270856a


He has a collar

P1270891bAfter a while, it was decided that we should move on to the one remaining patch of water in the vicinity, (see previous blog) and hope to see Dardo again on our return.


Lynx staple diet

He had scarcely moved, 90 minutes later.  P1270919aP1270928aP1270928bP1270930aP1270931a


Not fazed at all by humans in a van staring at him, perhaps 50-80 metres away

P1270937bNight was closing in.  P1270939P1270956Huge sighs of relief from all leaders, and huge smiles of pleasure from wildlife tourists.


We returned quite early the next morning hoping to catch the lynx eating.  He had finished though by the time we arrived, and was hanging around near where we had seen him the previous day.  This is the best shot I could get, partly because it took me a while to spot him, despite others’ efforts to help, and partly because I was on the wrong side of the van to get into a good position.  P1270982aBut I was able actually to see him walking around for a few minutes, in and out of and behind the bushes.  We decided to move on once he had finally disappeared, but just then a rangers’ van came up, someone leapt out, and went over to where the prey had been, and came back holding something.  P1270983We were most privileged to be shown the pictures his camera trap had taken the previous afternoon, before we had arrived there.  P1270989P1270990P1270995P1270996Serendipity or what!

No, we didn’t see any lynx in the Sierra Morena, just this old piece of lynx poo.  P1270997But there were compensations for cat lovers back at the hotel!  Cats (domestic) and more cats and more cats! Mostly happy to accept caresses, with just one or two rather more nervous – perhaps having had bad experiences from previous guests, and some very friendly indeed. It was impossible to know how many there were, especially since they were nearly all black and white.  There were two mothers, one of which was a sort-of Siamese, and it seemed to me that the rest were mainly 6-month-old kitlets with a couple of 3-month-olds.

I do know there were at least 13 cats (and I suspect more), because when we came back to the hotel on our last day, I had a load of chicken ham on me, left over from lunch.  As a result, when I got it out of my back pack, there were kittens into said back pack, after the smell, and then around my feet – 12 of them. One mother cat was absent from this feast, so that meant there were at least 13 cats in total at the hotel.  I didn’t manage to get a photo of the blissful experience of having 12 cats round my ankles, as I didn’t want to get my camera greasy, but here is a selection of the photos I got at other times. (Felinophobes, jump to the last picture.)P1280111


This is the one I would have kept in my back pack and brought back to the UK!



Or perhaps this one, though it was a little shy


I counted 6 in this hidey hole at one point, but it is not easy to get a good picture of six blackish cats in the shade!


One of the two mothers



I believe this granite piece was once used to crush olives

P1280369P1280375P1280376Apart from treats from guests, the staff made sure the cats were well fed and watered. This final picture shows a completely different and very admirable creature profiting from their bounty, at the start of a long journey, presumably back to a nest.  P1280377I really, really enjoyed my eight days in Andalucia, and it has really given me a great desire to go back – to see more of its rich cultural heritage, and also, perhaps at a different time to year, once more to explore Doñana National Park.


Andalucia 10


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Birds in Andalucia.  Look, I’m not very good with bird identification, but I do know that eagles tend to soar.  So when Simon said, incredibly excitedly, ‘There’s an imperial eagle on that post’, I quickly zoomed in on it and took this. I was not aloneP1270659And not alone to realise, on examining the photo enlarged on the camera screen, that ‘that’ post’ was not that post!  What Simon meant was this – perhaps half a mile away.   P1270660When you go on a Naturetrek trip, they provide you in advance with a checklist of all the creatures you may see, with a column for each day.  There are always hundreds of species of birds on this list, and when we’re out I am in such awe as I hear naturalists/guides (and others) crying’, ‘That was the call of an X’, ‘There’s a Y.’  ‘Where, where?’ we all say, and they all do their darndest to help you see the creature.  I’m probably about average in being able to pick something out visually, no better, and am certainly poor on birdsong.  At the end of each day we gather together – nothing compulsory about it – and go through the list.  Of those seen or heard by someone, I will have seen perhaps a third to a half, the bigger the bird the more likely I am to have seen it.  I will have managed to take a photo of very few indeed. Here’s what I did get, with their identifications to the best of my recollection, (totally subject to correction, please).  Firstly in the Coto Doñana.


