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The Art of Derek Dohren

painting, writing, photography



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'Culture is not your friend'

Posted on August 4, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Living in Granada, with its attendant places of interest, I’ve never had much time for the throngs of visitors who flock to its world famous tourist attractions. I’ve always seen them as a bit of a nuisance. For starters they get in my way as I try to cross the city. They walk too slowly, often whole groups of them at a time blocking the pavement, giving no consideration to us locals going about our business. I make a point of avoiding the places they go to eat because I can’t stand the noise they make. They endlessly photograph things and they wear terrible clothes. It’s fair to say I’ve got a lot of unresolved issues, so on this extended holiday it’s done me no harm at all to walk a few miles in their shoes. When I return home I will do so with more respect for the humble tourist. I’ve enjoyed being one myself, though perhaps it’s fair to say I haven’t always enjoyed being seen as one. And that serves me right, I guess.

All around Spain, up and over the Scottish Highlands, and back down to the ancient sites of southern England, the boots have indeed been on the other feet. Ambling about moorland, street and cathedral interior, camera slung around the neck and queueing up for overpriced attractions, only occasionally have I felt like the sucker I must have seemed to the locals. By and large I’ve gone willingly to the slaughter and pretty much loved every minute of it. I’ve even worn terrible clothes. And yet, here I am, with my holiday drawing to a close, wondering about the validity of all those things I’ve seen and done.

Sure, it’s been fun soaking up the sights (and not traipsing into work every day). It’s just that I’m starting to feel a little vague about the nature and purpose of this thing we blithely call ‘culture’. What is it exactly? We assume that to be cultural is a beneficial thing, good for the soul, and something to be pursued, but I found myself sitting in a café in the historic city of Bath yesterday musing on the words of the late Terence McKenna who once famously said, “Culture is not your friend.” I’d never fully appreciated his observations until now.

He went on to say: “Culture is for other people’s convenience and the convenience of various institutions, churches, companies, tax collection schemes, and what have you. It is not your friend. It insults you. It disempowers you. It uses and abuses you. None of us are well treated by culture.”

We see what we’re allowed to see, experience what we are steered towards. There is no real freedom. I was disappointed to discover the Roman bathhouse in Bath was largely a modern construction, piled on top of the original ruins. All very well done, but you know, sort of fake. Stonehenge has one of its pillars propped up by concrete. Parts of the Alhambra’s ornate decoration is the work of modern craftsmen. I’m not sure any of this matters but I think it should.

The thrust of McKenna’s argument was that culture locks us into a controlled way of thinking, a particular way of behaving that negates the need to question. It shapes what we eat and drink, influences the things we buy and colours what we aspire to, the type of cinema and theatre we choose to watch and the music we listen to. We are so inculcated with the moral dictates of those who rule over us that true freedom of exploration and of expression is virtually non-existent. Tourists are often a visible manifestation of this, buying tickets, crossing off sights as they go, taking the money shot at the annointed places. A lot of this behaviour appears mindless. And I’m not trying to take any high ground here. I’m guilty too of being a mindless tourist. That’s my whole point. In the heat of battle for that knock-out view self-awareness can take a back seat.

I didn’t feel this so keenly as I travelled through Spain, not because it wasn’t true of me. The thought just never occurred, even during the quiet moments of downtime. And though I was familiar with McKenna and his work I’d felt he was guilty of an over simplification of the facts. All societies have to have some kind of culture don’t they, a set of values and aesthetics that is wholly agreed upon within the group? It’s just how the world works, how human beings function.

Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a universal truth. Nor do I think that all tourists are empty headed and selfish. Certainly there were moments when I was in Bath when I felt that the UK had finally been turned into one gigantic theme park, designed purely to soak even more money out of people who are already up to their eyes in debt. But I’m telling myself this is simply the by-product of seven weeks of touring. Normal service, and normal thinking will resume shortly.

Visiting Neolithic sites in Scotland and England really stirred in me a desire to take a wider perspective on so-called culture. For example, no one is sure what many of these ancient societies were up to when they constructed their stone circles and it’s refreshing to hear an increasing number of commentators say so. At Avebury, some 25 miles north of the more famous Stonehenge site, you can walk amongst the stones and form your own theories. Some people scoff at the visitors who hug the stones or who claim to feel ‘energies’ pulsing through the earth here. I found it oddly life affirming to see the absence of a recorded history forced upon visitors, the lack of some agreed narrative for what happened there. I saw artists literally drawing their own conclusions, children clambering over the stones, and others simply gazing in awe. As at many of the sites on Orkney there is magic and wonder at being allowed to simply ponder the possibilities.

Aldous Huxley, another advocate of counter-culturalism claimed that “History is the record, among other things, of the fantastic and generally fiendish tricks played upon itself by culture-maddened humanity.” It does one a power of good to visit a place where no official history has been laid down and force fed to you, where nothing has been faked to fit someone else’s agenda. That’s not to say that ignorance is to be cherished but it does remind you that there is a liberating freedom in not knowing. We should revel in that more often.


Orkney, Where History Lives

Posted on July 18, 2016 at 6:20 PM


Saint Magnus cathedral set a tone for my visit to the Orkneys. There was an absence of that grandeur one feels in more traditional larger cathedrals and you sensed a real affinity between it and the local population. It’s not merely a building maintained as a tourist attraction but remains an active and genuine part of the fabric and soul of the islands. The other things I saw there too, the various Neolithic, bronze age and iron age sites, had a rawness and lack of polish about them that readily suggested the lives of real people.

Perhaps it’s something you can also feel in some Mediterranean sites, maybe in Pompeii or in other parts of Italy or Greece but I’ve never really felt it in Spain. The ruins, cathedrals, palaces and gardens I have wandered around in Spain, though dating from more recent times, feel inaccessible in many ways, belonging as they did to people unlike those who inhabit the same places today. In Orkney, you feel that there’s a very close link between the current indigenous people and those of historic sites like Skara Brae or the Tomb of the Eagles. There’s nothing polished up and packaged here.

One of the guides, an elderly lady, told a small group of us at one of the ancient monuments about how her life as a child on the island in the days before electricity and running water retained many similarities with those iron age ancestors. When describing the typical rituals of life in an iron age house she could almost have been talking about her grandparents.

Only while walking amongst the eerily magnificent standing stones do you feel the frustration of not understanding what was going on, of not being able to get inside the heads of those who constructed these places. Their motives, skills and methods remain elusive to us still no matter how many theories are put forward. I suspect whatever ideas we have are some way off the mark to the reality.

Recent history gapes right back at you also. In Scapa Flow the masts and hulls of war time wrecks breach the surface waters. They are a shocking sight when first seen. The Italian chapel, built by prisoners of war (WW2) clings stubbornly to barren land just off one of the causeways. It’s all very very human.

As I saw on Skye bus loads of tourists are pouring onto the islands. This is probably welcome, maybe even necessary for the local economy but I’m sure it comes as an unpleasant surprise to many of the visitors how rough and ready the bill of fayre is awaiting them. The Tomb of the Eagles requires the visitor to hike a mile across a clifftop moorland. The only way into the tomb is to lie flat on a trolley and to pull yourself through a small tight tunnel. It’s cold and it’s damp and I imagine on windy days you may risk being blown into the North Sea. And I went in July.

I left Orkney feeling a huge sense of respect for the place. There’s a lot to see and I only scratched at the surface. It’s another place I hope to go back to and visit. If I did manage to return it would be a dreadful shame to find it gentrified.


