Monday, October 16, 2017

Snippets from Madrid

Friday, October 13, 2017

Leaving San Sebastian in the early morning, we arrive in Burgos, Spain.
Only stopping long enough to see the cathedral and grab a quick bite of lunch.
An open air table awaits...

Our waiter was quick to bring the caña, vino, spicy olives, bread and salchica (sausage). 

Fall has arrived in Burgos too.

 By late afternoon we are in Madrid, the capital of Spain, with just enough time to visit the oldest building in Madrid before sunset.

Ironically the oldest building is not from Spain, but from Egypt. The Debod Temple was a gift to Spain from the Egyptian government when they were relocating ancient temples and ruins that would be flooded once the Aswar Dam project was completed in the 1960's. If not moved out of the flood zone, they would have been covered by the rising water and lost from view forever.

Spain agreed to accept this gift for their help during the dam construction.
The officials created a new park for it on a ridge not far from the royal palace.

 Early the next morning we are out and about. The weather is cool in the early morning as we stroll down to the Plaza de España where Madrid's most famous statue stands.

Don Quijote (Quixote in English) with his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, stand immortalized under the watchful eye their creator, Miguel de Cervantes. They guide says Cervantes' novel (Spanish: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha ) has been translated into more languages than any other book in history, except for the Bible and Harry Potter.

"Into the dark woods, Sancho. Marcela must be saved from the pastoral clichés."

Don Quijote's mind wanders in and out of reality as he wishes to live in an age of chivalry, honor, conquest and defending fair maidens. Woven thru the stories are his quests to right the wrongs his mist filled mind perceives, all in the honor of the lovely maiden Dulcinea.

At sunrise,  a solitary nun walks past the headquarters of Spain's Army.

One of the city gates of Madrid, Puerta de Alcala'

Toledo is one of my favorite cities in Spain to visit, the history, the architecture, the culture. 
The first written reference to Toledo was in a Roman document dated more than 180 years BC.

For hundred of years Muslims, Christian and Jews peacefully lived together in Toledo. In the city centre, houses in the old Jewish quarter are still occupied today, though now there are no Jews living in Toledo.  General Fransico Franco, the Spanish dictator in the 1940's, aligned himself with Germany and Italy during World War II.

As a people very proud of their heritage and history, the city of Toledo erected a statue to Don Juan de Padilla who, over 500 years ago, resisted efforts of a Spanish King to remove control of Toledo away from the local residents. Padilla lost his head for resisting the King.

Toledo, the former capital of Spain, was a strategic center for the production of military swords, spears and armor during the middle ages. Toledo metal smiths were acknowledged as some of the best of their time.

Due to its strategic location, high on a hill surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River, Toledo was attacked numerous times over the centuries, but usually with little success. Thus the city centre remains today as it has been for many centuries.

There were several outposts across the river from the main city fortifications to help defend the city centre. You can see how the defenders could easily spot any approaching armies.

The few bridges that did lead into the city were easy to defend.  The river prevented any heavy armored soldiers from crossing. For those attackers who swam across without armor, they were easy prey to the arrows flung down from the high city walls.

Thus ends our time in Spain. Tonight we dine with friends, tomorrow we fly home to Texas.
Hope you enjoyed the sights as much as we did wandering around Europe. 

Until the next horizon ride, Abrazos mis amigos,


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Snippets from San Sebastian, Spain

Tuesday October 10, 2017

Leaving Barcelona,  the neighborhood bakery opens early so commuters can have their fresh baked baguette or pastries for the day...

...while the sanitation crew washes down the plaza after the weekend festivities.

Early morning rush hour in Barcelona

The surrounding vineyards awaken with the sun.

A stop to see the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and the Roman built bridge in the university town of Zaragoza

In the Plaza square, three drinks of choice in Spain.. caña, vino ó Cola.

Even panhandlers can have fashion style...

Next, a rest stop in Pamplona where the annual San Fermin festival 
starts with the running of the bulls. Iruña is the Basque name for Pamplona.

As close as Amparo is going to get to a Pamplona bull.

 The famous statue dedicated to the Running of the Bulls.

 On the ground floor of this building is where Hemingway toasted the night away in Pamplona.

Finally arriving in San Sebastian as the sun drops on the horizon. 

