My wife and I recently visited Niagara Falls this past August in our quest to escape some of the summer heat. I had been there two earlier times as a child and a parent. The town of Niagara has seen betters days. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to be there at night. It is run down and the areas near the falls are tacky. I was also disappointed to see the casinos on the Canadian side of the river. We took the proverbial pictures of the falls, but not of Niagara.
We discovered Niagara on the Lake in Canada, a short drive from the falls. On the way we stopped at a number of wineries before we hit the town and Wow! what a contrast between Niagara, NY and Niagara on the Lake in Canada.
There were flowers everywhere, in window boxes, along the street, on street posts and in store windows. There were quaint shops with a wide variety of wares along with ice cream shops bed and breakfast inns and restraints. We shopped a while then had a drink at the country club along Lake Ontario and the mouth of the Niagara River across from Fort Niagara, NY.
We took our first Spanish vacation in Andalusia. It is the southern most area of Spain and boarders the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the Atlantic on the west. The the Mediterranean beach area is called Costa del sol. The territory has eight provinces that also match the names of the cities in the provinces. Of those we visited Seville, the capital of Andalusia, Cordoba, Granada, and Malaga. We also visited Gibraltar, a small peninsula in Andalusia on the Mediterranean Sea that is part of the United Kingdom. And I took a day trip to Tangier Morocco. See other posts in this blog for more about those locations.
Andalusia’s history, culture and language has been heavily influenced by the Iberians, Visigoths, Romans, Greeks, Jews, Muslim Moors and Christians. The name is derived from the Arabic word Al-Andalus.
Our “base camp” was a condominium in Calahonda, a small town southwest of Malaga. We lived in a neighborhood that was interspersed with a few hotels. You could see the influence from the Muslim Moors in many of the buildings. We found this a very relaxing environment. It was quiet, peaceful, with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. On a Sunday afternoon we found a large flee market that was fun to visit
The Luna Beach and all the beaches in Calahonda were within close walking distance. The beaches consisted of sand and very tiny and medium sized stones. Larger rocks were near the beach in the water, which was a beautiful blue. Many people were sun bathing, fishing, or walking along the beach. There were few swimmers as the water was on the cool side.
We had an opportunity to eat at a new restaurant called Max which was part of a beach club on Max Beach. The views were great, service and food were excellent.
We took a local bus to Marbella and Fuengirola on two separate days. They both have yacht harbors, nice beaches and lots of good restaurants and shopping. We explored the towns on foot for a few hours, but much more time can be devoted to both towns. In Marbella we found a local church that looked very old. It is quite a contrast between it and the large cathedrals throughout Spain, but this is the type of place where most people worship. Both towns are old with narrow streets that have lots of flowers and courtyards.
Most of our time in Fuengirola was directed to a huge market that was held each Tuesday from about 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. There were some tourists there, but mostly local people. It was great fun. The merchandise was good and the prices fair.
The Guadalquivir River is the fifth longest river in Spain and the only navigable river in the country. At one time ships could travel all the way to Cordoba, but silt has filled in many places. Today river craft are limited from the Gulf of Cádiz to Seville.
Our river cruise started at the Torrre del Oro, golden tower. It is referred to as the golden tower because its dome is painted gold and the color of its outer materials reflects yellow/goald in the river. It is a dodecagonal watchtower built to protect Seville. The initial construction began in the 13th century. It was a prison in the Middle Ages and anchored a large chain that was strong across the river to prevent ships from sailing further up the river. Today it is a maritime museum. Interestingly it was restored and opened as a museum in 1944 during WWII.
Saville is made up of many neighborhoods. The river separates the Triana neighborhood from the centre of Seville. People in Triana consider themselves Trianeros before they consider themselves Sevillanos.
Another neighborhood is Prado-Parque de María Luisa. It is opposite the Triana neighborhood and lies near the Alcazar Gardens.
Not far from the Saville Cathedral are part of the gardens of the Alcázar. In 1920 these gardens were created in two parts, one called the Jardines de Catalina de Ribera, named after its benefactress. It has a statue and fountain to commemorate Christopher Columbus.
The Alcázar (Palace) of Seville remains in this part of the city and is still used by the King of Spain when he visits. The Alcázar is situated near the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. The Alcázar was initially occupied in the 8th century BC. A series of other buildings were built on the same spot including the College of Orlearians, a Visigothic Christian Basilica, and a Caliph residence. Ultimately it became the palace for the royal family of Spain in the 13th century.
Behind the Alcázar is the Barrio de Santa Cruz. It is a historical jewish section of the city. It consists of hotels, local residences, shopping, and beautiful courtyards.
Many Spanish homes reflect the architectural design of the romans where the house surrounds an inner courtyard. We caught a glimpse of some private courtyards that serve as a quiet oasis from the noise of the city.
The Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, Saville Cathedral, originally started out as a mosque built in 830 AD. This was later supplanted by a larger mosque completed in 1198. The Christianization of the mosque began with the conquest of Saville by King Ferdinand III in the 13th century. Building and remolding continued on and off for nearly 300 years. There are over 40 chapels within the cathedral. The Saville Cathedral is considered the third largest cathedral in the world and was designated a UNSCO World Heritage site. It has the longest nave of any Spanish cathedral. The current building reflects many types of architecture. The court yard built with the original mosque and enlarged by the later mosque is retained as part of the cathedral.
The most famous person buried in the Saville Cathedral is Christopher Columbus. His tomb is not easily missed.
The Giralda, bell tower, was originally built at the minaret for the mosque. It stands at 343 feet high with the bells placed on top.
Gibraltar, is a unique geographical outpost of the United Kingdom. Located on the tip of Spain, it is close to North Africa. The “Rock” has provided a military strategic advantage for centuries dating back to the Moors and the latest during WWII. Visitors will find remnants from the fortifications built on Gibraltar over time.
Gibraltar is made of of very narrow, steep roads, many man made tunnels, and caves. The roads are usually bounded by rocks, steep cliffs, or both. It can be a little scary when navigating them in a bus, even a small one.
Saint Michael’s Cave, named after a cave in Apulia Italy, is located in the “Upper Rock” of Gibraltar. It is made of of limestone. The areas open to the public are well lit and have stairs with railings. There is a large natural amphitheater with seating. The natural acoustics enhance the sound from concerts played here.
Around St. Michael’s Cave you’re likely to find Barbary “Apes,” actually monkeys that were brought over from Morocco. At one time the British Army cared for the apes, designating one part of the hospital for their care. Today their care is outsourced to a company. They are very tame, often posing for pictures. There are steep fines for feeding the “Apes.”
At the tip of Gibraltar is the Straits of Gibraltar where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The views are beautiful and on a clear day you can see the coast of Morocco. Gibraltar is a very crowded peninsula. The engineers have started to reclaim land to build more housing.
Finally, what would an excursion be with out shopping. Main Street in Gibraltar has become devoted to shopping and eating as well some interesting architecture.
Yes, central Florida does have a fall season; it happens to be in December and January. The colors are the same as you would find in the northern part of North America, but without the hills, mountains and miles of trees. we can enjoy limited fall colors in the warm weather.
Watching the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile go down the street is something that will catch your eye. The first Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Karl Mayer, nephew of Oscar Mayer, founder of the company. There are six Wienermobiles that crisscross the country every year. You can’t miss a hot dog driving down the road. I have had unusual luck seeing them on the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana campus. The company recruits drivers from college campuses. When a college student is selected as a hotdogger, he/she attends “Hot Dog High.” Here they learn how to be a good ambassador for Oscar Mayer. When the Hotdogger hit the road they make visits to charitable organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Red Cross Foundation, and retailers selling Oscar Mayer products. They provide goodwill, enhance public relations, and hand out thousands of wiener whistles.
I usually see them every year on campus. This last time I was able to take a quick peak inside before they started their next excursion. It was extremely roomy and comfortable looking.
The beginning of the what is now Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 at the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, moving from place to place until it found its “permanent” home at the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. Country talent graced the halls of the auditorium from 1943 to 1974 when it moved to its current location called the Grand Ole Oprey.
The Ryman Auditorium has quite a history. Originally built as a church by Thomas Ryman, a wealthy riverboat captain, it was called Union Gospel Tabernacle and later after it use expanded, the name was changed to the Ryman Auditorium. The building was later given a second floor in 1897 and a stage in 1901 where national and international talent performed (John Phillip Sousa’s Peerless Band, The Imperial Russian Ballet, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Edward Strauss and his Vienna Orchestra, CarusoKatherine Hepburn, Bob Hope). Lectures by leaders of their time gave public lectures (Susan B. Anthony Booker T. Washington, President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, etc.).
Today the Ryman Auditorium has live radio country music performances with audiences four times per week.
Because the Ryman Auditorium had deteriorated a new build was built called the Grand Ole Opry. It opened on March 16, 1974. It continues to host top names in country music and comedy as well as offer new talent while packing in crowds of enthusiasts every week.
We attended the 9:00 pm show and it went until 11:30. The music and comedy were great. Well worth the price of admission, but buy your tickets ahead of time. Depending on the time of the year, it may be hard to get into the show.
The general honkey tonk area of Nashville runs from second through fifth streets on along Broadway. The buildings have become historical landmarks and can be modernized from the inside, but must remain the same on the outside, some dating back to the late 1800’s.
From about 10 am to late morning the next day you can find good bands in all of the bars, many without cover charge, they survive on tips. We found the music and food a great way to spend an afternoon unwinding .