2016??

I thought I would post every week or so after our Spain and Portugal trip but 2016 just flew by and I must confess I didn’t accomplish what I had anticipated.  It was a year with lots of family and health stuff, so art making and travel was put on the back burner for a while.

I did manage to complete one project that was long overdue.  Eighteen years ago I took some photos of my sister-in-law and nephew with the intention of painting a portrait.   There is quite a long story behind the creation of this portrait, this one is actually version #2, but I won’t get into that today.

Finally, I was able to deliver this portrait much to the surprise and delight of my sister-in-law and her family. It is a pastel painting, 19″x 25″.img_3134

FC Barcelona and Life Drawing

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bob went to see FC Barcelona play another Spanish soccer team in the Spanish Cup competition. Barcelona easily won 6-1 against this weaker team. Barcelona didn’t play its top three players but it was still exciting to be there. His ticket was in the first row of the 3rd tier near the center so there was no one in front, just the walking aisle. As this wasn’t the Championship League, the crowd was only 67,000 instead of 100,000, and because it wasn’t the Championship League the ticket was only 30 euros instead of 350 euros for this prime seat. Lots of noise and cheerings and drum beating.  Everyone (except Bob) either had a FC Barcelona cap, scarf, or jersey, and of course everyone tried to take the same bus home after the game.image

The next day we found this picture online. The spectator in the turquoise coat with the white hat, on the right side of the players uplifted hand is Bob!imageWhile Bob was at the football (soccer) game I went to a life drawing class at the same studio that I was at the first week of our holiday. This is a great group and it has a couple drawing sessions a week but this was the only one I was able to fit in. Their next meet up is the day we fly home.Image-1

I snapped these photos after life drawing.  The studio is upstairs in an interesting old building on a street near the Opera House. DSC01855

From the street all there is to see is an ordinary, graffiti covered door, that opens onto this medieval looking courtyard. I find it quite fascinating that so many Spanish doors open onto courtyards and gardens. You never know what you will see behind a door, which is why whenever I see an open doorway I try to peek inside! DSC01858This little fellow peeked out to say hello on the subway on my way home.  It is the only rodent of any kind that we have seen on this trip. I wondered if we would see any rats, but not a one.DSC01862

Walking home past one of the narrow side streets in our Sant Andreu neighbourhood.  It was late but I felt safe walking home from the metro by myself as there were still lots of little cafés and shops open.DSC01860

The Christmas lights are pretty even if there isn’t any snow.DSC01864

 

 

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art

Tuesday, November 10

Jerez de la Frontera is the capital of Sherry production and it is also famous for its Andalusian Equestrian School. It is just a bit farther south than Doñana Park, which we visited yesterday. We purchased our tickets online and we leave early so we will arrive in lots of time for the 12:00 show.

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We arrived early, and found parking which is always a challenge in Spanish cities, thanks to the wonderful GPS capabilities of our iPad.  It has paid for itself many times over this trip. I have no idea how we managed to travel in Australia and New Zealand without it, only relying on maps. Never again!

We watch a very good short movie about the history of the Andalusian horse and then we have time to watch some of the training in the outside riding ring while we have our lunch.

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We have great seats, right in the first row.  I can almost reach out and touch the horses as they pass.  The show is “How the Andalusian Horses Dance”,  and it is an equestrian ballet based on traditional and cowboy methods of taming wild horses, accompanied by Spanish music and full eighteenth century costumes. I decide to behave and not sneak any photos, but I almost wish I hadn’t. These photos are from the internet .  If you would like to see more check out   http://andalusian horse show Jerez

image image image imageWe were sitting in the front row on the right side, almost in line with the dark grey horse in the photo below.  Fantastic seats! Well worth the extra 6€ For preferential seating.image

I found this short video which shows parts of the same show we saw and it is on location at the school arena in Jerez. The show was wonderful and it had enough variety for Bob, who doesn’t love all things horses quite as much as I do.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bd_nYE4c790

I did try to draw a bit during the show, but it was hard to concentrate on drawing and what was going on, and of course the horses never stood still! Here is my page of horse life drawings.

imageThe young lady sitting next to me was from Germany.  She owned a three year old Andalusian mare and she was hoping to be able to come to this school for riding lessons.  A ten day course is 2500€  and room and board is not included. Expensive, but how fantastic would that be, to ride these beautiful well trained Andalusian horses, the same ones that take part in the shows!  The lessons run for six hours a day, so you would certainly have to be fit.

