Wandering the Streets of Rome and Life Drawing

Day 81, Friday November 24, 2017

It is a nice day for a walk about the streets of Rome. I get my picture taken with this tiny car on the street outside our apartment. It is the smallest car I have ever seen but it sure would be easy to park!

We are surprised at how little traffic we have seen on the streets. I think they limit who can drive in the downtown areas. Evening rush hour is busy but the rest of the day not so much.We have tea in Nuovo Piazza. This square used to have chariot races around its perimeter. From 1652 until 1866, when the floor of the square was raised, it was flooded every Saturday and Sunday in August. The fountains would be plugged so that they wouldn’t drain and the square would become a lake!  I try to imagine the scene, with people boating and bathing and children playing in the water.There is a group of musicians who kindly provide us with musical accompaniment.A detail of the Fontana del Moro at the south end of the square.I am going to a life drawing session tonight so we go to check out where it is located. The studio  is only a couple of blocks from the Piazza Navona. There is a little studio with beautiful watercolours of orchids on the way…and several basket and chair makers on the same street as the studio…along with a great little book store. I love European bookstores, they are usually small, crowded, and piled with books on every available surface. Just what I think a bookshop should look like.We found the studio, I think we might have had trouble locating it in the dark later, so I am glad to know where I need to go tonight. Heading back to Navona Piazza I peek down the side streets. I wish there was enough time to explore them all.

There are people trying to make money whatever way they can.The Fountain of Neptune is at the northern end of the square.I really like this little fellow and his spouting fish on Neptune’s Fountain.

Buildings come in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes in Rome.Tthis one appears to be right in the middle of the street!We wander about window shopping and see this robotic sculpture who waves his arms and blinks his shining eyes.An interior decorating shop, a store that sells Bonsai trees, another that sells Oriental furniture and one of the many antique shops along the streets we walked. We never know what we might see down a side street. It is a bit of sensory overload at times.We turn the corner by the elementary school and this is what we see: the Tiber River with St. Peter’s in the background.We cross the Ponte San Angelo…walking towards the Castel San Angelo, which is now a museum. There was or maybe still is a secret tunnel that connects the Vatican to this fort so that in times of danger the Pope could escape and hide here.What would Rome be without gladiators?
We head towards St. Peter’s hoping that we might have another visit to see the inside in the daytime.I have no idea how these olive trees manage to grow in pots, even though they are big pots. I wonder if they need their roots trimmed, like bonsai.We have seen quite a few people begging on the streets, but this person was by far the strangest looking.  I have no idea if this is a way of getting sympathy or if it is really the day to day garb of this individual. 

A Christmas tree is being decorated at St. Peter’s square. The line ups to get into the Basilica are very long so we decide to try to visit another day. This is just one of the benefits of spending more than a couple days in a city. We don’t have to try to cram everything into just a few days.
I think these columns are magnificent. There are 284 columns and 88 pilasters (half columns) that flank the square in a colonnade of four rows. Above the columns there are 140 statues created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini. St. Peters square is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in the world. 

After a rest and supper at home we take the bus back to my life drawing session. While I draw for two hours Bob found a reception at a gallery that he ‘crashed’ and he enjoyed some wine and goodies.

I had a great time drawing.

30 second and 1 minute posesEveryone was welcoming and the model was fantastic. I did all right, some not so bad and some not so good drawings. It has been a while since I have attended life sessions. It isn’t like I forget how to draw but it takes a while to get the facility back.

2 minute and 5 minute poses

I really appreciate the drop in sessions offered at home. Sessions are $8.00 for 3 hours. Here at La Porta Blu art School it was €15.00, or about $22.00 Canadian for two hours, which is about what I was paying when I was in Paris. I did find one other place with drop in life drawing in Rome where but their price was €30.00 and €45.00 for 2 hours! That was just a bit too expensive for me.

2, 5,10 minute and 20 minute posesUnfortunately, the bus we were to take home was very late. We were just about to give up and try walking to the metro, which was a long way away, when our bus finally arrived, just 45 minutes late! We are in Rome after all, and schedules here have a slightly different connotation than they do at home.

 

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La Traviata in St. Paul’s Within the Walls, Rome

Day 78, Tuesday November 21, 2017

We went for a little walk this afternoon and we see this fellow trying to make a few euros by juggling in the street. He didn’t seem to be having much luck so I gave him a small contribution.
We had a quiet day as we were going out tonight to see a performance of La Traviata, accompanied with some ballet in a church built in 1873. St. Paul’s Within the Walls was the first non-Catholic Church to be built inside the walls of Rome. It is an Anglican church that is often used by classical music performers and singers because of its acoustics. We got the ‘cheap seats’ at the back of the church, only €20 each.