To the ends of the Earth

Posted on July 15, 2016 at 4:35 PM


Every inch forward I moved from the Cromarty Firth took me further north than I’ve ever been before in my life. John O’Groats was one of those odd experiences. A place I’d heard and read about most of my life (forever twinned with England’s Land’s End, it’s ingrained in the brain of every Briton), it wasn’t really what I’d imagined. That said, I have no idea what it was I had actually expected. Let’s just say it was ‘unfussy’. It’s a place that wears its mantle in the collective UK psyche very lightly. Perhaps John O’Groats understands and accepts its role as a spot on the map that people urgently want to get to or get away from. There’s no need for any lingering in between.

And so it was I drove onto the catamaran in search of the next adventure. That made it a nap hand of bus, train, airplane, car, and boat as modes of transport on my recent travels. Oh, and a lot of ‘on foot’ stuff too I suppose. The jolt of disconnection as we pulled away from the jetty and the mainland was surprisingly unsettling but within minutes we were in open sea and there was no point in dwelling on it.

An hour later we cruised into Saint Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay, one of the 70 isles that make up the Orkneys. It was genuinely exciting to explore a whole new world and off I drove to make my way to Kirkwall, the capital town on these islands.

Saint Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

I was surprised how big Orkney is. Again, I’m not really sure what my expectations were, but there were plenty of long roads and rolling hills, and farmland seemed to stretch to the horizon line through my windscreen. Kirkwall is 15 miles from Saint Margaret’s Hope, connected by a series of causeways linking together the larger isles. Seeing the wrecks of old warships in the waters of Scapa Flow was a shock, particularly while trying to keep a straight line over the causeways.

Kirkwall is an unpretentious town. It has the feel of a northern English mill town, with its squat sandstone buildings and grey slate roofs. Dominating the centre of town is Saint Magnus Cathedral, a twelfth century construction built in the Roman style with striking alternating bands of red and yellow sandstone.

The tomb of explorer John Rae in Saint Magnus Cathedral. Rae was the true discoverer of the north-west passage, not Franklin as history books often misinform

It goes against my better judgement to acknowledge that I’ve grown to love visiting cathedrals. It’s something I’ve talked about previously in this blog. Having just toured Spain and visited several magnificent Spanish cathedrals I have to say that Kirkwall’s contribution to the field more than holds its own. It’s not large by any means. I wouldn’t say its exterior is particularly beautiful or ornate but there is something else here I never once felt in Spain. There’s a true warmth inside and it felt like, dare I say, a cozy place to me. There was no feeling of threat or of the supernatural. I suppose its relative smallness facilitates this but I didn’t feel any diminished sense of respect for it over that. Quite the opposite in fact. Maybe that cold sense of clinical power I feel in the larger cathedrals is an overrated quality. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Saint Magnus was said to have been a good and kindly man. His bones are interred in one of the pillars inside the cathedral. I think somehow the place has taken on his persona.


"You just walk right in, walk walk walk right in and

Woh-oh woh-oh o-oh-oh o-o-o-oh-oh

O-oh-oh oh-oh o-o-o-oh-oh o-o-o-oh"

Skye - Reflections

Posted on July 14, 2016 at 6:00 PM

It was with great anticipation that I steered my car over the Skye road bridge and into Kyleakin. The last time I’d visited I’d been a passenger and it had been easier to take in the sights. This time I had to focus more on the road. That said, as is typical for this part of the world the weather wasn’t particularly welcoming and low cloud reduced the sightseeing possibilities anyway.

I did an island tour and tried to get my bearings on the place again, pulling over now and then to take a few photos. There were things I instantly recognised but others that didn’t chime with my memories. It felt good to be back but the magic was holding out on me.

The Red Cuillins, from Sligachan

I noticed this phenomenon on my Spanish tour. Sometimes it would take a day or two before I got into the fabric of a place and really felt its essence. Some places, like Bilbao or Valencia, hit you straight between the eyes, but others demand more of your time before yielding up their charms. I’d felt an immediate love for Skye back in 1995 but the vibe wasn’t quite there now. Low cloud and general dankness weren’t helping and neither was a mounting frustration that things weren’t wholly as I’d remembered them.

It wasn’t really until the second day that it happened. The weather was brighter and I’d got my bearings on the place. An impromptu walk to the Old Man of Storr was the unlikely catalyst that finally broke the ice between me and the Isle of Skye. The rest of the day passed in a magical haze. Was it the reflected bliss of nostalgia? A little, perhaps, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there is something very special about this place too. I was an exhausted but happy traveller when I got back to the mainland and my hotel.

My first visit, 21 years previously, had been at a pivotal moment in the island’s history. The completion of the bridge has brought about a quantum leap in tourism. Everywhere I went was thronged by bus loads of visitors, from all corners of the world. A double edged sword I’m sure. It’s no longer possible to visit Skye’s wonderful places and find yourself there alone. That’s a shame of course but, for the time being at least, the charm remains. Yes, I still think Skye is my favourite place on Earth.

But I’m moving on again – and my drift northwards continues. Next stop, John O’Groats.


"In a big country, dreams stay with you

Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside

Stay alive"

In a Big Country, Big Country


Over the Sea to Skye

Posted on July 13, 2016 at 3:40 AM

Barely a week has passed since I left Cádiz and I’ve had precious little time to process the events of my Spanish travels. After spending a night at home in my own bed I took another bus journey, this time to Málaga, in readiness for a flight over to the UK for the next part of my extended holiday. There was only enough time to unpack, tip the sand out of my suitcase, wash a few things, water my plants, re-pack and then engage a different mindset for the coming trip.

On arrival at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport I was to pick up a hire car. I hadn’t driven a vehicle of any sort for over six years and over the previous weeks I had noticed a little bit of anxiety at the back of my mind as to how difficult driving again might be. I needn’t have worried. As soon as I sat in the vehicle it was as if a switch was thrown and I magically ‘had the knowledge’. After driving half a mile or so I was pleasantly reminded of how much fun driving is.

So, after a blissful couple of days of grey miserable rain and catching up with family and friends in Liverpool I was on the road again. First stop was Glasgow and another catch-up with friends I hadn’t seen for too long. I continued north and drove on up to Rannoch Moor and through the Glencoe pass and beyond. Kinlochewe may not be the most well-known part of the Scottish Highlands but it’s a great base to explore the sparsely populated Wester Ross region. But I’d really come here to visit the Isle of Skye. I had spent three days on the island in 1995 and have always since referred to the place as my most favourite on Earth. Was this a case of romanticizing a fading memory?

One way to find out.

On that earlier visit the bridge connecting the island to the mainland had yet to be opened. It was still a few days from completion and we had made the final few hundred metres over from the Kyle of Lochalsh by boat. Now, it was a genuine thrill guiding my hire car over the bridge and finally making my return after 21 years.


Perpetuum Mobile, Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Notes for the Discerning Traveller in Spain

Posted on July 5, 2016 at 12:10 PM

desplazarse por español

1. On long bus journeys avoid sitting in a front seat where you have a full view of the driver. I sat in the front row three times and was horrified every time I saw the driver take his hands off the wheel to fiddle with a bottle of water or try and unwrap a sweet. Only once the bus’s wheels hit the rumble strips on the motorway would the driver yank back control of the wheel. I was convinced our driver from Granada to Cartagena was drunk until I realized he was actually demonstrating consummate control of the vehicle. I just wish I hadn’t repeatedly witnessed it. It’s better to be at the back where you are oblivious to what’s going on up top.


