Tag: Artist

MAMAN!MAMANi

MAMAN!MAMANi

La Paz, Bolivia – February 16, 2019

At first glance, the title of this blog post may seem a little odd.  It is a rendition of how the artist signs his works, MAMAN!MAMANi.  The first letter, “i” is rendered upside down.

When we left our house at 09:00, it was a cool 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius).  It was not foggy, but the clouds were quite low.  A bit of a breeze and a bit of drizzle made the morning all the cooler.

Our destination this beautiful morning was the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery. I learned of the gallery the day before Valentine’s Day from our good friend Tia. She and some of her friends had recently visited the gallery and met with the artist, Roberto Mamani Mamani. I was intrigued by Tia’s description of both the work of Mamani Mamani and the historic area in which the gallery is located. I suggested to Leslie that we should visit the gallery. If we found anything we liked, we could buy it as our Valentine’s Day gift to each other. She agreed, so we were set to visit.

Tia agreed to go to the gallery with us. We met Tia on the street about a block from our house. Just as we met her, a taxi passed. Tia flagged down the cab for us, and we began our ride to the Teleférico Verde. Our eight-minute trip to the Teleférico Verde Irpavi station cost us $15 Bolivianos (US$2.18). That amount included a tip of $3 Bolivianos.
On the upper level of the Teleférico station, we boarded one of the gondolas and began our steep ascent up and over the San Alberto area of La Paz. The San Alberto area has dozens of multi-million-dollar homes. No doubt the owners directly under the Teleférico remain very unhappy that the public transportation always flies overhead.

As the Teleférico Verde crests San Alberto and begins to drop into the Obrajes area, the gondolas are at the highest point above ground. My guess of the height is about 400 to 500 feet (122 to 152 meters). Leslie detests this part of the trip. She was also cold. I assured her she would warm up when we began walking.

We rode the Teleférico Verde to the final station at Del Libertador. At that station, one can switch to the Amarillo line or take a short walk over to the Celeste line. Our destination required us to walk the short distance to the Celeste. Once on the Celeste line, we continued to the final station, Prado. As an aside, the cost to build both the Verde line and the Celeste line was US$88,000,000 each!

Emerging from the Prado station, we walked a short distance uphill to Avenida 16 de Julio to hail a taxi. After a minute or two waiting, a taxi stopped for us. The driver was a lovely man. I told him we wanted to go to the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery. At first, he did not know the location. I showed him the address of Indaburo #710 esquina (corner) Jaén, and he immediately began driving. Traffic was a little heavier in this section of La Paz than it had been near our home. The driver quoted a rate of $15 Bolivianos to get us to our destination. When we arrived, Tia paid the driver $20 Bolivianos (US$2.90).

Immediately upon getting out of the taxi, we saw the art gallery.  One cannot miss the building.  There are large murals painted on the building; undoubtedly done by Mamani Mamani.  The building sits at the southern end of Calle Jaén, where it makes a 90-degree turn to the east.  We walked into the gallery at about 10:00.

A man walks past the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery on Calle Jaén.
The north face of the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery building.

One is immediately struck by the very colorful artworks when walking into the gallery. Everything in the gallery seems to pop out at the viewer. As we walked through the gallery, one of the employees accompanied us and quoted prices of the various works about which we inquired. He spoke excellent English. That made our communication easy.

I asked about one enormous work that caught my eye. He said it was 5,000.00, I thought that might be in Bolivianos; but then he finished his sentence with the phrase, U.S. dollars. I quipped that was way out of our neighborhood! We settled on a much smaller painting and a painted stone frog. We asked the employee if the artist was at the gallery. He said no, but he thought he would arrive in about an hour. We really wanted to meet the artist. We paid for our items and said we would return in about an hour. With that, at about 10:30, we began our stroll north on Calle Jaén.

The view north on Calle Jaén.
View from the Hostal Ananay entrance back to the gallery.

Calle Jaén is a cobblestone pedestrian street. There are no vehicles allowed on the intricately paved road. It is intricate because of the size of the stones used and the alternating patterns interspersed along the street. The largest cobblestones can be no more than four inches. It must have taken a very long time to pave that street!

Not too far from the art gallery, we spotted the Hostal Ananay. We decided that would be the perfect place to stop for a coffee. Walking through the door from the street, one is in a small hallway about 10 or 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) long. At the end of the hall, one is surprised by a cozy courtyard. Across the courtyard from the hallway was a door to the café. We walked in, sat down, and ordered our drinks.

The café was surprisingly large. There were multiple tables scattered about, a stage set up for musicians, and various works of art. Two art pieces caught my eye. First was a very odd painting of Jesus Christ depicting Him with three faces. We learned later the painting is titled, The Trinity. I guess that makes sense, but it was still nothing I would want to own. I could not read the name of the artist. The other piece I noticed I could see hanging in my house. It was a wood carving of an indigenous Andean man playing a Bolivian pan flute.

A portion of the courtyard at Hostal Ananay.  The chain to the blue barrel is a method of directing rainwater.
The Trinity, a painting in the Hostal Ananay.
A wood carving in the Hostal Ananay. It shows an indigenous man from the Andes playing a pan flute.

After our break, we continued our walk north. We soon spotted a small art gallery. We climbed the treacherous, no-handle-available stairs to enter. Once inside, a nice young woman greeted us and asked if we spoke Spanish. We answered, “a little.” We asked if she spoke English, and she responded similarly. She began telling us, in Spanish, about the various items in the gallery. One of the things that she made were sculptures of cholitas that are about one-inch tall. We had to get one. She also pointed out some refrigerator magnets. Each magnet was a bottle cap with a scene painted inside that her sister made. We bought a magnet with a cholita painted inside. I was remiss; I should have asked her if I could have taken a photograph of her. Oh well.

Leaving the gallery, I saw a sign on the wall noting that the Club Atletico Jaén, a football (soccer) team, was founded here in 2005.

A small art store along Calle Jaén.
Farther up the hill on Calle Jaén, looking south. A group of Asian tourists stopped to take photographs of the wooden terrace on the building.
Looking south on Calle Jaén.

