Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bonus Weekend Holla Photo

Ceiling of one of the rooms at the Alcazar. I think... or was it the Alhambra? I should go back and check.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Of Spain: Tiles

At both Granada's Alhambra and Seville's Alcazar, the amazing tile walls are one of the main attractions. The staff photographer took a lot of pictures of tiles, none as good as the exact same shots taken by the pros for the postcards and calendars in the gift shop. Our lighting might not be perfect, but great minds think alike. Or at least me and the marketing department at the Alcazar. See more pictures (but only 14, it won't take so long, really) here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Spain: Sahara of the Tunas

Our last day in Spain was in Zahara de los Atunes. The guide says it's a fairly busy resort town, populated mostly by Spanish beach-goers in the summer. Fortunately, there are no high-rise resort complexes like you see along the Costa del Sol near Malaga. And in October, there aren't many tourists, either. We had the beach almost to ourselves, along with a couple families, some beginning surfers, and a guy with a self-propelled fan-driven para-sailing getup. Your correspondent hereby requests a fan-driven para-sailing getup for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Of Spain: Flowers and Bugs

Not much to say other than that we took a couple pictures of flowers in Spain. And also bugs. I mostly don't like pictures of flowers. Maybe you do. There are more, but we won't subject you to more flower photos for now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Of Spain: Tapas Bars

If we were to present a more representative sample of our time in Spain, at least half of the content would be pictures of tapas bars. We really enjoy Latvia, and there's a lot to like here - including some very nice bars. But not unlike Guatemala, it will never be known for having one of the world's great cuisines. Spain is more of a contender in that category and it has great bars to eat it in. Oh, and a lot more of them than Riga has. Each night we (or at least I) thought we would head to a couple places and get a couple dishes at each, but there were always too many good things on the menu and we wound up basically eating several dinners each night. It was a tough problem, but we soldiered through.

Here are a couple bars that we managed to get mostly-not-too-blurry pictures of.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Of Spain: The Alpujarras

There are no mountains in Latvia. There are only just barely hills. So when your correspondents get out of the country, we do like to see some mountains when we have a chance. Not far from Granada lie the Alpujarras, a high range of relatively gentle peaks - nothing that looked like the Matterhorn, but better than what we find at home. Dotting the area are the most picturesque little whitewashed villages one could hope for, sometimes clinging improbably to the sides of the mountains. We had a great evening in Capileira, enjoying their fantastic food and hospitality, doing some hiking, and taking a dip in a frigid unheated swimming pool.

One of the more noticeable features of Capileira and the neighboring towns was the profusion of hatted chimneys. Each building seemed to have several chimneys like the one below, a whitewashed tube with a sombrero. You can also see the next town down the valley off in the distance, and get a sense of how unlikely the locations are. One has to wonder who it was hundreds of years ago who was wandering the valley and decided that this slanted spot would be perfect to finally settle down and put down some roots.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bonus Weekend Holla: Spanish Agriculture

Olive trees (I presume) in Andalusia, on the rolling hills somewhere between Granada and Seville. It goes on like this for miles on end.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Of Spain: The Cask of Amontillado

Another one of the not-quite-on-the-beaten-path things we did in Spain was a stop in Jerez de la Frontera, home of Sherry, and a tour of the Sandeman bodega. Sandeman is more known for port in my mind, but my mind is apparently wrong. Their logo of a Zorro-looking silhouette is recognizable from his hat and cape, the flat-brimmed hat being traditional of Spain and the cape being traditional of Portugal. Or so the good people of Sandeman's claim, and even make the poor tour guides dress up in a hat and cape. The woman who did our tour was innocently working the cash register, and when we showed up, she took our money, said "just a moment," disappeared and then reappeared in full Zorro regalia.

We learned a lot about how they make sherry, how George Sandeman was a marketing genius, and how sherry is actually not really that tasty at 11:00 in the morning. But luckily, despite all we were led to fear from junior-high literature anthologies, we were never sealed into a wall with the below-pictured cask of amontillado.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Of Spain: Churchy Stuff

Cathedrals are great and all, with their soaring ceilings and gilt altarpieces and flying buttresses. But like a college kid doing a whirlwind summer tour of the Continent, after a year in Europe, your correspondent is maybe slightly jaded by all the grandiosity. That said, the Cathedral in Seville still held a few delights, of course. Take, for example, the reliquary above. I've never been much on the treasure rooms in cathedrals, other than for the humor value of contemplating some ancient church guy thinking he really had an authentic fingernail of Saint Sebastian or whatever. But maybe I'll look closer in the future because these reliquaries were really kind of fun, crammed as they were with little unidentifiable (despite labels) bits of holy whatever in their elaborate casings.

