Ancient and Modern: Lovely León, Spain by da-AL

Photo of da-AL at León book fair.
Rain can’t dampen the beauty of León’s historic district — especially when it’s got a late night book fair!

I love Spain! It’s no accident that one of my soon-to-be self-published novels is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.”

A dream to sightsee on foot, León, Spain, was the next to last stop of a fun-filled vacation that my husband and I began with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona and then a stop in wonderful Huesca. We crossed the French border into pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port, enchanting Espelette, and phenomenal French Basque Country cities Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz. Upon our return to Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián, and then the breathtaking city of Bilbao.

León, founded in 29 B.C., has so much fascinating architecture that the two days we visited weren’t enough to see everything. León’s gothic Santa María de León Cathedral was constructed mostly during 1205 to 1301, its north tower and cloister during the 14-century, and its south tower in 1472. Ever see Mother Mary pregnant? (Tap on photos to see them bigger and their captions.)

It’s an important cathedral on The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) religious pilgrimage route.

Architect Antoni Gaudí welcomes company. He’s best known for Barcelona’s Sagrada Família Cathedral. In León, he designed Casa Botines from 1891 to 1892. In 1929, it became a bank but has since reverted to its original appearance. Downstairs featured a display of Francisco Goya’s political cartoons.

Photo of da-AL with employee and Susana, owner of 'a comer' restaurant.
Susana and her employee cook with love — ‘a comer’ restaurant is a must-eat-at!

Spain’s homestyle food (unlike typical restaurant fare most anywhere) is loaded with delicious veggies. I swooned when we happened into a tiny eatery that cooked like I was visiting someone’s gourmet granny — we ate there twice! Every single morning, ‘a comer’ take out restaurant owner Susana shops for the best of what’s in season, then cooks a new menu from scratch — thank you from the bottom of my stomach, querida Susana!

Photo of hosts Marco Tsitselis and Mariu Alvarez Garcia.
We’re so glad Marco and Mariu rented us a lovely room!

Our hosts, Marco and Mariu, made our stay at their home extra cozy and our visit to León extra memorable — many thanks to both of them!

It was time to hit the highway to Madrid!…

Part 1: The Louvre visits Tehran by da-AL

Art bridges cultures…

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus
Wedding of Greek deities: Thetis and Peleus (Italy 50BC – 50AD)

Art museums often lend each other masterpieces. This year, however, marked a first — a large-scale show by a major Western museum in Iran! The world’s largest museum, the Louvre, proudly calls it, “…an outstanding cultural and diplomatic event for both countries.”

The Louvre contributed fifty masterpieces for “The Louvre at Tehran” to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Iran’s National Museum. Meantime, back in France, The Louvre exhibited, “The Rose Garden: Masterpieces of Persian Art from the 19th Century, on Qajar dynasty Iran.”

Lucky for us, my husband happened to be in Tehran to snap these photos for us. The art spanned centuries. Hover over the pictures for descriptions and click on them to see full-sized.

What does art mean to you?

See Part 2: Tehran Visits The Louvre by da-AL to see the contemporary art photos of Abbas Kiarostami, a noted Iranian film producer/director, screenwriter, poet, and photographer.

Guest Blog Post: “Seaweeds of the Irish Coast,” in the exact words of GaiaInAction

Photo of Irish seaweeds by GaiaInAction

Love eating seaweed (aka sea veggies)? They’re delish and massively awesome for us. Leave it to former branch librarian GaiaInAction to capture their beauty…

agoyvaerts

Yesterday saw a whole bunch of us interested folks going to explore the arboretum at Ardnagashel in Glengarriff, West Cork, but apart from admiring the wonderful trees we also received lots of information on the seaweeds and lichens along this stretch of coast. Ardnagashel was established by the Hutchins family and it was as part of the Heritage Week of Ireland that these activities took place, in memory of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815)who was a remarkable Irish Botanist. The talks on the lichens and seaweeds were given by Howard Fox, who is the State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens) and by Maria Cullen. This ‘life’ introduction to the seaweeds and the lichens of the coast of Bantry Bay was so very interesting. a true first introduction in this field for me. Later in the afternoon Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece) took us through the forested area of this garden and…

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Beautiful Barcelona, Spain by da-AL

Heading off to La Rambla

This is the first of several posts on my a-w-e-s-o-m-e vacation to Spain and France. It’s no wonder that my upcoming novel is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”!

Barcelona is wonderful off-season. In October, the weather was mild and the densely populated ancient city offered my husband and me a great start to a Spain/France adventure. We arrived a Friday evening, bleary-eyed from an overnight flight. Once at our rented room in a centuries-old flat, we stepped outdoors for a quick unexpectedly gourmet dinner. Upon return, we tumbled into bed where stupor overtook us. Fourteen hours later, we woke at two the next afternoon. Our self-imposed itinerary, not to mention our equilibriums, was already thrown off kilter. After sandwiches across the street, we set off for Barri Gòtic, (the Gothic Quarter).

The Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) was the first of the gorgeous sites we enjoyed over the next few days. Barcelona is part of the larger community of Catalonia. At the square, an unfinished upside-down staircase towers over Catalunya’s first president, Francesc Maciá, representing Catalonia’s ongoing history. The monument was designed by artist Josep Maria Surbirachs.

The Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) was the first of the gorgeous sites we enjoyed over the next few days. Barcelona is part of the larger community of Catalonia. At the square, an unfinished upside-down staircase towers over a bust of Catalunya’s first president, Francesc Maciá, representing Catalonia’s ongoing history. The monument was designed by artist Josep Maria Surbirachs.

da-AL at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is an eye-popping church still under construction since it began in 1835, scheduled for completion in 2028. Cranes continue to erect the innovative structure, its spires akin to the most amazingly intricate candle on the verge of melting heavenward back to the fantastical spirit world from whence it came.

Revelers after pro Spain rally

The cultural and economic arguments for and against Catalunya becoming independent from Spain are beyond the scope of this post. The weekend before we visited, a rally for succession ended in police brutality. Many worried that a subsequent pro-Spain rally scheduled for the Sunday when we were there might end badly too. Fortunately for everyone, the gathering was peaceful and we enjoyed a walk along the La Rambla neighborhood.

skateboard park - rennovated warehouse district

An ally near La Rambla

Throughout Barcelona, art reigns supreme, from the Museu Picasso (Picasso Art Museum) to architect Antonio Gaudi’s many buildings, to street art including this music/graffiti/skateboard park.

da-AL with cousin at Barcelona Cathedral

Our vacation started with a highlight: reconnecting with a cousin I hadn’t seen in far too long and meeting her lovely husband.

Catedral de Barcelona

After they guided us through the vicinity of the Barcelona Cathedral, they drove us up Montjuic for a delicious meal and an impressive aerial view of the city.

dinner at Montjuic

The following morning, we woke refreshed. We rented a car and let the GPS lead us to Basque Country, which lies half in Spain and half in France.

Learn more about Barcelona, the monument at Catalonia Square, Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, the Barcelona Cathedral, and Montjuic.

From Barcelona, we drove through wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. We were headed further into phenomenal French Basque Country (Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz), then to experience the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain, and to breathtaking Bilbao