Along Calle Jaén are multiple small museums. We stopped in one. The attendant said we needed a ticket to enter. He said those tickets were available in the first museum at the end of the street. Sure enough, at the T-intersection of Calle Jaén and Sucre is the Museo Costumbrista (Museum of Customs), where they did sell tickets for the museums. Residents of Bolivia can enter the museums for $8 Bolivianos (US$1.16) while foreigners pay $20 (US$2.90). Tia and I were considered Bolivian nationals because we had our residency cards. Leslie was considered a foreigner since she did not have her card. The fee allows one access to four museums on Calle Jaén:

  • Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas
  • Museo Litoral Boliviano
  • Museo Metales Preciosos
  • Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo
I was disappointed with the Museo Costumbrista and the Museo Litoral Boliviano (I cannot translate this, but it seems to relate to the early history of La Paz). Neither museum allowed photography. There were some interesting and unique items in each museum I wanted to capture. I did find a YouTube video for the Museo Costumbrista. The 00:01:46 video shows some of the masks and costumes are worn for the carnival celebration from the early 20th Century. One may click here to view the video, Museo Costumbrista.

The Museo Litoral Boliviano had several dioramas depicting episodes in La Paz history.  Some of them were rather gruesome.  I have included some photos I found on the internet.

Related image

The above photo dramatizes the quartering of the Indian leader, Tupac Katari, some 237 years ago (credit the Bolivian Ministry of Culture and Tourism).

Image result for museo costumbrista la paz

The photo above is a diorama of the death of Pedro Domingo Murillo.  His house is on Calle Jaén.  It is now one of the museums (credit the newspaper La Region).

We opted to skip the final two museums because we were anxious to meet Mamani Mamani.  That ended up being a lapse in judgment.  The good news is our entry ticket is valid until August 22, 2019.

As we left the museum and began our walk down Calle Jaén, named after Don Apolinar Jaén, I saw a tile sign that provided the history behind this beautiful street. He was born in Oruro, Bolivia in 1776 and later executed on May 29, 1810, because he was involved in the revolution for independence. He and others in his group are referred to as the Protomártires de la Independencia (martyrs of the independence).

The sign at the top of Calle Jaén.

I call skipping the other two museums a lapse in judgment because when we returned to the art gallery, we found out the artist was still not there. The employees assured us he would be there soon. We could have easily toured the other two museums. Instead, we walked outside and sat on some benches to await his arrival. Leslie and Tia opted for the sunny side of the street. I was happy to stay in the shade.

Looking south on Calle Jaén.
Approaching the art gallery again.
Leslie and Tia relaxing on a bench.

My bench faced a building on which was the name, Residencia del Adulto Mayor “Maria Esther Quevedo.” It translates to a retirement home or old folks’ home. As we sat there, more and more older adults came to take their place on a bench. Some of the people we saw were disabled. At least two walked with visually impaired canes. Some of the elderly sat near us on the seats (Leslie and Tia finally moved to the shade). The Bolivians are so polite; as each one sat near us, they greeted us with, “buenas tardes (good afternoon).” We all responded in kind. I busied myself with more photography…imagine that!

One of the doors on the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.
Detail of one of the doors on the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.
The Mamani Mamani Art Gallery has an odd-shaped brick structure on the roof.
View of the art gallery from my bench.

In the photograph above, one can see a cross on the side of the nearby building.  It is La Cruz Verde, the green cross.  A plaque below the cross provides the following story, my best translation from Spanish.

The tradition is that in colonial times the alley – Calle Jaén today, was a dark place with constant appearances of supernatural beings and phenomena (ghosts, goblins, souls in pain, infernal noises of horse-drawn carriages and chains dragging on the ground).  But, above all, there was the presence of a condemned widow who seduced all the men who gathered drunk in the wee hours of the night to take them on a mysterious adventure. Then, the neighbors of this street, heirs of a deeply rooted Catholic faith, decided to place the green cross to scare away all the evil creatures that frightened them.

I thought it was an interesting story.

The Green Cross (la Cruz Verde) and the plaque with the story of the cross.
A man walking away from the gallery.
A cholita reading the sign in front of the art gallery.

It soon became evident that the people were waiting for lunch at the home. The door to the home was closed and locked. A couple of men, over time, rang the bell and tried to gain entry. One of the men did enter after a lot of talking and continuing to step into the building. At about 12:20, a woman from the facility opened the door and announced it would be ten minutes until the doors opened. She opened the door again at 12:30 and said, “pase (come in).” Interestingly, not one person seemed to rush to the door or even get up off the bench. Finally, one by one, people made their way into the building. As each one departed, they said, “buenas tardes” to us again.

As the drama played out in front of the home, Leslie walked back to the gallery to ask about the artist’s arrival. This time the employees told her he was by San Francisco Church and that he would arrive momentarily. Leslie came back to the bench to report and sit down. As soon as she gave the report, a taxi arrived, and Roberto Mamani Mamani emerged! He greeted us all and walked with us to his gallery.

Roberto Mamani Mamani is from Cochabamba, Bolivia, born December 6, 1962. He is Aymara, one of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. He is world-famous, having enjoyed exhibitions of his work in more than 50 locations, including Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Munich, and London. As of 2017, he had made more than 3,000 paintings and nearly 70 series. He is also well known for painting large murals on buildings.

Inside the gallery, he immediately turned over our painting and began writing and drawing on the reverse. He wrote in Spanish, for Terry and Leslie, all the energy from the Andes, happy Valentine’s Day. Below that he drew a rough sketch of the sun and moon. He said I was the sun, and Leslie was the moon. Mamani Mamani is a lovely and genuine person. It seemed he could not do enough for us to demonstrate his gratitude. He gave us a small book documenting several of his works. He also gave Leslie a ring that has one of his works under a bubble of resin.

Roberto Mamani Mamani signing one of his works of art.
Roberto Mamani Mamani signing one of his works of art.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani, showing the reverse of the work of art.
Leslie and Roberto Mamani Mamani. He is holding a painted frog (sapo).

For anyone planning to visit La Paz, it is worth the time and effort to visit this quaint corner of town.

Our final view of Calle Jaén for the day.

We departed the gallery with all of our purchases in tow. We hunted in vain for a taxi. Everyone that passed already had passengers. We walked about six blocks before Tia was able to hail a cab. It was just in time. Just as we got into the taxi, it began to rain.

The traffic was absolutely nuts!  The traffic was barely moving.  To travel about eight blocks, it took nearly 20-minutes!  At one point, our driver set the emergency brake and turned off the taxi while we sat in traffic.  It is at times like that I am glad the taxis in La Paz do not rely on meters.  If we had been in New York City, I would probably have needed a line of credit to pay for the taxi ride.

