Homeward Bound

December 9, 2015

Our taxi arrives right on time at 9:00 am and we are soon on our way to the airport. I snap one last picture from the cab window of an interesting looking building that is dripping with green foliage off every balcony. I wonder if it is an office building, and who takes care of all this greenery.FullSizeRender

We arrive at the airport in lots of time to relax a bit before we get on the plane, which I really appreciate.  I always like it when we are through security, and settled with a cup of tea. It is only then that I can relax and feel that we are truly on our way to wherever we are going.FullSizeRender

Our good friends meet us at the Edmonton airport with our winter coats.  Yes, we are certainly home. There is snow on the ground and it is a bit colder than Barcelona!  We were up early this morning and by the time we finally climb into our bed at home we have been up for well over 26 hours.  It is always hard to believe that we can travel halfway across the world so quickly.

Thank you to everyone who has been following along on our travels, especially those  who have waited so patiently for these last few posts.  I truly appreciated all the comments and ‘likes’. It helps to feel connected to everyone when we are away. I started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends and as a way to journal for myself.  I was surprised and delighted to discover that people in thirty-five countries were interested in reading about our travels! I also discovered many interesting blogs when I replied to comments and likes.  Blogging is certainly a phenomenon, and one I believe is here to stay.

So, I am often asked where we are travelling to next.  Right now, we have no travel plans for the rest of the year other than some short trips to visit family in Jasper, Revelstoke and Portland.  It is time for some gardening, a few home renovations and making art.  I will keep blogging, perhaps a post every week or two.  Stop by for some gardening and art photos.

 

 

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

Mijas and Granada

Tuesday, November 17

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

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

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

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

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

Castillo de Loarre and San Juan de la Pena

On Tuesday we visited Castillo de Loarre, a beautifully preserved Romanesque church and fortress that was started in 1071, over 900 years ago!  A film called Kingdom to Heaven was filmed there, I think in 2005. This is our first view of the castle.

image These are the ornate windows in the Queen’s tower.image  We had to watch our footing in this Medieval castle.imageWe were surprised by this para glider overhead, then we saw many more of them as there was a jumping off spot on the mountain just behind castle.image

There was an amazing panoramic view of the valley below us…image and this was our view while we had a picnic lunch!imageAfter lunch we headed to the San Juan de la Pena Monastery.  On the way we pass Aguero, a little village nestled at the base of dramatic eroded stone cliffs.  We would have loved to stop and explore, but there just isn’t time. I thought three months would be so much time but there is so much to see everywhere that we have to pick and choose.

imageThe new monastery has an interpretive center built over the old ruins.  It is the modern building  to the right in the photo below. It is a huge long building with a glass floor to view the excavated ruins below.  I find it rather unnerving walking on a clear glass floor!imageimage image

Then we go below and walk through part of the excavations.  There is also another enormous building with more ruins and figures to walk through.image

We catch a bus to the old Monastery which is sheltered under a bulging rock.  It was founded  in 920 and the Holy Grail is said to have been kept here to protect it from the Muslim invaders.  There is a replica in the chapel.image image image

The cloister has beautifully carved capitals with scenes from the Bible.imageWe have a bit of time before the bus comes back to pick us up (there is no where to park near the Monastery) so I start a sketch.

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On the way home we drive through several long tunnels that cut right through the mountains. This one was over a kilometer long!  image

So What’s Next?

It is hard to believe that it has been almost three months since I was in Paris and last posted anything.  Because I tried to cram as much as I could into the last few days in Paris I was pretty tired by the time I boarded the plane home.  Then once back home it took at least two weeks to adjust to ‘real life’.  I have to admit I missed Paris and I especially missed drawing every day, having the luxury of so much time to myself, and being able to do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.  Being in such an amazingly beautiful city that celebrates history and art was a wonderful experience, one that I hope I will be able to repeat someday soon.

So what’s next?  I need to find a way to incorporate a bit of my ‘Paris life’ into my life at home.  Finding balance in one’s life is a challenge many, or perhaps most people face.  I have a wonderful family and friends and I want to have time for them but I need to carve out space and time for being creative on a regular basis, time for myself.  Ideally I would be working on making art every day, or at least most days.

I started that process by attending life drawing sessions twice a week after I came home. We have a great artist organization In Edmonton called Harcourt House that offers life drawing sessions three times a week.  harcourthouse.ab.ca/  I would like to continue attending two or three times a week.  Two of the sessions are from 7:00 to 10:00 pm which is kind of late for me, but I am going to do my best.

Here are some drawings from my Harcourt House life drawing sessions.  I decided to try drawing in pen and ink to change things up a bit.   I used a fountain pen with black ink for the first three drawings.

DSC04585 A 15 minute pose,

DSC04586 and a 20 minute pose.

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This pose was only 10 minutes which is a bit of a challenge with two models.

DSC04588This 30 minute pose was drawn with a Bic Black ball point pen, which gives a completely different mark than the fountain pen.  It is almost like drawing with a pencil, changing pressure while drawing varies the darkness and width of the line. It is great inexpensive drawing tool.  A box of 12 pens is less than three dollars.