Original identification corrected to female or first-year male stonechat (Ack. BL)


Iberian great grey shrike






Cattle egrets living up to their name


And why not  take a bunch of starlings?  Especially when they are beautiful Spotless starlings, with wonderful glossy coats (though ordinary ones are pretty wonderful too!)


Griffon vultures


Griffon vultures


Best I could do to get a griffin vulture in flight


Easier to take this


We had driven a great loop and were now nearer to (but not very near) the Imperial eagle.  Only about 4500 left in the world


And then Simon spotted another, incredibly far away, and I’ve magnified this many times, but the nest can be seen in silhouette, and the eagle in a direct line with it, on the right.  Two Imperial eagles in view at the same time!


Almost as exciting to the leaders were a total of 6 Egyptian vultures coming in to two trees.



White storks and a heat haze


More cattle egrets doing their thing. To quote Wikipedia, ” It was originally native to parts of Southern Spain and Portugal, tropical and subtropical Africa and humid tropical and subtropical Asia. In the end of the 19th century it began expanding its range into southern Africa, first breeding in the Cape Province in 1908. Cattle egrets were first sighted in the Americas on the boundary of Guiana and Suriname in 1877, having apparently flown across the Atlantic Ocean. It was not until the 1930s that the species is thought to have become established in that area.”


We were taken to a tiny patch of the wetlands that was still wet.  I would have expected that there would have been vast concentrations of waders there.  There were not.  In addition to these Little egrets (I think) and lapwing/black-winged stilts (which, or something else?) we saw spoonbill and other species further away.


Greylag geese, on the ‘lagoon’ at El Rocío

Then at our picnic spot at El Acebuche, I managed at last to see an Iberian (or azure-winged) magpie.  I had heard them mentioned a few times, but this was the first time I had properly seen the beautiful creature, rather smaller than the common ones (and there were plenty of those around).   P1280089A few new birds (in terms of photographic opportunities) in the Sierra Morena. P1280177We saw a fairly rare Cinereous (a.k.a. Eurasian black) vulture over our picnic stop by the Jandula dam, but sadly this is not one, but a griffon vulture. (Identification BL)


Rock pipits at the dam


There is a Blue rock thrush in this picture, also at the dam.  Half way up the slope there is a bit sticking out.  The bird is not that bit. The bird is the bit sitting on that bit!

Two red-legged partridges. P1280289Some colleagues went out for a short early evening birdwatching trip on the second evening in the mountains, and came back saying they had seen an Eagle owl.  We all went to the spot the next day, and this is where we were searching.  (Well, the rock face was much bigger than this actually.)  P1280384A third of the way down, and a quarter of the way in from the left there is this. P1280384bAnd within that there is this.  P1280384cThe Eagle owl is in one of these holes. See it?  No I don’t either.  Yeah, right, we’ll believe you Simon!


Several birds joined us at our last picnic spot, including this grey heron, which flew gracefully towards us after a while.  P1280405And then a troop (is that the word?) of Iberian magpies arrived at the same spot, and gradually made their way towards us, taking over the picnic tables as we left them. (Actually, the collective word for magpies is a murder, or a charm, or a congregation or a gulp. Take your pick.)


If it’s one for sorrow and two for joy, what do 14 magpies signify? (BL suggests for two secrets never to be told!)

P1280444P1280450 At the spot where we had seen the big fish, a kingfisher swooped along the river and under the bridge – no photo sadly – and these cormorants stood for a while and then took off. P1280491Next (and last) post: felines!


Andalucia 9


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Andalucia: non-feline mammals and a few other natural things.  In Doñana National Park to start with. This was the first creature of interest we saw, a long way off and in poor light – a wild boar.  P1270641Later in the week, in the Sierra Morena, we had a good but distant and fleeting view of a large family of boar, great and small.

