Foreign Correspondence – August 2013

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Foreign Correspondence – August 2013

From Europe:

Hello to everyone at St Aidans,

Sorry we didn’t ‘correspond’ last month but we have had a very busy time since we last wrote.  Having packed all our extra luggage into boxes to be shipped home, we prepared the Château for the arrival of its American owners who spend their 2 month summer vacation here. Leaving our ‘home in France’ was a little sad as it has been such a wonderful experience living there and we had made good friends.

However farewells done we left for new experiences in Portugal and Spain. The reason for our trip to Lisbon and Porto in Portugal was the Rotary International Convention. Convention is always a big event and at Lisbon there were 17,000 attendees from all over the globe. For us it is meeting up with Rotary friends, listening to amazing speakers and sharing ideas with people from around the world that makes Rotary conventions a great experience.  We managed to also enjoy the sights of Lisbon. It is a beautiful city with wide leafy boulevards, historic buildings, a myriad of eating places and friendly people.

After the Convention we went north to Porto and spent a very full four days exploring this second city of Portugal. A day trip up the Douro River, visiting vineyards that make port (and tasting as well!), learning about Portugal’s wealth of history (remember Vasco da Gama) and enjoying wonderful food made this a memorable trip.

From the north of Portugal we travelled with very good friends from David’s Rotary club in Northcote to the south of Spain for our first trip to magical Andalusia. Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga had one thing in common – the heat! It was HOT so we explored and did sightseeing in the morning, had a siesta after lunch and then went out in the early evening to enjoy the cooler part of the day.

Andalusia is full of Moorish history from the times when the Moors ruled this part of Spain for 300 years.  The two places that stood out for us were the Mesquita in Cordoba and La Alhambra in Granada. The magnificence of these buildings is hard to describe – the architects, the artisans of the time have left a great legacy for the world to enjoy. The Mesquita was built in the 10th century (about 960) as a mosque. It is huge and originally had over 1200 pillars. When the Christians over ran and defeated the Moors, the centre of the Mesquita was demolished and a cathedral built between the remaining 890 pillars. It is used as a Christian place of worship but is surrounded by the pillars and decorations of a mosque. We found it a spiritual building that two faiths had used to worship their God.

The Alhambra is better known and it is visited by thousands of people every year. It was a palace with beautiful gardens. The Moorish architecture with its  exquisite carvings in the stone, decorated ceilings, the use of water in fountains and ponds – so much beauty in one place. Both places showcase the magnificence of the Moorish empire during its reign in Spain.

At the time of writing we are travelling in the UK, visiting friends and family from the Scottish Highlands down to the coast of Cornwall. We will spend a few days in Paris and back at the Château before beginning the long trip back to Auckland. We have had an amazing experience but it is now time to return to our family and friends.

We are looking forward to seeing you all back at St Aidans.

Until then

Best wishes from Liz and David