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September 17, 2019

Christmas in Barcelona

by Rosemary West and Steve Winogradsky


We had visited Barcelona in 2011; seven years later, we were particularly interested to see the progress of Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), the huge cathedral designed by the city’s favorite architect, Antoni Gaudí. In the tradition of Europe's great Gothic churches, the cathedral has been under construction for over 130 years. Last time we were here, we commented that it was unlikely that the church would be finished in our lifetime.

Gaudí tragically died in 1926, having been run over by a trolley car. Bystanders did not realize who he was (They thought he was a beggar), and he received only rudimentary medical attention. A few years later, many of his blueprints were destroyed in a fire caused by shelling during the Spanish Civil War. Since then, other architects and artists have continued the project, hoping to remain faithful to Gaudí's vision and spirit. With the centennial of Gaudí's death approaching in 2026, the hope is that the cathedral will be finished by then. But seeing all the scaffolding still on the building and the amount of work yet to be done, we were not optimistic about the proposed completion date.









Gaudi also designed Güell Park, a system of gardens and architectural works. Entrance to the park is free, but since our previous visit, the most interesting part, the inner park where most of Gaudí's work is featured, has been changed from free to paid ticket only. We were unable to enter, as that section was sold out. Instead, we climbed the hill and enjoyed the view of the city.


Las Ramblas is a long street in downtown Barcelona that runs from Placa Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Veil. The street features shops, restaurants, and street vendors. Any trip to Barcelona would be incomplete without a stroll down this famous boulevard. Off to either side are other attractions, such as some Roman ruins, one of the houses designed by Gaudí, and other places of interest.









One day we took the train to Figueres to see the Dali Theater-Museum, designed by Dali and featuring many of his works. The building's exterior, painted pink, studded with golden loaves of bread, topped with monumental eggs and a geodesic dome, is emblematic of Dali's style. The many themed rooms are a wonder to see, even for those unfamiliar with Dali.




Walking around Barcelona is always a treat. The architecture ranges from ancient Roman ruins, to structures preserved since medieval times, to Gaudí and the modernists, to contemporary glass and concrete. There are fountains, mosaics, and grand public art.











We were here for Christmas 2018.

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September 14, 2019

Madrid

by Steve Winogradsky

Raton Perez is a cultural icon in the Hispanic culture, similar to the tooth fairy.

We took the train from Malaga to Madrid, then took the subway into town. Unfortunately, the station at our stop was under construction, so we got off at the next stop and had to walk a mile back to our hotel, the Circulo Gran Via, on the main drag in town and connected to a casino (which we did not enter).

We walked around town, through the Plaza Mayor, where there is a plaque in the sidewalk showing the geographic center of Spain.

And the center of my world!
The Plaza is surrounded by colorful buildings, and has several statues and some advertising for Tio Pepe, a locally produced sherry.






King Carlos III

Tio Pepe, the sherry of Kings
On our way to the Royal Palace, we passed the Catedral de la Almudena, a baroque Catholic cathedral known for its colorful chapels, plus a Romanesque crypt and museum. As with many of the churches in Europe, there is a large statue of Pope John Paul.

El Papa
The Royal Palace was magnificent, with an expansive courtyard and the usual array of artworks, tapestries and weaponry




Although Columbus was Italian, it was Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Spain,
 who financed his trips to the New World



As we were there in mid-December, there was a large nativity scene that took up an entire room






Two of the most popular museums are the Prado and the Reina Sofia, but no photos were allowed in either, so you will have to take our word for it.

On our last day, we went to Retiro Park, which has a large lake in the middle and an enormous tribute to King Alfonso XII, with many sculptures as part of the display.





Inside the park is The Crystal Palace, a building made of glass panels.

No one throwing stones here!
As we were leaving the park we came across the Fountain of the Fallen Angel.



We enjoyed our time in Madrid and looked forward to our next stop, Barcelona.

We were here in mid-December, 2018.

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