Archive for the ‘spain’ Category

Visit to Finca – Country House near Madrid 10/25-26/2014

Monday, October 27th, 2014

We are staying with Milly’s sister Joan, her daughter Carolyn and her husband Carlos. We were joined on Sunday by Carlos’s niece, Christina.

On Friday night, Carlos and Carolyn returned to Madrid from a trip to Orvieto and the Spanish equivalent to the Nobel Prizes. While there, Carlos was able to introduce Carolyn to the King, Queen, Queen Mother and many of Spain’s who’s who.

On Saturday morning, the Fulton Villa’s and Dunfey’s headed for their country home Finca. It is about an hour and a half drive from their home in Spain. We stopped for breakfast about half way.

What Milly and I expected was quite different than what we found when we arrived at the finca. We knew it was in the mountains with many hiking trails etc. We knew that they had finally built a home there on the property that they bought years ago.

Their home there is located on about 400 acres. It is bounded on one side by a river in the valley. Their home sits perched on a hilltop surrounded by lush trees of all variety with trails and roads meandering to all sections of their property.

Their home is the work of their lives. They planned it for years and have made it a reality. Quite frankly, Fred says it is the most lavish home he has ever stayed in or visited. It is spacious and yet livable. We were completely shocked by the the difference in our expectation and what we found. Milly and I also loved it here. The views in all directions are magnificent!

They have hired a husband and wife as caretakers to guard their place, keep it ship shape and service their needs. Their caretakers live in a really nice two bedroom apartment building off the front courtyard.

This finca appears to be an evolving business venture as well as a home. They harvest their cork and olive trees, produce their own honey, oregano, vegetables and mushrooms, harvest eggs, etc. The woods are teaming with animals. Carlos talks about selling their Oak tree acorns to feed pigs. Who knows what the future will bring. They certainly keep busy there!

On Sunday, Fred and Carlos went into the local village for Mass at noon in a chapel there. It turned out that moving the clocks back an hour caused the church to move the mass to 1 Pm for the winter so Carlos and Fred had coffee at the village “bar” and  discussed the issues of fatherhood in the church courtyard. The church was an old stone church, simple and magnificently spiritual. The Mass was attended by 40 people who filled the place with song. Fred found the church to be as inspiring as any he visited in Rome.

Finca Grounds and Views

When it came time to pick the olives, Fred was busy with another spanish tradition – the siesta.

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Inside the Finca Home

Their home is their Finca! They live here! It contains all their treasures and history. You find paintings and furniture from Martha’s Vineyard and from Carlos’s family ancestry. This is where they get away to enjoy life! The following are sample pictures of inside the Finca. Carlos and Joan want people to come visit to see their magnificent home. Pictures just don’t do it justice!

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Prado Museum – Madrid Opera House – 10/24/2014

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Milly and Fred were given directions and a bus ticket to visit the Prado Museum in the heart of the city. We asked to bus driver to signal us when we got the the museum stop. He signalled us to head in a certain direction after we left the bus.

There is a huge, huge park that is adjacent to the Prado. (Retiro Park?) We went into the park going in the direction of the Prado. Somehow we got lost. First, we had got off one stop too early. We ended up on the wrong side of the park due to our own “wrong” look at map and the IPAD GPS wasn’t working because of all the trees (?). We decided to walk the periphery of park to keep our bearings. It was a long walk. We found the Prado and had lunch at Prado Cafe before taking our tour of the masterpieces and other artwork.

We managed to see most of the Prado in our 3 hours there. We saw paintings by Rembrandt, Goya, Rubin, & many other famous artists. All the art was good, some were special. We were very tired when we went “home”. Fred took a nap. Milly found out that our tickets for the Opera House where for a special singing performance of various Opera Songs.

Milly and Joan went to the Opera House to hear the performance which they reported as very good. Fred slept soem more and thought he could catch a Netflix Movie. He found out that Netflix doesn’t work in Europe!

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Madrid Spain – St Cecilia Symphony Orchestra 10/23/2014

Friday, October 24th, 2014

On Monday 10/22/2014, we took a high speed Ave train from Barcelona to Madrid. The train ride was super comfortable and smooth at speeds up to 299 k/hour. There was plenty of seating leg room and seating space. It was a real relaxing trip listening to soft classical music as the varieties of spanish landscapes passed by our windows. We were picked up at the train station by Milly’s sister Joan Fulton Villa. Joan and her  her family live in a charming barrio near the center city area. Joan and her husband Carlos as well as her daughter Caroline made us feel at home.  Joan’s other son, Jorge , recently  graduated from George Washington College and is now working in Mexico City while her other daughter, Paula, is finishing college in Boston. Joan and Carlos have lived in Spain and Geneva ever since they were married. This was out first opportunity to come visit them in Spain.