Our driver let us out of the taxi about a block from the Celeste line.  We walked quickly in the rain to the station.  Then it was merely a repeat of our morning journey, just in reverse.  We were back home by about 15:00.

St. Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург)

St. Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург)

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation – July 13, 2015

We docked at St. Petersburg, Russia this morning. At breakfast, Leslie and I commented that we would never have guessed we would ever visit Russia, but here we are!
This morning, we were part of orange group #1, our tour group for our visit to the Hermitage Museum. Before we got on the bus, we all had to go through passport control. It was not necessarily a breeze. The immigration officer looked closely at us. She even motioned to my passport photo in which I sported a goatee and then pointed at my now clean-shaven face. In addition to our passports, she also demanded to see our ship excursion tickets. Those essentially acted as our Russian visas. Ultimately, even though she seemed a little cranky, she did stamp both of our passports. We thought it was cool getting that entry stamp.
Leslie, Lorraine, Arlene, and I boarded the tour bus. Leslie and I lucked out and got two of the front seats. That made it helpful for taking photos on the way. It was one of several buses lined up at the cruise depot. By 09:00, we began our journey to the museum. On the way, our guide told us St. Petersburg enjoys only about 60 days of sunshine each year. That is precisely the opposite of Colorado, which enjoys approximately 300 days of sun each year. Our day was nice. It was not until later in the day when we returned to the ship that we encountered some raindrops.

All of the buses…
Buses…buses…buses!
Color on the other side of the international border. The colors are beside the ship. Standing on this side of the barrier with the buses, one is in the Russian Federation.
The business end of our Russian tour bus.

After about 30 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the museum. The Louvre in Paris, France, has long been my favorite museum, but that may be in jeopardy now. At the Hermitage, in addition to the museum, one also walks through an awe-inspiring palace. The other fact that sways me is that one of my favorite paintings is at the Hermitage, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. The only downside is the size of the exhibit area does not comfortably allow for viewing when the museum is crowded.

The green building is our first glimpse of the State Hermitage Museum, also known as the Winter Palace.
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt (1663-1669). I got this view as our tour group walked by the portrait on their way to another.
Just before we left the Rembrandt room, the guide gave some insight into my favorite painting by the artist.

When we arrived, our guide shared that we were in luck. We were entering the museum about an hour before it opened to the public. That meant we had many portions of the museum virtually to ourselves. That worked out well for my photography.

The worn, bilingual sign near the entrance.

The museum is just over 250 years old, founded by Catherine the Great. The palace consists of six different buildings. We walked through five of them; the Winter Palace, Small Palace, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, and the Hermitage Theater. The buildings total over 2.5 million square feet of space. The ornate decorations in each building and the displayed artwork are just incredible.
We entered the museum through the main Winter Palace door facing the Neva River. It took a little while to get our entire group through the turnstiles; however, once we did, we met the very ornate staircase known as the Ambassadors’ Stairs. When an ambassador visited the Tsar or Empress, they ascended the Ambassador’s Stairs. I am unclear on whether the audience took place in the Peter the Great Throne Room or the St. George Hall. Regardless, they were both stunning spaces.

The Hermitage Museum seems to stretch on forever.
Detail of the pediment above the main entrance to the Hermitage Museum.
At the base of the Ambassadors Staircase, a name used in the 1700s.
A marble statue in a niche on the upper portion of the Ambassadors Staircase.
The columns at the top of the Ambassadors Staircase.
The second landing of the Ambassadors Staircase.
A ceiling fresco above the Ambassadors Staircase.
The tour group ascending the Ambassadors Staircase.
A marble statue in a niche along the Ambassadors Staircase.
The first landing of the Ambassadors Staircase.
Marble sculptures near the top of the Ambassadors Staircase.
Our guide explains many of the features of the Ambassadors Staircase.

Departing the upper landing of the Ambassadors Staircase, we entered the Field Marshal’s Room. While it was impressive, it may have been the least remarkable space we saw that day. One may come to that opinion simply because the decorations are quite muted, not so ornate, and over the top, as some of the other spaces in the museum.
Most notable in the Field Marshal’s Room is the massive chandeliers. They each weigh a jaw-dropping two tons; 4,000 pounds! Several members of our group stood under the lights until our guide related that the chandeliers did fall once. That was enough to get everyone to clear the space.

The Field Marshal’s Room.
A vase in the Field Marshal’s Room.
A portrait of Field Marshal-General His Serene Highness Prince Tavrichesky Count Grigory Alexandrovich Potemkin.

The Peter the Great Throne Room was a little more intimate than the vast expanse of the St. George Hall. The throne room had an intricate parquet and wood inlaid floor. The walls were a warm, but dark red. That red echoed in the throne dais carpet and the upholstery of the throne itself, displaying the double-headed imperial eagle on the back, an imposing figure. The ceiling consisted of arches and coffers with hints of gold leaf. It was elegant.

The throne in the small throne room of Peter the Great. The painting behind the throne chair is Peter I with Minerva dating between 1732 and 1734. The columns are made of jasper.
The parquet inlaid floor in the Small Throne Room.
The throne chair. I believe I prefer my recliner…

Leaving the Small Throne Room, we walked into the amazingly ornate Armorial Hall. The amount of gold in the hall defies description.  There was so much gold in the room that there was a gold hue throughout.
At one part of the hall, one could see through the doorway toward the throne in the St. George Hall. It is hard to imagine the numbers of staff that must have been required to make this Winter Palace a place to live and receive guests. Had I been alive in that era and in the St. Petersburg area, I am more than confident I would have never been able to set foot in the palace.
Comparing the Winter Palace living areas to the Napoleon Apartment in the Louvre in Paris is like comparing Versailles to a studio apartment in New York City. There is just no possible comparison between the two.

The Armorial Hall. By the way, all that glitters IS gold!
The Capture of Berlin on 28 September 1760 by Alexander Kotzebue (1849) in the Armorial Hall.
A very ornate lamp.
A view into the St. George Hall.
The aventurine lapidary in the Armorial Hall. Across the top of the lapidary, one can catch a glimpse of the throne in the St. George Hall.
Some of the golden columns of the Armorial Hall.
A marble sculpture in the Armorial Hall.

