Heading Out:

Leave Roanoke

Arrive Madrid
Check in:
One Shot 23 Hotel

Check Out
High Speed Train
 to Seville
Check in:
Americana Hotel




Check Out
Slow Train
to Granada
Check in:
Granada Monjas del Carmen

Check Out
Fly to Barcelona
Check in:
Pulitzer Hotel

Coming Home:
Fly Home

A Thanks to:



Heading Out:
Leaving Roanoke

Our plane flight started in the afternoon, so getting ready this year was a breeze . Dog sitters were lined up and house sitters in place. The total travel time would be around 16 hours - a few connections, but we got really good flight prices.  :) 
Roanoke, Dulles, Brussels, then to Madrid - 12:30 pm arrival their time. (Home is six hours earlier then Spain, so when it is seven pm there, it is one am at home.)   ...   Emailing was interesting to say the least!



Arrive Madrid
Check in: One Shot 23 Hotel

After we arrived in Madrid and before we left the airport, we picked up our "Madrid Card" that we had bought online and would let us into many of the museums and palaces for free bypassing the ticket lines. It was quite a hike to the office inside the airport, but it was a fun first adventure after traveling so long.

Of course we arrived during the biggest, baddest, record breaking, heat wave in the last decade or beyond. Here is a small sampling of the weather reports that were online:

"A heat wave in Spain and Portugal has triggered alerts across the region, with temperatures soaring above 40C [100+ F] and warnings of risks to residents' health. Warnings have been issued in more than 40 provinces in Spain, with a red alert for the southern city of Cordoba. They warned that the exceptional temperatures posed "a very high level of risk for the population". The Spanish cities of Cordoba, Seville and Toledo were some of the worst affected on Monday. Temperatures were expected to reach up to 44C [111 F] in some areas. In Seville, some people jumped off the bridge to swim in the city's Guadalquivir river to try and escape the heat, according to AFP. Spain's Guardia Civil urged people to drink at least three liters (five pints) of water a day and to avoid eating hot meals."


"Madrid, Seville, Granada and Cordoba all set record highs for the month of May on Wednesday."

To be fair, no city we visited topped out over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. But, as Bob kept saying (and it was true). "It is dry heat with low humidity."  ... Until we hit Barcelona ... more on that later! The rule was, stay in the shade and drink your beer. Who can argue with that?!

We settled into the One Shot Hotel that was a perfect
launch pad for our exploration of Madrid. In fact,
 it was so well located that we never even rode the
metro to get to our destinations. Everything seemed
like a short and wonderful walk.

On the left is the mirror in the room.
Just kidding (sort of) ...
It was the mirror facing the bed, but with the remote,
it became our TV!
We needed to stay awake and try to get on Spain time, so we decided to start out easy with a visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum - it was a block from the hotel and we were tired. We were excited to pull out our Madrid Card and get free entry ... however ... it was the one day a month that was "free day" so we didn't need it. (Still was valuable for the next two days.)


The museum was a happy place - slow and peaceful - just what we needed.
We were in awe standing in front of the originals of some of the most recognizable artwork of the late 1800's.

To  the left, Bob is standing in front of the Fuente de Neptuno located in the Plaza Canovas del Castillo.
 It was designed in 1777.

Below is Plaza Mayor - it was started in 1617 and was the site of parades, bullfights, executions, and trials by the Spanish Inquisition. Often, the reigning king and queen would officiate these events in this square.

Come on Bob - keep up!

We headed off toward the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and the Santa Maria La Real de la Almudena Cathedral and Museum.

Come on Bob - we're getting close!

On the way we saw the ruins of the first church dedicated to the same saint. With Spanish style, there was a bronze statue of a man leaning over the rail to look into the glass enclosure. (And you can see by the shine on his pants, many people over the years have passed by and rubbed his tail end.   :)
This is the Cathedral from the street side. The tall spires on the right of the picture is the side facing the Royal Square.

