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Madrid: Art, anthropology, El Rastro flea market and more

Madrid


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Off to the airport soon...

These are the highlights of the last couple of days in Madrid.

- The Museum of Anthropology - quite small but interesting, especially because it concentrated on countries that were formerly owned/controlled by Spain or at least had a significant Spanish presence; for example Latin America, the USA, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of the Congo. It also contained a mummy discovered in a cave in Tenerife in the eighteenth century and the skeleton of a 'giant' who was born in Spain in 1849.

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Andean masks



- General street scenes and beautiful buildings that I've passed - Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, colourful buildings in side streets, a busker playing a set of glasses (running his finger round the rims with water) outside the Royal Palace, the grandness of Gran Vía (the main street; I came across a National Geographic shop there where I bought a lovely t-shirt on special offer at a 40% reduction)...

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- El Rastro, the enormous street flea market held every Sunday morning. I didn't buy anything but it was lovely to browse all the same.

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- The Museum of the Americas. There were lots of really interesting exhibits, just as I guessed there would be; highlights for me were the pre-Columbian objects, especially the exquisite gold figures from the Quimbaya culture of Colombia, a carved wooden statue made by the Chimú culture of Peru, and a Peruvian mummy with the gold jewellery she'd been buried with. There was also a 19th-century Guatemalan violin and sheet music which I was very taken with.

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There was a lovely little park opposite the entrance, too, with a statue of Simón Bolívar, one of the liberators of Spanish South America.

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- A special weekend lunch deal of a starter, main, dessert and drink for 13 euros at a Thai restaurant. It might seem strange to have Thai food in Madrid, but I suddenly had a craving for it. Hadn't had any Thai food since January, after all. I had stir-fried vegetables in a really tasty sauce for my starter, stir-fried chicken with a vegetable and peanut sauce and rice for the main and tapioca for pudding.

- Reina Sofía Museum, where I saw Picasso's 'Guernica', lots of works by Salvador Dalí, Miró and other artists, plus a Richard Hamilton exhibition. I bought a fridge magnet of Guernica in the shop. I've always liked the Surrealists and I remember doing a study on Picasso for A-Level Art back in 2003...

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- Gazpacho, grilled grouper with salad, ice cream, churros...

Posted by 3Traveller 08:49 Archived in Spain Tagged art market museum spain madrid pre_columbian_artifacts spanish_cuisine Comments (0)

Last full day in Quito

Quito


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Today in total I visited two churches, three museums, a Republica del Cacao shop, two bookshops with English sections, and a tiny little traditional restaurant underneath the cathedral where I had some very tasty seco de chivo for lunch.

The museums I went to were the Museo San Francisco, right next to the monastery of the same name (beautiful courtyards, religious art, portraits of European rulers from the 17th and 18th centuries, and up some stairs to a choir stall looking out over the beautiful interior of the monastery, where a service was taking place); Casa del Alabado, a small museum full of fascinating and dramatically well-lit pre-Columbian artifacts; and the City Museum, set on the grounds of a former hospital. It had an exhibition about the old hospital as well as more general ones about the history of the city.

Museo San Francisco:

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Casa del Alabado - pre-Columbian exhibits from the Valdivia, La Tolita, Jama-Coaque, Napo and Chorrera cultures, plus a view of the street outside:

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City Museum:

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One of the churches was Iglesia San Agustin. Due to a mistake on my map that showed it a block further away from the Plaza Grande trolebus stop than it actually is, it wasn't until I got there that I realised I had been there once before, with my sister Emma on Good Friday. The interior of this church is so beautiful and interesting I stayed for quite a while to look round it again and savour the atmosphere. Unfortunately no photography was allowed, so I couldn't get any pictures of the interior. I did get one of the street outside, though:

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On the way there I also took these pictures of Plaza Grande:

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Iglesia de la Merced, the other church (and the view from its steps):

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The museums and churches were all in the Old Town. I went back to the hostel for a little bit after that and then went for a wander around the New. The Republica del Cacao shop I visited because I really wanted to get myself one of their t-shirts - I had intended to get one at Guayaquil Airport on my departure date from Ecuador, but then I thought it might be cheaper to get one from a place outside the airport instead. As it happened the prices were about the same, but they only had unisex sizes rather than fitted ones for women, so I didn't buy one after all. Although I had a nice browse in the bookshops I didn't buy anything from them either.

