Exploring Pula and the Amphitheatre

Day 16, Wednesday. September 20, 2017

Today was cloudy, but thankfully we didn’t have any rain.  It certainly makes a big difference in our enjoyment of the day and our walk about. This post will be a bit picture heavy, there are just so many interesting things to show you.

Pula’s old buildings are either very dilapidated looking and/or they have been colourfully painted. Here are a few of the streets we walked today.There are a few more people out and about today now that the rain has stopped.Loved these balconies with all the pots of plants. I think a gardener lives here!This is the biggest ship we have ever seen. it was way more than a block long and it is simply enormous!
We went into the Temple of Augustus, only 10 Kuna each, or $2.00 Canadian.  These huge feet were my favourite exhibit inside. They were incredibly detailed. That is my foot in black at the bottom of the picture to give an idea of their size.More narrow streets…
and interesting balconies. You must look up in these cities or you miss so much.Here are some interesting fishing boats. We noticed that they all had lots of lights for attracting the fish at night. We thought that this was illegal, but I guess it isn’t here?

We sat for a while in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, enjoying the quiet simplicity of this cathedral. It is so different from all the very ornate churches we saw in Spain and Portugal on our last trip.I thought that the church’s Madonna was particularly beautiful This seems to be the church’s bell tower, but I am not certain about that. It is right in front of the church.Next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre that we walked around yesterday. It is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world. It held up to 20,000 spectators and was built in the 1st Century AD., so it is over 2,000 years old! Gladiatorial games were banished in the beginning of the 5th Century and after that it was neglected and gradually fell into ruin.Today this arena is used for festivals and performances in the summer months.Seems we were into ‘selfies’ today!Note the remains of an arched entrance in the foreground.There were rooms and chambers around the arena, some were used to hold wild beasts, and I am not sure what the others were used for. This animation video give a better idea of what the arena and the area around it looked like when it was intact.  The very beginning of the video looks fuzzy but it quickly gets better. Underneath the Amphitheater is a display about making olive oil with many ancient amphoras.Guess what I thought these look like?As we were leaving we saw a pair of lions guarding the entrance into the arena.Here is an artist’s print of the Arena as it is today.We found some more interesting streets to wander, and stopped for some tea and nourishment. All this sightseeing is hard work! We seem to walk between 13,000 to 16,000 steps each day according to my Fitbit. Just a few more steps than I usually walk at home.We climbed up to the Marine Museum but elected to walk around it rather than go inside.  There were some great views of the city and the Amphitheater..As we headed back to our car we were treated to the sights and smells of a little flower marketIt still seems bizarre to me that we can walk down a city street and there it is, a 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater!

Wandering through Amsterdam


Saturday, September 9, 2017

The rain kept us home until after lunch, but when the sun finally peeked out we took a tram towards the museum district.  We had packed a picnic lunch so we sat in the sunshine near the Rijk Museum, people watching as we ate.  Seems like everyone was trying to get their photo taken on the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign, but we passed right on by. I wasn’t sure I could manage to climb onto one of those letters.We wandered through the Rijk Museum gardens, admiring these great Dubuffet sculptures…before heading towards the Bloemenmarkt, or the Flower Market, which was our next stop. I couldn’t believe how many bulbs were for sale and some of them were absolutely enormous.   Right beside the Flower Market there were several cheese shops, which had samples for tasting. We tried several and they were all delicious so we bought a little pack  of several different cheeses for snacking later.I wasn’t joking when I said there are more bikes than cars. Here’s a view of the sidewalk near an intersection.  This is a normal sight, the sidewalks everywhere have rows and rows of bikes parked on them. Sometimes there is barely room to walk!
This is the view from one of the bridges over a canal. we are surprised at how long some of the houseboats are.  Most of the canals are lined with these houseboats, which are permanently parked and hooked up to water, sewer and electricity. Strangely, we never saw anyone actually on one of these houseboats.  Maybe they were hiding from all the tourists?We spent a couple pleasant hours walking up and down the side streets and canal streets, mostly just window shopping but we did pop into a shop or two, including this antique shop which was huge and packed with all sorts of interesting items.I couldn’t resist a photo into this shop, everything was piled all over. It was quite a jumbled mess.
Do you notice anything strange about this street of houses?