Bob went up to the roof where he could walk all the way around the dome

Around the corner is the crypt that is one of the most beautiful we've seen with over400 columns, each topped with different designs.
(picture on right)
The Cathedral from the Royal Palace side
           The pictures below are the Royal Palace from the Cathedral side and its stairway
While on the balcony of the Cathedral Museum, we saw two young men filming the area to put together as a virtual trip online.


El Mercado de San Miguel was fantastic! It is a simple building from the outside, but houses at least 75 different food stands and little markets. You sort of graze your way through it, eating little bites of about anything you can think of.

One of Amy's favorite things to look at are mosaics ... this museum was filled with galleries of them.






And, yes, it had other remarkable items ...

This is headboard piece from coral and copper made/carved in the 17th century

We lost track of the names of all the churches we saw in Madrid's Old Towne area - but each and every one was was amazing.



I know there is another one just down this way.
Are you still there Bob?
My phone says we have hit 10,000 steps

A wooden support used to surround a cathedral's column while restoration was being done on it




Did someone say food and beer under an umbrella that has mist floating down on you the whole time?
I'm all in!

I think we wore K&K out

And then there was the entertainment from a balcony across the street ...
The video clips need to be added

On the way back to the motel, we saw a giant lizard made out of 4,200 CDs hanging from the side of a building!




Check Out
High Speed Train  to Seville
Check in: Americana Hotel

After checking in, our first stop was the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) where K&K had their picture taken in the courtyard.

The hallway of our "nonsmoking" hotel room.  :) 

And then we went in ... OMG ... the scale of the art and the intensity was amazing - as was the building itself.  The original building was built in 1612 as a monastery.
In 1841, and after many renovations and additions, it opened to the public after the government started shutting down monasteries and convents and pulling all the artwork into a central location. Most of the artwork is Baroque. Recently, scientists have been studying the paintings using the latest technologies (seen below).

This man is working with scanning technology on
this painting to look at and under the paint

Amazing artwork to appreciate!

Quartz nautilus with silver and gold from the 1700s

After another day of more travel and fabulous adventures, we stopped for lunch ... and had a
Spanish serenade to go with our meal.

Cooper Jager (Bro) found our exact location in Spain using a photo we emailed simply using the embedded information from our camera!
That is scary ... and so easy to do.

Newva Square with a statue of King San Fernando


Great buildings on funky little streets

Below is the Seville Cathedral or Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede)

Seville Cathedral was built to demonstrate the city's wealth, as it had become a major trading center in the years after the Reconquista in 1248. In July 1401 it was decided to build a new cathedral. According to local oral tradition, the members of the cathedral chapter said: "Hagamos una Iglesia tan hermosa y tan grandiosa que los que la vieren labrada nos tengan por locos" ("Let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will think we are mad"). Construction began in 1402 and continued until 1506.

Five years after construction ended, in 1511, the dome collapsed and work on the cathedral recommenced.
The dome again collapsed in 1888 [earthquake], and work was still being performed on the dome until at least 1903."



The largest Gothic Cathedral and the third largest church in the world.

To be a cathedral, there must be a bishop in residence, because it has a bishop, it is also the second largest cathedral in the world.


The nave itself is almost 138 feet high.

  This (and below) are photos of Christopher Columbus' Tomb
      (i.e. Cristobal Colon)

The scale is massive ... the entire place is massive as well!

The rest of it was just as magnificent - from the fantastic iron gates, to the gold work wall telling Christ's story, through the Cathedral to the organ pipes.

And in Spanish churches/cathedrals you will always see the "relics" - little pieces of bone and hair from favorite or patron saints.
Real Alcázar de Sevilla
 The Moorish Muslim Royal Palace


Come on Bob! A Moorish Palace!




The mediation pools, tiles, and pierced worked lattices were amazing.


K&K on stairs (see large photo)

The gardens were amazing.
If you click on the image to the right and scan the QR code, you will get more information.


Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold)

Originally. and in Moorish times around 1220., it formed part of the walls that defended the city. In those days a metal chain hung over the river to a matching tower on the other side of the river. The turret was added in 1760. The name of gold or "oro" may have come from the treasures unloaded here from the exploration of the Americas. Over the years, it has been used as a chapel to prison. (p435)

Did I say that Bob wanted to climb the stairs on this one? So I want back across the street to get "the shot".

