Joined May 2017 Message
  • Day9

    On the way home

    November 17, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    The last two days have been with close friends, in the tiny town of Soto del Real. Walk out their door, turn left, and in two minutes you are on a dirt path heading up into the Guadarrama mountains. The views of the snow in the mountains were pretty great, and we enjoyed several long walks. Went to a colegio basketball game, a great in-town restaurant, the castle at Manzanares (as spectacular as I remembered it). But the really nice thing is that when you are with good friends, there is no need to go go go. Sitting around the table drinking tea, occasionally helping out with one kitchen task or another, it was a wonderful weekend.

    Two trivia tidbits. From Soto del Real, into the center of Madrid, you can ride on a bike trail without ever coming into contact with vehicular traffic. That’s 50 kms of uninterruted cycling. Trivia point two. Recent law in Spain requires that restaurants and bars provide you with “agua del grifo” (tap water) at no extra charge. The water in Spain is excellent, so this is a great development, and I assume it is intended to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

    Now we are in the Madrid airport, an hour or so till boarding. Home again till Sunday, when we leave for California and grandkids for Thanksgiving week.
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  • Day6

    Last day in Madrid

    November 15, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    After a late coffee, we followed a new set of twisty streets in Old Madrid to get to the Thyssen. This museum has at least one painting by every well-known Western artist (EXCEPT Velázquez, surprisingly), but to my way of thinking there are only a couple of really swoon-inducing paintings. But we found a way to spend several hours there, and enjoyed it all very much.

    My favorite was the medieval “pilgrims mass” painting, which showed a pilgrim on the camino begging in church, or at least with his hand outstretched.

    After a good lunch in old Madrid, we took a cab (our very first, we’ve walked everywhere else) to the Debod Temple. When Egypt built the Aswan Dam and flooded parts of the Nile, many temples were in the way. One is now in the Met in NYC, and one is now in Madrid. Since Joe is hopefully going to take a Nile Cruise with a childhood friend this summer while I’m walking in Spain, I thought this was a good introduction!

    Walking home, I realized we were about 6 blocks from my 1970 apartment in Madrid, so I left Joe on a bench and took a quick detour. Galileo 82, 2C — the building is still standing, and looks pretty much the same. Couldn’t resist asking a guy passing by to take my picture, but I realize that a picture of me in a doorway is kind of lame. Hard to believe I lived there almost 50 years ago. Yikes.

    Tomorrow we head to Soto del Real, where our closest Spanish friends live. Weekend in the country!
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  • Day5

    In the old neighborhood

    November 14, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    First thing today — off to the Sorolla museum. Spain’s most celebrated impressionist, the museum is inside the house where he lived. It may not be a must-see for most Madrid visitors, but it is for us. Even though two of my favorites were off being exhibited in Dublin, I enjoyed the rest.

    From there, a walk to our old neighborhood. Our corner bar had been sold to a young couple, who had totally redone the inside and changed the name and the menu. And here we were hoping to get some of Madrid’s best patatas bravas. Walking down our street, only a few places looked familiar (after all it’s been 25 years!), but our fish store and the little food shop were still both going strong.

    Next stop, Plaza Santa Ana, where David and Shannon got engaged, and from there on to lunch in a Venezuelan restaurant near the Plaza de Oriente. Though we didn’t visit the Royal Palace, the gardens outside were nice for a rest before the walk home through old Madrid. My phone says we’ve walked 9.2 miles, so maybe we’ll hit 10 by the time we’re back from dinner!
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  • Day4


    November 13, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Museum for the day — Reina Sofía, where Picasso’s Güernica is hanging (it was in NY for many years till Franco’s dictatorship ended). Since no photos are allowed, I’m pasting in the outdoor mural of the painting in the town of Güernica close to their peacetime museum and where the actul bombing took place. No matter how you see it, it packs a real punch.

    We also went into the huge, newly cleaned Cibeles Palace. It used to be the central post office, though it boggles to mind to think a city would build a post office like that. About a decade ago, town hall was moved to this building, so it now has all city offices and city council chambers. But the public is allowed entry, and you can go up to a terrace high above the plaza for some absolutely terrific views.

    Walking home we once again wove through the Retiro, stopping near the lake to listen to the violinist playing sad autumnal songs. Such a beautiful park.
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  • Day3


    November 12, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    We are falling into a routine of museum in the morning, and then walking for a few hours after lunch. Today we started at the National Archaeological Museum, because Joe wanted to see the Dama de Elche again (an Iberian funerary urn from the 4th Century BC). I went with some apprehension because I remembered this museum as a musty old dark place. Well, turns out there has been a total renovation and it is now one of the most airy and well-laid out museums I have ever been to. Goes from Prehistory, through Iberian, Roman, Visigothic, medieval. Displays are not crowded, with just enough info in both Spanish and English. Just gorgeous.

    After a light lunch, we spent the next several hours in the Retiro, one of the most beautiful urban parks anywhere. Lots of memories of Sunday mornings there with the kiddos. Today we hit 8 miles, so Joe decided not to call it a rest today — he is officially taking a nap.

    We have had two great dinners and are hoping the hotel receptionist is on a roll!
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  • Day2

    Prado Day

    November 11, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    You can’t go to Madrid without a visit to the Prado. Believe it or not, the floor plan is still firmly Implanted in my brain. I spent one morning a week there for my History of Spanish Art class in 1970. It’s where I began to love Romanesque, and those Soria frescoes were my first stop today. I think they may have moved Goya’s tapestry cartoons up a floor but aside from that, everything was where I remembered. The rooms of Goya and Velazquez are unbelievable.

