Barcelona, Spain – The National Palace

If you are in Barcelona and mapping out one of your days, Montjuic (a large hill/small mountain on the southwestern edge of Barcelona) is a great location to spend a day. You will be able to visit an old castle, the National Palace (shown below), Poble Espanyol, and facilities from the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The view from Montjuic Castle, built in 17th century, offers a sweeping view of Barcelona and the mediterranean. I’ll share of a visual stroll of the Montjuic Castle in the near future. Just having that view is enough to warrant a visit. However, there is a lot more to do on Montjuic.

Poble Espanyol is a village that was built for the 1926 World Fair should be one of your stops during a trip to Montjuic. It captures the spirit and the architecture of the various regions throughout Spain. You can have a mid-day meal and drink here. Another option is to enjoy a flamenco performance over dinner. I shared a visual tour of this area here – Poble Espanyol.

Then, there is the Palau Nacional (National Palace). It was constructed for the 1929 Word Fair and is now the location of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Art Museum of Catalonia). Its façade was inspired by St Peter’s of the Vatican. It has two smaller domes on each side and four towers inspired by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella.

During my first visit to the museum (the photos above), I really focused on the National Palace. You can go inside and check out the exhibits and elaborate interior design. You can climb higher and higher to get good looks at the towers and domes which I really enjoyed. You’ll also have some wonderful views of the city from this elevation.

During my second visit to the National Palace, I approached from Plaza de Espana (pictured below) and was greeted by the Venetian towers (second photo below). They frame the entrance to the avenue leading up to the National Palace.

I enjoyed stopping briefly at the National Palace during my second visit to Barcelona but was primarily focused on getting to Poble Espanyol which I didn’t get nearly enough of during my first visit.

I feel like I know Barcelona a bit better now and, looking back, I could have certainly been more efficient during my visits. I’d suggest you set aside a day to focus on the Montjuic area – the castle, National Palace, and Poble Espanyol. If you have more time during that same, the Olympic site (1996 Summer Olympics) is also on Montjuic as well as an old cemetery. You will notice the cemetery on the mountain side of Montjuic as you are traveling from the airport into Barcelona.

How does Montjuic measure up to other options in Barcelona? Before visiting Montjuic, I would prioritize the Gothic Quarter (El Gotic) and the waterfront area on the edge of the Gothic Quarter as my first stop. This really immerses you Barcelona’s rich history and fills you with the city’s vibe. Next, I would make Sagrada de Familia a must-see on your to-do list. Then, if you have more time in Barcelona, head to Montjuic.

Singapore – Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is an expansive project in the Marina Bay area of Singapore. It is an eco-tourist destination showcasing sustainable practices and plants from across the globe and is a must-see attraction in Singapore.

The ever-present Marina Bay Sands hotel is on the edge of Gardens by the Bay.
First glimpse of the “super tree” groove – south of Marina Bay
The garden contains 18 of these “supertrees”
Each is a self-sustaining vertical garden
The skywalk between the trees provides another way to view and enjoy the garden.
Notice the “eggs” floating on Dragonfly lake. At night, they are illuminated along with the trees.
Crossing the Gardens by the Bay (south of Marina Bay)

The Gardens by the Bay covers 103 acres and has themed garden areas honoring the diversity of people found in Singapore – Chinese, Malay, and Indian – and Singapore’s history. It represents a significant step towards transforming Singapore into a “city within a garden.” They are well on their way. This garden and the focus on flora throughout the city is something that will always standout in my memories of Singapore.

Park Royal Hotel is living the “city within a garden” vision.

Monterey, California

Monterey, California had always been high on my bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to expose my family to the sights I had long dreamed of seeing. The town of Monterey would be wonderful to visit but what really had my heart racing was finally making the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur.

It has been several years since we made this memorable journey. Now, I look forward to piecing it back together with this stroll down memory lane.

We stayed at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa with a room overlooking Monterey Bay. Below, my daughter experiments with some creative photography on the balcony.

On the left side of the courtyard (in the image above) is a fire pit and seating where we enjoyed several relaxing sunsets looking out onto the bay. We were also within walking distance of the bustling Cannery Row which is filled with retail stores, restaurants, bars, and the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Even the early morning runs provided with memorable views:

Taking in the sights and experiences of Monterey were wonderful. However, the trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was a different kind of wonderful. The Bixby Creek Bridge is a famous landmark along the PCH.

The panoramic cliffside views were breathtaking. I was also able to get a bit closer to the waterline at times to witness and almost feel the powerful force of nature that is still carving her masterpiece.

And even closer…

After dozens of stops at cliffside lookouts, each more visually compelling than previous stop, we reluctantly turned around and headed back to Monterey. But, there is always time for one last photo as I capture my wife and son in a selfie moment.

My wife and son taking one last shot for the road

Along the way back, we stopped for dinner at a seaside restaurant.

