Post European Summer Memories

I am a romantic after all. My new fashion watch keeps the time of Madrid, my last European stop. It is a way to remind me of my summer trip, of the things I would have been doing 7 hours ago. It is not a time piece but a transporter.

Having given up on time, I relied on the time of others, computers and cell phone to keep me on course. It was a rebellious antic against restrictions. A statement that I am free to live the moment and give it my full attention. It began with the ritual of shedding the watch the minute I walked in the door for the weekend not to be restricted by time until Monday morning again.

Free to measure time by the sun, the birds and my stomach, I gave myself the freedom to live life by my senses, to be off the hamster wheel.

Vacation was very much like that. Getting up early and going to bed late where the only things that were routine. Everything else was different. The surroundings, the meals, the walking, the sunning, the bronzing , the relaxing and napping, they were all new ways of living my day. After this first week back my heart is still in Sifnos, Lido, Roma, Granada and Madrid and in the middle of a busy day at the office, I only have to “check the time” to transport myself, if only for a moment, to the freedom of my memories. My European summer vacation.


Extremadura and Back

Toledo is a midieval town with great walls protecting the patchwork buildings with tile roofs and a river surrounding the walls. I expected the knights in shining armor at any turn. The cobblestone streets are a maze of hilly and narrow roads that barely fit the tiny cars but mostly allow for pedestrian traffic.

Some of the local workers were demostrating as they were in Madrid as well. The state of the economy was palpable in the number of remaining “Madrileños” not on coastal holiday. Local TV promoted the fun things to do in the many parks where people were enjoying the sun and the hopes for a bit of cooler weather near the water.

Back in Madrid I hit the road, caught the bus and walked over to the Prado to see the works of Raphael, Velasquez, da Vinci, Rubens , and others before they closed the free evening at the museum. Took the long way back to the hotel and walked recognizing the sights from the night before: Plaza Mayor, la Puerta del Sol, La Gran Via, La Fuente de la Cibeles, Fuente de Neptuno, Puerta de Alcala…

Off to Merida via Trujillo. It was so hot at the Roman theater and amphitheater but quite impressive to see the columns and statues still guarding the stage of the theater before their big annual production.

In Seville I even had time to do some shopping at El Corte Ingles, walked the wide wide sidewalks with painted bikeways, and jumped in the pool to cool off. Sidewalk cafes continue on the list of favorites. And let me tell you that for Spaniards, evening life begins at 10pm.

A ride down the Guadalquivir River and some modern bridge designs surrounded the Torre del Oro, Parque Maria Luisa, la Maestranza and tree-lined avenues.

Cordoba and Granada with their mosques-turned-cathedrals were places I wanted to see since design school. These are unique examples of preserved architecture from the 8th century and beyond. Conquering Spaniards preserved the amazing structures and added expansions and modifications to accommodate the Christian faith.

The evenings included a typical tablao Flamenco and an impromptu performance in the Albaicin neighborhood with more maze-like streets and alleys with a sneak peak at the night view of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens which showed their immense beauty the next day.

Here is where I escaped for a bit more than an hour to catch the Joaquin Sorolla exhibit, Jardines de Luz, at the Palace of Carlos V. I was quite moved to admire his paintings and awed to see his influence in my work, passed down over the instruction I have had by William Kalwick Jr. I must say that recognizing this influence was the most touching part of my trip, especially since Kalwick never forces any style on his students and allows for their individual signature to come through. Now, with great appreciation to Kalwick, I only hope to continue to advance and come closer to Sorolla’s mastery of light and shadow.

The trip back offers rolling hills of olive trees and windmills, of the Quijote-style type though enough wind farms and solar panels abound everywhere I went.

Back in Madrid, I wind down with a stroll to the little market down the way for a quiet evening meal of local tomatoes the size and color of plumbs and a crispy baguette. A relaxing goodbye before the great trip back to Houston after a wonderful though intense and lighting fast tour through Greece, Italy, France and Spain.



Along the Coast

OK, where did we leave off? I got to Venice and took the train and the water bus to Lido. The water was delicious. A nice crowd with live music and gritty brown sand. The town was beautiful and quaint. A nice little row of cafes and people walking down the strand. A nice glass of wine and dinner with a good walk and sight seeing.

Then came Venice! Just beautiful to see those wonderful buildings and alleys where water is the way to transport yourself around town. Walking is the next best thing. Art, art and more art. The art is outdoors for everyone to see. It was almost as amazing as Florence. Ah, florence. This is where there is no need for museums as everything is outdoors. Even my most favorite piece of art: David by Michael Angelo.

