Arrival – Barcelona

We made it to Barcelona without a hitch. The only real bump in the road was that we arrived to the hotel around 11:00 am Barcelona time and the room wasn’t ready for us to check in yet. After a long overseas flight it is tough to cool your heals waiting to get into your room. They finally gave it to us around 1:30. We quickly unpacked a few things and took a 2 hour nap.

One we woke up we were pretty hungry so we walked across the street to the El Corte Ingles and bought some groceries.

After we had eaten something we felt much better and rode the metro over to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 1

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 5

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 4

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - HDR

We ran out of steam pretty quick and headed back to the hotel. As we were walking Cynthia suggested we go have a look at Casa Batlo which is not to far away. We walked over and snapped some shots, but I am not overly pleased with what I got so may plan to shoot some more later.

Of course William The Sheep is tagging along for the journey

Time to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow. Rain is forecast, but we’re prepared!

Snow Day 2009

Weather forecasts all week predicted snow for Friday, Dec 4th and sure enough, we had several inches of snow. I was fortunate enough to have the day off and Cynthia got to come home early. We took advantage of this rare weather phenomenon. We simply don’t see this much snow in Houston EVER. It snowed last year, but not much and it snowed on Christmas Eve in 2004 but it didn’t stick. The last time I saw snow like this in Houston was in the 60’s.


Snow In Houston
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Snow In Houston

Snow In Houston

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Snow In Houston

Snow In Houston

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Snow In Houston

Of course the sun was out the next day and the temperatures are expected to be back up in the 70’s before mid-week.

Our neighbors demonstrate their sense of humor about the fickle weather here in H-Town:

Snow In Houston
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Snow In Houston

Additional photos are here

William Visits A Cat House In Valencia

William Visits The Cat House

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William Visits The Cat House

No, William didn’t go to a house of ill-repute. This is a hole in a wall on Calle Museo that feral cats use to get to and fro. Someone sculpted a house facade around the hole complete with doors, windows with curtains and even a fountain.

William Visits The Cat House

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William Visits The Cat House

William Visits The Cat House

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William Visits The Cat House

There’s even a miniature tile sign on the wall commemorating 4 of the more well known neighborhood that used to live there.

We didn’t see any cats, but they may well be laying low till the explosions stop later this week.

Madrid – Thursday

We’ve been here a week now. It’s been a lot of fun so far. The hotel room is situated such that it’s pretty late in the morning before the sun lights up the room. On several occasions it’s seemed that it should be around 6:00 am and it ended up being 9:30. Thank goodness we’re not on a rigid schedule. This is a vacation after all!

This morning we actually got up around 7:00 since we had gone to bed relatively early last night. Checking the balcony and looking down the street we were able to tell this was going to be a glorious sunny day.

After breakfast we headed out to go see the Egyptian Temple of Debod because you just don’t turn down an opportunity to see a 2000 year old Egyptian temple in person, especially with things as tense as they are in the Middle East right now.

There was plenty to see as we made our way to the temple. Right off the bat I noticed this statue of an angel standing on it’s head…


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*edit* we discovered later that his was a privatlely owned sculpture of Icarus and that it belongs to the sculptor who made it and that is his private residence.

Just a bit further down the road we came to the Royal Palace of Madrid


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Then William had to get in on the act…


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Tip: It’s always good to visit sites like this early in the morning. You beat the throngs of tourists and get a better view of the thing your going to see…

We walked on down the side of the palace and headed to the park


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Cynthia and William got to ham it up with the local constabulary…

Before long we reached our destination, The Egyptian Temple of Debod


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After that we hiked back to the Puerto Del Sol for some lunch and then headed back to the hotel room for a nice long siesta, but not before spotting an “old friend” at Kilometer Zero


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Madrid – Wednesday

After dropping off the laundry at the laundromat and the broken glasses off at Corte Ingles we headed off to the Thyssen Museum to complete the Madrid art museum triumvirate which began with our visits to The Prado and The Reina Sofia.

Some call this the “”Golden Triangle of Art” but to me The Golden Triangle will always be the area of Southeast Texas between the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange which was immortalized in the song of the same name by the Austin Lounge Lizards on their album Creatures From the Black Saloon.

This museum houses a collection of art that originally started as a private collection by the late Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Some have described this collection as having many lesser works by the great masters and greater works by the lesser known.

It is a wonderful gallery and an excellent collection. The museum was not overly crowded and was a very pleasant place to while away a few hours.

When we emerged from the gallery the sun was shining brightly and we were a hop skip and a jump from Retiro Park so we decided to head over there to see if we could capture some of the highlights in the sun light.