While the name of the place is lost to memory, I do have vivid memories of sitting on the patio with my family enjoying a meal while taking in a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean from our cliffside perch. We were even treated with an all too short but magical whale sighting.

Brief History of the Monterey Area

Native Americans Native Americans first settled the area now known as Monterey and existed in a fishing and gathering-type society when Spanish explorers first arrived.

Spanish Discovery Spanish seafaring explorers first discovered the area known today as Monterey Bay in 1602 and suggested it was a suitable area for a potential port. It would take over 150 years for Spain to dispatch a land expedition to further explore the area in 1769 and establish a settlement – the second city established in California. San Diego is the only California city that is older.

Argentine Invasion On November 24, 1818, Argentina landed a military force that captured Monterey. The Spanish fort was taken and burned along with many of the buildings in this early Monterey settlement. Argentina’s occupation lasted only six days.

Mexico Takes Control In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and Monterey became a possession of Mexico. There was little impact on the area and life continued much as it had while under Spain. One notable exception was the expansion of ranches through land grants.

Mexican – American War The Battle of Monterey took place on July 7, 1846 between U.S. and Mexico. American troops captured the city and claimed California for the United States. California became a state in 1850.

Monterey prospered as a fishing village (driven in large part by Japanese and Chinese migrants) through 1950 before exhausting its most vital resource – fish (especially sardines). Today, the area is more focused on tourism, marine biology, and is part of a marine sanctuary (an oceanic national park) that extends from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. A notable feature in Monterey Bay is the kelp forest which can be viewed up close in a kayak.

Monterey or nearby Carmel are great places for a family vacation. There is plenty to do and see in these two small towns and you can visit each of them easily regardless of which city you decide to stay in. Of course, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is a must while you are in the area.

Boston, Massachusetts – Charles River

It was a cold but vibrant fall day as I walked along Charles River in 2019. If one of my children happen to read this some day and want to trace Dad’s steps, I began near the Liberty Hotel and walked south along the river before cutting away to walk the Freedom Trail. I probably spent 5 hours on the freedom trail which left me in the northern part of Boston. My trip back to the hotel was north to south along the river.

I began by walking south of the hotel…

View from pedestrian bridge crossing over highway.
Checking out the waterfront with my new friends.
Still heading south…
Looking back at the bridge in the previous photo.

At this point, I left the river and headed over to the Freedom Trail. There is another pedestrian bridge that will take you over the highway.

The photos below were taken after completing the Freedom Trail and during my walk back along the river. As a point of reference, after completing the Freedom Trail you are a couple miles from the Liberty Hotel and also on the opposite side of the river. No worries, there will be a bridge to cross as you get closer to the hotel.

There are several park areas and alternate paths to explore along the river during the walk back.
Cross this bridge and keep heading south.

Additional posts from Boston, Massachusetts:

  • The Freedom Trail – Historic sites of the American Revolution
  • The Liberty Hotel – Former state prison transformed into a luxury hotel (coming soon)

Madrid – Let’s Run (Not with the Bulls)

After a long flight, I’m finally settled into my hotel in the historic city center of Madrid and ready to explore. But, I need to workout. One of the perks of being a runner is that I can get out to sightsee and workout at the same time. There is a large park – Parque del Buen Retiro – not far from the hotel that looks like a great place to run. Let’s put on our running shoes, grab the camera, and hit the streets. I’ll grab a map from the hotel to help out with the sights of note.

First up on the run is Museo del Prado. It is considered among the premier art museums in the world. Housed within its walls is one of the world’s greatest collections of European art and, in particular, Spanish art.

A statue of Diego Velázquez is featured at the front of the museum. Velázquez was one of the preeminent painters in Spain’s golden age and served as the leading artist in the court King Philip IV. Cool. What next?

We are working our way up Del Prado avenue towards Parque del Retiro – a 350 acre park on the edge of historic Madrid. Oh, what is this?

The Neptune Fountain

I wasn’t exactly expecting to see sculptures of ancient Roman gods in Madrid but I like it. The white marble sculpture featuring Neptune – Roman god of the sea – was completed in 1786. Seems this is also the location where fans of Atletico de Madrid come together to celebrate soccer victories. Nice.

Alright, time to get to the park and get a sweat going. Hard to get the heart rate up with so many architectural distractions around. What is that building? It’s a hotel but not like any hotel I’m used to seeing.

The Palace Hotel was commissioned King Alfonso XIII and opened in 1912. The Palace was only the second hotel to have a bathroom in each of its guest rooms which was no small feat considering there were 800 rooms. When opened, it became the largest hotel in Europe. Many distinguished guests have stayed here and the hotel has served as host to meetings of international importance. Well, that’s interesting. Time to run a little.

