Scrumptious Spain – con la familia – Part 1

Another one of our group selfies at the rectangle shaped Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Behind us are the painted façades of the Casa de la Panadería. From left: Justine, me and David. Sept. 30, 2016

It took me six years to get back to Spain but I’m finally here. This time instead of traveling with a Rick Steves tour group, I’m traveling with my brother and sister-in-law for 10 days and on my own for the remainder of my three weeks here in Espana.

I connected with Spain six years ago and nothing has changed. For me being in Spain has a deja vu feeling. Maybe because of the Spanish language, the culture, the food, the diversity of the people who speak the language or maybe being here brings me back to my childhood days of Spanish Harlem in New York City.

This was the first time I traveled with family…my brother, David and his wife, my sister-in-law, Justine, in Europe, and I loved it. We made a tradition out of doing group selfies, with my handy, dandy selfie stick, as we traveled from Madrid to Barcelona and back. It was a great way to get a group photo at any one of Spain’s gorgeous sites and have fun doing it.

Another first was renting apartments through Airbnb for Madrid and Barcelona. For the most part, things worked out well, especially in Madrid. The location of both apartments, along with the apartments themselves was excellent. The person managing the Madrid apartment was helpful and communicative. But the person managing the Barcelona apartment was neither helpful, nor communicative. In fact, I was still trying to get in touch with the Barcelona person the day we were to arrive in Barcelona. She did not respond to texts, emails…nothing. Finally, I had to call Airbnb, the company so they could contact her. And, finally, that’s when we heard from her. Needless to say, I pointed that out in my review.

Part 1 is the part of Spain I shared with David and Justine and Part 2 is the second leg of my journey in Spain as I traveled solo. So, enjoy the photos with captions…little stories when available…and of course the fun group selfies.

 

I didn’t know that this group selfie would be the start of something beautiful. But here we are, David, me and Justine standing on the porch of our Airbnb apartment during our first day in Spain…Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
The colorful restaurants of Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
An evening walk in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
An evening walk in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
An evening walk in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
The Tio Pepe sign in the Plaza Del Sol in Madrid, Spain. This square and sign bring back memories from my first trip to Spain six years ago. Sept. 29, 2016
I may not have come all the way to Madrid, Spain, to see tattoo artist Kat Von D, but she was present tonight in the Plaza Del Sol. I’m not a personal fan of her work, but this huge poster of her, with her signature red lipstick, was dramatic and eye catching. Sept. 29, 2016
A beautiful night shot of a hotel in one of many pedestrian filled squares in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
La Carmela, the restaurant where David, Justine and I enjoyed dinner outside for our first night in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 29, 2016
Here we are, David Justine and myself getting ready to have our first dinner in Madrid at the La Carmela restaurant. Sept. 29, 2016
My crazy selfie version of David, Justine and me getting ready to take on our first meal in Madrid, Spain, at La Carmela restaurant. Sept. 29, 2016
Justine and I split the seafood Paella while David had breaded veal fillet, but it didn’t take long before David was enjoying our Paella too. Sept. 29, 2016
We got a relatively early start this morning, even though we planned to get up and out an hour later than planned. The morning was just slightly cool and as the day progressed, it got warmer. All in all, it was a gorgeous day in Madrid. That extra hour of sleep came in handy because we got in a full day of site seeing. It was a hop-on/hop-off bus kind of day and we took advantage of all the major sites and then some. Although I’ve been to Madrid before, David and Justine have not but Madrid has definitely made a favorable impression on them. Having traveled a lot on my own, I must say, experiencing Madrid with my brother and sister-in-law is just so much fun! I’m sure there are things we didn’t see, but for the most part, we definitely hit the highlights today which is great because tomorrow, we are off to Barcelona by way of Zaragoza.One of the entrances to the Parque de El Retiro in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
The morning commute in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
The Palacio Cibeles in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
The Cibeles Fountain in the square or plaza of the same name by the Palacio Cibeles in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Me on the rooftop of the Palacio Cibeles in Madrid, Spain. What a view of the city!
