Madrid…The Last Mile

Greetings friends and family,

Madrid is the last mile of my trip, over the course of three nights. I’ve made good progress in the time that I have been here.

Time is blending together, so I will try to recall what I did when.

So Wednesday night, Leslie and I went to the Reina Sofia Museum. We were able to gain entry during a “free entry” time that was the last two hours of their open hours. It’s mainly modern art, and I am reminded that I am not a big fan. However, it does house some works by Picasso, including the famous Guernica. It also houses some Salvador Dali’s, who I have actually liked through the ages despite the fact that he’s part of the Surrealism genre.

Thursday morning, went to the Royal Palace and the Cervantes Monument. The monument has two sculptures of the woman he loved. It’s interesting. One showed how she really looked (older, plain, worn) the other showed how he viewed her, which was beautiful. It was quite touching because love does cause our eyes to see something beautiful.

In the late afternoon, I tagged along with Leslie because she wanted to see the Temple of Debod. My understanding is that Egypt gifted the temple to Spain after Spanish architectures helped the country do some work. It was very cool! There were some very pronounced hieroglyphics and the piece dates back 2000 years or so. It is dedicated to Osiris.

Then walked around Puerta del Sol, which is a thriving center. Walked along the Gran Via, which is kind of like their Fifth Avenue. And back to Plaza Mayor, which is where we walked the first day there. It’s fun walking the city at night, especially in the many squares along the way. People are everywhere, just enjoying being outside.

Today, Friday, I spent time in the Retiro Parks. It’s very warm out so it was fun to people watch as people enjoyed the sun.

Also went to the Prado Museum, which Rick Steves votes as having the greatest collection of paintings by the European masters. There were works by Spanish artists Goya and Velazquez as was well as Italian and Flemish painters. I meant to spend two hours there, but I ended up spending a little over three. There was so much to see, and I ended up covering pretty much all of the museum.

Then, as if that was not enough, I went to the Thyssen-Bornemisz Museum. They actually have some of the works of Edvard Munch in a special exhibit. I like his works, and there was a smaller drawn out image of the Scream that was there. There were several quotes from him littered about:

“I do not paint what I see but what I saw.”

“I see people behind their masks…who restlessly scurry along a tortuous road to the end.”

Yeah…he sounds a little blue.

The permanent exhibit had some Picasso, Dali, Monet, etc.

This is my last night here (sob). I fly out tomorrow morning. I did enjoy Spain and Portugal very much. So much history in one place.

I think those are the highlights. The rest of the time was just spent wandering around different areas of the city. It has a strong pulse. It’s feels less chaotic now than when I arrived.

I actually feel like I am coming home early. I have spent the previous three Halloween nights in Europe. This time, it will be a day of travel to arrive home in the midst of the festivities.

I hope Linus finds the right pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.

“Another winter day has come and gone in even Paris and Rome…”

Segovia

Greetings friends and family,

Spent a few hours in Segovia, which is very close to Madrid. It’s the place where people from Madrid go to escape the summer heat.

Right off the Plaza Mayor is the church where Isabella was crowned Queen of Castile.I forgot about her path to the throne, and this trip was a nice reminder of some of the Spanish history that I have learned over the years.

There is a really cool Roman Aqueduct. Segovia was the site of a Roman military base. It was built to provide water and is nine miles long, though only part of it is exposed. It’s about 2000 years old. I am amazed at the engineering! I’m looking at it wondering how on earth they built it. It’s mind blowing.

Walked through the former Jewish Quarters.

Went into the Cathedral, which was very impressive. It’s the last Gothic style church built in Spain.

Then visited the Alcazar, which the Spanish say is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast castle. So have been able to locate a few castles but no prince! It has a chapel where Philip II married his fourth wife. Poor dude. He lived a long life for that time period and all four of his wives died.

The place is famous for its suckling pig. I was tempted to try it, but it’s like the baby pigs are killed when three weeks old…dilemma. Poor Babe! But dang, it looked really good (in all caps)!

