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!…

Breathtaking Bilbao, Spain by da-AL


The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, features many American artists, from Frank Geary’s architecture to Jeff Koon’s “Puppy” flower sculpture.

Sure Frank Gehry’s amazing architecture at the Guggenheim Museum helped put a failing Bilbao, Spain back on the map. Front, back, in, and out the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, turns perceptions upside down and inside out (tap or click each photo for more info)…

However, art and art-worthy architecture abound everywhere in Bilbao.

There's much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.
There’s much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.

Along the way to the museum, we stopped to see Azkuna Zentroa. Built in 1909, it now houses a building within a building balanced on unusual columns.

It’s part of the Spain half of Basque Country. That means that both Spanish and Euskara are spoken. Good food abounds, including pintxos, Northern Spain’s version of small delicious plates of tapas.

Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.
Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.

Our airbnb hostesses Iciar Ruiz (who owns her own design business) and her daughter, Alba, helped us decide what to see.

Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.
Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.

My love and I had just left the beaches of San Sebastián, toured the phenomenal French side of Basque Countrywonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. Our adventure started with beautiful Barcelona. There was more for us to see…

 

Part 2: Tehran Visits The Louvre by da-AL


Abbas Kiarostami, (Iran 1940-2016)
Look twice at the folks in the foreground.

Art bridges cultures and makes us see differently (that’s why the first of my novels-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”)  — look again at these art photos by Abbas Kiarostami, a noted Iranian film producer/director/screenwriter, poet, and photographer.

In his photos, Kiarostami examines the relationship between art and visitors. He shot them at the Louvre, between 1996 and 2012.

My husband happened to visit Iran’s National Museum and generously returned with these photos. Hover over them for descriptions and click on them to see full-sized. Look closely — the people in the front are observers like us…

How do you view art?…

See Part 1: The Louvre visits Tehran by da-AL

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.

Food and Seaside Dogs of San Sebastián, Spain by da-AL


Ever been around so much scrumptiousness that only way to enjoy it all without exploding was to have little tastes and do a lot of sightseeing? San Sebastián, Spain, is known for pintxos (Northern Spain’s version of tapas), which small delicious plates, and plenty to see. Our incredible vacation kicked off with beautiful Barcelona, then we visited wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, enchanting Espelette, phenomenal French Basque Country. Dedicated readers of this Happiness Between Tails know that my upcoming novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” due in part to my love of Spain!

Now we were in San Sebastián, which turns out to be a great place for dogs too! We fortified our energy with pintxos for breakfast…

Pintxos for breakfast!
Pintxos for breakfast!

A big day was ahead — San Sebastián is known for the best churros and pudding-think hot chocolate, so why not?…

empty mug and plate of churros and hot chocolates
Sorry, all gone! Yum! San Sebastián is known for the best hot chocolate and churros in Spain.

We hiked to Mota Castle at the top of Monte Urgull…

Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Where there were great views of the city and Bahía de la Concha…

View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Back down in Parte Vieja, Old Town, we decided to walk to the steeple at the very end…

Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Along the way, we tasted the best cheesecake ever, made with ricotta cheese…

Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!
Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!

We met many dogs…

Dog at the bakery
Along the way we saw dogs at the bakery.
steeple in the distance
We’re getting closer!
A dog under a chair.
And dogs under chairs.

Even at the beach!…

La Concha Beach
Dogs at La Concha Beach.

 

black dog
My dogs would love it here.
black and white dog
Does everyone in San Sebastián own a dog?
A fluffy dog
Yet another dog.
It's getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
It’s getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
dogs and street performers at the park
Dogs and street performers at the park.

The long walk was worth it!…

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
It was worth the long walk to see this!

Even Itzi Orbegozo, the kind hostess of our Airbnb, had a lovely dog, Kanika!

Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog
Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog.

We were off to breathtaking Bilbao

Guest Blog Post: Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Muffins by Roijoyeux


Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Muffins by Roijoyeux
Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Muffin by Roijoyeux

Most of the week, fellow blogger Roijoyeux blogs on heroic people bullied for being gay or bisexual. Sundays he reserves to torture us with photos and recipes from his latest mouthwatering healthy/delicious yummy. Another awesomeness about his site is that if you don’t read French, he’s installed a google translate widget…

Roijoyeux

Pour mon cher ami Tauche et son mari, je réalise presque chaque semaine des gâteaux à la fois sains et gourmands et j’ai décidé de vous faire profiter, joyeux visiteurs, de mes plus belles réussites…

Cette semaine, j’ai eu envie de tester la recette de muffins aux pépites de chocolat inscrite au dos des paquets de pépites de chocolat “Vahiné”, en l’adaptant pour mes amis; Tauche souhaitait un gâteau à la banane, il me restait un sachet de noisettes en poudre, voici donc les :

Ingrédients : (pour 9 muffins de diamètre 6 cm)

  • 125 g de farine de riz + 50 g de farine de sarrasin + 75 g de poudre de noisettes (au lieu de 250 g de farine)
  • 1/2 c à c bicarbonate (au lieu de 1 sachet de levure chimique)
  • 2 pincées de sel
  • 100 g de pépites de chocolat
  • 1 oeuf
  • 105 g de muscovado…

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Phenomenal French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, Biarritz, France by da-AL


Gorgeous fine sandy beaches, magnificent architecture, and like everywhere else in France — fantastic food!


Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona. From there we drove through wonderful Huesca (note: my upcoming novel is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”), pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. We were headed further into French Basque Country

Now we overnighted in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where we strolled the beach, ate ice cream, and enjoyed several great meals, the one we ate at Zoko Moko our most memorable yet.

From our lovely stay in Saint-Jean-de-Luz made all the more memorable thanks to our delightful Airbnb hostess Florence.

We took a day trip to visit the coastal towns of Bayonne and Biarritz.

Everywhere was a feast for mind, body, and spirit of art and tradition, beauty and history, surf and great food. Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona. From there we drove through wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette.

Next, we headed back to Spain, where we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao

Enchanting Espelette, France, by da-AL


After a weekend of beautiful Barcelona, we drove towards French Basque country. We lunched in wonderful Huesca and overnighted in pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

The sun shone and we were back on the road. What better way to relax than to stop in the enchanting Basque town of Espelette?

We sipped hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe…

We shopped for edible gifts from a kindly shopkeeper, including the special not-too-hot red pepper power the city is known for…

da-AL and her honey shopping in Espelette, France

And we strolled, admiring the town’s typically red-accented white buildings…

Everything, everyone, the weather — it was all so charming, that I could easily have stayed for a nap…

…but we had more places to visit! We were headed further into phenomenal French Basque Country (Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz).

Then, back in Spain (after all, my upcoming novel is titled “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”), we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao

Pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France by da-AL


We were headed for Basque country. The region has its own language and operates much like an independent country located within two countries. Half is in France (Pays basque français), the other half is in Spain (País Vasco).

my husband and I amid French farmland
We had a great time in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port!

Our vacation started in Spain (which I love so much that my upcoming novel is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) with Barcelona, where we rented a car. Along the way, we had lunch in the city of Huesca. A day’s drive and five miles past the Spanish border, we arrived at our introduction to the Basque region, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We spent a night and the following half day in the lovely one-main-street town.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port lies along the river Nive. It’s the starting point for the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim’s way that’s as popular among the devout as it is with hikers, cyclists, and tourists.

 

Author and husband in front of French farmhouse
We stayed at this 300-year-old farmhouse that used to be a monastery.

This vacation was our first time staying at people’s homes instead of hotels. The experience turned out to be as exciting and fun as visiting the cities.

 

Melanie, her place, and her food were all terrific!

Melanie, originally from California, was an excellent hostess. She married into a family that for 300 years has owned this farmhouse and the expanse of grassy farmland around it.

Melanie works hard on remodeling the farmhouse.

 

My husband and I are good at packing, but with this trip we surpassed ourselves.

I can hardly believe we traveled this light!

Thanks to watching several Rick Steves’ travel videos, we decided that we wouldn’t have any baggage to check in for our flight. This is our entire baggage for our two-and-a-half week trip.

Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona. From there we drove through wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Next we were off to enchanting Espelette, and into French Basque Country.

Then, back in Spain, we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao

What’s your favorite part of travelling?

Guest Blog Post: “Paris: A Photo-Essay,” by dynamicstasis


Paris by dynamicstasis
Paris by dynamicstasis

30 stunning photos of lovely Paris by dynamicstasis. Enjoy …

DynamicStasis

Thirty photographs from our flânerie through Paris.

0001 Paris.

0002 Sunday breakfast in the Jardin des Tuileries.

0003 The west façade of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Wonky composite of twelve photographs.

0004 Notre-Dame Cathedral. Detail 01, west façade.

0005 Notre-Dame Cathedral. Detail 02, west façade.

0006 Notre-Dame Cathedral. Detail 03, north façade.

0007 Notre-Dame Cathedral. Interior.

0008 Notre-Dame Cathedral. North façade Rose Window.

0009 Looking south from Montmartre.

0010 Detail.

0011 Montmartre street.

0012 Pont de l’Archevêché.

0013 Louvre approach through the Passage Richelieu.

0014 “Was it busy?”… “Yeah, quite busy.”

0015 Jardin des Tuileries.

0016 Chair. Terrasse du Bord de l’Eau.

0017 Musée d’Orsay.

0018 Poster.

0019 Pompidou Centre / Rue du Renard.

0020 Pompidou Centre / Place Georges Pompidou.

0021 Wall / Art.

0022 Love / Heart.

0023 Arc de Triomphe 01.

0024 Arc de Triomphe 02.

0025 Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

0026 Avenue d’Iéna.

0027 Rue de Buenos Ayres.

0028 Tour Eiffel 01.

0029 Tour Eiffel 02.

0030 River Seine / from the Tour Eiffel.

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