Don Quixote, Forney, TX Sunday, Sep 23 2012 

This is a photo taken a few years ago in Forney, TX, where there’s a large antique shop called DeRidder Antiques. It’s one of the favorite spots for the DFW Area Meetup group on Flickr, a group which I joined on this particular occasion.

Texan Don Quixote

Texan Don Quixote

From the old Soviet MiG aircraft in front of the store, all the way to the back, where this figure is found, DeRidder is full of unusual treasures of all kinds. It’s quite easy to spend a few hours there looking at everything.

I’m not quite sure where this Don Quixote came from on his horse Rosinante, but it looks rather well done. Just a few days ago, I took you guys to the Spanish province of La Mancha, where he is from. An interesting thing is that shortly after my return from Spain, I heard an interview with Aaron Sorkin about his new show on HBO, “The Newsroom”. In it, as well as in the show, the word “quixotic” is pronounced “kwik-so-tik”… Which I found objectionable, because I prefer to preserve the original pronunciation of the root, so it would be “ki-ho-tik”.

But language is a living thing, I guess, so I’m letting it go. Besides, next week is going to be all about Italy and my July trip to Rome. I hope you enjoy those photos, which start tomorrow.

Nuestra Señora de Almudena, Madrid, Spain Thursday, Sep 20 2012 

For my final photo from Madrid, I decided to re-scan this evening film shot of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Almudena – a massively awesome looking church directly across from the Palacio Real. In fact, in the photo of the Palace that I posted the other day, I was standing on the steps of the cathedral.

Nuestra Señora de Almudena

Nuestra Señora de Almudena

Pictured here is the north facade – you can see the setting sun hitting it from the right side of the photo. It’s worth noting that there is a statue of Pope John Paul II in front of the east entrance to the church. Which reminds me to let you know that next week I will start posting photos from my trip to Rome this past July, which included a visit to the final resting place of John Paul II.

So, over the last few days, we’ve seen Spanish palaces, churches, gates and squares. As we say goodbye to Spain (at least for now), I should mention that I wrote additional posts about Spain for a travel blog of my friend Dave Dunn. You can read those on his blog, and see a few more of my photos if you click on the following links:

City Postcard: Toledo, Spain Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 

Puerta de Bisagra

Puerta de Bisagra

The last few days, I posted about squares, gates and palaces of Madrid. Madrid is obviously one of those cities where you can spend endless weeks sightseeing, soaking in the culture and food. Nevertheless, although my visit was only about a week long, I wanted to take a quick day trip to some of the landmark sites outside of the city. I settled on a quick visit to Toledo, attracted by its ancient architecture.

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo is some 50 miles south of Madrid, in the very center of Spain, and is a capital of both province of Toledo as well as of the autonomous community of Castille-La Mancha. If you’re a literary buff, you may have perked up at the mention of La Mancha – the region is known for Don Quixote, and most of Cervantes’s book takes place here. Toledo is pretty proud of this, and Don Quixote (and his loyal servant Sancho Panza) can be found all over the city, in various forms, from miniature statues to paintings and beyond.

Toledo is an ancient city, built on a hill overlooking the river Tagus which makes a big bend around the city. Most of the streets are essentially canyons – very narrow and rarely straight, so they are sometimes difficult to navigate. I was fortunate (or had enough foresight) to have purchased a map, despite of which I took a few wrong turns.

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

I entered the city through Puerta de Bisagra, pictured on top of the post, a tall stone gate which reminded me of Dubrovnik in Croatia. That’s not an accident – both Dubrovnik and Toledo were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites, within a few years of each other.

The most prominent of these landmarks is surely the Cathedral, or as the Spanish call it, Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo. Massive Gothic tower is 300 feet tall and shows numerous intricate details, some of which are in the Mudejar style. There’s a little bit of an art deco look to it, too, so one of the local art galleries compared it to the Chrysler Building in New York City.

I’m not so sure about that. What do you think?

Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 

Palacio Real, Madrid

Palacio Real, Madrid

I’ve been posting some photos from my trip to Madrid I took a few months ago, and yesterday I mentioned the grandiose architecture you can find all over the city. Nowhere is that more evident than right here – Palacio Real.

Quick linguistic note – seeing letters “r, e, a, l” together immediately takes me to the English word, but in Spanish, the word actually means “regal” or “royal”. And there are quite a few “real” things about Madrid, the seat of the Spanish royal family.

Speaking of the Spanish royal family, this building was their main home for centuries, until very recently, when it was open to the public. It’s just gorgeous to look at, opulent and extravagant, and I caught it in nice late afternoon light. I even included a tighter crop of the shot I took with my long lens, to show some of the detail on the roof and the facade of the building.

Palacio Real, detail

Palacio Real, detail

Pretty awesome, don’t you think?

Gates of Madrid Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 

Madrid architecture reminds visitors at all times that Spain used to be the most powerful country in the world once, and Madrid needed to convey that sense of grandeur and scale.

Puerta de Toledo

Puerta de Toledo

One of the ways this is evident is in the gates, or arches, that dominate certain points of the downtown area. They are remnants of old city walls and were erected to celebrate different events or rulers. Their locations indicate the spots where major roads would leave the city.

The one on top is Puerta de Toledo, aptly named because it is on the road leading south to Toledo. These days, the easiest way to get to Toledo is by train; we’ll talk about that more in a few days. If you’re in that area, check out the flea market that goes on every Sunday in a neighborhood just a few blocks away.

The other photo is of Puerta de Alcala, a gate on the east side of town, at the end of Alcala street. That part of town seems a bit more high-end – Ferrari store is just a few blocks away, for example.

Puerta de Alcala

Puerta de Alcala

One thing these gates have in common is that I had meals in the immediate vicinity, with great views of the gates. As far as experiences go, I highly recommend that.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain Sunday, Sep 16 2012 

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

As you may have noticed, I started my “365” project a week ago, meaning that I will post a photo each day for a year. There are a lot of photos I haven’t posted, and I’m hoping to take a lot of new ones, so the exercise is mainly in discipline and preparation.

This week, I will post a photo a day from my trip to Spain back in March.

Plaza Mayor is a rectangular square in the middle of downtown Madrid, where you can buy any type of souvenir known to man. From figurines of bulls to Soviet military memorabilia, and everything in between, you’ll find it here. In the evening, the shops close, but the restaurants open, and the waiters entice you to sit at one of the many tables outside.

When I took this picture, I didn’t even notice that the facade is actually full of painted ladies in various stages of undress. Upon further review, there are even a few male nudes. I included a 100% crop of one of the windows, flanked on each side by a beautiful woman. The Europeans definitely think differently about nudity.

Ladies of Plaza Mayor

Ladies of Plaza Mayor, 100% crop

What do you think? Can you imagine something like this on a building in your town’s main square?

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