Madrid – The First Week - 2015As our train entered the Estación de Atocha safely and with all of our luggage, we quietly breathed sighs of relief. The high-speed RENFE (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles—National Network of Spanish Railways) train had travelled between Montpellier, France and Madrid at speeds in excess of 225 kph (140 mph) in some places. The few stops that were made were very short and doors closed with no warning. I guess that if you want to call yourself “High-speed”, you don’t linger ... anywhere.
Cycling's Grand Tours are the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta a España. They are the most prestigious, and grueling multi-week-long cycling events in the world. We have never been able to see the Tour de France while we have been in France since it can be expensive and difficult to get to a good spot to watch the 200 riders streak past in 60-120 seconds. But this time we lucked out. We were in Madrid for the finish of the final stage of the2015 Vuelta a España - the Tour of Spain.
Ávila - 2015
Inhabited since before the 5th century BC, Avila was a small fortified town conquered by the Romans about 61 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was held by the Visigoths, then the Moors. Repeatedly attacked by northern Christian kingdoms it became essentially deserted. By 1088, the town was retaken from the Arabs and began repopulating. The leaders constructed a stone town and created the walls that still stand. Indeed, its most imposing monument is the wall that surrounds the city.
Salamanca - 2015
There is an energy that can be felt when you are in a university town, and there was such a feeling in Salamanca. Maybe it was that there are 30,000 students at the University of Salamanca or just a larger than average number of young people for a city, but the energy was indeed there. The University, founded in 1218, has ben a center for teaching and culture and has over the centuries, and today it is renowned for the study of humanities and languages as well as law and economics.
Segovia - 2015
Every guitarist knows or should know the name Andrés Segovia (1893-1987). He is considered the greatest guitarist of all time as well as the father of the modern classical guitar though he was not from the town of Segovia, it was through his name that the town was to me at least somewhat familiar. Another rather famous reference to Segovia is “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway set during the Spanish Civil War and takes place in the hills and mountains near the city of Segovia.
Toledo - 2015
Toledo has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, as early as the first century BC. The city has seen more than 2,000 years as the "City of Three Cultures", having been shaped by the historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences. It survived invasions by the Moors and Visigoths, and the Spanish Civil War, indeed, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Meandros en Madrid -1 - 2015
We wander, ... a lot. It tends to be somewhat directed, but our path may meander like a three-year-old chasing pigeons. Most of these images of Madrid were made sort of on the way somewhere, or once we had arrived, and yet they are a stream-of-consciousness-like collection of visuals and memories of a month of strolling through Madrid. Captions have been added to provide some context, but think of them more as a view through my camera as we ambled through this marvelous city.
Meandros en Madrid – 2 - 2015
Madrid is filled with people. There were times when we felt that they were all on the same street with us. But we could turn off onto a quiet little callejón, and be alone except for the little old lady pulling her two-wheeled grocery cart to the market; or the lone office worker who had stepped outside for a cigarette. The art galleries, laundry hanging from balconies, street art, litter, beautiful architectural details of past glories, all provide a rich garden from which to gather images.
Meandros en Madrid – 3 - 2015
Madrid, besides being the capital of Spain, is a great city. The best thing about a great city and its culture is its people; and the best places to experience being among the people are parks and markets. These kinds of things are what our travels are about - to experience the place, its people, its culture, its life.
We had been in Madrid for just about a month, and we couldn't see everything. That is a difficult concept to accept at times, but for the experiences we want, it is essential. The days that have no defined purpose or destination are often the most rewarding; because it seems that for those brief moments we feel as if we live there. Those are the times we made time to stop and really see the city and its people. And like any big city it’s not always pretty, but it is always fascinating.
Taking the train from Madrid to Barcelona used to take just under nine hours. Today, with ALL our luggage, it only takes about three. The speed display in the car we were in showed a top speed 300 kph (180 mph), but averaged a little less than that. The terrain in the center of Spain is rather arid and brown, and as we neared the coast there was a change toward more green vegetation and trees.
Construction of La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Barcelona's magnificently iconic and controversial church, was started in 1882 by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí and is expected to be completed in 2026—a century after his death. Its design incorporates Gaudi's geometrical ideas and aspects of Cubism and Art Nouveau, or as it was called in Spain– Modernista and Catalonia - Modernisme.
So many of the places we have visited throughout the world are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Barcelona has nine such sites. These exquisite buildings by Catalan Modernist architects Antoni Gaudí and Domènech i Montane are some of the most beautiful structures in the world whether you’re an expert or simply appreciate impressive architecture, they are worth seeing.
Barcelona – Time to depart - 2015
The leaves of the Plane trees (Sycamores) are starting to turn brown and darkness comes noticeably earlier each day. Autumn has begun. Our time in Barcelona is almost over and only a few days before we board a ship for the return to Florida. Life in Barcelona was a little busier than normal. Early in our stay here, my brother Mike and his wife Kathy came for a delightful visit. We took a “Tapas Tour” with them, and also visited the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and all the places in between. After they left we still had museums and monuments…
A Kiss in Barcelona - 2015
While walking around the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, we turned down a small street. At the end of the street we could see a mural of two sets of lips locked in a personal moment. At first we thought that it was an example of street graffiti, but as we got closer …