Even though we could see the throne in the St. George Hall, there was yet one more room to traverse; the Military Gallery. It is a long, narrow room. It is sometimes referred to as the War Gallery of 1812. The walls have dozens of paintings, all approximately the same size, of war heroes involved in the defeat of Napoleon. The entire tour group made quick work of the visit and moved on the hall.

Another tour guide leading her group through the Military Gallery.
Emperor Alexander I on his steed. The painting is in the Military Gallery. Equestrian Portrait of Alexander I by Franz Krüger (1837).
The bas relief above the door from the Military Gallery to St. George Hall.

The St. George Hall was an immense and massive space of approximately 800 square meters. That translates to about 8,500 square feet. That is more than three times the size of the average American home. A large dais, throne, and canopy dominated the east end of the hall. The throne seemed to be an exact duplicate of the throne in the Small Throne Room, including the imperial eagle. Behind the throne hung a large red banner from the canopy with an equally large imperial eagle. The ornate white and gilded ceiling soared two-stories above the floor.
Leaving St. George Hall, our group wound through some smaller spaces, ultimately stopping in Pavilion Hall. Intimate and two-stories do not necessarily go together, but this space was genuinely intimate. Dominating this hall is the 18th-Century Gold Peacock Clock. The clock is behind a glass covering. The peacock is life-size, as well as the cockerel and the owl. With such large creatures in the clock, one might think the clock face is large too, wrong. The hidden clock face is actually in a small mushroom. The automated birds originally went through a series of movements every hour. My understanding is that the clock now moves only a few times a year. That is to keep from wearing out the mechanical parts. Even though we did not see it move, it was an impressive piece.

The Peacock Clock in the Pavilion Hall dates from the 1770s.
One of our tour group members getting a closeup of the Peacock Clock.
Chandeliers in the Pavilion Hall.
The Peacock Clock.
Mosaic floor in the Pavilion Hall.
Detail of the mosaic floor in the Pavilion Hall.
Courtyard off the Pavilion Hall.
A sculpture in the courtyard titled “America.”
View from the Pavilion Hall across the Neva River to the Peter and Paul Fortress.

We ended up in the Old Dutch Masters area shortly after leaving Pavilion Hall. That is where we began seeing painters copying various paintings. They had easels, stools, and drop cloths set up. We quickly saw a dozen or more painters. Our guide shared that it was a big test for the art students through one of the local universities. I could barely take photographs of the paintings; I know there is no way I could copy one with a brush. Their talent was amazing.

This art student was copying Haman Recognizes His Fate by Rembrandt (circa 1665).
Ready to apply the paint at just the right spot.
Mixing paint.
Another view of the student copying Haman Recognizes His Fate by Rembrandt (circa 1665).
The unknown art student was copying Portrait of an Old Man in Red by Rembrandt (circa 1652-1654).
This view provides an idea of how each artist set up so as to not make a mess.
The tour group went from alcove to alcove, listening to our guide. We entered the display at the far end. That is where The Return of the Prodigal Son hangs, just out of view.
A closer view of the artist at work.
This art student is copying the Holy Family by Rembrandt (1645).

Our next viewing was the Italian Renaissance area of the museum.  Below are some of the works that caught my attention.  In this area of the museum, we found more art students copying paintings.

Madonna with Child and Two Angels by Paolo di Giovanni Fei (circa 1385).
A chandelier near the theater.
Another painting on the ceiling near the theater.
A painting on the roof near the theater.
Our guide describing an unknown painting.
This art student was copying The Madonna and Child (The Litta Madonna) by Leonardo da Vinci (circa 1495).
A stop in the Hall of Italian Renaissance Art.
This art student was copying a painting in the Hall of Italian Renaissance Art.
This art student is copying Portrait of a Lady by Lorenzo Costa (circa 1506).
The Nativity by Giovanni Della Robbia an example of 16th Century Italian majolica pottery.
An anteroom and chandelier near the theater.

Another unusual feature of the Hermitage is the Raphael Loggia. It is a relatively narrow hall, but it is around 20 feet tall. Some call the loggia Raphael’s Bible. That is because Raphael painted several stories from the Bible in this loggia.

The Raphael Loggia.
Detail over a door from the Raphael Loggia.
Detail of the ceiling from the Raphael Loggia.
Detail from the Raphael Loggia.
Our guide in the Raphael Loggia.
Detail from the Raphael Loggia.
Detail from the Raphael Loggia.

Below, in no particular order, are some of the other sights we saw in the Hermitage Museum.  The narrative continues well below the photos.

Another ornate ceiling.
A row of chairs in the Small Italian Skylight Room.
An art lover in the Small Italian Skylight Room.
Our guide imparting information in the Small Italian Skylight Room.
Martyrdom of St Peter by Caravaggio (circa 1601).
The beauty of the Small Italian Skylight Room.
The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine by Domenico Beccafumi (1521).
Madonna with Beardless St. Joseph by Raphael (1506).
An art student copying an unknown work in the Small Italian Skylight Room.
Death of Adonis by Giuseppe Mazzuola (1700-1709).
Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate by Goya (1810-1811).
An unknown art student’s copy of Boy with a Dog by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (circa 1655-1659).
This art student is copying the Repentance of Saint Peter.
Our guide was very knowledgeable.
The base of a lamp.
An unknown art student’s copy in progress of the Battle Between the Lapiths and Centaurs by Luca Giordano (circa 1688).
Meeting of Joachim and Anne near the Golden Gate by Paolo de San Leocadio (circa 1500).
Another detailed ceiling.
The Doctor’s Visit by Jan Steen (Circa 1660).
Marriage Contract by Jan Steen (circa 1668).
Detail of the large vase.
A large vase.
A small, but beautiful chandelier.
Smokin’ !!
Fruit and a Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem (1655).
Esther in Front of Ahasuerus by Valentin Lefevre (circa 1675-1699).
Yet another chandelier.
This painting of Jesus entering Jerusalem caught my eye.
Inlays on the side of a table.
Some very ornate chairs.
Detail of a light fixture.
Adam and Eve (The Fall of Man) by Hendrick Goltzius (1608).
Laocoon by Paolo Andrea Triscornia (1798).
Three dancing women near the exit.

The Hermitage is just like the Louvre in one respect; there is no way one can see everything. We did see many more works of art. When we emerged from the Hermitage, we saw a sea of people waiting to enter. We were glad we went when we did. We walked across the street toward the Neva River, onto our bus, and then back to the ship.