After the show we walked over to one of the many wineries in Jerez, the Sandeman Bodega, for a tour and tasting. They have several resident storks, and we were lucky enough to see this fine fellow.image

image  Our guide in costume walking past some of the barrels full of Sherry.image  After three ‘very generous’ samples of sherry we played Sandeman!image

Finding washrooms is always a bit of a challenge when travelling, so we stopped at a nearby Ikea to use theirs before the trip back to Seville. It was rather strange to find that it laid out exactly like the one back home.  We felt like we were back in Edmonton!  image

Lisbon

Wednesday, October 22

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, with a population of three million people. It is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, predating Paris, London and Rome by centuries.  I didn’t know any of that before our visit.  Although we spend the better part of the day in Lisbon, we barely scratched the surface of the area we visited.

A twenty minute train ride into Lisbon places leaves us a short walk from the plaza in front of the Arco da Rua Augusta. This arch symbolizes Lisbon reborn from the ashes of the devastating 1775 earthquake.image

Lisbon is known for its cobblestone paving with black and white patterns.  The origins of these cobblestone pavements date back to that 1755 earthquake. During Lisbon’s reconstruction, the earthquake’s debris was used to make these cobblestone streets and sidewalks. They are beautiful legacy from a terrible event.image

We were lucky enough to see some men working on a sidewalk. They were able to chip a stone in their hand to exactly the right size and shape that was needed. The man in the first photo was whistling happily as he worked, although i think it must be very hard on the body.image

The first thing on our agenda was to get a Sim card for our iPad. The Information lady said we could find a shop a few blocks up the hill, right behind the new elevator building. We never did find that, but we found a big mall and got a SIM card there. By this time we needed lunch, so we check out the mall’s food court. Bob got a huge plate with five kinds of meat, fried beans, rice, french fries, salad and a deep fried banana all for 4.65€, about $6.70 Canadian, and I eat my packed lunch. It is just too difficult finding food that I can eat, especially when I understand so little Portuguese or Spanish.  It is easier and less stressful to pack my own meals.image

Next on the agenda was finding an art store to see if they could help me locate some life drawing venues.  No luck there, but I did buy a few new drawing pencils. They sent me to the nearby Fine Art College, and after waiting some time, a lady there informed me that they did not have any drawing sessions for non students.  If I had wanted to rent a studio to do printmaking it would have been fine, but nothing for drawing and they did not know of any life drawing places in the city.  Remember this is a city of three million people!  I couldn’t find anything on the intenet either, so I decided to quit trying.

We did walk by the Santa Justa Lift, also called Carmo Lift, which is an elevator in the historical city of Lisbon, that connects the lower streets of the Baixa neighbourhood with the higher neighbourhood beside it.
imageIt is 45 meters high, and after a short wait we ride to the top for great panoramic views of the city. The panoramic views from the platform at the top of the elevator were spectacular.image  imageimageThis one is for Pat, looking down from the the top platform, only 150 feet or so…imagebut the crazy thing is that Lisbon is so incredibly hilly that on the other side of the viewing platform we are almost at ground level! If you look closely you can see people sitting on the patio just below where we are standing.image

I thought this was interesting.  If you need to add toilets just run the pipes on the outside of the building.  This sure wouldn’t work back home when it reaches -30°C!image

