Spanish National Holiday, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Guernica

Monday, October 12, Day 30 of our holiday!

Today is Dia de la Hispanidad, Spain’s National Holiday to celebrate Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492.  There is a Military Parade this morning but it is a bit too early for us, so instead we go to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which is supposed to be free today.  However, when we arrive it is all cordoned off and there are lots of police and crowds of people everywhere.imageWe decide that we should wait around and see what is going to happen.  Turns out that King Felipe IV is to arrive at the palace, and after about an hour Bob thinks we should move closer to an entrance that is guarded by mounted soldiers.  Good thing we did because a couple minutes later a cavalcade of cars, and lots of police arrive and so does the King.  Only problem is we are still quite far away and the cars drive up and turn into the palace very quickly.  We both try to take a picture and I mange to get this one which shows the King’s car but not much else.  Oh well….image  We do get to see the mounted troops return from the parade and they are magnificent.imageWe find a spot to eat in the park across from the palace, accompanied by a guitar player singing in English. It was quite nice hearing something we could actually understand. I’ve only managed to learn a few Spanish words: I keep thinking of French words instead of the Spanish ones I have been trying to learn.  They just don’t seem to stick in my mind.imageWe decide to walk to the Reina Sophia museum, only we get lost, repeatedly!  Bob is using a new map app on the phone and either the app or Bob is not working well because we find ourselves walking in the wrong direction more than once.  We do walk past some interesting buildings…image

and a newly planted bed of veggies around a statue that was very pretty.image

And then there are the interesting street performers trying to make a bit of money.  If people walked too close to this one, a head jumped out and scared them.

  1. imageWe end up right back where we started after walking in a big circle so we head for a Metro station near Plaza Mayor, and encounter hordes of people.imageThe subway takes us very close to the Museum, but do you think we can find it?   After some more walking in circles, as it seems to be that sort of a day, we finally spot the museum entrance tucked between two buildings.  We are here to see PIcasso’s famous painting ‘Guernica’. I sneak this photo from afar and through a doorway, just to say I was here.

imageThe painting is very powerful.  It doesn’t reproduce well at post card or even book page size as the brushstrokes, textures, lines and subtleties of the paint and drawing just don’t show up.  I was surprised by how much I liked this painting as it never appealed to me before. Here we are posing beside a couple sculptures we liked.  A Picasso for me…imageand a Jacques Lipchitz for Bob. He liked this one even before he knew it was a sailor with a guitarimage I just loved this little head, ‘Portrait of my son Jordi’ by an artist named Joan Rebull.imageThe hallways made an optical illusion in this photograph. Depending on how you look at it it is an arched ceiling or a big white cone. Can you see it?
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We take the glass elevators up to the fourth floor just to check oiut the views, then down and we head for home.  Can you find Bob?

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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

Guggenheim and Museo de Bella Artes in Bilbao

Friday October 2

We were going to take the metro into Bilbao but it was impossible to find a parking spot anywhere nearby so we ended up driving into the City.  Once again I am very thankful for our trusty iPad and its navigational abilities. We finally find a parking garage there and walk to the Guggenheim along the river. We pass this big mural under a bridge.image

Soon we see the museum, which is a very impressive building, covered in thin sheets of titanium.  I quite like this big spider sculpture.image Another view near the entrance.

imageThe Guggenheim Bilbao was not what we expected, and judging by the looks on the other visitors’ faces, not what they expected either.  I did like the Richard Serra installation called The Matter of Time.  Here is a picture of a picture and then a not very good photo of Bob walking through one of the sculptures to give an idea of its immense size. image image

An interactive art work.  Can you spot me?

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There were only two other exhibits, one of an artist named Jean-Michel Besquiat and a couple of video installations that were very strange.  Besquiat’s work was a bit like street art, quite dark and hard to appreciate.  Look him up if you are interested.  There were no photos allowed.  I decided that the building itself is really a piece of artwork and needs to be appreciated that way.  It is not a functional building for displaying art, or even for navigating through.

imageWe have tea and some tapas in the café and we decide we have seen enough of the Guggenheim.image

One of Bilbao residents favourite pieces of art is Puppy by Jeff Koon.  It is a 13 m (43′) high sculpture of a Highland Terrier with a coat of flowers.  It made both of us smile.

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And…I don’t think Inhave mentioned how much people in Spain love dogs.  There are dogs eveywhere, and often they are very large dogs.  These two ladies had seven dogs between them, some of them were off leash.image

We had our picnic lunch on the benches here and then go to the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, which was wonderful.  It was very well organized chronologically and the paintings were also labeled in English, which we really appreciated.  There are so many fantastic Spanish painters I have never even heard of.  We particularly liked the 13th to 15th Century paintings which were larger, more colourful and full of expression than paintings we have seen from this time in other museums.  I took a quick snap of this Mary Cassatt work,  which is one of my favourites.  I was so surprised to walk into a  room and find this painting.image

On our walk back to our car I took this photo to show the mix of very modern sculpture in the foreground, very old buildings, and then the extremely modern tower in the background. Everywhere in Spanish cities and towns we see this interesting mix of styles.  

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