The Gran Via in Madrid, Spain, featuring the Metropolis and other grand office buildings on this grand street. Sept. 30, 2016
The western portion of the Gran Via in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Plaza de España (Spanish for Square of Spain) is a large square located at the western end of the Gran Vía in Madrid, Spain. It features a monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the Spanish novelist, poet and playwright who wrote about the tales of Don Quixote. Sept. 30, 2016
One of our selfies of the day at the the Temple de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, Spain. From left: Justine, me and David. Sept. 30, 2016
Justine and David welcoming visitors to their newest palatial home in Spain. They wish! It’s the Palacio Real or Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and is used for state ceremonies. Sept. 30, 2016
One of the gilded gates to the Palacio Real or Royal Palace of Madrid. Sept. 30, 2016
The Madrid City Tour bus, leaving the Palacio Royal area, was our mode of transportation today and it really served David, Justine and I well. Sept. 30, 2016
Me, taking a breather at the San Francisco garden in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
The Puerta de Toledo or Gate of Toledo in Madrid, Spain, was completed in 1827. Sept. 30, 2016
The Mercado de San Miguel or the San Miguel Market is not a traditional grocery market but a gourmet tapas market, with more than 30 different vendors selling a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams, olives, baked goods and other foods in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Inside the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Inside the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Inside the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Inside the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
David, enjoying a bowl of meat paella with chorizo, sausage and chicken in the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
Another one of our group selfies at the rectangle shaped Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Behind us are the painted façades of the Casa de la Panadería. From left: Justine, me and David. Sept. 30, 2016
The Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
David and Justine enjoying our tapas dinner at the La Fragua de Vulcano restaurant in Madrid, Spain. Our Airbnb host recommended this restaurant and we gave it a thumbs up. Sept. 30, 2016
Yes, we had more paella at the La Fragua de Vulcano restaurant in Madrid, Spain. We had two bowls and so far, this paella was the best paella we’ve had…but we’ve got still got Zaragoza, Barcelona and Valencia to go. Sept. 30, 2016
Hot garlic shrimp at the La Fragua de Vulcano restaurant in Madrid, Spain. Sept. 30, 2016
A local delicacy, Pimientos de Padron…little green peppers at the La Fragua de Vulcano restaurant in Madrid, Spain. You never know which one of these little babies will pack that spicy punch. They really had a great taste to them but looking at the picture, they don’t look quite so appetizing. Sept. 30, 2016
We call it “The Magnificent Seven” in the US but here in Spain, it’s “Los Siete Magnificos.” Whatever it’s called, Denzel Washington is in it and that makes it a must see for me. Sept. 30, 2016
It was another stunningly beautiful day in Spain. We took a cab from our apartment to the Avis car rental facility at the Atoche train station and left Madrid this morning. We’ll be back to Madrid on Saturday, but in all honesty, we’ve enjoyed the city and staying at our Airbnb apartment so instead of good-bye, it’s more like “see you later,” because we’ll be staying at the same place during our return. My brother, David, did a yeoman’s job of driving us to Barcelona, but before we got to the Catalan city, we stopped here in the very gorgeous city of Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
We unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to spend as much time in Zaragoza as we would have liked. Our Airbnb host in Barcelona was not as communicative as our Madrid Airbnb host so we had to cut our visit short but what we did see of Zaragoza, especially the amazing Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar or Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar located in the center of Zaragoza, was amazing. Driving from Madrid to Barcelona gave us a birds eye view of the arid lands with its plateaus and mountain ranges to the green pastures as we began to approach Barcelona. Our Airbnb apartment is centrally located by the old town and the Rambla. But, I’ll need to share more of that tomorrow because today was filled with its own adventures that include driving in a foreign country, navigating the crowded city streets, finding a place to park the car and of course, our place of rest during our six nights in the Catalonia city of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. The amazing Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar or Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
There were two weddings at the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar today in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
Inside of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
Inside of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
Inside of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
Inside of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
A close up of the ornate architectural work of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
