Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Last Day in Valencia

On my last day in Valencia, I put a priority on seeing the famous Mercato Central.  It was just a few blocks from my apartment.  The above picture is how it looks from the outside.  It opened in 1928 and is said to have about 900 food stalls.  I have never seen anything quite like it.  One of the most interesting stalls to me was one selling valuable smoked meats with the actual cure dates showing:

These are apparently beef-vaca.  They're in a glass case, so a little hard to read and I truly was not thinking of that at the time.   There is a whole area devoted to fish, a special stall selling only saffron, amazing displays of fruit and so much more.  If humans eat it, I think you could find it here.

I then went to nearby area where I had seen some department stores as I was thinking about shopping.  I didn't find what I was looking for, so headed back toward my apartment.  Along the way, I saw  a restaurant called 100 Montaditos.   There is a 100 Montaditos a few blocks from my home back in DC, so I was interested.  It was still too early for lunch, but I had a coffee.  Back home, I did a little research and 100 Montaditos is a Spanish chain.  In the United States, they are in DC and Florida!   Comparison of logos is in order:
District of Columbia-Yards Park

Valencia--in the Ciutat Vella (Old City)
I would love to have put those side-by-side, but couldn't get them to do it.  The geography is just too far apart, I guess.

I continued on to a museum I had read about, called "L'Almoina."  I had looked for it a few days earlier, but it was closed.  I am so glad I persisted.  It is an archeological dig site and provides an historical review of the city of Valencia.  I have to admit that I should have done some research before going because it was hard to put what I was seeing into context.  Also, most of the signs were in Spanish; actually, Valencian.  As an art object, my favorite thing was a terra cotta mask from the second or third centuries AD.   

I was overwhelmed by the history which covered Visigothic, Roman, Moorish, and Christian eras.  One particularly compelling part of the site was a well which I think is considered Visigothic:

It was a nice finale to my "Trip to Spain."  Actually, the real finale was a late lunch at a nice restaurant on the plaza.  It was siesta time for most people, so not too busy!  My glass of wine while I waited:

Back to my apartment and getting ready for plane trip tomorrow.  All went well on the trip back home.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Art Museum Day in Valencia September 19, 2017

Of course I had to visit the Museu de Belles Arts!   I was particularly interested in works by Joaquin Sorolla, who was born in Valencia, though the actual Sorolla Museum is in Madrid. 

The Valencia Museum was well worth the visit.  The main feature is an extensive display of altar pieces, as shown above.  They were very Spanish, in my opinion, in that they were very dramatic.  Most of them dealt with the life of Christ and had depictions showing him from conception to resurrection.  There is lots of blood and gore, and also veneration of Mary.  I took no pictures in the museum, so this one is from the internet.  I don't like to take pictures in museums for a few reasons--they don't turn out well, they are intrusive of others, and I just like to look at the art.  I had been thinking I could buy postcards at the gift shop, but it was being remodeled.

The Sorolla exhibit was amazing.  There is this very dramatic painting of his daughter, Maria, who was recovering from tuberculosis:

There were also lighter themes, such as garden parties and children at the beach:

Sorolla was truly a great painter.  I also enjoyed a room devoted to works by Goya.  Very dark in mood, but beautifully done.

I was surprised to find works by Hieronymous Bosch.  This triptych is an example:

It was time for lunch in a lovely courtyard where I got a typical lunch that was appetizers, entree and dessert.  This time, it was asparagas in a light sauce and an olive salad with corn; beef on skewers wrapped with Spanish ham;  and chocolate ice cream.  Oh, also a glass of wine, and all for 12 euros.  

I took the bus back to my neighborhood and went to the old market (Mercat Centro).  The main market was closed, but there were some stalls outside for browsing, and that was fun.  I also went to a shop across the street from my apartment that was run by some young people who specialized in postcards of graffiti.  In Spain, graffiti is respected as art....street art.  I wanted to support these young artists.

When I was back in my apartment, I settled in and watched news about the Catalonian vote for independence, which was coming up on October 1.  I heard some murmering on the street and looked out and was surprised to see there was a line for the nightclub that was a couple of doors down.  They were peacefully waiting for opening time:

This is looking the other way up the street.  I love the street lamps and the general ambiance of the street, Calle Court.  So beautiful.  Another good day in Valencia.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

City of Arts and Sciences

On my second full day in Valencia I was determined to go to an area they call the City of Arts and Sciences.  It is an architectural complex that is built on what used to be a riverbed.  I learned that Valencia used to be flooded every year by the River Turia.  Eventually, the river was re-routed and the riverbed was turned into a cluster of very modern buildings.  They are controversial because, although they are amazing and are a huge tourist attraction, they were very expensive and some have had to be repaired after being open only a short while.  The first buildings were opened in 1998, and others were later.  Above is a view of a building called L'Hemisferic (IMAX, planetarium, etc.) and the Palau de les Arts (theater, music, dance) is in the background.  I didn't go into either of those....there just wasn't enough time, and there were no performances scheduled.  The clear balls in the foreground above are part of some water amusement activities.  They are big enough for a person to get into.  There are also small clear boats and other small watercraft, as in the picture below.  Isn't the water beautiful?

