Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Day 68, Saturday, November 11, 2017

We changed our plans to visit the town of Siena today so that we can go to the Uffizi Gallery. In hindsight I think we should have planned for more time in Florence, a week was just enough to be a tease. There is so much more I would have liked to see here. ‘sigh’

It is so easy to miss the small sights when surrounded by such majestic ones. I thought the artist who added his or her touch to the official street signs was very clever, especially David carrying the big white ‘do not enter’ bar.
Florence is the birthplace of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio. I made a new friend but I think Bob has been telling a few fibs lately!We tried to visit the Library again. We were told we could come Saturday morning and the library is open until 1:30. However when we arrive just after 12:00 we discover that ‘visiting hours’ ended at 11:30! No library visits in Florence for us.

This ‘statue’ on the steps at the Uffizi Gallery surprised a few people when it moved!

We are lucky and there is no line up at the Uffizi Gallery. In the summer the wait to get tickets can be as much as five hours! I discover some Italian artists whose work I really like. These paintings seemed to call to me from across the room, begging for a closer look.This drawing by Bellini from 1500-1506 is about three feet long!I think this incredibly beautiful painting ‘Madonna and Child With Two Angels’ 1460-5  by Filippo Lippi is my favourite. A photograph doesn’t do it justice.

The Uffizi is a ‘U’ shaped building with two long wings connected at one end.
The ceilings of both upper wings of the Uffizi are beautifully painted, each panel different from the next…and they are very long hallways!There are many Medieval paintings…  I particularly liked all the detail in this Adoration of the Magi from 1423 by Gentile Da Fabrianoand the wings of these little angels. They make me think of parrot wings.I was surprised to see this large Roman copy of an original bronze sculpture from the 3rd Century. I drew a sketch of the original bronze when we visited the Correr museum in Venice. Different angle, same boar.We stopped for tea and a yummy fresh fruit tart in the museum café. Two pots of tea and one tart were ‘only’ $30.00 Canadian, but we had a great view!  Rested and refreshed we continue our visit. I saw many paintings that I ‘know’ from reproductions. I feel very fortunate to be able to stand in front of the originals.

Francesca’s The Duke and Duchess of Urbino.
La Primavera, 1480, and…

The Birth of Venus, 1485, both by Botticelli.

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family, known as the Doni Tondo painted in 1507, and…Titian’s Venus of Urbino from 1538. This painting was considered so risqué at the time that it was concealed by a sliding panel until the end of the 16th Century!The ceilings in many of the Gallery rooms were also beautifully painted.We had a great view the Ponte Vecchio from one of the second floor windows.Bob read that this painting was badly damaged by a Mafia car bomb explosion in 1993 and was later restored. I did a bit of research if you want to read about it.There are several paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci in this gallery but I am most interested in The Adoration of the Magi San Donato in Scopeto. Da Vinci never finished this painting so it gives insight into his creative process. I found it fascinating. The painting was being restored for six years and was only returned to the Uffizi in March of this year. This link allows you to zoom in for a closer look.

We managed to see a lot in the 4 1/2 hours we spent at the gallery.  Several of the rooms were closed, which was probably a good thing. We never would have managed to see it all if they would have been open. On the way home we pass this rather small, curious door to apartment #9.

One last view of Santa Croce. We learned that a Spanish tourist was recently killed here on Oct.19th, by a piece of masonry the fell from the ceiling. 

Hilltop View of Florence

Day 67, Friday November 10, 2017

The Piazzale Michelangelo gives panoramic views over Frienze. We can see the bridges over the Arno River…The Duomo…and some of the ancient town walls. There is a copy of David here but it doesn’t have the same impact as the original.I love the feet on these old lampposts on the Piazzale. We visited this spot on our first trip to Firenze one hot summer night long ago.

