Archive for 10/10/2014


PlayGroundology

Each summer we trek a couple of hundred kilometres to camp at Kejimkujik one of Canada’s east coast national parks. For the kids it’s an unparalleled play ecosystem – woods, water, wildlife, wonder. They always have something close at hand in the natural environment that is readily transformed into adventure.

This trip, we are tucked away in the far corner of a walk in area. The cozy comfort of familiarity is all around us. We’ve tented here several times over the years on solo family excursions and with friends. A small inlet is just down the path where rocks, a mighty old tree and gently rippling water beckon.

DSCF9583Gathering moss and lichen from old man tree

Since our last stay, old man tree is no longer reaching skyward. Cracked at the trunk and toppled, its growing days are over. But like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s story (original animation video)…

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It was late September and we had travelled to Spain for a week’s break in a farmhouse home in a remote mountainous region of innner Andalucia. Having settled in, done our first food shop and enjoyed our first evening meal by the pool we decided to make a short trip out on our first full day to the nearby village and lake of Iznajar.

Felicty enjoying our lunchtime view
Felicity enjoying our lunchtime view

Andalucia.com describes the village and area:

‘This small town of some six thousand inhabitants was transformed some years ago by the creation of an ’embalse’, or reservoir, below the promontory on which Iznajar sits in the River Genil valley. Today, to all intents and purposes, Iznajar now has a waterfront, overlooking an inland sea some thirty kilometres long, and containing an estimated 900 million cubic metres of water destined for domestic consumption…

Iznajar itself escaped the submersion that often visits towns and villages in the region of Andalucía’s controversial programme to construct more and more dams and reservoirs to serve this increasingly thirsty region. If anything, the lake below has given further resonance to its unofficial title as the Mirador (viewpoint) del Genil. Surrounding countryside and communications have been radically altered, not least by a bridge built across the reservoir near Iznajar in order to continue to carry traffic on the Archidona/Priego de Córdoba road…

The village was originally a prehistoric Iberian settlement, but flourished in the eighth century when Arab settlers, in the wake of the 711AD invasion by Tariq ibn Zayid and his Moorish armies, built a castle on the promontory and called it ‘Hins Ashar’ (hence the modern Spanish name). It became the focus of battles between various north African factions, finally being taken by the army of Abderramán III. After the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba, then the capital of Al-Andalus, it fell under the rule of the dependency of Granada. In 1431, in the reign of Catholic monarch Juan II, it was taken back by the Christian rulers, some sixty years before Granada was to fall in 1492. Iznajar gained brief notoriety in 1861 when the town supported an uprising against the monarchy, led by Rafael Perez del Alamo, with grimly predictable consequences…

The ruins of the 1,200-year-old castle are the obvious key attraction for the visitor… Parts of the fortified town walls can also be seen in the upper reaches of the town. Inside the town walls, a small square called the Patio de las Comedias suggests that, despite its defensive position, Iznajar once had a theatre culture that probably tracks back millennia… the Iglesia de Santiago church, (was) built over time during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a remarkable late addition in the form of a Baroque altar piece. The cemetery next to the church only dates back to 1806…

The most interesting barrio, district, of Iznajar is the Barrio del Coso, a labyrinth of typical whitewashed Andalucían houses dotted around a labyrinth of narrow lanes that criss-cross the promontory. As if often the case in these hill towns, the ‘lower’ part is also the newer part of town…..’

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I loved the majestic setting of this lovely village and the obvious care the residents take in looking after their private and public spaces. Having ‘mooched’ around the village in the morning and had a light tapas lunch with a splendid balcony view across the village, we moved off to the nearby ‘beach’, where we had the place almost to ourselves (that’s wife Deborah and friends Nick and Felicity). The beautiful setting, warm sunshine and water (I actually swam!) made for a relaxing beginning to our week’s adventure…

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