We take a quick free tour through a military museum about the Revolution in 1974 that put an end to the dictatorship that ruled Portugal for 48 years, then walked back down towards the old Jewish part of the town.  We visit the Sé Cathedral, which is the oldest Cathedral in Lisbon, its construction began in 1147, and it has survived many earthquakes.image image imageThese vestments are from the 18th Century. I thought they were particularly beautiful.imageI have such a difficult time with people begging.  Some of them appear to be in such desperate condition that it is hard not to give them some money, yet we are told not to do this as it only encourages more begging… This woman on the steps of the Cathedral wasn’t having much luck when we went into the church but when we came out she had changed into this posture and more people were stopping to put money in her container. Is it easier to give to someone who doesn’t make eye contact with you?image

In the old Jewish part of town we walk down a street of tiny stores that sell buttons, and a bit of ribbon.  I wonder how so many stores selling only buttons can survive?image

Many of the houses here are completely tiled.  We decide not to walk any further as it is very hilly and we are should think about catching the train home.image

Walking home from the train I stop to take this picture and a lady on a motorcycle stops to tell me that she keeps forgetting to bring her camera to take a picture of these white birds, first in Portuguese and then in quite good English.  Bob counted almost thirty birds in this tree.image

 

Palacio Real and Templo De Debod

Wednesday, October 14

The Palacio Real is the official residence of Spanish Royalty and the building we tried to visit Monday that was closed for a State Function.imageBob read somewhere that there are over 2000 rooms in the Palace but we are quite content to visit the twenty or so that were open to the public.  This is half of the grand staircase at the entrance, there is also a set of stairs on either side of this one that continues to the second level. The red crest at the top of the stairs is the personal crest of King Felipe IV, who we almost saw on Monday!imageThis is the view up above the staircase.  It was very ornate but only a taste of what we saw inside the Palace rooms.imagei did take one picture of the Royal Chamber of Carlos (Charles) III also known as the Gasparini Room.  We spent about an hour and a half touring these lavish rooms, each more ornate and incredible than the last.  We even visit the Throne room and the Crown Room where the Royal Crown and Sceptre are kept along with other State treasures.  There are the ordinary sort of Museum ‘guards’ but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of security inside the Palace.  Mind you, there are lots of police everywhere outside the palace.imageDo I look royal walking down the Palace stairs?  Just picture me in a beautiful ball gown, all decked out in jewels!imageWe visit the Armoury through these old doors. imageTurns out it is one of the most important collections of parade and tournament armour in the world!  Everything is beautifully displayed on two floors and there is even armour for children and ponies.  No photos allowed, but here is a photo of a photo from a little calendar we bought.

imageAfter a tea break in the Palace Cafeteria I do go back and sketch this interesting old helmet from the 1400’s. It was one of the first exhibits we saw when we entered the armoury, and of course I love dragons.  It was also small enough to sketch in a short time.

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We walk through the Palace Gardens on our way to the Parque del Oeste which is on a hill high above the Palace.

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There we visit the Egyptian Temple de Debod.  The neat thing about seeing this temple is that we actually visited its original location, where the Aswan Dam flooded many temples, several years ago. Now here we are in Madrid, seeing this temple that was saved and given to the Spanish people in thanks for their help in saving the temples at Abu Simbel.

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Two of the original entrance arches to the temple.imageA view of the back of this 2000 year old temple and some of Madrid’s newer buildings.image  I thought this dome was different all in coloured tiles.image  A view of the Palace.  We can see for miles from the top of the park behind the Temple of Debod.imageOn the way home we stop for tapas at the Mercado de San Miguel that we visited the other day.  This is basically a glorified food court in a neat old iron and glass building.  We find some tapas for Bob, and one for me.  Bob has two delicious pastries and I have to be content with taking pictures of desserts. It is hard to find any for me when I don’t eat gluten, eggs or dairy.  I do get a fruit cup…imageThis picture is for L & M, yummy little hedgehogs and Marzipan fruit and veggies with faces.image

Real Madrid Stadium Tour and Retiro Park

Tuesday October 13.

