We drove to Alquézar on Sunday.  I am still in catch up mode on my blog, trying to work out the best combination of blogging and keeping a journal.  I really want to do both but it does take a bit of time, so I may have to change my approach, we will see.  This is our first view of Alquézar, a  Moorish village, with its 16th Century Collegiate Church.  We are quite impressed.


We walk up towards the church, which is quite an uphill walk,  but the entrance is closed off, so we can’t go inside.  We continue our walk along the narrow winding streets and find a little cafe where we stop for tea and a bite to eat.


The view from here is pretty incredible.  The church is on the right and there are massive cliffs on the left.image

imageThe streets are narrow and often go under buildings.  Notice the feet over the road!image

image We see this fixer upper for sale.  I wonder how much it would cost to buy?  and then how much it would cost to fix up?  Quite a lot I think.  We enjoyed our afternoon here but it is soon time to head to Huesca to find a place to stay tonight.  Bob is doing a good job finding hotels but we are both looking forward to getting an apartment again and staying put for a few days.


Figueres and Salvador Dali

On Saturday we headed to Figueres to visit the Salvador Dali Museum. We were also interested in visiting his home and studio but we discovered that we should have booked tickets online for that and they were all sold out for today. The Teatre-Museu Dali is located in Figueres’s old Theatre and it is the second most visited museum in Spain after the Prado.  It is a pretty fantastical building.image

Dali built this museum on the site of the burned out Figueres Theatre.  He started working on it in 1960 and didn’t finish until 1974.  It is Dali’s largest work of art. He designed the building and it contains many of his artworks. In the central courtyard Dali’s black Cadillac is located under a fountain, although no water was flowing when we were there.

imageI’ve often seen this painting, Soft Self Portrait with Grilled Bacon, in art books.imageThere is no doubt his work is very different, and sometimes hard for me to appreciate.  This painting is called ‘The Happy Horse’ although it certainly doesn’t look very happy.imageThe Stage has a huge glass dome that throws its shadows over everything below.imageThe museum is packed with people and there are 22 rooms to visit.  The rooms trace Dali’s artistic progress from the earliest to the last years of his life. Honestly, it is a bit overwhelming and after visiting this museum we go to another Dali museum next door that contains jewels designed by Dali.  By this time we are ready for a change so we head to L’Escala which is a small resort on the Mediterranean a part of Spain’s Costa Brava, a 200 km coastline of beaches and resorts.
imageWe walk along the coast for a while, but the water is quite cold and we are not tempted to get wet. 
imageThe Empuries are Greco-Roman ruins called that were built between the 7th and 3rd Century B.C.  They are right behind the beach area at L’Escala. They looked interesting but the site closed in half an hour and we didn’t think it would be time to see it all and visit the Museum, so we were content to walk along its fence and see what we could see as we made our way back to our car.imageimage

“Winter is Coming!”

We arrived in Girona Wednesday evening and learned that The Game of Thrones was filming part of the sixth season here earlier this month.  Bob is convinced that we could have been hired as extras if only we had arrived a bit sooner!  This our first view of the two Cathedrals in Old Town Girona on Thursday. They definitely look as though they could be used as a set in the Game of Thrones.

imageThis is the Girona Cathedral, we counted, 90 steps to get up to the doors, which are absolutely gorgeous, and we watched a young girl run up and down these steps 6 or 7 times in a row!  Much fitter than either of us, that’s for sure.
imageMy favourite spots in all of Girona are the fortress walls that surround the Old Town and the secret garden spots among the ruins behind the Cathedral.image imageWe watched the sunset from the top of some of these old walls.imageI love the roads, they are all made with pebbles, or lovely old brick tiles.  Not a cement or paved road in sight.  Just imagine how long it took to make all these roads and walkways and stairs.image

We walked around the narrow winding streets, peeking into shops and absorbing the atmosphere.  We head back to our hotel about 8:00. We were only a twenty minute walk away.  Here are a couple night shots.image image

Friday we head back to the Old Town for some more exploring. I love all the interesting details everywhere I look, like this door handle.image

We have never seen a bus inside a coffee shop before.
imageThe streets are very, very narrow, and dark because the sun just doesn’t reach the bottom of them and there are these lovely little passage ways that connect many of the streets.image image  These big stones are old Roman stones from the Third Century!  The walls are such an interesting mix of stones, and bricks and pebbles.  Buildings were torn down and their stones used to build new places, and this happened over and over again.imageWe walked along the base of these city walls trying to find a way on to the top of them,.  We were finally successful and walked along the top of these ancient walls.image