On our way towards the train station we stumbled upon Dam Square, a popular gathering place. There were people sitting, and walking everywhere, there were also cars, trams, horses and buggies, and little rickshaw vehicles being pulled by bikes, In other words, complete chaos! Sure was interesting people watching though.

This is the view looking back towards where we were sitting when I took the first photo from right beside the monument. Oh, and just a few more bikes.  Did I say they are parked everywhere?We decided to take a canal boat ride, so we spent an hour actually on the canals looking at all the buildings from another viewpoint. The tour also took us out into the harbour which was interesting.  It was just getting dark as our boat ride ended.We were both rather tired so we caught our tram home about 9:00 pm.

Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Valencia’s Turia river was prone to flooding and after a particularly damaging flood in 1957 that destroyed many buildings and caused numerous deaths it was decided to divert the river to the outskirts of town.  The old river bed through the centre of Valencia was developed as a nine kilometre sunken park, called the ‘Garden of the Turia’, complete with paths, ponds, fountains, playgrounds, climbing walls, gardens, trees, cafés and cultural buildings. This photo is from Google Images. I thought this was a brilliant idea.-2730

We walked from the Old Town along this riverbed park all the way to the City of Arts and Sciences.

“The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is one of the largest scientific and cultural complexes in Europe. It is made up of impressive buildings such as the Hemisfèric and Oceanogràfic, and stands out because of its avant-garde architecture, designed by renowned architects Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela.

The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is situated in a two-kilometre-long area on the old Turia River bed. It is made up of six large elements: the Hemisfèric (IMAX Cinema and digital films) the Umbracle (landscaped vantage point), the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum (an innovative interactive science centre), the Oceanogràfic (Europe’s largest aquarium with over 500 marine species), the Reina Sofía Palace of the Arts (dedicated to opera), and the Ágora (a multipurpose space in which concerts and many activities take place).The different centres here organise conferences, exhibitions, projections, guided tours and workshops related to science, technology, nature and art, designed to stimulate curiosity and learning with different types of audiences.~www.spain.info

We decide not to visit any of the exhibits as we simply don’t have enough time to visit six buildings full of exhibits and activities. So, wander with us as we explore…and if you want, there is even more information here.FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_5 FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_4

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Spanish cities are very densely populated as you can see from all these high rise apartments right beside the park. If you live in a Spanish city, you will most likely be living in an apartment! FullSizeRender_2

FullSizeRenderHere are a few photos of Turia Park taken on our walk back to the metro station near Old Town Valencia.  FullSizeRender_3

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Under one of the many bridges that carry traffic and pedestrians over the park we looked up and noticed these fantastic water spouts! Image-1

Another bridge had pedestrian walkways on each side of the roadway, bordered by these colourful flowers.FullSizeRender_3

Parque Gulliver is the most amazing playground I have ever seen.  I found this arial view here.  I do need to find out how to properly credit photographs I ‘borrow’ from the internet.

Moda Lisboa|Estoril 30

Moda Lisboa|Estoril 30

Image-1Gulliver Park is an enormous playground with slides, ramps, caves and stairs based on the novel Gulliver’s Travels. I could not resist joining in on the fun but I was unable to convince Bob to join me. I found it quite interesting that there are no fences or railings anywhere on this giant sculpture of Gulliver even though there were many places where it would have been quite easy to fall from quite a height. I don’t think this playground would be allowed back home. If you Google ‘Valencia Gulliver Playground Images’ there are lots of more interesting photos.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_3The washrooms beside this playground had the cutest signs we on the doors to the facilities.Image-1Just as the sun is setting we arrive back at our apartment complex.FullSizeRender_2

Granada Cathedral and Alcaiceria Market

We are back home and although we had a good flight home it was still 24 hours from the time we got up until we arrived home. It is going to take a while to get back on Alberta time. I have fallen behind on my blogging but I am going to continue posting until I have it completed. Thank you for following along with us so far and I hope you will enjoy the rest of our trip.

Saturday, November 21

We spend another day in Granada, as we want to visit the Cathedral and the Alcaiceria, which is a reconstruction of the Moorish Market that burned down in 1843. This market is a maze of narrow streets and colourful shops that are absolutely crammed full of merchandise. We purchase a few souvenirs and Bob has a few laughs at my rather pathetic attempts at bargaining.