2. And speaking of buses, it’s common in Spain for two buses heading for the same destination to leave the same bus station at the same time. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re on the right one. It’s usually not the one you think it is. It’s the other one. The one that left a few seconds earlier. You then have to get off the ‘wrong’ bus, even though it has empty seats and you have a valid ticket for the journey, have your bag removed from the hold, go to the ticket office and buy another ticket for the next bus. Try harder to make sure you get on the right bus next time. Repeat cycle as many times as required.


3. Hotels or hostals which are located in the centre of busy tourist cities but which score an average mark of only 5.4 out of 10 for customer satisfaction on and have ‘rooms available’ at suspiciously cheap prices, are probably best avoided unless you want to spend the night in a tiny filthy death trap. Seems obvious now, that one.


4. For your next holiday decide where you want to go and simply look up pictures of it on the Internet instead. That way you can stay at home with all your creature comforts for two weeks and save a lot of money.



5. Many cities in Spain have corresponding place names in South America. Didn’t you ever study history in school? If you are getting frustrated tramping around, let’s say Cartagena, in the awful heat wondering why your hostal doesn’t seem to exist it’s worth checking that you didn’t accidentally print off the google street map of, for example, Cartagena, Colombia. Unfortunately, though these places have the same names, the street configurations are different.


6. Don’t go to Sevilla in July.


7. And probably don’t go in August either.


Notas para el viajero que discierne en España


1. En los viajes largos en autobús evitar sentarse en un asiento delantero donde se tiene una vista completa del conductor. Me senté en la primera fila tres veces y estaba horrorizado cada vez que veía al conductor a las manos del volante para jugar con una botella de agua o tratar de desenvolver un caramelo. Sólo una vez que las ruedas del autobús golpeó las bandas sonoras en la autopista sería el conductor tire de nuevo el control de la rueda. Yo estaba convencido de que nuestro conductor de Granada a Cartagena estaba borracho hasta que me di cuenta de que en realidad estaba demostrando el control del vehículo consumada. Sólo deseo que no había visto en repetidas ocasiones. Es mejor estar en la parte trasera donde se encuentre ajeno a lo que está pasando en la superior.


2. Y hablando de autobuses, que es común en España durante dos autobuses que se dirigen a un mismo destino que salen de la misma estación de autobuses al mismo tiempo. Es su responsabilidad de asegurarse de que está en el correcto autobus. Por lo general, no es el uno que usted piensa que es. Es el otro. El que dejó unos segundos antes. A continuación, tiene que bajar del autobús "equivocado", a pesar de que tiene asientos vacíos y usted tiene un billete válido para el viaje, haga que su bolsa de quita de la bodega, ir a la taquilla y comprar otro billete para el siguiente autobús. Intentar más para asegurarse de obtener en el bus bien la próxima vez. Ciclo de repetición tantas veces como sea necesario.


3. Hoteles o hostales que están situados en el centro de las ciudades turísticas ocupadas, pero que anotar una nota media de sólo un 5,4 sobre 10 en la satisfacción del cliente en y tener 'habitaciones disponibles' a precios sospechosamente bajos, son probablemente mejor evitar a menos quiere pasar la noche en una pequenita, sucia, trampa de muerte. Parece obvio ahora, que uno.


4. Para sus próximas vacaciones decidir dónde quiere ir y simplemente mirar hacia arriba fotos del mismo en Internet en su lugar. De esa manera usted puede quedarse en casa con todas las comodidades para dos semanas y ahorrar mucho dinero.



5. Muchas ciudades en España tienen correspondientes nombres de lugares en América del Sur. ¿Nunca estudia la historia en la escuela? Si usted sienten frustrados caminar alrededor, digamos Cartagena, en el terrible calor y usted preguntándose por qué su hostal no existe, debe comprobar que no ha impreso accidentalmente del plano de la ciudad google de, por ejemplo, Cartagena, Colombia. Por desgracia, aunque estos lugares tienen los mismos nombres, las configuraciones de las calles urbanas son diferentes.


6. No vaya a Sevilla en julio.


7. Y probablemente no vaya en agosto tambíen.




El Fin

Posted on July 4, 2016 at 5:00 PM

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Me sentí mal por Sevilla. Hay tanto a apreciar en la ciudad, además de la estupenda catedral, pero simplemente no disfrutar de mi visita. Era tan caliente. Pasé mucho tiempo cualquier lugar que tenían aire acondicionado. Yo he experimentado que es peor, en Granada muchas veces, pero de alguna manera que no había anticipado totalmente lo malo que sería. Creo que viniendo desde el norte, y en particular de Oviedo, no era gran preparación. Por alguna razón, no podía manejar la situación.


Pero ahora ya está hecho y por lo que a mi destino final, Cádiz. Las temperaturas aquí son mucho más amigable. Me dijeron que es otra ciudad preciosa y estoy seguro que no me han decepcionado. Estoy alojados en el casco antiguo de nuevo y, por supuesto, he hecho mi acostumbrada visita a la catedral, una estructura post-gótico más moderno. El interior estaba revestido de mármol blanco que dio lugar a un efecto agradable y que se sorprendió al encontrar la tumba del compositor español Manuel de Falla en la cripta. Lo hizo el granizo de la ciudad sin embargo.


Un montón de reconocimientos a Cristóbal Colón en la ciudad (como en Sevilla, y de hecho muchas ciudades del sur de España). Para ser honesto, sin embargo estoy acabada. Pasé la tarde en la playa porque, a veces, cuando estás de vacaciones, nada más que unas pocas horas tumbado en la arena y que van a nadar va a hacer. He llegado a un punto de saturación en este, el último día de mi gira española. Me ha encantado todo, incluso en los momentos difíciles (sí Sevilla, yo estoy mirando a ti), pero voy a estar feliz de volver a Granada mañana.


Y calculo que Granada se verá muy bien cuando vuelvo a ver.

The End


I felt bad about Sevilla. There’s so much to appreciate in the city, aside from the stupendous cathedral, but I just didn’t enjoy my visit. It was so hot. I spent a lot of time holed up anywhere they had air conditioning. I’ve experienced worse, in Granada many times, but somehow I hadn’t fully anticipated how bad it would be. I think coming down from the north, and particularly Oviedo, wasn’t great preparation. For whatever reason, I couldn’t handle it.


But it’s done now and so to my final destination, Cádiz. The temperatures here are much more friendly. I was told it’s another lovely city and I sure haven’t been disappointed. I’m billeted in the old quarter again and of course I’ve made my customary visit to the cathedral, a more modern post-gothic structure. The interior was clad in white marble which made for a nice effect and I was surprised to find the tomb of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla in the crypt. He did hail from the city though.


Lots of nods to Christopher Columbus in the city (as in Seville, and indeed many southern Spanish cities). To be honest though I’m done. I spent the afternoon on the beach because, well sometimes when you’re on holiday, nothing else but a few hours lying on the sand and going for a swim will do. I’ve reached saturation point on this, the last day of my Spanish tour. I’ve loved it, even the difficult moments (yes Sevilla, I’m looking at you), but I’ll be happy to get back to Granada tomorrow.


And I reckon Granada will look mighty fine when I see her again.


Job done.



"Is this really it? Is this the final station?

It's really been quite a trip."

Ray Davies, Imaginary Man

Los Locos de Sevilla

Posted on July 3, 2016 at 1:10 PM

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El tamaño no lo es todo. Excepto, tal vez cuando se trata de catedrales. El tamaño es más o menos de punto con ellos. Cuanto más grande y cavernosas que son los más pequeños y más insignificantes que hacen sentir. En el buen sentido, creo. Y Sevilla tiene un catedral extraordinario.