The Plaza of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Oct. 1, 2016
Our group selfie of the day at the amazing Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar or Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in the center of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. From left: David, me and Justine. oct. 1, 2016
We took a “Best of Barcelona” day tour and began with an early morning panoramic view of Barcelona, from the Montjuic hillside. Oct. 2, 2016
Vegetarians are demonstrating in Barcelona, Spain’s, Placa de Sant Jaume or St. James Square, located at the center of the Old City of Barcelona, and the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia. This is the square where protestors go to be heard by their government and by their community. Oct. 2, 2016
The Placa de San Jaume or St. James Square is the center of the Old City of Barcelona, Spain. It is the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia. Oct. 2, 2016
Barcelona, Spain, has a number of beautiful churches and this one, the Cathedral of Barcelona is one of the city’s largest tourist attractions that stands majestically in the Gothic Quarter. Oct. 2, 2016
The remaining columns of the Temple of Augustus in Barcelona, Spain. It was a Roman temple built during the Imperial period in the colony of Barcino (modern day Barcelona) as a place of worship for Emperor Augustus. Oct. 2, 2016
Barcelona architecture has a creative and vibrant feel that I believe stems from one of its home grown assets and that could only mean Antoni Gaudi. Although there is much to see and do in Barcelona, for me the Spanish Catalan architect’s genius can be seen, in essence, throughout Barcelona. Gaudi, who died June 10, 1926 close to his 74th birthday, is the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. It’s difficult to sum up Gaudi who was fascinated by nature and geometry. Although his chief customers were the Barcelona bourgeoisie and the Church, Gaudi understood architecture as a total art, which is evident in the attention he gave to each of the elements that comprise his work. We got to see and be a part of Gaudi’s magnum opus, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia; his magical Park Guell and the former apartment building resembling a petrified wave now called La Pedrera. All designated World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Oct. 2, 2016
Antoni Gaudi, Spain’s Catalan modernist architect, is alive and well by his various architectural architectural achievements which can be seen throughout Barcelona.Gaudi’s magnum opus is this church, the Sagrada Familia, an imposing Barcelona, Spain, landmark. Construction of the church began in 1882 and Gaudi became involved in 1883 taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. The church is still under construction and is scheduled to be completed in 2026, close to 143 years after Gaudi’s involvement and 100 years after his death. This west view of the church is of the Nativity facade. Oct. 2, 2016
A close-up of the Nativity facade of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
A close up of the adoration of the maji sculptures on the Nativity facade of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
Fruit looking cones atop Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The pinnacles at the tops of the Sagrada Familia’s towers in Barcelona, Spain, are decorated with colorful mosaics. Oct. 2, 2016
I was in Barcelona in 2010 and I got to see the inside of the Sagrada Familia but the interior was incomplete, dark and very unappealing. However, this 2016 version sparkles from the light of the colorful stained glass that highlights the inclined and tree branch-like columns. It is a massive, awesome and truly breathtaking piece of artistic and architectural feat. I was completely mesmerized by it. The church is still under construction and is scheduled to be completed in 2026, close to 143 years after Gaudi’s involvement and 100 years after his death. If all goes well, I’d like to return in 10 years to see a completed Sagrada Familia.The ceiling inside of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The tall stained glass windows inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The light from the colorful stained glass shines colorfully throughout the interior of the basilica. Oct. 2, 2016
A close up of the colorful stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
Inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The tall columns with tree-like branches that jet out into the bright ceiling. Oct. 2, 2016
Justine and David inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The altar and cross inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
A close up of Jesus Christ on the cross inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The massive interior and ceiling of the Sagrada Familia with the various colored lights from the colorful stained glass. This shows the massive columns with tree-like branches jetting into the ceiling. Oct. 2, 2016
View of the Passion Façade or Western side with the four towers of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
A close-up of the sculptures on the Passion face (west side) of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, that focuses on the last days of Jesus Christ, narrating his death, resurrection and ascension. Oct. 2, 2016
More sculptures from the Passion facade of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The sculpture of the shamed man is said to be Peter who denied Jesus Christ. Oct. 2, 2016
