one step at a time…

spain: arcos de la frontera

Arcos de la Frontera, panorama, Iglesia de San Pedro

Founded by Romans as Arx-Arcis & later the capital of an independent Muslim taifa, Arcos de la Frontera entered a golden age after being taken by Christian forces in 1264. The city & surrounding area first became part of a lordship then moved up to a countdom, gradually increasing in importance. Catholic Monarchs Fernando & Isabel created the Dukedom of Arcos in 1493 for the Ponce de León family while reorganizing noble titles after their consolidation of power in Andalucía. Their grandson, Carlos V, made the Dukes & Duchesses of Arcos automatic Grandes de España in 1520… ranking just underneath any possible heirs to the throne. Amazing to think that the title is still passed down today, & that the castle on the main square continues to be their private property:

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buenos aires: domes

Buenos Aires, domes, cúpulas

Back to Buenos Aires! Well, not literally… I’m still in Spain & don’t plan on returning to Argentina any time soon. But I realized that I’ve neglected to compile & place in this blog one very popular series of posts from the past. From 2007 to be exact. In the day when my only internet presence was line of sight, I wrote one of the most widely read English-language blogs about Buenos Aires. At the same time as I researched early housing projects in the city, I also began looking up & paying attention. I began to see more domes than I’d ever noticed before, regardless of where those rambling walks took me.

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personal: mom, ten years on

Elizabeth Gae Philby, Liz Wright

How can this be? Already a decade has gone by since my mother passed away?? I thought I should write about her life after taking inspiration from a friend’s blog. My mother was a complicated woman —she gave some of that to me, no doubt— and there are many gaps in her life story that I will never know. Last month I finally finished going through ALL the old papers she saved, looked at each & every photo, read years of family correspondence & listened to endless hours of recorded conversations on cassette. I may not have a complete picture of her life, but I know more than I ever did & there’s no better moment to share her story. Buckle up.

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road trip: borders

borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal
● See enlargement below…
borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal

Whether you call it a national border or la raya, this trip had a several motivations: spend time in places Rafa & I had been individually but not together (awwww), visit new spots that are best accessed by car & see how permeable —or not— the Portugal/Spain border has been over time. We beat the heat until the last couple of days of the trip, but overall we were very lucky with weather considering the time of year. Join us for a crazy week on both sides of the border…

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elvas: forte da graça

Portugal, Elvas, Forte da Graça, SIPA

Elvas not only boasts a massive wall around the entire city that dates from the great age of fortress construction in the 1700s, but the nearby Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça also impresses from its commanding location. As a modified 400-meter (1,300 ft) mountain, the fortress could easily defend Elvas & see any invasion force coming from Spain next door. Most of the fort sits submerged into the mountaintop, making this a fantastic feat of engineering. I have no drone, but this gives you an idea of the scale:

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recipe: bacalhau à bras

Portugal, recipe, receita, bacalhau à bras, cod, bacalao

Classic recipes from any country have at least two things in common: an intensely debated origin & of course, several variations… everyone’s grandmother obviously makes the best! Since my grandmother was not Portuguese, I draw on 20 years of travel to & eating in Portugal to make their classic comfort food at home. I promise this won’t turn into a food blog, but I love to eat & cook so I wanted to share some of the dishes we regularly make.

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italy: guidebook research 2019

Italia, Italy, 2019 guidebook research, Rick Steves

The ongoing book research saga continues, but this time with an all-new destination: Italia! That’s right… a country where I don’t speak much of the language & to places I’d never visited before. Uh-oh. My mood often ran between excited & apprehensive, so to laugh about the day’s events I tweeted once daily as I tend to do. Really anything to maintain a bit of connection with the real world. Come along as I relive those crazy two & a half weeks.

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sevilla: spring blossoms

España, Sevilla, Andalucía, primavera, spring, flowers, blossoms, flores

Spring has sprung! With a mild climate for most of the year, plants love Sevilla… if they can survive the intense heat of summer. The city is filled with a huge variety of flowering plants & trees, so the winter blues disappear quickly. While this post isn’t a compendium of all we’ve got blooming now, let it inspire you to stroll the city & enjoy one of nature’s great displays.

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sevilla: heliópolis

España, Spain, Andalucía, Sevilla, Heliópolis

The 1929 Iberoamerican Exposition radically transformed the city of Sevilla, with major projects such a large public park (Parque María Luisa) & the creation of cortas (artificial canals) in the Guadalquivir River. Cortas served several important purposes: shortening the river’s course, providing a means for more rapid water flow & thereby reducing sediment deposit, allowing for better flood control, creating new port facilities & opening new land for development. Although plagued with constant delays, this new infrastructure turned Sevilla into a modern city.

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