Bitácora de Viaje

I like to draw, I like to travel, I like to draw when I travel.  Drawing I find myself alone, even when surrounded, and at peace with my paper, my pen, and the beauty before me; time stops.  Drawing while traveling is an even better experience because each stroke of my pen is a memory of a golden afternoon leaning against an ancient wall, taking in the light, the smells, the sounds. The process of studying my subject brings me into communion with it (be it a building, a statue, a garden, a person) in a way that a click of the camera would not do, for in those precious moments in which I strike the paper with my pen, I live in beauty's space.

But woe to the person (my husband John) who travels with me and has to endure these transports!  My travel companion will either have to sit with me and draw, find entertainment elsewhere, or enjoy my company in silence, accepting the fact that I will not move until I am finished (or a rude tourist elbows me out of the way, I am looking at you, tourist from the Louvre who ruined my angle of the Venus of Milo because you needed to take a picture!).  John happens to accept the third option, he sits in silence next to me occasionally praising, occasionally pointing out that I've lost my perspective; after 10 years of this routine he has developed a critical eye for the artistic.  I sense that he likes to watch  me draw and he swells with pride when strangers stop to look and to take pictures, yes, pictures of me drawing!  Maybe John was inspired by the strangers, maybe he wanted to include me in my own picture, as I am never the subject; whichever the case may be, during our recent trip to Spain John decided to take photos of me every time I took out my leather bound journal, sometimes capturing my point of view along with my likeness:
The roof of the Generalife.  Granada, Spain.
The roof of the Generalife.  Granada, Spain.
Mirador de la Lindaraja.  The Alhambra.  Granada, Spain.
Mirador de la Lindaraja.  The Alhambra.  Granada, Spain.
The Gate of Justice.  The Alhambra.  Granada, Spain.
The Gate of Justice.  The Alhambra.  Granada, Spain.

The Great Mosque.  Cordoba, Spain.
The Great Mosque.  Cordoba, Spain.

All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach and John Lauterbach.
All work presented here is the intellectual property of Nadia Palacios Lauterbach.


Al Andalus: Granada

Calle Elvira.  Granada, Spain.

"Quiero vivir en Granada
porque me gusta de oír
la campana de la Vela
cuando me voy a dormir".
                            Gypsy song

"Granada, tierra soñada por mí" (Granada, land of my dreams) says Agustín Lara's song, and dreamed I had of walking along the waves of the Darro, of resting under the shade of the azahares, of falling asleep to the toll of La Vela.  Granada had cast a spell on my imagination and I had been there without travelling, in my grandfather's pictures, in my father's stories, in the pages of Washington Irving.

The Alhambra seen from the Albaicín.  Granada, Spain.

I first visited Granada as a student, in a whirlwind road trip of the Iberian Peninsula.  I was dazzled, by the mosaics, the marbles, the light sparkling on the fountains!  It was, as we like to say in Dear Polia, Surrealism; but our short stay in the city did not wholly satisfy the dreams that had begun as nightly fairy tales and grown into lessons in the history books and the architecture classroom.  And so it was that 10 years later I found myself once again, like many others before me drawn in her spell, at the gates of Granada.

Puerta de Elvira, Plaza del Triunfo.  Granada, Spain.
Granada is a city of monumental layers, monumental lives, monumental history.  It was settled by the Iberians who called it Elibyrge or "New Town", the Greeks colonized it in the 5th century BC, and in the 2nd century it passed under the Roman aegis as Illiberis.  After the fall of the Roman Empire Illiberis was ruled by Christian Visigothic kings and reconquered by the Eastern Roman Empire.  When the Berbers arrived in 711 (calling it Ilbira or Elvira to the remaining Christians) they encountered, on the edge of the city, the Jewish community of Gharnatah Al Yahud (Gharnatah of the Jews) and, after Ilbira's destruction in the 11th century, the community was incorporated into the new city that now came to be known simply as Gharnatah.
Carrera del Darro.  Granada, Spain.

Granada thrived under the Moors, her streets bustling with merchants from the "Silk Road",  her mines rich with gold and silver, her fields fertile thanks to the intricacy of irrigation, her air full of the smell of spices... 
El Corral del Carbón. Built in the 14th century during the Nasrid kingdom. It provided lodging to travelling merchants. Today the building houses offices for the Cultural Delegation of Andalucía, and Granada's Orchestra.
The Patio of El Corral del Carbón.
A city of monumental history, Granada became the capital of the Nasrid Empire, the last bastion against Castilla, until January 2nd of 1492, when "the bride of Al-Andalus" fell to the Catholic Monarchs Isabel of Castilla and Fernando of Aragón.  In April of 1492, under the vaults of the Alhambra, Christopher Columbus would receive a contract to search for an alternative route to the Indies, their gold, and their spices.

Tea merchants near the Cathedral. Granada, Spain.
Spice merchants near the Cathedral.  Granada, Spain.

A city of monumental layers, Granada has built and rebuilt herself throughout the centuries, weaving in the process a seamless tapestry of architectural styles: Islamic, Mudéjar, Gothic, Renaissance, Plateresque, Baroque, Churriguresque, Beaux Arts...

