Rijk Museum and Travelling Challenges

We spent more than six hours at the Rijk Museum today and although we didn’t see everything we did manage to see lots of fantastic art.  Image 2017-09-12 at 11.12 PMWe saw some of my favourites. It is always exciting to see, in person, paintings that I have admired in books for years…and I found some new favourites.  There were so many great Dutch artists that I have never seen before.This is the Gallery of Honour and at the far end is Rembrandt’s Night Watch.  Both Bob and I remember this painting from our last visit to the Rijk Museum over forty years ago.

Bob had downloaded a museum app so we had a bit of a treasure hunt following their 90 minute guide to see what the museum considered their top works of art. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip through the museum and we retreated to the gardens outside to have our lunch. Bob also had a little cat nap…DSC08917and I checked out the playful fountain.
Any idea what all these doors are?  Check at the end of the post for the answer.The museum is a nice mix of paintings, sculptures, furniture and other historical objects. I always like to look in the museum shops although I seldom buy much.  This book was pretty amazing though. The white gloves at the top of the page give an idea of its size, and only a bit more than €6,000!On the way home we are surprised at how few cars are on the roads.  It is after 5:30 and everyone is coming home from work, but so many people ride bikes that there just aren’t that many cars on the roads.But there are so many cyclists, of all ages.  Notice that no one wears helmets. Parents often carry two children on their bikes, one in front and one behind. I also saw several children standing up on a carrying rack above the back tire, holding on to their parent’s shoulders!  I tried to get photo of this but they fly by so quickly I wasn’t able to get one.  Now that didn’t look at all safe to me.Here are some more parents with babies in front. No helmets anywhere to be seen. So different from home.  Even the motorcyclists here go bare headed.

When we get home there is an email waiting for us that KLM has cancelled our flight tomorrow. Bob thought I was joking when I told him about it.  I don’t know what is going on but that is the second flight that we have had cancelled this trip and we have only been gone a week! Apparently there is a big wind storm expected tomorrow so they cancelled all their flights.  After a rather stressful three hours on the phone we manage to get rebooked but not until Thursday, so we have to stay another night here in Amsterdam and we lose one of our days in Zagreb, Croatia, which is our next stop.Too bad but that is the way it is.  We were lucky though as our current Airbnb host says that we can stay here one more night so we didn’t have to try to find somewhere else to stay.

Answer to the earlier question about the hallway of doors.

It is the women’s washroom.

 

Van Gogh Museum

Friday September 8,2017

After a lazy morning we finally headed out about 2:30 to try to find the Icelandic Air Office and sort out our cancelled flight.  It was raining off and on all day today so we got rather wet walking from the tram to where the office was located.  We found it but we were informed that Icelandic Air had moved their office to Germany about a month ago!  Of course the phone plan we got for our cell phone does not allow international calls, so we now have to figure out another way to be able to talk to them.  I don’t think that this will be easy to sort out by email.

Next on our agenda was a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. It is open until 10:00pm on Fridays and we niavely thought it wouldn’t be as busy during the evening.  Well, the line up was about 2 1/2 hours long, standing out in the rain, I might add…so we headed to the Rijk Museum Restaurant to see if we could get a nice hot cup of tea and order our tickets online. We did get our tea and the website to order tickets gave us all the information needed but didn’t have any place to actually order and pay for the tickets.  After much effort and trying a different browser I noticed a little order box at the very bottom of the screen that was so dark  we could barely see it. We ordered the tickets only to find out that we needed to download them and guess what, for some reason my phone doesn’t want to download!! and now our battery is getting very low.  We finally figure out a work around way to get the tickets and head over to the museum. Seems it is just that sort of day.
No pictures in the museum but there are a couple of places to take a photo with some oversized reproductions.There are a lot of paintings and drawings, many more than there were when we visited the old museum almost 40 years ago but I liked the old one better. Here is a photo of that building. When we were there so many years ago, I was in a large room surrounded by paintings with only a handful of other people. I had the feeling that if I could only turn around quickly enough I would find Vincent standing there, brush in hand.  It’s hard to explain but his presence was palpable in that room.  I have never forgotten how I felt that day, and I definitely didn’t experience that tonight.  The rooms of this very large modern museum were packed with people, it was noisy and we could barely move.  I looked for Vincent but he was no where to be found.  I guess I should have known that what I had experienced so many years ago was an amazing once in a life time experience. Here are a couple shots I was able to take in the museum just before we left when the crowds had thinned out.  It is huge, five floors all spread out with many flights of stairs. I thought it felt rather sterile. We had a bite to eat in the little restaurant there to break up our visit and finally left just before 10:00.  It is supposed to rain tomorrow morning but we are hoping for nicer afternoon.

The Alhambra, Granada

Friday, November 20

We caught the local bus into Granada and walked down this wide pedestrian street on our way to the tourist information office. This pedestrian walkway is made with marble paving stones, certainly something we don’t see back home.image Outside the tourist office is a unique Christmas tree made with begonias.image

There is also a shrine for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  imageThe buildings in Granada are very beautiful, imagine living in an apartment in this magnificent building.image

Soon we are on the way to the Alhambra. This was a palace, fortress and medina all rolled into one. We decide to take a bus rather than walk up the hill to its location.  This turned out to be a very good decision, as it is a long winding road up to the entrance.

