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…”



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.


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!

All in a day’s journey

Yesterday, I went to the city of Cadiz, which was a port city. I love rich maritime history, probably because I work for a port authority and am hyper aware of the importance of international trade and dare I saw free/fair trade! Through the ages, men have traded, and when it comes down to it, we are all the same in our humanity. Despite our differences in cultures and habits. The world is global, and we either survive or die together.

So I saw some cotton fields on the way there as well as sheep and storks with their nests. I even saw a baby stork in its nest.There are actually a lot of stork nests here and there.

In Cadiz saw a ruin of an old Roman theater that was built around one hundred BC. It’s cool to imagine the masses (I think it sat 10K) there. Though I imagine most of the plays would have needed to be done at night because it gets so hot in southern Spain (triple digits). Also went to this lookout point with a good view of the cathedral, which was the first thing I saw.

There is also an old fortress/castle. The city streets are so narrow. Oh and the city is on the Atlantic coast so there are beaches and there were swimmers. Luckily no men in speedos assaulted my poor eyes.

I went to the distillery of Sandeman. I think they make vinegar, wine, and sherry. It might be wine, sherry, and cognac. I was able to try some grape juice made from their grapes. The grape juice from Purple Cafe is a lot better.

Also went to this olive oil production house. It was actually pretty good. I had this orange olive oil that was perfect for salad. And for dessert, ice cream with vanilla olive oil on top. It was yummy (I was like say what?)! It reminded me of cake.

I went to this flamenco place in Seville last night. I wasn’t really feeling it, so I left and walked back over the Triana Bridge and walked around that neighborhood. I also sat in the same square as last night. Since it was Friday night, it was overflowing with people. There were families, friends, dates, singles, basically everybody out enjoying a nice night. Flamenco is more cultural, but nothing beats sitting among the locals.

I was able to journal one of those burn after writing/reading mind dumps. Thoughts I had been suppressing came to the surface. This is good or bad. But the thing about writing is that the truth has a way of surfacing. I can suppress/control my thoughts sometimes. But when I sit down and write, thoughts I try to hide from myself surface. Good and bad. But you know the truth comes out eventually.

And the bottom line is if something needs to be changed, change it. Otherwise, you (I) are part of the problem. Nothing like being uncomfortable to force decisions.


Greetings family and friends. Have I told you lately that I love you?

Yesterday was a very full and fun day in Seville.

Seville was a port city, and Magellan and Vespucci are among the sailors who sailed from it.

The morning started in the Plaza de Espana or the Spanish Pavilion, which was built for the 1929 world fair, which unfortunately the stock market crash busted. I enjoyed it. It had four bridges that represent the four ancient kingdoms that made up Spain: Aragon, Castile, Leon, and Navarro. There were beautiful tiles, there are some that are maps. There is one for every province of Spain. I took pictures of some of them.

One of the things I marvel at while traveling is how things were built to last back in the day. People mention that cost of labor today, but my counterpoint would be if you put the historical cost at today’s value it would probably be comparable, though a huge of the labor may have been slave labor. Perhaps it’s because everything was done by hand back in the day? It’s like a washer dryer from 1960 lasted a lot longer than one that is made today. But I digress.

But to continue with my digression cause that’s how I roll, I am reminded to travel now each time I travel. I have the energy to do so much more and of course the mobility. I’m at a sweet spot in life. When I was younger, I didn’t have the money, but I had the time and energy. Now I have the money but not so much the time (though I am determined to make it happen), and I have the energy. When I retire, I will have the time and maybe the money (more of a fixed income time period) but maybe not the mobility and energy.

Anyway, the weather has been really good overall. The first few days there was rain (up north), very heavy rains at times. I only got caught in it once. The other times I was asleep or in route to other places. It’s always been warm. But the last few days have been quite warm and sunny. Like yesterday, I had a long-sleeve T-shirt on and was wishing for short sleeves. So this has been awesome. Seville only gets around thirty days of rain per year. I don’t remember what year they last had snow, but it was a long time ago.

Because Seville was a trade port, traders brought back plants from all over the world, so they have plants from Australia, USA, China, South America, etc.

Then over to the Barrio Santa Cruz, which was once a Jewish Quarter. There are orange trees everywhere, which are used to make marmalade and used in perfume and vitamins. This is the area Washington Irving stayed in when he was in Seville. Oh and he also stayed in the Alhambra. But the area is where a lot of artists have lived.

Next stop was the Cathedral, which is where Christopher Columbus is buried. Apparently his body has moved around quite a bit. His tomb is above ground and he is being carried by the four kings of the four kingdoms of Spain. I got to say the churches in Spain are impressive. The Cathedral in Seville may just be the most amazing church I have seen. I mean wow. The details of carving, high ceilings, stain glass windows, and tiles. Amazing. A lot of the places I have seen are being restored. The Cathedral is currently being restored. It was taken 33 years to do 25% of the church. The high altar is something to behold. I have to say, I like burning candles when I travel. The ones here are all electric where you put in your money and a light comes on. Apparently the candles cause the paintings etc. to age quicker. So I can give it up to preserve it for future generations. Just like not using my flash on paintings for preservation.

The next stop was the Royal Palace. The palace was original built for governors of the Moorish state, and today it still functions as a royal palace. It’s pretty cool because over the years Roman, Moorish, and Christian material have been recycled or used in the building of the complex.

Next stop was the General Archives of the Indies, which houses the historical papers related to Spain’s overseas territories. There is a pretty cool 16th century security chest that has a locking mechanism that could only be opened by a series of pushes, pulls, and twists.

