Tag Archives: Olympus

Madrid, Spain


Madrid was the first stop on our trip to Spain.  Centrally located with reasonable airfare landed it atop the batting order.  From Madrid to Barcelona, Barcelona to Ordesa National Park in the Pyrenees and finally on to the food capital of the world, San Sebastian (return flight from nearby Bilbao).

My wife and I traveled here with some close friends after their wedding.  The trip was quickly coined Luna de Miele (loosely honeymoon?).  We stayed at an excellent bed and breakfast called Abracadabra B&B just a block or so away from the Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor.  Breakfast was great and the rooms were quiet and well kept.  Highly recommended.

We hit some of the key tourist spots such as the Palacio, Plaza Mayor, Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum.  Intersting stuff but I wasn’t blown away by any of these sights.  Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia was memorable.  The claustrophobic outdoor El Rastro street market and the Mercado San Miguel were the must sees.  My first taste of Jamon Iberico as well as other small bites at the Mercado will be planted in my memory for years to come (I admittedly appreciate food more than paintings and sculpture).  The sheer size and volume of people at El Rastro was unforgettable.  The streets were flooded with shoppers, entertainers and storekeepers.  Just about anything could be found on sale.  I recall a specific tent specializing in VHS tapes and another with casettes.

Jamon aside, Madrid was my first shot at quite a few traditional Spanish dishes/styles.  Papas Bravas, Paella, and Tapas to note a few.  Our most memorable moments came from bar hopping and savoring a variety of small dishes along the way.  Rioja wine also made quite a few appearances.

Madrid is a great starting point to get over some jet lag and start to experience Spain.  Variety of experience but relaxed.  Major sites all within walking distance of Plaza Mayor.  Fewer tourists than Barcelona.  Some sightseeing and bar hopping here should satisfy just about anyone.

Next post: Barcelona

Plaza Mayor - Madrid - Spain

Plaza Mayor
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/4.0, 1/2000, ISO:200

Museo Reina Sofia - Madrid - Spain

Museo Reina Sofia
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/4.0, 1/100, ISO:200

Metropolis - Madrid - Spain

Metropolis
Olympus OMD EM-5, 20mm lens, f/4.0, 1/25, ISO:400

El Rastro - Madrid - Spain

El Rastro
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@42mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO:200

Bear and the Madrono Tree - Madrid - Spain

Bear and the Madrono Tree
Olympus OMD EM-5, 20mm lens, f/4.0, 1/13, ISO:500

Royal Arches - Palace - Madrid - Spain

Royal Arches
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@31mm, f/5.6, 1/160

From the Piazza Michelangelo

Florence, Italy


Destination 6:  Florence

Almost every major Italian artist and architect is represented here.  You could write the entire history of the Renaissance by spending a few weeks wandering around here.  The Accademia houses Michelangelo’s David (You can see the fake one placed at the original location outside the Medici palace in the last photo in this post).  The Uffizi houses paintings from all of the masters.  Brunelleschi’s basilica dome or Duomo, is perhaps the most famous dome in the world.  Hell, you can even see Galileo’s finger in a jar here.  Leather, jewelry, and fashion in general are big but the prices are high.  Check out the prices for gold jewelry in the shops on the Ponte Vecchio.  I couldn’t afford anything even if the prices were Yen instead of Euros.  In my opinion, you’re better off spending your hard earned money on wine and food.

Florence had our most memorable dining experiences in Italy.   Vini e Vecchi Sapori was one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had, and likely ever will have.  Florence is situated on the edge of the Chianti wine region in Italy.  Not the cheap Chianti you can buy for a few bucks at the local liquor store.  This wine is a deep red, dry and the flavors are powerful.  Goes perfect with the local specialties such as Bistecca alla Florentina.  Bistecca is aged steak cut thick and served rare, putting most any other steak to shame.  Fantastic gelato is a given.  Discussion on Italian food and photos are for a later post, but the quality here cannot be ignored.

While these works of art/architecture and the amazing food culture draws tourists, I found it to be less crowded than Rome.  The streets in the main historical areas seemed less overrun by speeding Vespa’s and what are comically tiny cars (at least by American standards).  The pace was more of what I had imagined Italy to be.  Then again maybe we were just starting to learn how to enjoy this wonderful country.

Sun Shines on the Ponte Vecchio

Sun Shines on the Ponte Vecchio
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/5.6, Multi, ISO:320

Bridges Over the Arno River

Bridges Over the Arno River
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/3.5, 0.8s, ISO:200

Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)

Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:320

Atop the Duomo

Atop the Duomo
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/7.1, 1/900s, ISO:200

Perseo and Medusa

Perseo and Medusa
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@31mm, f/4.9, 1/250s, ISO:200

Next post: Chianti Region Wine Tour

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Puerto Rico, Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro


Destination 2:  Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Bodega Chic

Bodega Chic, Calle San Sebastian

Old San Juan lies on an island to the northwest of the main tourist area of Santurce.  As would be expected Spanish influences dominate the architectural style.  While some areas of the town can get overrun by tourists (specifically the areas near the cruise ship harbor), there are plenty of smaller more local bars and restaurants to be found.  Calle Sol and Calle San Sebastian are excellent streets to bar crawl.

La Casa Estrecha, San Juan

La Casa Estrecha

I would recommend a short tour of the old town, specifically the Flavors of San Juan food tour.  The tour guides weave you through the old town explaining the history of the city and noting key landmarks.  Local restaurants and bars are featured as opposed to the tourist traps.  One of the more memorable oddities of the tour was La Casa Estrecha, one of the thinnest residences in the world.  The house is now being renovated to be turned into an art gallery.  Our favorite restaurant in San Juan was Verde Mesa, which we stumbled upon while strolling the streets of the town.  The restaurant has a small number of tables and the entrees feature fresh fish.  The ceviche was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Protecting the harbor entrance is Castillo San Felipe del Morro (post header shot).  El Morro protected San Juan from invasion up to the last military actions it saw in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The sentry towers along the fort and city walls called Guerites or Garitas, have become the image most associated with San Juan.  The fort is within walking distance from the old town.  The main entrance can be accessed by walking along Calle del Morro which is flanked by expansive lawns used by the locals for picnics and flying kites.  Shots were taken with an Olympus EPL-1 and various lenses including the Oly 14-42, Panasonic 20mm, and Panasonic 7-14mm.  Next Post: Triglav and Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Calle del Morro from El Morro Entrance

Calle del Morro from El Morro Entrance

La Garita or Guerite

La Garita or Guerite & San Juan Harbor