Monday, February 27, 2012

Spain- Seville

What a treat to be in Seville, such a civil and delightful city in southern Spain! I am staying in an area called Juderia which I find out means the Jewish quarter. It is the old, charming section of winding narrow streets, lovely balconied homes with central courtyards and big gardens, and no Jews since they were all expelled in the 15th century. There are no synagogues remaining here.

There is a huge cathedral built on the same site as a mosque (the Muslims ruled here from the 8th to the13th centuries). It was the third Catholic cathedral to be built in the world after Rome and London.

Spanish Square, built in 1929, is breathtaking! Its tile work and Arabic influenced architecture made it the perfect setting for "Lawrence of Arabia." No picture can do it justice since it is so big and grand.

The streets are filled with people walking around as were the other Spanish cities but here I see more tourists from all over the world. Seville is a lovely spot filled with history, culture and fun!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spain- Toledo

Madrid is the political capital of Spain, but Toledo is the religious capital of Spain. In the11th to14th centuries, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews lived in Toledo side by side. Jews were expelled from Spain by Queen Isabella in 1492. The oldest synagogue in Spain and second oldest in Europe is in Toledo. It was converted to a church after the expulsion, but still stands. We were stunned that in the reconstruction and reopening of this historic synagogue, they left the cross on the wall!
The cathedral is very famous as is Alcazar, both of which are pictured here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spain- Marvelous Madrid

Having just read that there were union strikes on Saturday and Sunday, I was concerned about arriving in Madrid Monday night but, much to my delight, I found a vibrant, exciting and strike free city. The wide boulevards, lovely architecture of 17th and 18th century palaces and other structures as well
as contemporary architecture makes for a beautiful skyline.

The Royal Palace has over 2000 rooms, of which 20 are now open to the public. Kings sure know how to build to excess! The palace is decorated in grand style. It was rebuilt by the Bourbons in the 18th century. The last king to live in it was in 1931.The present king lives elsewhere and uses it for state and personal functions.

The streets are filled with people- tourists as well as citizens, enjoying sunny winter days with weather in the high 40's.

Pictured are the Monument to Cristopher Columbus, a street scene and the Royal Palace.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Myanmar- Bagan

This small town in central Myanmar has over 2000 pagodas and stupas. Many date back to the 11th and 12th century. We are staying in the most beautiful hotel in the country and the most beautiful one we've ever stayed it. The Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort is spectacular! The villas are lovely and the service is wonderful but the views are what is truly amazing! A camera cannot capture it but I try.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Myanmar- Full of Surprises!

Right from the start, I was surprised by Yangon which has no motorbikes- only cars and buses. There is also a beautiful synagogue there with only one Jewish family left of a once thriving community. On the from the airport, I saw a ferris wheel.

Yangon combines modern and traditional buildings, the most famous pagodas and temples in the country and I will blog a more about them with more pictures when I get home.

Now I am at a lovely spot at Lake Inle called Pristine Lotus Hotel and Spa which is heaven on earth, so beautiful and calm. The staff is friendly and nice. Minority groups live in the area and specialize in different handicrafts so everyday we go by boat to their villages to see how they make their wares. Yesterday was the 5 day market and we saw people from all around come to buy and sell. Wait until you see the photos! I hope the capture the color, drama and excitement of the day!

Myanmar- Inle Lake

From Yangon we flew to central Myanmar to lovely Inle Lake where people fish, farm and live on the lake. Yes, farm on the lake! Stripes of earthen mats are floated on the lake and secured with bamboo poles. Farmers in boats tend their crops. Everything happens on the lake! Here is the entrance to a major market as well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Laos- Elephant Camp and the Countryside

This morning we went to an elephant camp where we rode on an elephant through beautiful scenery.This camp, a joint venture which benefits the people around it, the environment and the elephants, was the brainchild of German man named Marcus who start Tiger Trail Adventures. We then took a short boat ride to a lovely waterfall which was not as full as it can be during rainy season.
After that we changed our itinerary from kayaking and instead went three villages to see how the people nearby really live. We saw people at work, children at school and coming home for lunch break, women working at home, as well as people dancing at a community center in honor of a small festival. There was a live band and singers.

Pictures will follow when I get home.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Laos- Maison Souvannaphoum

Here I am having breakfast in the hotel in the charming city in the cultural heart of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO heritage site. The 25 room hotel was once the residence of a former prince and is a walk away from the Royal Palace and Museum and many temples, including Mount Phousi Temple. The staff is as nice as can be as are all the people we have met so far. Most Laotians are Buddhists who value loving kindness.