Unfortunately, I took his camera and forgot to give him mine. Would have loved to see the view from up there!

As the sign to the left says (paraphrased): Five ships and 250 men left from Seville under the the command of Captain Ferdinand Magellan to reach the Spice Islands. Two years later with only one ship and 18 men return to Seville.

However, this is the first time in history ships have circumnavigated the world.

This QR code will give you access to the
digital version of the
Naval Museum Foundation.

Hospital de Venerables Sacerdotes  & Chapel
(Hospital of Venerable Priests)

In 1676, poor and elderly priests were were begging in the streets just to survive. They were homeless and hungry. The church and and leading figures in Seville made contributions to build this hospital. It included a church, refectory, infirmary, and the priests' quarters. It also housed traveling clergymen.

The church was spectacular! While we were there it was absolutely empty giving us time to enjoy the grandeur and escape the heat.



            Carved coral devotional works

Relics of priests and saints




The bead store where we found Rachel's gift.





Check Out
Slow Train to Granada
Check in: Granada Monjas del Carmen


A baby dinosaur coming out of his egg

Carved from a single piece of stone with a brownish-green color and white matrix that formed the shell, this piece was fantastic. So much so, that when we were told it was $800. euro, we were simply going to buy it.

And then we asked what kind of stone it was, so the sales person called the owner, and to our disappointment, the price was marked incorrectly.
It was actually $2,000. euro.

Oh well ...


As we were sitting under an umbrella drinking a beer,
we saw a young Muslim lady doing henna tattoos.

When you are a tourist, you are suppose to do stupid touristy things ... so Amy did.

She squirts it on, you let it dry for an hour, and rinse off the extra goop. Volia!

Should last for 20 to 30 days.


Tip 1: Don't' do this if you have a lot of sunscreen on.
It doesn't take well, fades fast and unevenly, and looks really bad by the second week. It was fun though.

Tip 2: If you are ever thinking about getting a tattoo,
do this first! It was extraordinary how disconcerting it was to be on my arm.
Seemed like every time I saw it I was surprised.  :)

After getting my tattoo and waiting for it to dry, Bob went back to the hotel to take a nap and Amy went shopping. She found a little shop where a man was doing inlay (la teracea). Turns out that he was the son of Antonio Gonzalez Gil who was a nationally recognized master inlayer.

Evidentially, they glue together small rods of different shapes and woods into a long stick of sorts. The use a very fine blade to shear off sections from the ends. These are glued together to form the mosaic patterns.

I bought a beautiful little box for Nathan from here. 

Some of the major shopping streets had canopies strung down the center - a nice relief from the ever present sun and heat. We were also impressed with how clean the Spanish cites were. There were trash cans everywhere and they were emptied often. Here they had just washed down the street.
We were also impressed with the, plazas,
alleyways and side streets.

Many of them had intricate inlayed pebble designs.

La Ahambra
(condensed from the official tour guide we got on arrival, also

Although this area has been inhabited from as early as the Roman period. The start of the Alhambra that we know today began with Muhammad I al-Ahmar from
1237-1273. Construction continued throughout the Nasrid Dynasty rule (1237-1492). The Nasrid dynasty was the last Muslim dynasty to rule Spain.

On January 2, 1492, the Alhambra was handed over to the Catholic Monarchs when they overthrew the Muslim regime. Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, conducted extensive repairs and built the Royal House. The Royal Palace was added as the Alhambra continued to grow in size and beauty. 

It is said that the Comares Tower is where Christopher Columbus convinced the Catholic Monarchs to sponsor his travel to the West Indies
(which lead to discovering America on October 12th 1492). It was the Queen that gave up her jewelry to finance the trip. 

During the 18th century, academicians were conducting planimetric studies of the area (a fancy way to say developing 2 dimensional maps).

The Muslims loved their steam baths.
They used them in purification rituals and for hygiene. The bathes were topped with large domes with star shaped pierced vents.