For dinner I went back to an old favourite, the Italian restaurant Cosa Nostra. I went for something a bit different this time and had some lovely bolognese gnocchi for a main and a teacup of amazing coffee ice cream for pudding.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum hostel monastery quito ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco san_francisco_monastery pre_columbian_artifacts colonial_church Comments (0)

Gold sun mask and traditional ice cream

Baños and Quito


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Edit from October 2019: The name of the restaurant where we had the traditional ice cream is (I'm pretty sure) Heladería San Agustín. Still going strong it seems, though I don't of course know if they still make their ice cream the traditional way...

Thursday 12/6/14

I knew the journey to Quito today would only take between two and three hours, so there was no need to get to the bus terminal particularly early. We had time for a nice relaxed breakfast (we also made up two jam rolls each for ourselves to have for lunch on the bus), a soft drink and a game or two of pool at the bar before walking leisurely in the sunshine to the terminal.

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Once we arrived at the terminal I had no problems getting tickets for the next bus to Quito. We left on time and arrived at the shiny new Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito on time as well.

We rested and used the internet for a bit on our arrival at the hostel. In the evening we went out for some dinner round the corner at a place recommended by our guidebook, but apart from the cheese humita we shared for a starter, which was delicious, the food wasn't anything special. My glass of guanábana juice was very nice though. After dinner we wandered down the street a bit until we got to Plaza Foch, which is the centre of the Mariscal Sucre district, a.k.a. 'Gringoland'. Today was the first day of the World Cup so the place was packed. Lots of security police around with guns, so there wasn't any trouble that we could see. We only walked around the square a little bit before going back to the hostel to bed.

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Friday 13/6/14

This morning we had breakfast early and took a very crowded Trolebus to Ejido.

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We walked through Ejido Park, in the sunshine, to get to our destination - the National Museum. We passed by sculptures and statues as well as a tree growing at such a right angle part of it had to be propped up.

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Sadly, while we were there an ambulance went past and stopped nearby - there were people crowded round someone who must have had an accident.

There were lots of fascinating exhibits in the museum, which was split into an archaeology room, a Gold Room and upstairs some religious art mostly painted by painters from the Quito School in the Spanish colonial period. My favourite items were the beautiful gold sun mask that is deservedly the flagship exhibit in the Gold Room; a ceremonial copper knife; a silver funeral mask; a mummy of a young girl found in a cave in Canar Province; obsidian arrowheads; bird-shaped ocarinas; a clay mask of a coca-chewer; and replicas of skulls showing the skull-flattening deformity that was practised by one of the pre-Columbian tribes in Ecuador. The Gold Room also contained a lot of information about how the various metal masks and so on were made - interesting to read about how they did this so many centuries ago. Dave especially liked this part. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photos in this part of the museum.

After finishing looking round the archaeology, gold and religious art rooms we went up another level to a room containing a photo exhibition set up by the Turkish Tourism Board. Not quite what you might expect to find in Ecuador, but the photos were fabulous! Obviously they had picked the best possible photos of Turkey, in order to make people want to go there, but still. Turkey was already on the priority list of countries I'd like to visit in the future, and this exhibition did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm!

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After that we got the Trolebus into the Old Town and the first thing we did there was go to a particular restaurant/cafe for lunch. I was keen to try this place because it was founded in the present building in 1858 and still makes its own ice cream in traditional copper bowls. We shared a humita to start, then Dave had seco de chivo, I had shrimp ceviche and for pudding we both had a scoops of lovely coffee and chocolate flavour ice cream. The ice cream came in bright silver-looking cups that looked almost like vases.

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We then went on to Plaza Grande...

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...and Plaza San Francisco for a look round, because I was really keen to show them to Dave.

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Our next destination was the Basilica, which lies up a hill. We looked around inside first...

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...and then I went up to the top of the tower and took some photos of the wonderful views over Quito.

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On our way back down the hill I stopped at a bakery and bought five chocolate buns for us to have on the journey to Otavalo the next morning. We took the trolebus back to the hostel from Plaza Santo Domingo.

