Tag: Spain (page 1 of 2)

Damascene Plate


This is a hand-crafted plate from Toledo, Spain.  Skilled craftsman hammer gold and silver wires into designs and inlay these metals into the oxidized steel backing piece.


Figueras & Tossa del Mar

Everything about the Dali museum is surealism magnified.  Wild stuff, but interesting.

This, however, was not what I would expect to be a work of Dali.   He had very traditional painting skills that you never see elsewhere.


Karla and Bonnie told me, “You HAVE to see the Mae West room.”  It was hard to get a good photograph of this because people are lined up to march along the edges of the room before they climb the staircase to see “Mae West”.  And she really IS there…as you look through a blond wig, you see the lips, nose, and eyes/pictures below depicting Mae West’s face.

Only a surrealist would make you stare through a lens between camel legs to see “Mae West’.

Dali must have intended this as a spin-off of the fresco ceiling murals so common throughout Europe.

This is one of the few Dali pieces I was familiar with before coming to the museum–I like the flow of it.

This is Dali’s homage to Velasquez’s  famous “Las Meninas” portrait in the Prado Museum in Madrid. Dali painting the portrait of his Russian wife, Olga, with his own reflection in the painting.

These are photos of Elena, our guide with Educational Tours, on the beach at Tossa del Mar. She is a dynamic person!

From Figueras, we drove for an afternoon at Tossa del Mar, a tiny seaside resort town on the “Costa Brava” south of Barcelona.  You have to drive down a narrow, winding road down a cliff to get there.  Tucked along those cliffs is this little jewel of a town.  Kids enjoyed some beach time here.

A look out tower above the beach area of Tossa del Mar.

Cafes and hotels along the beach at Tossa del Mar.

I would never have guessed it, but this is a statue of Ava Gardner on the hillside fortress area above Tossa del Mar.  Yes, that Ava Gardner….the Hollywood movie star of the ’40’s and ’50’s…one of Frank Sinatra’s “ex’s”.   Apparently, when Hollywood discovered that this was a great filming location, Ava Gardner stayed in Tossa del Mar and brought a great deal of tourism to the town.   And this is their way of saying thanks for the economic prosperity she fostered by promoting their town.

If you stroll up the hill from the beach, you find a beautiful path winding around the lookout towers down to more cliffs along the edge of Tossa del Mar.

Amazingly, a cruise ship coasted right up to the beach to take on passengers.

The remains of a chapel near the towers.

A small island just off shore. High winds and crashing waves that day/

The road we drove down to get here were also along cliffs like these.


Marie enjoyed the views of crashing waves more than the beach.


View of Tossa del Mar from the hillside.

These towers were sad to be used to guard against pirates sailing in from….where?  France?  Italy?  Not sure, but kids like this area.


Lobby of the Palau de la Musica Catalana

Marie and I decided to book a tour with a separate group to see the interior of the Orfeo Catala, based on photos I had seen in a book about Barcelona.  Will be interested to see if Mara attended any performances here during her family’s visit to Barcelona.  This place was well worth the time.

Here is the stage.  Fabulously ornate.  Sculpture on the left is a tribute to a local choral director and the one on the right is a tribute to Wagner.

The Muses on the back wall of the stage are intended to spring forth from the mosaics on the wall.  Loved the graceful figures and musical themes.

The glass dome above the theater is very “modernista”.


Wider view of the dome and ceiling as you look up from the seats in the theater.

Upper side balconies in the theater.

Statue featuring Catalan choral director.

Wagnerian statues.

I imagine these are areas to stroll during intermissions.  You can see the exterior mosaic columns on the balconies outside.

You can only enjoy this if you pay for a performance or take the tour–tours are offered in Spanish, English, German, and French.

Side view of the glass mosaic dome over the theater.

Wide view of the theater.


They did play a short organ piece to show off the great acoustics of the theater.  I really regret not having time to attend a concert, because the acoustics were wonderful.  Notice that the workmen are setting up a smaller wooden platform for a flamenco performance scheduled for that evening.

Parc de la Ciutadella–our meeting place at the end of our last day in Barcelona.


A man was blowing bubbles in the park, to the great delight of crowds of children.

Our “Last Supper” as Elena called it, was arranged at a restaurant called Tapa Tapa on the beach.  Segway tours were available in many cities in Spain.

Everyone enjoyed the sand sculptors along the beach in Barcelona.  Notice he has casks with “blanco”, “tinto”, “rosado” for wine.

