Gregory T. Wilkins
Catalunya Art Museum Depart Asheville, NC to Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday, December 13, 2022 to Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Depart 1646 American Airlines
Airbus Industrie A319
2:40 PM - AVL
3:40 PM - CLT
Stop: Charlotte (CLT)
730 American Airlines - Boeing 777-200
6:36 PM - CLT 7:10 AM - LHR
Arrives December 14
Stop: London, United Kingdom (LHR)
6759 American Airlines
Operated by British Airways
Airbus Industrie A319
8:25 AM - LHR Departs December 14
11:30 AM - BCN
Return Barcelona, Spain to Asheville, NC
Friday, January 13, 2023
113 American Airlines
11:00 AM - BCN
3:10 PM - MIA
10h 10m Stop: Miami (MIA)
1577 American Airlines
Boeing 737-800 Passenger
7:30 PM - MIA
9:46 PM - CLT
2h 16m Stop: Charlotte (CLT)
2952 American Airlines
Airbus Industrie A319
10:41 PM - CLT
11:24 PM - AVL ***********************************************************************************
December 14 - 28 The Loft Hostel Provença, 318, Eixample, Barcelona, 08037 Spain Phone: +34934961874 Itinerary Ideas to Explore Wed., Dec. 14 -- Arrive to Hostel in the afternoon (Barcelona) Thurs., Dec. 15 - Barcelona - Picasso Museum, Basilica de Santa Maria del mar (opens at 9am)
Fri., Dec. 16 - Visit Girona - Cathedral, Basilica, monastery Sat., Dec. 17 - Barcelona - MACBA is free on Saturday from 4 - 8 pm; Palau Guell (10am-530pm); Antic Hospital de la Santa Cruz, La Cathedral, Mercat de la Boqueria, Museu Frederic Mares, Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, Basilica de la Merce, Basilica deis Sants Martirs Just i Pastor Sun., Dec. 18 - Figueres - Teatre-Museu Dali, Museu de l'Empordia (eat at El Motel on Avenida Salvador Dali 170) Mon., Dec. 19 - Barcelona - La Pedrera/Sagrada Familia, Casa Batilo, Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, Casa Amatiler, Casa de les Punxes, Mercat de laBoqueria Tue., Dec. 20 - Vic - Catedral de Sant Pere, Museu Episcopal (eat at Barmutet) Wed., Dec. 21 - Barcelona - Park Guell, CasaVicens, Mercat de la Libertat
Thurs., Dec. 22 - Monserrat - Monestary, Cambril de la Mare de Deu, Basilica Fri., Dec. 23 - Barcelona - Fundacio Joan Miro (?), Univ. of Barcelona - free concert at UB Gardens at 7 p.m. Sat., Dec. 24 - Taragona: cathedral, central market Sun., Dec. 25 Mon., Dec. 26 Tues., Dec. 27 Wed., Dec. 28 - Zaragoza
Transportation from airport to City From Barcelona airport - El Prat by train.
Take the train from the airport (T2). Get off at the Passeig de Gracia station. From there, we are only 5 minutes walking. Walk down the Passeig de Gracia 3 blocks (in the direction of Avenida Diagonal) and turn right on Calle Provença. Walk a block and a half and you will find us on the right side of Carrer de Provença (Number 318). You will see the bell in front of the building - the Loft Hostel.
December 28 - January 1, 2023 AZ The Botanic Hostel 78 Calle Basilio Boggiero, Zaragoza, 50003, Spain Phone: +34 682452875
To Do: University of Zaragoza, Aljaferia, La Seo cathedral, Goya Museum,
Train Station to Hostel: From the train station take bus number 34 at the exit of the same station, and stop at the stop named Conde Aranda.
The hostel is located at 78 Basilio Boggiero, very close to Conde Aranda. Itinerary Considerations:
Wed, Dec. 28 - Arrive to Zaragoza, Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Pilar, La Seo
Thur., Dec. 29 - Goya Museum Fri, Dec. 30 - Aljaferia Sat., Dec. 31 - Tarazona (town to see the Catedral and Palacio Episcopal) Sun., Jan. 1 - go to Madrid
January 1 - January 6 OK Hostel Madrid Calle Juanelo, 24, Centro, Madrid, 28012, Spain Phone: +34 914 29 37 44
To Do: Complutense University. Prado, Palacio Real, Ermita de San Antion de la Florida, Convento de las Descalzas Reales, Inglesa de San Gines, Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena (not worth inside view), Basilica de San Francisco El Grande, Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Buen Consejo, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free Monday), Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Inglesia de San Jeronimo El Real, Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo
Ok Hostel Madrid - Directions from Train Station
From Atocha train station: Walk until Paseo Delicias, 3, there you have the bus stop where you can catch bus number 6, direction Benavente. 4 stops later, you’ll get to Plaza Jacinto Benavente. Once you’re out of the bus look for the red building on the corner close to you, and go down the street next to it, that is Calle de la Concepcion Jeronima, once on the fork, go to the left and you’ll get to Plaza Tirso de Molina on its right side. Continue on that sidewalk until the corner, to your right you’ll have Calle Duque de Alba, follow it for about 100m, take the first left to Plaza de Cascorro and then left again to Calle de Juanelo, we’re there on number 24. If you prefer the taxi, the price should be approximately 8€. I took the bus.