Also, I liked this crazy oval-shaped room stuck in one corner of the building. (Pictured with crazy shape due to auto-stitching together several pictures.) I don't really know what it was for - I admit that I don't know a sacristy from a apse. Maybe I need to visit more cathedrals, after all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of Spain: Cavemen

We saw a lot of the usual stuff in Andalucia. Moorish architecture, for example. Cathedrals and such. Beaches and tapas bars. We did make it to a couple off-the-beaten-path sights. E.g.: Above is the grand headquarters building for the Dolmenes de Antequera (apparently not open yet, but also apparently they're not in any hurry to be occupy it, either, so now it's sitting there, looking pretty much complete but with no roads or trails leading to it).

This is the Menga Dolmen. "Dolmen" is apparently a word in English, too; it roughly means "a prehistoric structure made out of a giant stone roof on top of giant stone walls." Inside? A well, for some reason, and basically nothing else.

This is the adjacent Viera Dolmen. A somewhat smaller doorway, and not much space inside. They are both thought to be 4000 or more years old, and to be tombs for prehistoric VIPs. Exactly what needs to happen in the giant new headquarters building to keep these structures sitting there remains a mystery.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Spain, Cont.

Hey, Spain! Unlike a lot of our long weekend jaunts, Andalusia got a whole week, but probably deserve more. If all the pork in Latvia were jamon serrano, then, well, I don't know, I'd like all the pork here a lot more. Also good: Spanish wine, Spanish weather, Spanish art and architecture. I don't know what else we might manage to say about Spain as we show off some pictures over the next few days. I hope we can pull together something more thoughtful, but no promises.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Of Spain

Your correspondents went to Spain. We haven't had much of a break since, so this crummy picture is all you get for now. But there will be more soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Views of the Vanšu Tilts 4

Oh, and sorry that the last photo before our break was all wonky. We're not yet sure why Blogger refuses to resize the pictures automatically, like it used to. You can always click to see a complete, big version of the picture, whether we've forgotten to resize it or not.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Views of the Vanšu Tilts 3

"Vanšu Tilts" means "Shroud Bridge," as some translate it. Of course, the way Latvian works, you could just as easily call it the much more poetic "Bridge of the Shrouds." Either way it's more poetic than the other bridges over the Daugava, which have such creative names as "Stone Bridge" (the one made of stone), "Railroad Bridge" (the one with train tracks on it), and "Southern Bridge" (the one further south than the other ones). I'm not quite sure what's so shroud-like about the Shroud Bridge, but I'm willing to entertain suggestions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Views of the Vanšu Tilts 2

The Vanšu Tilts (Vanshu, if the "š" isn't showing up on your display, or if you don't know how to pronounce a Latvian "š", which why would you?) is one of the most recognizable features of the Riga skyline. It's one of those cool assymetrical suspension bridges that I didn't even know they could make in 1981, let alone to do so in the Soviet Union. But if the Soviets were masters of anything, it was the uses and abuses of concrete, so it should not have been a surprise.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Views of the Vanšu Tilts 1

We're already in Tallinn for work and didn't even get a chance to put any brilliant thoughts about Spain or Holland together yet. So this week is going to be more pictorial than verbal, to the delight of some and the dismay of others, I surmise.

Here is the bridge that is the star of this week's show, as seen from underneath by the banks of the Daugava.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya...

Everything is just fine here. The offices were closed for vacation. We had content lined up for the time we were gone from our day jobs, but we just didn't have time to get it all set up to publish before we left. Fear not: We're back from Spain and the Low Countries, and our every-business-day publishing schedule resumes now! (But today doesn't count because it is Columbus Day, which the Federal Government still counts as a holiday for some reason, not that we're complaining.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

The National Pastime

These two kids looked like they were probably 16, and were hanging out at this mostly deserted train stop, drinking beer and shooting the breeze on a Sunday afternoon. Sounds like an okay day to me. They were speaking Russian, which I don't do, so I asked if I could take their picture in Latvian, while holding up my camera. They shrugged and kept talking while I took their picture so I'm guessing it was a successful communication. After a moment, they said something to me in Russian, and I said the Russian equivalent of "Me no speaky Russian." So that was a less successful communication. Maybe they said "don't you dare put that picture on the internets!" I still mostly like the picture.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Not sure what this building is, but it says "Russia" and "1913" on it, so it predates the first Latvian independence. To the right it says "wagon..." as it fades into illegibility, which makes me guess it had something to do with train cars.