Departing the Hermitage Museum.
A boat passes by the Rostral’naya Kolonna in the Neva River.
View across the Neva River.

Back on the bus, our guide greeted us all with a Russian chocolate bar.  That was very nice of her.

Our prized chocolate bar.

At the cruise terminal, several gift shops were dealing in items designed to catch the eye of tourists. As usual, we found some refrigerator magnets.

Returning to the cruise ship.

After dinner that evening, we all went to a show. The entertainment was a troupe of 14 Russian dancers/singers.  Seven  band members accompanied them, playing authentic Russian instruments. The entire performance in Russian did not deter us from understanding what was happening.  The eye-catching traditional costumes were colorful.

The following day, our canal tour was in the afternoon. After breakfast, it was the same drill through immigration and onto a bus. Our destination was close to the Hermitage Museum. It was very cloudy. The bus stopped so we could all get off. We faced about a two-block walk to the canal boat. Some of the walking was a little dicey, but we all made it safely. While walking, we saw a bride and groom stopping to take photos.  Our guide told us it is normal for newlyweds to travel around the city, taking photographs at their favorite locations.

The bride and groom.
The bride and groom walking.

As we finished our walk, it began to drizzle. That did not stop me from taking photos. I kept clicking from under my umbrella. Shortly after the boat pulled away from the mooring, one of the workers brought us a complimentary glass of champagne, my kind of cruise!
Our boat departed its mooring on Moyka Canal. After passing the Japan Consulate, we took a quick right turn onto the canal that is on the east side of the Hermitage Museum. That canal led us to the Neva River. On the Neva, we turned to the west toward the Bolshaya Neva. I believe that means “little Neva” River. We cruised under the Dvortzovyy Most (bridge) and then under Biagoveshchenskiy Most. We made a U-turn back to the east, ultimately going under the Troitskiy Most. One right turn and we were on the Fontanka Canal. Our final right turn took us back to the Moyka Canal and our original mooring.
The bridges over the canals were extremely low. Some only had a total clearance of two meters, about six feet. If one were to stand while passing under, one would definitely lose body parts.

The Round Market building alongside the Moyka River.
A sightseeing boat on the Moyka River.
View of buildings beside the Moyka River.
Yet another sightseeing boat on the Moyka River. The Japanese Consulate can be seen in the background.
A beautiful old building, the Menshikov Palace, on the Neva River. Today, the palace serves as a branch of the Hermitage Museum.
Buildings facing the Neva River.
A view of the Rostral’naya Kolonna column on the Neva River.
Heading toward the Neva River on the Reka Zimnyaya Kanavka. The Hermitage is on either side of the canal.
Pedestrians on a bridge.
Looking back toward the Japanese Consulate.
Pedestrian walking near the Amber Palace.
According to Mr. Google, this building is known as the Pediment Genius of Glory crowning science.
No anchorage here!
A dome on an unknown building as seen from the Neva River.
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
Some of the more colorful buildings.
The buildings seem to never end.
Another view of the Hermitage Museum.
A fellow tourist capturing photographs from the sightseeing boat.
A view of part of the Peter and Paul Fortress from the Neva River.
Looking back at the Reka Zimnyaya Kanavka. The Hermitage is on either side of the canal.
A videographer filming to the right.
A videographer filming to the left.
Some of our fellow tourists on the sightseeing boat.
The main facade of the Hermitage Museum.
The detail on the Troitskiy Bridge over the Neva River.
A commercial building. The sign on the right seems to translate as Megaphone.
One sightseeing boat is entering the Fontanka River while the other is entering the Neva River.
A sightseeing boat preparing to enter the Fontanka River.
A closer view of the Noplasticfantastic building.
The building on the corner houses the Noplasticfantastic store.
Another sightseeing boat passing under the Troitskiy Bridge.
Pedestrians on the Troitskiy Bridge.
The entry to the Fontanka River from the Neva River.
Detail of a building across the Fontanka River from the Summer Garden.
The tree-lined walk of the Summer Garden.
The videographer at work.
A no anchorage sign.
The Tea House in the Summer Garden as seen from the Fontanka River.
Entering into the Fontanka River.
There is not a great deal of clearance under the bridge.
A view of St. Michael’s Castle from the Fontanka River.
A very colorful delivery truck as seen from the Moyka River.
A speedboat on the Moyka River.
Pedestrians on the Panteleymonovskiy Most.
The detail on the Panteleymonovskiy Most.
The tallest spire of the Savior on the Spilled Blood church was just visible from the Fontanka River.
The detail on the Panteleymonovskiy Most.
Pedestrians cross the Panteleymonovskiy Most in front of St. Michael’s Castle.
A not-so-speedy boat on the Moyka River.
The Savior on the Spilled Blood church.

Just as we docked, the downpour began. It did not let up until we were back on the bus, of course. On the way back to the ship, we stopped by the Red October souvenir shop. Surprise, we bought another refrigerator magnet. Since there was still time to burn at that stop, I took a few photographs nearby.

Teremok is a favorite Russian stop for pancake type treats.
Two young men meeting.
The top of the poster proclaims “Music of Maxim Aunaevsky.” I believe the name of the production is “Scarlet Sails.”
A nice Beemer.
I do not know what it is, but this building is at the northeast corner of Konnogvardeyskiy Bul’var and Ploshchad’ Truda. Mr. Google says it is Dvorets Velikogo Knyazya Nikolaya Nikolayevich. That doesn’t help me much…
Cars waiting for their left turn signal.
A food delivery truck.
The word at the top of the newsstand states “newspapers.”
The boys were flocking to the Teremok.
A bus stop near the newsstand.

When the bus arrived at the cruise terminal, it was about 17:00. Our seating time for dinner was 17:30. After exiting immigration, we discovered a very long line to board the ship. I think part of that was because the ship was due to depart at 17:30.  We might have been a few minutes late for dinner that night, but it was no big deal.

Waiting in line to get back on the cruise ships. Earlier in the morning, the buses were on the other side of the barrier on the left.
The dining room hostess on the ship.

