[wisconsin] Neat Article
ray1530 at wowway.com
Wed Sep 14 23:02:31 EDT 2011
I just wanted to share the following article that the husband of one of my good friends who is blind wrote about their recent trip with their church choir to Spain. I'm sharing because Andy painted a great picture of what they saw while there.
Read and enjoy.
“The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain.”
This bit of wisdom, as espoused by Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” seemed rather accurate when I travelled to Spain from July 21 – 30. We had beautiful weather throughout our stay in Barcelona and Madrid.
The trip was arranged by my church choir director from St. Marcelline Catholic Church in Schaumburg. Along with the 18 choir members including my wife and me, there were also about the same number of family members and parishioners who went with us.
We departed on Thursday, July 21 from O’Hare on an overnight Iberia flight to Madrid, where we arrived the next day to a beautiful, sunny morning. My first impression of Spain was that of the gleaming, new airport nestled amidst the surrounding mountains. The airport is quite a nice facility with graceful, undulating curves in the ceiling of the terminal from which we left for Barcelona. A neat feature was that the graceful waves overhead were painted like a rainbow, gradually transitioning from red at one end of the terminal, through orange and yellow all the way to indigo and violet at the far end.
After a short flight to the northeastern Mediterranean port city of Barcelona, we took the bus on a brief tour of the city before arriving at our hotel right in the city center. Being situated on the sea, the weather was quite pleasant with highs in the low 70s. Quite a relief from sweltering Chicago! On Saturday, we journeyed outside of Barcelona into the surrounding hills and the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat. Inside the beautiful church is the cherished Black Madonna, said to be carved by St. Luke. Why the statue is black is something of a mystery; some say it was painted black, while others indicate that it acquired its coloring due to decades of candle soot. After admiring the church and the view, we returned to Barcelona for rehearsal and concert at the Barcelona Cathedral. Our program consisted of American music including many southern songs and spirituals. The acoustics in the Cathedral were quite remarkable, with a several second reverberation that made us sound like a choir twice our size!
On Sunday we took a tour of the modern church Sagrada Familia (sacred family), which was started in 1884 by Antoni Gaudi, but halted during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Though the church construction resumed in 1940, it is still incomplete, with an anticipated completion date of 2017. The huge building, which wasn’t consecrated until 2010, has dozens of beautiful stained glass windows and gigantic pillars supporting the roof.
Later in the day we strolled Las Ramblas, a famous outdoor pedestrian shopping area, followed by our singing for High Mass at the Cathedral. Dinner was a wonderful, lengthy affair at a restaurant called 4Cats, which one of our companions found via a Zagat rating online (I highly recommend it!). After dinner we returned to the hotel and enjoyed Sangria at the piano bar until the wee hours (at least for Americans).
I should say something about the Spaniards’ late schedule… they take an afternoon siesta, so almost everything (except McDonald’s) shuts down between 2 and 5 PM. Dinner is always late, with restaurants not opening until 7 or 8 at the earliest. It is easy to find dinner at 11 PM. While this makes for great night life, it didn’t make for such great early morning departures on our daily tours!
On Monday we travelled by bus to Madrid, what was supposed to be a six hour journey but ended up being more like nine hours due to road construction. The choir’s kazoo rendition of “Precious Lord” (one of our concert selections) made for an enjoyable pastime. On the way to Madrid, we stopped at another church in Zaragosa. As with many of the other churches we saw, the interior was beautiful, had a wonderful frescoed ceiling, and photography was not allowed. The four-spired church here was famous for being bombed during the Spanish Civil War, but the bombs didn’t detonate and are displayed with a plaque on one of the walls. The hole in the roof remains as a testament to what occurred (and what didn’t).
Tuesday was spent touring the Royal Palace and the Prado art museum, home of many Goya and El Greco works. On Wednesday, we spent the day exploring the old city of Toledo, with its narrow, winding streets, gothic church with flying buttresses, and sword & knife shops situated seemingly at every other door. Walking the alleys and sidewalks was always an adventure, as you never knew when a motor scooter or tiny car would decide that your walkway was actually a convenient road for motorized vehicles.
On Thursday, we took an excursion to El Escorial, a large complex which served as the historical residence of the Habsburg kings, a monastery, and a necropolis simultaneously. It was completed in 1584 after a mere 20 years owing to the 7,000 construction workers. After this we returned to Madrid for rehearsal and final concert at the Basilica de la Virgen Milagrosa.
Friday was our final day in Madrid. After so much activity over the preceding days, my wife and I opted to take it easy and stroll the streets surrounding the Palace and Opera House, followed by a nice dinner of tapas with our entire group (which concluded with the most amazing house-made apricot-raisin infused liquor I have ever tasted).
On Saturday the 30th, we boarded our return flight. Although we were reluctant to leave, it was nice to come back to Sweet Home Chicago. And since we were traveling home the opposite way, our return flight landed only three hours after we took off!
ray1530 at wowway.com
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