La ciudad cuenta con lo que se reconoce oficialmente como la catedral más grande del mundo. Un hecho tan marcadas que no requiere mayor embellecimiento. Sin embargo, mi propio deseo personal para visitar este lugar fue despedido mucho antes de saber de sus credenciales. Hace años, leí una cita atribuida a sus constructores del siglo 15, que decía así: "Vamos a crear un edificio tan que generaciones futuras nos que tomarán por locos." Oh, sí pensé, ese es el tipo de cosas que quiero ver.


Pues bien, hoy lo hice. ¿Y guau, estaban hombres locos?


Usted puede leer las estadísticas en otros lugares. Suenan un poco seco en blanco y negro. Es la experiencia de ser tragado que importa. Sé que hay argumentos sentidas contra la veneración de estos gigantes. ¿Cuántos trabajadores murieron en sus construcciones? ¿Cuánto dinero se vertió en los proyectos? ¿No debería la adoración de un Dios cristiano ser un poco más centrado en, ya sabes, la gente? No discuto ninguna de esas objeciones. Los he expresé mi mismo a diferentes grados muchas veces a lo largo de los años.


Pero juro que esos locos de la Edad Media estaban en lo cierto. Hay pocos otros lugares en nuestras ciudades donde se puede entrar de las calles y sentir un sentido tan inmediata de asombro paradójico. Es como si de repente se recordó a su lugar en el cosmos. En todas partes y en ninguna. En un universo infinito en el que todo está expandiendo lejos de todo lo demás puede ser lógicamente argumentado que cada uno de nosotros es el centro de toda experiencia. Y sin embargo, también es cierto que lo que conocemos como el universo es simplemente una creación interna, algo meramente trazado en el cerebro de los planos entregados por nuestros cinco sentidos. Catedrales dan la misma mezcla desconcertante de elevarse majestad y vacuidad de trituración.


No estoy hablando de religión. Estoy hablando de alma.


Al final del día son sólo edificios. ¿Se justifican los sufrimientos indudables de los que los construyeron? Todas esas vidas destruidas. Todas esas familias rotas. Es la colocación de un par de losas de piedra vale la vida de una persona? ¿Cómo podemos cuadrar la muerte de un hombre contra la vida de dos, o cien, o mil otros? No lo sé.


Realmente no lo sé.


Dichas cuestiones son demasiado difícil para mí responder. Así que voy a seguir para visitar catedrales si todo es lo mismo. Recomiendo la de Sevilla. Construido por locos a ciencia cierta.


The Lunatics of Seville

Size isn’t everything. Except, perhaps when it comes to cathedrals. Size is kind of the point with them. The bigger and more cavernous they are the smaller and more insignificant they make you feel. In a good way I think. And Seville has a doozy.


The city boasts what is officially recognized as the largest cathedral in the world. A fact so stark it requires no further embellishment. However, my own personal desire to visit this place was fired long before I knew of its record busting credentials. Years ago I read a quote attributed to its 15th century builders which ran thus, “Let us create such a building future generations will take us for lunatics.” Oh yeah I thought, that’s the kind of thing I wanna see.


Well, today I did. And boy were those guys lunatics.


You can read the stats elsewhere. They sound a bit dry in black and white. It’s the experience of being swallowed by it that matters. I know there are deeply felt arguments against the veneration of these behemoths. How many workers were killed in these constructions? How much money was poured into the projects? Shouldn’t the worship of a Christian God be a little more focused on, you know, people? I don’t dispute any of those objections. I’ve voiced them myself to different degrees many times over the years.


But I swear those Middle-Age lunatics were onto something. There are few other places in our cities where you can walk in from the streets and feel such an immediate sense of paradoxical awe. It’s like suddenly being reminded of your place in the cosmos. Everywhere and nowhere. In an infinite universe in which everything is expanding away from everything else it can be logically argued that each one of us is the very center of all experience. And yet it also holds true that what we think of as the universe is simply an internal creation, something merely mapped out in our brains from the blueprints handed over by our five senses. Cathedrals give the same perplexing mix of soaring majesty and crushing nothingness.


I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about soul.


I have visited several cathedrals on this trip and the cocktail of near impossible architecture and heavy religious symbolism always works its magic. Sure, it’s an illusory, nebulous thing, a kind of virtual reality, but it provokes introspection each time and for me that is of real value.


At the end of the day they are just buildings. Do they justify the undoubted sufferings of those who constructed them? All those destroyed lives. All those broken families. Is the laying of a few stone slabs worth the life of a person? How can we ever square off the death of one man against the life of two, or a hundred, or a thousand others? I don’t know.


I really don’t.



Posted on July 2, 2016 at 4:50 AM

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Eso, fue Cáceres. Es una ciudad relativamente pequeña, pero está lleno de cosas interesantes y me gustó mucho. Realmente no sé por dónde empezar aparte de eso, no debería perder el tiempo describiendo lugares y edificios se puede leer en otro lugar en Internet.

Después de perder mi camino al hotel (no la primera vez) me sorprendió gratamente al descubrir que era adyacente a la Plaza Mayor. Un lugar ideal para explorar el casco antiguo. El ambiente era mucho menos frenético que en Salamanca y todo el mejor para eso.

En este viaje me ha gustado la naturaleza relajada de las ciudades más pequeñas, como Tarragona y Oviedo, tanto como las grandes ciudades. Son perfectamente complementarias entre sí. Cáceres se asienta entre los dos tipos yo pienso. Se tiene la sensación de un lugar pequeño, pero puede presumir de uno de los cascos históricos mejor conservados e impresionantes de cualquier ciudad de España.

La catedral gótica fue lo más destacado para mí como lo fue el ya mencionado Plaza Mayor con su suelo inclinado. Es evidente que los desarrolladores modernos se han mantenido bien lejos del centro de Cáceres. Una decisión muy acertada.

Plaza Mayor, Cáceres

That was Cáceres. It’s a relatively small city but it packs a big punch and I liked it very much. I don’t really know where to begin other than that I shouldn’t waste time describing places and buildings you can read about elsewhere on the Internet.

After initially getting lost on my way to the hotel (not the first time) I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was adjacent to Plaza Mayor. A great location for exploring the old town. The atmosphere here was far less frenetic than in Salamanca and all the better for that.

On this trip I’ve enjoyed the relaxed nature of the smaller towns, like Tarragona and Oviedo, as much as the big cities. They are perfectly complementary to one another. Cáceres sits in between the two types I think. It has the feel of a small place, but can boast one of the most preserved and impressive historic quarters of any city in Spain.

The gothic cathedral was a highlight for me as was the aforementioned Plaza Mayor with its sloping floor. Clearly modern developers have been kept well away from the centre of Cáceres. A very wise decision.


Viajando hacia el sur

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 12:35 PM

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El viaje de autobús de ayer de Oviedo a Salamanca era una prueba de resistencia para decir lo menos. Puntuado por paradas en las ciudades más pequeñas el viaje duró más de cinco horas, la últimas tres de los cuales eran a traves de la muy aburrido paisaje de Castilla y León. Esta región es la más grande de España y comparte las mismas llanuras sin carácter como la otra 'Castilla', Castilla La Mancha hacia el este.

El día había comenzado de manera tan dramática. Oviedo, un lugar que podría codearse con bastante facilidad con Moffat, Kelso y Peebles en la frontera escocesa, era fresco y cubierto bajo un cielo opaco cuando salimos de la estación de autobuses. Me había vislumbrado la impresionante Cordillero Cantábrica y los Picos de Europa el día anterior (2.600 metros), envuelto en nubes mojadas, ya que nuestro autobús viajó lo largo de la costa desde el País Vasco y ahora estábamos subiendo la franja occidental de los picos. Cruzando la gama nos encontramos en un mundo de arremolinan grises y bosque verde increíblemente gruesa. Era maravillosamente diferente.

