Dogs Fly, Books, Unsung Art, Vistas, Dolphins in Los Angeles! by da-AL


Having people stay over is the best time to get to know my sprawling Los Angeles better! This month we had the bonanza of double guests. I’m kicking myself (metaphorically) for botching photos of some family, so please envision cheery faces between all these shots…

Pasadena’s lovely Norton Simon Museum (of art), is modestly sized yet dense with treasures! Pablo Picasso apparently made the women in his life miserable, which may explain why this one finds sweet refuge in her book…

Woman with a Book, 1932, Pablo Picasso of Spain, oil on canvas.

I knew about Edgar Degas’ captivating ballerina sculptures (the Norton also features some of those), but not that he created atmospheric monotypes…

Autumn Landscape (L’Estérel),1890, Edgar Degas of France, monotype in oil colors on heavy cream-colored laid paper.

Unsung artists sing out! There’s a special place in my heart for ‘unknown’ artists, given my current status as a not-yet-published novelist. In this work by a lesser-known painter, this hat maker might be more content reading a book, no?…

The Milliner by Valere De Mari of the U.S., 1917, pastel on wove sketch pad paper.

Reading Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winner “The Goldfinch,” which sets an amazing portrait of a little bird at its core, put me in the mood for Dutch art. Unknown artist(s?) committed these masterly tulips to paper for a tulpenboek, a.k.a. a humble flower catalog…

Branson, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.
Root en Geel van Katolikn, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.

Animal lovers, join me in a swoon at this visual paean to dogs! Note the proud master’s coat of arms on the collar, his ‘country house’ in the background…

Aldrovandi Dog, c. 1625, Giovanni Francesco Barbiere (a.k.a. Guercino) of Italy, oil on canvas.

Griffith Park is as wonderful for the park itself as it is for the views. You met this part of my family first here

My year ‘round Valentine and moi in front, Angela and Kim in back, with the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair, and grand Los Angeles behind us.

Our doggie barely touched the ground, she had that much fun at Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach. Thank you, Justin, for your many many good works, including getting the city to okay this canine paradise. As for dolphins, dear reader, your imagination is needed — every dang many times those amazing creatures surfaced only yards from us, they eluded my photography. All the same, they were breathtaking!!!!!…

See the joyous dog in flight, visualize the dolphins cavorting, ignore the oil rigs in the background…

What sight do you most wish you could have photographed?

Part 3: Purringly Stunning Sydney, Australia with Video by da-AL


Beaches, cats, tango, and theater — that’s how our extraordinary trip came to a marvelous close.

Relaxing under a rock.

Our last little bit of holiday was spent admiring Sydney’s shore. The weather was gusty and somewhat chilly for us sunny-never-a-cloud Los Angeles folks — so when one of us decided it was time for a siesta, we gathered ourselves under some rocks. The view of the sky was terrific…

Australia’s beaches are stunning.

Bondi Beach is ultra-popular, though I doubt any of Australia’s shoreline isn’t stunning. Did you know that Australia has surf life-saving clubs?…

Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club.

Our bed and breakfast hostess, Belinda Selway (you can reach her at: Belinda at ArtbyDesign dot net dot AU), revealed heroic patience when she tolerated my extreme egg fussiness and made me the b-e-s-t poached egg ever — I’ve yet to risk another even cooked by me! Under her roof, we admired great art and sorted out romances. She offered us useful tips for where and how to enjoy the short remainder of our stay.

Belinda and her cat are the best!

