Sunday, December 28, 2014

Madrid and Provence

It is time to finish the story of our return trip adventures.  From Barcelona, we flew to Madrid.  We had originally thought to go to Marseilles (and finish in Madrid) but there were no flights.  Trip advisor thought we should take a 20 hour, $2000 trip through Italy.  We said NO. Instead, we went to Madrid and then on  to Marseilles.  From Madrid, the trip was under 2 hours and well under $100.  Ahh the mysteries of travel.  We enjoyed Madrid, but there aren't many photos.  The sights that most impressed us were the buildings and the Art Museums.  We loved the Prado!

We also enjoyed Reina Sophia.  It is a modern art museum, so many of the pieces were less to my taste.  It was wonderful to see Guernica 'in person' though.
This is the elevator, and below, the line to visit the museum for free.  We paid to get in and enjoyed the lighter crowds.

I laughed out loud at this souvenir shop offering.

This wall of foliage was very impressive but even more so when we got close and realized that they are live plants!
The highlight of Madrid was the temple though.  

Even better than a simple temple trip was the opportunity to go through a session with a recently reactivated member we have been friends with for most of our mission.  Our convert almost made it to this session too.  It was a year from her baptism date but her confirmation was two weeks later so it didn't work.  She went the next week though, so it's all good!  There is just no better way to end a mission!

We also met a ward member who was there for a missionary child's endowment.
One little miracle more.  As we got on the metro to return to our hotel, we ran into a pair of sister missionaries.  Not tooo surprising as it was the temple stop.  The surprising part was that one of the sisters recognized Rod.  She had gone to high school with our youngest daughter.  The companion was a brand new missionary and in the midst of the "I'm never going to learn the language" stage...both of them feeling a bit down.  We gave them hugs, Rod gave them his language learning talk... and we left them both feeling reassured and loved.  One week later, in the back corner of a department store (in Tempe not Mesa), in the size 10-12 women's shoe section (where no one ever shops), we ran into that same sister's Mom and she also recognized Rod.  What are the odds?  There is no way it was coincidence!  The Lord loves his missionaries, both the old and the young, and he let us know that without any possibility of a doubt!!!

We went to Marseilles and thence to Toulon to visit our friends, Monique and Francoise.  We met them in Chile and invited them to visit us in AZ which they did, so we had to visit them in turn.  We didn't give them much time as we were anxious to get home for Thanksgiving, but we had a wonderful time in Provence France!
We stayed with them in Francoise's  120 year old farm house.  This is one of those places you read about in novels!

grilling in Provence.


Hard to believe.

A home made cheese and wild mushroom tart!  Monique gathered the mushrooms!!!

A gorgeous view of Provence France

Rod wanted a beret... which we found at a military clothing store.

eating windfall almonds in the garden.

The serious artist?
Then on the way to the airport we got to sight-see a bit more.  We stopped in Aubagne.
The sign says 'In Aubagne one finds everything, and lots of other stuff.'
 This town is famous for the figurines that make up the French Christmas villages.  They are also known for the clay used to make them.  I of course had to do my part to bolster their economy.

We also saw the Ile d'If  of Count of Monte Cristo fame.

I was again fascinated by the contrast between very modern and old.

An ancient church.

Rod is picky about the art though...
We flew to Paris that afternoon.
We spent our last night in this quirky hotel in Paris.
We left Paris the next day... for Home!  So glad to get here and so grateful for our family who met us at the airport.  We are so Blessed!!! It made for the perfect Thanksgiving!!!

We have had such an Amazing experience on our mission.  We highly recommend the experience to any and all!!!  The Lord can make use of each of us regardless of our talents or lack there of.  And the truly miraculous part is that as we work to help and bless His beloved children, we in turn are blessed beyond all measure! Truly!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Barcelona vista

We spent our last night in Malaga in the quirky  'El Cid' Hostel.  It was fun because we have had some of our missionaries stay there.  It just seemed fitting.
Our second stop on our trip home was Barcelona! Even before the mission we wanted to visit this city.  Someone lent us a book about Antoni Gaudi and his amazing architecture!  Now.. 'we know people there'.  That phrase is in quotations because it is one of Rod's favorite responses when people ask how he got something done. 
Our flight there was on a local airline with NO LEG ROOM.  We were very glad it was a short flight.
Our first night there I had rabbit.  It was fun, but not my favorite.

Rod enjoyed his meat platter a bit more.
We arrived early enough that we took one of those bus tours of the city which  I actually really enjoyed. You could get on and off without paying again, so we stopped at Park Guell
Gaudi was known for his 'organic' shapes and his love of nature and it's forms.  The 'tree trunks' are cement with planters atop to provide the foliage.  The 'park' was originally envisioned as a housing development, but turned into a public park. 

You can just see the iguana which is now a symbol of Barcelona.  The camera died before I got good photo.

Yes, some of the columns are tilted!

This building was originally envisioned as the caretakers home.
We also took a walk down to the Rambla.
This is one of the small booths on the Rambla.  If you can see the yellow and orange striped banner  at the top of the photo that says Barcelona, that is the  colors of the  flag of Catalonia.  This province is trying to declare it's independence from least some of the time.  There is even a translation of the Book of Mormon into Catalan.
This is the street at the heart of the city, and a very well known shopping destination.  We really liked our hotel in Barcelona.  We had a suite and felt very 'up town'.

The next day we went back to The Sagrada Familia Cathedral. 
This façade of the cathedral was dedicated to the nativity of Christ. Gaudi was very religious.  When he died in 1926, only the crypt, apse and part of this façade were finished.

We loved this door.

Even bugs made it into his work.

The columns were designed to resemble trunks and branches of trees and the balconies  the leafy canopy.  I was entranced by the light from the stained glass and the color it lent the columns.  

This was the park just outside the cathedral.... I was struck by the trunks and branches.

The windows are very modern.. I like a bit more representational windows better personally.

The organ.
The spiral interior staircase gives some idea of the height.

The ceiling.

Beyond the columns is the external spiral stair we got ascend.

The evolution of some of the shapes Gaudi used (from a display in the museum at the basement of the Cathedral). 

The tower representing Christ.

Going up the stairs.

Be serious!

View from the upper levels. I loved the shape of the window.

Inside the nautilus.

This is a balcony off of the staircase.

Not real wide though.

These are some of the towers.  As you can see, the cathedral is still under construction expected to finish in 12 years.
Lest you feel that the towers were 'too strange' I noticed this form on the grounds too.

This is a model of the other façade.  The sculptures depicting the Passion of Christ were done by Josep Maria Subirachs and are much more modern looking, but still follow Gaudi's plan.

This is a copy of the upside down string model Gaudi used to design and plan the Cathedral.

This is a school Gaudi built for the children of the workers.

Inside the school

Christ's betrayal.  The rows of numbers in the box all add up to  33, Christ's age at his death.

The soldier's horse.

Christ being whipped another door in the background.

The events of the Passion progress in an S pattern across the façade, with the crucifixion visible and behind the netting and above it all, the resurrected Christ.

We had to take a break for nourishment after all our walking.  We had churros for dessert.

Then we went to the park to get this photo.  I have such an artistic husband.
 Next Madrid.