IMG_2488The Cathedral is right beside the market so that is our next stop.  Upon entering the front door this is the what we see.FullSizeRender  Here is a closer view of the magnificent dome over the altar.  FullSizeRender_3This cathedral has a very ornate very large organ. FullSizeRender_4I spotted this stand with several huge medieval books but it was in a roped off area so I couldn’t get any closer to get a good look.FullSizeRenderA bit further on down one of the side aisles I was thrilled to find a display of these ancient books. They were behind glass but I was able to get a much better look at them.FullSizeRender_4The lighting wasn’t the best, but there were several cabinets with books inside. While I was absorbed in studying the calligraphy and painted images, the lights in the cabinets shut off and it was too dark to see them anymore.  I had no idea why the lights shut off and although we returned a couple of times to check if the lights had been turned back on I was out of luck. I am glad that I at least had the opportunity to see what I had.
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We have seen similar skull and crossbones in almost every cathedral we have visited. They are on tombstones embedded in the cathedral floors.FullSizeRender_2The pillars and ceiling are quite ornate and the space they enclose is immense.  Notice how small the people are.
FullSizeRender_3This is a view of the back side of the Cathedral, seems I didn’t take one of the front. If you want to know a bit more about the Cathedral check out this link.  http://www.thousandwonders.net/Granada+Cathedral  It also has some nice pictures.DSC01159There is a suggested walk through the Albaicin, on the hillside opposite the Alhambra so we head out to explore it.  The beginning of the walk was quite nice.FullSizeRender_3I quite liked this ‘Granada’, or pomegranate, on the front of one of the buildings we passed on our walk.FullSizeRender_2We do find this lovely little garden and one other garden attached to a little museum along the way.  In the museum garden there are several orange trees loaded with ripe oranges, and we ‘borrow’ one to eat later.FullSizeRender

We spent a fair amount of time checking our map and trying to figure out which way to go. The route was not well-marked and we had to backtrack more than once. It was a long walk up lots of steep roads and really for what we saw we weren’t sure it was worth the effort and time, but at least we got some exercise.FullSizeRender_2

This is a view of the Alhambra from a viewpoint on a terrace by some restaurants near the end of our walk.FullSizeRender_4

On the way back to the bus we pass this building with its ‘street art’ and bricked up windows.  We saw so many apartments and buildings like this, empty and/or abandoned, right beside occupied buildings and shops. I sure wouldn’t want to be living in an apartment next to an abandoned empty building.  FullSizeRender

The Alhambra, Granada

Friday, November 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doñana National Park

Monday, November 9th

We tried to book a guided tour to visit Parque Nacional de Doñana, along the coast south of Seville, which is one of Europe’s greatest wetlands.  It includes 50,000 hectares of marshes and sand dunes, which are home to thousands of migratory birds in the winter months. The tour company does not operate without a minimum of four passengers, and we are the only two, so we decided to visit the park on our own.  This turned out very well and we had a relaxing day, even though we didn’t see many birds.

Along the road to the park we pass acre after acre of these domed greenhouses. We aren’t sure what they are growing but they cover field after field sometimes as far as we can see in all directions!image

We also see lots of these coniferous trees.  They have been planted in rows and the bottom branches have been pruned as they grow, yet they don’t seem to be a tree that would provide lots of lumber.  I was not  sure about these either, but I love the rounded shape of the top of them.  After a little research I now know these are Stone Pines, they are grown for their pine nuts and in some areas they have become naturalized.   For more information see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_pine  image

First stop is the Palacio Del Acebrón which was built in the 1960’s. The land around the Palacio was cleared, planted with Eucalyptus trees, gardens, paths and trails were built and a huge pond was dredged and lined so that plants would not fill it in.imageThe building is now an interpretation centre, and we get there in time for a visit before it closes at two.  These long Spanish lunch hours make it difficult to plan our day.  Seems things are always closed when we are out and about and then opening again when we are ready to head home!  Bob is checking out one of the displays.image

We go for a hike through along a little river and through some of the grounds.  What would a holiday be without at least one tree hugging picture?imageWe hiked along another trail to some bird blinds but only saw a few ducks in the distance.  We decide that the migratory birds either have not arrived yet, or it is too early in the day for viewing so we head for the ocean and the sand dunes. We walk a long ways down this beach, and I gather a few sea shells as souvenirs.
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We also see this victim of a discarded fishing line.  If you look closely you may make it out wrapped around this bird’s neck.  We saw quite a lot of plastic debris washed up this beach.imageThese are sand dune cliffs that line the length of the beach, as far as we can see, and our version of a ‘selfie’.image