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For dinner we walked round the corner to an Italian restaurant for some pizza.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art basilica turkey museum hostel buses dave quito banos ceviche ecuador unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco plaza_santo_domingo pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

Guayaquil explorations with Mum

Guayaquil

In the morning I was working but Mum went out and explored the cathedral, Iguana Square and some shops nearby.

When I got back we had some lunch at the hotel and then we walked to the Malecón and went along that, passing through the botanic garden on the way...

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...until we got to the big Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art. We only had time for a look round one of the exhibitions; it was really interesting because it had lots of examples of zoomorphic pottery, incredibly well preserved considering that many of them are thousands of years old. All different types of animals were represented. I had seen examples of these before in Cuenca, Santa Elena and at the Municipal Museum in Guayaquil, but Mum hadn't seen anything like them before, so they were all new to her.

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After this we carried on another 100 meters or so to Las Peñas, where we looked at the colonial buildings there...

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...before climbing up the side of Cerro Santa Ana until we got to the top.

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Mum was desperate for an ice cream by then so I bought us an ice lolly each from an ice cream seller with a coolbox who was sitting at the bottom of the last flight of steps; $1.25 for two. I had a chocolate one and Mum had a guanabana one - lovely. We took some photos from the terrace first.

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The little lighthouse was open so we climbed up to the top for an even better view - a policeman said we would have to pay $1 to take pictures, but we think he was just trying to scam us because he could see we were foreigners. We saw a local take a picture with her phone and the guy never stopped her. I managed to take a quick picture on the sly, however, without being caught.

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On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a cafe for a drink - Mum ordered some tea but she did not like it at all - apparently the same thing happened in Barcelona a few years back! Then we stopped at a supermarket so that she could buy some fruit, stopped at a pharmacy a bit later to get some suncream, and finally got back to the hotel feeling knackered but satisfied.

We had dinner at a restaurant on the ground floor of a different hotel nearby. I had seco de chivo and Mum had shrimp ceviche.

When we got back to the hotel we wandered round taking some night time photos of the courtyard, including the pool, the giant iguana statue and the back of the cathedral that made up one of the courtyard walls.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel museum cathedral botanical_gardens mum ceviche ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

Municipal Museum, Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Before today I hadn't been to the city centre since the Independence of Guayaquil procession on 9th October, so I fancied a visit to the Municipal Museum and a chance to say hello to the iguanas nearby. On entry they asked me for ID, which I hadn't expected, but when I froze and I said I didn't have any on me, they said it was OK and I just needed to type my name into their computer instead.

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That done, I was free to wander round. On the ground floor there was an interesting collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including zoomorphic jars and jugs, money shaped like very flat axe-heads, actual axe-heads, 'La Mujer de Colonche' (a sandstone monolith fertility figure of a nude woman, made by the Guancavitca culture who flourished between 500-1533 AD), and more. There was also a case holding what I think are the thigh bones and a tooth of a mastodon!

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In other rooms there was a display about three British pirates who attacked Guayaquil (William Dampier being one), colonial Spanish artifacts like guns and swords, a map of Guayaquil from 1741, republican artifacts, a room of colourful paintings by Ecuadorian artists and a separate room of religious paintings. I recommend this museum but I do think it could do with some information in English to accompany the artifacts!

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The museum is very close to the cathedral and Iguana Square, so I headed there next.

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I took a few photos of the iguanas, but then I noticed crowds spilling out of the cathedral, so I went over to have a look inside. It turned out there was a service going on; I was quite surprised because it was a Saturday. The altar was flanked by white-robed priests and choirmen. I hung around at the back while a hymn was sung (one I didn't recognise), took one or two photos and then left.

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I didn't want to go straight home so I thought I'd have a wander down the Malecon and see if anything was going on there. A large crowd was sitting on some steps, gathered round some 'actors' (I use this term deliberately loosely) who were performing some kind of comedy sketch. I didn't understand much of what they said apart from at one point when I heard a list of fruits being mentioned! I walked past and climbed up a looking-out tower right next to the river. A plastic Christmas tree had been put up further along the Malecon. Took some photos and then got a bus home.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum cathedral iguanas ecuador guayaquil malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

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