Sunday, 22 December 2013

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Well it's been a very wet few days and more to come apparently.  In fact I don't think I've seen such rain since, well since San Cristóbal de las Casas.

It all started off so well.

Lovely hotel. This is the sight that greets you after check in. An old colonial house around a courtyard now converted into a hotel.

Alas it was not to last. It was the tail end of the rainy season and we'd been very luck so far with the weather. The first strange thing we noticed about St Cristobal was the very deep curbs. The pavements were a good 10 inches or more above the roads.

The reason for this soon became clear- the heavens opened and the roads flooded in a downpour of tropical proportions. Within minutes every bit of that depth was needed as the streets became a river....

....fortunately the rain soon eased off and the floods disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

 San Cristóbal is the cultural capital of Chiapas and is very Spanish in it's layout and ambiance. It also has a very nice street market. They are obviously used to the rain. For me it was a chance to try out the waterproof "raincoat" I'd bought for the camera.

Despite the Spanish influence, there is still a lot of the original culture left - this is a common way for the local women to carry things.

There were some surprises though. This church, well out of town and up a long flight of steps had a neon altar piece. Never seen anything like it!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Right on the doorstep

The days are short now and the weather was poor so we thought we'd stay fairly local.

Only lived in this area now for 10 years but still never quite got around to visiting our local piece of woodland. To be honest I only found out about it  a few months ago and then by a chance conversation. To be fair it wasn't given a great write up so I wasn't expecting much and it wasn't a great priority.

However today seemed a good chance to go and see it...

Well it was bigger than I'd expected and I'd no idea it was actually a hillfort. And right on the doorstep too... rather embarrassing really but never mind.

It's a small one  just a single circuit of ramparts for enclosure and defence but is still a  Scheduled Ancient Monument despite being damaged by quarrying and mining.

A small stream runs between it and Stephan's Vale. I don't think this bridge is the original structure though somehow...

The waterfall in Stephan's Vale was a lovely surprise too. The path down to it was wet and muddy and looked steep and slippery so that is saved for another day.

It is apparently carpeted in bluebells and other woodland flowers in the spring.

And to round off a day or surprises, a rather out of season thorn. I guess it is a little confused by the mild weather we've been having.

Well it may have taken me 10 years to find the place but I think a return visit in the spring will be essential to enjoy the bluebells and other woodland flower. I certainly won't be waiting a decade to go back!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Devilish Fun

A nice day for a short walk. It's been too  long since we went to Wales so that was my criteria for the day. Well I can't have been
paying much attention when I agreed or I'd have realised that whilst I would indeed be going into Wales- I'd be coming almost straight back out again!

Today's objective was the Devil's Pulpit in the Wye valley. What I'd failed to appreciate was that we'd be on the wrong side of the Wye....

An easy and mostly level walk from the car park, the views from the top are just stunning.  Looking across into Wales that is Tintern Abbey on the banks of the Wye

The Pulpit itself. The legend has it that the Devil sat here and tried to tempt the monks away from their duties in the Abbey. Whether he was successful or not who can tell. it certainly commands a perfect view of the Abbey.

On the opposite side of the path were a few steps leading down to this ancient yew. The area has been extensively quarried for it's limestone but for some reason they decided to let this yew be.

The roots are completely  entwined through a pillar of rock. Quite amazing and a very venerable old yew this is.

There were plenty of other yews around as well and it was lovely to see these huge old trees left to stand. They were joined by oak, beech and hazel trees, so unlike the cheerless ranks of the Forestry Commission's  telegraph pole plantations.

Can you see the dragon's head?

We opted to walk a little further along Offa's Dyke to enjoy the views before circling back to the car park and down into Brockweir for lunch ( excellent pub there  - can definitely recommend!)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Visiting the Zapotecs again

After the visit to Monte Alban which was the "capital" of the Zapotechs, it was time to visit Mitla which was the chief religious site. Mitla means "place of the dead" was built around 100 B.C. and occupied until 1521 when the Spaniards arrived.

Mitla is best known for the stunning geometric patterns made out of mosaic. I can certainly understand how the weaver we met is inspired to recreate them on his loom.

This room, called the Hall of Columns, leads through a narrow passageway to the interior of the building which was, according to indigenous sources, the residence of the powerful oracle-priest, called “The Great Seer”

 Inside the heart of the complex four rooms lead off. These are richly decorated with complex and beautifully worked mosaics. Such skill was used that they line up perfectly, no fudging at the corners needed.
Inside the residential areas there are remains of paintings along the top of the walls in a complex frieze. Although little remains, what does has been decoded to show that it is an astronomical record of what happened both in the skies and to the population.

Closer view.

The range of patterns in stone were incredible and nowhere else in Mexico has them.

One of the main squares leading up to the Hall of Columns. The walls are believed to have originally been covered in red stucco so some of this has been reinstated to give an impression of just how bright and colourful the complex must have been.
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