Museo del Prado

Posted on April 20, 2016. Filed under: Spain, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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The Prado is one of the world’s greatest art museums.  It is a main reason to visit Madrid.  It houses masterpieces by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch.  A great thing about the Prado is that it is free to enter after 6:00p.m.  Because it was just a few blocks from where we were staying, this meant we could visit several times.

There will be a long line forming around 5:30, but if you get there about 6:15 you almost waltz right in!  Then you can see everything without paying the approximately $20 entrance fee they charge during the day.  We didn’t find it excessively crowded when we went at night,  but it was October, which is considered to be the shoulder season, transitioning from high to low.

The bad thing about the Prado is that they don’t allow photography.  I know it is to protect the artwork because many people can’t figure out how to turn off their flash and millions of flashes at artwork does have a detrimental effect.  But it still annoys me.  So I did steal one shot…

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This spectacular Sorolla masterpiece.   And the guard in the next room heard my shutter release and came running after me.  Ah…the excitement of being a criminal on the run!  Ah to be yelled at in Spanish!  A shrug and, “Lo siento…” and I am forgiven if in a disgusted voice.

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Bellagio Bicycle

Posted on March 13, 2016. Filed under: Italy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

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Beautiful sights big and small in the Italian lakes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lake Powell Boat Tour

Posted on January 29, 2016. Filed under: American Southwest, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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In Page, Arizona, at the visitor’s center, we discovered that there is a boat that will take you 100 miles up Lake Powell to Rainbow Bridge.  We signed up for it for the next day.  Early the next morning we sloshed down our breakfast to get to the Wahweap Marina by 7:30 a.m.  This was going to take all day, something like 6 or 7 hours so it started early.

It was cold and windy up top of the boat, it was October, afterall.  But none of us wanted to go downstairs even though the boat had large windows and a more comfortable temperature down there.  These views out in the fresh air, thDSC04496ough, were spectacular!

It is amazing to see how Glen Canyon was filled by damming the Colorado River in 1963.  It took 11 years for the water to rise and fill up this canyon.  Now this body of water serves as a valuable reservoir.

This day it was beautiful to watch the landscape whiz by as we motored through.

 

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We had a side trip too, through a narrow side canyon.  That was tricky maneuvering for our captain and, at one point, we did scrape the wall.  But it was fun to get into a narrow slot like this.

I didn’t know if I’d like a whole day on a boat and it was pretty tiring.  But it was so beautiful, I was glad to see it.  It was our last day so we squeezed in more of Antelope Canyon AND Horseshoe Bend as well before hitting the sack.

 

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Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Posted on December 13, 2014. Filed under: Art, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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One reason we wanted to go to Madrid was for the outstanding art museums.  We started with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,  an old hospital recycled as an art museum.  Just walking around the environment was very interesting; it’s hard to believe it was still in use in the 1960s as it seems very ancient.  This is where Picasso’s Guernica is housed.    They were deadly serious about not letting anyone take a picture of it as the no picture policy actually starts several rooms before the Guernica room.  Follow the link to see the image and learn about its history.  It is fascinating.  One has to see this iconic and world-famous painting in person to really appreciate it fully.  It really made an impact, I must say.  We had to wait for the Japanese tour bus to clear out as they monopolized the whole room for a time, but then we could get close and take it all in.  It is a painting which is difficult to view without emotion because it depicts the ravages of war in such an abstract way and in such an enormous size that it feels overwhelming.  One of the most interesting features of the room is along the back wall where there is a display of photos taken by Picasso’s girlfriend at the time he was painting it.  It shows his process, to a degree, as he changed his mind about several elements and it is fun to compare the photos to the finished painting.

This museum also houses some of the most famous Dali paintings, a beautiful courtyard with a Calder stabile and a covered atrium between the museum and library with the enormous Lichtenstein, “Brushstroke.”

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Towards the end of our visit we got a little tired and decided to “interact” with the art:

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Bill decided to get into “Shout No. 7” by Antonio Saura, and I liked the way my outfit complimented Jose Guerrero’s “Green Encounter.”

DSC06881Lastly we enjoyed the Richard Serra “Equal – Parallel:  Guernica – Bengazi” which are just huge hunks of iron so indestructible they don’t have guards anywhere near them!

What a great first day in Madrid!  Some tapas and beers were definitely in order after all this art fun.

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Ah… Rome

Posted on March 1, 2014. Filed under: Italy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

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This morning with a temperature of 10º F outside and steel gray skies above I trip through my pictures of Rome.

I remember walking through the streets and marveling at how it was hard to tell we were outside.  The air was so still and warm.

It was November!  It was about 65º F most days and the Italians were walking around all decked out in heavy winter wear.  Yes, boots, parkas, hats, scarves, gloves!

I could use a little Rome right about now.

178 apartments near catacombs           169 view from catacombs of priscilla

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Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Hiking in the Cinque Terre

As we travel around we find many fellow travelers who are friendly and enjoying their trips as much as we do.  We also occasionally come upon what we term the Ugly American who makes us ashamed to come from the same place.

I think you are an Ugly American traveler if:

1.   You expect to be able to have everything just as you like it at home.  (“We insist on American-style coffee, not this espresso-stuff they drink here.”)  If you even try unusual local food/drink you expect it to be unpalatable, or something that will make you sick.