Fuimos a través de varios túneles cortas de montaña, la última de las cuales nos escupío un mundo completamente diferente. De repente, el cielo era azul, el sol brillaba, y de inmediato una señal de tráfico nos informó que estábamos en León. Inicialmente, el paisaje, aunque diferentes, fue igualmente impresionante, con enormes rocas y lagos azules verdes que pasan a mi ventana. Media hora después, que habíamos instalamos en las llanuras planas sin rasgos más típicos de la zona y así fue como se mantuvo hasta nos fundamento en Salamanca.

Al menos me sentí que estaba de vuelta en una versión de España que estaba familiarizado. El calor y el sol, tierra quemada y bares de tapas (aunque todavía lugares que ofrecen la variedad norte de 'pinchos').

Salamanca es el hogar de una de las universidades más antiguas del mundo, gran parte del cual se encuentra ubicado alrededor de los edificios históricos de la ciudad. Los estudiantes que estudian aquí son muy afortunado que pienso. Es muy pintoresco. Ya que es a finales de junio no había tantos estudiantes alrededor pero los bares y restaurantes eran más que compensado por las hordas de turistas.

Todavía había sentido un poco fatigado cuando me había dejado Oviedo. El viaje de autobús de largo no había ayudado mucho, pero llegar a una ciudad tan impresionante como Salamanca había levantado el ánimo una vez más. Voy a tener un par de días aquí antes de ir a la carretera. Espero poder conseguir un poco más de descanso antes de enfrentar a la estación de autobuses de nuevo.

Heading South

Yesterday’s bus journey from Oviedo to Salamanca was a test of stamina to say the least. Punctuated by stops at smaller towns the trip took more than five hours, at least three of which were through the very uninspiring Castilla y León landscape. This region is the largest in Spain and shares the same characterless flat plains as the other ‘Castilla’, Castilla La Mancha over to the east.

The day had started so dramatically. Oviedo, a place that could rub shoulders quite easily with Moffat, Kelso and Peebles in the Scottish borders, was cool and blanketed under a low dull sky when we left the bus station. I’d glimpsed the stunning Cordillero Cantábrica and the Picos de Europa the day before (2,600 metres), shrouded in wet cloud as our bus chugged along the coast from Pais Vasco and now we were climbing the western fringe of the peaks. Crossing the range we found ourselves in a world of swirling greys and unbelievably thick green forest. It was wonderfully different.

We went through several short mountain tunnels, the last of which spat us out into a completely different world. Suddenly the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and immediately a road sign informed us we were in León. Initially the landscape, though different, was equally stunning, with huge rocks and blue green lakes passing by my window. Half an hour later though we’d settled into the more typical flat featureless plains of the area and that was how it stayed until we rolled in Salamanca.

At least I felt I was back in a version of Spain I was familiar with. Heat and sun, scorched earth and tapas bars (though still places offering the northern variety ‘pinchos’;).

Salamanca is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, much of which is situated centrally around the historic buildings of the city. Students who study here are very lucky I think. It’s extremely picturesque. As it’s late June there were not so many students around but the bars and restaurants were more than compensated by the hordes of tourists.

I’d still felt a little fatigued when I’d left Oviedo. The long bus journey hadn’t helped much but arriving in a city as stunning as Salamanca had lifted the spirits once more. I’ll have a couple of days here before hitting the road again. I hope I can get a little more rest before facing the bus station again.


"Unrelentless, deep in the strangest feelings

Believe me, love is full of wonderful colour"

The Icicle Works



Posted on June 29, 2016 at 4:45 AM

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I didn’t see the best of Oviedo. I was exhausted when I arrived so decided to use my time here to recharge the batteries. It’s a nice place to do that. The centre of town has a wonderful park, the type that could easily exist anywhere between Land’s End and John O’Groats.

I also loved the statue of Woody Allen on one of the main thoroughfares. More on Asturias later. I’ve another bus to catch.

No he visto lo mejor de Oviedo. Yo estaba agotado cuando llegué así que decidí usar mi tiempo aquí para recargar las baterías. Es un buen lugar para hacer eso. El centro de la ciudad tiene un parque maravilloso, del tipo que fácilmente podría existir en cualquier lugar entre el final de la tierra y John O'Groats (el sur del inglaterra al norte del escocia).

También me encantó la estatua de Woody Allen en una de las principales vías públicas. Más acerca Asturias más tarde. Tengo otro autobús para coger.


Bilbao y Pais Vasco, adios

Posted on June 28, 2016 at 1:15 PM

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I don’t know what will happen to me in the future but I hope to cross paths once more with Pais Vasco. Bilbao was a perfect accompaniment to San Sebastian. I think they exist in a kind of yin and yang, combining as a whole to impart the region with its cultural focus. Surprisingly, neither city is actually the capital of the area. That honour belongs to the much less heralded Vitoria-Gasteiz but that’s a place clearly in the shadow of its sibling cities.

Though it’s a compact city Bilbao has the highest population of the three and I got the distinct impression it’s a city that takes itself seriously. That’s not to say it’s dour, far from it, but there’s a sense of pragmatism mixed with the style. San Sebastian, with its three beaches and sprawling colonial style charm, is much more laid back. Though Bilbao is newly famous for its leading edge modern architecture it still carries the scars of an industrial past. It’s a proud working class city.

What really struck me about the glitzy new image was how integrated the modern buildings were with the city and its people. The Iberdrola Tower, at 165 metres the tallest structure in Pais Vasco, disgorges its workers into the city centre bars and cafeterias. A few hundred metres away the iconic Guggenheim Art Gallery looks totally at home alongside the Rio Nervion and the stylish Palacio de Congresos y de la Música. A little further along rises the impressive new San Mames stadium, home of Athletic Bilbao. All of these modern structures provide functional service to Bilbao and its citizens. I couldn’t help but make the comparison with the futuristic art and science park in Valencia which, though incredibly spectacular, felt a lot like something very silly bolted onto the edge of city, not separate but not really a part of things either. Maybe I do Valencia a disservice. If so, I apologise.

But now I must leave Pais Vasco, head across Cantabria and over to the neighbouring community of Asturias and the city of Oviedo. I don’t have any preconceptions of Oviedo. I gather it’s a sedate place and that’s just what I need. I’m also looking forward to travelling deeper into the north-west of this country.

No sé qué va a pasar a mí en el futuro, pero espero visitar cada vez más con País Vasco. Bilbao era un acompañamiento perfecto para San Sebastián. Creo que existen en una especie de yin y el yang, que combina en su conjunto para impartir la región con su enfoque cultural. Sorprendentemente, ni la ciudad es en realidad la capital de la zona. Ese honor pertenece a la anunciada mucho menos Vitoria-Gasteiz pero eso es claramente un lugar a la sombra de sus hermanos ciudades.

Aunque es una ciudad compacta Bilbao cuenta con la mayor población de los tres y me dio la impresión de que es una ciudad que se toma a sí mismo en serio. Eso no quiere decir que es severo, pero hay un sentido de pragmatismo mezclado con el estilo. San Sebastián, con sus tres playas y encanto de estilo colonial, está mucho más relajado. A pesar de Bilbao es de reciente famoso por su arquitectura moderna aún lleva las cicatrices de un pasado industrial. Es una ciudad de clase trabajadora orgullosa.

