My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Toledo, Spain nothing like Toledo, Ohio !!!

Dec 21, 2014
A perfect day trip from Madrid by car, bus or train, Toledo is a treasure not only because of its history (the former capital of Spain) but also because has a number of important monuments. It is called the “city of the three cultures” because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there together for centuries, leading to much diversity. The city Is surrounded by River Tagus which helps frame the city on a hill.

It was quite easy to get turned around and lost as the streets maze in and out in the historic downtown. Small alleys almost so narrow you could touch the walls on either side are 100’s of years old, and many are not wide enough for vehicles. There are churches, mosques, and synagogues as well as convents and monasteries all in the downtown.

One of the first standouts is the Cathedral (8 euro entry) is thought to be an outstanding part of Gothic art. It was started to be built in 1226 but did not finish until the 1400’s.

The first official stop was Iglesias de Santo Tome to see the famous painting; El Entierro Del Señor De Orgaz or The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. It is a painting by El Greco, a famous painter who moved here from Crete, Greece. It’s a very large painting (we could not take pictures so this is from the museum site) that experts point out is “heavenly above and terrestrial below, but it gives little impression of duality. ”

We left there and headed to the Greco museum only to get lucky as they closing in 15 minutes so we ran and saw some of his other famous paintings.

All and all Toledo is a MUST SEE if you ever get to Spain!










Cathedral in Toledo, Spain


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Madrid’s Museums Reina Sofia and Prado!

Dec. 20, 2014

What a wonderful day to begin exploration of Madrid. First stop, The Reina Sofía National Art Centre. We came here specifically to see som Picasso’s and Dail’s paintings. There is much work from the Surrealism period and covers artwork from 1930’s through 1980’s. As I expected some of it was just bizarre to me personally. It was as if all these artist friends tried to out wired each other for a certain time period.



Onto our next stop the Prado Museum which was just blocks from Sofia.
However unlike Sofia this museum is full of European art dating back to the 12th century, stunning oil paintings lined the walls. We viewed much work by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch are some of the highlights of the collection. No photos are allowed to be taken inside the Prado!

Two pieces that stood out to me were: Las Meninas, as We have statues of it given to us as a gift years ago. To see painting was stunning. We are NOT allowed to take photos so theses both came off the website of the museum.


Second stand out was The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. To me it’s a painting before its time. It was painted sometime between 1490 and 1510. It is a 3 panel painting done with the 2 side ones being shutters. The left shutter is Adam and Eve, the middle has a lot of nudity, animals, fruits, etc and the right shutter then displays hell or what happens after adultery etc. they say it shows what happens with life’s temptations. The reason it stood out to me was because it seems ahead of its time. It is more Salvador Dali like than something done in 1490-1510!




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Bus 69, the Eiffel Tower, and Rue Cler.

Afternoon dec. 18, 2014

On your last visit to Paris we saw the Eiffel Tower in the evening only. We decided this year would be interesting to see it in the daylight so we headed there after the castle. After seeing you both in the daylight in the evening it’s stunning both times however I feel the evening is when it is at its romantic best. Starting at 5 o’clock every hour on the hour the tower lights up and twinkle which is just a surreal experience.

Since we were at the Eiffel Tower we decided to follow the advice of one of our tour books on the city bus 69 for a cheap tour of the city. According to the bus stop sign the bus was to come every 15 minutes however after waiting for 30 and rereading the sign it indicated it would not be there for another hour we decided to venture elsewhere.

We went exploring Rue Cler a quaint small community not far from the tower. We enjoyed walking up and down the streets and looking in the queen little shops. On our way back towards the Eiffel Tower we noticed a Nother bus stop with both 69 soon to arrive we opted to happen on. (We are still not sure why there was a delay earlier in the day, even locals were curious.) The bus ride ended up being a pretty positive experience however because it was late in the day the sun started to set by the time we got over to the Maris region of town the sun has gone down and Paris had turned into the city of lights.

We spent a little more time exploring that region of town before hopping on the metro back to the Eiffel tower where we were just in time to watch the 7 o’clock late twinkle. We opted to head over to Rue Cler for dinner and eventually walked back by the Eiffel Tower just in time to watch the 9 o’clock sparkles-it was a brilliant day all.






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Palace of Versailles in Paris

Dec. 18, 2014.

We were so excited when we bought all day train/bus passes to realize we could go all the way to The Palace of Versailles on the total opposite end of town from where we stayed. We awoke early and headed out arriving about 8 am knowing it did not open until 9, but wanting to avoid lines we’d read about. Let me assure you we were the first in line at 8;45, there were no lines for tickets in Dec!

Originally a cottage or hunting lodge this castle sits in what used to be the country for those living in Paris. Now the area is a suburb for people with money! It is easy to find the castle once you get off the train just go around the corner and head in the direction you are facing when you get off the train.

Louis XIV moved to the castle in the late 1600’s and began the elaborate decorations and expansion of the palace. That is of course until the beginning of the French Revolution when the family was forced out of the castle and back into France due in part to His arrogance and extravagance while many lived in poverty. During the Revolution much of the original furniture was auctioned off or pillaged by Parisians unhappy with the monarchy.

On the tour one of the most stunning room was the Hall of Mirrors. The chandeliers that line this room are stunning. The windows (mostly original glass) help make the room bright and airy. There were rooms/apartments for everyone, the king, his wife and their daughters. Another standout room was the Public Dining Room where common Parisians would come by nightly to watch the royals eat dinner. Such arrogance.

Another beautiful area of the castle are the gardens. Though they were dormant in Dec it is easy to imagine these gardens in the spring/summer. The fountains were off and the statues were all covered for winter. However, from reading posts it sounds like many of the fountains are off all summer as well.

We also ventured to Marie-Antoinette’s estate which is a (poorly signed) 1 mile walk from the castle through the gardens. It was worth the visit but almost a let down after the castle. NOTE: This does not open until noon!

All in all we spent about 4 hours exploring. Thankfully there were not as many tourists as in the summer months though there were many “tour groups” entering vs independent travelers like ourselves.








The Catacombs of Paris

Dec. 17, 2014-Day 1 in Paris, we were so jetlagged but decided to hit the ground running til we dropped. We decided to visit the Catacombs, which was interesting to say the least. 6 million people buried in the limestone caves under Paris.

A bit of how this came to be. For years Parisians buried the deceased near churches and along their neighborhoods. By the late 1700’s these burial areas were very large and growing. Parisians wanted more of the real estate to build homes houses not for burial grounds. King Louis XVI decided to investigate the abandoned underground limestone mines as an option for burial.

In 1776 Graveyards all around Paris were dug up and moved in mass to the abandoned mining area, now called the catacomb. Cemeteries were moved to this location for many years. To this day there is still a lot of space for burials however there are no large buildings in this area because the foundation is so unstable as the tunnels are right below the streets.

The visit left me a bit uneasy but it was intriguing though I’m glad we visited.








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