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Month: December 2014 (page 2 of 3)


Not too far from Segovia is the town of Burgos, much famed as the home town of  “El Cid Campeador”, the medieval Christian warrior knight who fought on behalf of Spain’s Christian kingdoms to push back Moorish invaders.  In the foreground is Luis, our “precious” guide.  He is truly proud of his town’s heritage and will patiently tell you every detail about its history.  He kindly gave me a poster illustrating El Cid’s ancestral relationships to dozens of former and current royalty.  He shows students the town gate and how the towers of Notre Dame in Paris are a stunted version of Burgos’ bell towers.  Luis knows all……wpid6817-20141011-DSC01404.jpg


Close up of the town gate upon entering Burgos.


View of the Gothic cathedral of Burgos.

Alicia, Catalina, Paige and Tulsi in front of the cathedral–selfie time?

Again, star of David is featured in an archway entrance.


Cathedral facade with sculture.

Side entrance door.

Altarpiece in the cathedral.

Amazing cupola in the center of Burgos’ cathedral.


El Cid  (Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar) and his wife Jimena are both buried here.

More examples of stained glass work in the cathedral.

Close up of the rose window.

These are ceremonial carts formerly used in processions.  The silver came from Spain’s colonies in South America and Mexico.

Here lies Pedro and his wife….sadly, I’d have to read the Latin inscriptions on the side to tell you who this couple was.


The altar features a typical statue of “Santiago Matamoros” (St. James the Moor Slayer).  St. James is Spain’s patron saint and according to legend, he would appear during battles between warring Christian and Moorish to rally the Spaniards.  Troops in the field probably needed a morale boost.

Town plaza in Burgos.


This marks the place where Fernando and Isabela received Columbus in audience as he returned from his second voyage to the New World.

The statue of El Cid Campeador in the center of Burgos.

Although El Cid was the ideal of the Christian knight in Spanish legend, in reality he was a mercenary–as were many  of his contemporaries.  He fought on behalf of both Christian and Moorish leaders on occasion.

Burgos has a lovely long promenade/park that stretches alongside the cathedral area.

Residents enjoy a stroll in their park.  A ceramics fair was exhibiting wares from local artisans during our visit.

Departing view of the town gate as night fell.


Segovia is about an hour north of Madrid.  As you approach the city, you see the Alcazar (former royal castle) from the outskirts of town, looking uphill.  Marie and all her classmates enjoyed posing in the park area below the castle.

The hilltop position of the castle provided a great view of anyone approaching.

A short walk around the city affords a view of the cathedral in Segovia.

Typical flower strewn balconies adorning Spanish streets.

A side view of the Alcazar before you reach the entrance.


We had a nice view of the moon as we approached.

Entrance to the Alcazar.  Actually, there are multiple “Alcazar” buildings throughout Spain in a variety of cities–they are palaces.  This one was used by Fernando and Isabela as well as their daughter Juana (briefly).   

This is one of the gilded ceilings in the palace–intricate mudejar art and geometric carvings

The twin thrones for Fernando and Isabela, who ruled together as the “Catholic Kings”.  Their marriage united the main territories of Spain, but Isabela did not relinquish her right to rule in her own name in Castilla.  Both of them were committed to reclaim the remainder of Andalcia, the area of Granada, from its Muslim occupants.


Ceiling over the throne room/ambassador’s receiving room.

The cornices below the ceiling are lined with all the Spanish kings who ruled from the start of the “Reconquista”–starting with Pelayo, down to Fernando and Isabela and their daughter Juana.  Juana succeeded her mother since her only brother died as a child.  She married Felipe el Guapo (Phillip the Fair), whose marriage bonded her family to the Hapsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire. (Their own son, Charles V, succeeded to both the throne of Spain and that of the Hapsburg dynasty in central Europe.)  When Felipe died very young, legend says that Juana refused to allow him to be buried for days…this incident and her unhappiness with his continual philandering supposedly led to her mental collapse.  Recently, the theory is that she really was not “Juana la Loca”.  Her father Fernando just didn’t intend to share his throne with Juana and found this a convenient excuse to lock her up for years.   She never really raised her son, who was sent to Germany, and her “mental instability” was quite convenient for Fernando and Carlos to rule as they pleased.