Our group selfie at the entrance staircase and columns of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The very popular and photographed dragon or salamander at Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The colorful and undulating benches above the columns of Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
A close up of the colorful undulating benches and checkerboard tower of the lodge at the entrance of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
A close up of the colorful undulating benches and checkerboard tower of the lodge at the entrance of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The spiraling stoned ramp portico inside Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
Me standing by the stoned washerwoman inside Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
Casa Mila or as it is better known, La Pedrera, in Barcelona, Spain. La Pedrera is Gaudi’s way of turning nature into a building by creating what looks like a petrified wave. The building was commissioned by the industrialist Pere Mila and his wife, Roger Segimon. It was intended as a family home and apartments for rent. Oct. 2, 2016
A close-up of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Gaudi planned the building at the height of his career, at the age of 54. It was his last civil engineering work. Oct. 2, 2016
A mirrored glass doorway of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The ground tiles outside of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain, were also designed by Gaudi. Oct. 2, 2016
The inside courtyard of Gaudi’s La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
My okay selfie attempt on the rooftop terrace of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. The architectural roof sculptures serve as stairwells, ventilation towers and chimneys. Oct. 2, 2016
Our group selfie on the roof terrace of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The rooftop terrace sculptures of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
The rooftop terrace sculptures of La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
On the 4th floor of La Pedrera is an apartment recreated to show the home and lifestyle of a 20th century bourgeois family in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
David standing at the bottom of the ornate stairwell inside La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 2, 2016
Barcelona has Roman ruins, a host of beautiful churches, stunning architecture adorned by magnificent wrought iron balconies plus statues and monuments galore. And, let’s not forget the contributions of its native Catalan son, the architectural genius and artistry of Antoni Gaudi.
I’ve only scratched the surface in this post of Barcelona’s sights but what I can say is that it is a city filled with dizzying color and history. And, there is just no way to capture it all. Although David, Justine and I have seen much and done much, this is but a sampling. Yesterday’s post was exclusively about Gaudi’s architectural contributions to Barcelona, however it was by no means inclusive of all that Gaudi has accomplished so no post on Barcelona is complete without a Gaudi contribution or two.The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria is a large public market in Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say from the hordes of people in the photo, it draws quite a crowd along its entrance from La Rambla.La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian outdoor mall-like esplanade that stretches just under a mile and connects the center of Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. La Boqueria contains a very diverse selection of eatable goods from a variety of chocolates to fresh produce and an assortment of cod. Oct. 3, 2016
A close-up of the ornate sign at the entrance to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria, a large public market in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 3, 2016
The produce inside the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria, a large public market in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 3, 2016
Cups of fresh fruit for sale inside the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria, a large public market in Barcelona. Oct. 3, 2016
An assortment of goods for sale inside the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria, a large public market in Barcelona. Oct. 3, 2016
A large selection of dried and salted cod inside the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, simply referred to as La Boqueria, a large public market in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 3, 2016
The tree-lined pedestrian street and gorgeous architecture along La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain. La Rambla is an outdoor mall-like esplanade that stretches just under a mile and connects the center of Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Oct. 3, 2016
Restaurants and street vendor tents selling flowers, desserts and cheap touristy trinkets share the tree-lined pedestrian streets with the gorgeous architecture along La Rambla in Barcelona. Oct. 3, 2016
The Placa Reial is a square next to La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain. On the plaza are restaurants and nightclubs. Oct. 3, 2016
This and the other lanterns in the Placa Reial square were designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Oct. 3, 2016
