Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Long Point - spring chores 2016

I am very thankful for the young help that spent the weekend working on the spring chores. Christine, Jason, Kristen and Noah slaved on Saturday taking out the posts and boards that protect the cottage from the winter storms. I had already taken out the snow fence.
Miniature cliffs were left.
The bulldozer had taken one swipe down the walkway to assist in the digging out process.
Saturday afternoon and Sunday was spent enjoying the sun as it was a fabulous weekend. The first wine on the deck, the first barefoot walk on the beach, the first sunburn of the season ....
They also helped bring out some of the heavier deck furniture.
Now, 2 days later, the walkway is bulldozed smooth.
Most people have their bulldozing completed, well before the April 30 deadline.
With handy driftwood seats near the waters edge.
Daffodils, full size and ..
miniature, blooming in my garden.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Spain 2016 - return home

I found while in the cities that I tend to travel like I did when backpacking, 35 years ago, very frugally, most of the time. So, staying in cheap hotels, eating cheap and picnicing, walking most places. Of course, George and I didn't change those patterns much when we traveled. Maybe a bit more on hotels, bit more on food and drink, but not much. The trip was about "seeing and doing" and sleeping and eating could be done at home. The money was spent on museum entrance fees and some on bus or subway to get around. We tended to find "locals" places to eat and drink.
My cheap hotel in Seville was something I might have stayed in when backpacking but even George would have wondered whether it was cheap enough for the tiny room and noisy location. The hotel in Madrid (about the same price) was a perfect "George" hotel. It was close to everything, relatively quiet, clean, quite roomy and had great staff.
My splurge was that I took a taxi to the airport. I could have dragged my rolly suitcase down the street to the train station and taken the airport bus (for 5 Euro) but I took the stress free way (for 30 Euro). It was worth it. It was entertainment of the highest quality. Every time  the traffic was backed up my taxi driver would head of in a totally different direction and try another route. He would swerve and deek and generally get honked at. He would mutter under his breathe (even though early on he established that I didn't have much Spanish) and complain to me in Spanish. He didn't have much English. Once we got out of the maze of one way streets that is central Madrid, the highways were pretty clear and it wasn't nearly as much fun. However, without all those buildings around, I could see that Madrid has mountains quite close and they were snow capped, which explained the cool wind sometimes.
My flight Madrid to Heathrow was uneventful and I got upgraded to "economy plus" on my flight to Toronto which was rather nice. Rather than "would you like the beef or the fish" I got a little menu card with a description. I chose the breaded haddock with basil mashed potatoes, roast red pepper, pea pods and fennel with lobster sauce. More legroom, reclining seats, lots of offers of drinks and snacks, it was a relaxing end to the trip.
Simon picked me up and drove me home. Very kind but not nearly as entertaining as the drive at the beginning of my day.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Spain 2016 - Madrid, Prado and Plaza Mayor.

I had a traditional Spanish breakfast today. Tostadas may be served with olive oil (instead of butter) or with tomate as this was. I was then passed olive oil and salt in case I wanted to add it. The tomate is literally mushed tomato, not quite pureed consistency, but almost. Once you get around the idea that it is not jam, therefor not sweet, it is rather a nice breakfast.
I walked down to Museo National del Prado (really know the way now inspite of the often confusing streets, no grid pattern here) and was there just before 10 when it was to open.
The photo above is of the imposing front where you buy your ticket but as I already had a ticket I lined up at the, less interesting looking,  Jeronimus Entrada.
I took this for Pat, the whole place is being converted to LED lighting.
I was surprised to discover that you were not allowed to take any pictures, not even sin flash, or of the sculptures, or of the building itself - just no photos period! There were staff in every room to police this, though it wasn't unusual to see people sneaking a quick photo using their phone.

I anticipated being disappointed in the Prado, one of the reasons I had left it 'til the last day, I thought I would just skip out and do something else if I didn't like it. I am happy to say I enjoyed it. I wish I could have taken pictures, there are so many paintings and sculptures I would like to be able to look at again. I had thought it would be mostly old, dark, religious paintings, sombre, unremarkable, uninspiring. Oh yes, there were some of those, especially on the top floor but there were also paintings that were amazing, brilliant (in execution and colour) and the Prado did an excellent job with their labels of each picture. Each area had an explanation about the time period and genre, artists that were prevalent, their influences, in Spanish and English. Most of the paintings also had Spanish and English information, not just title, date and artist (like the other two museums) but also a comment on the subject matter (description of the myth or the location or the family portrayed) and on how the piece came to be at the Prado (commissioned by x, inherited or purchased by y etc etc). Often those explanations were as interesting as the piece of work itself and all were written clearly and concisely (no artistic lingo).
I was surprised by how bright and colourful the paintings were and looked up "Prado restoration work"when I got back:
"One of the main roles of the Prado Museum is to guarantee the protection and conservation of the items of Spanish historical heritage that are entrusted to it.   Much of this work is carried out by the museum's Restoration Division, which consists of 31 experts from various cross-disciplinary departments. Their combined work enables preventive conservation, study and analysis, as well as restoration of the works when necessary." from the Prado Museum Restoration Workshop website.