From Chamartin train station: Take metro line 10, direction Puerta del Sur, change at Alonso Martinez stop to line 5, direction Casa de Campo and leave at La Latina station. Take the exit San Millan and behind you there’s Calle de las Maldonadas, follow it to Plaza del Cascorro.
Sun., January 1 - Arrive to Madrid Mon., January 2 Tues., Jan. 3 Wed., Jan. 4 Thurs, Jan. 5 Fri., Jan. 6 - Leave to Bilbao
January 6 - 1 0 Latroupa LaGranja 3 Plaza Biribila
48001 Bilbao Tele: +34 944 69 00 42
Fri., Jan. 6 - Arrive to Bilbao Sat., Jan. 7 - Guggenheim Sun., Jan. 8 – Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Mon., Jan. 9
Tues., Jan. 10 - Leave to Barcelona
January 10 - 13 TOC Hostel Barcelona Calle Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes 580 Eixample
Spain Tele: +34 934 53 44 25 Tue., Jan. 10 - Arrive to Barcelona Wed., Jan. 11 Thurs, Jan. 12 Fri., Jan. 13 - return to USA
December 13-14, 2022 I pack and repack my Patagonia duffle to make sure everything is in order. The packing cubes from REI I purchased years ago have been a good investment, and I still use them. They are in good condition considering they have been back and forth around the world with me too many times to count. I keep things in order – socks, underwear, shirts and extra pair of pants, variety stuff. My toiletries are kept in a smaller cooler bag I got 6 years ago when I was in AUS when my other bag broke. It fits everything – shampoo, conditioner, razor, moisturizer, etc. Each cube keeps the processing ordered and stacked in my bag.
I decided to not wear my leather pants because I thought they may be too over the top. Instead, I packed an extra pair of dungarees. Everything I pack is in shades of black and gray. It keeps the cost of laundry down and knowing that anything I pull out will work. I also packed two wool sweaters not knowing exactly how chilly the weather might be at night. I much rather have it and not need it. It’s a splurge because it takes up significant space. I wear on the plane my Patagonia jacket and down vest plus a sport coat with quilted sleeves. This set-up always works because I have lots of pockets to stuff things – passport, wallet, glass case, pens, airline tickets, etc. Timmy Carcel on the Warren Wilson College lacrosse team is going to get me to the Asheville Airport (AVL) and back for $20 which is better than Uber at $38 a pop. He was delighted to help and could also use the money. We will leave at 12:30 p.m. on December 13 so I can get to AVL in time to check-in, settle, and be prepared for any flight delays. (And yes, there was a flight delay by over an hour and fifteen minutes.)
The one disappointment when I got to AVL was American Airlines has now changed their international flight baggage rules. A traveler could fly with the suitcase under the plane for free if you had their credit card. Well, no more! They now charge $75 each way. I was not a happy camper, especially after I confirmed with customer service that it would be free over a month ago. SHAMEFUL! I pay $99 a year for the credit card and then get nickeled and dimed. The attendant said I can still get domestic bags for free with my card, but how often to I fly domestically? And when I do, American is always significantly more than other airlines. If I didn’t have over 400,000 airline miles, I would reconsider the card. And, they are my longest credit card which I don’t want to upset my credit score of 829 out of 850.
I flew AVL to Charlottle, then Charlotte to London, London to Barcelona. Charlotte had another hour+ change in flight plans, and London had 1.5 hour change. By the time I got into Barcelona, it was 5:20 p.m. and then took another hour to get off the plane because the bus from the terminal only had 50 seats. With me being in the back of the plane, I was one of the last to get off. By the time I got to my hostel it was dark, managing streets in a new city is always an adventure, not forgetting to mention the train ride into the city. The one blessing is The Loft Hostel provided me excellent directions from the airport to their place which saved me a headache. And one thing that made the back-and-forth up the boulevard manageable was the Metro stop was in the heart of the fashion district. Every store was like walking down a catwalk – Gucci, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Etro, Chanel, etc. To top it off, fantastical holiday decorations for the winter holiday were festooned across the street and dangling from every light post. It was a lovely way to be introduced to Barcelona. But alas, I am tired. The flight from London to Barcelona had a pair of chatty college students who did not stop barely to catch their breath with excitement, making for sleep nearly impossible. Exhausted, I got onto Facebook to let folks know I arrived, and I then settled into bed for the evening knowing the time difference was going to be a shock to the body beautiful.