Here is the view from the top.  We walked along the long wall on the far left side of the picture.
image  Next stop was the Arab baths that dated back to the 11th Century.  There were cold, warm and hot baths, pretty amazing technology for that long ago.  And this pool had a “skylight ” above it!image  The same view as the night picture yesterday.image We head home through this park with perfectly spaced rows of trees after having a nice meal near the river in the above picture. image This is our last view of Old Town Girona.image

Montserrat Monastery

We arrived at Montserrat Monastery late Monday afternoon.  It took longer than we thought to get our rental car and we soon discovered that the trunk is too small for two suitcases, oops!  We have been told not to leave anything visible in the car or it will likely be stolen. There are no upgrades available so we decide we can manage to go to the Monastery and then we will come back to Barcelona and get a different car.

The monastery is at the top of a long narrow winding road and it is an incredible place.  Within fifteen minutes of checking in we decide that we should stay a second night.image

We wander about and go to Vespers after supper.  The monks sing and then the boys choir sings by themselves at the end of the service.  It was very beautiful.  We have a quiet evening. We are both tired after all the excitement of the FIre Run last night and the first day driving and navigating.imageWe go hiking Tuesday morning.  We take the Sant Joan Funicular up to the start of the trails.  It is quite the experience riding straight up a mountainside, and of course the views are amazing.

imageThe rock formations here remind us a lot of Cappadocia in Turkey, and we managed to get lost on our hike there!  Hopefully we will do better here.  We decide to do the hike to Sant Jeromi, a 7.5 km hike to the highest point of Montserrat.  The rock formations here are absolutely stunning.image imageSoon we are at the base of Gorra Frigia, and we see three mountain climbers, working their way towards the top.  It looks rather scary to us, but then we aren’t mountain climbers.  imageThe picture above is a close up.  They are near the top of this mountain in the picture below.image imageOur son-in-law climbs so these pictures are especially for him.  We are headed for the top of the middle rock in the center of this skyline.  It looks low here but it is actually the highest point, 1236 meters above sea level.imageThe rock formations are fascinating and the rock is conglomerate rock, so it is full of all sorts of pebbles and rocks in a base that almost looks like cement.imageI think we must almost be there after just climbing several hundred steps but we turn the corner and see….more steps, another 112 to be exact!imageAlmost there!
image  Here we are, tired but what an incredible 360′ view!imageWe can see for miles and miles…


We have our picnic lunch and enjoy the view and even see a birthday party, complete with cake and candles for a 31 year old Spanish man.  We join in when his friends sing him Happy Birthday which kind of surprised him, and he thanked us afterwards.  On the way down we stop to add a few rocks to these Inuksuk like piles of rocks….image  and see this little Nativity Scene that someone set up, high on the mountain.imageI am intrigued with the rocks on the path.  So many people have walked over these paths that some of the rocks have become polished.imageWe see more mountain climbers, this one rappelled down very quickly and disappeared from sight when we glanced away for a second.  His friends were calling out to him.  We wondered if he was OK?
imageThe sun shone through the clouds, like rays of light from heaven over the Monastery.

We went back to hear the choir sing one more time.  No pictures are allowed during the services but I quickly snapped this not very good one as they were leaving.  The boys (55 of them) are educated at the  Monastery, and sing six days a week, with one month off during the summer.image

We go back to our room and sit and have tea, looking out the window, just enjoying it all.  We are both quite tired after our 4 1/2 hour hike.

The Mercé Correfoc or “Fire Run”

The highlight of our day Sunday was the Mercé Correfoc, or Fire Run that started at 8:30 with an explosion of fireworks right on the street between the buildings.  We heard people talking about tying up your hair and covering your head and face with a scarf.  We soon found out why.image

The ‘devils’ start to run down the street, accompanied by groups of very loud drummers, and the fire breathing beasts!  These devils carry sticks which have firworks on them that twirl around, spraying fireworks everywhere!   They actually aim them at the crowd on purpose and run by us, at times just beyond arm’s distance!  
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Now we know why we need to cover up.  I had my sarong with me so we used it to cover our heads when the devils run by.  It is total madness!!  There is no way anyone should be doing this and yet here we are, along with thousands of others, caught up in the excitement of it all.
 It was hard to get pictures, I took a lot but most of them were too blurry and out of focus. When the devils run too close to us we just covered up, and hoped to not catch fire!  We did see one person start smouldering until someone noticed and put out the fire that was starting on their head covering!imageWe stayed until 10:30 and I reluctantly agreed to leave even though there was no sign of the fun ending.  We needed to get home and finish packing as we leave our little Barcelona apartment tomorrow and head for the Monastery at Montserrat. I am playing catch up on these posts as we have not had internet since Sunday, and it was too late to post anything Sunday night when we finished packing.