For the last two days, Joan has orchestrated ordering a wide variety of tapa dishes and entries at local spanish restaurants. We all took a short bus ride to Madrid center city. From there we took a walking tour of the plaza’s, shops and narrow passage ways. We passed by the Madrid Basilica, the Royal Palace and the Opera House before sitting down for late afternoon lunch.

After Fred took a late afternoon nap, Joan, Fred and Milly attended a wonderful Beethoven concert put on by the St Cecilia Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra is made up of college professors from Madrid area schools of music. They give about 60 concerts a year all over Spain. The huge and modern symphony hall was within walking distance of their home.


The Villa’s home is located in a quiet residential barrio but just a block or so away from a main street leading to the center of Madrid. Their home is relatively spacious with a beautiful patio court yard in back. A few pictures of their home are included at end to show off their quiet, comfortable setting near center city.

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Montserrat, Colonia Güell, Gaudi’s Crypt – 10/21/2014

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Milly and I planned to visit Montserrat on a tour. We found this tour that also went to the Gaudi Crypt, which was unknown to us and many others. Gaudi Crypt was located in Colonia Güell, an industrial colony that was in operation from 1890 to 1970’s.

We found this diversion into the latter industrial revolution fascinating. Our guide described the colony, it patron, and the 7 day work week of 13-15 hours per day (Sunday’s were 8 hours – time off for church). We found out that women giving birth went back to work after 2-3 days with the “nunnery” daycare taking their new born children.

This Colonia provided good safe working conditions, housing, free schooling to age 11, a colony doctor, bars and meeting places. The patron provided for all the needs of his employees. People were half paid with local currency, usable only in Colony, with the other half in the national currency.

The owner treated his employees well for the time!

This was a history lesson! How quickly our discourse of economics forgets the evils of unfettered capitalism, lack of government regulation and its impact on real people.

Colonia Güell Description

As copied from

The construction of the Colonia Güell began in 1.890 by the initiative of the entrepreneur Eusebio Güell in his country estate “Can Soler de la Torre”, located in the municipality of Santa Coloma de Cervelló, region of Baix Llobregat.

The interest of escaping the social conflicts arisen in the city made the new industry to be conceived within the framework of an industrial colony; with housing of the workers next to the mill, within the property, constituting an urban nucleus with its own social and economic life albeit overseen by the company.

In contrast to most industrial colonies in Catalonia, Eusebio Güell worked to improve the social conditions of his workers and applied his cultural patronage in the Colonia, providing it with cultural and religious facilities of a modernist design which were developed by different architects, most notably Gaudí to whom he entrusted the building of the church.

The master builders also left the imprint of their talent in many of the buildings as can be seen in many different facades and cornices.

The industrial colonies where conceived as a socioeconomic organization whose main goal was industrial productivity. The mill took up most of the time of the men and women of the colony, for them it was the guarantee of having a regular income in times of economic scarcity.

Our pictures:

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Gaudi’s Crypt – A Discovered Secret

This existing crypt church is a masterpiece in design. It is very spiritual inside. We have included more pictures than normal due to those people that might want to see more of the architecture details.

That we got the chance to visit here was an blessing. We happened onto this particular  tour by accident.

To get the chance to see the Colony Guell and this crypt was real special.

Copied from

 In 1.898 Eusebio Güell commissioned the architect Antonio Gaudí the project of a church for the textile estate of Santa Coloma de Cervelló. When Eusebi told his good friend Gaudi do as you please. He set no limits or barriers, neither in the budget nor in how the construction had to be done, and, as would be seen eventually, not even in the timeframe to build the church.

Over the next few years, Gaudí carried out various preliminary studies which culminated in a model which was placed in a pavilion located in the hill were the building would later be erected.

 The construction of the temple began in 1909. However, the ambitious project which foresaw a church with two naves, lower and upper, topped by different towers and a 40 meters high central dome would remain unfinished. In 1.914 the Güell family decided to stop financing the church and Gaudí abandoned the project. In November 1.915 the bishop of Barcelona consecrated the lower nave, the only one to have been built, which made the church be popularly known as the crypt.