    On our way to Sol, I saw a sign that looked familiar—“vegetariano.” Down a little street and Eureka! The Restaurante Artemisa, still as good as it was in the 90s when we lived here. Any restaurant with a line at 3:45 pm has to be good!

    After lunch we just wandered through the center— Puerta Del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Gran Via. I promised Joe we’d be back at the hotel for a rest by 6 pm, which he needed after a total of 7 miles. And by 6:10 I was on the elliptical listening to TV political commentary about the election results. A mess of enormous proportions.
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  • Day1

    Travel day

    November 10, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Since we are in the carpe diem mode of travel this fall, we have added one more trip. Joe really wanted to go back to Madrid, where we lived with the kids for an academic year in 1994-95. He has been back a time or two, but not as much as I have, so it seemed reasonable. Somehow our itinerary goes from Champaign to Dallas to Madrid. I didn’t pay much attention when I was booking the tickets, but now that I have looked at a map, I can say that every one of the 813 miles between Champaign and Dallas is going away from Madrid. That means we have a VERY long flight ahead of us. No upgrade, no great seat, we will be pretty done in when we get there tomorrow.

    Of our three fall trips, this will be the easiest and most relaxed. No moving around, except that we may take a day trip to Toledo or Segovia. We will also spend next weekend out in Soto del Real, where our dearest Spanish friends live. So this should be a fun trip.

    Update — we are here! Easy taxi ride into the center. As usual, we got quite the political lesson from the taxi driver. The polls are open, for the fourth national election in four years. Things are very complicated and messy, but the consensus is that the only party that stands to gain from calling new elections is Vox, the extreme right.

    Our hotel is very nice, has a little fitness center, and Joe is going to nap while I go try out the elliptical.
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  • Day19

    My Favorite Church in Athens

    October 20, 2019 in Greece ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    One last breakfast looking out on the Acropolis. But now, with plenty of time to kill in a number of airports today, I got inspired. :-)

    My favorite church in Athens sits in the shadow of the big perfectly sculpted cathedral. It’s a small 12th century Byzantine church, called “Little Metropolis” or the Church of Saint Eleftherios. Its architectural style is pretty similar to many other and many other bigger medieval Byzantine churches I have seen in Athens and further north, but this one just grabbed me differently. For one thing, there it sits, right next to the imposing 19th century attention-grabber. But when you look at it and read about it, you realize that it, and not the big brother next door, is the real jewel.

    This church has incorporated stones and carvings that go back centuries — the oldest is a 5th century BC fresco of the signs of the zodiac. Lots of other non-Christian stone carvings, from Greek Athens and Roman Athens, kind of a hodge-podge but all coming together perfectly. In the day, tourists walk around it, in early evening, small kids play in the square in front, and at night it seems to glow. Really not to be missed.
    I went at least a half dozen times.
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  • Day19

    Last Day in Athens

    October 20, 2019 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    For our last day in Athens, Joe had just one thing he wanted to do — walk through the ruins of what is (probably) the site of the Lyceum where Aristotle taught. This is the place where Aristotle supposedly used the “peripatetic” teaching method, walking through th grounds discussing with his students. On our way, we saw some crowds down the street, so we turned in that direction. Lo and behold, it was the weekly ceremonial changing of the guard at the site of the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is right in front of Parliament. We had a great position by some struck of dumb luck, and we were thoroughly impressed with the exaggerated strides of soldiers dressed in traditional military uniforms. Marching, music, all the trappings.

    The ruins of Aristotle’s school leave a lot to the imagination, but there are signs to indicate layout and purpose of buildings. And imagine our surprise to see that right next door was the Medieval and Byzantine museum. Now who could resist that, especially after a quick glance at Michelin saw that it has two stars.

    It is a fabulous place, especially the rooms dedicated to early Christianity up through the fall of Constantinople. We saw shoes from the 5th century! Clothing from the 4th! Lots of beautiful pieces from the early days of Christianity in Greece.

    After a leisurely lunch in the very good museum café, we walked back slowly through the National Gardens, blending in with the many crowds out for their Sunday walk in the sun.

    Tonight we may finally take a stroll through tourist-shop heaven, the narrow pedestrian streets of Plaka, which we have been through only in transit. And then tomorrow, bright and early, off to the airport!
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  • Day18

    Acropolis or bust!

    October 19, 2019 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    So once again we changed our plans. Last night at dinner, the manager of the restaurant suggested that we consider a mid-late afternoon Acropolis trip. If we took the “back door” entry, we would walk up past some of the less-visited sites, like the theater of Dionysus, and by the time we got to the top where the Parthenon and other crowd magnets are, most of the tour groups would be gone.

    That meant late breakfast and morning gym workout, to mix things up a bit.

    First stop, back to Hadrian’s arch (dividing Ancient Greek Athens from Ancient Roman Athens) and the remaining 15 Corinthian columns of what must have been a pretty fantastic temple to Zeus. After a light lunch, a slow stroll (so as not to wear out the old guy before he hit the Acropolis hill) and some ice cream. Finally, at about 3:00, we started up the “back side” of the hill so we could see the huge theater. When we got up to the main sights, the crowds were still pretty heavy, so Joe promptly found a bench and took a nap, while I walked around. At about 4:30, we ventured up the steps and enjoyed the temples. The late afternoon sun was just beautiful. There were people there, but no crushing crowds.

    After sunset, we made our way back down, very happy to have visited such an important and beautiful place.
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