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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Ubeda - Jaen, Spain

As we approach the end of the year I reproach myself for all the posts I've failed to get to, the half written reports and the photographs languishing in iphoto. There so much I still want to post on our trips to Spain (March) and Italy( June-July) so expect a few random posts and think of them as an end of year exercise in clearing house! 

Between Cordoba and Grenada we stopped at the beautiful small hilltop city of Ubeda. Most itineraries link Grenada and Sevilla in a loop going south through Ronda. However, we opted to go north. Starting in Sevilla we took the train to Cordoba, and after two nights we rented a car for the trip to Ubeda. The drive took us through the landscape of olive groves that make  Jaen Province one of the largest centers of olive oil production in the world. Ubeda really is the most delightful town and we enjoyed our quick two night stay at the Parador. Above you can see the town's cathedral and on the left the Parador - which is housed in a sixteenth century palace. Our room overlooked the side of the cathedral. I've included a picture of the room and the view below. It made me so happy to step onto the small balcony and take in the scene.

As you can see above the view was fabulous.

Below is interior courtyard at the Parador which was quite majestic and topped with a glass roof. On our next trip I like to stay at more of the government operated Paradors which are located throughout the country, generally in historically significant buildings. Though I have to say there's an incentive to wait as they offer very good discounts after fifty five! On our upcoming month in Portugal I'm hope we'll have a chance to stay in their version, known as the Pousadas. 
Interior courtyard Ubeda Parador.

We were in Udeda in late March well before the tourist season and though there were a few groups during the day, in was generally very quiet and quite deserted at night. It's an atmospheric town with a real sense of civic pride. There has obviously been a great deal of renovation in the last few years and it's a very attractive place to wander around.

The architectural and historical significance of Ubeda is reflected in the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the  nearby city of Baeza, post and pictures to follow. 

The olive groves went to the horizon.
Tip: A site we stumbled upon by accident was the so called Sinagoga del Agua. A Jewish mikva, or ritual bath found in the basement of a local home. This is a fascinating site and reminds one of the religious and cultural diversity of the area, it's an interesting contrast to all the Renaissance churches!

Food: We had an excellent meals at a restaurant called Zeitum with very inventive modern food. The chef was very pleasant and the food was interesting with an emphasis on local ingredients including olive oil. The photos below should give you an idea of the decorative quality of the food.