Plus, she shared her charming cat. Don’t be fooled by those sweet feline eyes — pretty kitty is quite the mouser. And her purring is hypnotizing…

We were so busy having fun that we forgot to take more photos…

  1. Many sincere thanks to the supremely likable Tango Embrace Australia dance group for being so kind that they asked one of their members to give us a ride. Oh, how I wish I remember that charitable dancing driver’s name. Better, however, that I admit my bad manners than allow her to think we don’t continue to be grateful for her generosity and that we much enjoyed our chat with her!
  2. At the Sydney Opera House, we bought same-day tickets to their theater and got front row seats to an outstanding show — for less than we’d have paid for a half-decent dinner! We also had a scrumptious splurge meal on their patio that was served by a waiter who was bionic, a great entertainer, and professional. Alas, another Sydneysider who I’d like to thank more personally but whose name eludes me…

This great trip started with New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. In Australia, we met terrific family in Gold Coast / observed these exciting birds — and these too / hiked breathtaking views / enjoyed delicious eats at the beach / saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / enjoyed a bit of the beauty and beasts of Brisbane / and in Sydney we enjoyed these sights and this art, as well as what you just saw in this post…

How loud does your cat purr?

Beach Eats at Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL


My new Gold Coast pal!

The city of Gold Coast is part of the Australian state of Queensland. Visitors flock there as much for its sunny subtropical temps as for its surfing beaches, architecture, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland.

We stopped there to visit wonderful relatives, a cousin my husband hadn’t seen since he was a child, along with her marvelous family who we met for the first time. Little did we know, after seeing New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — that Australia also had so much to offer! Starting with Tai Chi in Gold Coast, birds of Australia Part 1 and Part 2great Gold Coast views, some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, fun with Rita Rigby, the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoying Sydney this much and that much.

From any angle, the city skyline to Gold Coast is wonderful…

Such stunning scenery (including my honey!).
Khashayar rests after a shoreline bike ride with Cousin Mark.

All the food we ate in Australia was tasty! For instance, we enjoyed an exceptional meal on the beach, at Rick Shores’ Restaurant. In addition, we were given great service everywhere. Here’s the menu just to give you an idea of prices (here’s a link for exchange rates) — keep in mind that prices pretty much always include sales tax and that tipping is not customary there…

This fine dining was worth the splurge.
Page 2 of Rick Shores Restaurant menu.
Gold Coast beach behind our dear family.
The food looked (and tasted!) too good to wait to snap photos until after we’d dug in.

Does your city have a mascot?

Part 4: Do Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Cats Pray? VIDEO by da-AL


It's magical how Wifi stands and waves his paws!... It’s magical how WiFi stands and waves his paws!

The marvels of Spain, too numerous to count (after all, my soon-to-be self-published novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) — were rendered all the more marvelous thanks to our kind hostess Henrietta Fielden (henriettafielden@gmail.com).

Her flat in Madrid is located within a theater building that’s over a hundred years old. Everything there is gorgeous, starting with the stairwell…

Madrid, Spain, stairwell skylight. Going up is lovely…
Madrid, Spain, stairwell. And so is going down…

…and ending with dear Henrietta herself! Starting each day at her table was a delight not merely because her breakfast spreads were feasts both eyes and tummy — she’s also fun and interesting to chat with, no matter how our sleepy bodies protested at waking early for more sighseeing …

Breakfast with hostess Henrietta Fielden and da-AL's husband.

…moreover, her little Wifi kitty could easily be a professional stand-er! According to Henrietta, he’s merited quite a few Japanese YouTube viewers since she hosted guests from there.

My husband and I are fortunate to have met WiFi’s equally handsome and charming brother. Alas, WiFi’s performance made me forget to photograph his brother who has since passed away, his life far too short.

When I uploaded this short video of WiFi to my YouTube channel, Henrietta contributed this enlightening note, “There’s my WiFi! To potential fans, I should let you know he lacks discrimination. He will do this to a bare wall sometimes, too. So perhaps it is a kind of praying…”

Both of them humored my taking many pictures of them to share with you…

Henrietta and Wifi cuddling.

In the end, it’s the kindness of the people I meet on a trip that most touch my heart.

Our trip included:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz, France

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid — Part 1Part 2Part 3 — this  post (Part 4)

What magic have you experienced on a vacation?

Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Flamenco by da-AL


Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya. Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya.

My father was from Spain, so even though I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., the music of my childhood was solely European classical and flamenco. That’s why my upcoming novel is named, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and here flamenco my marvelous visit to Madrid merits a post of its own.