In both places there were many deer, but horses – in abundance – only in our first location. P1270653P1270765Everywhere we went there were dragonflies, but they very rarely settled for more than a second or two. This was the only half-decent photo I managed in five days of trying.  P1270841What follows only happened to us once, but it is a frequent occurrence apparently in the National Park.  P1280033All out and push! No, we didn’t actually have to push.  Our driver and our excellent Doñana Nature guide, Sergio, pawed away the sand in front of the wheels, and all was well after a few minutes.  The unexpected stop gave me time to look around, and take this photo. P1280034I had seen these before, but now I had the chance to ask what they were, each sandy strand about a centimetre wide. The answer was a burrowing beetle cast.

Did we see lynx? The final post in this series will answer that question!  Moving on to the Sierra Morena, there was a greater variety of mammals to be seen, but still dominated by deer.  We had two excellent sightings of courting mouflon. They are not rare animals, but we were lucky to have two such sightings just minutes apart from each other on our drive.   P1280120P1280133P1280138P1280141This was sad.  P1280148We saw many magnificent bulls like this at one point – on farmland, being bred for bull-fighting. Horrible.  I had deliberately not been to see Seville’s bullring.


Magnificent red deer stag, the other side of a wire fence

P1280157Simon’s eagle eyes spotted this exciting creature for us shortly after lunch. We stood on the dam, the rock ibex (also known as Spanish ibex) being at a very great distance from it.


My camera at maximum (x24) zoom


The same photo cropped and enlarged


It wasn’t around for long, and not everyone even managed to see it before it jumped down. But it was far to far away to have been disturbed by us.

Then we walked through a totally dark tunnel at the other side of the dam, and saw…


… bats roosting. Here are about eight, huddling together, lit by Simon’s head torch.


A single bat. Whether these were Daubenton’s (myotis daubentonii) or Large mouse-eared (myotis myotis) bats, I cannot say, but we saw both.  There were several more holes sheltering bats in the tunnel.


Continuing on the afternoon’s drive, we saw more deer…


… including fallow deer. This male has magnificent palmated antlers.

P1280302P1280305P1280318We drove back to the second of the chilly morning’s stopping points, and stood on a bridge there.  This is not a Monet painting, and I don’t know what the fish was – but it was big!  P1280496At the spot where we had awaited the sunrise, we took advantage of the shade of trees to keep out of the now very hot sun.  These deer used other means of keeping cool!


Maximum zoom again – it had required binoculars to see what the black smudges were


Cropped and enlarged


Left alone, this one appeared to be throwing around and then eating weed!


Andalucia 8


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From El Rocio to Andújar and beyond, Wednesday to Friday. Taking a rest after our last morning drive at El Rocío, we set off at midday for the three-hour drive, broadly following but sadly not aware of the Guadalquivír river, to our second hotel, the Hotel los Piños, 14 kilometres above Andújar, in the eastern  Sierra Morena.  But first we went backwards a little into the National Park, to have a picnic lunch at a lovely visitor centre, El Acebuche (the ‘wild olive tree’ already noted in El Rocío).  The temperature was rising (from about 25°C in Seville to about 30°C at the end of the week), but as long as one was in the shade, the dry heat was very welcome.  The visitor centre was informative:

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National, Natural, Parks etc in Andalucia. Doñana is the orange patch to the west, on the Atlantic, and the Sierra Morena the central and smallest green patch at the north.  The very tip at the south, on the Straits of Gibraltar, is Tarifa, near where our migration-geek Naturetrek guides, Simon and Niki live. Gibraltar itself is the little southward-pointing spur just to the east.

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El Rocío is where the dark and light green parts meet up with the yellow, and Acebuche is nearly at the coast to the south south-west of the town.

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“Travelling without frontiers”


An unusual sundial.  It works both sides, depending on where the sun is.