Fall has officially arrived.We explore the streets in the Oltrarno area on the south side of the Arno River. There are lots of interesting little shops and art studios. We also see a lot of interesting street art in this part of Florence.The Ponte Vecchio is now the home of Firenze’s jewelry shops

We visit this little book binding shop…and see these very large albums in another shop window. I am so glad I bought my sketchbook in Venice. I haven’t seen another one with good drawing paper.We cross the Arno admiring the reflections on our walk to the train station to find bus to take us home.There are lots of interesting windows along the way.. and a garage that parks its cars one on top of the other!We were also lucky enough to see a murmuration of Starlings near the Santa Maria Novella train station.  It was getting dark so I didn’t get the best photo but there were thousands of birds flying above us, swirling, swooping in intricately coordinated patterns.  They were also very noisy as they settled into the trees for the night!

The Doge’s Palace, Venice

Day 45, Thursday October 19, 2017

We take the bus into Venice this morning instead of the train, which is a better choice. It is only a short walk to the bus from our apartment in Mestre instead of a 20 minute walk to the train station. Our walk to the Doge’s Palace was interesting. Some of the narrow canals have mirrors to avoid collisions. Check out our reflections.

It is a ‘misty’ morning again.We stumbled across this art show and we were delighted to discover that several  St. Albert artists I know have their work in this exhibit. There is also some interesting modern art on display in gallery windows.One of the churches on our path to the palace had a show of musical instruments. Some were very old and there was also this ancient music book, hand written on vellum.It wouldn’t be Venice without gondoliers on the canals.I saw some marbled paper for sale, but it wasn’t anything exceptional.  My marbled papered and the paper my friends make is at least as nice and take a look at these prices!
While we were having our lunch we saw this bride and groom hurrying by.  It doesn’t look very romantic to me, and the bride had to hold her skirt up so it wouldn’t get dirty.The Doge’s Palace was the official residence of Venice’s rulers and was founded in the 9th Century. This is the interior courtyard. It is a very impressive building but we were not prepared for the over the top magnificence of the interior.  


We start our tour by climbing the Golden Staircase, which is named for all the gold on its ceiling.We walked from room to room, each more ornate than the one before.The painting on the end wall is Paradise by Tintoretto and there are more than 500 figures represented. It is in the Sal del Maggior Consiglio, which is the largest room in Europe with a ceiling that is not supported by pillars.Can you see me?  This is a very big room!There is a museum here with over 2,000 weapons. I have a bit of a hard time with these displays. I wonder how many innocent people were killed with these swords and other weapons?
This is a weird view of the courtyard through the very old hand blown glass in the windows.We cross the bridge which connects the palace to the prison in the building beside it. There are two windows here where the prisoner’s would have their last views of the outside world. They were said to have sighed in despair and so the bridge was named the Bridge of Sighs.  This was their view, and mine today.

The prison cells are dark, cold and cramped with small heavy barred doors. Most of the cells have no outside light at all. Some of the cells still have the prisoner’s graffiti on the walls. I can only imagine the despair they felt being locked up in such a place.Back to the palace and our tour is almost over.  Just a few more photos.I like the whimsical lion over the doorway at the head of these stairs.On our way back to the bus I can’t resist taking a more pictures the canals.  I so hope the sun comes out at least for a day so I can get pictures with more light. The buildings are so old, with their patina of age, rust and peeling paint but somehow it just makes them even more appealing.



 

Park Güell

Tuesday, December 8

Bob went out this morning to get a few groceries and all the local shops were closed!  He finally found somewhere to buy food for our last few meals in Barcelona. We discover that today is Immaculate Conception Day, a Spanish National Holiday, and almost all the shops are closed. I had planned on shopping for a few last minute souvenirs and some sketchbooks that I really liked. No luck, so we catch the metro to Park Güell, where we spend our last day in Spain.