While Bob went to the Real Madrid Soccer stadium for a tour I went to the public library near Retiro Park to work on my journal.

Madrid soccer club was granted the name Real (meaning Royal) in the 1920’s by the King of Spain.  Tuesday was a much better day to tour the soccer stadium as there were no crowds, unlike Bob’s first try on Sunday.imageThe stadium holds over 80,000 fans.  The tour is very inter-active, with lots of video screens showing the rich history of the club.  Somewhere in this player’s montage is Bob with the European cup.  The montage is made up of photos of the day’s visitors.imageThe tour included the top view of the stadium, the pitch, the player’s benches, the locker rooms and the media room.  Lots to see in 90 minutes.  Soccer equipment has changed a liitle since the 1950’s.imageWe walked through Retiro Park before going home and saw a rather strange art exhibit at the Crystal Palace.  There were mammoth bones and a crucifix hanging from the ceiling as well as some letters and other ephemera in boxes and on the walls.  The information on the exhibit did little to explain anything. Maybe you can spot the crucifix?imageThe Crystal Palace itself is a beautiful conservatory, but unfortunately it is no longer used for plants, just art exhibits and other functions.image  I loved the reflections of the trees and the conservatory.image

This cute fellow was guarding the pond in front of the conservatory, imagewhich had trees growing right in the water. imageParks in Madrid are much like parks in Paris, with lots of hard surfaces, plantings of trees, shrubs and flowers and a bit of grass, which you usually are not allowed on.  With so many people using the parks it is the only way to maintain grassy areas.imageRetiro park has a large ‘pleasure’ lake with row boats for rent and a half moon colonnade with a large equestrian statue of Alfonso XII.  It was a bit cool today so no boat ride for us.
image  Another view of the park.imageWe exit the park here and catch the metro back to Moncloa Station to catch our bus home. Almost everywhere we look in Madrid there are beautiful buildings. It sure makes the architecture in Edmonton seem rather drab.image

It is a 35 or 40 minute bus ride home, but it is quite relaxing and Bob is enjoying the break from driving, and I am happy not to have to navigate. I am finally doing a bit of drawing on the metro and busimage

Life Drawing Class, El Rastro Market and a Bullfight!

Saturday, October 10

I finally found a life drawing class in Madrid.  It was difficult, there were no Meet Up Groups, and the schools didn’t seem to have anything, at least anything I could find.  Mind you, most of the information is in Spanish…

One minute quickies.

imageI went to Carmen La Greiga’s studio this morning. Carmen instructs and the class had a ‘Edvard Munch’ theme so our drawing assignments were related to that.  Most of the instruction was in Spanish although Carmen translated for me quite often.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure exactly what was wanted so then I just did my own thing.image  Combining three poses into one composition.image

Carmen introduced me to several of the other artists and they all made me feel very welcome. There were people from all over the world who have come to live here. Madrid is much like Paris that way, it seems to attract people.  Carmen has a lovely little studio, is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable instructor and also teaches life drawing for children, which I think is wonderful.  If you are ever in Madrid and want to draw, check out http://www.tallerlagriega.com

Bob went off on his own to explore the Real Madrid Soccer Stadium while I was at my class, but the admission lines were very long, so he came back to meet me after my class, which was actually much longer than I expected. Carmen does a very nice critique of each person’s work at the end of class and that took over an hour. Bob and I met up in a little park near the Prado, I ate a very late lunch and we decided we would head home early for a change.  Funny, we both saw this strange vehicle today, the riders peddle sideways but it goes forward, and then there were those blonde wigs? No idea what it was all about.image

On the metro I spotted this Michael Jackson wanna-be, complete with make up and a white glove tucked into his belt.  I do love the metro, such great people watching!image