The scenery changed as we drove: P1280099P1280108 Our all-day outing the following day showed the dry landscape of the Sierra scattered with boulders (Pictures also snatched from moving vehicle).P1280151P1280154P1280160P1280170


Taken from a picnic spot as we had lunch, overlooking the…


reservoir of the Jándula, a tributary of the Guadalquivír


Arty-farty picture taken that day. (Ever since becoming aware of Dürer’s wonderful painting, ‘Great piece of turf (1503)’ I have been very sensible of the beauty of clumps of grass, etc.)


Sitting around looking for wildlife, no 23


Returning to barracks in the late afternoon, a view of distant mountains, not nearly as pretty, sadly, as when we had seen it in the cool mists of the morning


Another a-f picture. I loved the sun coming through the seed-heads.

The following morning, Friday, we got up very early indeed, before breakfast, in quest of our ‘prey’.  It was SOOOO COLD!  But beautiful.  P1280327P1280328P1280329P1280332P1280338We were very glad to get back to a good breakfast.


Clockwise round the table: Simon (guide-naturalist), Trish, David, Hugh, Stephen, Niki (guide-naturalist, and here waitress), Judy, Penny, Sharon, Margaret (hidden), Jason, and Henry.

Again we took a picnic lunch (Simon and Niki, our Naturetrek guides, did us proud each time!) and our stopping place made me nostalgic for my previous life in France. Where we ate so reminded me of lazy picnics on the banks of the Charente river – though perhaps there were no mountains in the French setting.


Sitting around looking for wildlife, no 34.

P1280393Interested in geology, I had been fascinated in these two days to see many extraordinary granite formations as we drove along, but I was able to get a photo of none of them.  This, right by our picnic spot, is a poor representative.  P1280402We ended the day where we had watched the dawn arrive hours earlier.  P1280499The final three posts will be about the wildlife we saw during those five days in the National and Natural Parks…


Andalucia 7


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Andalucia, El Rocio and Doñana National Park.  The Doñana wetlands are the largest in Europe – except that they were almost dry at this time of year, the effect exacerbated by the farmers who take much of the water for irrigation, especially of strawberries.  We were staying at the Toruño hotel. P1270772


Note the hitching posts

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On the wall of the reception area showing the species we might expect to see


The hotel restaurant, over the way from the main building. What appear to be tall hitching posts are bar counters for horsemen!

This was in the small town of El Rocío (‘the dew’), quite the most extraordinary town I have ever visited.  It was like driving into the Wild West. When you think of it, the Wild West may well have been modelled on such places in the first place – except that in this case much of the town has only been built from the 1950s onwards,.  We were told that it is known as the International Town of the Horse, though my researches since have not been able to find out much about that.  But what El Rocio is known for is a pilgrimage, the Romeria del Rocío, at Pentecost each year, which attracts up to a million people. These can arrive on horseback, in horse-drawn carriages and in wagons.  For there is no tarmac in El Rocío itself. The ‘roads’ are laid entirely with sand.  (Another blogger has written much more fully – and elegantly – about the town here.)

The remaining posts about my trip to Andalucia will be by theme, rather than day by day accounts.

The remains of this one will introduce El Rocío and the National Park, the next the entirely different Sierra Moreno where we spent the second part of our wildlife tour, then the remaining three posts will relate the wildlife we found  –  and some domestic animals.  But back to El Rocío. Internationally known for it or not, it is certainly a town for horses, and there is much evidence of the pride of place given to them. Here are two ordinary ‘roads’ and the sign at the restaurant where we ate lunch at one day.


Yes, cars are allowed

P1270781P1270782When we got back from a morning drive on the Tuesday, instead of sheltering from the blistering heat, I went out to explore El Rocío for a short while.  P1270786 copie


I thought I was perhaps the only person about (‘the English(wo)man out in the midday sun’) but these three horsemen greeted me cheerily.

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Huge pilgrimage needs huge church

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The sign says that in 2001 the Andalucían authorities had declared this species of olive, endemic to the region, a ‘Natural Monument’. (If only all regional declarations in Spain were so benign.)