Lo que realmente me llamó la atención acerca de la nueva imagen deslumbrante era el grado de integración de los modernos edificios estaban con la ciudad y su gente. La Torre Iberdrola, a 165 metros y la estructura más alta de País Vasco, envía sus trabajadores a los bares y cafeterías del centro de la ciudad. A unos cientos de metros de distancia el icónico galería de arte Guggenheim se ve totalmente en casa junto al río Nervión y el elegante Palacio de Congresos y de la Música. Un poco más lejos se eleva a lo largo de la impresionante nuevo estadio de San Mamés, en casa del Athletic de Bilbao. Todas estas estructuras modernas ofrecen un servicio funcional de Bilbao y sus ciudadanos. Yo no podía dejar de hacer la comparación con el parque arte y la ciencia futurista en Valencia que, aunque increíblemente espectacular, sintió mucho como algo muy tonto atornilla al borde de la ciudad, se separa pero no es realmente una parte de las cosas tampoco. Tal vez que hago un flaco a Valencia. Si es así, me disculpo.

Pero ahora debo dejar País Vasco, viajar a través de la Cantabria y hacia la comunidad vecina de Asturias y el Ayuntamiento de Oviedo. No tengo ninguna idea preconcebida de Oviedo. Tengo entendido que es un lugar tranquilo y eso es justo lo que necesito. También estoy listo viajar más profundamente en el noroeste de este país.



The past is knowledge, the present our mistake

And the future we always leave too late;

I wish we'd come to our senses and see there is no truth

In those who promote the confusion for this ever changing mood

San Sebastian

Posted on June 26, 2016 at 2:15 PM

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I’m in a country within a country. There is a clear feeling of having crossed a border into another realm even though the Basque Country (Pais Vasco) still politically remains part of Spain. Euskera. That’s what they speak here. And no one outside of Pais Vasco understands it. No one even understands the origins of the language. Linguists know it to be an ancient tongue, perhaps harking back to pre-Latin times. Going into a cafe and listening to the locals reminds me of the holidays of my childhood when I occasionally walked into a village shop in some remote corner of North Wales and heard incomprehensible babble. Clever souls that they are it seems everyone also speaks Spanish and a bit of English. The French border is very close so I dare say French is widely spoken too.


If I was a Spanish citizen I might be upset at the thought of one day losing Pais Vasco to independence. San Sebastian (Donostia) is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. It has three beaches, each with a different character, and my hostal was situated right on top of Zurriola Beach, famous for its rolling surf. The people are friendly and welcoming. The food is outstanding. The architecture, though on much less grand a scale than larger Spanish cities, is elegant and the city is vibrant and easy to navigate. If you’re a sun worshipper you might not be enamoured by a climate that’s cooler and wetter than the tropical Spain of the costas but I found it perfect. A paradise then for surfers, foodies, photographers, culture vultures. In fact, a paradise. Full stop.


It’s general election day here in Spain. They’ve had a hung parliament for six months after last December’s election failed to produce a clear winner. Thankfully the political problems here in Pais Vasco are consigned to the past and the area now enjoys a degree of devolved power. Certainly Donostia seems to be a city at peace with its place in the scheme of things.


I shall move on tomorrow with some reluctance.


Estoy en un país dentro de un país. Existe una clara sensación de haber cruzado una frontera en otro reino a pesar de que el País Vasco (País Vasco) todavía políticamente sigue siendo parte de España. Euskera. Eso es lo que hablan aquí. Y nadie fuera del País Vasco entenderlo. Nadie logra entender los orígenes de la lengua. Los lingüistas saben que es una lengua antigua, tal vez evocando tiempos de pre-latinas. Al entrar en un cafetería y escuchando a la gente del lugar me recuerda a las vacaciones de mi infancia, cuando de vez en cuando entré en una tienda del pueblo en un rincón remoto del norte de Gales y oído balbuceo incomprensible. Como personas inteligentes también ellos hablan español y un poco de Inglés. La frontera francesa está muy cerca, así me atrevo a decir francesa es ampliamente hablado demasiado.


Si yo era un ciudadano español que yo podría ser molesto ante la idea de perder un día País Vasco a la independencia. San Sebastián (Donostia) es una de las ciudades más bonitas que he visitado. Tiene tres playas, cada una con un carácter diferente, y mi hostal estaba situado justo encima de la playa de Zurriola, famoso por su oleaje. La gente es amable y acogedor. La comida es excepcional. La arquitectura, aunque con mucho menos gran escala de las grandes ciudades españolas, es elegante y la ciudad es vibrante y fácil de navegar. Si usted es un amante del sol puede ser que no enamorado de un clima más fresco y más húmedo que el España tropical de las costas, pero me pareció perfecto. Pues, un paraíso para los surfistas, amantes de la cocina, fotógrafos, amantes de la cultura. De hecho, un paraíso. Punto.


Es el día de las elecciones generales en España. Han tenido ninguno parlamento durante seis meses después de las elecciones del pasado mes de diciembre no logró producir un claro ganador. Afortunadamente los problemas políticos aquí en el País Vasco son en el pasado y la zona que ahora goza de un grado de poder descentralizado. Ciertamente Donostia parece ser una ciudad en paz con su lugar en el esquema de las cosas.


Voy a salir mañana con cierta reticencia.



"De una tierra que se pierde en sueños"

Photos part 1

Posted on June 25, 2016 at 2:15 PM

More images can be seen at my Facebook page - The Art of Derek Dohren

Day 5: Tarragona to San Sebastian

Posted on June 25, 2016 at 8:55 AM

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I’ve become one of those annoying people on trains. No, not the type who yells into his mobile phone for 45 minutes, but the more passive aggressive irritant – the one who gets his laptop out and starts ‘working’. I’m typing this as I sit in coach number 4, seat 4a, on my way by rail from Tarragona to San Sebastian. I’m hoping the people around me think I’m doing important stuff so I’m taking great care every now and then to pause and glance thoughtfully out of the window. It adds to the persona.

And as I peer through that grimy window I’ve noticed a sea-change in the landscape. It’s slowly greening up as I get further north. There were even a few spots of rain last night in Tarragona and according to this morning’s weather forecast it’ll be raining properly by the time I arrive in Pais Vasco (the Basque Country) around lunchtime. San Sebastian is one of the more eagerly anticipated stops on this tour. I’ve seen and heard a lot about how wonderful it is. Even the promise of rain sounds enticing. Already, after barely a few weeks of Andalusian summer, the thought of walking in cooling rain feels almost exotic to me.

Final thoughts on Tarragona then. As with Cartagena, I think it took me a while to get the true vibe of the place. During late afternoon I had been feeling exhausted but a couple of hours on the beach fixed me right up. Then, late last night as I wandered around the old quarter, I think I really tuned into the place. It seemed at least half the town’s population had gathered in the myriad bars, cafes and restaurants. Many of them (of all ages), were dressed in sweat soaked ‘castelleros’ costumes looking as if they had been through some punishing training work and were now enjoying their well-earned refreshment. A lovely carefree atmosphere suffused the whole place and it left me feeling very warm towards Tarragona.

I’m beginning to see that all I can do on this trip is dip my toes into the cultural waters of each region. A day or two can only give a taste of what really lies beneath. That’s fascinating enough in its own way and I’m content to walk around and take my photographs for now. I imagine that after I return home the passage of time will draw me back to one or two of these places for further adventures. We’ll see.