I’m glad we did!

Monument to Alfonso XII


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William The Sheep had to have his picture taken in front of the monument…


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The Crystal Palace


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The Fuente de Alcachofa (Artichoke Fountain)

We left the park and caught The Metro to pick up our laundry. When we arrived at the laundromat there was a bit of a commotion.

There was a film crew in the laundromat filming a scene for their movie. Either that, or it was a Spanish documentary on the horror of well worn tourist socks and underwear…

We had to wait a bit to collect our laundry, but before long we were back on The Metro and headed for home (the hotel).

Once we dropped off our things we headed out to the local Museo de Jamon to purchase some ham and bread to take back to the room for sandwiches.

After we had sated our hunger we determined that we’d had enough and called it a day.

BTW, Cynthia has really enjoyed the comments that you guys have been making to these posts. Keep ’em coming!

Segovia

Today was our first “day trip” during our vacation.

Segovia is located about 50 miles northwest of Madrid and makes it an ideal one day visit as it only takes about an hour to get there by bus.

I was particularly interested in Segovia because I wanted to see the Roman aqueduct that still stands there.

To get to the bus station we had to take the Metro, the underground subway system in Madrid. No big deal, right? WRONG!

I don’t think I fully appreciated Cynthia’s fear of the underground until today. I knew she was not fond of the subway from our trip to Paris but I learned the hard way that Cynthia’s literally terrified of being underground. She’s got no problem being up on a rickety ladder hanging a quilt or whatever, but get her in a subway station and she can get rather freaked out.

To get to the bus station we would have to catch the subway train to the Principe Pio stop which entailed one transfer. It was quite a journey with poor Cynthia nearly hyperventilating the whole way.

Once we reached Principe Pio she was fine. The fresh air reinvigorated her and we headed over to the bus station, bought our tickets and boarded the bus to Segovia.

We were laughing and having a good time when all of a sudden the bus entered a tunnel. It was quite a long tunnel and again Cynthia was a bit freaked out.

We cleared the tunnel and before long we were pulling into the bus station in Segovia.

The weather was threatening to rain all day. Menacing clouds gathered above the mountain tops and the day bounced back and forth from cloudy to sunny. I think this made for an interesting day of photography.

Right as you walk into the city center you see this wonderful old church


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If you look in the upper right-hand corner you can see the cathedral in the background


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All very nice, but the main attraction IS the aqueduct


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So exciting that even William the Sheep needed to have his picture taken in front of it

We checked it out and then walked on to have a closer look at the cathedral. It’s more Gothic than you can imagine!


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From there it was on to the Alcazar


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We opted not to pay the entry fee to take the tours and just enjoyed the spectacular weather and scenic views


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After that, we headed back to our hotel in Madrid. Cynthia did much better in the tunnel and on the subway. I think that now that she understands it a bit better we’ll have less trouble. This is good since we have to utilize it for two more day trips from Madrid alone…

The Vagrant

I was approached today by an operative from our UK branch (code name “The Brit” and sometimes referred to as Tin) who worked with me while conducting surveillance of one William the Sheep.

It was suspected that William might be a high level officer of the notorious BAA! network and might be engaged in subterfuge and espionage operations here in America and abroad after travelling to the US via unsuspecting souvenir seeking tourists.

I followed William to Europe and after extensive monitoring was able to clear him of all wrong-doing until his picture showed up on a Russian web site and raised suspicion once again.

Tin had come to inform me that there was a lot of chatter being picked up amongst known operatives in the BAA! network which would tend to indicate something big was happening.

That’s when he told me about another suspected BAA! agent known as “The Vagrant”

The Vagrant first came to our attention sometime in 1998; caught on surveillance video waiting to be “˜picked-up’ at Sheep World, located just North of Auckland, New Zealand. It wasn’t long before his “˜merging with the crowd’ tactic worked and he was able to turn his back on the rolling, verdant hills of Warkworth for the metropolis that is Sydney, Australia. Spurning the “Collective” he emigrated sometime in 2000 to Wiltshire, England; a county with tenuous
connections to the Australian and New Zealand Baa networks. It’s possible The Vagrant was the nucleus for clandestine “˜BAA in England’! recruiting sojourns to Cranleigh, England; Lugano, Switzerland; and LochCarron, Scotland finally lead to Houston, Texas in 2002 where he’s been “˜sleeping’ for 5 years.