The domes from the outside

The attention to detail in all the work was unbelievable.

We saw a lot of cats - here is one heading off. See how he stays close to the building and out of the sun? Smart cat.

There she goes again!

The Charles V Palace was built for the Emperor to include all the comforts for the royal family. It was completed in 1527.

The columns of natural stone conglomerates were amazing.

The Wine Gate
Suppose to be one of the oldest constructions, it could date to the mid 1200s. The name is probably a mistake in spelling in the original Arabic.
The pierced and lattice work throughout the Alhambra was spectacular - and everywhere.

Tiled floors in "Bob's colors"
Below is the Palace of the Lions (Palacio de los Leones) - the private chambers of Mohammed V's royal family.
In the center is the Fountain of Lions - 12 marble lions, each pouring water from its mouth.  Lovely!
Around the fountain are different halls and rooms that showcase the ornate Muslim columns and walls. 
Behind the door to the left is where Washington Irving stayed when her wrote the book Tales of the Alhambra in1829. It is now an e-book and a very good read.

To the right is a view overlooking Granada.

We continued on going to the top of some areas.
In the heat, neither of us were willing to climb the towers - the views from our area were just fine.
Water flowed almost everywhere. The steps to the left have a water "canal" down the sides - it constantly brings water from the Royal Water Cannel. 

The fountain to the right has three dolphins with boys "riding" two of them.


This was quite a hike from the main part of Alhambra, but well worth it. It was constructed as the recreation area for the Kings of Granada.
These spaces, palaces, and gardens allowed them to escape from the official routines.

Come on Bob!

Looking back to Alhambra

The church - amazing detail on the walls on the outside!

After walking back to Alhambra proper, we walked down the (big) hill and through the exit gate at the left. 

Then it was a short walk (down hill, thank goodness)
to our hotel.

The Cathedral of Granada or
The Cathedral of Incarnation

It was started in 1523 on the site of an ancient mosque after the conquest of Granada.
As usual, the scale and beauty amazing.

"Ooh ... another cathedral!"




Royal Chapel (Cappilla Real)

 Around the corner from the Cathedral is the Royal Chapel which is the final resting place of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. It was started in 1506 and finished in 1521. They were responsible for uniting the Spanish people under one monarchy and linking the Spain to numerous neighboring countries through the marriage of their children. They also gave Columbus the charter to go west, and after the discovery of America, they world-wide expansion of Spain was sealed.

Two small lions rest at the their feet to symbolize loyalty and vigilance.
Beside them is the sculpture of Joanna I and Philip I, their heirs and successors to the throne. He was known as Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad. We were not allowed to take pictures so the actual carvings and tomb are from the Internet. Their bodies lay in small, simple caskets under the carved sculptures.

Spain doesn't open until 10:00 am.
So, this morning and before we could start our touring, we decided to walk up the streets of the Albaicin (the old Arab quarter).
We stopped at the Iglesia de Santa Anna (not open, but pretty from the outside), then continued on.
There were wonderful views of Alhambra from the street below.



The official name for this plaza is
Plaza Isabel la Catolica,
however the Spaniards call it La Plaza de Colon (Columbus Square).

The statue was commissioned in 1892 to commemorate the 4th centennial of the discovery of America.

It depicts Queen Isabella and Columbus with the
signed charter for him to set sail.


The back reads,
Isabel la Catolica
 proposiciones de Colon
en la Real de Santa Fe".

Santa Fe was a nearby city where Isabella I of Castile and the Catholic Monarchs signed the "Capitulations of Santa Fe" that outlined the who got what if the adventure was successful.

Ultimately, this document was signed because the Queen was putting up the money, the church had nothing to lose, and if successful, much to gain. The charter was then drawn up and given to Columbus.

Amy loved the detail, including the back end of the Queen's pillow spilling out of her throne.

Mercadode Artesania

The Alcaiceria (old Arab market) was destroyed by fire in 1843.
Today it is a grand place to shop and look around.
Indeed, we bought Jenny's new (hopefully successful)
 rayon pants here.