High points: a sculpture, in stone,of a woman's head in a veil (even examining it, it amazed me that the artist had achieved this). The Dauphin's Treasure which was a collection of crystal and precious stone plates, goblets, jugs etc. Goya's "cartoons", to be used to create tapestries. A series of night paintings by Georges La Tour in which the only light source was a candle or a brazier. I found that I loved Rubens and the Prado has lots of his.
The Prado is huge and I admit I did some "walk through"s but still spent about 3 hours there and then out into the sunshine (still cool though). Ate a picnic outside listening to a street musician and watching people interact with a street performer dressed as the Mad Hatter, complete with a mouse in a tea cup.
On the first evening I was here I went to Plaza Mayor and the San Miguel market but my camera battery had quit so I decided to go back to get some pictures.
I had thought that it would just be a big plaza but it is enclosed and has lots of these entrances off the surrounding streets.
Its a major tourist destination and has a large tourist office, under the towers to the right, which I visited my first night.
One of the things the guidebooks say you should do, in Madrid, is have an overpriced drink at one of the restaurants. So I did, while sketching some impressions. (4 Euro for a glass of wine, 3Euro for plain water!)
Phillip III saw its completion in 1790 after fires destroyed it, so its his statue in the centre.
Fun to watch the tourist action. These guys keep a hold of the strings on their blankets and can pick them up and take off with the big bag over their shoulders if they spot the police coming to chase them off.
You can buy souvenirs in the colourful shops in the arcades.

Get your picture taken as a flamenco dancer or a matador.
Buy a painting or get a caricature done.
Or chase bubbles.
Out the arch opposite the one I had come in is
This is the last metal market building remaining in Madrid (2 others have been demolished)

Although there are a few produce vendors
it is basically a tapas market with
about 30 vendors selling tapas and pinchos
of a great variety.

When I was here on Sunday, at about 5:30, I couldn't move in the place
let alone take pictures.
Today, Wednesday, at about 3, there were people eating but room to move around
and take pictures.
Unfortunately I wasn't
or thirsty, but it really is a fun place to visit.
Back out of the market and going around the outside of the plaza, to go back in at another entrance, I realized that it is on a hill and there are restaurants and bars on the outside that are in the basements of the buildings on the inside.
Popped back into Plaza Mayor and then out the other side as I had stayed within a certain area for the last 3 days and I thought I should see what other parts of Madrid were like.
Occasional statues
and fountains.
I found the shopping district  and
Puerto del Sol, Madrid's "Time Square" with it's Tio Pepe sign.
The theatre is having a production of Numancia written by Miguel de Cervantes (of Don Quixote fame) as he died in April 1616.
By now I was getting hungry so found the restaurant that I ate at last night and had some more pinchos.
Had some more Salmorejo (because it is delicious) then the one in the front is crab salad with little crackers and smoked salmon. I didn't eat the bun but the inside was carmelized onions on goat cheese on chicken.
Finished off with an egg salady thing with shrimp on top and a strawberry cheesecake. Glass of Rioja of course.
Now its home to blog, pack and book my seat for tomorrows flight home.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Spain 2016 - Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Parque de el Retiro