The Vatican was great. I saw my other favorite piece of sculpture: The Piedad. The art and history, all very interesting. By night it looks quite impressive but nothing more impressive than Rome! Rome by day or night was incredible. The metro, the buses and walking everywhere. Lots of wine, lots of pasta, and lots of gelato.

Genova, Tuscany but wait! I almost forgot: Monaco and Montecarlo. Quite impressive indeed. I kept hoping to catch 007 driving up in something worthy of parking out front. The Costa Azure is quite a sight.

Barcelona has an exciting collection of more modern architecture. This is where everyone hangs out in the evening. The weather was a bit cooler along this coast from Monaco to Barcelona. Quite enjoyable.

Zaragoza is a nice place and I may want to return. The church and fountain well worth seeing.

I have to tell you that there is a good inventory of solar panels and windmills in all of theses areas. And hotels are very energy efficient with motion detection for light control, flushing options, and management of all the toilletries to control waste. And all power is off when you are not in the room.

Now I am in Madrid touching base with special people. Tomorrow off to the south country where it will once again be warmer. I hope there will be another chance to go to the beach. Gotta get ready for my evening in the town with tapas and wine.

Nos vemos!

A Sea of Saphire Blue

Caught the ferry ship to Sifnos and that was good. The metro ride to the port barely got me there on time to hop on before it set off to sea. The view of Athens from the water was impressive in the early morning but what was most impressive to me was the beautiful shaphire blue color with turquoise veins of the Aegean sea.

The water was calm and the breeze was stupendous. And of course, I got too much sun in that little piece of the trip so rasberry shoulders ache today.

Sifnos was a good choice to spend most of the time at. The cafe tables on the beach were the perfect choice to eat and enjoy refreshments.The sand was thick and stones laced the edge. The water was cool but waves of warmth happily interrupted closer to the beach. The deepness of the blue was a reflection of sea grass while the turquoise water reflected the sand off the shallow surface.

At night the bus trip up to the main town area was a perfect way to see the orange moon with the ocean glistening below. The hilly cobblestone paths and the whitewashed houses were inviting. I wound my way any given path and found a cluster of boisterous cafe courtyards welcoming at every turn.

A cypress lined beach provided welcomed shade on a peaceful cove and the only waves rippled from the cruise ship in the distance. Some gulls and a few Europeans enjoyed the water with me that day.

As I walked back to the dock on my departure the last evening, I stopped to take a final photographe of a stone and whitewashed stairway up the hill. The old man sweeping the landing, who gladly discovered I spoke English and exercised his skills, gave me the most interesting history lesson explaining that those steps were some of the oldest on the island. He told me why there are three churches on the hilltops and how the bells would toll calling the people to the security of their walls when the pirates would come to loot the island.

Off I sailed to a wonderful sunset cruise to Serifos and Milos before enjoying local pastries with sea-washed cherry tomatoes and a wonderful window view. On the top deck, the breeze was refreshing and the view, spectacular.

Maybe I will catch the Parthenon today after all.

Back To The Future Via The Past

Here goes take two. Lesson learned: Save draft as you go.

Chicago was hot. Madrid was too. I got to see windmill and solar panel activity in Spain and in my destination point: Greece.

Athens is certainly summery enough. The city looks like many I have visited. Wide avenues with old trees and buildings that have seen many tenants and businesses in their storefronts.

I got to see Athens at night climbing by the Acroplolis to get a good view from above. Well lit ruins and cobblestone roads with people enjoying the evening, the music, and life.

I got to see the changing of the guard at the parliament building.

I had a veggie pita and frozen Greek yogurt.

The populations seems younger or perhaps it is the tourists. Everyone is friendly and enough people speak English to help. My quick Greek study did not get me far enough into the basics.

Today, Athens by day and final plans on island hopping trek.

On The Road Again

All systems are go as I make a final test on distance posting. We’ll see how easy it really is. You’ll be the judge of that. If you read along my vacation posts and follow my trek, then we’ll know it’s working.

My intent is to give you a peak at my summer adventure and hopefully hear from you.

My bag is packed with the old reliable friend: camera. I have a fresh new sketch pad and a few pencils. I keep pulling out clothing to leave behind and lighten the bag because I like to be able to pick it up myself.

So the adventure begins…

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