(Holy) Toledo (Batman)

Greetings friends and family,

On the way to Madrid, made a quick stop in Avila to see the wall surrounding the city. Timing is everything because St. Theresa of Avila is the saint that Ronald suggested we read.

Then a stop in Toledo. Toledo was Spain’s former capitol until Philip II moved the capitol to Madrid. My time there was spent wandering around the Old Town.

I saw the Cathedral, but now I am blanking on whether I just saw it on the outside or went inside. The days are starting to run together, and I am behind in my blogging. This is why I try to blog ASAP. Memories blend, and my notes to jog my memory make no sense (or I can’t read my own handwriting).

Went to the Santo Tome, which houses El Greco’s famous The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. This is the church the artist placed it in 400 years ago but in a different location because of the number of art lovers who come to see it.

I did a spur of the moment zip line ride. I’m not sure what possessed me because it definitely wasn’t on my bucket list. I screamed the first few moments (seconds) then I held on for dear life. I will not need to do that again. LOL! But I still want to ride in a helicopter and go on a hot air balloon ride.I’m not what you would call a thrill seeker.

Also walked through the old Jewish quarters, which is where the Jewish people lived before Jews and Muslims were expelled from the city. Went to a synagogue that was turned into a church. It was built by Muslim workers, so it has some mosque like features. It’s interesting to see the blend of the three religions in some of the buildings, especially in Southern Spain. It’s also interesting to see how the Moors recycled Roman stones in their buildings, and the Christians recycled Muslim stones in their building. Then the workers were sometimes Christian or Muslim building places for the other religion, and there is a blending of all three in a lot of the places. I have encountered many churches built where mosques used to be as well as former mosques that were turned into Christian churches or former synagogues that were turned into Christian churches. In both cases, there are tell-tell signs that tell the history.

Jeez. We can go back in history and see a time when people actually were able to live together in unity.

Fatima/Salamanca

Greetings family and friends,

Currently in route back to Madrid where I will spend the last three nights of this trip. Tonight will be spent in Salamanca. Stopped in Fatima on the way, which is a pilgrimage site, so I continue my life as a closet Catholic. LOL! The atmosphere reminded me of outside of Krakow where I saw the “Black Madonna.”

The history of Fatima is as follows. On May 13, 1917, three children where tending sheep when Mary, mother of Christ, appeared unto them. It was during WWI, and she brought three messages. One that peace was coming. Two that Russia would reject God, communist would grow, and a second war would happen. Three that an attempt would be made on the life of on a pope (Fast forward to May 13, 1981, when Pope John Paul II was shot). So in 1917, she appeared to the children on the 13th day for five months. The children were questioned as word spread. Then on October 13, 70,000 people were gathered in the spot, and a downpour came. Suddenly the sun appeared and danced around the sky and plunged to the earth. When the people came through, the sun was shining, and it was dry.

In 1930, the Vatican recognized the events as true. People walk there for a pilgrimage. With the 100th-year anniversary coming, a big celebration is expected. The Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima was closed for construction, which may be part of the preparations. There is a place for lighting candles. And the Chapel of Apparitions where Mary appeared. There are services that go on throughout the day in different languages. I caught part of one of them. There is also the Church of the Holy Trinity, which Pope John Paul II started with a stone from St. Peter’s tomb at the Vatican. 11:00 mass was just starting there as I was leaving.

Salamanca is a cool town with a nice vibe. Spain’s oldest university is here. There are students everywhere, so it’s very youthful. The main square, Plaza Mayor, was having a used book fair. Too bad I can’t read Spanish. I also saw the old and new cathedral, which were closed unfortunately. The university buildings were nice. It’s a time when a photography class would have come in handy. I would like to be able to capture the entire building in one shot. Especially with trees or lines getting in the way. There has to be a technique.

There is this building here that has a frog hidden on it. If you find it, you are supposed to have good luck. I didn’t see it. It could have been a good time kiss a frog to meet Prince Charming. Does not seeing the frog mean another seven years of bad luck? LOL!

Tomorrow off to Madrid! The final leg of the journey!