P1270836There were two young cats entertaining us with their antics at each of our two outdoor dinners there, siblings probably, and here is one of them just before we left at midday on the Wednesday. P1270838Horses. I had looked round from my meal on the Tuesday evening and seen one of the high bar counters being used! P1270978And I took these two photos from the van as we returned from our second morning drive.  P1280047


The head of the woman exercising the horse at the end of rope in the ring is just visible

El Rocío is right on the edge of the Doñana National Park.  These four photos were taken a short walk from the hotel.  For most of the year, there is a lagoon hugging the whole of one side of the town. However, we could just see a very distant shimmer of water, all that remains until the rains come. (Nearly two weeks on, I don’t think they have done so yet. And yet my guidebook says that October has one of the highest rainfalls of the year in Andalucia.  Climate change?)


Horses are everywhere around the town, and in the National Park, grazing where they can, sadly some of them in an emaciated condition.


Most of the birds were too far away to be well identified.


Two-inch long Egyptian grasshopper, also known as the Egyptian locust, but no threat to crops and vegetation.  Here at a wildlife visitor centre.


Lizard with attitude, same place

These remaining pictures were taken out as we explored early in the morning or as the day drew to an end, deeper in the national Park, looking especially for Iberian lynx. P1270997


The long shadows are of humans. The flat brown bit would be under water earlier in the season.

P1280021P1280028P1280031P1280032And these red deer stags were a distant vision on the ‘lagoon’ just before we left El Rocío.P1280070


Andalucia 6


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Last day in Seville.  I only had the morning.  I walked to the flamenco museum, the Museo del Baile Flamenco (baile is ‘dance’), just a few minutes from my hotel, and as I bought my entrance ticket, I regretted that I would not be there that evening to go to a show by the national flamenco dance company, (while not regretting my inability to attend the classes they offered!)  It being early on a Monday morning, I had the place almost to myself.  The first room in the museum had giant screens showing videos of various aspects and meanings of flamenco – I had no idea that there was so much subtlety involved.  P1270594P1270599P1270601I had never previously fully appreciated the skill and athleticism required of flamenco dancers.  Further rooms went into greater detail which was lost on me, but nevertheless gave great pleasure to the eye.  On the top floor was a temporary exhibition of beautiful sculptures by Kay WooP1270603 I loved them, and the pieces were so reasonable that I could have been tempted, but for various practical considerations.  I particularly loved these two, about 15 inches high.P1270604 Finally there was, in the basement, a room of drawings by Pedro Moreno, costume designer.   P1270608I now understood why there were so many shops in the immediate vicinity selling very beautiful and very expensive flamenco dresses.  (I had been near the window of one of them the previous evening as I ate my tapas.)

With my cathedral entry ticket had come a free entry to San Salvador, the church on my hotel doorstep as it were, so I took advantage of that (while paying for an audioguide).  This was the second largest church in Seville, but I have to say that rococo is just not my thing.  Entertaining, but to my eyes not aesthetically pleasing, far too fussy – many no doubt would disagree.  P1270612 copie


I could find nothing to tell me what this was – a processional item? It appeared to be of gilded solid silver.

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All round the church were altarpieces of various degrees of ornamentation

P1270619P1270621P1270622I did like this more restrained and classical pulpit, one of a matching pair,and the soundboard above it, which made me think of Wedgwood jasperware.P1270623 copieP1270625

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This main altarpiece was described as being the ultimate expression of rococo art as interpreted in lower Andalucia.

P1270629 copieP1270632 copieP1270633After these two visits I was gasping for a drink, and I wandered on northwards into the Macarena district.  Sadly it would not have been possible to go up to the top of the Metropol Parasol, as it does not open on Mondays, but I found a simple bar, serving tapas as well, and partook there, looking on at these Roman columns, in the Alameda de Hércules, a boulevard originally laid out in 1574 on drained marshland.  It fell on hard, even disreputable, times, but is now, after very recent redevelopment by the authorities, becoming a pleasant place once more.  P1270635 copieP1270636The columns, with weathered statues  of Julius Caesar and Hercules on top, were originally elsewhere in Seville, and three others remain there.