Granada's layers can be uncovered in the narrow streets of the Alcaiceria (the old silk market), which today still sells silk, albeit in the shape of Flamenco shawls:

shops line the streets of the Alcaiceria, in the shadow of the Cathedral.  Granada, Spain.
In the colorful streets, lined with tea houses and shops, that lead from the Calle Elvira to the Albaicín, the neighborhood at the foot of the Alhambra that served as refuge to the Moors exiled after the reconquest of Baeza:

Teterías (tea houses) and shops in the Albaicín.  Granada, Spain.

A lamp shop in the Albaicín.  Granada, Spain.

In the Arabic baths preserved within the fabric of the Albaicín:

Windows in the entrance court of the Bañuelo (Arabic baths).  Granada, Spain.

The cold room at the Bañuelo.  Granada, Spain.

Or in her civic buildings, like her monasteries:

Monastery of San Jerónimo.  Granada, Spain.
Or her churches:
The Renaissance facade of the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  Granada, Spain.

After Granada's reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs, several buildings served as her bishop's seat, including the mosque in the Alhambra and the Medina's (Moorish city) main mosque.  Granada's actual cathedral was commissioned by Queen Isabel and built on the site of the main mosque which, after many alterations to transform it into a church, had fallen into disrepair.  Work began on the church in 1523 according to designs executed by architect Enrique Egas.  Egas laid out a Gothic plan for the church (rather late in architectural history, the advances of the Renaissance having not yet reached Spain), but 5 years later the commission was transferred to architect Diego de Siloë, who had traveled through Italy and was versed in the style of the Renaissance.

Gothic elements on the side facade of the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Capilla Mayor, jewel of the Baroque.  Cathedral of the Incarnation.  Granada, Spain.
View of the nave.  Notice the Gothic proportions and vaults.  Cathedral of the Incarnation.  Granada, Spain.
Retablo (altar) in a side chapel gilded with the gold of the Indies.  Cathedral of the Incarnation.  Granada, Spain.

On the edge of the Darro river, finishing the axis of the Plaza Nueva (the "New Square", built from 1506-1515) we find the church of Santa Ana.  The church was constructed in 1501 on the site of the Aljama (mosque) Almanzra in the Mudéjar style.  Mudéjar is the name given to the Moors that remained in Al-Andalus (modern day Andalucía) after the reconquest and to their artistic style, which is characterized by intricate plaster ornamentation on walls and ceilings, colorful mosaic tiles of great design sophistication, elaborate wood carvings, and by fusing Gothic and Romanesque with their Islamic influences.  After the reconquest, the Mudéjar no longer built alminares (minarets), they instead built bell towers:

Church of Santa Ana.  Granada, Spain.
A Renaissance fornix now covers the Mudéjar horseshoe arch that once provided entrance to the church.
A view of the Plaza Nueva with the Real Cancillería on the left (today the Superior Tribunal of Andalucía) and Santa Ana's bell tower in the distance.

The church of Santa Ana witnessed the wedding of Mariana de Pineda Muñoz (1804-1831), heroine and martyr of Spanish Liberalism; she was later immortalized in a play by another of Granada's residents, the great Federico García Lorca (1898-1936 dramatist, poet, patriot, and also martyr). 

Granada has been home to many monumental lives, home to the Almohad and Nasrid kings who made in her their own version of Paradise, home to the Catholic Monarchs who chose to be buried at the site of their most precious victory, home to mystics like San Juan de Dios (1495-1550), founder of hospitals and charities; and home to poets like García Lorca (champion of the gypsies and Flamenco) and San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591).  I can't help but think that when San Juan de la Cruz wrote in his "Poem of the soul that delights in knowing God through Faith": "Qué bien se yo la fonte que mana y corre, aunque es de noche" (How well I know that fountain's rushing flow, though it is night) he was thinking not only of the eternal fountain that has no origin and is the origin of everything,  but also of the many fountains that sing in Granada.

The Royal Chapel, where Isabel of Castilla and Fernando of Aragón are buried along with their daughter (and mother of emperor Charles V) Juana "la loca" and her husband Felipe "el hermoso".
The house in the Albaicín where San Juan de Dios lived during his illness is now a museum.
The ceiling of La Cueva de María la Canastera, a cave and former dwelling in the gypsy neighborhood of the Sacromonte where ancestral traditions are kept alive.  Granada, Spain.
Gypsies of the Sacromonte.  Granada, Spain.
Patio de la Acequia (the garden of the canal) in the Generalife.  Granada, Spain.

All good things come to an end, and so it was that we bid farewell to Granada, with the hope that, like Washinton Irving, Rubén Darío, and Owen Jones before us, our sojourn in this most magical of cities made in us a lasting impression.  We left Granada forever delighted, forever changed, forever inspired...

The Alhambra seen from the Albaicín.

All images by NPL



La Costa del Sol.  Malaga, Spain.