Even though we spent a night on the ship in the port of St. Petersburg, we were only allowed off the boat if we were on a ship’s shore excursion. We wished we had been able to get off the ship and explore on our own, but it is what it is.
After dinner, I was able to stand on our balcony and take photographs of the Gulf of Finland. One of the highlights was the flood control dam. It is about 15 or 20 miles west of St. Petersburg. There are large motorized steel dams, which close in cases of flooding. At that location, a divided highway traverses under the water. The road is labeled KAO. I believe that is a ring road around the St. Petersburg area.
Just before the flood control dam, I saw a small island. There was a small humanmade harbor in the center. I found out later that this is Fort Kronshlot, built-in 1704 to fortify Russia from other Baltic states.
We watched a little TV in our room and then retired, ready to awake in Helsinki.

Multiple lighthouses.
Abandoned buildings at Fort Kronshlot.
Looking at Fort Kronshlot from the west. St. Petersburg is at the far distant horizon toward the left of the frame.
Another lighthouse.
The far western end of Fort Kronshlot.
A lighthouse at Fort Kronshlot.
An abandoned building at Fort Kronshlot.
Fort Kronshlot.
Passing a sailboat flying a Netherlands flag.
A tall, narrow lighthouse.
A barge coming toward the cruise ship.
Looking back toward an abandoned building on a small island. It is known as Emperor Paul I.
The barge, L’aigle.
A ship in the distance.
Another view of the odd-looking lighthouse.
An abandoned building on a small island. It is known as Emperor Paul I.
Fort Kronshlot with St. Petersburg in the distance.
The same barge.
Another view of highway A118.
One of two large flood control gates.
Looking south over one of the flood control gates along highway A118.
A sign on the building at the flood control gates. The top portion states, “The complex of protective structures protects the city of St. Petersburg from flooding.”
One of the protruding points at the flood control gates.
View of the barge with the lighthouse in the background.
As best I can tell, the name of the barge translates to “crops.”
A smaller barge.
A Russian ship. The name may be SIGULDA.
A wider view of the SIGULDA.
A Russian barge.
A point at the flood control gates departing St. Petersburg.
The Maersk Norwich on the Baltic Sea.
On the Baltic Sea.
Gathering storm clouds without the flare.
Gathering storm clouds at sunset.
The starboard side of the Maersk Norwich.

Lastly, below are random photographs I took as we rode around town on the bus going back and forth from the ship to our tours.

A woman crossing the street. I found it odd that there are two stopping areas for red lights, one on either side of the crosswalk.
The Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great in the Senate Square park.
Immediately to the left is the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. Just ahead on the left is the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
Steadily making our way through traffic.
A side street in St. Petersburg.
Graffiti on an abandoned building.
The yellow sign reads “detour.”
The sign reads TRUBETSKA First Class Transport. Under the phone number, it reads “around the clock.”
The Church of the Assumption of Mary on the banks of the Neva River.
A trolley passes by the intersection.
Traffic must turn right.
It looks like this baby is ready to get out.
Crossing the intersection.
A typical street.
Submarine C189, a floating museum on the Neva River.
A billboard alongside the Leytenanta Shmidta embankment.
Detail of the church spires.
The spires of the Church of the Assumption of Mary soar above the traffic.
Heading southwest on Leytenanta Shmidta embankment toward the Church of the Assumption of Mary.
Approaching some colorful buildings.
Average Avenue street sign??
Fruit stand.
The cars seem to wind their way through the trolleys without a second thought.
Two passing trolleys.
Pedestrians on a corner.
Sometimes the mixing is rather close.
Trolleys and cars mixing on the road.
Everyone wants to turn right.
Pedestrians waiting to cross.
More pedestrian crossing.
Pedestrians crossing.
Supermarket.
Clouds over the harbor.
Panoramic view of the port.
A new bridge under construction.
Drain.
Apple on a bench.
Invest in St. Petersburg.
Flowers at a roundabout near the cruise ship.
A happy tourist…now that the wine is flowing!
Photographing the new car.
After a hard day of tourism, it was time to relax on our terrace.
A helicopter landing near the cruise ship.
Front and back of a 500 Ruble note from the Bank of Russia. These two notes equal about US$15.00.
Currency leftover from the day’s adventures. This is about US$1.75.
St. Lucia

St. Lucia

Castries, Saint Lucia – January 3, 2013

At 06:00, I found myself on the lido deck, mostly because that is where the coffee is at that hour. The ship had not yet docked. As we cruised alongside the island heading north, it was mostly cloudy. It looked like it was raining in several places on the island.

A cloudy approach to the island of St. Lucia early in the morning.
A tugboat in Castries Harbor waiting to assist our cruise ship.
The Port of Castries.
Another cruise ship on the horizon approaching Castries, St. Lucia.
Docking at the Port of Castries.
Workers at the Port of Castries tying off some of the cruise ship lines.

 

Once everyone was up, and we had finished breakfast, we walked off the ship and into the port town of Castries, the capital of St. Lucia. We had decided that since we are so comfortable with international travel and since we had a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide for the Caribbean; we would not sign up for the Carnival shore excursions. That decision meant we were bombarded with offers for tours and taxis as we walked out of the duty-free shopping area and into the bustling capital city of Castries. In three blocks, I said “no” more times than I could count. However, everyone to whom I said “no” responded very politely. That made us feel good about the people of St. Lucia.

I was trying to navigate to Castries Vendor’s Arcade. Instead, I took a wrong turn, ending up at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The island’s patron saint, St. Lucia, is painted directly above the altar. After seeing so many cathedrals in Europe, my family did not want to spend much time there.

Bideau Park in Castries, St. Lucia.
The morning rush on Jeremie Street.

 

I regained my bearings and steered us back to Castries Vendor’s Arcade. Once again, en route, we were questioned time and again about whether or not we needed a taxi or tour.

Castries Vendor’s Arcade is much like the markets we have seen in Mexico. It consisted of numerous vendor booths under a questionable roof. Water was still dripping through into the stall areas as a result of the morning rain before we arrived in port. It seems the same items are available in each of the booths. It did not matter to us; we bought numerous tourist trinkets there. While we were in the market, Tyler decided he wanted some sunglasses. He asked one of the vendors if there were any for sale in the market. He discovered we needed to cross the street to the other market to find those.

Shopping in the Vendor’s Arcade.
Children in the Vendor’s Arcade stopping for a morning snack.
Two cruise ships in Castries Harbor, ours is on the left. The passengers on these cruise ships increase the 20,000 population of Castries by about 30 percent!!