COSTS: $1.06 USD to $1Euro $4544 - round trip flight $75 - baggage fee by airline $6.20 - Train to City $255 - The Loft Hostel for 14 nights
Dried Flowers at the Market December 15, 2022 I woke at 6:30 a.m. to beat the bathroom rush not knowing how much hot water there was in the hostel. It was super hot! Getting up early too allowed my put the final touches of my day in order, get information about the Metro pass, and get me going. I had plans to go to a smaller church (forgot the name) only to discover they increased their prices to $5 Euro to walk thru the door. I have written about paying to walk into churches before on my blog which seems to be very anti-Christ but do so now because instead of my thinking about them as places of worship, I think about them as museums. Even so, $5 seems steep knowing it was $3 before. Jesus would not be happy to say the least. (He would be even more furious with Segrada Familia -- $25 Euro to walk into the space!) I was going to go to the Picasso Museum and discovered it is free after 4 p.m. on Thursday. Instead of paying $14 Euro, I will wait. I then walked up to the Cathedral and found they now charge $9 Euro! Instead of walking in, I decided to walk around the space. I was able to get into an interior courtyard for free and see some of their side altars of saints. Not having any Euro in my wallet, I tried to find a bank with relatively low fees…nope! After hitting up almost a dozen they want between $5 to $8 as a commission fee. Some even wanted 13% of whatever I took as a fee! Damn banks. Thus far, I have been able to live without any Euro in my pocket by using my credit card. At some point, I am going to have to bite the bullet. The amazing thing about technology is I was able to connect my credit union in the USA with a video link. I discovered the reason why my card does not work is it went defunct in July. They had mailed me a mew card in June, but I had already left Mankato. I was able to video connect with one of the care attendants, and she was able to rectify the situation. The blessing is I am in Barcelona for 2 weeks. They are going to mail me a new card which will help me out just in case I need cash. Thus far, I have been able to manage only with a credit card…First World Problems.
Barcelona 1.6 million people live in Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain. Sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean and resting on the Iberian Peninsula, it attracts people from around the world. The Pyrenes sit 120 kilometers south bordering France. The city has been filled with history for over 4,000 years. Rich in culture, art, commerce, etc. it is a vibrant place and one to behold. When the Olympics came to Barcelona in 1992, it was an opportunity to restore their beaches – 9 in total. Nearly 7 million sun worshippers come here to bask and enjoy the water annually. They even have one of the beaches Playa Mar Bella, reserved for clothing optional. COSTS in Euro: $20 - month Metro pass .99 - Sandwich .99 - Chocolate bar (I forgot the receipt) groceries – bag of mandarin oranges, two chocolate bars, 3 croissants, Baby Bell cheeses, dried ham
Girona on the River Banks
December 16, 2022 Over 100,000 people live in Girona. It is approximately one hour away from Barcelona and an easy train ride on the Renfe. A close walk into the town from the station, I meandered through the cobbled stone streets to the cathedral. What I love about the ancient part of the city is it has been preserved. Cars must go around the central historical portion leaving the alleyways to people. And I almost forgot, the colorful cityscape along the river is a delight and very picturesque. Iberians first settled here, later the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, etc. Jews flourished here in the late 800s with a bustling community and a leading Kabbalist school. Catholic royalty in 1492 outlawed Jewish life and they were removed from the city or were forced to convert. The Jews that left were forced to live on Mountain Montjuic. Modern day trippers from Barcelona come here to see the monastery. It sits on the land that was a Roman temple and has seen multiple upgrades and changes since it was built. Twisting through the ancient streets, I was greeted to find a majestic and commanding building.
The cathedral is approached by ninety steps. Inside, an aisle and chapels surround the choir, which opens by three arches into the nave, of which the pointed stone vault is the widest in Christendom (22 meters). It was a miraculous feat when it was built. Afterward, I went to the cathedral museum and then walked down to the basilica – Sant Pere de Galligants – only to find they were closed. While I felt a bit taken advantage of with my $10 admission fee, I figured I got a good value out of the cathedral and museum. (The Catholic church seems to always find a way to take advantage of people which I find frustrating. I am firm believer that sacred places should be free to enter.)
