Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Short trip to Valencia and Cuenca, Spain

In February I had the opportunity to join a 3-day networking meeting in Valencia, Spain. It turned out to be a very useful meeting which will hopefully lead to future new collaborations. Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, is a beautiful and friendly city with a historic centre surrounded by green parks with hiking and cycling tracks (this used to be a river, which was diverted after severe flooding in the 1960's and made into a recreational park), and some very modern suburbs. It is generally warm and sunny and for me it was therefore also a nice break from the cold and still very short days in Tromsø.

Tower of Serranos; one of the old city gates

Valencia cathedral

Valencia cathedral

Palace of the Marquéz de Dos Aguas

The old Turia river, now Turia gardens

After the meeting I spent a an hour or 2 walking around the very futuristic and fascinating City of Arts and Sciences with one of my new friends from the meeting before taking the train to Cuenca. The buildings are all designed by the local architect Santiago Calatrava.


Science museum, resembling the skeleton of a whale

Hemisphèric, representing a human eye, contains an IMAX cinema.

Hemisphèric and Reina Sofía Palace of Arts

Reina Sofía Palace of Arts

View from the Turia gardens

The old walled city of Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also located halfway between Valencia and Madrid along the railway line and therefore a convenient place to visit since it was easier for me to fly to Madrid than directly to Valencia. The old town is built on a steep spur between the rivers Huéca and Júcar; it has a long history, starting with a Muslim fortress in the 8th century. I spent a day and a half exploring the town and hiking around the area in beautiful sunny weather before continuing to Madrid for my flight back home.


Looking down on the old town on the spur in the front and the new town of Cuenca behind it in the plains.

Back of the cathedral

Front of Cuenca cathedral, the first gothic cathedral in Spain, completed in 1257

Beautiful modern art from the 1990's in the cathedral's stained-glass windows

Looking down onto Plaza Mayor in front of the cathedral

The famous Casas Colgadas, hanging houses

Bridge of Saint Paul over the river Huéca, to connect the convent of Saint Paul with the old town of Cuenca

Cuenca cathedral by night

Bridge of Saint Paul to the old town of Cuenca by night

The Júcar river gorge forms the northern boundary of Cuenca

The cliffs are popular with climbers

I came across long lines of processionary caterpillars on my hike in the hills around Cuenca

Friday, 30 March 2018

Tromsø winter - February

February 2018 was characterised by beautiful weather, it was cold but sunny and the days were getting longer quickly. The conditions were often good for the formation of ripe on the trees, creating beautiful large ice crystals on the branches.

The snow conditions were pretty bad for skiing though, very hard and icy, but perfect for hiking with microspikes or crampons. Such a long spell of cold clear weather is quite rare for Tromsø.

In the middle of February I had a short break from the short days and cold weather in Tromsø to attend a 3 day meeting in beautiful Valencia, Spain. The meeting was very useful and busy, but I had a few hours before and after the meeting to see some of both the historic centre of Valencia and the very modern City of Arts and Sciences. More about this in the next blog.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Tromsø winter - January

They say it is spring, but here in Tromsø there is little that reminds of that. It has been snowing nearly continuous for the last 5 days and the snow depth is now over a meter. The heavy snowfall also leads to high avalanche danger and road closures. But after a long spell, 7 weeks or so, of beautiful cold and clear weather, but without fresh snow earlier this winter, the new snow improves skiing conditions and is very welcome.

We arrived back in Tromsø in the middle of January, near the end of the mørketid, the dark winter, and right before the annual Tromsø International Film Festival TIFF. I have enjoyed working as a volunteer for the filmfestival for the last 4 years and wanted to join them again this year. This year my duties included a shift at the outdoor cinema - they show cartoons and short movies on a screen in the main square, very popular for school groups - and in the beautiful old cinema Verdensteatret.


After the filmfestival it was time to start looking for the sun. Soldagen, the first day the sun can be seen again in the centre of Tromsø after mørketid, is on the 21st January. However, it takes a few more days before the sun reaches the northeastern part of the island where our workplaces are, so we had to wait til the next weekend to see it.

A lunar eclipse would be visible from Tromsø on the 31st January and I decided to hike up one of the local mountains to try to get some photos. It was cold and clear with a beautiful sunset and I got some nice pictures of the colours and a partially eclipsed moon. It was unfortunately still too light to see the full eclipse.

Sunset over Malangen

Last glimpse of sun light on the Lyngen Alps

Moon coming back after the eclipse

Looking out over Tromsø from the top of the cable car

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Colorado #2: Hiking around Boulder: Front Range

There are many hiking opportunities close to Boulder; particularly many hiking trails in the first range of hills immediately west of the town that tower up to 900 m over Boulder. The views from these tops are fantastic, you look out over Boulder and the flat country to the east, and can see the high peaks of the Rocky mountains to the west. The terrain is very dry and rocky with pine forests. The trails are very nice for late afternoon hikes, but can get quite busy on the weekends.

The trail up to Mt Sanitas

Dry and warm in summer, perfect for lizards

Smoky view from Mt Sanitas over Boulder. Smoke from forest fires in northern Colorado and other states had blown to the Boulder area.

Smoky sun

Great horned owl (?)

View from the Royal Arch over Boulder on a warm summer day

View through the Royal Arch to some of the flat irons

Tony enjoying the evening sun on Green mountain, watching 2 chipmunks running around the rocks

Evening view from Green mountain to the high peaks in the west

Boulder gets spectacular sunsets in autumn

We did get a bit of snow a couple of times in November-December, but it never stayed for more than a few days.

A little pygmy nuthatch

Start of the trail up to Bear peak

View from Bear peak to the north

View from Bear peak to the west