Being book lovers ourselves, we've put together some good reads that you may want to peruse to get a feel of the essence of this fascinating countryside before or after visiting.
Laurie Lee – “As I walked out one Midsummer Morning” , The author’s trip from North England to his months in Spain on the eve of the Spanish Civil War is a very interesting story. His other works include the sequel “A Rose for Winter”, “A Moment of War” and “Cider With Rosie”, all written in his simple but poetic writing style.
Those with interest in the Civil War era will find Paul Preston´s historical tomes on “Franco” and the “Spanish Holocaust” interesting reading or a more lighter read (fiction) is “Winter in Madrid” is set at the time of the Spanish Civil War; it’s by C. J. Ransom or Victoria Hislop – “The Return”, An easy fictional read about Granada set in various eras but mainly concerning a family living in the city and surviving the chaos of the Civil War.
Gerald Brenan – “South from Granada” - Recounting the author’s days of living in a small village in the Sierra Nevada, it is an interesting piece on the lifestyle in the 1950s of this area and Chris Stewart´s fun account of modern day living in the Alpujarras of the Sierra Nevada is also most readable (“Driving over Lemons, A Parrot in the Pepper Tree”, etc.).
Federico Garcia Lorca – Any of his plays, i.e. “Yerma” or “The House of Bernarda Alba”. Lorca is one of Spain’s most beloved poets, and was widely acclaimed in the United States and across Europe. His plays can be quite disquieting and often depressing, Lorca, who grew up in Granada has a way of seeing the society in clear terms and his plays reflect a deep significance. They are all the more poignant knowing of his murder in the Civil War repression in Granada city. Going a bit further back in time - Reconquest and Inquisition era
Amin Maalouf – “Leo the African” . Being in the city of Conquest and the famed Alhambra Palace, this book is a good fictional account of the Christian reconquest of this city and the Alhambra Palace workings. The rest of the book takes place in Morocco, where the family is displaced after the Reconquest.
Also good are Arturo Perez-Reverte´s books, “The Fencing Master”, “The Seville Communion”, etc. Reverte is Spain´s best known author of historical fiction and his books are set in a myriad of times and topics.
Aside from watching our own Maggi in the Canadian TV channel, Travel and Escape (www.travelandescape.ca) on the 6 part series in the Danakil Depression (Offbeat Roads), here are a few films which you may want to preview for cultural interest for Spain.
Pan’s Labyrinth - 2007 Oscar winner (cinematography/art direction) Director Guillermo Del Toro Ofelia, step daughter of a cruel military official during the time of Franco’s postwar repression, immerses herself in her own fairytales in her home’s garden to escape the horrible reality she is living in. A moving and emotional movie.
The Spirit of the Bee Hive – Victor Erice (1974) Made in 1974, a time when film makers could not openly express anti-Franco feelings, this beautiful portrayal of two young sisters growing up in post civil war oppression, is sensitively done. Ana, the youngest sister is mesmerized after seeing the movie Frankenstein and believes that she is able to invoke him. Again, her parent’s dysfunction, stricken with their own personal traumas, causes the children to retreat into their own imagination.
Spain’s most famous and beloved director, Pedro Almodovar has a multitude of movies that gives insight into Spain’s love of the madcap as well as their perversely dark humour. Some of his most well known are:
- Matador (1986)
- Tie me up Tie me Down (1987)
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
- Volver (2006)
Portugal has its thriving cinema as well, and here are a few to preview! A Lisbon Story (1994) by director Wim Wenders is about a movie sound engineer who is called to Lisbon in order to search for a missing director played by Patrick Bauchau, by examining the footage of the sights and sounds of the city. There is a cameo by Manoel de Oliveira in it.
For those in the States or Canada (as it is a difficult movie to find elsewhere), Portugal’s most famous director Manoel de Oliveira’s The Convent (1995) starring John Malkovich and Catherine Deneuve is an interesting story of 2 writers journeying to Portugal to research the hypothesis that Shakespeare was actually Spanish-Jewish.
All things French – Really there are such ripe pickings in order to savour, read and view on this country and its people and of course cycling, that we´ve had to restrain ourselves with this list!!
The Lion in Winter (1968) -Oscars Galore, great actors, Peter O´Toole, Catherine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins and fascinating history, what more could you want? Based roughly on the Christmas Court celebrated at Chinon in 1183 when Henry II, King of England, his sons, (inc Richard the Lionhearted) and wife, Eleanor of Acquitaine all spent time plotting against each other about the future sucession.
La Vie en Rose – Life of Iconic French singer Edith Piaf whose tune, “La Vie en Rose”, everyone will start humming when they hear you are travelling to la belle France, is depicted here by Academy Award winning actress Marion Cotillard. Cotillard became the first actress to win an Oscar for a French-speaking role.
Les Petits Ruisseaux is a French romantic film drama (2010), directed by Pascal Rabaté which has the moto, “You’re never too old to have a good time”. Emile enjoys a peaceful retirement fishing on the banks of the River Loire with his friend Edmond. Edmond dies suddenly, after telling Emile he has been leading a secret and very active love life. Realising life is short, Emile embarks on his second adolescence...
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc - The French/American 1999 film by Luc Besson captures this brutal time well. The life of Joan and her rise to become the saviour of France. Interesting if not a bit graphic and well, let´s face it history isn´t very light hearted.
“The Tudors” (Showtime – Michael Hirst) – a very popular dramatic mini series that was made in 2007 about King Henry VIII and his wives. This same theme was also undertaken with the movie, The Other Boleyn Girl (2008 – Justin Chadwick) in which outlines the true story with great fictionalization about Ann Boleyn´s sister with whom Henry VIII also had an affair with. The 1998 film, “Elizabeth” (Shekhar Kapor) is a sumptuous visual feast which tells some of the story of Elizabeth I´s reign after her sister Mary (Henry VIII´s daughter with Spanish Catherine of Aragon).
Continuing on the same Henry VIII theme, is the classic 1966 film, A Man for all Seasons (Fred Zinnemann) – a somewhat dry movie with not much action but the moral conundrum that Sir Thomas More is faced with bending to the King or his own convictions, is stressful enough to watch. Orson Welles makes an appearance as Cardinal Woolsey and Paul Scofield who played More was given an Oscar for his performance as was the film itself.
Remains of the Day (1993 – James Ivory) gives a wonderful example of the English reserve with Anthony Hopkins playing a butler to an aristocrat with dubious morality and Emma Thomson as the head housekeeper in the estate. Their relationship is fraught with misunderstanding and Hopkin´s inability to express his true feelings makes for sometimes cringeful watching.
Chainsets & Bike Boxes
Cyclists who want to read up on the latest news and find out how to best box a bike to get to us (if taking your own bike), here is a pot pourri of cycling tempters and tips.
- Adventure Cycling Association - USA's cycle touring organisation
- The Bicycle Exchange - great site with lots of cycling information
- Bicycles Network Australia - Australia's top cycling portal
- BikeCafe.net - useful resource and forum based site
- BRAG.org - ride your bike across Georgia, USA with a fun group of cyclists
- The Canadian Cyclist - cycling news for your community in Canada
- ChainReactionCycles - Europe's largest cycling on-line store. Fast, low cost delivery worldwide
- CycleTourer Website - helpful advice on cycle touring, including travelling with bikes
- Cycle Touring Club of UK - official organisation for cyclists in the UK
- Ken Kifer's Bike Pages - legendary and invaluable cycle touring advice from the late, great Ken