Group dinner at Tapas Tapas near the beach.


Barcelona–Orfeo Catala  or  Palau de la Musica Catalana. Marie and I visited this alone separate from the tour group.  The choral theater was not on our tour agenda and after seeing pictures of it related to the “modernista” architecture of Gaudi, I decided I had to see it.   You actually have to hunt a bit to locate this music theater because it’s nestled among many equally tall buildings downtown.  Rows and rows of glass columns line the balconies.

Columns have colorful mosaics and miniature floral sculptures.

Front entrance to the Palau de la Musica Catalana.  This was built in the early 1900’s at the height of the “modernista” architecture boom.  The plan was to create a performance theater specifically for the numerous choral and musical groups of Barcelona.  Community groups banded together to raise funds for its construction.

Busts to famous composers, such as Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Mozart are perched along the upper balconies.


La Boqueria is THE market to visit in Barcelona off Las Ramblas.  A little of everything here, and all of it is colorful (yeah, expensive, too, but fun!)  Smoothies and fruit concoctions are popular.  Locals must find the influx of tourists an annoyance!

A carniceria featuring Iberian ham…their piggies roam wild and feed on acorns.

In the 1970’s I always saw piggies laid out in the windows of carnicerias, or hanging to cure (I guess) in the butcher shops of Spain.  I suppose times are changing…I did not see any of that this time, but did catch a glimpse of game fowl and bunnies in la Boqueria.

Fruterias and verdulerias–artistic in their own way.

OK…this is not a pretty sight to American eyes, but is very typical fare for a Spanish carniceria.  Liver, sheep head, cow tongue…I’m sure my grandmother would not have blinked an eye at this in her day, but you surely don’t see it in America often.


Barcelona…Park Guell was our first stop with its view over the city.  (Sorry for the absence of accent marks and umlauts here, but I couldn’t find accent keys in the blog editing.)

This park was designed in the late 1800’s by Antonio Gaudi as a posh residential suburb, but the development of high end homes never took off because it was too far from the conveniences of downtown life for most who could afford to build homes in Barcelona.  While there are only a few houses here, the park remains as a great example of Gaudi’s style…flowing lines, non linear, mimicking Mother Nature’s forms as much as possible.

Perched above pillars in the park is a sinuous, curving bench along the whole perimeter.  The bench is decorated in a manner that preceded our trend to recycle…glass and ceramic pieces fit into every curvy to form flowing designs.  Tourists can also snap pictures of the skyline of Barcelona.


The ceiling supported by the columns below the benches is similarly decorated with ceramic and glass pieces to reflect the plants and animals of the seacoast.


As you descend the stairs from the benches, you see more Gaudi designs….

…and his popular lizard statue at the base of the stairs.  More whimsical than our desert lizards!

View of the stairs, columns and upper bench from below in Park Guell.

Alejandra, Catalina, Griffin, Jaimie (our English instructor), Miranda, and Kyle enjoy the party atmosphere.

This is a view of Barcelona, featuring La Sagrada Familia (and the forever present cranes) from the viewpoint of Montjuic, a hillside park near the Olympic venues.

Marie, Charlotte, Jaime resting in Montjuic and enjoying a musician in the park.

Photo stop at Montjuic.

Barcelona is split into various neighborhoods according to when they were built/added on to the town proper.  This is a popular spot in the Gothic Quarter.  The “Bridge of Sighs”, although very pretty, was not built until the 1920’s to connect a few town official buildings for a world exhibition in 1929.  The buildings it connects ARE Gothic, however!

This is the cathedral of Barcelona (NOT the basilica of Sagrada Familia) in the Gothic Quarter.  It is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Eulalia.  Rather smaller compared to some of the other Gothic churches we saw, but still charming.

Interior of cathedral–choir stall.

Crypt of St. Eulalia.

Space above the main altar of the cathedral.

Marie enjoyed taking the (very small) elevator to the roof area for a better view of the spires.  The anti-war t-shirt is one she bought in Pamplona.

Interior cloisters in the cathedral.

Front view of La Sagrada Familia.  This is the still-unfinished basilica and brain child of Antonio Gaudi as his master work.  Guadi was very devout, even living in the church for the last few years of his life until he was hit by a trolley in the 1920’s.  Construction began before 1900, I think, but charitable donations are the only source of funding at this time.  Gaudi originally designed 12 spires, one for each apostle, for this church–these are not all built yet.  Although he designed many homes and apartment building for wealthy patrons prior to working on this church, the basilica was his sole focus later in life.