We are making good progress and almost at the park entrance. This building looks important. El Prado Cason Buen Retiro. Let’s see, this building is currently an annex to Museum del Prado. Actually, it has a much more significant history that adds some historical context to where we are standing and the park we are about to run through.

This is one of two buildings that remain from what was once the secondary residence and place of recreation for King Philip IV. The palace was completed in 1640 (wow, it is old) and was a complex of twenty buildings. Today only two of the twenty buildings remain. Much of the palace was destroyed in 1808 when occupied by French troops during the Peninsular War between Spain and France (1807-1814). Ah, Napoleon was here…bummer. Seems the alliance Spain made with France to attack Portugal backfired. Oh well, bygones.

Hmmm, that reminds me. We just passed a monument a few minutes ago but didn’t stop. Let’s go back and check it. Maybe there is a connection to be made. There it is – Monumento Dos de Mayo. I know Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day from Spain, but never heard of Dos de Mayo.

On May 2, 1808, the citizens of Madrid rose up against the occupying French troops. The rebellion was crushed but sparked other revolts across Spain and demonstrated the will of the Spaniards to be free from French occupation and oppression. Makes sense that this monument would be so close to what remains of the palace. Alright, to the park!

Yes, what an Impressive park entrance. These statues were formerly on the grounds of the Royal Palace and were relocated here for the people to enjoy. I am definitely enjoying them. Thank you.

Paseo de la Argentina (AKA Statue Walk)

Now this pond and monument is impressive. Love how you can get a boat and paddle on the lake or sit on those stairs and enjoy the view. We need to get over and check it out.

Monument to King Alfonso XII, completed 1922

This is fantastic! Let’s keep moving.

What is this? Palacio de Cristal del Retiro was built in 1887 in honor of the Philippines which was then a Spanish colony. It initially served as a conservatory but is now used for art exhibits. I see some folks on the stairs enjoying the view. This park definitely has some cool places to hangout.

Palacio de Cristal del Retiro

We have a nice sweat going now and could use a breather. These ruins must have significance. Let’s take a closer look and catch our breath.

Ruins of San Isidoro are the remains of a Romanesque church from the 11th century. There’s not a whole lot left but it really gives you pause to realize these stones were put together by people over 1000 years ago.

This park is a great place to run. It is incredible that Madrid has protected 350 acres for people to have such a natural oasis so close to city center.

Seems there are statues everywhere. These monuments (pictured below) have Africa and Cuba inscribed on them. Spain’s history of exploration and conquest may be unmatched in world history. From 1492 to early 1800’s, Spain claimed most of the New World minus Brazil and the English colonies in North America. Think about all of the Spanish speaking nations in the western hemisphere that still remain…it all flowed from Spain.

Deeper into the run we come across this lovely rose garden.

The statue above depicts the fall of Lucifer from Heaven. It was erected in 1922. Not sure why it is here in a rose garden. Maybe it reflects the duality of our existence – the beauty of the rose and pain of the thorn?

Even the park gate offer a well-adorned passage. Looks like our exit.

This was just a run in the park. I can’t wait to see what awaits in the actual city of Madrid and hope you will join me for more. Oh wow, look over there…definitely need to come back and see what that is about.

Puerta de Alcalá (notice the bride and groom in the center for photoshoot)

Snowmass, Colorado

I appreciate the beauty of winter wonderlands but don’t typically seek them out as travel destinations. Fortunately, I needed to attend a work-related, winter conference at Snowmass and took every opportunity to savor the views.

Flying in during sunset was a great way to start the trip.

The first few days were quiet in terms of snow and it seems this had been the case for several weeks. As you can see in the images below, there wasn’t a lot of snow beyond the slopes with only modest coverage on mountains.

The lack of snow would be short-lived. When the snow finally came, it hit hard. The areas in the images below were completely free of snow the day before.

The snow brought a lot of excitement and activity around the slopes (above).

I ended getting snowed in at Snowmass – not a bad place to be locked down. The BBQ restaurant in the image above was my primary source of meals over three days of flight cancellations. Being forced to eat BBQ for three days…pinch me, I must be dreaming!

I’m not really into winter sports but Snowmass was a fun place to visit. There is a charming village at the bottom of the slopes for shopping and dining. The Westin, where I stayed, has the warm feeling of ski lodge and makes for a really nice place to stay during the visit. There is also a small ski village next to the Westin. And, you are within walking distance to that amazing BBQ restaurant.

Mother Nature’s Encore

There may be no better time of the year than a cool, sunny, fall day. After Mother Nature’s dazzling spring and summer performance, she prepares to exit the stage. Before departing, she blasts us with one last vibrant show of color that leaves us mesmerized and cheering for more! With a bow, she exits with a promise to return when the cycle of renewal is ready to burst forth again. I have my ticket and can’t wait for Spring.

I was out driving on a beautiful fall morning when I rolled into this dream. I didn’t stay in the car for long.