I tried taking some photos but it was dark and they are rather blurry.  I took my small sketchbook and sketched during the performance. It was quite dark so not the easiest. The light in our apartment isn’t very good for taking photos so these aren’t the best either. This page also has some drawings from the metro on the way home.There was even live music. We both enjoyed the performance and it wasn’t nearly as cold in the church as we had thought it would be. I brought a blanket to cover my lap but didn’t even need it. Bob says it is a better opera than the one we saw in Barcelona as the heroine only took two hours to die!

Michelangelo’s David

Day 66, Thursday, November 9, 2017

We arrived at the Galleria Dell’Accademia with our tickets for 11:15 and a very kind guard let us in a half hour early.  Our first view of David is pretty wonderful.We walk past Michelangelo’s ‘prisoners’ forever trapped in their unfinished state, on our way to David. There are a lot of people but we take a photo, me and David!

David is even more spectacular than I remember from our visit in 1980, although when we were last here there was no barrier between us and the statue. Of course that was before someone took hammer to David’s left foot!

This 17 foot tall masterpiece is mesmerizing. I sit and draw David. It is still a bit intimidating to sit in public and draw, but people were very kind and very curious about what I was doing. I was aware that there was usually someone standing behind me, watching and taking photos and many people came up to talk to me and ask if it was OK to take a picture. One lady went and got her parents to come meet me and another woman looked at my drawing and said “God Bless You!” Bob wandered off to an exhibit of musical instruments so that I had time to sit and draw. We spend a bit of time going through the rest of the museum. This room full of plaster casts was amazing.There are several more rooms with beautiful iconographic paintings… and a fifteen foot long embroidered altar cloth for the main altar of the Santa Maria Novella Church from 1336. This was the work of one man. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to completely cover such a large cloth in the embroidered stitches.

In the evening I attend a life drawing session at the Florence Academy of Art in the evening. I planned on arriving early to introduce myself and get settled, however our bus was almost 40 minutes late so I arrive about 15 minutes late. That was quite stressful. I decided to ‘christen’ the nice new sketchbook that I bought in Venice.Unfortunately I also had to leave a half hour early because there was going to be a transportation strike starting at 9:00 and it is too far to walk home.  I still enjoyed the session even though I wasn’t all that happy with my drawing.  I met a couple very nice artists, including a woman from Smithers B.C. who was attending a six-week workshop at the Academy. 

Bike Ride

Day 50, Tuesday October 24, 2017

Our Airbnb has bikes so today Bob went for a 34 km bike ride along this river.  It only took him 3 1/2 hours, including his lunch break. Much better time than if I was along for the ride! You can see the mountains way in the distance in this one.I had a much-needed quiet day. I did all our laundry and a bit in my journal. I finally was able to take photos of the finished pages. Usually by the time get home it is too dark to get decent pictures. 
I drew this page in the car on the way to Dubrovnik.When we were in Venice I finally started to draw while I was on the bus or waiting for the vaporettos. I took a hardcover Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook for this trip instead of my own handmade signatures. It is nice having everything already bound in a book but it is much heavier to carry around. The 9″x6″ landscape format is a bit awkward when I draw standing and a bit too big and obvious when I try to draw people without them noticing that I am doing so. I think I will go back to my old system of carrying a signature at a time in a folder and then binding them all together when I get home for any other trips.

I started to draw in a little notebook that is maybe about 3″x5″ and that is working for those times when my bigger book isn’t. I showed the lady in the last drawing her portrait as she walked by on the bus, and she was quite pleased. She told her friends so I held it up for them to see, and lots of other people saw it and were smiling at me about it.  Kind of nice. 
I had a chance to sit and draw the Karaka on location which was fun and challenging.This ‘steam punky’ fish was interesting to draw . I used my favourite Bic pen for this one. I have bits and pieces done on other journal pages, but really I am quite behind. I am trying to draw more on location whenever possible.

Quiet Day in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 34, Sunday October 8

Today was a quiet but rather frustrating day. We went out to get groceries and pick up two Dubrovnik Cards that give entrance to most of the sites that we want to see. We couldn’t find the tourist office that we were looking for and the grocery store closed early because it was Independence Day. We went to another grocery store but there was no parking anywhere, so we tried a third one.  Google maps said it was there but do you think we can find it? We decide to go to a smaller grocery store nearby. It is closed too, but we finally see the store we were looking for.

Oh yes, and I spilled my whole mug of tea in the car all over my purse and then a small dish broke in my hand when I was using it! That was enough for me.  I stayed home the rest of the day while Bob went for a walk into town and picked up the Dubrovnik cards.

Here are a few more pages from my travel journal.



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.

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

 

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