Our walk from the metro to the park is all uphill! Luckily there are escalators for the very steepest part of the climb.  I liked the imagery of the two nuns walking in front of all the graffiti, and the ‘tree’ is actually a drain pipe with some sculptural concrete additions. I’m glad we don’t have to park here.Image-1

Park Güell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.  It was designed by Antonio Gaudi for Eusebi Güell and construction on a garden city started in 1900. There were to be sixty single family homes built but the project wasn’t successful and only two homes were actually completed.  One of these, Gaudi’s residence, is now a museum and the other, Güell’s residence, is now a public school. The park became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1923 after Güell died and in 1984 it was declared a UESCO World Heritage Site.

We bought our tickets in advance as there are ‘only’ 400 people admitted to the Monumental Zone of the park every half hour.  While we waited, we got some refreshments from a little shop that was built right into the rock cliff face.  We entered at the Teatre Grec, or Nature Square, which is partly dug into the mountain and partly held up by the Hypostyle Room. There is a long undulating bench in the shape of a sea serpent which surrounds three sides of this square. The back of the bench forms a balustrade and the entire bench is covered in mosaics made with coloured ceramic shards most of which came from demolition projects and discarded objects.FullSizeRender

I read that Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit on soft plaster so that he could figure out the correct shape of the bench seat so that it would be comfortable!”

There are great views from the square, both of the main entrance with its two whimsical buildings, and of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The house on the left was the porter’s residence and the building on the right is now the gift shop.FullSizeRender

The Hypostyle Room is under the square and it is a covered space that could be used for gatherings and markets. All the columns lean a bit this way or that, none of them are perpendicular to the ground.  The columns hold up the square and rainwater collected on the square is filtered down through the columns into a cistern underneath the floor. It is quite amazing.  Notice the dog’s head decoration.Image-1

At the main entrance there is the monumental flight of steps, flanked by two convex walls decorated with more mosaics, that leads up the Hypostyle Room.FullSizeRender

These are some of the many different, colourful mosaic tiles on these stairway walls. Image-1

There are sculptures and three fountains on this flight of stairs but this one is the most famous. This brightly coloured salamander, or dragon, depending on what we read is a favourite of the people of Barcelona and most visitors. Everyone wants to touch it and take their picture beside, or even sitting on the salamander. There is a guard assigned specifically to prevent people from touching the salamander to prevent further damage.  Thousands and thousands of touches eventually wear away the tiles and can cause breakage. It is an impossible job as nearly everyone attempts to make some sort of contact with this creature!FullSizeRender

We head towards Portico of the Washerwoman, which starts near the main entrance, with a spiral ramp and columns in the shape of a spiral curve that ends at a rough caryatid known as the Washerwoman because she carries a basket of washing. Image-1This ramp takes us back to the Nature Square and we spend some more time here, enjoying the sunshine and the views, along with a bit of people watching. FullSizeRender

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On the other side of the square there is another walkway called Planters Viaduct, which we follow and end up in an interesting area with more strange leaning columns and stone chairs. This is such an incredible place!   I can only guess at the hours and hours it took to create all this and wonder at Gaudi’s incredible vision and imagination.FullSizeRender

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There are so many fascinating details everywhere.  It really is a visual feast and almost too much to absorb in one visit. I would have loved to draw some of this but there just isn’t enough time to see everything and draw too.  Image-1On the way back to the square we meet this rather strange fellow.FullSizeRender

I rather reluctantly say goodbye to this wonderful place. Just outside the park gates I see a building, which appears to be unoccupied, and announce that it would make a perfect studio for me!  Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?FullSizeRender

I love these zebras we see on the walk back to the metro.
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It is a good thing that we got most of our cleaning and packing finished last night as we had some unexpected excitement tonight.  The stairway in our apartment has one of those elevator chairs that run on a rail for handicapped people.  Tonight a woman was on her way down the stairs on the chair and it stopped working.  She was getting very upset and, even with Bob’s help, her husband was not able to get her out of the chair and down the stairs. Finally we suggested calling the fire department and soon they arrived. Six of these strong firefighters finally managed to get this poor lady out of her chair and safely down the stairs.  It was quite the procedure, and it meant that for almost two hours no one could go up or down the stairwell .Image 2016-05-22 at 12.09 PM

Finally, to bed, all packed and ready for the long flight home.