We have a timed entrance ticket into the Nazaries Palaces so we make our way there first. We pass through the modern day medina (shops) and peek into a few on our way.  This fellow is making the inlaid wood boxes, table tops and other items that are for sale in his shop. It is very exacting work.image

We just have time to visit one of the towers before our visit.  This area below the tower has the remains of houses and shops.image

The view is spectacular from the top of the tower, but we are surprised at all the smog.image image  We are once more reminded of Paris as the flags here are at half mast.imageThe Alhambra has a lengthy history and it was first built as a fortress in 889. There is more information here if you are interested.          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

The entrance to the palace begins in this room with beautiful coloured tile walls.

image  And then we walk through this little keyhole shaped door, image  and we are in the incredible courtyard.     image  From here we see one amazing sight after another.image image image I have seen lots of people taking selfies, but this one is definitely the cutest.image

The Court of the Lions has the magnificent Fountain of Lions in its center. This is an alabaster basin supported by twelve lions in white marble, which symbolize power, strength and sovereignty.imageAll the buildings are decorated with intricate carvings that were once painted.  In some places the paint is still visible.

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Water fountains and pools abound in the Alhambra.image We also visit the Generalife which is a villa with beautiful gardens that was a retreat away from the rest of the palace.imageimage

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Next stop is the Palace of Charles V. The palace was built around this round center court and there is an art gallery in part of the building.  There is a small charge fee to go in and we are impressed by the quality of the exhibits and how well organized the gallery is.image image

These sculptures were from the 14th century I think.  They were larger than life sized and stunningly beautiful.  image

There were also some very old books on display.imageNot sure why they were on the walls on the outside of the Palace of Charles V, but I sure liked these.image

We spent the whole day at Alhambra and catch the bus back down into town, walking along the ‘river’ as the sun starts to set. Bob is happy we will be taking another bus back to our apartment so he doesn’t have to drive and I don’t have to navigate!image

Merida, Spain

Sunday, October 18

Merida is about half an hour from the Portuguese border, in central Spain.  It poured rain all night and most of this morning so we weren’t in a hurry to go exploring. We decided we would go to the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, which we both really enjoyed.  It is  a beautiful building that was designed to house this collection, rather than being a converted monastery or palace, like so many museums in Europe .

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Here is a close up of the sculptures and reliefs at the end of this big hall.image I really loved this huge bull from the 1st Century AD.image

The museum has several very large floor mosaics on display.  I wonder how they are able to lift these off a floor and display them on a wall?  Anyone know?imagePortrait sculpture was very important to the ancient Romans.  I felt like I would know these people if I met them, their portraits were so expressive.image image

We stayed in the museum until it closed at 4:00 and then went to visit the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre.  These were both amazing places.  The sunken area of the amphitheatre was once covered by a wooden floor.  I have no idea why, there are lots of things I wanted to know about, but didn’t find answers to.  Guess I need to do some research.imageThe view from inside a ‘room’ beside one of the entrances to the floor of the amphitheatre. imageSome pictures of the area on the way to the Roman Theatre.

image image imageMerida was founded in 25 BC and was the capital of Rome’s westernmost province which was why it has all these fantastic monuments.  This Theatre wa built in 15-16 BC and is still used today in the summer for the city’s drama festival. It is hard to believe that these ruins are 2000 years old and still in such good condition.  Yes, some of it has been reconstructed but it is all still pretty amazing.image

The gardens behind the stage were used as a foyer during intermissions.imageWe spent quite a bit of time walking around these splendid ruins but then it started to rain again so we headed home for another late supper.  Our car was parked near this pretty little courtyard.  image

The Prado

Thursday October 15

This Mad Hatter was outside the Prado with his little white mouse.  They both looked very content and pleased with themselves!imageThe Prado has 102 rooms and we managed to visit all but 17 of them.  We spent about six hours exploring and soaking up the incredible art work but we simply ran out of time and energy.  There are no photos in the Museum but I did take these two.  I know, I am a bad girl! We saw many paintings that were familiar because of reading my art books.  It was wonderful seeing these works in person.  This is a very famous Goya work titled “The Family of Charles IV.”  I just wanted one photo to say “Yes, I was there.”  When I am home I will find a good book on the Prado as a reminder of everything we have seen today. Books are just too heavy to lug around in our suitcases!imageThe Museum encourages artists to study and paint in the Museum, as this young lady was doing.  We saw several artists at work today.  image  Pictures were allowed in the Leoni Cloister and when we looked up we could see that there were workrooms above the cloister.  I would love to be able to tour these rooms, but had to settle for zooming in for a closer look.imageimageWe headed back to our Airbnb for some much needed rest.  I love touring Museums and Art Galleries but it is quite exhausting, physically and mentally.imageThis has been home for the last ten nights but we leave the day after tomorrow.  We only planned on staying here for four nights but liked it so much, and Bob really liked taking the bus into Madrid instead of driving, so we changed our reservation to twelve nights.  image

Spanish National Holiday, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Guernica

Monday, October 12, Day 30 of our holiday!