Cathedral Door COSTS in Euro: $22 – Roundtrip to Girona on train $3 – Edward Muybridge 3-d postcard $10 – Cathedral, museum, and basilica pass (though basilica was closed)
December 17, 2022 The way St. Joseph Market is lit makes everything picture perfect. The colors of fruit and vegetables radiate off the tables, fish fresh from the ocean glimmer, and candy in every shape, shade, and hue calls out to you to taste it. Each bend and turn lures me further into the market now knowing what surprises around the corner may have in store for me. Arriving early before the tourists throngs is a blessing as everything is fully stocked and presented well. It is truly a sight to behold, and I know the images will jump from my camera when I download them tonight. One way of getting to know a city is to get lost in its myriad of corners and alleyways. My initial plan when arriving this morning was to locate an old hospital. I can’t tell you how many kilometers I walked only to discover it was right around the corner from where I began my journey. Sadly, the place I had wanted to see what was not I had intended. I was searching for what I thought was San Pau Hospital, but rather this was a medical college that was run down and had seen better days. The one blessing out of the discovery was to speak with a lovely couple from Scotland who had seen the hospital I was in search for, and they highly recommended me going.
COSTS in Euro: $2.50 – sandwich at St. Joseph Market $9.13 – groceries (bag of mandarin oranges, 3 croissants, 2 chocolate bars, ham
December 18, 2022 Spain goes crazy with Argentina’s World Cup win. Horns are blaring and people are shouting with glee. Wait 10 seconds and the delight happens again. Argentina for the win! ******** Figueres is known for the Gaudi Museum. Originally a city theatre, it was renovated in 1966 with a large metal and glass dome going across the top of the space. The original building was built between 1848 and 1850 by the Catalan architect Josep Roca I Bros. When it was renovated, Gaudi personally had his hand in the design and creation of the space. Under the dome of the museum rest the remains of the Empordà genius. It was felt that Gaudi’s hometown would be a fitting place to celebrate his life.
This building significance to Gaudi because as he stated "…because I am an eminently theatrical painter; the second, because the Theater is located in front of the church where I was baptized; and the third, because it was precisely in the hall of the lobby of the Theater where I exhibited my first painting exhibition. Before visiting the museum, I peeked into the church of San Pedro de Figueras and found it amusing they posted a surreal piece of art on the side of the church wall of an open sky with a ladder ascending into it.
The building was inaugurated in 1974 and under its dome (originally designed by Richard Buckminster Fuller but was scraped b/c of budget concerns and later built by Murcian architect Emilio Perez Pinero and of which he never saw because he died in a car crash) Dalí was buried by his expressed wishes in 1989. However, even the dead do not stay at rest because his body was exhumed. In the early hours of July 20, 2017, Dalí's body was exhumed to obtain DNA samples by order of the Court of First Instance number 11 of Madrid, in relation to an unfounded paternity claim.
Gaudi’s works made expressly for the theater-museum such as the Mae West room, the Palau del Vent room, and the rainy Cadillac stand out. When entering the museum, you come face to face with the Cadillac sculpture in the courtyard surrounded by windows and Oscar-like statues enclosing the area. What is even more spectacular is the domed room with large canvas on wall, staircase to the Mae West room and the way the sun drenches the space with light casting shadows and playful tease to Gaudi’s genius. When he died, he willed his art to Spain with a portion of it here at the foundation and the rest at the Reina Sophia in Madrid. COSTS in Euro: $32 – roundtrip to Figuera on train $5 – kebab sandwich with fries and Coke $11 – Dali museum admission (student rate)
City Graffiti December 19, 2022 National Museum of Art is closed on Monday – no worries. Make the most of the day exploring Barcelona. It was also time to do laundry. My new ATM card from Affinity Credit Union arrived and got $300 Euro out w/o an ATM fee! Most other ATMs I have tried want $8 to $12 Euro. I kept the receipt just in case. It’s good to have some Euro in my pocket. It is amazing in this day and age too how far along one can go with an ATM card and not spend any cash. COSTS in Euros: $2.45 – fresh bread roll, salami, cookies from grocery $6.50 – laundry (wash and dry) at The Loft Hostel
Vic Casino December 20, 2022 Vic is about 1 hour away from Barcelona via train. In the heart of Catalon country, I can hear the difference in their dialect, voice, and written word. Some Spaniards say these folks talk with a “potato in their throat”. Many of the churches were closed, but I was able to visit the Catedral de San Pere.