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

Mijas and Granada

Tuesday, November 17

We leave for Granada today which is a good thing as our balcony is positively swarming with workmen this morning. Too bad all this painting is going on as it made it difficult to fully enjoy our apartment, which was really quite nice otherwise. We met some people in Seville who told us about a pretty white village named Mijas so we stop for a visit on our way to Granada.imageOne of the first things we see as we set out to explore Mijas are a lot of donkeys tied up along the main street. These are the donkey taxis that were first started in the 1960s by a local resident who used the donkeys to transport goods.  Early tourists wanted to take pictures with the donkeys and asked to have rides and the tips they offered were more than his day’s wages…and so began the donkey taxis.  I thought that they didn’t look very well cared for and that they were not very healthy and wasn’t interested in making them give me a ride.image image  So, here is the donkey ride I chose.imageWe found a lovely stone bench overlooking the valley and had our picnic lunch here.  imageThere is a very old tiny church which we visit and we want to buy a few things at their little shop but the store didn’t have change for 20€ so we said we would come back later, but when we return they are closed, so we are out of  luck.

mijas-villas.com has this description of the church:”Hidden away in a corner of the village, overlooking the wonderful valley leading to the coast, is the hermitage of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’. Built into a rocky outcrop by Mercedarian monks in 1520. Inside is the image of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’, the patron Saint of the village. According to the legend, she appeared on this spot on the 2nd of June 1586 to two young shepherds that had been led there by a pigeon. Subsequently an image of the Virgin was found concealed in a recess in the tower where it had been hidden for 500 years. In 1656 work started on the sanctuary cave, which is nowadays always decorated with flowers and pictures as offerings.”imageWe then walked around the edge of the town along some of the old original stone walls which offered more great views of the valley below.imageWe enjoyed the gardens along the way which were very well maintained and had more flowering plants than we have seen elsewhere as well as many water features.  It was very pleasant and relaxing.imageWe stopped to watch these rock climbers but they take a long time getting ready to climb so we have to move on. imageWe climbed a little tower on our walk through the town and it gave a nice opportunity to see the roof tops and how tightly packed together the houses are.imageI often see older people sitting on doorsteps or walking along the streets and wish I could take their pictures but I don’t want to be rude or intrusive.  I was able to take this fellow’s photo after we walked by. image

What is not to love about a street as pretty as this?imageCars manage to drive along the narrowest streets and we find them parked in some of the strangest places.  This car had travelled up the street in the second picture.  You may be able to see that the street became much narrower further on. We have no idea how it managed to navigate past the flower pots on this very narrow road or how it is going to turn around to get out of there.  We climbed steps to get to this road!imageAll to soon it is time for us to hit the road.  We need to be in Granada by 6:00 to meet our host for our next apartment.  The scenery changes soon after we leave Mijas, it is drier and we start to see olive trees.imageWe have seen graffiti everywhere we have been in Spain and Portugal.  These tags are all along the highway walls.imageSoon we are driving through mile after mile of olive groves.  We can’t believe how many fields of olive trees there are, stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions. I snap these photos as we drive by so they aren’t wonderful but they do give at leat some idea of all the trees we see on the way to Granada.image

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment or ‘like’ a post on this blog. WordPress just sent me a notice that my blog has more than 100 likes and that “my stats are booming and I am getting lots of traffic”  I’m not sure exactly how important that is but I think when people like a post or comment it makes it easier for others to find the blog on search engines.  I am still relatively new to blogging and need to do a bit more research into all this.

I started the blog so friends and family could follow my travels and as a place to show some of my art and I have been rather astounded to find that my blog has had 7,223 views by people in 50 countries since I started it for my trip to Paris in 2014.  So, if you do enjoy a post please feel free to offer a comment or press that like button.  I am behind on responding to comments but I do read them all and I am always thrilled that someone takes the time to comment on what they have read.