Sunday October 11

El Restro is a famous Madrid flea market whose origins date back to Medieval times.  It takes place every Sunday so that is our first stop today.  The streets are teeming with people everywhere we look.  The market stretches for blocks with booths set up on both sides and sometimes even the middle of the streets.  We wander and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells and even do a little souvenir shopping of our own.image  You can have a bull fighting poster with your name as the matador printed as you wait.imageWe had lunch near the flower vendors and then headed off to Plaza Mayor, a popular gathering spot in Madrid.image

The Plaza ( which by the way is pronounced platha, there are lots of ‘th ‘sounds in Spanish, gracias is actually pronounced grathius!) is packed with people and street vendors and has interesting buildings around it, but half of them are covered with scafolding right now.  We find an information booth and we are told we need to head to the Bull Fight Arena right away if we want to get tickets.  So a quick metro ride and soon we are at Plaza de Toros and the Las Ventas Bulll Ring.  Here is a scale model of the arena.image

Yes, we are going to see a bullfight! I have mixed feelings about this but we have decided that it is something we should do at least once while we are in Spain. The tickets are very reasonable, only 12.60€ each gets us tickets in the fourth row. We were asked if we wanted first row tickets but I didn’t think I wanted to be quite that close to the action!imageBob looks up Los Novilleros, which is the event for today and Google Translate comes back with ‘chopped heifer’.  We hope that something was lost in the translation!  Soon enough the spectacle begins.  The banderilleros warm up, practicing their flourishes and moves with their capes. I am surprised that they are not red.  Turns out only the Novilleros or Matadores have red capes.imageThe Picadores enter the rings on their very large horses.  They are draft horses as they are large and strong enough to withstand the bulls’s charge.  We are  surprised to see that the horses are actually blindfolded during the bullfights.  There are definitely things I don’t like about all this.imageThere are three Novilleros fighting today, these are bullfighters that are still in training as I find out later, and they are fighting bulls who are not aggressive or fierce enough to become ‘toros’.  These bulls are three years old, not five and the young men fighting today are all 22 years old!image image

I take a lot of pictures, about three hundred! I think that helped keep me at a bit of a distance from it all.  Looking through the camera seemed to blunt the reality of what was happening in front of us.  Much of the action was in fact right in front of where we were sitting.  I am very glad we decided against the first row seats!image

There are some tough parts. There is definitely blood, and one of the bulls sank to his knees and had to be coaxed to his feet for the final few passes and the Estocada, which is a final quick sword thrust between the bull’s shoulders and through the heart.  If done correctly it results in a quick clean death.  However, remember these are matadors in training so it wasn’t always quite so quick. In that case, there is the Descabello, which is a shorter sword that is used to sever the bull’s spinal cord, which kills the bull almost instantly.image image

It is brutal, but it doesn’t last very long and I wonder how many animals suffer for just as long, or even longer at modern slaughter houses or when they are wounded when hunted?  The bulls have a very good life up to the time they enter the bull ring, and then a half hour later it is all over, or maybe I am just trying to justify the experience?

I tell Bob that something is going to happen, the air feels absolutely electric, and sure enough a minute or so later the bull tosses the matador into the air.imageHe is pinned to the ground and it takes what seems like a long time for help to arrive and distract the bull.  The pictures are  blurry but maybe that is for the best.imageAmazingly, this young man gets to his feet and continues the fight, even defiantly turning his back on the very bull that just tried to kill him!  These men are either very brave or very crazy!imageThis was the last fight of the night, the arena empties quickly and we head for home.  It was almost ten by the time we got home and have some soup before bed.  We have to find a way to avoid these late night suppers!

Madrid, Bibliotec National, and Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Thursday October 8

We have a quiet day at home, but we end up spending quite a bit of the day looking for accommodations in Madrid, but we aren’t having much luck.  Madrid seems to be quite expensive, not many places have parking and we aren’t getting answers back from some of the places we contacted.  We decide that we will stay where we are and take the bus into Madrid.  It is a 40 minute ride and Bob is looking forward to not driving for a while.