Sintra and Cascais

Greetings friends and family,

I spent part of my Lisbon time in Sintra and Cascais, which are both really close to the city. During the drive, there was a mountain that was covered with clouds. I was transferred back to childhood and remembered rushing home from elementary school to watch She-ra, which came on before Robetch, which I also loved. I can still vaguely remember the introduction…“I am Adora. He-Man’s twin sister and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me the day I held aloft my sword and said, ‘For the honor of Grey Skull. I am She-Ra!!! (She-Ra. She-Ra. Princess of Power).’ Only a few others share my secret. Among them are Light Hope, Madame Raz, and Kowl. Together me and my friends of the great rebellion try strive to free Etheria from the evil forces of Hordach.” I no doubt have a few words and spelling wrong, but that has been in my memory bank since I was little! LOL Anyway, I digress but I do remember my She-Ra doll, Spirit horse, and Crystal Castle. Ah, childhood.

Sintra was very beautiful. Back when Portugal had a king, it was the town the royal family and aristocracy used to spend the summer. I loved the hilltops and all the lush plant life. I didn’t have much time to explore the streets, but what I saw was nice. There was also a nice church off the main square I was able to visit. Most of my time was spent viewing the former summer palace of the royal family. I was not able to get up to the Moorish castle ruins that was above the city, but I was able to see it from below. It was a cool little town. There is a market (I assume in the high season only) that is the second and fourth Sundays there that is quite popular. It’s an old city that I would nicely describe as slightly worn, and that is a compliment.

The next stop was Caiscas, which is along the Atlantic. It was actually a quite warm day early on. Very nice to stroll the city and the main area. Nothing to do. Just strolling randomly. There was an area that fishermen used. It reminded me of Fishermen’s Terminal. Though I don’t touch that part of the port’s business in my work, it does make me happy to see working waterfronts. They are very important! There is a lot of fresh seafood here. Somewhere near the town is the western most tip of Europe. I got a picture. It reminded me of when Des and I were in Singapore before getting to India and saw the Southernmost tip of Asia.

Speaking of food in general, I think I’ve eaten more this trip than any other. I need to step my walking efforts up!

An observation I have about all of us, including myself, is that we are so attached to our phones and social media (Facebook, e-mail, etc.). My goal when I get home is to put my phone away more and be more present. I will always remember Portugal because I did drop my I-phone, which I was using to keep time, and the screen is shattered. Oh well. Jeez!

Anyway, I was thinking last night what a balance travel is. I think three nights in one place is the sweet spot. You have time to leisurely see everything and perhaps take a side trip. It’s kind of like weighing whether you think you will come back (and the hope is that you will). So do you see as much as you can in a short period of time or do you leisure in one spot? Perhaps a combination of the two.

Oh, and I am weirdly craving fresh popcorn.

Lisbon!

Greetings family and friends,

The magic of Portugal continued with a few nights in Lisbon.

First stop was in the Belem district to visit the Monastery of Jeronimos. The building of the church was partly funded with money from a 5% tax on spices from India. The two local guides I have heard are very proud of the explorers from Portugal. The church was built where a small chapel used to be. Sailors would pray there before going to sea. It was dark and kind of had a damp smell, but there was a nice altar, nice windows, etc. And of course, historic.

In that area, there was also some monuments like the Monument to Discoveries, which was built do mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. There’s a really cool marble map in the pavement that was a gift from South Africa. It marks the areas Portugal’s explorers reached during a time when many thought there was an end of the world. There was also the Belem Tower that was built between 1515 and 1520. It was the last things sailors saw when they left the harbor and the first thing they saw when they returned.

My guidebook had three recommended neighborhood walk strolls. I did some of the Baixa stroll, with Leslie, which goes through the downtown neighborhood. The walk started in the trade square and went down Rua Augusta to Rossio. Strolled down Avenida da Liberdade, which was originally limited to the aristocracy.

They also have a bridge that was built by the same architect that designed the Golden Gate Bridge. They are very similar looking. There is also a statue of Christ called Cristo Rei (Christ of Majesty). A cardinal was inspired to build it after visiting Rio de Janeiro.

