Venice,September 24, 2016

Day 2 in Venice!  Took the train from Mestre (cheaper than the bus!) then started our day with a vaporetto ride (the boat used in the canals to take people to stops around the 118 small islands that make up the area of Venice!)  Great way to get a unique perspective of this city!  Above, cruise ships are in port almost every day and below, a tall ship sailed in for a visit! Above is one of the many boat stops, with a vaporetto (low-riding covered boats) in front. Below is a small “taxi” boat, which will take small groups for a much higher fare to their one spot of choice. Our stop is San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th century Benedictine basilica, built between 1566 and 1610.   Above, views of a maze from the rooftop of San Giorgio and below, views of Venice!   Above is a great view of St. Mark’s Square from the water!   Evidence of laundry day in Venice!! One of the Leaning Towers of Venice!

Venezian flag! Above 2 pictures are Campo Santa Maria Formosa with Chiesa di Santa Maria Formosa below.  The church was erected in 1492. Above and below, we finally made it to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, the principal public square in Venice and often called “the drawing room of Europe”.    We were tired, so caught another vaporetto back to Mestre to call it a night here!


Venice, September 23, 2016

Welcome to Venice, Venezia, City of Canals, City of Love!!  One of those surreal moments we never thought we would ever accomplish!  Below are our first views of the Grand Canal!! Then we took off through the mazes of walkways between canals!  Starting our Venice adventure and tours of the multitude of churches!   Above and below is the Chiesa di San Giacomo dall’Orio, Church of St James the Apostle, founded in the 9th century, rebuilt many times, including a ship’s keel roof from the 14th century.  Above is Campo S. Polo, the second largest Venetian public square after the Piazza San Marco.  One of its beautiful doors below on the church of San Polo, St Paul the Apostle! Below is Campo San Toma with small church in background. Above, exterior, and below are the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, also known as the Frari, one of the greatest Italian Gothic churches in Venice, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.  Started by the Franciscans in 1250, completed in 1338.   Stores with masks and souvenirs abound in Venice!! Above is Chiesa di San Rocco, Church of St Roch, patron saint of Venice whose relics rest in the church, built between 1489 and 1508, but altered in 1725.  It is surrounded by buildings in the Campo San Rocco. An end to our first day in Venice and back to Mestre for a well-deserved dinner and night’s rest!



Flight to Venice, September 22, 2016

Flying from Madrid to Venice over the European Alps in France and Italy.  The Alps stretch 750 miles across 8 Alpine countries and were formed as the African and Tectonic plates collided.  Majestic scenery!

We landed in Venice Marco Polo Airport and took a bus to Mestre, the city on the mainland closest to Venice.  We set up in a nice apartment, had a delicious Italian dinner and rested up for our first visit to Venice tomorrow!

Madrid, September 21, 2016

Today we began walking in the Buen Retiro Park (Park of the Pleasant Retreat), one of the largest parks in Madrid with 350 acres. Above and below is the sculpture/fountain of the Fallen Angel, “Angel Caido”, depicting the fall of the devil, known as one of the only prominent sculptures dedicated to the devil, and at 666 meters above sea level. Below are pictures of the Cristal Palace, built in 1887, made of glass in an iron framework on a brick base and decorated with ceramics.  The cupola is 22 meters high.  It is now used for art exhibitions. Above is the Pendulum and below is a rendition of the Titanic.

Above and below is the Palacio de Velazquez, an exhibition hall in Retiro Park, built in 1881-3, with gargoyles and a winged lion at the entrance! Above and below, Plaza de la Independencia, Independence Square, was opened in 1778 during the reign of King Carlos III.  Being centered with the 18th century gate of Puerta de Alcala, the first post-Roman triumphal arch built in Europe, this is among the important symbols of Madrid. The Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree is a 22 ton bronze and stone sculpture on granite, made in the 20th century, representing the coat of arms of Madrid since the 13th century. Above marketing in Madrid!!  LOL!

Above and below are Plaza de Oriente, with a monument to Philip IV.

A very FULL day with so much to see!  A fascinating city!!


Madrid, September 20, 2016

Today we walked to the Cathedral of Madrid (Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal of La Almudena) consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993, started in 1883!! The Royal Palace of Madrid, is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid, but only used for state ceremonies.  The palace has 1,450,000 sq ft of floor space and contains 3418 rooms, the largest palace in Europe by floor area.  Begun in 860 by Muhammad I, it has had numerous restorations.

 Above and below are views of the Sabatini Gardens, part of the Royal Palace, opened to the public in 1978 by King Juan Carlos I. The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple erected south of Aswan in Upper Egypt starting in 2nd century.  Due to construction of the Aswan High Dam and threat of flooding, Spain was chosen for the site of rebuilding in Madrid in 1968.   We then rode a cable car up to Parque del Oeste (West Park) with good views of the city. Another end to a great day sightseeing in Madrid!

Madrid, September 19, 2016

From Granada, we took a bus, then a fast train to Madrid!! Above and 3 pictures below is San Jeronimo el Real, (St. Jerome the Royal), a 16th century Roman Catholic Church. Above and below are pictures of Plaza Mayor, built during Philip III’s reign (1598-1621), with a bronze statue of King Philip III on a horse at the center of the square. Above is a sculpture of Icarus.  In Greek mythology, his father, Daedalus, made wings for Icarus and himself to fly out of their dungeon, but Icarus flew too high, causing the wax in his wings to melt and he fell out of the sky and drowned in the ocean.

Below are pictures of the Church of the Sacrament (17th century Baroque style), changed to Military Cathedral of Spain in 1980 and the seat of the Military Archbishop of Spain. Above is Plaza de la Villa, one of the oldest squares in Madrid, dating back to the Middle Ages.





Granada, Spain, September 17, 2016

Today we traveled to Granada!  Began walking the city and seeing the sites!

Above and below are the Trifuno Gardens with Monument to the Virgin Dinner was 10 tapas (Spanish starters) for 10 euros (about 12 US dollars)!!  And the above starters were included with the drinks!  AWESOME!!!   Views walking toward our hotel.

A very enjoyable day!




Alhambra Palace, Granada, September 18, 2016

Today we began with mass at the Cathedral of Granada, built with Spanish Renaissance and Baroque designs.  Foundations were started in 1518, but took 181 years to be built.  So beautiful, huge and elaborate! We then walked around the streets of Granada on our way to Alhambra.  Below is the arch to Alcaiceria, the Ancient Arabic Marketplace near the cathedral. Above is Puerta de Elvira, moorish archway.

Then we began our tour of Alhambra, a huge complex originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD. Rebuilt in the 13th century into the current palace with walls. Alhambra became a Royal court and Christian palace in 1492, when the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the city of Granada for Spain.  It is now a major tourist attraction, largest Moorish palace in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Above and below, views from the parapets surrounding Alhambra. Above and below are courtyard of Palace of Charles V

The Nazari Palaces are the Royal Complex of large courtyards, rooms and gardens, used for business, administration, and the Harem for wives and mistresses of the Berber monarchs.  Beautiful scrolls, intricate woodwork, mosaics, and detailed interior walls.   

Below are the Court of the Lions and Fountain of Lions, where each hour, 1 white marble lion out of the 12 would produce water from its mouth, an ingenious hydraulic system for their time.  The white marble was to represent strength, power and sovereignty. Next, Hall of the Kings. Back to walking more of the complex to the Gardens! At the end of this wonderful day, we splurged when we found a place with margaritas!!