Our Extra Day In Amsterdam

Day 9, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All of Holland was on a severe storm alert so that was why our flight was cancelled yesterday. I decided I was staying home today and catching up on my journal.  I love to journal when we travel but with blogging and journalling I sometimes get a bit behind. My blog has been giving me a bit of grief, some of the settings have changed, either I did it unknowingly or the site has been updated. Not sure which, but it is a nuisance, and it has been taking me much longer than it should to do each post.  I think I have sorted it out, but then a new challenge arises.  

I need good light to photograph my journal pages so I can’t do it when we get home late.  A scanner would be so much better but I can’t carry that around with me! When I can I draw on location but I also use my photos as reference when needed.

The view looking down from our third floor window into our neighbour’s yards.I worked on this page wile we waited in a cafe for our entrance time to the Van Gogh Museum.

What can I say, I just loved these little statues! 

Somehow I got this page out of order, I labeled it Saturday and then wrote Sunday’s activities on it.  White Out is handy in an art kit.

I finally got up the nerve to start sketching on the tram. This always seems intimidating to do but once I start it really isn’t so bad.  The young gentleman in the hoodie knew I was drawing him. When we got up to exit the tram I showed him the sketch and he smiled. Most people don’t really seem to mind all that much if they figure out what I am doing. I like to draw with a ballpoint pen, that way I am committed, and there is no erasing.

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.

 

Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I don’t suppose a visit to Amsterdam would be complete without checking to see what the Red Light District is about. Because we were going to be out late tonight we had a nice relaxing morning and finally headed downtown early afternoon.  Our first stop was the Oude Kerk, or the Old Church, which is the oldest building in Amsterdam. This church took shape in phases from 1300 on. Over the centuries this church has functioned as a public space where citizens could meet, close transactions of any kind and listen to beautiful organ music.    

Today there was an art installation by Sarah van Sonsbeek, Check out the link to see more information about the show.    https://oudekerk.nl/en/programma/sarah-van-sonsbeeck/ The painted pillars lead your eyes up to the ceiling which is made of wood and was built by shipwrights. It looks like the upside down hulls boats. 
I loved this winding stairway which led high up to a little tiny door right near the ceiling.  Wish I knew where it led to.. Although most of the floor was cover with the gold blankets we were able to see some of the old tomb covers in the floor. Note the dates, 1590 and 1596.  I wondered about the family crest of a bird leg and wing. It seemed rather strange.

After a brief visit to a Buddhist shrine in China town we visited De Waag.  This building is only open today for a Open Monument Day which is held once a year.  It turns out that this building held the Anatomical theatre where  Rembrandt painted his famous ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ in 1632.  

We were in the Anatomy Theater that was built just above where Rembrandt worked! That was quite amazing.

There were a lot of stairs to climb to get up to the theater…which was in the old watch Tower which used to be a gate in part of the wall that protected Amsterdam.There was a flea market outside so the bottom of the building is hidden. We were in the centre tower where the little yellow windows are. Rembrandt painted in the room below.We had a bite to eat and wandered about waiting for it to get dark and we were very surprised to see two huge Hudson Bays Stores, each four stories tall.The houses along here were old and beautiful. The Red Light District, not so beautiful.There are sex shows along both sides of the street.

Where ever there are red lights along the street, as in the right hand side of the above photo, there are very small rooms with doors opening onto the streets.  Inside each rooms is a chair or stool, a bed and a washroom, and a woman selling her body. The women stand or sit in the windows so that the men can inspect them and choose the woman they want to have sex with. You can just see the edge of one of these rooms at the base of the stairs.  The streets were packed with people, the majority of whom were men. We saw several men enter these little rooms, and then the curtains were drawn.  I found it all very sad, and felt for the women who were in this profession.  It is hard to believe that anyone would choose this line of work if they had other choices or opportunities available. The views of the canals gong home were much nicer than the streets of the Red Light District.

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.

On the Road to Valencia

Thursday November 26, 2015

Bob is loading the car and we will soon be on our way to Valencia.  This is the view from our balcony.  As you can see, we were right on the edge of Los Alcázeres, just fields beside us, so it was a nice quiet location.FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_5

Before long we are passing lots of salt pans, which are large shallow ponds of sea water. The water evaporates and leaves behind the sea salt, which is then harvested and piled into these enormous piles of sea salt.  Seems strange to think that the salt we eat is produced in this fashion. I had visions of workers out raking up sea salt from the salt pans, not bulldozers and big machinery.  A bit naive on my part I think.Image-1We stop to stretch our legs and have lunch near this beach.  It is certainly not as pretty as other beaches we have visited.FullSizeRender_2The view in the opposite direction.  This is an area full of condos and apartments and partially constructed buildings. FullSizeRender