 Even though the church remained unfinished, the church is a culminating point Gaudi’s works. This construction includes for the first time practically all of his architectural innovations.

The Crypt was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.

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Montserrat, Basilica and Boys Choir

The mountain to valley views from Montserrat were truly spectacular!

The monastery and basilica were very interesting to see and visit. We expected this since many people suggested we come here.

We had the opportunity to get front row seats in a filled church to hear the famous Montserrat Boys Choir. We got into the line to see and touch the Black Virgin Mary statue. We thought we had time to see it and get a seat in the church for the Choir performance. The line was moving a lot slower that was communicated to us. We could also see that the Basilica Church was filling up with tons of school children that had arrived just after we got there. As we made our way through the line, we noticed there were some benches along the aisle where our line was passing. When we got near the front of the church we sat in one while still in line. We were letting people pass us but we had a great view of choir. We also could hear their magnificent voices!

To say we had a good tour day would be an understatement! Once we got back to our B&B, we rested a bit showered and went out for spanish Pizza! Tomorrow we pack and go to visit Milly’s sister Joan in Madrid. Then, it’s to Boston to visit our son Alex, Elena and our grandchildren.

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Castell de Montjuïc – Barcelona 10/20/2014

Monday, October 20th, 2014

On this beautiful Monday morning in Barcelona, we got a late start. This didn’t hurt our agenda much. We wanted to go to the Picasso Museum but we discovered it is closed on Mondays. We got on our Hop On/Off bus and headed for our 1st stop – Tibidabo hill. We discovered that the tram rides to get up the hill and all the attractions were closed in October except on weekends.

We visited Castell de Montjuïc on a hill high above the city. We took a cable car ride up to the top of the hill. The views of the city in all directions were fantastic. The tour of the Castle grounds gave us a quick peak into Spanish, French and catalan rivalries.

The Montjuïc hill section of the city seems like one big park. There were many Olympic functions held here. We found a whole side of the hill with cactus.

We got a 10 ride ticket on the metro system which we will use for the last two days in Madrid. We took the metro back to the B&B. We were impressed with the metro’s cleanliness and efficiency.

We had a full course dinner at a local hotel restaurant. It had been a very relaxing day.

Castell de Montjuïc & Barcelona Buildings

As we travelled on Hop On/Off bus, we did see more of Barcelona’s different building styles.

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Gaudi – Casa Mila & Casa Batlló – Barcelona 10/19/2014

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Today we visited two Gaudi designed home complexes. We also did Rick Steve’s Gothic walk which took us to the high fashion marketplace stores as well as to the Barcelona Cathedral. We finished by touring on bus the waterfront district. After getting off the bus near St Pauls Hospital we stopped at an outside spanish restaurant for wine and dinner.

Once again we were a little sluggish about getting going today. We had purchased a two day pass on Barcelona City Tour Hop On/Off Buses for use today and tomorrow. After breakfast, showers etc., we left to catch our bus about 10 am. We never changed our camera time, so our photo times don’t help us easily. We took our first picture at Gaudi’s the Casa Mila – , “La Pedrera” at around 10:30 am.

We did run into issues with streets blocked due to Catalonia Independence walks and festivities. The Hop On/Off bus had to take different routes. The streets were extra crowded. It was a very festive day!

La Pedrera was a Gaudi designed apartment complex. Words cannot describe what you see in Gaudi’s work. You are allowed to tour the entrance, the roof, the attic and an apartment. Each apartment can be configured anyway the owner wants  since there are no load bearing walls at all.

Casa Mila, “La Pedrera”

We included many touring photos of the home(s) because each is a little different and we wanted those that may care to see more.

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Casa Batlló 

One hop off bus stop down from La Pedrera, you find Gaudi’s spectacular masterpiece – Casa Batlló.

Prior to this tour, we had lunch at a spanish Burger King. They had the best toilets in Barcelona!

Again, we included many, many photos for those who want to see the “tour” in pictures.

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Gothic Walk – Barcelona Cathedral 

We used Rick Steve’s travel guide’s Gothic Walk. In trying to find St Mary’s Church (1st step), we got lost. In backtracking we realized Rick said take door#29 to get to Church. It turns out that door was closed as was the Church.

We did see many fashionable stores on this walk. Milly and I don’t like shopping so we passed on visiting these stores.

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Buildings Viewed on the Streets of Barcelona Today

As our Hop On/Off took us to our various destinations, we passed many an interesting building.

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