The Renfre leaves riders about 15 minutes from the center of town. It’s a direct walk with a couple of twists in the road. No matter, you will find the place thriving in the Plaza Major with vendors and hawkers selling their good in the town square.
The original cathedral was built in 1018 in the Romanesque style and was consecrated in 1038. Like many churches it was grown and been on over the millennium with the largest occurring in the late 1700s which reflects its current neoclassical façade.
A surprise you don’t always see is a Roman temple in town built in the 2nd century. It was uncovered in the late 1800s when a castle was being demolished that it was “discovered”. The castle was demolished, and the temple remained. It just goes to show you that you things are not always what they appear.
COSTS in Euros: $13.90 roundtrip train to VIC
Gardens at Catalunya Park December 21, 2022 I get up early and beat most out of bed in the hostel. It has become a running joke that I see and do more than the average hostel guest. Their assumption is correct. Life is short – see and do everything you can before your time is up. I am thankful each day my legs and health. Traveling would be a nightmare if I had to go about with assistance, in a wheelchair, or having to struggle physically. I thank God for my many blessings.
The staff at the hostel each day want to hear what I did or saw from the day before. It has been a fun way of catching-up with them and hearing their other suggestions of things I might want to see, do, and explore. As their shifts change in the morning, I make my way out to the city – dark and not yet awoke. I make my way to the Metro of which I have become familiar and feel I am becoming familiar. I ride my way to the Catalunya Museum of Art (Museu Nacional d’arte de Catalunya). The museum is king of the Montjuic hill towering proud and gallant. Commanding like a proud father, the building has an outstanding view of the city. The Palua Nacional was built in 1929 with an impressive fountain out front and an impressive staircase that leads guests up to the view. In 1992, the museum went through an impressive renovation so it would be open for the Olympics. It is one of the largest collections of art in Spain.
Sadly, my lunch at the museum was disappointing. The room itself is impressive with slanted, mirrored ceiling and tables set in a grey blue motif. I was shoved into a corner and was forgotten about. The meal was average, service mediocre, and the overall experience lackluster. I expect more being in this landmark building. COSTS in Euros $8.40 - student ticket to Catalunya Art Museum $32.20 - Christmas lunch at Oleum in the Cataluyna Art Museum (4 courses including beer, water, and coffee) $13.80 - Spa entrance
View from Montserrat December 22, 2022 I took the early morning trail from Barcelona to Montserrat. I was surprised by how few people were on the trail to go there. There was roughly one dozen of us. The cost was fair, though amused that the funicular up the mountain once you get there costs almost the same as the one-hour trip there though it beats having to walk up the mountain which would take half a day.
The name Montserrat means in Catalan serrated – think of a saw or knife blade. Pink rock jets upward and peaking through the clouds is the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, and the sanctuary (Virgin of Monserrat). Looking up from the train station you can see the one thousand year old abbey in the distance. It is impressive from below. The Virgin of Montserrat is known as La Moreneta (the little dark one in Catalan). Yes, the figure is black in color, though today this name feels racist. Folks pay Euro to climb and see her as well as take a picture. I opted to save my money and remain in the sanctuary below which is free.
Tourists come here for pilgrimage and flock the space. Being here in the winter made my visit here more tolerable because there were not as many people as usual. It gives me a tourist trap feel because of the restaurants, shopping, etc. It also makes me conjure images of what would Jesus do if he saw all the commotion and hoopla. I retreat and head to the museum to see the art and afterwards descend the mountain back to Barcelona. COSTS in Euros: $11.50 - roundtrip train to Montserrat $11.70 - Funicular round trip to Montserrat $6.50 - Montserrat Museum of Art student price $7.42 – Grocery: bag of mandarins, 2 bread rolls, package of cheese, 2 large chocolate bars
City Rooftops December 23, 2022
I love exploring an unknown city. I can walk for miles without complaint and meander into her crevices. I love discovering graffiti, classical architecture, and little surprises like the way the light casts shadows on buildings. Those that live here have glossed over the details. I like being like a new born; I find it all mesmerizing and delightful. COSTS in Euros: $5.50 - 2 cheese tarts, 2 croissants, gel for hair, large chocolate bar
December 24, 2022 The day I got lost to find the Santa Creu y Pau Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul) the other day has turned today into a morning of delight. Arriving even before the gates opened, I walked around the building to snap pictures, sat and ate some snacks I brought with me, and to watch the sun slowly greet the building as it slowly emerged into the day. The guard pushed back the iron clad gate and the cue for tourists to arrive. I was one of three early birds.
