Tuesday, October 28, 2014


We were on our own for our last full day in Madrid before returning home.  We began the morning with a walk from our hotel through the city's largest urban park, Parque del Retiro.  The park shone beautifully in the early fall weather, and I took a few photos of some of the park's statuary.

These included a fountain featuring a sculpture of Lucifer that apparently is not well liked by the populace.  I thought the main sculpture was dramatic but difficult to photograph because of Lucifer's very dark color.

But what I liked more were a series of whimsical devil sculptures that ringed the circular fountain basin.  Here is one of those.

At the end of our walk we found ourselves at the Prado, Madrid's largest and most prestigious art museum, best known perhaps for its large collection of art by Spanish masters, particularly Goya and Velazquez.  Unfortunately, the museum does not allow photography, so I have nothing to show for our visit.  I did get the following photo of a sculpture outside the Prado that appeared very worn but also very expressive.

After lunch, we walked to the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which does allow photography, and here are a few of the photos that I took.

"Portrait of a Stout Man," by Campin, 1425.

"Portrait of Charles V," by Cranach, 1533.

(Not sure what the artist got paid for this portrait, considering the shape of Charles's head.)

"Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second before Waking Up" (Yes, that's the title), by Dali, 1944.

"Portrait of Giovanna Tomabuoni," by Ghirlandaio, 1488, my favorite.

In the late afternoon I took my camera out one last time and got the following semi-random shots that I'm including here.

I thought I would wind up this long series of posts with a shot that I took during our walk through the Parque del Retiro.

I thought this conveyed a pleasant, quiet conclusion to a wonderful trip.



Madrid was the final stop on our trip to Portugal and Spain, and we spent two full days there before leaving for home.  Of course, Madrid is the capital of Spain and, at over 3 million inhabitants (and over 6 million in the greater metropolitan area), is its largest city.  And while it has some of the same charms as the other, smaller cities that we visited, it has the feel of a large cosmopolitan area.

On our first day we visited the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace.  The palace was built in the mid-18th century after a fire had destroyed the prior palace, a converted Mudejar fortress.  The palace and its appointments are typical of the Baroque style, and to say it is opulent would be a gross understatement.

The first two-thirds of our trip had been marked by consistently fine weather, the last few days by rain, and this day started out rainy as well.

But that didn't matter too much as our morning tour of the Royal Palace was basically indoors.

At the beginning of the tour I got this shot of a courtyard doorway that I thought worked nicely.

Then it was on to the opulence.  I will again confess that to some extent I was focused more on my photography than I was on the narrative that our guide was providing.  But I did manage to catch a number of salon ceilings, either directly or obliquely, as in the following.

One of the rooms that we passed through was the royal dining room.  To allow room for visitors, the table was set up for only one-half its full length.  Even so . . .

I counted about 18 chairs on just one side, which means that the table when set at full length, counting seating at both ends, could accommodate about 75 guests.

Here is a shot of the dining room ceiling.

I took a number of detail photos during our tour, including the following.

I also spotted a couple of the ornate chandeliers and got these images.

During the course of the tour we passed by windows opening on to an courtyard, and I was attracted by the manner in which the old glass was distorting the view of the courtyard walls and windows, and I thought the following shot took nice advantage of the defects in the glass.

The tour then passed through a grand hallway featuring a domed ceiling.

Although I was not able to get a shot from directly under the dome, I was able to take a photo of the ceiling of a side hallway, as well as of one of the supporting pillars.  Both photos, I thought, worked well, particularly under the crowded circumstances.

We passed through the crown room that, not surprisingly, included the royal crown, which appeared huge . . .

as well as a sphinx.  I will admit that in taking this shot I set the lens's point of focus on the right nipple.

I particularly liked the following, taken of the ceiling in another of the grand salons, that I shot from behind the figure on the throne.

Finally, on our exit from the palace, we discovered that the sun and blue skies had returned, and I got this slightly surreal shot of the palace's main pavilion.



Our final stop in Toledo was at the Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, literally the Synagogue of Saint Mary the White, located in the city's Jewish quarter.  Here is one of a number of pavement tiles that appeared to demarcate that neighborhood.

Built in 1180 C.E., the synagogue is considered the oldest standing one in Europe.   In a sense the building epitomizes Spain's multi-cultural, multi-religious history.  Its construction was authorized by the 12th century Christian community as a place of worship for Jews, but it was designed and built by Mudejar (Muslim) architects and engineers!  It is now owned by the Catholic church as a museum.

The synagogue's exterior is unremarkable, but the beautiful series of "horseshoe" columns on its modest-sized interior testify to its Islamic architectural origins.

I thought this last shot succeeded in capturing the architecture--the columns and circular window--in a simple, uncluttered fashion.

Back outside, I spied the following elegant door ornament . . .

and gargoyle downspout.

Leaving Toledo, we crossed the Tagus River on the San Martin Bridge, constructed in the late 14th century and now open only to pedestrian traffic.

I thought this shot's zig-zag composition, including the foreground railing, worked well, although the overcast light conditions left a lot to be desired.


Monday, October 27, 2014


Construction on the Toledo Cathedral, shown in the photo below from across the Tagus River, was begun in 1226 but was not completed until 1493.

This lengthy construction period helps explain the cathedral's different architectural styles, including Muslim.

I did manage a few shots of the cathedral's main portal, which includes sculptures depicting Christ and the 12 disciples.

And here is a shot of the main spire that I took following our visit.

The interior is dramatic in size and includes a great many features and works of art, many of which I failed to photograph.  Here is part of what I did get, beginning with some of the structural elements.

I liked the following photo I took looking up one of the massive pillars to the groined ceiling.

One of the more unusual features was El Transparente, a ceiling area that features a skylight allowing natural light to illuminate what appears to be a glimpse of heaven.  The opening is surrounded by sculptures.  Quite dramatic.

And here is a very stylized madonna and child that I photographed for the similarity of features between mother and child and for the very adult-looking child.

Some of the ceiling designs clearly reflected a Mudejar (Muslim) influence, as in the following.

I'm not sure of the influence for the following, but it appears more secular than Christian.

We spent a fair amount of time in the sacristy because of the art located there.  The sacristy ceiling was ornately painted, though I had difficulty capturing that artwork.  Here first is a shot of the full ceiling, more or less, followed by a closeup of one of the details.

The sacristy is notable for two paintings of Christ, one by El Greco . . .

and the other by Goya.