Our group selfie by the 197 foot tall Columbus Monument. The monument, located at the lower end of La Rambla, was constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona in 1888 to honor Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. The monument serves as a reminder that Christopher Columbus reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona after his first trip to the new continent. Oct. 3, 2016
At the top of the Columbus Monument is Christopher Columbus himself said to be pointing to the New World. Oct. 3, 2016
Time for a late lunch and a big ole glass of Sangria at a restaurant on La Rambla in Barcelona. I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon taking a nap and chilling out while David and Justine continued enjoying the sites and sounds of Barcelona. Oct. 3, 2014
David and Justine as we take a stroll along La Rambla. La Rambla is an outdoor mall-like esplanade that stretches just under a mile and connects the center of Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Oct. 4, 2016
Me standing next to a Salvador Dali street performer on La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain. Posing with street performers isn’t something I customarily do but I just loved her colorful headdress and her drawer/pockets on her turquoise dress. Dali, was a prominent surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. Oct. 4, 2016
David and Justine sitting down at the unique wrought iron lamp posts along the Passeig de Garcia in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
Our group selfie of the day with Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in the background as we continue our escapades in Barcelona. From left David, Justine and me. Oct. 4, 2016
The exterior of Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Gaudi redesigned an existing structure in 1904 to create this exterior. Oct. 4, 2016
A close-up of the exterior of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
Inside the main room of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain. The ceiling simulates the form of a whirlpool. Oct. 4, 2016
Although you can’t see them very well, that’s Justine and David standing in the middle of the curved stained glass window inside of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
A view of Barcelona, through the stained glass and curved wooden window inside Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. Oct. 4, 2016
Inspired by the depths of the ocean, Gaudi used up to five shades of blue on the interior of Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain, so the further up you go, the tiles get darker. Oct. 4, 2016
Everything from the decorative doors to the door handles speak of Gaudi’s artistry in Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
The ornate roof top terrace of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
The roof terrace features a dragon back design and an ornate tower topped a cross of four bulbous arms on Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Oct. 4, 2016
The tiled floor of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain, are all my favorite color, black and gray with a touch of red. That touch of red are my shoes. Oct. 4, 2016
Justine and David standing in the stairway…just as we are about to exit…Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain. During the tour of Casa Batllo David’s favorite part was the audio guide that not only provided information on Gaudi’s creation but also showed 3D renditions of how the rooms could have looked once upon a time. Oct. 4, 2016
Not a selfie, but definitely an authentic photo of the three of us standing outside the small flower-peddle balcony at the top center front facade of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona. From left Justine, David and me. Oct. 4, 2016
At the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey and standing in the main facade or square with the needle-like Montserrat mountains behind us as we gather for our group selfie. From left: David, me and Justine. Montserrat is a multi-peaked rocky range located near Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
The entrance to the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain, with the Montserrat coat of arms above the arched entryway. The first documented reference of Montserrat came in 888 when Wilfred the Hairy, Count of Barcelona, donated a number of lands to the Monastery of Ripoll which included the churches on the mountain. Oct. 5, 2016
A more expansive view of the main square or main facade of the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
A view of the Montserrat mountains on the main square or main facade of the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
You’ll need to look hard but that’s me standing in the center of the atrium and main facade of the basilica at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. The atrium is formed by the two side cloisters and the front entryway of the basilica. Oct. 5, 2016
The staircase and entryway to the shrine of “The Black Madonna” at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain, is located to the side of the basilica’s atrium. The alabaster arch is adorned by angel musicians along with patriarchs and prophets from the Old Testament. Oct. 5, 2016
Me walking through the arched staircase entrance up to the shrine of “The Black Madonna” at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. I’m admiring the colorful mosaics of the beautiful women along the panels up the stairway. These females are said to represent two characters of women: the saintly mothers on the left and the holy virgins on the right. Oct. 5, 2016