Lovely view of the outskirts of Segovia from the ambassador’s receiving room in the Alcazar.

Group photo of our Fountain Hills High School tour group, minus our leader Karla Primosch, who was also taking photos.  Most of these kids have been in at least one of my classes.  Marie is on the far right.


View from the towers of the Alcazar.  Sage–climbing the stairs–is a photography student who compiled a series of photos from the tour into a book for her fellow students.

The armory room in the Alcazar was full of weaponry and armor for soldiers and horses.


Karla Primosch, one of our art teachers and the tour leader, shared an iPhone shot with Sage (left side of photo) in the armory room.


The main plaza in Segovia is cheerful and inviting to tourists taking a break from a day of walking.

Segovia also boasts a Gothic cathedral of sizable proportions.

This back side of the cathedral is the only wall with Romanesque columns, which predate the building of the Gothic sections.  Reminds me of the Romanesque architecture in the north that I studied as a university student.


A short walk from the town center and the cathedral, everyone flocks to see the famous Roman Aqueduct of Segovia.

Rome sent a congratulatory sculpture (Mama wolf, Romulus and Remus representing mother Rome) to congratulate Segovia on the 2000 year anniversary of its aqueduct.


The rose window in the Cathedral of Toledo.


View of Toledo (apologies to El Greco…)  The rainy clouds make it look much like the El Greco painting as well.  Rio Tajo winds around the town, which we entered on foot via the medieval bridge.

Students Miranda, Nacho, Henry, Tessa posing outside Toledo.

It’s a short walk from the bridge across the river up to the old part of town.

Students got to see how narrow the streets were when these were built during the Middle Ages as they approached the cathedral.

Here is the approach to the Gothic cathedral of Toledo, and typically, you see the bell tower first.

The Gothic facade has a wonderful front portal with customary sculptures overlooking the entrance.

Close up of the sculptures on facade.

The interior starts out with the usual rose window and pillars….


…and an uncharacteristic smiling Madonna and child statue…

…plus the gilded pipe organ.  Apparently, these have to be played every day or they go out of tune easily.

The real gem is the “Transparente” along the side aisles of the cathedral.  This is very Baroque.   It was masterminded by Narciso Tome and his 4 sons as a skylight to connect the ceiling area visually to the tabernacle it was designed to highlight.  The collaboration was intended to let the viewer’s eye blend the frescoes into the sculptures.

Close-up of the Transparente sculptures.

This is the tabernacle area the skylight was designed.  Also Baroque.

This is one of the chapels in the church of Santo Tome, which has one of El Greco’s most famous paintings, “The Burial of Count Orgaz”.   While you can’t take photos of that painting, the crowds thin out a bit further inside where other smaller works of El Greco are featured.  The ceiling frescoes are not his, but side paintings are.

The “Disrobing of Christ” is the main painting in this salon.



The tile marking Santa Maria la Blanca, also in Toledo’s former Jewish quarter.  Toledo was home to Christians, Jews, and Muslims for many years of the Middle Ages while the Christians and Muslims fought over and traded territory during the Reconquista war years.  This was originally a synagogue built for in the Jewish quarter in the 12th century.

The architectural features of the buildings show how all 3 cultures blended artistic talents for the city’s art in the 12th century.  When Ferdinand and Isabela expelled the Jews in 1492/3, (yeah, bad move) synagogues like this were usually converted into Catholic churches.

Signs in the back of Santa Maria la Blanca indicate partnerships with the state of Israel to educate tourists about history/contribution of the Jewish community to Spanish culture at that time.

Really beautiful plaster work on the walls.