The former hospital is composed of 12 pavilions connected through long underground galleries within a large green space. It is a complex built between 1901 and 1930. It was built by Lluis Domenech I Montaner and declared a UNESCO site in 1998. Sant Pau is built in the Art Nouveau style. It was a fully functioning hospital until June 2009, when the new hospital opened next to it, before undergoing restoration for use as a museum and cultural center, which opened in 2014. The architect originally planned to have 48 building of which 27 were constructed.
When it first opened it was very modern and revolutionary. Its focus was on wellness. For ex., all the recovery rooms have daylight that pours into each complex and built on an angle to capture as much daylight as possible.
While it was expected that the renovations would be completed by 2020, there are several complexes that have yet to be touched. I am not sure if they ran out of money, if COVID has altered their progress, or what the plans are for completion. What is open is lovely and impressive.
COSTS in Euro $16 - San Pau Hospital admission .69 - cookies $6.50 - laundry
December 25, 2022 I sleep in and slowly wake to the morning. Barcelona is quiet. There are few on the streets, shops are closed, and even the touristy areas are barely a buzz.
fish at market December 26, 2022 Park Guell in the early morning is quiet and delightful. Sadly, it does not take but half a day before it’s packed with tourists wanting to snap a picture of Gaudi’s masterpiece. It pains me.
The locals in the neighborhood get a free pass to enter before the throngs arrive in mass. They walk their dogs in peace through the park. Being here 45 minutes before the gates open, I can marvel in serenity. I wait patiently.
Park Guell was built from 1900 to 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park World Heritage Site. Eusebi Guell commissioned Gaudi to enhance the park in his modern style – flourishes of tiles, columns, and aqueducts in an organic style. Originally, the area was to be a housing development with all the modern conveniences imaginable. 60 plots of land were to have amazing homes built upon them, but the venture failed. Gaudi moved into one of the two houses until his death which is now a museum on the premises.
The park was free up until 2013. My guess is it is because so many people came it needed to be maintained. It probably also had a huge impact on the neighborhood. I am told vandals destroyed some of the art in the park which is one reason the park is now open at certain times and is safeguarded by private security.
The focal point of the park is a large, serpentine bench that is filled with mosaic tiles. It is said Gaudi did not actually make them. Rather, it was created by his collaborator Josep Maria Jujol.
Paths crisscross the park with the top of the park bearing a large crucifix. Many folks walk up here for the view and to get away from the throngs below. While somewhat peaceful, there are still too many people to my liking. (You know the park has too many tourists when a busker sets up shop and another person sells water from a cooler.)
COSTS in Euros: $10 - admission to Park Guell
December 27, 2022 Walking Barcelona streets fills my love of architecture at each twist and turn. There is a surprise around every corner which begs me to keep moving forward not knowing what may lie further afield. I love serendipity. It’s more than just facades. It is balconies, iron work, brick work, plaster casts, stained glass, and flourishes. It’s the details that delight. COSTS in Euro: $2.58 – grocery: chocolate bar, 2 rolls, nuts
Basilica - Our Lady of Pilar December 28, 2022 Zaragoza sits on the Ebro River with the city resting on both sides. It’s the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar and the Cathedral of the Savior that stands prominently on the Plaza de la Seo and draws tourists and locals alike. Ancient Romans patrolled these streets with archaeological sites still present. According to local tradition, soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, James (Jesus’ apostle) went to Spain to spread the gospel. Tradition holds that on 2 January 40 AD, while he was deep in prayer by the banks of the Ebro, Mary (Jesus’ mother) appeared to him and gave a column of jasper and instructed him to build a church in her honor – hence, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar. La Seo is located approximately one block away from the basilica. The church has a long history. It was built on the Roman Forum or Augustus. Originally a mosque was placed here with 2 additions made in the 9 and 11th century. Alfonso I in 1118 banished Islam and gave the community one year to vacate the land. The mosque was destroyed and a cathedral built.
La Seo Interior
La Seo Exterioe Wall Narrow alleys set into blocks make the city center. Not a lot of light passes through them. It is once you get through them that the center of the town opens, the market flourishes, and city life thrives.