The city of Málaga in Southern Spain is the gateway to La Costa del Sol (The Sun Coast) and the beautiful cities of Andalucía.  Most visitors jet off (train off, drive off) to Málaga and quickly make their way to the beaches of Marbella or the Museums of Granada without taking the time to explore this wonderfully layered city.

For our wedding anniversary my husband and I decided to make a wide circle around the south of Spain, but before we could experience the glory of the Al-Andalus we took in sunny, breezy Málaga, her art, her ruins, her food, her wines.

Palacio de Buenavista, which today houses the Picasso Museum.  Malaga, Spain.

Málaga was founded by the Phoenicians (ca. 770 BC) who called her Malaka, in the 6th century it passed under the rule of Carthage and from 218 BC it was ruled by the Romans.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was conquered by the Arabs (moors) who remained until the Christian "reconquista" (the reconquest) in 1487.  The layers of this history can be seen at the Palacio de Buenavista, built in the 16th century over the ruins of a Nazarí Palace (Nasrid, one of the Arab dynasties that ruled Spain) and which today houses the Picasso Museum.

Palacio de Buenavista.  Malaga, Spain.

The Buenavista Palace, once home to the Counts of Buenavista, mixes Renaissance and Plateresque elements with the Mudéjar (the style of the moors that remained in the Iberian Peninsula after the Christian reconquest).  Picasso's works and those of related artists now hang on the walls of the stately rooms.  In the basement of the Palace one can find the foundations of Phoenician towers and walls along with Roman remains and the ancient street level prior to the 16th century.

The Roman theater and the Alcazaba.  Malaga, Spain.

Early morning at the Roman theater.  Malaga, Spain.

Near the Picasso Museum more layers of history can be found: the remains of the ancient Roman theater (above) rests on the side of a hill upon which the 11th century Alcazaba (fortress) was built by King Badis, ruler of Granada.  Facing the Plaza and the Roman ruins is "El Pimpi", a very atmospheric Tapas Bar where one can taste the deliciously sweet Malaga Virgen wine.

The Plaza de la Higuera outside the Picasso Museum.  Malaga, Spain.

Malaga Virgen wine at El Pimpi.  Malaga, Spain.

No trip of ours is ever complete without a little climb, so in the early morning of the day after arriving, John and I made our way towards the hill that guards the city and visited the Alcazaba:

The Ayuntamiento (City Hall) with the Alcazaba in the back.  Malaga, Spain.

The hill path of the Alcazaba.  Malaga, Spain.

The Alcazaba.  Malaga, Spain.

Once one reaches the hill top, the Alcazaba affords wonderful views of the City and the Mediterranean Sea:

The Ayuntamiento against the Mediterranean Sea.  Malaga, Spain.

The Plaza de Toros and the modern city of Malaga.  Malaga, Spain.

The path that surrounds the Alcazaba is full of birdsong and the smell of orange trees and jasmine, which makes for a most pleasant walk.  We made our way down the hill opposite our initial climb, and happened upon the labyrinth of streets that makes up the old Judería (Jewish) quarter.

Balconies in Malaga.  Malaga, Spain.

The church of the Santo Cristo de la Salud seen from the Plaza de la Constitucion.  Malaga, Spain.

The Cathedral tower.

The Judería of Malaga is home to some truly spectacular architecture including the Iglesia de Santiago with its Mudéjar tower, Gothic exterior and Churriguresque interior:

Iglesia de Santiago.  Malaga, Spain.
The most precious of all buildings in Malaga is without doubt the Cathedral.  Occupying the site of a former mosque, it was built between 1528 and 1782; one of its towers is left unfinished, this asymmetry has earned the church the name of "La Manquita", the crippled one.

The Cathedral.  Malaga, Spain.

The Cathedral.  Malaga, Spain.

An entrance at the Cathedral.  Malaga, Spain.
The Cathedral facade with its unfinished tower.  Malaga, Spain.
Walking southeast away from the Cathedral we found the Paseo del Parque, which is lined by a beautiful park and glimpses of the port:

A further walk on the Paseo del Parque took us to La Malagueta, one of Malaga's beaches, where despite being late October the sun shone and warmed the breezes coming off the sea.

La Malagueta.  Malaga, Spain.

La Malagueta.  Malaga, Spain.
On our way back from La Malagueta we stopped by the Plaza de Toros (Bullfighting ring), the fighting season was just over but we still found a few posters advertising the Corridas.  Some of these posters can be very beautiful and after the season is over can become collector's items:

Plaza de Toros La Malagueta.  Malaga, Spain.

Corrida poster.  Malaga, Spain.

We found Malaga wonderfully pleasant, refreshingly local, and full of life, from the impromptu flamenco sessions at the Taperías (Tapas Bars), to the people lingering on the plazas, to the daily exchanges at the market:

El Mercado Atarazanas (The market).  Malaga, Spain.

Mercado Atarazanas.  Malaga, Spain.

Mercado Atarazanas.  Malaga Spain.

Jam session on the Calle de los Afligidos.

Sunday night in Malaga.  Malaga, Spain.

All images by NPL


copyright © . all rights reserved. designed by Color and Code

grid layout coding by