The facade to the basilica entrance is devoted to the Nativity and the early years of Christ.

Again, organic motifs are everywhere in the sculpture work.  Architects who took over construction after Gaudi’s death have tried to keep the design faithful to the organic themes Gaudi favored.

These kids (band members??  Never found out!)  were too colorful to pass up as we waited to enter the basilica.

Sculptures at the entrance were incredibly detailed.

Again, organic leaf designs behind the Nativity scenes.  As a young student, I used to think that Gaudi’s style was gaudy and over-done, but I didn’t really understand his artistic motivation until I prepared for the trip to Barcelona.  He was a tremendously creative and expressive architect and way, way ahead of his time in material use and design.

Interior of La Sagrada Familia….true to form, Gaudi wanted the columns to be reminiscent of tree trunks/forests.  The interior space really soars and creates a light, airy space of worship.

The interior also creates an atmosphere of constantly shifting light and color with its stained glass windows.  Much more dramatic and at the same time softer than any interior space I have seen in any other church.  For years I had seen pictures of this as a Spanish student myself, but photos don’t really do justice to the beauty of this place.  You have to see Gaudi’s work to truly appreciate it fully.

Looking up from the floor of the basilica…

Karla takes photos to capture the beauty of the light.

Plaques feature the four Evangelists near the main altar.


Windows create a light show inside.

Exterior doors where we exited the tour have a Crucifixion theme.

Casa Batllo is a famous apartment building / museum designed by Gaudi in busy downtown Barcelona.  La Pedrera, a larger example of a commercial building he designed, was under renovation at the time of our visit, so I was unable to get photographs.  Karla and I scrambled around a backhoe doing street construction to get a shot of this.


We assembled in the Plaza in Pamplona for a very short tour.  Bonnie and Karla are in the background and Elena is explaining Pamplona’s Festival of San Fermin, which is famed for it’s dangerous running of the bulls in the town’s streets.

This statue to Carlos, a king of Navarra, faces the plaza and the provincial government building.

Hotel la Perla was a favorite hang-out of Ernest Hemingway when he visited Pamplona during the “Sanfermines”.

Karla took a group photo every day to send families via Instagram, but she herself was rarely in a photo.  Elena runs every aspect of the group tour and did an impressive job handling all the transportation, hotels, and meals.  I think she speaks 4 languages (at least) and knows everything from the most historical places to the trendiest spots to eat and shop.  She gave the kids a great feel for the history and culture of Spain in general and every city we visited.

We paused outside the Plaza de Toros in Pamplona, where the running of the bulls (el encierro) ends on each of the 8 days of the festival of San Fermin in July.  Ernest Hemingway put Pamplona on the map for a much wider audience by writing about the bullfighting experience.   He was a huge fan, and Pamplona showed its gratitude with this monument.  Interesting to note that Barcelona and the whole region of Cataluna prohibits bullfighting now, but it is still popular elsewhere in Spain.

It’s probably hard to imagine what this street looks like with wooden barricades erected down each side to contain the bulls and runners in their white outfits and red neck scarves during “el encierro”….Google “Pamplona bull run” and it will look very different from this scene.  The run covers around 900 yards, but I’m sure it seems longer if you decide to run.  I was here in 1976 for the feria, and it surely did not look like this!  I watched from a balcony and the street was a sea of people and animals.  Total lunacy….they say you must “not be under the influence of alcohol” to run, but well, wink, wink.  You can smell alcohol everywhere on the streets and people sleep on park benches if they aren’t quick enough to book a hotel.  At least, that was what it was like years ago.   Perhaps it is cleaned up somewhat now.

The town hall in Pamplona.  At 8 AM every morning of the San Fermin festival, they shoot a rocket from the balcony to begin  “el encierro”.

Another nice shot of one of the streets in Pamplona.  The little blue sign “Todo para peregrinos” means “Everything for pilgrims”.  Pamplona is also one of the stops along the “Camino de Santiago” a hiking route stretching from France all along the northern part of Spain to its end point of Santiago de Compostela, the Romanesque cathedral in the far northwest.   Elena pointed out a “hole in the wall” bakery…Pasteleria Beatriz…which had really fabulous pastries.  Well worth the wait for a box of cookies to take on the bus.

I asked what the 2 side flags were….the red one is the flag of Navarra and the blue one is the E.U. flag.