 

As we crossed the street to the other market, Romanus intercepted us. He “sold” us on a quick tour of the island for $10 per person. So, after poking around a little bit, when we came out of the market we found Romanus (actually he found us), got in his taxi and headed up the central mountain, Morne Fortune.

The road was quite steep at several points which allowed for some spectacular views. On the way up we stopped a couple of times to take some photos from overlooks. At each stop, vendors mobbed us, hawking their “handmade” items. Again, when we said we were not interested, they were polite and immediately moved on to their next target. We ended up going to the top of Morne Fortune, some 850 feet tall. The views on the way up were breathtaking.

A panoramic view of Castries Harbor.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Adventure of the Seas in Castries Harbor.
Hillary at the Castries Harbor overlook.
A chicken and some chicks joined us on the overlook.
Our cruise ship at the dock.

At the top of the mountain, we saw some of the old barracks and the jail that was used by the fort in the late 18th century. The barracks are now classrooms for the local school.

When we stopped at the jail, the vendor there showed us a calabash shell. The fruit is not edible. Locals use the calabash shell to make bowls or plates; it is purely utilitarian. It comes from the calabash tree, the national tree of St. Lucia, according to Romanus. Just before we got back in the taxi, Romanus showed us what he called a Mimosa plant. When one touches the fern-like leaves, they fold in on each other. The leaves are very tiny; the pinna (or leaflets) are no more than an inch long. Romanus told us they were often used by trackers when looking for runaway slaves. When touched, the leaves of the plan immediately fold in upon themselves. The folded leaves would remain that way for up to five minutes, making it easy for trackers. I remember having one as a child. I know it as a sensitivity plant. I would pester it incessantly while eating my cereal in the morning.

Romanus also showed us a Christmas Palm. Its seeds are green. When they are ripe and ready to fall, they turn red, thus the name.

Looking north from the Inniskilling Monument.

The old jail atop Morne Fortune at Inniskilling Monument.
The fern-looking plant is a sensitivity plant.
A calabash tree.
Detail of a calabash.
The sign at Inniskilling Monument.
A canon at the monument.
A Christmas palm tree.
Detail of a Christmas palm tree.

From Morne Fortune, we drove to the Eudovic Art Studio (www.eudovicart.com). The studio is on the side of the mountain. That means there is not a piece of level ground to be found. Romanus did a yeoman’s job of finding a place to park among the other taxis and rental vehicles. On either side of us, regardless of the pitch of the land, there seemed to be a structure. In addition to the studio buildings, I believe there is a bed and breakfast building that doubled as Mr. Eudovic’s home.

As soon as we exited the taxi, a young woman met us and acted as our tour guide. She first took us into the part of the studio where the carving takes place. There was a carver working on a bas relief when we entered. Our guide told us all about the different types of wood used, one of which is extinct (I don’t think I completely understood how that works).

After watching the carver for a few minutes, we walked across the drive to a small display area/bar. We looked at several pieces there and bought some bottled water. Then we walked into the main gallery. That is where we met the studio’s namesake, Vincent Joseph Eudovic. In the gallery, Hillary bought a mask for a friend of hers. Mr. Eudovic was kind enough to carve his initials into it as we waited. I would highly recommend this stop for anyone traveling to St. Lucia.

 

A carver at Eudovic Studio showing the progress of his work.

The carver continuing his work.
The hand-carved sigh for the Eudovic Art Studio, Restaurant & Bar.
Hillary with Mr. Eudovic as he carves a face.
These hands very obviously know their way around the wood.
Mr. Eudovic describing his work.
Tropical flowers at the Eudovic Studio.

Romanus then took us back to the cruise ship dock. Before we boarded, we walked through the duty-free shops. I bought a suitcase to replace the one I took on this trip. The old one was beginning to fall apart.

After my purchase, we stopped at Chef Robby’s Restaurant and Bar. We each had a Piton beer. Romanus had told us that was the local brew. While we were sitting there, I commented that I now have some idea what fish feel like when victimized by fishermen. Fishers are throwing all sorts of lures and baits in the same water trying to catch that one fish. It was the same with the taxi drivers and tour operators trying to reel us in that morning.

A beer from St. Lucia, Piton. 

We went upstairs to that restaurant because we heard and saw a man on the upper level of the duty-free shops shouting and ringing a bell to get people’s attention and get them to come upstairs.

After having our beer, I went back to him and struck up a conversation. I found out he was Rob Skeete, the owner of the restaurant. I asked if any of the stores sold dominoes. He said no; however, he offered to get some for me. I told him I did not want to impose. He said he would not have offered if it would have been a bother to him. So, he sent a runner, literally, to the Castries Vendor’s Arcade to bring me some dominoes. In about five minutes, I had them in hand, and we were on our way. That was not before we found out the runner had been growing his dreadlocks since 1993! He had them stuffed under his knit cap. He said they were about seven feet long!

Dreadlocks brothers…?

 

Back on the ship we just lounged about until it was time for dinner. After dinner, we spent a little time and about $30 in the casino. That was followed by the musical revue show “Vroom.” The show was very entertaining. The show featured a male and a female lead vocalist as well as several dancers. They sang their way through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s with some Motown splashed in for good measure. We all thought it was very entertaining.

Tomorrow, St. Kitts!

Castries Harbor at St. Lucia.
Our cabin visitor.

Barcelona – Last Time Ever?

Barcelona – Last Time Ever?

Barcelona, Spain – June 6, 2012

The train departed Madrid, Spain, bound for Barcelona at about 08:30. It will be my final trip during this tour, maybe my last trip ever to Barcelona. I have been very fortunate to have made some dozen or so trips to Barcelona while living in Spain.

My stay in Barcelona is for three days and two nights. Once again, my hotel of choice was the Le Méridien on La Rambla. I have not yet decided what I will do after hours. I feel like I have seen and done nearly everything, but I am sure I will think of something.

I arrived at the hotel at about 17:00. By 17:30 I checked-in, bought a bottle of wine, some cheese, and some pistachios. That would ultimately be my dinner because I had a large lunch that day.

When I left the hotel, I grabbed a red apple. I decided to head toward the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MAC BA). I at the apple as I walked. Part of why I chose to go there was because the hotel provided a complimentary entry ticket.

