Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bob isn’t sure he wants to visit yet another church but I insist that we visit Antoni Guadi’s Sagrada Familia. This basilica is so huge it is really difficult to get a good photo.  These photos are from the Wikipedia information of the Sagrada Familia. This is the Passion Façade…800px-Barcelona_Temple_Expiatori_de_la_Sagrada_Fam_lia_(2050445207)…and here is the Nativity Façade. We purchased our tickets yesterday so we won’t have to wait in line, but we arrive a bit early so we walk around the exterior of the Cathedral until it is time for our entry.  I must warn you that I took 458 photos today!!  I am doing my best to only pick a few for today’s post but it is a difficult job.  The first stone was laid for this church in 1882 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2026!  Construction is now funded by the tourists who come to visit.1280px-Sagfampassion

Here are only a few of the sculptural details we saw as we walked around the church.Image-1There is so much history and information about this amazing church. This Sagrada Familia site has lots of information. The ‘History and Architecture’ and ‘The Basilica’ sections are presented in a simple format with lots of great pictures. The ‘Symbolic Visit’ in the Basilica Section gives great close up photos of the façade with brief descriptions and be sure to check out what the Sagrada Familia will look like when it is finally finished.

We arrived late morning, entering through the Passion Facade and the sun was shining through the green, blue and purple stained glass windows on the East side of the Church.  Our first view inside the Sagrada Familia was breathtaking. FullSizeRender

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We had booked a time to climb up the Nativity Tower so that was our first priority. There is an elevator up to the top of the tower which gave wonderful views of some of the other towers… Image-1

…and the City of Barcelona. When Gaudi was asked why he lavished so much care on the tops of the spires, where they are not easily seen, he answered: ‘The angels will see them.’Image-1

We had a choice of taking the elevator or the stone staircase down. So, of course we chose the staircase! At first the stairs spiral around the open centre of the tower but then they change into a narrow spiral staircase of 370 stone steps!Image-1

We find a place outside to eat our lunch and then visit the museum in the basement before continuing our visit inside the church.  This was an excellent decision as we learned so much about the construction and history of this incredible building. There were many working models ranging from small to very large.  Can you spot me in the reflection?Image-1

Models continue to be built and used daily as the church is still under construction. There were people on the scaffolding working on this one earlier.FullSizeRender_4Back upstairs and the sun has now moved around to the west side and it spills into the church in a riot of colour.  These photos have not been colour enhanced, and they do not even begin to compare with actually standing in the church and being bathed in a rainbow of colour.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_5The pillars are meant to look like trees in a forest and the light to appear like dappled sunlight, but it is so much more than just that.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Looking up, there is so much to see here wherever we look.FullSizeRender_4

This view looks down the main aisle to the altar.  FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_2

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The ceiling is not to be believed, and..Image-1

the doors are incredible too.  These are the Nativity Façade doors…Image-1

and the Passion Façade doors.Image-1We spent the entire day here, only leaving once it was starting to get dark outside.  I wanted to see the church with its inside lights on, but it was not nearly as spectacular as it was with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows.  I feel a bit sorry for all the people who are only now entering the church for their visit.  Although it is still very beautiful, they will never know what they have missed. Compare these photos with similar ones taken when the sun is shining. FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

This model of the Sagrada Familia shows the finished views from all sides.  It is scheduled to be completed in 2026 and we would love to be able to return to Barcelona to see it in all its splendour. Who knows?Image-1

If you didn’t see this on the Sagrada Familia link provided earlier, you really must take a couple minutes to watch this video to see a computer simulation of the Sagrada Familia when all its towers are completed in 2026. It is phenomenal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Organized

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Airbnb host is a retired school teacher who now lives outside Barcelona on a farm. When we arrived at her apartment the fridge was stocked with enough food for several breakfasts and lunches, including these farm fresh eggs and a big bowl of fresh fruit.FullSizeRender

We went to the FC Barcelona Stadium to get a ticket for the soccer game tomorrow night and to check out the best way to travel to the stadium. It turns out that it is only one bus from our apartment to the stadium, so it will be easy for Bob find his way there tomorrow night. The team store is huge, three levels of all things soccer! FullSizeRender

The stadium is huge as well, it holds 100,000 spectators, and there were several interesting sculptures on the Stadium grounds.  Image-1

I am going to go to a life drawing session tomorrow night while Bob is at the soccer game, so we head over to the old town, to check out the best route for me to take tomorrow night as well.  Turns out that there is a metro line that goes from the drawing studio right to a couple of blocks from home so we rather lucked out on our apartment’s location.

 

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

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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Sintra, Portugal

Saturday, October 24

Today we visit Sintra, a beautiful town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near Lisbon.  It is about a half hour car and train ride for us from our Caxias apartment. The Sintra National Palace is easily identified by its large twin chimneys.imageIt is about a half hour walk from the train station to the palace, in the drizzling rain.  I stop to visit with this cute little fellow. There are numerous statues all along the curving uphill walk to the palace.image

The palace is spectacular and one of its main features are the ceilings.  They are all ornately decorated.  This is the ceiling of the Swan Room, decorated with 27′ swans in different poses.image

The Magpie Room celebrates one of my favourite birds.  It dates back to the 15th Century and it has136 magpies, each holding the king’s banner in its beak and a white rose in its claws.

image  Bob liked the Galley Room whose domed ceiling is covered with 17th and 18th century seascapes and vessels of the naval  powers of the time, the Ottomans, Dutch, and Portuguese.image

The Blazons Hall ceiling has the Portuguese Royal Arms, the coats of arms of the eight children of King Manuel I and the coats of arms of the 72 most influential families of the kingdom.  The walls are covered with beautiful blue and white tiled scenes.  It is a stunning room.