Artisans combined Arabic geometric designs with the Star of David and the conch shell of St. James, the patron saint of Spain.   Not many other places can boast mixing 3 religious traditions in one building.

The horseshoe arch was a typical design in mudejar architecture in Spain.

Eduardo, our sprightly 80 year old guide in Toledo, also educated us about how steel was tempered for superior sword making in Toledo.  We toured a Damascene jewelry/sword shop where artisans delicately tapped gold wire into jewelry in intricate designs.

Merry Christmas


Window Painting 2


This is the other shop window that I painted earlier in the fall. It’s three panels, and took three afternoons.



Tuesday Hike – Cinch, Pemberton, Shallmo Wash

Marilyn and I hiked 4.3 miles today in McDowell Mountain Park.

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Sunday Hike – Northwestern Section of AZT-21

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Friday Hike – Spur Cross to Black Mesa

Bob, Nick, Allen, Janet, and I hiked from the Spur Cross Trailhead to the top of Black Mesa. It was an arduous hike. We started at 8:00am and hiked all day with few rests, returning to our vehicle after dark. Total distance was 14 miles with over 3100 feet of total ascent. The trails in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area were in good condition. We had difficulty following the trails once we entered Tonto National Forest. Tall grass has grown up over the rocks blocking our view of many of the cairns. If it were not for the track that I had loaded into my GPS, we probably would not have found our way. Hiking uphill through tall grass over unseen rocks was very tiring. Despite the difficulty, I had fun on the hike anyway.

Below are two views of the fortress. We passed the path up to the top on our way back (adding two miles to our hike), but we were running short on daylight, so we left it for another day.

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We encountered two very nice trail markers after entering Tonto National Forest.


We took a short break after passing through one of the fences.





A view of Black Mesa. At the start of the day, we thought that we’d be hiking up a different nearby formation.


Bob, after emerging from one section of tall grass.


Allen, Janet, and Nick on an easy section of the hike.


A view from part way up the final ascent of Black Mesa:


It turns out that there’s a very good trail, complete with switchbacks, up to the top of Black Mesa. We couldn’t find it on the way up, however. We did find it on the way down, but it became harder and harder to follow (due to the grass) as we descended.



Another view from part way up:


We were surprised to find a tire, painted yellow, in a tree at the top of the mesa.


A view from the top:


A view of Elephant Mountain at the right and the fortress, below it to the left:



A barrel cactus alongside the trail. The trail is quite good here.


Two more views of the fortress…



We went the wrong way and missed seeing this large saguaro on our way out.


Black Mesa is the formation to the left. We started the day thinking that we’d be hiking the mesa at the right. In the morning light, it looked more like a “black mesa” than the other one.


Another view of the Fortress with the sun getting lower in the sky.


Another view of Black Mesa (left) and Sugarloaf Mountain (right):


Another view of the Fortress:


A view from the pass between Elephant Mountain and the Fortress:


More views from the Elephant Mountain Trail:




I think these last three photos were taken from the Spur Cross Trail:




Friday Fitness Hike

Friday’s hike started from the Wagner Trailhead. We hiked Wagner to Granite, Granite to Lariat, Lariat to Pemberton, Pemberton to Delsie, which brought us back to Granite. Then, instead of taking the shortest way back, we instead turned right on Granite and then took Stoneman Wash to Bluff, Bluff to Granite, Granite to Wagner, and Wagner back to the parking area. Total distance was 10.2 miles with minimal elevation gain.

I arrived at the park early and got this photo from the Horse Staging Area prior to sunrise.


Taking a break at the intersection of Granite and Lariat. From left to right are Nick, Sandy, Amy, Doug, DeAnn, and Janet.


Amy took this photo of us:


My hike description was inaccurate. This wash crosses Lariat; we hiked up this wash, which eventually brought us back to the Pemberton.


Nick spotted these colorful seed pods.

A large rock on the Pemberton Trail:


Saguaros on the Delsie Trail:


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