Tag Archives: Toledo

The Wonderment of Life

9 Dec

How wonderful life is. One day you’re sitting in Brisbane with loved ones surrounded by familiarity. The next you’re flying for over 30 hours to get to a new experience, a new adventure, a new destination and culture to explore, seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting the most amazing (& sometimes awful smells) aspects of life.

Today it was 0 degrees when I hit the streets. Even the stall holders at el Rastro Markets were late in setting up, as I didn’t set out until around 10! The markets started at 9am!


Was a pretty cool market – but sooooo much stuff! And was soooo busy even in such cold conditions. Did buy some nice small presents for loved ones but carrying luggage is NOT going to be my friend in European train stations. And I’m finding it quite expensive – even for a country that has 30% unemployment. However, I’m not seeing it on the streets. I’m feeling totally safe, there are not many beggars, definitely no pick pockets (touch wood) and although my host in Madrid thinks I’m crazy; the streets are clean. OK cigarette butts (everyone smokes) but at least not in cafes and bars anymore, & a bit of dog faeces, but really, it’s clean.

So today my mind was set on getting to see The Prado and it’s wonderment of treasures. And what a find. There was of course Francisco de Goya, the artist most extensively represented in the collection, but also VelázquezTitianRubens and Bosch. Rafael, El Greco, Bellino, Tiziano, Giogiorne to keep naming names! I did enjoy El Greco’s collection especially after seeing his Masterpieces yesterday in Toledo, but the stand out for me was Baroque artist Velázquez. Wow. I know that his most famous is Las Meninas but my favourite was this one below that blew my mind away and totally lost my breath. I actually had to walk to the side of the picture to see if the oil wasn’t standing out from the canvas… and of course it wasn’t (but I wanted it to be as it was so surreal). Wow. I know that you can’t see it in this photo, but the two guys in the middle were fighting a most famous battle of the City of Breda back in the late 16th Century, early 17th (in The Netherlands I am told – please correct me if I’m wrong). And yes I don’t like fighting artwork, but Velazquez painted this without the despair that I saw in so many of the paintings that I spied today. What made this even more famous was that this un-loseable battle was a lesson in strategy and proved to be quite the marketing expedition as it was an early case study on ‘how to win’. However, the opposite occurred and the guy on the left was a gorgeous thaang and allowed the losing garrison to surrender and live. The Spanish generals gave the order to the vanquished who were respected and treated with dignity, without humiliation. Anyhoo – the main point is the two main guys’ jackets, shoes and everything about them were standing out from the picture. It was mid-day ok. It really was like those pictures that the eyes follow you around the room. Amaz-ing. Total awe.


This is the historic moment Velazquez chose to paint his picture without the vain, glory and blood. It was MY amazing Prado memory. My Madrid airbnb host Sonia tells me that Velázquez used to like to pop himself into his pics and painted himself on the right of the picture. He was a bit of alright by the pics I saw today I think. Although many of his pictures were of dwarves so I’m not sure if I would have been a good muse! 😛


My next find was the Plaza St Miguel markets. Oh wow. Totally different to the Boqueria Markets in Barca (unless you walk right to the back and there was my favourite seafood stall) – sigh, these are more like Boston, Adelaide or Melbourne where purveyors are selling their wares to consume now. I was in food heaven – although wanted to be alot richer!


My day has ended up drinking fabulous Spanish beer & wine, eating amazing olives, cheese and cured meats at home – I’ve got a big day tomorrow OK and I’ve been sleeping rubbish! But the best thing is my host has this: a BDO stubby cooler! More wonderment.


Well. Stay warm. It’s going to be minus 1 here tonite! And also tomorrow when I set sail on my next day of wonderment. May your day be filled with wonderment: don’t wait for things to happen – go find them.



8 Dec

I’m not sure if I know anyone who doesn’t like celebrating their birthday. It is the one special day every year that is YOUR day. But at my age, birthdays should be a lot longer. Like a month! And today was the start of that month (actually it started a week before my BIG day) but hey, who’s counting days? Not me!

So today I woke up and where I am staying in Madrid with my wonderful host Sonia, who speaks amazing Aussie as she lived in Melbourne for a year back in 2009! She had left a little surprise for me. I didn’t have time to drink my tea or eat my brie, but I’ll work on that later tonight.What I woke up to this morning airbnb.com is THE best place to find an apartment. See mine by clicking on this link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/661255 

So my birthday trip to Toledo was amazing and what started off very foggy ended up being a lovely 12 degree, sunny day. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but what an amazing place. Gorgeous winding, cobbled streets and a view that reminded me of beautiful Sienna or San Gimignano landscapes in Italy.

I will share with you a few standouts: first how the Kings, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony for so long: unheard of today.

Second, El Greco’s unforgettable paintings are incredible in the Church which is on steroids. The Church took 200 years to build and while my photos don’t do it justice, I found this one to show you how LARGE it is! There is a mix of Gothic, Byzantine and so many other influences, you’ll have to read about in on Wiki:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo_Cathedral Toledo Cathedral

This is El Greco’s famous painting “Expolio” – no not to be confused with Expelaramus from Harry Potter!


In Toledo’s Church of Santo Tomé, El Greco’s greatest work “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” hangs. It is pretty amazing considering I am yet to hit Prado museum. This was painted by Greco 200 years after this event supposedly occurred. Two saints came down from well… St Peter is in the picture as well, so you can guess what happened. Greco’s bearded deceased wife is also in there as well! He always liked to paint her with a beard. I know. Why?


What else can I tell you? Well, there are two synagogues in Toledo. We visited Santa Maria la Blanca, with the original ceiling made of Lebanese cedar.

Santa Maria Church

It started off it’s life as a Jewish synagogue but once the Jews were given their leave pass in 1492 (does that year sound familiar)? It became a Catholic Church. While I am a doubter when it comes to religion, the fact remains that these monuments are amazing and worth seeing, especially the Toledo Cathedral. Out of this world really.

And finally, this is my birthday present to myself. The photo doesn’t do it justice but the artisans decorate non-precious metals with gold. I thought these earrings and pendant were pretty. Check out how they make Damascene jewellery . http://www.lands-faraway.com/damascene-about.htm

My birthday present - Toledo Damascene

Well one of my birth ‘day’ celebrations this year has been amazing. Bring on the next. Oh that would be tomorrow! Until then….

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