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

 

 

Cascais and the Casino

Friday October 23

We drove to Cascais today, a town about a half hour west of where we are staying near Lisbon. We walked along the pedestrian streets and visited a few shops, but no purchases.  Everything I like is either too expensive or too big or fragile to get home.  The cobblestone street was a bit disorienting as it created a bit of an optical illusion.imageThere were some people on the beach making sand sculptures to earn a bit of money.imageWe walked down along the docks past the fishing boat area and then through the Cascais Marina, which were both in the shadow of ancient fortress walls.
image  The view from the Marina back towards town.imageWe passed this interesting house, or maybe a small castle? on our walk towards the Boca de Inferno.imageBoca de Inferno, or Hell’s Mouth, is an interesting cliff formation about a forty minute walk from Cascais.The pounding of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs chiseled out a small cave, which then collapsed. There is a walkway so it is visible from both sides.image image imageBob wanted me to take this picture, he said it reminded him of a jigsaw puzzle.imageThe fortress walls I mentioned earlier now house a hotel and a bunch of artist studios, which unfortunately were all closed, but this quaint little bookstore was open.imageIt was full of interesting things, including this unique piece of furniture, made of all sorts of recycled bits of wood.  My nephew in Portland has started woodworking and has buit some beautiful pieces. I thought he might like to see this.image

The courtyard also had a few different sculptures, including these giant binoculars.

imageWe walk back above the dock with all the fishing paraphernalia that we walked by earlier.imageWe found a nice bit of beach and spent an hour or so just relaxing, watching the waves and the people.imageOn the way home we stop at a Casino in Estoril.  It is supposed to be the biggest Casino in Europe, but we are only able to find half a floor of slot machines on the main floor, and the gaming tables are closed.  Our casinos at home seem bigger than this one…We spent a couple of hours, won some and lost some and in the end it cost us 10€. 
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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

 

The Prado

Thursday October 15

This Mad Hatter was outside the Prado with his little white mouse.  They both looked very content and pleased with themselves!imageThe Prado has 102 rooms and we managed to visit all but 17 of them.  We spent about six hours exploring and soaking up the incredible art work but we simply ran out of time and energy.  There are no photos in the Museum but I did take these two.  I know, I am a bad girl! We saw many paintings that were familiar because of reading my art books.  It was wonderful seeing these works in person.  This is a very famous Goya work titled “The Family of Charles IV.”  I just wanted one photo to say “Yes, I was there.”  When I am home I will find a good book on the Prado as a reminder of everything we have seen today. Books are just too heavy to lug around in our suitcases!imageThe Museum encourages artists to study and paint in the Museum, as this young lady was doing.  We saw several artists at work today.  image  Pictures were allowed in the Leoni Cloister and when we looked up we could see that there were workrooms above the cloister.  I would love to be able to tour these rooms, but had to settle for zooming in for a closer look.imageimageWe headed back to our Airbnb for some much needed rest.  I love touring Museums and Art Galleries but it is quite exhausting, physically and mentally.imageThis has been home for the last ten nights but we leave the day after tomorrow.  We only planned on staying here for four nights but liked it so much, and Bob really liked taking the bus into Madrid instead of driving, so we changed our reservation to twelve nights.  image

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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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!

Figueres and Salvador Dali

On Saturday we headed to Figueres to visit the Salvador Dali Museum. We were also interested in visiting his home and studio but we discovered that we should have booked tickets online for that and they were all sold out for today. The Teatre-Museu Dali is located in Figueres’s old Theatre and it is the second most visited museum in Spain after the Prado.  It is a pretty fantastical building.image

Dali built this museum on the site of the burned out Figueres Theatre.  He started working on it in 1960 and didn’t finish until 1974.  It is Dali’s largest work of art. He designed the building and it contains many of his artworks. In the central courtyard Dali’s black Cadillac is located under a fountain, although no water was flowing when we were there.

imageI’ve often seen this painting, Soft Self Portrait with Grilled Bacon, in art books.imageThere is no doubt his work is very different, and sometimes hard for me to appreciate.  This painting is called ‘The Happy Horse’ although it certainly doesn’t look very happy.imageThe Stage has a huge glass dome that throws its shadows over everything below.imageThe museum is packed with people and there are 22 rooms to visit.  The rooms trace Dali’s artistic progress from the earliest to the last years of his life. Honestly, it is a bit overwhelming and after visiting this museum we go to another Dali museum next door that contains jewels designed by Dali.  By this time we are ready for a change so we head to L’Escala which is a small resort on the Mediterranean a part of Spain’s Costa Brava, a 200 km coastline of beaches and resorts.
imageWe walk along the coast for a while, but the water is quite cold and we are not tempted to get wet. 
imageThe Empuries are Greco-Roman ruins called that were built between the 7th and 3rd Century B.C.  They are right behind the beach area at L’Escala. They looked interesting but the site closed in half an hour and we didn’t think it would be time to see it all and visit the Museum, so we were content to walk along its fence and see what we could see as we made our way back to our car.imageimage