Dragons and Beasts!

This building was a bullring, but bullfighting was banned in Catalonia in 2011 so now it is used for concerts and other events.  We walked by it on the way to a flea market this afternoon.image We found the flea market and it is huge, two stories and  probably hundreds of stalls.  We decide we will need to come back when we return to Barcelona and have more time to spend looking around.imageWe make our way to Parc de La Ciutadella, to check out the Mercé 2015 Festival activities. There are a lot more people here today than a couple of days ago.  I loved the balloons and the people watching.image

There were some antique rides that were very interesting. Notice the toilet seat…imageAnd the lady in white, she was pushing a lever that made the ride move. image

There were some very good dancers on stage, I think from the ballet company, not sure as all the announcements were in Spanish…there were crowds of people everywhere.image

Next stop was Placa Jaume where the Parade of the Fire Breathing Dragons and Beasts was supposed to start. We had to turn around and approach the square from a different street because the one we were on was completely jammed with people. I have never been in such a crowd before, and I didn’t like it at all. We could barely move, but managed to turn around and make our way to the other side of the square. We were very lucky as this was where the dragons and beasts came into the square. There were people eveywhere, even up all the side streets, but we were in a good spot up against the railing so we didn’t feel as squished as earlier. Here are a couple photos of the crowd.imageimageSoon the Dragons and Beasts emerged, with great fanfare and to the accompaniment of very loud very enthusiastic drumming. Each beast had it’s own group of supporters, who were making a great deal of noise.

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The pictures are a bit blurry because it was so dark and these dragons and beasts moved quite quickly and it was hard to find a spot that didn’t have a camera held up in it! The energy generated in this square was amazing, and very exciting. I loved it. After all the dragons and beasts left, we headed back to Barceloneta Beach to watch the fireworks by Buenos Aires. The show was a bit shorter than last night’s but it was much more spectacular. There were even Happy Face fireworks, but I never managed to get a picture of them. There were also a lot more people out and about watching the fireworks and on all the streets. We head back to our apartment, get home about 11:00, we are both tired as we did a lot of walking today,  but it was a good day.

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Giants and Dragons

There are so many incredible buildings in Barcelona that I have to force myself not to take too many pictures of them, but I am warning you, there will be a few…  imageWe happened across an exhibition of motorbikes as we were walking, so stopped to have a look.image

I stop for a little rest on one of the many fantastical bench/street lights along our route.image

One more building…image

Bob checking out one of the many book stands that line over three city blocks.  Lots of very old books, magazines, and papers of all kinds.image

This reminded us of when our oldest daughter was four and chased the pigeons in Venice.image

We watched the parade of the city’s Giants.  It was so much fun and they looked so animated, twirling and dancing in the street.image

Of course I loved the dragon!image

More giants…image

After the parade we headed back to the Barcelona Cathedral to watch a competion of three choirs, from the Ukraine, Slovania and Lithuania.  Here is the Slovanian Choir.  It was lovely to sit in such a beautiful Cthedral listening to beautiful voices.image

After the choirs competition we catch the Metro for Barceloneta Beach to watch a fireworks competition.  Tonight it  was the Balearic Islands.  We sat on the beach and this is a bit of what we saw.  This is all part of the  Mercé 2015 Festival.


Finally, a sneak peak at a life drawing class….image

Parc de la Ciutadella and Life Drawing

This morning I was very tired so we had a much needed quiet morning, and then after lunch headed out to find the Parc de la Ciutadella.  A young Antoni Gaudi helped to design the very flamboyant Cascade Fountain which turns out to be the main attraction of the park.

image This Baroque fountain is very impressive and has winged golden horses with serpent tails rearing over the waterfall.imageMy camera is acting up, not always focusing, taking weird pictures on one of the settings.  I am wondering if I will need to buy a new camera before the trip is over?