Check Out
Fly to Barcelona
Check in: Pulitzer Hotel


Monument a Colom (Columbus)

This 200 foot monument marks the spot Columbus stepped on dry land after returning from the Americas with six Caribbean Indians.

Okay, so this was the day of fortunate mistakes. We were headed to another part of town, but got off on the wrong metro stop. So, we decided to just head down to the monument where Columbus eternally points out to sea.

The big building to the right is the Naval Museum - we didn't have time to visit, but Thelma has always wanted to go.

Then, realizing the time and when the next church would close, we started off in that direction on foot.

Needless to say, the heat wave was still entrenched in Spain, but in Barcelona, the humidity was ever present. It felt much hotter - more like a very hot day in
mid-August at home.

"Really, Bob? You can't walk faster?
I see a big church!"
Igesia Par al de Saint Maria Del Mar

Amy had read "The Cathedral by the Sea" by Ildefonso Falcones which is a historical fiction book/ebook about this church. Bob said she literally jumped up and down
(a few times) on entry.

Everything in the building of the church became so real. The book itself is a bit simplistic in the read, but the story and characters are well worth it (especially if
you will be standing on the grounds and in the building it describes).

It took just 55 years to build using money donated by the local merchants and the free labor/sweat of the commoner. It was "the church of the people" and the city's favorite.


The 15th to 18th centuries added stained glass windows to some of the upper windows.
The first cornerstone was laid in 1329.
The last circular keystone was put in place on November 3, 1383.

Vaulted ceilings
A fire was set inside the church during Spain's Civil War in 1936, resulting in the destruction of the baroque alter and all
the images and archives.
The fire burned for eleven days.

Fortunately, the fire did not climb to the top of the church. Afterwards, the restoration tended toward a more modest and spare decor.

It is lovely.

As we rushed in to see the church before it closed, we were asked if we would like to buy a ticket to the roof tour that would start in a few minutes as well.

Well ... let me think ... Oh Yeah!

The guide was amazing! She was enthusiastic, spoke English with only a slight accent, and was a history PhD candidate (okay, in WWII, but whatever).

We got to see a spectacular view of Barcelona as we traversed the entire roof

We are not sure that this photo from the outside is of the famed Rose Window from 1459, but stained glass was installed when the economy was strong and funding was available.
The story she told us of the bells was delightful. When put in place, each was given a name. As they wore out over the course of as many as a hundred years, they were retired and buried with full
funeral ceremony.

To the right is the Royal Chapel bell tower. It was reserved for the royal family and upper class to worship in. She also told us that those folks would build permanent
bridges between their buildings so they
did not have to walk on the dirty streets.
(Think what it would have been like
in the 14th century!)

Royal Cathedral bell tower, top and distant

The Barcelona Cathedral (The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia)

This cathedral started construction in 1298 and was completely finished by the mid 1400s. Over 150 years of work. Saint Eulalia's remains are interred here in the tombs.

The choir stalls have the symbols for "The Order of the Golden Fleece" which had as members the most exalted knights. Some say the order's symbol was created by the founder who was also a very wealthy merchant dealing in the wool trade, while others say it was his love of Jason in the Greek mythologies that sparked the name.
A complete history of this order can be seen here.

A group of students were performing as we arrived. Ethereal. It was interesting to see the TV monitors - a good indication of the size of the columns.

We went up to the roof
(by elevator!) to see what we could see.

 There was a series of catwalks
across the top.

This walkway was not for Amy.
Bob loved it though.

The cloister area surrounds
The Well of the Geese which always contains 13 geese - the age at which Saint Eulalia was said to be martyred.

The Museum of History
Museu d'Historia de Barcelona

Under the Museum of History and Plaza del Rei is an extensive city of Roman ruins. 

The city has all the things one would expect - from distilleries, to grain rooms,
to homes and shops.

4,000 sq. meters is 43,055 sq. ft
- just under the size of a football field.

For dinner, Bob had razor clams - one of Amy's favorite shells to work in her art.