I am thrilled the ticket was gratis. People say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, this beholder did not see a great deal of beauty. To be fair, several exhibits were closed because they were either being assembled or disassembled.
Regardless, on three floors of exhibit space, I did not see one item that appealed to me. The other “strike” against the museum was the fact that it does not allow photographs. However, I was able to take a picture from an exterior balcony of an abandoned church across the street from MAC BA.

After I trekked through the three floors of the museum, I stopped at the museum shop. I was able to buy two magnets for Leslie’s collection. They are magnets that will remind us of La Rambla and Plaza Catalunya.

In front of the museum, there was a lot of activity. Since it was in the shade by then, numerous people sat on top of a small wall in front of MAC BA. In front of that was an expansive plaza. People talking, walking, and riding skateboards crowded the square.

A couple of sidewalk cafés just outside the MAC BA museum.

Detail of the abandoned church across the street from MAC BA.
People sitting on the wall in front of the museum.
A skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
Pedestrians passing the museum.
The wall was a popular place.
Another skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
Yet another skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
The sign in front of the museum.
The abandoned church.
View along the top of the wall.
A bicycle rider departing from near the wall.
A unique sculpture above an apartment.
A car driving along a very narrow street.
A wall, fence, and hedge along the narrow street.
People walking past Two-Hand Photocopies.
My welcome at my hotel.
A building across from the hotel with some art deco-looking statues.
Looking down on La Rambla as a buss passes.
A taxi on La Rambla.
Cars and bicycles on La Rambla.
Pedestrians in the center median of La Rambla.
A car and skateboarder on La Rambla.
A building across the street from the hotel.
Pedestrians after dark.

After work on Thursday, I strolled south on La Rambla. My mission was to photograph many of the street performers that were out working. The first one I spotted was a portrait painter. Dressed entirely in white, he had a paintbrush and a palette; both also white. He had a small white frame that those posing with him held in front of their faces. That made it look as though he was painting their portrait. After the painter, I saw the space alien. He had the most fun and also had attracted the biggest crowd. A little farther down the road was a woman made up to look like the figure in Salvador Dali’s painting, The Burning Giraffe (1937). Her costume was complete with the open drawers one sees in the original painting. Lastly, there were two different performers with the same get-up, each riding a bicycle with a skeleton sidekick.

Painting a masterpiece?
The space alien having fun.
A crowd gathered around the space alien.
Pedestrians on La Rambla.
Flowers for sale on La Rambla.
Plants and tourist trinkets also for sale.
Gardening seeds for sale.
People coming and going from St. Joseph Market off La Rambla.
An Erotic Museum??? I did not have the gumption to enter.
The Salvador Dali street performer.
The woman “from” The Burning Giraffe by Salvador Dali.  Note the chain attached to the money jar.
The bell tower of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi.
An advertisement for a Titanic exhibition.
The most unique feature of a building near the Liceu Metro stop is the dragon holding a lamp with an umbrella leaning against the lamp.
A unique building near the Liceu Metro stop.
A wider view of the building and plaza.

At one point along La Rambla, I found myself at an exit/entry of the Metro.  Suddenly, nuns began streaming out of the underground Metro onto the street.  Based on the habits they wore, I believe they were part of the Missionaries of Charity.  That is the group founded by Mother Teresa.  I was not the only one to stop and photograph their exit.

Mercenaries of Charity exiting the Liceu Metro stop.
There seemed to be nuns everywhere!
A happy baby.
A street performer dressed as The Mask.
A bike rider and skeleton.
Good ol’ KFC!
An intricate water fountain on La Rambla.
Two people posing near another bike rider and skeleton.
A typical street scene on La Rambla.

 

I ultimately ended up in the “art” area of La Rambla, an area with caricature artists and painters of nearly every variety. I watched one artist ply his trade with spray paint. It was amazing what he did and how quickly he completed the canvas. He began with a white, stretched canvas, and in about five minutes, he had a finished work of art. It looked like a beach sunset scene. Beside him was a box of a dozen or so spray paint cans. He had only one nozzle that he quickly detached from one can and attached to another in a split second. At one point, his cell phone rang. Once he answered the cell phone, he cradled it to his ear, and he was right back to painting. I do not think this was his first day on the job! Some of the detail work, such as the palm trees and birds, he did by hand; other than those, it was spray paint only.

Shortly after that “booth,” I found an artist that did oil paintings on canvas. One of the large pictures reminded me of the art Leslie, and I had just seen at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid; Saint-Honore Street in the Afternoon Effect of Rain by Camille Pissarro (1897). The artist wanted €120 (US$146). I talked him down (the first bartering I have done in Spain) to €80 (US$97), so I bought the painting. It may have been too expensive, but oh well.

The spray paint artist.
The spray paint artist on the phone. Notice his right hand is still moving furiously.
Placing the finishing touches.
Some colorful art for sale on La Rambla.
THE painting!

 

On my way back north on La Rambla, I spotted a small plaza off to the east by about a half-block. I walked into the square and took a seat at a table at la Terrassa del DO for a glass of wine and a tapa. I decided to have patatas bravas, one of my favorites. When I asked the waiter the name of the plaza, he said, “Plaça Reial.” That translates to Royal Square. Like so many other sidewalk cafés, it was delightful and relaxing to sit there and watch the world and the people. To occupy my time, besides the wine and tapas, I took photographs and wrote in my journal.

The patatas bravas had a wonderfully delicious white sauce on top of each potato. The waiter explained that it was a specialty of the hotel, a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and eggs. I had never had a sauce like that before. It was decadent. On top of the white sauce was a dollop of the traditional red sauce commonly used on patatas bravas.

While I say enjoying my patatas bravas and wine, a three-piece musical group came by to entertain anyone in the plaza that would listen. There was an accordion player, a clarinet player, and a drummer. After their song, they went table to table with a hat to collect money. I gave them €3 (US$3.66) for their effort. I found out they were from Romania. One’s name was Steven, one was Tosh, and I did not understand the name of the third member. After they left, I ordered some calamari and another glass of wine. It was very relaxing.

When I finished, I walked back to the hotel and packed, in preparation for my departure the next day.

Mopeds lined up as far as the eye can see.
People sitting around the water fountain at Plaça Reial.
People walking past the cafe at which I sat.
The musicians stopped for a smoke break.
Playing one of their songs.
The three musicians at my table.
Posing for a photograph in front of the fountain in Plaça Reial.
A woman walking a dog and two boys.
Two women posing near my table.