I went into the Museu de les Ciences (science museum) and then L'Oceanographic.  The science museum was amazing.  The building itself is a work of art.  This is an interior shot:

Seeing the people gives you a sense of scale, and this is just the upper part.  There is a variety of exhibits---biological science, physics, astronomy, dinosaurs, etc.  One that particularly caught my attention was one where you could observe chickens hatching.  They would hatch in a staggered pattern, so I guess a lot of care went into the incubation.  I am not sure this picture does it justice:
The chick is a little hard to see...it is toward the top center. It had just hatched and was floppy and tired.  I came back later, and there were more chicks hatched and that first one had pretty well fluffed out and actually looked like a chick.  This is all under glass, but was very interesting.  I had never seen chicks hatching before.  In another part, you can play tic-tac-toe with a computer, and I think the computer nearly always wins...even when you go first.  There was so much to see, but I didn't wasn to miss the "L'Oceanografic" complex.  

"L'Oceanografic" is several buildings and meant to replicate the world's main marine ecosystems.  It has some outdoor as well as indoor areas to provide a variety of habitats, and is the largest aquarium in Europe.  In case you wonder, the largest is in China.  One thing I really liked was a tunnel I walked through with an aquarium on both sides and the ceiling.

Again, the picture doesn't do it justice.  I also had lunch underground in an aquarium.  It was huge and very fancy.  

I also went to the Dolphinarium and saw a dophin show, which I normally would avoid because I think they are exploitative of the animals.  However, it seemed to be mild and the keepers were professional.  Plus, the weather was great and it was fun to sit outside for awhile. 

That night I found the supermarket I hadn't been able to find the first night.  It was great.  Everything inexpensive....wine was 1.20 euros for a liter!  A good variety of produce and meat and some snacks.   It was a good day and I learned those tourist hop on/hop off bus can be a good way to get around.  My bus ticket today is still good tomorrow and I will use it. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On my own in Valencia

After a great watercolor workshop with Dalvaro Art Holidays, their driver took me from Las Orquedias to the city of Valencia.

I loved the air bnb apartment which was on Calle Quart in the old part of the city.  It was within walking distance of many of the sites I hoped to see.  I looked up the nearest grocery store and went out to find it and explore the neighborhood.  I never did find it, but I did get a good idea of the neighborhood and found a nice corner market.   Because the Spaniards eat so late--like 8:30 at the earliest, I thought I would have to fix my own dinner.  I'm not keen on eating by myself late at night.  I bought salmon, veggies and rice as a take-out that just needed to be warmed.  It was perfect, and nicely spiced.

Sunday was my first full day in Valencia.  I discovered that my apartment was very close to where I had painted last week with Francesco, Anne and Rita.  The above photo is in the square where we were, although it is a different angle.  It is a central spot and just a short walk from my apartment.  It was also on the way to the Valencia Cathedral, where I went to Mass, which I like to do when travelling.  I am not a Catholic, but love to see a Mass in a beautiful cathedral and hear it in another language.  This one was particularly nice because it seemed like the priest really was in tune with the local people--he was smiling and enjoying the occasion.  I also wanted to see the "holy grail" of Valencia, which is possibly a cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper.  It is an agate bowl and is mounted on a holder.  The agate bowl has been dated to 100-50 BC, so it is possible.
The handle and stem were added during the medieval ages.  Still later, an alabaster base that is apparently Islamic (because of writing on it) was added.   If you are interested in knowing more, here is a link to the cathedral's description:
As you can tell, I found it very interesting.  Above is my picture, though I couldn't get close.  It is in the lighted alcove behind the altar.  Here's a picture from the website:

I also explored other artifacts and shrines in the Cathedral, including a rather disturbing one--the arm of Saint Vincent...all shriveled up.

Because I was in Spain and it was Sunday, I then had a two-hour lunch (three courses) at a restaurant on the plaza and returned to my room for a siesta.   After my siesta, it was about 4:30 pm!  A very relaxed day.  I studied my Lonely Planet Guide to Valencia and did a little more exploring in the neighborhood, including the Torres which were just up the street from my apartment.  They are Gothic, built in the 1400s and are very impressive.  They were part of a defensive wall around the central city.  This view is actually from the "new" side of the towers, not the ancient city where my apartment was.

I also discovered a whole new area of restaurants and shops.  It was too early for dinner in a Spanish restaurant, so I had leftovers from the night before and watched Spanish news on TV.  They were very interested in the Catalonian vote for independence, which was a week away.  Valencia is not part of Catalonia, but is just a little South, so interest was high.  I planned my next few days and drifted off to sleep.  Although my street was busy, and had many restaurants and a nightclub, it was not noisy because I had the European shutters that are on the outside of the windows and pretty much block sound as well as light.  My room was in the interior of the building, too, and off a cute little patio.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dalvaro Art Holiday Valencia, Spain

I recently returned from a great trip to Spain. The area I visited was Valencia.  I chose this trip primarily to take a watercolor workshop from Francesco Fontana, a truly inspiring watercolor artist.  I am posting about the art instruction and painting opportunities on my Plum Gallery blog http://plumgallery.blogspot.com/.

