Granada On

About Granada, Spain: tips and tricks for the urban explorer, extended visitor or people simply living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

(This is a review I posted to Amazon Kindle about this book, I liked it enough that I thought it also belonged here – go buy the book)

A confession, I bought this particular book on Granada because I had visited the city previously and attended a conference hosted by the author to whom I struck up a relationship. Since I knew he had written a guide I purchased that when I returned here on a holiday. There is a natural bias towards someone we know as a friend which I feel is now mitigated by this confession.

Granada On is not a guidebook in the traditional sense of the word. There is no index of places to eat and no direct listing of places to visit with accompanying scaled down aged stock artwork. If you are looking for a book to tell you exactly what you should look at and where, then Lonely Planet et al. have a guidebook for you.

Granada On is so much more than that. It is a history, a passion, a conversation. Juan takes us on a journey flicking between the history of the city, region and country and his own experiences. We meet him as a child and share his early understandings and return with him as an adult to re-visit those memories.

We wander, we meander, we stroll around the city not as a tourist looking for the trappings of some common experience, but as friends, as lovers sharing a passion for this beautiful location.

In his fluid writing style Juan encourages us to meander as much through the book as we would the city. Jump in and around its sections as you prepare to visit and while you are here. This guidebook will help you appreciate the reasons for why the city is as we see it today.

Unlike other books Juan will also take you on a personal, and reflective, stroll along streets literally laced with art. He discusses the graffiti (of which he is a huge fan) and the mindset of the people who created the magnificent city you are in.

To an English ear the prose is clearly from someone whose first language is not English. In this book that is a genuine plus. The writing is clear and fluid, Juan is an accomplished writer in English, but its structure and word choices are not standard they come from a more musical tongue and the rhythm and metre of the sentences match a pseudo-romance tongue.

This lyrical use of English adds to the books genuine authenticity, its conversational tone from a local, you could be walking down a cobbled road awaiting the next reveal of architecture, or a personal anecdote, or a cultural trinket. Juan helped me to picture the places, to feel and experience them, without even being there.

But Granada On, it is a ridiculously low price, and read it, dip into it, and use it to guide you around Granada. It will prepare you for the attitude best taken on visiting this region, reveal trinkets and details only a local would know (and even some details that they are oblivious to). Then, when you return or move on, return to it again and relive being here.

(Visited Granada in 2015 and 2017)

Note Bene: While visiting Granada this year we had the luxury of spending some time with Juan and his wife (and if my memory wasn’t a sieve I would recall her name). It was then that we discovered the real source of Granada history as he was corrected about his local knowledge from a real expert :).*

  • He got one small fact about a fountain incorrect when talking to us and was swiftly corrected :).

Chicago Hates Me

1st June 2013
Over the Atlantic near Canada

This morning I awoke at four forty to start the long day of travel that would see me arrive at Austin, Texas for this years YEt Another Perl Conference, North America. The journey would be a drive to the airport, Manchester, an eight hour flight to Chicago, a three hour stop over, and then a three hour flight to Austin.

Things started so well. The drive was clear as it was six in the morning, the weather was fair and roads empty.

I got to the airport and it took almost two hours to get past the check in desks and baggage drop off due to the seemingly non working luggage conveyors. Though I overheard a conversation which indicated they did in fact work and someone had just turned them off for some reason.

Anyway security was mostly empty as everyone was stuck at check in and baggage drop so the day seemed to get better again. But, I was elated too soon.

You see Chicago hates me.

Last year flying back from Chicago after YAPC we hit storms, the flight was cancelled, we had a ten hour wait at Chicago, then slept over in Chicago then flew the next day to Dallas and then flew to the UK that evening and arrived home two days late.

I am on the plane writing this. We are not flying directly to Chicago as planned. We are flying to Bangor first so we will have enough fuel to circle around Chicago as the are storms at Chicago.

Once again I am getting delays and I have no idea how this affects my connecting flights…because…Chicago hates me…

…or maybe it loves me and this is a way of getting me to spend more time there.

1st June 2013
At the airport lounge

Arrived in Chicago eighty minutes late, thankfully there was a four hour window between my flights as the immigration – customs – baggage – change terminal – TSA and security dance was again too much fun.