I’m not sure what this all means. It would certainly appear that William and The Vagrant share a similar modus operandi. Two sheep passing themselves off as mere tourist baubles? You might recall that William found passage to the United States after being “purchased” from a vendor at the Edinburgh Woolen Mill. This allowed William to arrive in the U.S. in 2002, the same year as The Vagrant. It was only a few short years later that William was jetting off to Amsterdam and Paris with a stop over in Belgium where he was spotted consorting with a possible BAA! network splinter cell in Bruges.

We lost track of him for a brief time before he was spotted on the night train from Paris to Venice where I proceeded to follow him to Florence and Rome.

Tin informed me that Galway, Ireland was coming up frequently in the chatter. It appears I will be off to Aerfort Na Sionna on the morrow to do a little investigative work…

William

When Cynthia and I took our European vacation in 2005 we decided to take William the Sheep and take pictures of him in front of various sites we visited.

In fact, he has his own subject tag here at baldheretic.com as well as his own photo gallery.

We have every intention of taking him on our next vacation for more photo opportunities.

As I was vanity searching on the web I found an interesting site. It’s an online Russian real estate magazine. One particular issue happens to jump out at me…

William

That’s William in the hotel bed in Paris.

I know I am usually pissed off when I see someone hot-linking or stealing one of my images…
But this is kind of cool.

You can see the original at www.sob.ru/issue242.html

Roma!

One and one half hours by high speed train from Florence to Rome the day before yesterday.
This place is BEAUTIFUL! The weather in Italy has been just perfect.

Here is William at the Leaning Tower of Pisa from our side trip the other day.

William and Pisa

We had time to go to St. Peter’s Square which is right around the corner from our hotel. St. Peter’s Basillica is truly wonderous to behold. The largest church in Christendom, pictures cannot do it justice.

St Peter's

St Peters

St Peters

Today we stood in St. Peter’s square and received a blessing from the Pope. And yes, there is a picture of William and the Pope as soon as I can get it uploaded. He is now a “sacred” sheep.

By request

Shefsatyr, look in the gallery (www.baldheretic.com/gallery) for another angle on the grandfather shot.

For the fans of William the Sheep here is a picture of him when he helped me do my laundry in Paris on our last night there. It was quite difficult following the French instructions and purchasing the correct detergent.

It was a successful (if not harrowing) experience. On the upside I have an increased reserve of clean underwear and socks!

Cynthia even composed a poem….

Saturday night
In Paris, France
Washing and watching
Jay’s underpants

William

Amy, tell Arianna that William was found in Scotland when we travelled there two years ago and hope to return one day…but for now he is happy touring the world and seeing things no other wee Scottish sheepie has ever seen. His optimisim and enthusiasm is carrying the day for us when we find ourselves road weary.

Venice!

Venice Picture Gallery

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The night train from Paris to Venice was an experience to say the least.
We shared a cabin with a Nigerian man who was friendly enough but seemed out of place on a train to Venice.

We made conversation and then bedded down for the night.

As the train rolled through the darkness I dosed off and dreamed of bizarre train sequences from various WWII movies. Then, at 4:00 am I was awakened by a knocking on the cabin door. We had stopped and a uniformed Italian policeman was asking us questions. He was most interested in the man from Nigeria. The conversation was mostly in Italian (which the Nigerian man spoke fluently) and the policeman searched his luggage thoroughly. After about 45 minutes he was done and he left. I fell back asleep as the train pulled out and continued us on our journey.

We arrived in Venice around 8:30 this morning.

I found my way to St. Marks and got a picture right where my grandfather stood in 1919.

Spanning the generations

One of the sites we were anxious to see was the so-called “Bridge of Sighs.” Legend has it that this bridge received it’s name because the prisoners who passed through it on their way to the prison cells on the other side would most likely see the beautiful sight of the lagoon and the island of S.Giorgio and freedom for the last time.

This is probably an apocryphal tale but it makes a great story.

William was happy to see it.

William at the Bridge of Sighs

The food here is awesome and the weather is magnificent. We leave the day after tomorrow for Florence.
Cynthia’s ability to speak Spanish is helping us in many ways since the languages are very similar.

Finally got some IO

Found a cafe that will let you connect USB devices so I am adding two pics taken yesterday.

Yes, I AM a tourist.

William the sheep is overjoyed to be in Paris and see the sights.

William

We stayed up late so I could use the tripod and get this shot

Lights

Oh yea, before we left Bruges, Cynthia got the hookup at the Dumon Chocolate Shop. This place is pretty amazing. It went a long way toward lifting her spirits after the “incident.”

We went to the top of the tower today and we also walked to the Arc d’Triumph. Tomorrow is the Louvre.