 Next day, off to see the famous Guggenheim Museum of contemporary art in Bilbao

Wrapped with a skin of titanium and stainless steel, 
the structure glistening in the morning sunlight.

Amparo looks cool next to the outdoor sculpture...

...that reflects the surrounding neighborhood.

A jazz musician floats a melody that he hopes will garner a few coins for his efforts.

Returning to San Sebastian, we drive along the northern Spanish coast.

Wash day in a small Spanish village.

Overlooking La Concha (Seashell Bay) San Sebastian, Spain

As the sun sets on our final day on the northern coast of Spain.

Tomorrow we drive to the Spanish capital, Madrid.

On the road again....


Monday, October 9, 2017

Snippets from Barcelona

Saturday, October 7, 2017

We arrive more than a little apprehensive about the political situation in the Catalan area of Spain which includes Barcelona. History is being made here right now as the local Catalan government is holding a vote to secede from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and therefore void.  Luckily we did not encounter any of the street demonstrations that have been going on for weeks.

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain with over 1.6 million inhabitants and another three million in the surrounding area. Is also the wealthiest city/area of Spain, yet it is a mixture of the new and the old...

The corn stalk broom and a modern vacuum truck work together to keep the streets clean. 
Barcelona is a very clean city.

 Most tourists with guidebook in hand, immediately flock to the listed tourist sites hoping to catch a quick photo and buy a souvenir. Those sites are always crowded, with over-priced food and drink, and hundred of small shops selling authentic Spanish souvenirs made in China.

I prefer to wander the small narrow side streets, be they new...

...or from the middle ages...

Looking for the personality, character or soul of a place. 
Like finding a statue dedicated to the inventor of the to-go coffee

Or happen across a local neighborhood gathering in a small church plaza, where teams are grilling their specialty paella for all to sample while neighbors visit, children run and play.

In the souvenir shops they sell a model of the most visited site in all of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) Cathedral designed by the most famous of all Spanish architects, Antoni Gaudi. When Gaudi graduated, the Dean of Architecture declared, Guadi was either a genius or a mad man. 

We decide this is a must see in spite of the tourist crowds. 
As we walk closer, one can catch small glimpses of the cathedral ahead.

Coming thru the park we can see more and more of it, but why the construction cranes?

All of the other churches and cathedral we have visited in Europe dating back several centuries or more, were constructed over many many years  Often taking hundreds of years to build. Okay, they did not have the modern construction equipment that we have today so yes, it took longer back then.

 The Sagrada Familia Cathedral is still under construction. The scheduled completion date is 2026, but they are not sure it will be ready as the building has been under construction for the past 135 years. The first stone was officially laid in 1882.  Every day hundreds of laborers come here to work with the stone imported from all over the world.

So no one alive has seen the finished building, only the small scale models sold in the tourist shops.  Even then several changes have been made as engineering technology has improved and changes were made to strengthen the structure.

It was only in 2010 that the roof was finally completed. Till then when it rained, visitors got wet.

Once inside, it is not like any other cathedral we have seen. Modern, soaring, lacking in statues of saints and martyrs. Only four statues are in this cathedral: Joseph, father of Jesus. the Virgin Mary, Jesus on the cross and St. George, the patron saint of Barcelona.

Joseph looks down from the right..

Virgin Mary watches from the left

While color streams in with the morning sun through the stain glass windows.

And the cross with Jesus over the center alter.

From the Sagrada Familia Cathedral we walk to the old section where the oldest church in Barcelona is.  Am always fascinated by old construction techniques and stonework. Like this wall below. 

The ornate window on the left replaced a window that was similar to the window on the right. While the small window above the right window is stoned in.  You can see where over the centuries, the building was repaired, remodeled or simply changed by identifying the different types and colors of stones used. 

Seeing the wall below brings questions to my mind that tour guides dread when I ask them: 

First why would the windows so high up have bars on them? Was this a prison on the back side of a church, or to keep invaders out?

Second, why are the bars cut, did someone escape? Hmmmm?

My favorite image of Barcelona is...

an innocent child plays with enthusiasm with the bubble maker's creation 
under the arches of an ancient roman aqueduct.

Amparo is at home here, happy to be with her people.

Tomorrow on to the northern coast of Spain, San Sebastian.

Hasta mañana,