I see most of the people around me are now asleep so I think it’s time to close the laptop down. I’ll just look out of the window for a bit. No sign of any rain just yet.


Me he convertido en una de esas personas molestas en los trenes. No, no es el tipo que grita en su teléfono móvil durante 45 minutos, pero el irritante más agresiva pasiva - el que se lleva a cabo su ordenador portátil y se inicia 'trabajar'. Estoy escribiendo esto mientras estoy sentado en el entrenador número 4, el asiento 4a, en mi camino por el carril de Tarragona a San Sebastián. Estoy esperando que las personas que me rodean piensan que estoy haciendo cosas importantes, así que estoy teniendo mucho cuidado de vez en cuando para hacer una pausa y mirar cuidadosamente por la ventana. Se suma a la personalidad.


Y como me asomo por la ventana sucia que he notado un cambio radical en el paisaje. Es más ecológica poco a poco mientras que llegue más al norte. Hubo incluso un par de gotas de lluvia de anoche en Tarragona y de acuerdo con el pronóstico del tiempo de esta mañana que va a estar lloviendo adecuadamente en el momento que llego a País Vasco (Euskadi) en torno a la hora del almuerzo. San Sebastián es una de las paradas más esperados en esta gira. Yo he visto y oído mucho acerca de lo maravilloso que es. Incluso la promesa de lluvia suena tentador. Ya, después de apenas unas pocas semanas del verano andaluz, la idea de caminar en la lluvia de enfriamiento se siente casi exótico para mí.


Consideraciones finales sobre Tarragona entonces. Al igual que con Cartagena, creo que me tomó un tiempo para conseguir el verdadero ambiente del lugar. Durante la tarde me había estado sintiendo agotado pero un par de horas en la playa me fijo derecho hacia arriba. Entonces, ayer por la noche cuando yo caminaba por el casco antiguo, creo que realmente sintonicé con el lugar. Parecía al menos la mitad de la población del pueblo se había reunido en los bares, cafeterías y multitud de restaurantes. Muchos de ellos (de todas las edades), estaban vestidos empapados en sudor trajes de los 'castelleros', pareciendo como si hubieran sido a través de algún trabajo de formación castigar y ahora estaban disfrutando de su refresco bien ganado. Un ambiente despreocupado precioso impregnado todo el lugar y que me dejó sentirse bien en dirección a Tarragona.


Estoy empezando a ver que todo lo que puedo hacer en este viaje es sumergir mis dedos de los pies de las aguas culturales de cada región. Uno o dos días sólo puede dar una idea de lo que realmente hay debajo. Eso es lo suficientemente fascinante en su propio camino y estoy contenta con pasear y tomar mis fotografías por ahora. Me imagino que después de regresar a casa el paso del tiempo me va a sacar de nuevo a uno o dos de estos lugares para nuevas aventuras. Ya veremos.


Veo la mayoría de las personas que me rodean están ahora dormidos, así que creo que es hora de cerrar el ordenador portátil abajo. Voy a mirar por la ventana para un poco. No hay señales de ninguna lluvia por el momento.

"Let's be optimistic, let's say we won't toil in vain

If we pull together, we'll never fall apart again"


Posted on June 24, 2016 at 11:15 AM

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I checked into the wrong hotel by mistake yet the receptionist booked me in, having seemingly confirmed my booking in her records. She made some disapproving comment about Brexit as she checked my passport. Finally she gave me my room key, first floor, number 103. It turned out to be the wrong key.


When I walked back down to reception, tired and annoyed, she told me I was in fact at the wrong hotel. She then asked for the key back.


The right hotel was on the next block. No, I don’t know why she checked me in.


Welcome to Tarragona then.


La Bandera de Tarragona

Me registré en el hotel equivocado por error, sin embargo, la recepcionista me reservó en, aparentemente habiendo confirmado mi reserva en ella registros. Ella hizo un comentario desaprobación acerca de Brexit mientras revisaba mi pasaporte. Finalmente ella me dio mi llave de la habitación, primera planta, número 103. Resultó ser la llave equivocada.


Cuando caminaba de vuelta a la recepción, cansado y molesto, ella me dijo que yo era, de hecho, en el hotel equivocado. Ella entonces pidió la llave de volver.


El correcto hotel estaba en la siguiente manzana. No, no sé por qué ella me registró.


Benvingut a Tarragona.



Posted on June 23, 2016 at 1:15 PM



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At the charismatic yet slightly menacing Mestalla stadium

I can’t imagine there are many better ways for the first time visitor to arrive in Valencia than to walk out of El Estació Del Nord into the brilliant early evening summer sunshine. What an absolutely stunning moment. The preamble into the station had given no clues. As our train had decelerated through out of town industrial estates and then swathes of regulation apartment blocks my only thought was to anxiously wonder how difficult it was going to be to find my hotel.


All that was forgotten as I stood gaping at the junction of Carrer de Xativa and Avenida del Marques de Sotelo. Perhaps I’d merely become accustomed to living in a relatively small city? Whatever, I felt like a country boy taking his first steps into the big metropolis as I wheeled my suitcase down the Avenida, eyes pulled constantly upwards to stare at the magnificent buildings. So many things to see, so many people, and so much traffic!


Though I found the hotel quickly it was a bit of a disappointment. It had seemed a ridiculously cheap price for such a central location and now I understood why. It was an almost comic parody of clunky plumbing, gloomy décor, and unpleasant looking stains so I quickly got back out onto the street to explore further. I had my first Valencian paella and that certainly didn’t disappoint.


After a couple of hours a kind of fatigue set in, the kind you get when you visit a museum or art gallery. There’s only so much you can take in and one magnificent building starts to look just like another. Enough for day one.


Next day I took in architecture of an entirely different kind. In the afternoon I visited the art and science park. Nowadays it seems that technological advances mean that the only limit to what fanciful ideas can be turned into buildings lies with the architect’s own imagination. These buildings were bizarre and well worth visiting. I felt like I was on the set of a science fiction film as I strolled in amongst them. My only issue there was that though they look amazing at first glance, when you are close up to them the build quality seems a little shoddy. I don’t imagine they’ll last anywhere near as long as Valencia’s more classical buildings. But then maybe that’s not the point of them? They’re a kind of architectural fast food. Great fun but ultimately unsatisfying. When I left the park I didn’t really feel that I’d ever want to go back.


Earlier in the day I’d visited another keenly anticipated venue. As any true football fan will tell you real football stadium gems of the beautiful game are not necessarily the Wembleys and Bernabeus of this world. Such stadia may be the hubris of corporate patrimony but if we’re talking about iconic arenas of the sport you need look no further than Liverpool’s Anfield, Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion and Valencia CF’s Mestalla. Whatever success these clubs have achieved over the years has been built on the passionate support of their fans rather than the chequebook (additional cash always helps of course).


The Mestalla was truly awesome. Even on a quiet summer evening, with club football temporarily halted for the duration, the stadium exuded an enormous, and not altogether benign charisma. It wasn’t particularly easy to find, nestling as it does in the suburb that gives it its name. Yet when I finally stumbled across it it seemed to rise vertically from nowhere, and rise on up forever. I can’t vouch for those who have no interest in football. Amongst the magnificence of what Valencia has to offer the stadium visit was my personal highlight. That, and the food. I'll finish off my visit to Valencia with another paella tonight.


I shall miss this place.


No me puedo imaginar que hay muchas formas mejores para la visita por primera vez para llegar en Valencia que salir de El Estació Del Nord en el brillante sol de la tarde de verano. Qué absolutamente impresionante momento. El preámbulo a la estación había dado ninguna pista. A medida que el tren se había desacelerado a través de los polígonos industriales de la ciudad y luego bloques de apartamentos ordinarios mi único pensamiento fue preguntarse con ansiedad lo difícil que iba a ser encontrar mi hotel.