But it looks as if my connecting flight is on time so I have a good thirty minutes to relax before moving on to the next stage of the long haul to Texas.

Another Kindness of Strangers

18 May 2013
On a train from Paris to Marne le Vallee

I am sat here wondering how, aside from using it in the title of this piece, I can work in the line from the Tenesse Williams play:

“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

I guess I just did.

I am in Paris, home to the maligned Parisians, who some would have you believe are the most arrogant citizens in Europe. Some of those who hold that belief are British so the hypocrisy is thoroughly on display as I think we English hold records in the stuff.

I don’t hold that belief about Parisians or the French in general. Aside from knowing many nice French people I have also stayed in Paris more than once and find them easily as polite, if not more so, than Londoners.

So I guess I shouldn’t visit London for a while.

Today was a typical example. We have two small children and are hopping buses in Paris. We have had people help us onto the buses with the pram. Hold open doors. And the one moment than strikes the best, sat waiting at a bus stop and a gentleman gave Ben and Elliott a banana to share.

I don’t rely on the kindness of strangers. I usually plan ahead. But I do so like it when I experience it.

This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.

Today’s fun image

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Holy duck look at the size of the crack in the windscreen of the taxi I am in.

This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.

Journeys and Words

I have found myself writing on journeys again, this is an encouraging sign. I have left it too long in between writing and thinking about things. I am not even sure if I care who even reads what I write, it is the action of doing it that has become important to me, especially since I have found less time to write creatively of late.

The current writing I have been undertaking has all been non fiction, and less opinion pieces. More general news items for specific purposes.

So writing, even if it is just to my journal, feels liberating.

Happily in Happy Mount

We got back from a fortnight of traveling yesterday in which several countries were passed through[1] and several theme parks also[2]. We had a great time but now we are safely back home and in our home environment.

Today is turning out to be a bit of a scorcher, sun is out, sky is mostly blue and the kids need airing and entertaining, so we have come to Morecambe and Happy Mount Park.

A little of the Park’s recent history
A few years ago Lancaster and Morecambe Council in their infinite wisdom decided to run a deal with the bouncy-blond-basta… Television personality Noel Edmonds and build a theme park in Morecambe. So they cut a beautiful park in half and built Blobbyland. It was a total, expensive, failure.

The people of the district were not happy. They never wanted such a silly thing and it had destroyed a once magnificent public space. The fiasco meant there was less funds for parks available.

But the council and the people of Morecambe were not to be beaten.

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and some local representatives who would listen, time (quite a considerable amount of it and it is still on going) and some money was put back into the park. The result is the space we now have.

Happy Mount Park is once again a treasure for the local area and people. A large space with several free park areas for children of varying ages and some low cost areas as well.

Free:

  • The grounds and gardens
  • The Adventure play area
  • The fields and forest walks
  • The Splash Park (which is awesome)
  • The small park
  • Tennis Courts

Low cost (prices where known):

  • Pitch and Putt
  • Deckchair hire
  • Bowling
  • Racket Hire
  • Large Swings (2 pounds)
  • Under 7s park (1 pound per child) – filled with cars and tractors and bicycles and enclosed within a gated area
  • Train – three loops for one pound per rider

Happy Mount also has a cafe which has a children’s soft play area where parties and events can be held in a comfortable space.

As I previously mentioned a large amount of the maintenance of the park and its evolution has been a partnership between the local authorities and the volunteers of the region. This has led to a wonderful park, it is a fantastic place to bring children of all ages. It is a testament to the fact of a need to have a wroking relationship between the community and the authorities where there is not just ‘having a say’ but being able to ‘make a change’. This feedback loop creates areas that are desired by both and appropriate for the greater enjoyment of everyone.

I should also say that the small cafe outside of the park, in front of the golfclub and next to the car park on the prom[3], does a mean line in low cost snacks and a great breakfast/brunch bun. Make sure you order the tea and not the coffee!

[1] We went from England to Paris, to Germany to Romania and back by various routes, some of us driving and some of us flying.

[2] Disneyland, Paris and Chessington World of Adventure were both visited.

[3] Turn left as you exit the park.