It soon had to make my way back to the hotel to pick up my luggage, but I had time to stop at the Italian icecream shop, open this time, and to sit in the Plaza Nueva to consume my choice there, and then to check on how I could buy a ticket for the tram which I was to take shortly.  P1270639That all went very smoothly, including a ticket inspection, but, 5 minutes into the 15-minute journey, I had a call from Naturetrek in the UK.  “Sorry, the flight you are going to meet is delayed by two hours.”  But as I was by now on my way to the airport, and had luggage with me, I decided to continue to where I would pick up the airport bus, at San Barnardo. There I received kind and unsolicited guidance from locals who, seeing my suitcase, told me this was the airport bus coming just now.

At the airport I met up with Naturetrek guides/naturalists Niki and Simon, who live in southern Spain, right by the Straits of Gibraltar, and who are, in their own words, bird migration geeks. The time passed quickly until my companions for the next five days came though the arrivals gate, with quite a tale to tell about the travails of their flight.  Soon forgotten though as we made our way to El Rocio, on the edge of the Doñana National Park, a most extraordinary small town.

Andalucia 5


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Seville Cathedral. Having indeed added to my stock of nougat, I made my way mid Sunday afternoon to the Cathedral, to be confronted with a long queue.  As I sat on the steps of the Archivo de Indias wondering what to do, feet sorely in need of a rest, I firmly resisted the temptation to take a pony trap ride – I felt so sorry for all those many creatures, trotting around the hot streets of Seville all day. When I eventually looked up from my guidebook, I saw that the queue had reduced in length quite considerably, so I joined it.

I had already taken these exterior pictures of parts of cathedral the previous day.P1270360 copieP1270362 copie This is of a replica, placed near the entrance to the cathedral, of the bronze weathervane depicting Faith on the top of La Giralda.   P1270533 copieWith almost no commentary, here is a selection of the photos I took inside. (Audioguides are wonderful, but you have no record of what they tell you.  I do recall however that listeners, English-speaking ones anyway, are informed that this cathedral is the third largest Christian church in the world, after the Vatican and St Paul’s Cathedral, London.  However, size depends on how you measure it – St Paul’s comes well down according to this list!)  P1270538 copieP1270540

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I loved the variety of marbles at the entrance to the retro choir

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Tomb of Christopher Columbus


Above it, noticed by scarcely anyone, this magnificent clock

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The Main Sacristy

P1270562Impossible to do justice to the oval Chapter House (above) in a photo, so here’s a video.



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This grill was forged 1518-32, and protects…

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The great altarpiece, the work of just one man, Pierre Dancart, who worked on it between 1482 and 1526

La Giralda, was the Moorish minaret, finished in 1198. In the 14th century, original Muslim spheres were replaced by Christian symbols, and in 1568 the renaissance belfry was added.  At the end of a tiring day, I had decided not to go up it unless there was a lift, which was unlikely.  However, when I found that in fact to go up meant walking up 34 slopes, not hundreds of steps, I decided to embark on them and see how I did.   At each quarter turn there is a little notice telling you how many slopes you have done, so, distracting myself with mental arithmetic to tell me what proportion I had done, I did find myself at the top of the 34 – only to find there were another 17 steps.  (I suppose that was the renaissance bit.)  There were slopes, not steps, originally, so that horses could be ridden up.  Splendid views of central and greater Seville from the top.  Somewhere near the middle of this one is my hotel. P1270585P1270590For the evening, after a long rest, I went out seeking another tapas restaurant, one which had a reasonable number of patrons, but which was not too noisy.  In fact being Sunday evening there were many fewer people around, and less choice of eating places. But I found the modest Bar Europa met all the criteria, and I had a really excellent meal.  Sadly the (Italian) ice-cream bar I had identified previously was shut, so I had to forgo a dessert!