Friday , October 9

We take the bus into Madrid which works very well.  It is every comfortable, kind of like a Greyhound Bus, and it is very relaxing for both of us.  First stop in Madrid is the Canadian Embassy as we were told we could vote there for the upcoming Canadian election.  Turns out we can’t, as the ballot has to be mailed in and the package was sent to our home address.  The very tall first building is where the Canadian Embassy is located on the very secure 21 floor.  Lots of security in this tower.
imageBack on the Metro to find the Archeological Museum.  I love the metro!  It is fast, easy and offers great people watching.  On our way to the museum we see the Bibliotheca National and I can’t bypass a library so we go check it out, but not before stopping to say hello to this cute fellow.image

The building is very big and beautiful, but we discover it isn’t a public library, entrance is only available if you take a tour, which are all sold out for today. We are allowed to go in and check out a Rudyard Kipling exhibit in a room near the entrance after showing our passports, getting our pictures taken, putting our bags through an X ray machine, and getting a visitors pass!      imageThere was only a collection of Kipling’s books in the exhibit, not too interesting, but the room attached to it had some great old books and manuscripts…imageimage

……including what I think must be a facsimile of a Leonardo Da Vinci sketchbook.  Hard to make out as all the labels are in Spanish.  The staff also tell us about an exhibit downstairs that we can visit.  Turns out it is “Caligrafía Española” el arte describir.  Of course we have to see this.  The first thing we see on entering is this wonderful collection of calligraphy equipment from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Most of these are the same tools used by calligraphers today.image  There are many books and font samplers and these two beautiful examples of flourishes.image image

Finally we arrive at the MAN, the Museo Arqueológico National.  Turns out it is a great museum, and we get to see a facsimile of Lucy.  I remember talking about australopithicus and Lucy when I taught Social Studies many years ago.  Isn’t she beautiful?image

There is a display with examples of archeological sites in Spain, and it turns out they are everywhere.  This Screen grab says it best “Spain, A Huge Archeological Site.”  I think you could look almost anywhere in Spain and find an archaeological site!imageIn the museum there are some very intricate mosaics.image They are even more incredible when you see the size of the individual mosaic pieces.imageThe next exhibit has several room sized floor mosaics that are equally as stunning.image

I love old doors and this one is a beauty.  It just looks as though I am touching it….image

We are amazed at the technology that was in use so long ago, but the one item that probably surprised me the most was the Speculum magnum matrios, a vaginal dilator used  in gynaelogical exams, surgeries and childbirth.  The Romans developed this medical technology in the First Century AD! It is hard to imagine, and this looks very similar to the ones in use today!image

We stop for tea after two hours, and then do our best to see everything else but we ran out of energy and time and I am afraid we rather quickly strolled through the Egyptian and Greek rooms without trying to see and read about everything. There are about fourty rooms here, and they are all pcked with so much to see. We are pooped, but we enjoyed this museum a lot.  It was extremely well laid out, had lots of great videos, English signage and beautiful exhibits.  It always amazes me that so many items have survived so many centuries intact. I also did a few drawings at the museum.imageimage

Prehistoric Cave Drawings at El Castillo, Las Monedas, and Altamira

Thursday, October 1

The caves are not all that easy to find.  There are not a lot of signs for some of these main tourist attractions on the roads in the towns or villages once you are off the highways.  We actually made a ‘wrong’ turn that got us close, and then we asked directions from three local women who were sitting on an old stone bench on the side of the road, cracking and eating walnuts, while they visited.  It is an uphill winding road to the caves and we arrive in time for the last tour of the day at 1:40.  That is another thing that is taking some getting used to, the hours that attractions and businesses are open.  More on that later.