Today is Dia de la Hispanidad, Spain’s National Holiday to celebrate Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492.  There is a Military Parade this morning but it is a bit too early for us, so instead we go to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which is supposed to be free today.  However, when we arrive it is all cordoned off and there are lots of police and crowds of people everywhere.imageWe decide that we should wait around and see what is going to happen.  Turns out that King Felipe IV is to arrive at the palace, and after about an hour Bob thinks we should move closer to an entrance that is guarded by mounted soldiers.  Good thing we did because a couple minutes later a cavalcade of cars, and lots of police arrive and so does the King.  Only problem is we are still quite far away and the cars drive up and turn into the palace very quickly.  We both try to take a picture and I mange to get this one which shows the King’s car but not much else.  Oh well….image  We do get to see the mounted troops return from the parade and they are magnificent.imageWe find a spot to eat in the park across from the palace, accompanied by a guitar player singing in English. It was quite nice hearing something we could actually understand. I’ve only managed to learn a few Spanish words: I keep thinking of French words instead of the Spanish ones I have been trying to learn.  They just don’t seem to stick in my mind.imageWe decide to walk to the Reina Sophia museum, only we get lost, repeatedly!  Bob is using a new map app on the phone and either the app or Bob is not working well because we find ourselves walking in the wrong direction more than once.  We do walk past some interesting buildings…image

and a newly planted bed of veggies around a statue that was very pretty.image

And then there are the interesting street performers trying to make a bit of money.  If people walked too close to this one, a head jumped out and scared them.

  1. imageWe end up right back where we started after walking in a big circle so we head for a Metro station near Plaza Mayor, and encounter hordes of people.imageThe subway takes us very close to the Museum, but do you think we can find it?   After some more walking in circles, as it seems to be that sort of a day, we finally spot the museum entrance tucked between two buildings.  We are here to see PIcasso’s famous painting ‘Guernica’. I sneak this photo from afar and through a doorway, just to say I was here.

imageThe painting is very powerful.  It doesn’t reproduce well at post card or even book page size as the brushstrokes, textures, lines and subtleties of the paint and drawing just don’t show up.  I was surprised by how much I liked this painting as it never appealed to me before. Here we are posing beside a couple sculptures we liked.  A Picasso for me…imageand a Jacques Lipchitz for Bob. He liked this one even before he knew it was a sailor with a guitarimage I just loved this little head, ‘Portrait of my son Jordi’ by an artist named Joan Rebull.imageThe hallways made an optical illusion in this photograph. Depending on how you look at it it is an arched ceiling or a big white cone. Can you see it?
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We take the glass elevators up to the fourth floor just to check oiut the views, then down and we head for home.  Can you find Bob?

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Guggenheim and Museo de Bella Artes in Bilbao

Friday October 2

We were going to take the metro into Bilbao but it was impossible to find a parking spot anywhere nearby so we ended up driving into the City.  Once again I am very thankful for our trusty iPad and its navigational abilities. We finally find a parking garage there and walk to the Guggenheim along the river. We pass this big mural under a bridge.image

Soon we see the museum, which is a very impressive building, covered in thin sheets of titanium.  I quite like this big spider sculpture.image Another view near the entrance.

imageThe Guggenheim Bilbao was not what we expected, and judging by the looks on the other visitors’ faces, not what they expected either.  I did like the Richard Serra installation called The Matter of Time.  Here is a picture of a picture and then a not very good photo of Bob walking through one of the sculptures to give an idea of its immense size. image image

An interactive art work.  Can you spot me?

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There were only two other exhibits, one of an artist named Jean-Michel Besquiat and a couple of video installations that were very strange.  Besquiat’s work was a bit like street art, quite dark and hard to appreciate.  Look him up if you are interested.  There were no photos allowed.  I decided that the building itself is really a piece of artwork and needs to be appreciated that way.  It is not a functional building for displaying art, or even for navigating through.

imageWe have tea and some tapas in the café and we decide we have seen enough of the Guggenheim.image

One of Bilbao residents favourite pieces of art is Puppy by Jeff Koon.  It is a 13 m (43′) high sculpture of a Highland Terrier with a coat of flowers.  It made both of us smile.

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And…I don’t think Inhave mentioned how much people in Spain love dogs.  There are dogs eveywhere, and often they are very large dogs.  These two ladies had seven dogs between them, some of them were off leash.image

We had our picnic lunch on the benches here and then go to the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, which was wonderful.  It was very well organized chronologically and the paintings were also labeled in English, which we really appreciated.  There are so many fantastic Spanish painters I have never even heard of.  We particularly liked the 13th to 15th Century paintings which were larger, more colourful and full of expression than paintings we have seen from this time in other museums.  I took a quick snap of this Mary Cassatt work,  which is one of my favourites.  I was so surprised to walk into a  room and find this painting.image

On our walk back to our car I took this photo to show the mix of very modern sculpture in the foreground, very old buildings, and then the extremely modern tower in the background. Everywhere in Spanish cities and towns we see this interesting mix of styles.  

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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