This blog will focus on the hospitality of Dalvaro Art Holidays at Las Orquideas villa.  The villa is about an hour away from Valencia.  The above photograph was taken from the web because I didn't  get a good one while I was there.  However, here is one in the garden leading to the swimming pool.

The Dalvaro Art Holiday was an amazing experience for me.  First of all, when they say it is all inclusive, it really is!  I was picked up at the airport on a Sunday afternoon by Harold, husband of Loli Alvaro. and brought to the villa .  I was given a brief tour and shown to my private room with a private bath and a view of the swimming pool.

From the first night I began to realize how special it was.  We had a little reception with "starters" and a gourmet meal.  Loli and the chef prepared memorable meals throughout the week, but I didn't take notes on the food.  I regret that now.  In addition, all of the needed art supplies were provided.  And we had a driver to take us to places where we could paint "in plein air" with Francesco's instruction.

The first day we stayed in the on-site studio, got our supplies and some instruction and painted in the gardens around the villa.  I acclimatized myself to the pace:  late lunch, siesta, afternoon sessions, and late dinners.  I grew very fond of the siestas.

On Tuesday, we went to the local village of Benigamin, where Loli seems to know everyone and where she has a gallery.  We went back to the villa and had a paella lunch and then a siesta.   Later that day, we went to a castle dating to the Moorish occupation in the village of Xativa.   We had to leave earlier than we intended, as the site was closed at 7.  Back at the villa, we had an excellent tapas meal, including salad, chicken, and fish skewers.  We also always had a dessert.  I was afraid I would gain weight, but didn't actually care!  Dinner is about 8:30, so nights are later than I am used to.  I loved it.

The next morning, after a buffet breakfast that always includes lots of fruit, we went back to Xativa and painted in the town square.  Back at the villa, there was more great food and including this (which was just the starter), showing that the food was presented artistically as well as being tasty:

On Thursday, we went to the city of Valencia.  We had planned to paint in the Placa de la Reina, but there was a funeral for a police officer and it was way too crowded.  We went to the nearby Placa de la Mare de Deu.  This is a good time to point out that I learned that there is a spcial dialect in Valencia...it actually is very different than the Spanish I was taught in school.   I never did pick it up.  In Valencia, we ate lunch at a local restaurant and then went back to the villa.  It was very hot  and I was a little sick when we got back, so I missed the afternoon painting session.   Loli made me some lemon tea and I watched CNN with Harold.  I was so surprised to see Susan Page on CNN.  I have met her a few times heere, and am a big fan.  She was talking about her interview with Hillary Clinton about "What Happened."   That was fun, and I recovered, of course, in time for a tasty dinner.

Friday, the last day, was pretty much a review and we spent time in the studio. I got a certificate of my completion of the workshop.

 It was, of course, also possible to fit a siesta into the plan.  In the evening, we went out for a special dinner in Benigamin, hosted by Loli and Harold.  It was very nice.

Saturday was an easy day.  I did a lot of reading in the morning, relaxing in the gardens, and then was driven to Valencia, the next stage of my adventure.  I'll reflect on that in a separate post.

Friday, March 4, 2016

"President Frank Underwood"

One of my favorite galleries, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, has paintings of all the Presidents.  Recently, it added one titled "Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood."  I saw this painting a few days ago, but this is the right day to blog it as season 4 of "House of Cards" is streaming starting today o n Netflix.

Frank Underwood's portrait isn't actually with the Presidential portraits, but it is right by the entrance to the museum.   It is large (6' x 6') and very impressive, though I am not too thrilled with how the right foot is cut off.  The style is interesting and has a lot of texture.  It was hard to take a picture of it because it is an oil painting under glass.

I was disappointed that the artist, Jonathan Yeo, is not American.  He is British .  He evidently likes Kevin Spacey, though, and also painted him as Richard III.  The Richard III painting is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The painting is 6' x 6' and is hung so that you feel Underwood is going to do one of his asides that are a trademark in the series.  Although it is on loan for now, the Museum is looking for a donor.

Meanwhile, in a strange twist, the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington is not on display in the museum.  It is undergoing conservation treatment.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

November 28 Going Home

Time to head home!   I was in for one more treat.  I got up early and drove to Fresno, where I would board a plane.  I had been to the Fresno Airport many years ago, and it wasn't too interesting.  That has changed.  There are huge faux sequoias in the lobby and some very nice restaurants.  I had a good breakfast and then got on a plane to Phoenix and then to National Airport.  Some people call it Reagan, but I prefer to call it National.  It was a great trip, but I was happy to get home.