San Sebastian

This is Maria Christina Bridge San Sebastian, a popular resort city right on the Cantabrian Sea and only 20 km. from the French border.  In the far north of Basque country, Donostia is the Basque name for this city and most of the signs are in both Spanish and Basque.  In the late 1800’s, Queen Maria Christina favored its seaside climate and the town became a draw for other nobility and the wealthy.  Today, San Sebastian is also host to an annual film festival.

Iglesia de San Vicente in Donostia/San Sebastian.

Although I don’t remember the name of this statue, I believe it commemorates the women of the town who helped rebuild after a fire or war.  An interesting tribute.

Iglesia de Santa Maria del Coro, a Baroque church in San Sebastian.  Notice the plaque depicting a ship above the clock…San Sebastian has historically been a center for commerce and shipbuilding.

Partial view of La Concha Beach on the Bay of Biscay.  Marie and I had a great lunch at one of the restaurants along the beach. The former queen’s home, Miramar, is the building above the green lawn on the far left

Marie at a picturesque viewpoint of the beach and the little islet leading out to sea.

Bonnie Perkins, on the left, one of Marie’s art teachers, and Elena, our guide for the entire tour group, on the right.  Elena is a delightful person and a native of Galicia, the far northwest province of Spain.

The next few photos are of the area along the piers in the seaside neighborhood of San Sebastian.

This Ayuntamiento, or town hall in San Sebastian, started out as a casino.  The upper classes flocked to vacation here after Queen Maria Cristina built a vacation home near La Concha Beach.

Small but beautiful park near the Town Hall.  There is a continual stream of runners, skaters, and cyclists along this pathway and all along the beach.

La Concha Beach, which is very long and very busy.  This man must have traced these initials in the sand at least 40 times all over the beach, but I couldn’t find anyone who knew what it was about.  Something political?  Still trying to find out!

Miramar Palace was built by Maria Cristina on a hillside just above La Concha Beach.  It is now used as a conservatory/school of music.

A statue to a local composer at the Plaza de Guipuzkoa, a quaint park in San Sebastian.

Downtown areas of San Sebastian further from the beach are relaxing, very clean, and full of pedestrians and folks out for a drink at local cafes.

This area is on the opposite side of the Maria Cristina Bridge and was teeming with surfers–much better waves than La Concha.


Town Hall in Bilbao.  Bilbao is a much more modern city compared to the others we toured.  Commerce related to shipping, especially with British companies, bolstered their economy in the 19th century.

A run to help fund breast cancer research was well attended at the plaza adjacent to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  People participated in the race with family members and brought kids along to play and cheer on moms/dads.

Just as the exterior of the Guggenheim features curved lines, the interior is a maze of flowing lines in stone, metal, and glass.  The 1997 opening of Guggenheim, designed by Frank Gehry, was intended to revitalize Bilbao and it certainly did make it a destination for lovers of modern art.  They have everything from traditional paintings on canvas to sculpture to digital art and multimedia film art.  Marie and I watched a one hour movie projected on about a dozen screens of people all playing a song while in different rooms of the same house.  Scandinavian thing and wonderfully weird–definitely imaginative.

Part of the exterior of the Guggenheim where patrons can stroll and enjoy the outdoor sculptures.

“Arcos Rojos” by Daniel Buren

This is called “Tulips” by Jeff Koons.

“Tall Tree and The Eye” by Anish Kapoor is near the Fog Pool

The play of sunlight and clouds on the metallic walls of the museum made for interesting visual effects that day.

“Maman” by Louise Bourgeois.   It was a pleasant surprise to see this piece because she has an almost identical work at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, my hometown.

Marie (who had a true case of arachnophobia as a kid when she saw this in Michigan) felt relaxed posing with Maman.

I’m not wild about all modern art, but found I could have spent all day in this relatively small museum.   It’s the kind of place where you “experience” art rather than just look at it.  The visitor is invited to wander through exhibits and explore them at his/her leisure.

View of modern commercial buildings adjacent to the Guggenheim.

Entry to the Guggenheim where the kids relaxed waiting for the next stop on the tour.

The Basque flag is very prominent throughout the streets of Bilbao.  This was discouraged (to say the least) during Franco’s time and I saw only a few there when I visited as a university student in 1976.  Now the flag flies everywhere.

Students were assigned a photography “scavenger hunt” as an afternoon activity, so the next couple of pictures are from just wandering downtown.

The next few photos are aerial views of the city from a hilltop park on the edge of Bilbao.

Again, you can see how the Guggenheim and modern structures nestle into the skyline.