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Travel Times

I am traveling a lot during August and it is taking an inevitable toll on my life, and probably a little on my sanity. My issues are that if I travel without my wife and kids I miss them and often have very disturbed sleep because of that. I have got very used to sleeping next to someone, as aside from a period of a few months six years ago I have slept in the same bed as someone for more than two decades.

There is a lot that I gain when I travel alone, or with my usual companion Matt, to conferences and events and that is the freedom to write as I can spend periods of time with my own head. Of course I usually discover that I am still a bit of a whinging adolescent, but that’s not too bad.

Timezones can be a bit awkward, you wouldn’t think they would affect much, but if you travel at odd hours and switch an hour or two back and forth either gaining in the day or losing in a very short period the body feels jolted and cannot often function in the way you would like. I see no real cure for this, you can fake it with sleep or strong lights but for me I just take the weariness hit and once more add to my whine.

My schedule this year is a little more mental than usual:

Friday 28th July – Travel
29th July – 3rd August – Brighton and mostly caring for the kids* while wife at Summer School.
3rd August – 5th August – Drive to Paris
5th August – 7th August – Disneyland, work in the mornings for me
8th August – travel to Cluj, early flight so awake overnight so as not to disturb kids by leaving and having alarm clocks
9th August – work at Evozon and then present in the evenings, two keynotes and a lightning talk
10th August – travel home
17th August – travel to Luxembourg – leave at 3 a.m.
19th August – travel to Frankfurt
23rd August – travel home again

So I am/have been away for 3 out of 4 weeks and during those times will only get bits of work done so will incur a massive backlog.

The plus is still that I love to travel and to meet people and go to new places. I love having the time to write and I am still enough of a kid/geek that trains, planes and car journeys are exciting and wondrous to me.

Still, a bit mental…

* With grandparents assistance

Music to fly to – 1st Movement

Flying to the United States I decided to do some writing and since I wanted to drown out an odious nearby person and the drone of the planes engines (which I normally tune out from but the odious man was too irritating – ranty post to come). I therefore went to the music channel and was delighted to find some albums that intrigued me as they were by artists I wasn’t familiar with playing compositions I didn’t know that well (aside from the Liszt).

This is what I heard…

Works for Cello and Piano

Mendelsson – Watkins Brothers

http://www.classicalarchives.com/images/coverart/9/4/a/9/095115170120_300.jpg

This was a new experience for me, I have not heard many of Mendelsson’ s works done before and have never encountered the very talented Watkins Brothers. Very delightful to listen to while writing on the flight over the Atlantic.

The experience was only ruined by the imposed-by-software pause between tracks which meant that several of the multiple-movement pieces had nasty breaks in their reproduction making it jar quite horridly several times. The worst being a piece split into about five sections by track number with each piece being only a minute or so in length. Ugly cutting and easily avoidable with a fully digital reproduction and playback system, that should be a software switch.

Liszt: My Piano Hero

Lang Lang

Also heard some interesting interpretations of Liszt by the clearly talented Lang Lang, not come across this young Chinese man either though the pieces by Liszt were all familiar to me. For the most part I loved the way he had interpreted them, in fact it is an album I may have to pick up. Wonderful orchestral accompaniment, especially on Piano Concerto No. 1, by Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Interesting that the first exposure this young man had to the works of Liszt was via a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Cartoons are probably where I heard the majority of my first classical pieces. In fact T&J did a wonderful pair of ‘toons where they used Gershwin and Jazz symphonic to great effect.

 

Debussy and Ravel: Music for two Pianos

Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy

And the introductions continue as I then heard Father and Son play a magnificent series of pieces on two pianos. The synopsis states that Vladimir “the flamboyant pianist turned conductor returns to the piano alongside his son” and this is “powerful, fiery and spellbinding”. Not being familiar with either the musical pieces in question or the performers all I can say is it was breathtaking.

En Blanc et Noir (3 movements) is a brilliant introduction to these two men and is a great build into the stunning Jeux, and the rest of the album is filled with similar brilliance. A well thought out collection masterfully played. I was very delighted as neither Debussy or Ravel have been on my listening list much, I had a thing of not liking Ravel because of Torvil and Dean, so this was wonderfully new.