When I first started dating the woman who would become my wife, I did what all romantics do and made her a compilation tape. In return, she gave me a copy of Miles Davis’s haunting Sketches of Spain . Listening to that languid horn, the sensual strings, the bursts of flamenco, gave me a sense of deep Spain : those aspects of its culture that are uniquely Spanish. The following photographs from in and around Granada, Madrid, and Bilbao weren’t taken with a particular objective. They are not quite a photo essay , but provide a sketch of Spain in 2023 as well as a record of the trip. As we descended into Malaga Airport, I was struck by the monochromatic shades of the terrain below. It felt like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica . Picasso was born in Malaga, lived in France, and painted this iconic image of the Nazi bombing of the Basque town. The painting depicts the suffering of people and animals on the ground, but it makes some kind of sense to think of it as a view from the skies. The Alpujarras in Sierra Nevada are beautiful, though every valley is marred by polythene greenhouses growing food for export. Seeing all this plastic reminded me of the artist Christo. I started seeing transparent covers everywhere, from building works … We were in Mairena, a remote part of Granada, where my wife was assisting at Kia Naddermier’s yoga retreat. The gauze netting protects the mountain shala from most bugs. Can you see the wasp trying to get in? A few giant ants managed to sneak under the netting. Mairena is a traditional pueblo blanco. A village where the white walls of the houses reflect the sun and narrow streets provide shade. At the top of the village is the threshing circle, traditionally providing a communal space to make flour. This year they built a permanent roof on one of the threshing circles to host events. We were fortunate to be in Mairena the week they had their fiestas, including a performance of Copla, the traditional Andalusian folksong. The yoga retreat wasn’t all about detoxing and we celebrated Devi’s 18th birthday. … though the fun of being an adult took its toll. The yoga teachers have a group hug to celebrate the end of the retreat. A day trip to Granada, seeing Castillo de la Calahorra which features in the Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragons . Amateur artists practice their skills outside The Prado. Photography is forbidden in The Prado but I snuck this shot of the Meninas while we were given a guided tour of its mysteries by Emilio Cendón . In the Reina Sofia for modern art. It has been extended since I last visited. I am Madrí lager sceptic but was impressed to see people dressed as Chulapos. Most shops are closed in August. The Spanish know how to enjoy themselves. Here is the street party for the Paloma fiestas. Most tourists probably never get to see modern Madrid with its skyscrapers but we were travelling to Bilbao from Chamartín station and saw it fly past us in an Uber. Franco is not quite in the same league as Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin, but there are a few heroic classical sculptures in Bilbao from his time as dictator. The juxtaposition here was too good to ignore. Javi listening to conversation after a big Spanish lunch. Spain doesn’t do Indian food but here is an Indian restaurant called New York. In Glasgow, I more or less know what architectural period buildings come from. In Bilbao, it is more of a mystery. The city was transformed by the Guggenheim, which this summer was hosting Yayoi Kusama. Enough time in a Kusama infinity room to take a photo. Kusama’s lively paintings. Down into the Bilbao Metro, designed by Norman Foster. You can’t avoid seeing the ugly Iberdrola Tower (2012). Designed by César Pelli it is rarely pleasing to look at but from this angle it was okay. The eguzkilorea, the flower that has, for centuries, protected the Basques from evil. The Iberdrola Tower afflicts the flâneur in Bilbao like a fly on a donkey. It is unavoidable. An advert for the bullfighting covered in fake blood by protestors. The granite face of the man who decides whether the bullfighter has done well or not. Like Glasgow, Bilbao has evolved from its industrial roots. Few vestiges remain. On the way out of the city, the quarry-mountain of Castro-Urdiales. A ziggurat showing the impact of man on the environment. A reminder of how civilization is built.