I woke to blue skies this morning even though there was more rain in the forecast (it didn't materialize). Decided on a full desayuno this morning and had eggs, bacon, toast and coffee to fuel me for another day of art.
Madrid isn't like Barcelona architecturally, generally it seems to take itself very seriously (it is the Capitol after all) but every now and then there is a striking building. This one is one Plaza Santo Ana just behind my hotel and on the way down to the galleries.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is a pretty unobtrusive building itself. Its the low brown one to the right of the white Palace Hotel.
Takes its flowers seriously though.
My Art Pass got me into the main gallery which is a private collection, acquired from the Thyssen-Bornemisza family by the Spanish State. I had to pay extra to see the Wyeth exhibit but I am glad I did, I loved it.
So, just like yesterday, I am going to post some of the pictures that interested me, in no logical or orderly fashion.
I started on the lowest floor which is the most modern paintings (they advise you to work from the top down, oldest to newest, oh well). This is "Position of mobile graphics Element 1".Frantisek Kupka, 1912-13.
"Study for the language of verticals". Frantisek Kupka, 1911. It wasn't until right now, posting them, that I realized they were by the same artist. I can see a future rug in this one.
There were plenty of famous artists represented. This is a detail from "Dream caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate a second before waking up". Salvador Dali. 1944.
"Solitary and Conjugal trees". Max Ernst. 1942.
I love this ultra realistic style. "People's Flowers". Richard Estes. 1971. I had more trouble in this gallery with glare. I am not sure if it was because there was a lot of natural light coming in from above or because of the way they were lit artificially but I often found it difficult to get a picture without glare off the glass or oils.
Another Richard Estes. "Telephone Booths". 1967
Next floor up and I am into the older stuff. Love the angles and how bright the church is in the background. "Church Interior" Peeter Neeffs 1, 1615-16.
In this detail you can just see the shadow where he decided to put the dog farther to the right. "The interior of the Burgomasters' Council Chamber in the Amsterdam Town Hall".Pieter Hendricksz de Hooch. 1661-70.
The rooms were organized so that all of one genre and time period was together ie landscapes or portraits.  "Mountain landscape with a castle". Roelandt Savery 1609.
Unlike Reine Sophia, where all the walls were white, here they were a sort of ochre colour, easier on the eyes.
"Woman with a Parasol in a garden". Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 1873
I am reading a book, a novel, about Georgia O'Keefe, (by Dawn Tripp) and last night I was reading about the period of time she spent in New York. This is "New York with moon" Georgia O'Keefe. 1925.
Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Kadinsky I will spare you.
This reminded me of the waves that form as we sail out of Port Dover. "The "Martha McKeen" of Wellfleet". Edward Hopper. 1944.
Never seen anything like this by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec before. "The Jockeys". 1882.
"Ships". Lyonel Feininger. 1917.
On the top floor it was a lot of dark, religious paintings. Some Dutch and Flemish, mostly dark landscapes and portraits. I pretty well did a walk through.
But just look at the expression on this bulls face; licking his lips, drooling. Its a detail from "The rape of Europa". Simon Vouet. 1640.
Downstairs again I paid to go into the temporary exhibit "Wheyth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio." Andrew Wyeth was the son of a renown illustrator and Jamie was his son. Each were famous artists in their own right and this was an examination of their styles and philosophies. Both believed that you had to know your subject and usually painted landscapes, people or animals close to them. Jamie liked to paint things a little more unusual. He did a series of portraits of Andy Warhol and a series in which the seven deadly sins were illustrated using seagulls.
They lived and worked in Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania and spent every summer painting on Monhegan Island in Maine. Heather, Don, Judy and I were there last fall. Thomaston, where we stayed, was even on the map on the wall of the gallery.
I spent 3 hours in this one and I was all art galleried out. Not wanting to spend any more time indoors I walked to Parque de el Retiro which is a huge park on the other side of the Prado.
There are lots of entrances, all with impressive gates.
The area I first walked into was manicured and
and sculptured. I sat on a bench near here, in the sun, and ate my granola bar, apple and some dates. It was cooler than it has been in southern Spain but still nice enough to sit outside.
Off the main paths are little pathways and mature trees, almost woodland in some areas.
Statue where a number of paths intersect called "Angel Caido" (The fallen angel)
Nasty looking creatures around the base.
I sat and had a glass of wine and sketched him.

Rather fun, the statue itself, in such bright sunlight, was basically black and white.
I knew there were supposed to be some buildings in the park and I had been walking around for about an hour with no sign of them (literally; there were no signposts anywhere) so I asked the waiter who smiled and pointed in a direction and gestured that it was sort of a wriggly route. No kidding!
Following that wriggly route I found the Palacio de Cristal.
Sleeping duck. I had to sneak in a bird picture.
They have free exhibitions here but unfortunately they were just dismantling the last one (taking down hanging bones??) and the next one doesn't start for a few days. Beautiful tile, metal and glass building though.
The Palacio de Valazquez was open and had a free art exhibit but it was weird and I really didn't get it.
I was on a roll now; I found the Monumento Alphonso XII
with lots of young people sunning themselves and rowing on the man made lake. This is the first light hearted thing I have found in Madrid. In the park there have been a lot of serious runners and people walking their dogs (intent on their phones) but here there was laughter and splashing and calling out to each other.
The lions are not amused. I wonder if Alphonso, up so high on his horse, has a serious look or not.
When I had the tour of the bullring in Seville one of the things the tour guide talked about was the training to be a bullfighter. She said that before ever dealing with a live animal, trainees use a pair of horns and replicate the bulls movements in practice sessions. They have to think like the bull and they have to get used to the very heavy weight of the cape.
Finding my way out of the park I came across 3 guys, practicing.
It looks like a heavy cape.
This shot is for Christine. Madrid has Car2go.
By now it was about 5 and I was dragging. I again decided to forget trying to keep to the Spanish meal schedule (I couldn't wait til 8 to eat) and found a place for supper.
These are Pinchos, Northern Spain's answer to Tapas. Aimee and I got into them in Barcelona last year. They are set out on the bar and you choose. They are all the same price and the waiter just counts the number of sticks on your plate to know what you owe.
I started with these. The one in the cup is Samorejo a tomato, garlic, olive oil and bread, pureed, cold soup. This one had a cherry tomato and slice of ham stuck in it. The nearest one is smoked salmon, mayonnaise and potato on bread with grilled red pepper and anchovies on top. The other is an egg, mayonnaise and lime mixture on bread topped with very thinly sliced peppers and onion that has been marinated in something delicious that I couldn't identify. I had another smoked salmon one and a dessert one (it was sort of a cross between a brownie and a butter tart, square) With a glass of wine it cost me under 8 Euro. (less than $12)