A close up of the mosaic of Saint Helena, one of the women saints featured in the staircase leading to “The Black Madonna” at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Since Saint Helena’s portrait is to the left of the staircase then she represents the saintly mother character. Oct. 5, 2016
Our Lady of Montserrat, “The Black Madonna,” is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
Me, like many pilgrims before me, touching the hand and orb of the venerated patron saint Our Lady of Montserrat, “The Black Madonna,” at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
A view of the basilica from the shrine of “The Black Madonna” at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
Offerings to Our Lady of Montserrat on the “Cami De L’Avemaria” or Ave Maria Way after you leave the shrine of “The Black Madonna” to walk back into the basilica at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
Inside the stunning basilica at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
A close up of the altar and canopy, with the shrine of “The Black Madonna” in the background at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
A close up of the shrine of “The Black Madonna” in the basilica at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on Montserrat mountain near Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 5, 2016
We weren’t sure if we could take a group selfie inside the basilica, which is why we seem to have tentative smiles on our faces. But here we are, inside the basilica at the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey near Barcelona, Spain, with the shrine of “The Black Madonna,” in the background. Oct. 5, 2016
A view of the Montserrat mountains and the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey near Barcelona, Spain, as we depart from this remarkable natural and spiritual place. Oct. 5, 2016
The plan was to drive to the Costa Brava area of Spain and try to visit a couple of surrealist painter Salvador Dali sights such as his theater and museum in Figueres and his home in Port Lligat while enjoying the coast near Cadaqués. But the rainy weather and the weather forecast for more rain, including the direction we would be driving to, changed our minds. Oh, darn! Looks like we’ll just have to come back to Barcelona.
We did some more chilling and decided it would be a good day to check out a museum. And, wouldn’t you know it, Barcelona has one of the best museums in Spain, the National Art Museum of Catalonia. So we figured out the best way to get there, which was the local bus around the corner from our apartment, and enjoyed an afternoon of art that even included a piece by Dali. Our view during an overcast afternoon of the Basilica de La Sagrada Familia from the Montjuic park near the grand National Palace which is home to the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona. Tomorrow, we leave Barcelona and drive to Valencia. Adios Barcelona! Gracias para todo. Oct. 6, 2016
Approaching the side of the National Palace which houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. It is a huge Italian-style building dating to 1929. Oct. 6, 2016
My brother David and I standing on a balcony of the National Palace getting ready to see the art work of the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, along with his wife, Justine. Oct. 6, 2016
Our group selfie inside of the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. The mural behind us is by artist Joan Miro and sculptor Joan Gardy Artigas. It was commissioned by IBM in 1978 as a mural for their Barcelona headquarters. Oct. 6, 2016
We didn’t get to see surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s home in Figueres, Spain, but at least we did get a chance to see this painting Dali did of his father in 1925 at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. Oct. 6, 2016
Furniture designed by the Catalonian modernist architect Antoni Gaudi is displayed at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona. Oct. 6, 2016
What can I say, this dashing man caught my eye at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. He is art critic and writer Raimon Casellas and the painting is by Louis Graner (1863-1929). Oct. 6, 2016
After spending several hours admiring the collection of the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, we emerged to a beautiful late afternoon, early evening of blue skies with people sitting on tables, chairs, benches and steps in front of the National Palace just enjoying this gorgeous view. So, we decided to sit on a bench and enjoy the gorgeous too. Oct. 6, 2016
A view of the Plaza de España from the steps of the National Palace where the National Art Museum of Catalonia is housed in Barcelona, Spain. The plaza was built for the 1929 International Exhibition and the twin Venetian Towers lead the way to the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The former bullring to the right is now a shopping mall named Arenas de Barcelona. Oct. 6, 2016
Our last group selfie of the day, with the National Palace in the background, as we bring a close to our time in Barcelona, Spain. From left is Justine, me and David. Oct. 6, 2016
We left Barcelona this morning. We parked our rental car in a garage and hadn’t bothered with it until now. So, thank goodness it was still there.
