Week 183 September 30, 2017

I apologize for our post being late this week. Due to limited free time, Loren and I were unable to find a secure wifi spot in Barcelona… I had paid an enormous price in my time once before for using an open network, so, if our posts are late again you will please understand why.
In Madrid at the beginning of this week, we learned that more than 3 million people call this city home. And on the weekend in September it seemed that nearly all of them, plus a huge number of tourists, were out and about. We encountered them from Plaza de Espana to Gran Via, Porta del Sol to Plaza Mayor, The Prado to El Retiro Park and Puerto de Alcala. Loren and I were ultimately able to find a quiet park to have our picnic supper near the Royal Palace and Gardens one evening.
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We also were able to take daily Bikram Yoga classes. It felt great to be in the hot room again. Even with the classes being taught in Spanish, I heard a very few words in English and recognized some Sanskrit names of the postures. And, I could comprehend so many of the words for inhale, exhale, hands, arms, feet, knee, breathe, stomach, and stretch, for example, all the basics of yoga. It is fortunate that the Bikram method is the same 26 postures every time, as Loren and I already know how to do them in any language.
Our greatest sightseeing pleasure in Madrid was visiting Museo del Prado with its vast collection of masterpieces, many of mythological and biblical scenes, and Renaissance works. Loren realized how these were created before the invention of photography, making the art that much more important to those living in the day. What a lucky legacy for us now. We were advised by friends to see one part of The Prado then go back the next day to see the other as it is too much to take in on one visit. We actually split our time there over three visits, yet I still missed out on all of what I had hoped to see.
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The most incredible moment included that I have always wanted to see Murillo’s Immaculate Conception in person. It is one of two smaller copies that I had gazed at in my grandparents home over all the years of my youth. I had seen the other, Rafaelo’s Madonna of the Chair, some years ago in Florence. Now I have seen it too! Three other masters who brought me delight at The Prado were Carracci with his Venus and Adonis for how magnificently he captures Venus’ loving rapture, Rubens’ Birth of the Milky Way for its irreverence, and, Durer’s Eve, Adam, and Adam and Eve for their personification. There were no photos allowed, which is a good thing, because if I had taken time to make photos, I would have seen even less of the immense, both in number and in size in many cases, collection.
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We then flew to Barcelona where we had 5 nights booked for the last few days of our visit in Spain. Each of them were packed full of adventure. You may have heard the news that Catalunya had an upcoming vote to secede from Spain, while we were there. At first we saw some flags and banners in favor and only a very few showing support for remaining part of Spain. Then while we were there we saw more and bigger independence flags and banners appear, and, as you may know, it passed. We wish all the Spanish and Catalunyans the best in determining what comes next.
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We so appreciated seeing all that we could of Barcelona. It is hard to say which we enjoyed most. First, the historic Mercat del Born gave us an appreciation of Catalunya’s heritage. Then the Picasso Museum, showing many examples of his youthful prodigious and classical talent, was enlightening. We also appreciated that we had studied Velasquez’ Las Meninas in Madrid, as Picasso had later devoted himself to recreate it 58 times, in his most unique style. 
Then we explored a bit of Antoni Gaudi’s works at the Gaudi Exhibition Center. We splurged on the virtual reality glasses option there, allowing us to watch him direct some work on The Crypt at Colonia Guell. What an outstanding creative architect and artist! We also strolled part of La Rambla – a pedestrian walkway, stepping onto a side street to see Palau Guell, designed by Gaudi for his benefactor, Eusebi Guell, with ornamental lighting on the roof. We then continued our walk back to our AirBnB near the harbor and saw the very tall Monument to Columbus.
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We took a full day tour to see Girona and Figueres. We had a good tour guide in Girona who shared about how flies are sacred here for their part in winning a war with the French, and, of the well preserved Jewish Quarter after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Afterwards Loren and I visited the Jewish History museum here.
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The tour also took us to the Salvadore Dali Theater museum. Yet again, we appreciated having seen Velasquez’s Las Meninas in Madrid, as Dali also incorporated a copy of it in some of his art. Dali is another very uniquely talented artist. While most of his art was difficult for me to appreciate, I very much enjoyed his jewelry designs. My favorite was The Eye of Time.
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Then on our last full day in Barcelona, we visited both Gaudi’s intricately beautiful Parc Guell,
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and, the culmination of Gaudi’s life work at Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) church. Loren had seen it when only a few of the grand spires were completed 40 years ago. Today it is a building that can be entered and appreciated. Gaudi was devout in his faith, and he had a keen sense of how nature could be woven into architecture. I was moved again and again both outside and inside this magnificent, one of a kind temple. The structure, which he took over as architect in 1883, is scheduled to be completed in the 100th year of his death, in 2026. Loren and I hope to return to see it again then.
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Now we are just leaving from a too quick overnight in Torino (Turin), Italy, where we had a lovely and delicious dinner reunion with a couple who we had met in Croatia a year ago.
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