Todo lo que quedó en el olvido mientras me puse de pie y miré en el cruce de la calle de Xàtiva y la avenida del Marqués de Sotelo. Tal vez me había convertido en más que acostumbrado a vivir en una ciudad relativamente pequeña? Lo que sea, me sentí como un niño del campo dando sus primeros pasos en la grande metrópolis como empujé mi maleta por la Avenida, ojos sacaron constantemente hacia arriba para mirar a los magníficos edificios. Tantas cosas que ver, por lo que muchas personas, y tanto el tráfico!


Aunque el hotel me pareció rápidamente, que era un poco decepcionante. Le había parecido un precio ridículamente barato para una ubicación tan céntrica y ahora yo entendí por qué. Fue una parodia casi cómica de fontanería torpe, decoración lúgubre, y las manchas de aspecto desagradable así que rápidamente giré vuelta a la calle para explorar aún más. Tuve mi primera paella valenciana y que sin duda no me decepcionó.


Después de un par de horas en una especie de fatiga fijado en el, del tipo que se obtiene cuando se visita un museo o galería de arte. Hay sólo tanto que uno puede tomar en y uno magnífico edificio comienza a parecer como otro. Suficiente para que el primer día.


Al día siguiente tomé en la arquitectura de un tipo completamente diferente. Al día siguiente tomé en la arquitectura de un tipo completamente diferente. Por la tarde visité el parque de arte y la ciencia. Hoy en día parece que los avances tecnológicos hacen que el único límite a lo que ideas fantasiosas se pueden convertir en edificios recae en la propia imaginación del arquitecto. Estos edificios eran extraño y bien vale la pena visitar. Me sentí como si estuviera en el set de una película de ciencia ficción, mientras yo paseaba en entre ellos. Mi único problema era que, aunque tienen un aspecto increíble a primera vista, cuando estás cerca a ellos la calidad de construcción parece un poco de mala calidad. No creo que van a durar ni de lejos tan larga como los edificios más clásicos de Valencia. ¿Pero entonces tal vez eso no es el punto de ellos? Son un tipo de comida rápida arquitectura. Muy divertido, pero en última instancia insatisfactorio. Cuando salí del parque realmente no me sentí que me gustaría volver jamás.


Más temprano en el día que yo había visitado otro lugar yo había anticipado mucho. Como cualquier buen aficionado al fútbol le dirá reales gemas estadio de fútbol del hermoso juego no son necesariamente los Wembleys y Bernabeus de este mundo. Tales estadios pueden ser el resultado de la arrogancia del patrimonio corporativo, pero si estamos hablando de escenarios emblemáticos de este deporte es necesario mirar no más allá de Anfield de Liverpool, Westfalenstadion del Borussia Dortmund y la Mestalla del Valencia CF. Cualquiera que sea el éxito de estos clubes han logrado en los últimos años se ha construido en el apasionado apoyo de sus aficionados en lugar de la chequera (dinero en efectivo adicional siempre ayuda, por supuesto).


El Estadio de Mestalla era verdaderamente impresionante. Incluso en una noche de verano tranquilo, con el fútbol de los clubs detenido temporalmente por la duración, el estadio exudaba una enorme, y no del todo benigna, carisma. No era especialmente fácil de encontrar, como lo hace enclavado en el barrio que le da su nombre. Sin embargo, cuando finalmente me encontré con lo que parecía elevarse verticalmente desde la nada, y se levanta para siempre. No puedo dar fe de los que no tienen interés en el fútbol. Entre la magnificencia de lo que Valencia tiene para ofrecer la visita estadio era mi más destacado personal. Eso, y la comida. Voy a terminar mi visita a Valencia con otra paella de esta noche.


Echaré de menos este lugar.

Joaquin Rodrgio - Aranjuez, first movement


Cartagena a Valencia: "A game of two halves, Jeff."

Posted on June 22, 2016 at 5:05 AM


“Un juego de dos mitades, Jeff.” (referencia a futbol Inglés)


desplazarse a español


So that was Cartagena then. I’m left with mixed feelings. To use a football analogy it was like the opening game of a major tournament that you’ve looked forward to for ages. You sit through all the preliminaries then watch the game. And you wonder why you bothered. They’re always dull affairs aren’t they? Usually 1:0 to the hosts and both sides going at it half throttle.


No, that’s a bit harsh. There was a small sense of anti-climax I have to say, but there were mitigating circumstances. Firstly, by the time I arrived I was exhausted. Yesterday was a long day and truth be told I hadn’t yet shrugged off the frazzle of work. Secondly, I like to explore places on foot getting my bearings as I go, but unfortunately I spent an hour and a half slowly walking out of the city, heading north instead of south. I know. It hardly seems possible. And no, I never thought to ask anyone where I was because I’m a bloke.


By the time I’d extricated myself from a less salubrious part of town and refuelled with a drink and some food Cartagena was fighting a losing game.


Things did pick up in the second half. It was as if Cartagena threw on some star players for the last twenty minutes. I felt reinvigorated this morning in the short time I had before catching my train out of here and felt a lot more positive about the place.


In other news I had a terrible problem here with the accent. No one could understand me and vice versa. A waitress in a cafe had to call for help because I asked for a cup of tea.


I believe had I allowed myself more time here I’d have seen it in a better light. But there you go. There’s no time to linger and I move on to destination number 2, Valencia! It’s the spiritual home of paella. It sounds like my kind of place.


De modo que fuera Cartagena. Me quedo con una mezcla de sentimientos. Para usar una analogía de fútbol fue como el primer partido de un torneo importante que usted ha estado esperando por edades. Uno se sienta a través de todos los preliminares a continuación, ver el partido. Y uno se pregunta por qué te molestaba. Siempre les están partidos aburridos. Normalmente 1:0 a los hospedadores y ambas partes va en ello la mitad del acelerador.


No, eso es un poco duro. Había una pequeña sensación de anticlímax, tengo que decir, pero había circunstancias atenuantes. En primer lugar, en el momento en que llegué me estaba agotado. Ayer fue un día largo y a decir verdad todavía no había terminado de pensar de trabajo. En segundo lugar, me gusta explorar lugares a pie conseguir orientarme como voy, pero por desgracia me pasé una hora y media caminando lentamente fuera de la ciudad, en dirección norte en lugar del sur. Lo sé. No parece posible. Y no, nunca pensé que pedirle a nadie dónde estaba porque soy un tío.


En el momento en que me había liberé de una parte menos salubres de la ciudad y tomado una bebida y algo de comida Cartagena estaba luchando un juego perdido.


Las cosas se mejoró en la segunda mitad. Era como si Cartagena lanzó en algunos jugadores de estrellas para los últimos veinte minutos. Me sentía revitalizado esta mañana en el poco tiempo que yo tenía antes de coger el tren fuera de aquí y sentí mucho más positivo sobre el lugar.


En otras noticias que tenía un terrible problema aquí con el acento. Nadie podía entender y viceversa. Una camarera en un café tenía que llamar para ayuda porque pedí una taza de té.


Creo que tenía me he permitido más tiempo aquí entonces me he visto en una luz mejor. Pero hay que ir. No hay tiempo para descansar porque voy al destino número 2, Valencia! Es el hogar espiritual de la paella. Suena como mi tipo de lugar.


"Strange what desire can make foolish people do."