Visited Sao Jorge Castle with Leslie, which is a castle used by Portuguese monarchs from 1147 to the 16th century. We took one of the trolleys up there. There was a great view terrace with a great view of the city and a castle town where the elite/nobles lived to be close to the king, whether during Moorish times or Portuguese times.

So after the castle, the intent was to see the Alfama district by foot, which dates back to the sixth and eight centuries. The area survived the 1775 earthquake. But “what had happened was” the sky opened up with monsoon. So we ended up taking a took-took (which reminds me of an auto rickshaw). The driver was a woman named Maria, who is a student. What a kindred spirit. She is someone who would be my friend. Very positive and with a “yellow” personality like my friend Mary. So we saw the Graca and Alfama areas from the inside of a took-took. I would so love to walk around the Alfama and get lost in the backstreets. It’s the oldest neighborhood. Very narrow lanes that end and twists. Very good vibe. Maria took us to the highest point in Lisbon that had another good view of the castle and city.

So the final neighborhood I wanted to visit was the Bairro Alto neighborhood. We took the funicular up there. It was the neighborhood I saw the least of because it was dark and rainy, but the one I had the most fun in. We arrived for a Fado show but arrived early.

So before Fado, Leslie and I ended up in the Irish pub. Oh my! What fun. One of the bartenders was very cool. His name was Armando. I have a picture of him, Leslie, and me. He was comedy central, down to earth, and just cool. He said that the world comes to him because he meets people from all over the world. He is Portuguese, but his parents moved to South Africa, so he spent a lot of time there. Then his parents moved back. We very briefly met one of the dancers from the Fado show we were going to. We also met one of the guitar players, Miguel. So Leslie, Armando, Miguel, and I had some really great conversations about race and other things that people allow to separate us. Armando shared some of his experience in South Africa and the hierarchy even among races there. Then his experience about being raised in South Africa, then coming back to Portugal and the treatment he receives as a result by some of the locals. Both good people and people I would friend in real life. Armando was an extrovert, but Miguel was more introverted and reserved. We did learn that his brother is one of the top three Fado guitar players. His brother is currently in New York playing. He joked he was in the top 100 or so.

Then we went to listen to Fado, which is folk music. It was cool to see Miguel playing in the trio of musicians. Ballads about lost sailors, broken hearts, and bittersweet romance. Not that I have ever experienced any of that. LOL! But to quote George Costanza, “When they like me, I don’t like them. When I like them, they don’t like me.” The music is all about longing, which I totally get. And some music can really take you there.

I really enjoyed my three nights in Portugal and of course need to go back to see more!

It’s just another day’s journey….

The last few days have been slow after a couple of fast paced days.

I am currently in Portugal! I am happy because I will gain two hours. One, Portugal is one hour behind Spain. So in Spain, I was nine hours ahead. Now, I am eight hours ahead. But they fall back tonight, so I get to fall back twice because it will fall back in the U.S. the night I get back. Doing the happy dance.

I am in the Algarve region, which is a beach area.

I spent most of the day in Lagos in the Old Town. Started in this square called Prace Gil Eanes. Look up the story of King Sebastian of Portugal. Disaster. I considered going to the Church of St. Anthony, which is a museum, but it was closed. There is also a Slave Museum, but sometimes that is too close to the surface. I did get pictures of the arches were slaves were sold from 1444 to the mid-1700s hundreds there. When slaves were brought from Africa, they were quarantined for 40 days after which they were sold. Saw the square that honors Henry the Navigator and an old fort.

Have hit a few beaches and really cool lookout points. I even have a new profile picture, but I am not vain. It’s the hair that makes me do and say such things.

So I was walking down the beach, and it hit me that I am in Portugal. When it comes down to it, life is good. Picture me walking down the beach singing “It’s another day’s journey, and I’m glad…glad…glad…glad.” Grace Apostolic Temple original church style of course.

Anyway, tonight will be relaxed. I am going to grab dinner, head back to the room, and relax. I will thankfully lay my head down knowing tonight time falls back.