When it comes to flamenco, Seville gets all of the attention. Madrid’s Casa Patas, however, was amazing!!! My photos turned out awful — instead, here’s someone else’s video from another show. Each night features different performers. As terrific as these young girls are — the adult performers were even better!!!

How I wish young girls everywhere knew that beauty has little to do with popularity, wealth, youth, and plastic surgery. If only every single one of them was encouraged to artistically express unrestrained exuberance, anger, strength, fury, humor, and passion …

The beauty of flamenco is very different from that of Hollywood…

All-time flamenco goddess, Carmen Amaya

Flamenco star of today, Sara Baras…

Next, in Part 4, Madrid hostess par excellence Henrietta Fielden, her home, and her pets — all delightful enough to merit a separate post and a video!

Other posts about our memorable vacation:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid, Spain — Part 1Part 2 — this post (Part 3) — Part 4

Have you ever been enchanted by a country’s special dance?

Part 2: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Parks, Prado, and Sofia by da-AL


Madrid is such a jam-packed marvel that it deserves more than one post. Spacious parks abound. Here I posed at one that displayed Don Quixote and his devoted Sancho Panza

da-AL stands beside statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at park in Madrid Thank goodness these aren’t the kinds of horses that need to be swept up after.

We could have spent way more than just a day at the Prado Museum, regarded as among world’s finest art museums. Outside in front of it, a bronze statue of painter Diego Velázquez made by Aniceto Marinas in 1899 greets visitors…

da-AL with Velázquez Statue at entry to Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

Even the gardens surrounding the Prado are amazing — my eyes were too busy taking it all in for my brain to remind me to take photos. No worries, dear readers. This short video offers a sampling of the collection … 

We also visited the National Museum Art Centre Queen Sofia, which is best for housing Picasso’s Guernica painting

Picasso's Guernica Painting.

Such is my love of Spain and Flamenco (after all, my novel-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) that here I include this endearing small pen and ink pen drawing, “Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros that was also there…

“Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros

Flamenco deserves its own post — visit soon to read Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain.

Our trip’s itinerary in posts:

1. Beautiful Barcelona

2. Wonderful Huesca

3. Pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

4. Enchanting Espelette

5. Phenomenal French Basque Country

6. Delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

7. Breathtaking Bilbao

8. Lovely León

9. Marvelous Madrid — Part 1 — this post (Part 2) — Part 3Part 4

Are you planning a vacation?

Part 1: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Graffiti and Royal Palace by da-AL


da-AL and her husband on the balcony of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The king of Spain and his family weren’t in when we visited, but we still enjoyed his nice house.

Our three-week Spain/France adventure ended with four nights in Madrid — a city that needs far more time than that to fully appreciate all of its marvelousness — museums, architecture, public art, food (including the world’s oldest restaurant), parks (among them centuries-old gardens), nightlife, and on and on. So much so that this part of our vacation is split into more than one post!

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” my novel-in-progress, is titled for my love of Spain and multi-culturalism. My husband and I arrived tired and late. Driving from León took longer than we planned, and rain made finding our accommodations extra troublesome.

The next morning we slept in, and then took a leisurely stroll that quickly revealed tons of political graffiti, much of it for gender equality, amid the big city hustle-bustle…

After a stop for lunch, we started to feel ourselves again, so we ventured further to where the king and his family stay when they’re in town.

da-AL's husband stands before the palace of the king of Spain.

The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in 1764. From floors to ceilings, it’s packed with non-stop gorgeous art…

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid. Does the royal family find their ceiling art a pain in the neck?

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Check out Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

In the meantime, if you’d like to know about the rest of our trip…

It started with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona …

where we rented a car and stopped in wonderful Huesca

Then crossed into France to pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port

and the next day spent an afternoon in enchanting Espelette

For several days in phenomenal French Basque Country, we enjoyed Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz …

Back in Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

followed by the breathtaking city of Bilbao

Before we got to Madrid, there was lovely León!

What’s the longest you’ve taken on a vacation?