I also want to post regularly on this blog, probably not daily, but perhaps once or twice a week.  I think it will morph into more of an art blog, with occasional travels included. I am  not sure exactly how I feel about keeping a blog, still struggling with the idea of putting myself ‘out there’ but I have had such positive feedback from so many people that it has encouraged me to continue, at least for now.

I have fallen behind responding to comments, but I will get that taken care of in the next couple of days, so take a look if you have left a comment.  I do love it when people  comment on the posts and I do my best to respond to all of them.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave their thoughts.

It is the beginning of a new year, with all the promise and possibilities that brings and you may be wondering if I made any New Year’s Resolutions?  I did – my resolution is to draw everyday.  Yesterday I was about to go to bed when I realized I had forgotten all about drawing, and on the very first day!  So at 11:30 I sat down and did a half hour of drawing but I must admit it was a real struggle.  I haven’t been drawing very much the last two months with travelling (more on that later) and it showed.  It didn’t take long to lose the facility and confidence that I was starting to feel while I was drawing daily in Paris.

Did anyone else make a New Year’s resolution?  Was it art related?

 

All the Best in 2015!

A Peek Through the Big Blue Doors

 

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Another great model today.  I still haven’t spoken to very many people during these life drawing sessions, but I am on a nodding and ‘bonjouring’ level with several of the regulars. There aren’t many English speaking people here, or maybe they are like me, just not saying much.  I did have a little conversation with a woman the other day.   It was her first time here, and between my French and her English we managed just fine.

imageActually, other than the normal social niceties, the pardons, and merci’s, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation happening.  Everyone is pretty focused on their drawing, and most people tuck their finished drawings away at break time, so there is not really an opportunity to make a comment on their work and strike up a conversation that way.

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Life drawing is really almost a form of meditation, there are no thoughts about anything other than being in the moment, seeing and reacting to what you see.  In a way it is important to stop thinking about what you are doing and just let your eye be connected to your hand.  The brain can get in the way, telling us what we think we know rather than letting us see what is actually before us.

This is one of the biggest problems people have when they begin to draw.  They will draw what they think something looks like rather than really looking and seeing what they are looking at. Once a person really learns to see and draw what they see, they will begin to improve their drawing skills quite rapidly.

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The drawing sessions have a schedule for poses; the noon class has 3 x 5 minute poses, + 2 x 15 minute poses,  repos ( rest) for 15 minutes, 2 x 20 min, repos 15 min, 2 x10 min + 5 x 5 min.  I do kind of miss the fast 2 minute warm us we usually start with back home, but getting used to this routine.

As I was getting ready to leave, the model for the next session arrived and I was so tempted to stay for another three hours.  I decided to head for home, as I plan on doing both sessions tomorrow. There is a male model the second session and there aren’t many male models. Only four for the whole month; I missed the first two and there are only two more sessions with a male model, and one is  tomorrow.  I’m curious if this is because most people want to draw females, or if there is just  a shortage of men who want to model?

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This is my favourite Metro line, the M4.  It takes me to my drawing class in about a half hour.  The only reason there is no one waiting is because the train just pulled away.   Notice on the board, that another one  is due to arrive in just one minute!  I am still amazed at the efficiency of the Paris Metro.  This morning the train was absolutely jam packed for the first five stops, standing room only, and squishy standing room at that! Some people needed to step off the train so that the doors could close; it was quite the experience. We are so used to a bubble of personal space around us, and that is certainly not the case on these packed trains. My face was inches away from several people and somehow it was OK, everyone is very polite and of, course, everyone is in the same situation.

imageTaken through the window on  the M2.  All the stations have brightly coloured chairs.  Usually there is a big advertising poster on the wall, but this station had graffiti, which, by the way, is absolutely everywhere.  Most of it is just vandalism, but I have seen some rather interesting graffiti that would be classed as street art.   I’ll post some of that another time.

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And, this is where I do my blogging.  I do have a table and chairs but the bed is very comfortable, I can see out the windows, and rest a bit at the same time.  I am also have on my ‘wash and wear’ top.  I only brought one short sleeved top, thinking it was fall and that I  am usually too cold rather than too warm.  Well, today it was 28, like 33 with the humidex!  It has been way too warm to wear long sleeved tops, so this one gets rinsed out every night.

 

To blog or not to blog?

Well, here I am, blogging!  It is a bit of an intimidating proposition as I am still learning my way around my Apple computer, however I have decided that it was time for an online presence and a blog seemed like the easiest way to begin.

Why blog?  In just two days I am going to Paris for a month and I want a way to share my experiences, and record my adventures.  I have rented a lovely little apartment in the 10th arrondissement near the Canal St. Martin.  My days will be filled exploring Paris, visiting museums and art galleries, attending life drawing classes, sketching whenever possible.  I am looking forward to lazy afternoons sitting at sidewalk cafés watching the world go by, living the life of an artist in Paris.