We stopped for another break a bit further on… FullSizeRender

and found these strange hairy balls, hundreds of them all over the beach!  Some of them were several inches in diameter.  Does anyone know what they are? FullSizeRender_4

We detoured into what we thought was a little town called Alcoi, thinking we could go for a walk in a park area near the town, but we got a bit lost in what turned out to be a rather large city. We also discovered that the park didn’t have any easily accessible areas for walking, so we were soon back on the road. Next stop was the town of Xativa where we visited the ruins of a once grand castle with 30 towers.  FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_2

It was getting late in the day and we only had just over a half hour before closing so we saw as much of the castle as we could before the sun set and the castle closed. This was one of the water features in the garden area of the castle. FullSizeRenderThe view from the castle was quite spectacular.FullSizeRender_5

There are lots of market gardens visible in this photo.FullSizeRender_3

We still see lots of graffiti along the highways but we also see these murals. Too bad I can only glimpse them flying by in the car.FullSizeRender_2

There are numerous orange orchards and the trees are absolutely loaded with oranges, so many that they are falling on the ground. Sorry for the blurry image, this is another photo taken from the car.  I never did find a place to pull over and get a good picture of an orange orchard.  Too bad…FullSizeRender_4

Thanks to our trusty iPad and its GPS we find our next Airbnb apartment in Valencia and we were pleasantly surprised to find that our host had very kindly stocked it with all sorts of groceries! It also has lots of artwork as our host’s husband is Nico Munuera, a Spanish artist.Image-1

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

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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Pamplona, the El Camino de Santiago, San Sebastian Beach, and Guernica

We walk four kilometers of the  El Camino de Santiago ( a pilgrimage walk) on Thursday in Pamplona. I thought I would like to do a long walk like this, but after talking to some of the people on the walk I have changed my mind.  Much of the walk is on city streets or along the shoulders of roads, and the shelters are communal rooms with bunk beds very close to one another so lots of snoring and night-time noises.  Not for me, thank you.imageThis is the Bridge of La Magdalena, a medieval bridge that millions of pilgrims have used to cross the River Arga on the way to Pamplona through the ‘Gateway of France’ which still has a working drawbridge.                   image

The drawbridge is now only used once a year on January 5th, when three Wise Men on camels enter the Old City of Pamplona.image

We follow the route of The Running of the Bulls, which takes place during the summer, all the way to the bullring.  It is easy to imagine how crazy, chaotic and dangerous this event is. The streets are very narrow and there is nowhere to hide from the many very angry, very large stampeding bulls!
imageThere is an eleven meter long sculpture called ‘Monument to the Bull Run’ by a Spanish Sculptor that faces the bullring.  It is quite impressive and gives some idea of what this event might look like.image

We rest for a while in the Plaza Del Castillo, with a view of the colorful buildings of Pamplona before getting something to eat and heading back to our hotel. We take a local bus that takes us almost to the door of our hotel.  Nice, I am tired today.imageWednesday morning we drive to the beach at San Sebastian, which is one of the popular resorts in Northern Spain.  It is not for us.  We prefer the more natural beaches, with fewer apartments and hotels.  It is cloudy when we arrive but it warms up and the sun comes out.  We have been very lucky with the weather, and had our first rain last night along with a very loud thunderstorm.

image  I stick my fingers in the Atlantic Ocean which we have now seen from Florida, South Africa and Spain.imageWe are off to Guernica, a small town that was bombed by Germany in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. It was the world’s first saturation bombing raid and the destruction this bombing caused inspired Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, Guernica.  We first visit Guernica’s Parliament building, which has an enormous modern stained glass ceiling covering what used to be a courtyard.  It depicts the Oak of Guernica. Basque leaders met in democratic assembly under this tree for centuries.  There is a 300 year old petrified oak tree in the garden outside here which is symbolic of the ancient roots of the Basque people.imageWe find the tiled life sized mural of Guernica, the original paining is now in Madrid.imageThere are several large sculptures in the Peace Park adjacent to the Parliament building and the oak tree, including this one by Henry Moore.image  We had our first tapas in Guernica, an easy economical way to sample a variety of local foods.imagePerhaps the nicest part of the day was arriving at our Airbnb apartment in Gama.  Our host Gemma met us nearby and we followed her to the loveliest little apartment. We have stayed at several Airbnb accomodations and this is the nicest one yet.  We decide to extend our stay here to five nights.  It is relaxing to stay put for a while and this is such a nice place to do that.  Here are photos of our home for the next five days.image image image