Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bucket List Item: Spain

     Although my family and I took many nice vacations before being diagnosed, having serious cancer makes it easier to take the time and spend the money to travel.  Not only is Wynn is on-board with this notion, he encourages it.  In October we spent nearly two weeks in Spain. Neither of us had ever been there so we were excited about this new adventure. 

Federico, tour guide extraordinaire

     Because we'd had such a positive experience on our Rick Steves tour to Italy in 2013, we decided to sign up again.  He didn't let us down!  Our main tour guide, Frederico, was terrific.  He's so knowledgeable and shared much of Spain's history through well-crafted and well-executed storytelling. Our group had 16 members, mostly from the U.S.; two were from Canada and two from Australia. Like before, this was a really great collection of interesting people. 

     We started our trip in Barcelona, which is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea.  The region of Catalonia is in the midst of a heated and controversial effort to secede from Spain.  On our first day in Barcelona we were treated to a separatists' rally and parade.  

     Along with amazing views of the Mediterranean, the highlights of Barcelona included buildings by the famed architect, Antoni Gaudi, and the Picasso Museum.  Gaudi's works are unique and impressive, especially La Sagrada Familia, (the Holy Family Basilica), and Park Guell. 

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia
     La Sagrada Familia, which was started in the 1880's, is still under construction.  It's slated to be completed in 2026, one hundred years after the death of Gaudi.

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Near the entrance to Gaudi's Park Guell




     These are the smoke stacks for the apartment building, Casa Mila, designed by Gaudi.  It's  widely believed that George Lucas was inspired by these smoke stacks for his Star Wars costumes. (I can see that.)

     Born in Malaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona for ten years before moving to Paris in his early 20's.  The Picasso Museum is in the Picasso family's Barcelona house, and a few buildings that are attached to it.  You wouldn't recognize his early works because he was trained as a classical painter.  You would definitely recognize his later works. 

Man in a Hat, by a young Picasso

Seated Man, by Picasso in his later years

    Together with his close friend and painting buddy, Georges Braque, Picasso invented cubism.


     From Barcelona we took the high-speed train to Madrid, which is a large European city rich with art, music, culture, architecture and fashion.  We visited both the Prado and the Reina Sofia Museums.  Both were filled with paintings
from great masters:  Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Miro, Dali, and Picasso. We toured the Royal Palace and treated ourselves to a night of flamenco dancing. We joined some locals at a pub near our hotel to watch "El Classico", the soccer game between Real Madrid and Barsa, which also turned out to be a great slice of the Spanish culture.

     While in Madrid, we took a day-trip to Toledo, (pronounced TOE-lay-doh), which was an hour bus ride away.  Toledo is the capitol city of a historically
important economic and political region in Spain, so it's loaded with riches that Spain acquired from the Americas.  The whole city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its prominence in Europe's past and all the buildings, art, etc., that have been so well preserved.  Prior to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella kicking Jews and Muslims out of the country in 1492, (the same year Columbus set sail for America and the start of the Inquisition), Toledo was a bustling city where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side, as evidenced by the city's architecture.  In the Santa Tome Church there's an incredible commissioned painting by El Greco called The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.  It's a favorite of our brother-in-law, Bob, so we were happy to see it with our own eyes. 

The Cathedral in Sevilla
     Wynn and I went onto Sevilla after the Rick Steves tour ended in Madrid.  What an awesome city.  It's in the northern part of the southern region called Andulacia.  There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites there:  the Alcazar Palace, the Cathedral, and the General Archive of the Indies.  We visited the Cathedral, walked all around it, but couldn't get psyched up to go inside.  I'm sure it's spectacular, but the days we were in Sevilla were also spectacular, blue sky, sunny and warm.  Wynn and I just couldn't bring ourselves be inside one more church. 
Inside the Alcazar Palace in Sevilla
When visiting the Alcazar Palace, built in the 10th century, one couldn't help but appreciate the craftsmanship, skill and time it took to 
erect and decorate the place.  It's the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.  The Moorish architecture, the amazing tooled and tiled walls and ceilings, and beautiful gardens and courtyards are definitely worth the effort to go inside.  

     The food throughout our trip was wonderful.  We love the small portions and variety of tastes of tapas.  We ate lots of manchego cheese, gazpacho and paella.  Iberian ham is abundant; very tasty, but very fatty.  We enjoyed new wines and especially like the Riojas.  It worked out well for me to travel in a country where siestas are the
norm.  Resting in the afternoon made it possible for me to make it through the late night dinners.  (Sitting down to eat at 8:00-9:00 P.M. is usual there, young children included.)  

     We found the people to be strikingly beautiful, very fashionable, welcoming and willing to try to speak to us in English.  Although Wynn and I both took Spanish in high school, the Spaniards' English is so much better than our Spanish, and we were so appreciative. 

     I hope Xalkori continues to work for me for a very long time.  It's only because of this miracle medication that my illness is kept in check, allowing me to travel with Wynn so we can continue to have shared memories.  I desperately want to get in more trips to new places with Wynn, Nathan, and Nina.   Wynn and I have some ideas for 2015 travel adventures.  Let us know if you'd like to join us :). 

P.S.  Here are a couple of my favorite Picasso drawings.  He drew these with a single line. 


Wanwan said...

Absolutely wonderful travelogue, Luna!! Thank you so much for sharing. The smiles on your faces really tell a lot of the story!

Luna O. said...

Thank you, Wanwan :)