Pilar Door Hinge
Our Lady of Pilar COSTS in Euro: $33.50 – fast train to Zaragoza
$1.40 – bus to hostel $4 – pr of boxer briefs, 3 bamboo appetizer forks $9.60 – grocery – cheese, salami, French bread, mandarins, cookies, chocolate bar $117 – AZ the Botanica Hostel for 3 nights
December 29, 2022 Tarazona in the ancient Roman period had all of its citizens free here and the place thrived. After its fall, the town because Muslim. Alfonso I conquered it in 1119 and pushed the Muslims out. Alfonso was later crucified, and the town became religiously diversified – Christian, Jew, Muslim. It is evident in the architecture. I came to see the churches only to discover they were all closed. They are open on the weekend when tourists come. I wandered through the Jewish quarter, up and down the lanes and alleyways. Disappointed, I returned to the cathedral and found a back door open for mass. No sooner had I come did I return to Zaragoza.
Townscape on the River
City Hall COSTS in Euro: $1.40 bus to train station $8.15 – bus to Tarazona $1.10 – 2 pastries $8.15 – bus to Zaragoza $4.50 – cathedral (didn’t pay b/c of mass)
Aljaferia Palace December 31, 2022 I am always surprised at the host of laundry while traveling abroad or maybe I should be thankful that the price for laundry is more affordable. My guess is it has to do with the cost of electricity? All the same, it is one reason why I stand to the thought of only packing dark colored clothes so it is one load of wash. It is a trick I learned I learned over a decade ago.
COSTS in Euro: $10 – laundry $1.47 - 3 pastries
Cathedral January 1, 2023 I have been to Madrid before when Tabatha Chapman from Warren Wilson College got married in the early 2000s. She was married in Seville, and I spent several days here to catch the museums.
Taking the Renfre slow train to Madrid from Zaragoza, I was able to watch the countryside from my window. Rolling hills, green spaces, and villages made the journey interesting. If I had taken the speed train it would have cost me more and less time to admire the countryside. Besides, I am in no rush. Madrid is the capitol and more populous city in Madrid with approximately 6.7 million people if you include the surrounding metropolitan area. It is also the 2nd largest city in the EU and the 2nd largest GDP in the EU. While I like the city, I feel more at home in Barcelona. The one thing I do love about it though are the museums and cultural activities. COSTS in Euro: $1.50 - bus to train station $25.75 - Renfe slow train to Madrid from Zaragoza $122 - Ok Hostel for 5 nights
Bank of Madrid January 2, 2023 COSTS in Euro: $10.31 – grocery: mandarins (9), bottle of Cava, chocolate bar, cheese pack, salami pack, 2 bread rolls
Door Frame Entrance January 3, 2023 Cerralbo Museum is a State-owned museum housing the art and historical object collections of Enrique de Aguilera v Gamboa, Marquis of Cerralbo, who died in 1922. With the death of his father in 1867, Enrique as the oldest living son acquired the Conde de Villalbos title, which ensured his place in the middle-range aristocracy and a comfortable financial status. His position changed dramatically in the early 1870s, when, following the childless death of his two paternal uncles and death of his paternal grandfather, Enrique became the most senior male in line. The heritage elevated Enrique into the highest ranks of the Spanish nobility. He later multiplied his wealth by marriage, cautious investments on the stock exchange and in the railway business, and by inheriting part of the fortune of the Marques de Monroy.
In 1871, Enrique married the mother of his university colleague, Manuela Inocencia Serrano y Cerver from Valencia, thirty years his senior and widow of the military and senator Anotonio del Valle y Angelin; she brought into the family the children from her previous marriage. Immediately afterwards, the couple started construction of the family residence in Madrid.
The building was built in the 19th century, according to Italian taste, and it was luxuriously decorated with baroque furniture, wall paintings, and expensive chandeliers. ***********
Royal Palace of Madrid & Armory
The Royal Palace of Madid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family although now it is used only for state ceremonies. The palace contains 3,418 rooms, and it is the largest royal palace in Europe. While tourists and Spaniards flock here, the overall palace is unimpressive from what I got to see of it. I felt like I was being herded through like a cow. While there are some impressive holds (Stratovarius instruments), most of the rooms felt cold and generic. I was expecting more opulence and spectacular rooms well furnished. The royal family does not live here; they prefer to stay in El Prado at the Palace of Zarzuela.