Andalucia 4


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Real Alcazar, Seville, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sunday 22nd October. The Moorish rulers, who had conquered Andalucia in 711, had constructed the great fortress, the walls of which you can’t help but see if you are in central Seville.  At the re-conquest of Southern Spain by Christian rulers in the 13th and 14th centuries, not all the Moors were expelled.  Some craftsmen were allowed to remain, and we learned a lot about the Mudéjar (‘those permitted to stay’) influences on architecture as many subsequent rulers redesigned the former palace.  Pedro I ordered a complete redesign of the interior in 1364, and Carlos V (1516-56) was another significant contributor to its current appearance. Further developments continued up to the 19th century, notably to the gardens within the walls, which I had skirted the day previously as I walked through the Murillo Gardens and to the Archivo de Indias.  The palace is still used by Spanish monarchs when they visit Seville.

Public entry was by a fortress gate.  Here is a splendid Mudéhar interior entry.

P1270377 copieP1270387 copie It was not only to avoid visitors that eyes drifted upwards much of the time:P1270370P1270382P1270388P1270403P1270413


A rare chance to look at a floor, unencumbered by visitors.

So many thousands of details to be admired. P1270372P1270376P1270393P1270421

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An organ in the renaissance part of the palace, developed by (Holy Roman Emperor) Carlos V.

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Frustratingly I managed to delete a detailed video I made of this great tapestry of Spain and surrounding countries, seen, in effect from high over the eastern Pyrenees, looking south. To me it was amazing that those who could climb no higher than the highest mountain could imagine this satellite view of their country, and of north Africa, Italy and the south of France.

The Ambassadors’ hall, where kings did most of their governing, was a wonder, only partly captured even on a video.


There were peaceful – and not so peaceful – courtyards. P1270384


Mudéhar architecture on the ground floor, renaissance on the first, and a glimpse of an original fortress tower top left


Known as the baths of Maria de Padilla

There were several acres of gardens, including those designated as French, and English.

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The Fountain of Mercury


Today’s feline



As I sat in the gardens eating my apple, I was entertained by the squawking of these parakeets,


and was surprised to find, on zooming the camera, that they had not only been provided with perches in the palm trees but that some had identity tags.





and lemons



One of several rose gardens



I was in trouble for stepping onto the grass to photograph this nearly moulted peacock…


and his hens.



Water and fountains are very important in Mudéhar style

P1270508P1270517P1270520P1270522P1270523 copieI left the Real Alcazar mid-afternoon, with still the Cathedral to visit before returning to my hotel.  Not omitting another visit to the nougat shop.


Andalucia 3


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An exhibition of maps and other documents about the Rio (river)  Guadalquivir (from Arabic, al-Wadi al-Kabir, or Great Valley). I adore maps, and this exhibition was about the river that linked all three places I was to stay in over this coming week.  Flowing roughly east-west into the Atlantic alongside the Doñana National Park, the river is navigable to Seville, once as far as Cordoba, and rises beyond Andùjar near where we were to finish our wildlife trip.

The Archivo de Indias, right by the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar, contains all the records of Spanish exploration (I did not see the word ‘colonisation’ anywhere) of the Americas. Among their most precious documents are the letters to Columbus from Ferdinand and Isabella. The building itself was, for a comparatively short time in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Trade Exchange, but the silting up of the river, along with disease, caused the main trading port, and so the exchange, to be moved to Cadiz. After some years as what we would now called squats, the building was attributed, late in the 18th century, for its present national use. It underwent great renovation to make it suitable.P1270300 copieP1270301 copieP1270302 copie
But I was there for maps and river. P1270303 copieAnd what a fabulous exhibition it was. It was to mark the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation, and its themes were the river as a resource, a threat (mainly from floods), a tamed space, its projects, and technical aspects, with just sufficient English captions to make it comprehensible to me. This is how the exhibits were mounted, in the midst of thousands and thousands of filing boxes. P1270306_modifié-1Here are just a very few of the photos I took. P1270307P1270310P1270314P1270315P1270316

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Floods of 1772-3



Palace of San Telmo, 1873. P1270323P1270324P1270325P1270328P1270330P1270334