We only had today and until late afternoon tomorrow to spend in Valencia so we decided to make the most of it. Valencia is a smaller version of Madrid and Barcelona but it has a slower pace to it and feels less crowded. We’ve been fortunate to have found apartments and the hotel in Valencia that are central to the things we want to do and see. The first thing we did was to jump on Valencia’s rickety, old double decker tour bus. But what a way to get a view of the city. Oct. 7, 2016
More of the beautiful city of Valencia as we make our way down the Calle de la Paz toward the Tower of Santa Catalina in old town. Oct. 7, 2016
The gorgeous city of Valencia. Oct. 7, 2016
Paella is a Spanish rice dish that includes different combinations of vegetables and meats, characteristically seasoned with saffron, but also has other spices depending on the recipe and area in Spain it comes from. Most experts agree that Paella was developed in Valencia. Oct. 7, 2016
Valencia is known as the place that invented Paella, but the Paella we had sucked. We’ve had better Paella in Madrid and Barcelona. Oct. 7, 2016
What we did like about the place where we at the Paella was the location in Valencia, right in the old town by the Tower of Santa Catalina on the Calle de la Paz. Oct. 7, 2016
A gorgeous night view of Valencia’s City Hall Plaza. Oct. 7, 2016
A view toward the City Hall Plaza of Valencia from the rooftop of our hotel. Oct. 7, 2016
Since we’ve got to get on the road back to Madrid this afternoon, we decided to get an early start in Valencia with our group selfie at the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, which includes the town hall, the stunning fountain, the post office and other monumental buildings. From left, Justine, me and David. Oct. 7, 2016
The Micalet bell tower that adorns the Valencia Cathedral in the Plaza de la Reina in Valencia, Spain. Oct. 8, 2016
A close up of the Micalet bell tower that adorns the Valencia Cathedral in the Plaza de la Reina in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
The nave of the Valencia Cathedral in Valencia, Spain. Oct. 8, 2016
A close up of the nave of the Valencia Cathedral in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
A close up of the angel frescos of the Valencia Cathedral in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
Inside the opened nave of the Valencia Cathedral. Oct. 8, 2016
The highlight of this Valencia trip is actually being in the presence of the Holy Grail Chalice, which in Christian tradition is the vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine, and not know it. Is it the actual chalice? Well, there are differing opinions and since I’m no scholar, I won’t get into that. I was standing in the Chapel of the Grail at the Valencia Cathedral but there were so many people so I took a few photos and left. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post and do some research that I realized what I’d seen. I try to do as much research in advance of my travels as possible, but I really missed the boat on this one. The Chalice Chaple in the Valencia Cathedral holds what is considered to be one of the most precious Christian relics, the Holy Grail Chalice. In Christian tradition the Holy Chalice is the vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine. Oct. 8, 2016
The monumental Serrano Towers, which once guarded one of the most important entrances, was built between 1392 and 1398 in Valencia, Spain. Little remains of the Roman walls that once fortified these towers. Oct. 8, 2016
The City Hall Plaza in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
The Central Market in Plaza del Mercado was built between 1910 and 1928 to replace an earlier building dating back to 1839 in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
A beautiful entrance to Valencia’s underground metro. Oct. 8, 2016
This stunning ten stories Banco de Valencia was built in 1942 and rests statuesquely at the intersection of two streets, with a curve corner in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
I’m usually not into modern, but Justine enjoyed the modern and unusual buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain. This brilliant exhibit called The Sky Over Nine Columns is an installation by German artist Heinz Mack whose works have light as the central axis. Oct. 8, 2016
Another group selfie but this time we’re at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. Oct. 8, 2016
David returning our rental car at the Atoche Train Station in Madrid. He did the driving from Madrid to Zaragoza, to Barcelona, to Valencia and now back to Madrid. Great job David! Oct. 8, 2016