The best part of the tour to me was the armory which is located off from the main part of the palace. It is less congested, and the workmanship of the metalsmith, embroidery, and the like is exquisite. The collection is grand and spectacularly presented. It is world-class. COSTS in Euro: Free – Cerralbo Museum with university ID Free – Royal Palace with university ID $3.73 – grocery – cheese sandwich, 4 pastries, box of cookies
Royal Palace Ceiling January 4, 2023 COSTS in Euro: $3.68 – grocery – jamon y queso sandwich, chocolate bar, large beer
Cathedral January 5, 2023 COSTS in Euro: $10 – B & W check scarf, 80% wool and 20% viscose $6 – Laundry
Bilbao Train Station Stained Glass January 6, 2023 I took the train from Madrid to Bilbao. It took several hours, and I was able to enjoy the scenery of the countryside. Arriving to the central terminal, a large stained glass window greeted me before exiting into the city. Just as noted via email, the hostel where I was to stay was directly across the street – Latroupe. Arriving before check-in, I left my luggage and began my escapade to see churches and get the lay of the neighborhood. Number 2 Plaza Circular in Bilbao is rich in history. In 1926 on the lower level, Café La Granja opened its doors. The space was cast in art nouveau from the tiles to the lighting. Soon after, the city’s hipsters and socialites cascaded upon the place creating a buzz that lasted for decades. It was because of this notoriety the hostel chose to keep the name as a nod to the past. The Basque flavor resonates still to this day in this space, even though many of the flourishes of the art nouveau have gone the way of the wrecking ball. Even despite modernity, there remains elements of the old though I must admit I wish there were more. I leave my luggage in storage and wander the streets to the church down the avenue and eventually over the bridge to the older part of town. I am going to enjoy exploring this river town.
COSTS in Euro: $131 - Latroupe Hostel for 4 nights
January 7, 2023 I dodge raindrops and grey skies. Having traveled far and wide, I am wise to travel with a pocket-sized umbrella. It snaps up in seconds and is easily stowable. I twist and turn in the older part of town. The city is still asleep and hunkers down with the chill in the air. But I don’t let a bit of nasty weather to keep me from exploring. I venture further into town, around corners, and into nooks and crannies. I return to the river and let her guide me. There is a market set up for weekend sales of veggies, crafts, and local wares. I stroll over and buy a barrette made of natural fibers. I continue forward with the Guggenheim begging me to enter. Proudly sitting on the Nervion Riverbanks before getting to the Cantabrian Sea, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s collection of modern and contemporary art reigns supreme. The building was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. If it weren’t for the museum, tourism in Bilbao would be vastly different. It is one of the largest collections in Spain.
Before being erected, the area was derelict and a decrepit port. Once the City’s main form of income, it had lost its heyday and had become an eyesore. The Basque government agreed to cover the $100 million construction cost, to create a $50 million acquisitions fund, to pay a one-time $20 million fee to the Guggenheim and to subsidize the museum's $12 million annual budget. In exchange, the foundation agreed to manage the institution, rotate parts of its permanent collection through the Bilbao Museum and organize temporary exhibitions.
Bridge The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city. Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe. In its first three years, almost 4 million tourists visited the museum, helping to generate approximately €500 million in economic activity. The regional council estimated that the money visitors spent on hotels, restaurants, shops, and transportation allowed it to collect €100 million in taxes, which more than paid for the building cost. The rest is history. Arriving on a rainy morning was the perfect thing to do, other than falling down the slick walk and busting my knee and scraping my hand. While the place looks modern and slick, so are the walkways when it rains. Yikes! I arrived as soon as the doors opened. It was quiet and stark. I immediately went upstairs and decided to meander my way through the galleries before the throngs arrived. COSTS in Euro: $5 – natural fiber barrette at outdoor market $83.30 - rabbit fur infinity scarf $15 – Guggenheim admission
January 8, 2023 The Bilbao Fine Art Museum is currently under renovation which allowed me to see the collection for free. The space was quiet with only me and three other museum goers plus guards in the space. It is the second largest and most visited museum in the Basque region, after the Guggenheim Bilbao and one of the richest Spanish museums outside Madrid. It houses a comprehensive collection of Basque, Spanish, and European art from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, including paintings by old masters like El Greco, Van Dyck, and Goya as well as modern artists such as Gauguin, Mary Cassatt, Francis Bacon, and Serra. The building was built at the turn of last century (1908) and moved around the city untiol 1945 where it has permanently resided since. Originally, the collection was part of two other museums until they merged. The modern works were expatriated during the war and were returned. The city decided to house them together as the city began to rebuild. United, the collection hosts more than 10,000 pieces of which only a portion are on view. COSTS in Euro: $0 – Free admission to Bilbao Fine Art Museum
Basilica de Begona January 9, 2023
COSTS in EURO: $2.60 – jamon y tomate sandwich $6 - laundry
January 10, 2023 COSTS in Euro: $41.80 – train from Bilbao to Barcelona $1.95 - sandwich $1.39 – 3 croissants and large chocolate bar $73 – Con Gracia dinner – 7 courses, 2 aperitives before dinner with water $61 – The Loft Hostel for 3 nights
cemetery January 11, 2023 COSTS in Euro: $10.99 - headphones