This is the Castell dels Tres Dragons, which is now a Natural Science Museum but it was roped off and not open.  Neither was the Hivernacle and Umbracle (a wooden slatted greenhouse) and the other Natural Science Museum.  That was a bit of a disappointment, but it was a nice walk around the park anyways.

image We head back towards the Old Town to check out the Merkat de La Boqueria near La Rambla.  We walked down La Rambla last night, this is the famous Barcelona street, comparable to The Champs-Élysées in Pars, with hordes of tourists, and the Merkat (don’t you love the spelling?) was just closing.  We came back to check it out today.  We look for somewhere to eat but it isn’t easy for me.  I have dietary restrictions so no gluten, dairy, egg or soy, which is in pretty much every Spanish dish!  Finally found a Wok While you Walk  which made a stir fry that I could have.  There would be lots to eat if I didn’t have these restrictions and it is a bit hard passing all the pastry shops, they look so very yummy.

image  These sausages looked very interesting, and the meats were very fresh and nice looking but also very expensive.  We saw one type of roast that wa 99€ a kg!  Of course there were some ‘different ‘meats available.image The fruits were spectacular and beautifully presented.image

There were hundreds of these little photographed tiles that were assembled together to make a mural representing Moments of Freedom.
image image  The sun lit up the steeple of the Barcelona Cathedral as we passed this street.  Remember what I said about something to see every which way we look?image  I asked these policia if i could take their photo and they said yes, but the one with the machine gun turned away so he wouldn’t be in the picture.  That wouldn’t stop me from getting the photo I wanted,  so I crossed the street, zoomed in, and took this photo instead.  It is still strange to me to see machine gun toting police.image  We head back to the Life Drawing Meet Up location and after entering a very ordinary outer door this is what we saw!  The Meet Up was up on the fifth floor, a beautiful big apartment turned into an art studio/office.imageI had a great time at a Life Drawing Meet Up last night.  It was a session with a Pin Up Girl theme, and Ana, our model, was excellent, a true pin up girl!  Here are a couple of my drawings.  I felt a bit rusty as I haven’t been drawing for the last month or so, but it was a lot of fun and a good kick start to holiday drawing.

These are three and five minute posesimage imageimage

Barcelona Cathedral and Giants!

We went for a walk yesterday, and it didn’t seem to matter which street we wandered onto, there were beautiful buildings everywhere.imageWe were headed towards the Barcelona Cathedral and decided to walk there, it was about an hour stroll with so many stops to look at everything.The  narrow streets around the Cathedral were intersting and we found these entrancing gargoyles, a unicorn and an elephant!

We walked around the walled cathedral and founf these intriqing gargoyles, a unicorn and an


We were able to visit the roof of the cathedral but there was something wrong with my camera and all the pictures taken up there look like this.  Interesting but certainly not what I wanted! It was very windy but there were great views of the city, and the bells rang when we were standing up there!image

This Cathedral might be one of the largest that I have ever visited, but of course pictures don’t do it justice.image


One of my favourite places was the Cloister, which came complete with mossy fountains and geese!imageimageIt was difficult to get a photo of the front of the Cathedral as there were workers putting up some sort of stage, which we later discovered is for a Festival this weekend.image

Just around the corner beside the Cathedral there were some interesting sculptures. There is so much to see here that walking is slow.  One needs to remember to look left, right, up and down! A strange combination, this very modern sculpture and this very ancient Cathedral. We go looking for an address for a Life Drawing Meetup tonight and it is on the same street as the Palau de la Musica, a fanciful building covered in mosaics and interesting decoration.  We will do a tour of the inside, but not today.image

We head home for some food and a bit of a rest before my life drawing, then take the Metro back, just in time to find out that it is happening tomorrow night, not tonight!  So we went exploring for a while.image

These ‘Giants’ were in a nook off a side street. We later found out they will be part of the Festival Parade this weekend. We are forward to seeing that!

Sagrada Familia

We both had a rather restless night so we had a very leisurely morning.  I had an early afternoon nap and Bob went exploring, then we went to check out the Sagrada Familia which is only a short walk from our apartment. This is our first view of this incredible cathedral, which is Gaudi’s greatest work. This is the Passion Facade, which was completed from 1986 to 2000, by the artist Josep Maria Subirachs. It is very different from the Nativity Facade which was completed in 1930, four years after Gaudi’s death at the age of 74. He was run over by a tram while crossing the street near the church to which he devoted forty years of his life.image

We walk around to the other side of the cathedral and stop to watch these little green parrots which nest in the palm trees in the park.  They make an incredible amount of noise! They were difficult to photograph, hiding in their nests and under the palm fronds.

imageThere was a group of young children in the park making wonderful paintings of the cathedral.  imageHere is the other side of the Sagrada Familia, the Passion Facade.  I am looking forward to spending more time here and visiting the inside of this amazing cathedral.  Too tired today for more than a brief visit.imageWe head back to our apartment for dinner and afterwards go for another walk, looking for an English bookstore to buy a guide book for Spain. On the way there I discover a fabulous looking art supply store just a couple of blocks from our apartment.  I definitely need to check it out.