Sangria and dinner back in Madrid at at the Plaza Mayor. Oct. 8, 2016
And, tonight, David, Justine and I celebrated our return to Madrid with dinner in the very busy and hectic Plaza Mayor! Tomorrow, we take the train to Toledo for a day outing and then have our own last supper in Madrid tomorrow night before David and Justine head back home to Florida. And, me? Well, I continue on to Valladolid…but more on that later. Oct. 8, 2016
Justine and David on the Renfe morning train for our last Spain outing. This time, we’re heading from Madrid to spend the day in historic Toledo. Buckle up for the 30 minute ride. Oct. 9, 2016
And, me on the other side of David and Justine on the Renfe morning train to our last Spain outing. This time, we’re heading from Madrid to spend the day in historic Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
A statue of Miguel Cervantes, author of the Don Quixote de La Mancha books, off of the Plaza Zocodover in Toledo, Spain. Cervantes (1547-1616) was a prominent Spanish writer who in 1607, settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. Oct. 9, 2016
A view of the alleys/walkways between buildings in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
The tower of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
The main façade, from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo in Spain. It was begun in 1226 under the rule of Ferdinand III and the last Gothic contributions were made in 1493. Oct. 9, 2016
The underground remnants of Roman baths that date back to the 2nd century AD are in a variety of places at the Plaza de Amaden de los Rios in Toledo, Spain. This section can even be seen through the glass floor of a women’s dress shop. The shop, Koker, has a most unusual slogan: “Enjoy fashion while viewing Romain remains from the time of Jesus.” Pretty catchy! Oct. 9, 2016
Don Quixote, from the early 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes, is a dreamer who sets out from his village of La Mancha to perform chivalrous acts in the name of his grand love Dulcinea. Don Quixote takes on many shapes and sizes but this figure is made solely of marzipan at the Santo Tome Mazapan store in Toledo, Spain. Typically consumed at Christmas, Marzipan is one of Spain’s most renowned sweets. It is made from peeled and ground raw almonds, kneaded with sugar. Oct. 9, 2016
Don Quixote, from the early 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes, is a dreamer who sets out from his village of La Mancha to perform chivalrous acts in the name of his grand love Dulcinea. Don Quixote and his side kick Sancho Panza figures are sold in many of the stores in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
Ceramic pieces sold in a local Toledo shop. Oct. 9, 2016
A fan shop in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
A shop that sells jamon iberico, a type of cured ham from black Iberian pigs produced in Spain and Portugal, at a jamon shop in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
A close up of the jamon iberico. Although this particular store is in Toledo, there are shops in Madrid and Barcelona that sell jamon iberico. The most common way to store the whole, bone-in jamón is in a cool, dry and ventilated place, either resting in a holder (jamonero) or hung by rope as pictured. Oct. 9, 2016
The Puerta del Sol, into the walled city of Toledo, Spain, was built in the 11th century but the present day version was modified in the 14th century. Oct. 9, 2016
Views of the Toledo, Spain, outer district near the town walls past the Puerta del Sol along the Calle Real del Arrabal. Oct. 9, 2016
From inside the Puerta de Bisagra Nueva, the best known city gate in Toledo, Spain, is of Moorish origin. Oct. 9, 2016
Views of Toledo as I head back to the Puerta del Sol along the Calle Real del Arrabal in Toledo. Oct. 9, 2016
This is a street sign copy of Doménikos Theotokópoulos, (1541-1614) better known as El Greco’s work called “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz,” in Toledo, Spain. A painter, sculptor and architect, the El Greco name refers to both his Greek origin and Spanish citizenship. The main attraction of the little Church of Santa Tome is “The Burial of Lord of Orgaz” painting by El Greco. But since photos cannot be taken, the sign is my substitute. This painting shows San Esteban and San Agustin after the death of Don Gonzalo Ruiz de Toledo, Lord of Orgaz, who appeared to bury him. The painting is divided in two parts: the lower part depicts the portrait of earthly life while the top part shows the heavenly and divine elements. Oct. 9, 2016
Our last group selfie with the views of Toledo, Spain, behind us! From left: David, me and Justine. Oct. 9, 2016