Friday, November 10, 2023


 Wow, Madrid! The culture, the cuisine, and the rich history that one senses with every step. The Plaza Mayor, below, is the center of a 17th-century historic district. Lined with cafes and shops, it attracts tourists and locals alike. 


Cava is a ubiquitous refreshment in Spain, perhaps best enjoyed from one of the city's many rooftop cafes.


                                               The architecture throughout the city is stunning.


We visited the art museum Thyssen-Bornesmisza in the morning, where photos are not allowed, and then the Reina Sofia, home to Picasso's famed Guernica.

The Guernica, painted in 1937, followed the brutal carpet bombing of the Basque market town. General Franco allowed Hitler's air force to practice by brutally leveling Guernica and setting the stage for the bombing campaigns of WWII. Picasso vowed never to return to Spain so long as Franco remained in power. Sadly, the dictator outlived him.

As the museum does with several other paintings in its collection, it provides exhibits that lend historical context to the artwork. Note the photo of the 1937 Paris Exposition, with its dueling Soviet and German exhibitions, and the war time posters below. 

The works of numerous other famous artists are on display, including Salvador Dali's The Great Masturbator.

Photos are allowed in only a few rooms in the sprawling Royal Palace, a warren of 2800 rooms and an astonishing, ostentatious, interior. The Palace is still in use today for formal affairs of state. 


Madrid is home to the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the world, El Botin, known for its suckling pig.


The omnipresent Iberian jamon, along with a wide variety of tapas and cavas, are available seemingly everywhere.


As in other Spanish cities, nuns often prepare and sell sweets to the public. The transaction typically occurs with a revolving turnstile so that the nuns are never seen by the customers.


The Prado Museum does not allow photos, but contains more than 3,000 works, including those of Titian, Raphael, and Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.


                                        Madrid is home to the largest bullfighting ring in Spain.

Retiro Park, once reserved for royalty, was opened to the public by King Charles in the 18th century. Its 300-acres provide Madrilenos with a respite from the bustle of city life.

Many venues in Madrid offer flamenco entertainment, and we enjoyed the dinner and show at Corral de la Moreria. The singing and guitar playing were beautifully poignant, and the dancing was stellar. The rapidity of the dancers' footwork was mind-boggling--especially after a few cavas.



 This amazing city is well worth the hour long drive from Madrid. Although the population today is less than 100,000, Toledo was twice the capital of Spain for extended periods. It is rich in history and culture and lined with narrow, winding streets that beckon a leisurely stroll. 


                                               A street named for the sister city of Toledo, Ohio. 


The Cathedral alone justifies a trip to Toledo. It took more than 250 years to construct and now houses spectacular treasures, including paintings by Goya and El Greco.


                                                                A stunning ceiling fresco


                                                        The Disrobing of Christ, by El Greco


El Transparente is remarkable. A large skylight cut through the wall of the Cathedral allows light to enter and illuminate the tabernacle. An absolutely unique lighting effect.


                             The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, by El Greco, in the Church of Santo Tome

Until they were expelled in 1492, Toledo had a vibrant Jewish community. Some religious monuments remain, including the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. Interestingly, it was constructed by Moorish workers, on Christian soil. Many elements of the Mudejar style are evident. The cross confirms that the structure was used as a church for some time, beginning in the 15th century. 

Thursday, November 9, 2023


 Jamon! Jamon! Jamon! Everywhere in Andalusia, and delicious!

Tapas bars are great--a variety of terrific foods to sample, with a glass or two of local wine. Every city has a favorite, and every bar a specialty. 

                                             The narrow streets make for a comfortable stroll. 


The Roman Bridge, which sits atop the original first-century foundation, spans the Guadalquivir River as it winds toward Seville and the Atlantic. Beautifully lit at night, and great views of the city.


                            Plans to restore this ancient water wheel have not yet come to fruition.


The Mezquita, a former mosque with a church now in the center of the complex, is dazzling. While Cordoba today is a modest city, it was considered the cultural capital of Europe during the centuries of Muslim rule.  

The huge monstrance, designed to hold the Holy Communion wafer, is paraded through the streets during the annual Corpus Christi. While the bottom of the monstrance is silver plate, the top is solid silver with gold plating.

The small room beyond the arch is a mihrab, in which an iman would stand with his back to the assembled worshipers and recite scripture and sermon. The room was designed to amplify and project his voice. The mosaic consists of more than 3,000 pounds of glass and enamel cubes. 

       Construction of the Cathedral began in 1523 and the soaring arches and domes are magnificent. 

 The choir was added in 1750 and crafted from New World mahogany. The 109 stalls each feature a carved scene from the Bible.


                   The elegant mosque features more than 800 columns topped by red and white arches.

A few street scenes. Note that the streets are narrow and, therefore, shaded by the bordering homes. Everything is painted white to reflect the sun. 


The Alcazar is worth a quick visit, primarily to view the beautiful gardens and Roman mosaics which line the walls.