We awoke to the tune of cathedral bells and sunshine. While the “new” cathedral was commenced in 1000AD, replacing the old version, and the Wolvesey Castle, home of Bishop Henry Le Bois was only a couple of hundred years younger, the pedestrian mall was thumpin’, with buskers and shoppers having coffee after returning from the farmers’ market laden with veggies. With cousin Trish as guide, we drove to the Mayfly pub inthe riverside at the village of Letchford. After a yummy lunch, David and I left Trish and headed along the South Downs Way, where the ripening wheat caught the sunlight. A letterbox remained from Queen Victoria’s days and a friendly dog watched from a stone wall above us.
We spent last night in Cirencester, where David’s grandparents lived. The signs of the March Hare festival are still evident. This town was a capital in roman times and a mosaic featuring a hare has been unearthed, hence the theme. The parish church is huge, financed by the strength of the wool trade in medieval times. Near or hotel was a building with overhanging first storey dating from the fifteenth century. We drove in the rain to the Welsh town of Abergavenny which has a wooden tomb to St Jesse in St Mary’s Priory. This afternoon we got drenched walking around the town of Llandovery, where the YMCA had plants sprouting out of stuffed denim jeans sitting on the seat outside – they were certainly getting watered! We are now round the fire in a cosy B & B.
After a chance encounter (in a coffee shop) with the proprietor of a bed and breakfast at Petersfield meant that our accommodation was sorted, we checked into the tourist information office for a map,and were given a brochure on a walk called Hangers Way. We decided to tackle the 5.5km section from the villages of Steep to Hawkley. This took us through remnant oak forest complete with old farmhouses, orchids, ducks, a pretty waterfall and friendly donkey. The Hawkley publican was welcoming and we enjoyed a beer and elderberry juice to brace ourselves for the return journey. This part of Hampshire is well worth visiting for its unspoilt natural values.
As usual it rained, as we walked from Lavacolla, alone except for a friendly dog, a camping ground and the occasional pilgrim UNTIL we climbed to Monte del Gozo, which has TV aerials and huge pilgrim hostels. Young people poured out from several directions, charging ahead of us down the hill towards the city. We were due for a break and took shelter in a coffee shop with upholstered seats – clearly they weren’t targeting soggy pilgrims! We realised that the passing parade wore suits, mini skirts and handbags. Hurriedly we downed our coffee and proceeded through the Pilgrim Gate into the medieval city, following the arrows and ponchos. We mistook one plaza, but finally arrived in the Praza Obradoiro and the Cathedral rose up behind us to our left. My lens had raindrops on it but I managed to snap celebrating pilgrims performing a dance before we searched for the Pilgrims Office, a few streets away but not obvious to us. It was 11am and we wanted to get our Compostela then attend the Pilgrim Mass at noon. No such luck! We queued in the rain for an hour and it was 12:15pm when we got through. We climbed up the hill to our accommodation, where we disrobed into dry clothes and headed out to lunch, visit the cathedral, meeting two fellow pilgrims who we had got to know on the way and arranging to meet them after the service this evening. We’re pleased that we have accomplished our goal without mishap, but a little sad that this part of our holiday has come to an end.
We walked for a couple of hours in the Retiro Park this morning, minus camera. The Queen Sofia art centre, was shut for the St Isidro city holiday. Then we went round the famous Prado art gallery, which we weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so I have exterior photos of the ticket queue and front. I’ve also added some photos of David’s of the reference point zero (from which references are taken) outside the former post office in Plaza del Sol, and a traditional shop from early last century. We’re heading to the San Isidro church this evening hoping to see people in traditional dress celebrating the saint day.
This morning we walked round Madrid and came across a model doing a photo shoot, then had coffee and goats cheese and smoked salmon “pinchos” at a stylish cafe near the Royal Palace. We went across to admire the horse guards and arrived just in time for the ceremonial changing of the guard. They didn’t allow photos of the treasures in the palace, but I managed one interior shot before I read the sign. We returned via the “Ronda” circular roadway which follows one of the old city walls. There are some cute little buses. First shot is the external elevator of the newly opened Queen Sofia Art Museum.
Arriving by train, we headed for the main square, Plaza Meyor where a friendly English-speaking guide circled key places to see on a map. Tomorrow is the start of the Fiesta of San Isidro, Madrid’s patron saint, so the city is abuzz. We zipped along, through Segways and bicycle tours to see the Almudena Cathedral, Royal Palace and monument to Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
We skirted crowds to photograph the proud Edificio Metropolis (1910) in the main thoroughfare, Gran Via and back via the tree-lined Paseo del Prado walkway. Our curiosity was sparked by the ultramodern Caixaforum and an adjacent wall of plants. Tomorrow we will learn more of this great city…
Yesterday evening we walked round Seville and saw an amazing modern structure in wood, probably built for Expo ’92. We weren’t allowed to use flash at the flamenco performance, but you can still get the impression. The singer and clapper has an amazingly husky voice. Today we did the other tourist things, visiting the royal palace built by Muslim craftsmen in a hybrid style known as Mudejar. It is unseasonably hot and after queuing for the Cathedral, we climbed the minaret tower called La Giralda at the corner and were treated to a tangled view of city rooftops with wires, air conditioners, rooftop pools and church towers. To give ourselves a break, we took a cruise down the river, under a new bridge.