2.  You get angry that there are other people trying to travel too.  You are surprised and irritated when you have to wait in line, share a table, or tolerate a crowd at an important attraction.

3.  You look at people’s customs, dress, and language with disdain.   You see nothing but inferiority everywhere you look.

4.  You expect everything to go perfectly smoothly.  When the inevitable disruption to your plans happens, you wallow in self-pity instead of finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

5.  You are frightful of local people, expecting them to rob you when they have the first chance.

6.  You are actually happy when you see McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the like in foreign countries.

When we run across Ugly Americans we try to slink away.  They want co-conspirators, though, so there have been times we’ve tried to show them the bright side.  Aren’t the differences in culture they are experiencing interesting?  Haven’t locals been friendly and helpful considering how many tourists traipse through their area every season?  Isn’t it amazing to see such wonderful, world-famous art/mountains/historical sites?

Trust me, there is no arguing Ugly Americans out of their mindset.  Next time I might just say, “You should stay home.”  That is the truth.  If you can’t enjoy the differences between your destination and your home, then you should stay there, at home.  If the food, drink, accommodation, weather, sights, people and transportation are irritating to you, why have you come at all?!  You are not enjoying it and your fellow travelers are ashamed of you.

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Atop the Duomo in Florence

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Chestnut seller in Florence

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Why I Abhor Multi-Level Marketing

Posted on December 3, 2013. Filed under: Just Fun, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , |

No, no, no!  Stop right there.  No, don’t say another word.  I can see it in your eyes.  You are already in the grip of a multi-level marketing scheme.  I know the look.  You have “information” for me that I’m going to “want.”  You have one or many “products” you are so excited about.  They have changed your life in amazing ways.  You know that I am going to want to be in on this.  I’m going to want this “opportunity.”  When can we get together to get me signed up?

Stop.  Right.  There.

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I like buying and selling the old fashioned way.

Here’s why I abhor multi-level marketing:

1.  It turns normal people into crazed, exited automatons who spout the “facts” they have been given by their MLM company.

2.  It means these people can never have a conversation again that doesn’t include something about their MLM company/products.

3.  People in MLM marketing will go to great lengths to get another distributor working in their “network.”

I once had a massage client who worked diligently during her massage sessions to sell me.  After it became apparent that I was hopeless, I never saw her again.  She spent quite a bit of money booking massage with me.  The dedication was impressive.  I had to promise her if I ever changed my mind, even if someone else from the same company changed my mind, that I would work under her, in her network.  I was very glad to make this promise and wish her a final good-bye once I figured out that she didn’t really want massage.  

4.  The products might even be pretty good, but they are priced so that the company can send distributors on trips, buy them cars, and pay all the levels in the network.  I’ve never been unable to find a product or components of their “special” formulations outside of the MLM malarkey.

5.  Distributors become like cult followers.  They lose all ability to question the authoritative statements of the MLM company propaganda.  They do not want to even look at any detractors.  They can’t even wonder if there is a placebo effect going on.  The company founders “know” and have “research” to back up their claims.

6.  They’re going to save you so much money, make you so much money, make you feel/look so great/young…

Run for the hills, I say!   There is an old saying that has served me well over the years, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

With gratitude to Bill McCluskey for the photography in this post.

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Porcini buying in Italy. My kind of transaction!

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Mountain Hiking – Big Small Contrasts

Posted on November 26, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Swiss GrasshopperThis large green grasshopper greeted me along my way hiking in Switzerland.  I’m sure he was congratulating me on completing a very hard ascent and descent of the Fenêtre d’Arpette of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  I had to stop and admire his gorgeous green with black accenting.  He actually had big expressive eyes for a bug!

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One of the things I love about hiking in the alps is the wonderful contrasts of enormity and the diminutive.  I am a slow hiker partly because I am overwhelmed by the environment and I cannot rush through it.  A hike here is not just a good workout in nice surroundings to me, but rather a chance to really step outside of normal life and lose myself in a place.

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The Queen and Her Swans

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: Great Britain, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Travel - Queen's SwansHere is a swan from my 1985 visit to Scotland’s Loch Ness.  It was a picture perfect event and the guide told us very seriously that the Queen owns all the swans in Great Britain.

I’ve always wondered about this.  Is it true?  If so why?  A little poking around today answered my questions.  The BBC says:

“The annual event (Swan Upping, or the annual count) dates back to the 12th Century when the ownership of all unowned mute swans in Britain was claimed by the Crown in order to ensure a ready supply for banquets and feasts.

Swan Upping now serves a conservational rather than culinary purpose.”

Other sites explained that it is a way to make them protected because many years ago they were hunted to near extinction.  Leave it to the British to make something like legal protection of a species into a fancy royal ownership affair.  I do love the quaintness of this tradition, even though I’m very glad we do not have royalty in the U.S.

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St. Peter’s Dome in Rome

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

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Being claustrophobic I didn’t know how I would do climbing the many steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The walls curve in and they actually become narrower as you go!  I had to try, though, how often does one get to Rome?

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What most amazed us was the coffee shop on the roof where we enjoyed an espresso!  Everything at St. Peter’s is enormous, so we shouldn’t have been surprised by an entire coffee shop on the roof or the fact that the roof we walked on seemed like a street complete with buildings of its own.

The view is magnificent owing to the ordinance that no building in Rome can be higher than the Vatican dome.  It was a very blue sky and perfect day for the climb.

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