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

This was Antoni Gaudi's life time work. In 1883, he took over the design and build of this cathedral. He worked on it for 43 years until his death in 1926. Around 1914, Gaudi became so engrossed in the church and its modernistic style, he became somewhat of a hermit sleeping in a small workshop and working constantly.

Some estimate "completion" (if there is such a thing) to occur in or around 2030 or later. Making the construction period 148 years from the first stone laid in 1882.

Each of the outside facades have their own styles - modern, more classic, and all beautiful. It is well worth looking at this site.
The stained glass windows
were amazing

As were the height and carvings. The columns were interesting in that they resembled tree trunks rather then
"straight columns" to the ceiling.

Bob was impressed with the Jesus figure that looked like it was under canopy.
This is the workshop where detailed future designs are 3D printed and or carved.

We rode an elevator up to the Passion Tower The facade faces West and was started in 1954.

There is no cathedral in the world without math, geometry, vision, and knowledge.
These are some of the ways the designers and builders envisioned how their structures would be built.

For more on the geometry and naturalistic properties of this cathedral, click here.


Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia
(below the main structure)

The first area built or planned for the entire cathedral was this chapel below the entire structure. It is now used to hold mass and visit Guadi's grave/crypt.

Gaudí was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt below the Sagrada Familia.
 It is a lovely nave with one of the most beautiful carved Madonna and child figures we have seen.
Yes, we lit a real candle and paused for reflection on those loved and those lost once again.
So many churches and cathedrals now have electronic candles that turn on when you put your donation in ... it is just not the same feeling as a real candle.  :(


Park Guell

We had seen cathedrals, monuments, and Whole city fortresses ... we needed a little something different. So, on our last day in Barcelona, we decided to go a bit further a field and visit Park Guell.

The long and short of the story is that entrepreneur Eusebi Guell and Antoni Gaudi worked together to create Park Guell.  Started around 1900, the "park" was going to be a residential area. But after some time, it became a public park and one of the greatest of its modernistic style.

It is said to be the longest mosaic park bench in the world - although we found no reference at the Guinness World of Records website.

Still, it was very impressive!  




A little covered that makes a cone to put over your stemmed wine glass to make it into a little lamp using battery operated
tea-lights. Cool idea!



Our final stop before going to the hotel then home was at Mercat de Sant Josep
popularly known as La Boqueria.

It is said to be the most colorful food market in Barcelona. We got beautiful strawberries for a snack before boarding the plane at 3:00 in the morning for home!
Watching the people on Las Ramblas
Our last day in Barcelona, much less Spain (sigh).
It is the most famous pedestrian street down the major shopping area. It has little
bars/tapas on the sides and in the center, shops, vendors, and so much personality!
The pavers create this lovely wave (completely flat when walking), but looked at
from an angle it seems to have ridges and valleys. Quite the optical illusion!




Coming Home:
Fly home
  We basically traveled for 24 hours to get home. The flights were the best we could get with the least cost involved. We had a layover in Zurich for over three hours. Our time sense was off - we needed a burger!

... And we got one ...

Two cheese burgers, two beers, two baskets of chips =
$70.00 dollars USD!!!
(Could have saved $10 without the cheese ... what the heck - add it on!)

Actually, all our flights were smooth and happy compared to previous years with their trials, tribulations, and stories once home.




A personal, heart-felt thanks to those people that support us and ours at home and while we travel:

Mom   - always sends us off with love and emails most every day
 Jenny & Scott   - most beautiful sister and brother-in-law one could ask for
Cooper & his Family   - it is hard to do the long distance check-in thing, they master this
Ellen   - deepest friend and infinite help and support to mom and us
Thelma   - a happy camper that loves pimento stuffed green olives as much as mom
Lisa   - understands, comfortable, fun, and funny ... a warm fuzzy in life
Sarah   - a long time friend that also helps with cleaning and so much more
And, of course, Prestige Pet-Sitting   - a fantastic pet sitting agency! We have used them for years. They have come through for us when we have been stuck for days overseas with delayed or cancelled flights and when storms have ripped through our home town and we aren't there.





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