All too soon the sun begins to set so we head back to the car along this boardwalk through yet more sand dunes.image imageWe get to our car just as the sun sets.  We didn’t see many of the birds that this park is famous for, but it was still a very enjoyable day.image

Parque Maria Louisa, Seville

Sunday, November 8

There are several parks in Seville and one of the biggest is the Parque María Louisa, which is where we spend the afternoon today. We saw a lot of people dressed in T shirts, coloured tutus and tights covered in what looked like powdered paint. These two young ladies posed for me. Everyone looked like they were having a great time but we had no idea what it was all about.image

I did some internet searching later and find out what the Colour Run is all about. Check out this link.  https://ca.thecolorrun.com/about/   Basically it is a 5 km fun race whose objective is to have fun and get doused with coloured powder and party with a lot of other people! Eleven thousand people took part in Seville’s Color Run this year. I have included a link to a short youtube video that gives a pretty good idea of what it is all about.     https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y8bboQxGp9E

We had lots of fun just watching all the brightly coloured people walking by us after they finished the race and the after race party.  Wish we had known about it in time to go watch the fun. It is an interesting day.  We watch a bit of a dog show in Plaza de Espána. The very big and very small dog in the photo below were very interested in getting to know one another.imageThe Plaza de Espána was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition. It is a huge curved building complete with a semi circular canal.image  We caught a glimpse of Cinderella and the Prince who is running after her!imageThe railings all along this building are blue and white ceramic with colourful ceramic posts.imageThere are towers at each end of the building, which I read was used as a set in one of the Star Wars movies.  We walked along the exact same route as Luke Skywalker in this short clip from the movie!   https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mVQyW1n5ECY     image

This sculpture, The Glorieta de Bécquer, depicts the three phases of love and someone had placed a fresh bouquet of white flowers in the arms of the woman depicting love passing. I thought it was very lovely and poignant.imageOne of the many water features in the park.  This one had very well fed ducks, who refused to eat yet another piece of bread, much to the disappointment of some cute little girls with their bags of food for the ducks.imageWe watched people rowing on the canal, who had waited in a very long line up for the opportunity to circumnavigate the canal. Can you spot Bob?image

One of the many wide paths through the park, which has a wide variety of very large trees.  It was a lovely place to while away an afternoon.
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Good Bye Portugal, Hello Spain

Wednesday November 4

We are on the road by 9:30 for Seville, Spain.  We didn’t manage to see or do as much as we thought we would in Portugal; the rainy weather and catching a cold put a bit of a damper, no pun intended, on our visit here.  Too bad, but it is what it is.imageWe stop in Tavira, Portugal for lunch and find this lovely little garden behind an old monastery.  There are trees here from all over the world with identifying tags, including this poinsettia tree.image

We walk around after our picnic lunch and discover this old castle with a park in its center.  We climb the steps to the top of the old walls, very narrow steps without any railings.  We have noticed that Spain and Portugal expect visitors to take care of themselves.  There are often no safety rails or fences in quite dangerous places. Back home this would not be the case. Can you see Bob at the very top of the stairs, where he stumbled?image The view from the top of the castle walls over the roof tops.image Two pictures of the same tree.  Can you spot who is hiding in each one?image

imageTavira has lots of tourist attractions but we notice that there are many empty store fronts and houses for sale.  This is something that we have seen repeatedly throughout Spain and Portugal.  Their economies are suffering with high unemployment and the villages and towns are losing young people to the bigger cities.  We have also noticed how often there are abandoned derelict houses, businesses and factories right beside nicely well maintained buildings.imageNotice the tree growing out of the window on the second floor of one of the building in this picture for an example. There are lots of ‘fixer uppers’ in Portugal and Spain!imageSoon we are approaching Seville and our next apartment.
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Travel days are kind of hard on me, so I stay home today and rest and Bob goes to check out the tourist sights and figure out the bus system for our outing tomorrow.  I spend an hour or so watching a worker climb up inside the leaves of a palm tree and then trim it.  It looked like a very difficult, dirty job, but it was very interesting to watch.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