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We spent about two hours in the palace and then found a quiet little reading room where we had a rest and ate our lunch.  It was raining so we weren’t in a rush to get back outside, but eventually we explore some of the streets and shops before our walk to the train.

Some of the shops are very small, like this one, which was only about four feet wide…image  and the streets are very narrow.image

Back at the train station parking lot I notice this wall of street art/graffiti.  It is much nicer than most of the graffiti we have seen and we have seen a lot of it.  Unfortunately most of it is pretty ugly and it is often defacing private property.imageThese morning glory vines are growing  on a wall near our Caxias apartment.  The ones we plant at home never grow anywhere near as wonderfully as these.image

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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Merida, Spain

Sunday, October 18

Merida is about half an hour from the Portuguese border, in central Spain.  It poured rain all night and most of this morning so we weren’t in a hurry to go exploring. We decided we would go to the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, which we both really enjoyed.  It is  a beautiful building that was designed to house this collection, rather than being a converted monastery or palace, like so many museums in Europe .

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Here is a close up of the sculptures and reliefs at the end of this big hall.image I really loved this huge bull from the 1st Century AD.image

The museum has several very large floor mosaics on display.  I wonder how they are able to lift these off a floor and display them on a wall?  Anyone know?imagePortrait sculpture was very important to the ancient Romans.  I felt like I would know these people if I met them, their portraits were so expressive.image image

We stayed in the museum until it closed at 4:00 and then went to visit the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre.  These were both amazing places.  The sunken area of the amphitheatre was once covered by a wooden floor.  I have no idea why, there are lots of things I wanted to know about, but didn’t find answers to.  Guess I need to do some research.imageThe view from inside a ‘room’ beside one of the entrances to the floor of the amphitheatre. imageSome pictures of the area on the way to the Roman Theatre.

image image imageMerida was founded in 25 BC and was the capital of Rome’s westernmost province which was why it has all these fantastic monuments.  This Theatre wa built in 15-16 BC and is still used today in the summer for the city’s drama festival. It is hard to believe that these ruins are 2000 years old and still in such good condition.  Yes, some of it has been reconstructed but it is all still pretty amazing.image

The gardens behind the stage were used as a foyer during intermissions.imageWe spent quite a bit of time walking around these splendid ruins but then it started to rain again so we headed home for another late supper.  Our car was parked near this pretty little courtyard.  image

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

Pamplona, the El Camino de Santiago, San Sebastian Beach, and Guernica

We walk four kilometers of the  El Camino de Santiago ( a pilgrimage walk) on Thursday in Pamplona. I thought I would like to do a long walk like this, but after talking to some of the people on the walk I have changed my mind.  Much of the walk is on city streets or along the shoulders of roads, and the shelters are communal rooms with bunk beds very close to one another so lots of snoring and night-time noises.  Not for me, thank you.imageThis is the Bridge of La Magdalena, a medieval bridge that millions of pilgrims have used to cross the River Arga on the way to Pamplona through the ‘Gateway of France’ which still has a working drawbridge.                   image

The drawbridge is now only used once a year on January 5th, when three Wise Men on camels enter the Old City of Pamplona.image

We follow the route of The Running of the Bulls, which takes place during the summer, all the way to the bullring.  It is easy to imagine how crazy, chaotic and dangerous this event is. The streets are very narrow and there is nowhere to hide from the many very angry, very large stampeding bulls!
imageThere is an eleven meter long sculpture called ‘Monument to the Bull Run’ by a Spanish Sculptor that faces the bullring.  It is quite impressive and gives some idea of what this event might look like.image

We rest for a while in the Plaza Del Castillo, with a view of the colorful buildings of Pamplona before getting something to eat and heading back to our hotel. We take a local bus that takes us almost to the door of our hotel.  Nice, I am tired today.imageWednesday morning we drive to the beach at San Sebastian, which is one of the popular resorts in Northern Spain.  It is not for us.  We prefer the more natural beaches, with fewer apartments and hotels.  It is cloudy when we arrive but it warms up and the sun comes out.  We have been very lucky with the weather, and had our first rain last night along with a very loud thunderstorm.

image  I stick my fingers in the Atlantic Ocean which we have now seen from Florida, South Africa and Spain.imageWe are off to Guernica, a small town that was bombed by Germany in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. It was the world’s first saturation bombing raid and the destruction this bombing caused inspired Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, Guernica.  We first visit Guernica’s Parliament building, which has an enormous modern stained glass ceiling covering what used to be a courtyard.  It depicts the Oak of Guernica. Basque leaders met in democratic assembly under this tree for centuries.  There is a 300 year old petrified oak tree in the garden outside here which is symbolic of the ancient roots of the Basque people.imageWe find the tiled life sized mural of Guernica, the original paining is now in Madrid.imageThere are several large sculptures in the Peace Park adjacent to the Parliament building and the oak tree, including this one by Henry Moore.image  We had our first tapas in Guernica, an easy economical way to sample a variety of local foods.imagePerhaps the nicest part of the day was arriving at our Airbnb apartment in Gama.  Our host Gemma met us nearby and we followed her to the loveliest little apartment. We have stayed at several Airbnb accomodations and this is the nicest one yet.  We decide to extend our stay here to five nights.  It is relaxing to stay put for a while and this is such a nice place to do that.  Here are photos of our home for the next five days.image image image