We are not allowed any pictures inside the cave and there are only four of us on the tour, so no chance to ‘sneak’ a picture or two…however we are allowed to take a picture before we enter the cave from the waiting area.image

The first cave we enter is El Castillo,  or Castle Cave, named after the mountain where it is located. The cave is incredible in its own right. The following cave pictures are taken from information in the interpretive centre.imageThen there are the cave drawings! The oldest, the negative handprints are 35,000 years old! There are also many drawings of bison, horses, reindeer and abstract symbols, including lots of round red shapes whose meaning is unknown.imageHaving a guide is essential, we never would have seen most of the drawings without her.  Our guide only spoke a little English, but it was enough to explain a bit of what we were seeing and answer basic questions. We decide we need to wait until after lunch and see the Las Monedas Cave which is also open, so we have our picnic lunch in a nearby farmer’s field. We keep looking for bulls as we hear branches cracking but discover it is only the chestnuts falling from the trees. imageLas Monedas has even more spectacular rock formations than El Castillo.  The stalactites and stalagmites are incredible, and form a multitude of differently shaped spires, pillars and other shapes.  There is so much to see that my head is swivelling in all directions, which can be rather dangerous on uneven, slippery wet footing!imageOur guide for this cave, Rebecca is amazing.  Her English is very good and she has an extensive knowledge of the cave but also of archeology and history as well.  We are the only people on this tour and our scheduled 45 minute visit extends to an hour and a quarter.  We are so glad we changed our plans and decided to see this cave as well.  There are only a few charcoal drawings in this cave, near the entrance.  I did some sketching in the caves, difficult without much light and not a lot of time, but it was an awesome feeling to think I was standing making art in the same spot as a prehistoric artist stood some 35,000 years ago!

We do a little exploring of our own after our tour.image

Next stop the famous Altamira Caves.  These caves are no longer open to the public due to the damage caused by thousands of daily visitors in the 70’s, but there is an accurate reproduction called the NeoCave that we can visit and a museum. I sit on the floor looking up and I try to draw, it is pretty hard on my neck. Here is a photo of my efforts.

imageThese are two pictures I took of the NeoCave.  We are amazed at the size, brightness and number of drawings.  The NeoCave is better than not seeing them at all, but I can only imagine what it must feel like to have been able to see the actual drawings in their original setting.image image  Hand drawings from the museum display.image

We are the last people out of the museum at 8:00 and we need to drive home in the dark.  This proves to be a bit of a challenge as we hit road construction, some detours and then we miss a few of the turns so made our own detours!  Thank heavens for the iPad and its maps with GPS.  I think we would have been driving around all night without it!

Castillo de Loarre and San Juan de la Pena

On Tuesday we visited Castillo de Loarre, a beautifully preserved Romanesque church and fortress that was started in 1071, over 900 years ago!  A film called Kingdom to Heaven was filmed there, I think in 2005. This is our first view of the castle.

image These are the ornate windows in the Queen’s tower.image  We had to watch our footing in this Medieval castle.imageWe were surprised by this para glider overhead, then we saw many more of them as there was a jumping off spot on the mountain just behind castle.image

There was an amazing panoramic view of the valley below us…image and this was our view while we had a picnic lunch!imageAfter lunch we headed to the San Juan de la Pena Monastery.  On the way we pass Aguero, a little village nestled at the base of dramatic eroded stone cliffs.  We would have loved to stop and explore, but there just isn’t time. I thought three months would be so much time but there is so much to see everywhere that we have to pick and choose.

imageThe new monastery has an interpretive center built over the old ruins.  It is the modern building  to the right in the photo below. It is a huge long building with a glass floor to view the excavated ruins below.  I find it rather unnerving walking on a clear glass floor!imageimage image

Then we go below and walk through part of the excavations.  There is also another enormous building with more ruins and figures to walk through.image

We catch a bus to the old Monastery which is sheltered under a bulging rock.  It was founded  in 920 and the Holy Grail is said to have been kept here to protect it from the Muslim invaders.  There is a replica in the chapel.image image image

The cloister has beautifully carved capitals with scenes from the Bible.imageWe have a bit of time before the bus comes back to pick us up (there is no where to park near the Monastery) so I start a sketch.

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On the way home we drive through several long tunnels that cut right through the mountains. This one was over a kilometer long!  image