Went to the Hospital de la Caridad. The hospital was founded in the 17th century by a nobleman and is a refuge for the poor and homeless. Long story short, the founder was wild in his youth, but then when he got older had a change of heart and dedicated his life to worship and taking care of the poor. There are some paintings in the chapel that celebrate good deeds and charity like feeding the hungry, tending the sick, etc. Funny how I am reminded of these virtues every trip, but then life sucks me back in when I get home. Shameful, I know.

Went to the Alameda do Hercules area, which had a very good vibe. It was a cool neighborhood with a strong pulse. A nice mixture of people were enjoying the main square.

Then to the church Basicilia de la Macarena. The church’s highlight is the Weeping Virgin, which has five crystallized teardrops on her cheeks. Her expression is between laughing and weeping. Some see her as weeping and sad, and they weep. Others see her as the Virgin of Hope that promises better times after sorrow. 2015 has been an off year for me. So I choose to see her as the latter even though this year has caused me to weep many times, even though I am not someone who cries often. The last time I had a season like this was the year I went to Greece, etal. But I am determined the last quarter will be a lot better than the first nine months. It has to be.

So attempted to go to the Museum of Fine Arts. “What had happened was” the guidebook said it closed at 8:30, but when we got there learned it actually closed at 7:30, and we only had ten minutes to look around. What I saw was nice though. One room had a series of oil paintings of different female saints.

Next was an evening paseo (stroll) through the Triana neighborhood, which is across the river from the old town. There were people eating in the square, and it had a neighborhood feel with grocery stores, furniture stores, and other things that come from areas that people actually live in.

The current Seville has been occupied by a lot of people. From the Celts, Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, etc. I think they have found seven layers of civilization while excavating. Pretty amazing.

The end of the night was perfect. We went to this place called Mercado Lonja del Barranco. It had a bunch of tapas, desserts, and beverages. Then outside there was sitting area that multiple places were feeding into. There was a band playing live music. So Leslie and I sat for a while as the band played songs from “With or Without You,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Roxanne,” and “Highway to Hell.” Kenna, if you are reading this, I lost my rocker girl status last night because I thought from the opening chords of  “Highway to Hell” was “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I am so ashamed. LOL! When we first arrived, they were playing a song from Grease. Fun. The weather was perfect for sitting outside. There was a mixture of families, tourists, and single/dating locals enjoying a very nice evening. Perfect ending to a great day. These are my favorite memories of traveling. People watching, while enjoying a meal with great company, outside, and in this case on a beautiful fall night. And of course a waxing moon and a sky filled with stars did not hurt.

Alhambra and Mezquita

Hola Familia and Amigos,

Today has been fantastic! Started off the morning bright and early at Alhambra (8:30 entrance). The reason I have always wanted to come to Granada was to see the Alhambra. As an amateur history buff, the history fascinates me! According to my guidebook, the place has 8K visitors a day. The Moors ruled the area for centuries, but slowly a unified Christian nation moved into a divided Muslim ruled area. The first to fall was Cordoba in 1237, then Seville in 1248. Then enter 1492 when Isabelle and Ferdinand conquered the area.

It is spectacular! The local guide, whose name I forgot, was awesome. His father was also a guide, and he has been a guide for 16 years. I believe I saw the entire complex. I didn’t go into the museum, but did see Charles V’s Palace. Saw the Alcazaba, which is the ruins of the fort.

What I didn’t realize is that part of the Alhambra Palace was destroyed by Napoleon’s army. As Wellington’s army approached, their retreat instruction was to destroy anything that could be useful to the opposing army. The part that was saved was only because a solider named Jose Garcia was able to diffuse part of the bomb sequence. The Palacios Nazaries was pretty cool. It’s fun to imagine how life would have been during the time of the sultan. Very leisure if you were part of the female royal family.

We started in the royal offices (where disputes were settled), then to the ceremonial rooms (where important visitors would be received) then the royal palace (where the royal family resided). In the royal palace, one side, would have been the sultan’s “main wife’s” quarter. He was allowed up to four wives. This up to four is true for all men as long as he could house and provide for all in the same manner. The primary wife was the wife who gave him his first male son (heir). Her and her kids lived there. The other three wives lived in their own homes with their families. Part of the fall of the empire, so to speak, was the infighting for power and succession.

The sultan lived on the side. On his side, was where his concubines were housed. He was able to have as many as he could afford to house and keep in an equal matter. There was a set of stairs that led up to where the concubines would have been.

The art details were very amazing. Everything was so precise. Some of what is left is original, the blue colors especially held up over time. The main colors were red (blood), blue (heaven), green (oasis), and gold (wealth). These colors are apparently huge in the Koran.

There were also courtyards. Since women didn’t really go out, this is where they could be outside without leaving the palace. Outside of the complex is the sultan’s summer residence, which is a little higher up.

The gardens were also very nice! I believe the number of gardeners is 40 something, and they maintain and plant year round depending on the season. Some areas have been remade to resemble what it would have looked like many years ago.

There is also a church that was built atop of where a mosque would have been. Isabella and Ferdinand did keep a lot of the palace intact. There are still Arabic inscriptions throughout the palace. I now can recognize the word God in Arabic.

The next move was to drive to Cordoba where I saw the Mezquita. This is the site of a former mosque, which is now a Christian church. A lot of the Muslim characteristics have been erased.

One thing that was pointed out in both places was that the Muslim mosques tend to be very plain on the outside but very richly decorated on the inside, which represents the importance of focusing on the internal condition of ourselves.

In the complex is a bell tower that was built over the minaret that used to call Muslims to prayer five times a day. The cathedral was magnificent and the high ceilings in the place were a beauty to behold.

Anyway, enough of my history lecture!

As I contemplate life, two vacations a year is sounding better and better. I need go to MS in April. Anybody want to spend a week with me somewhere before or after that. Think last two weeks of April.