Friday, September 27, 2013

Sunday Picnic

I have plans afoot. I am hoping to teach crafty classes (instead of English) here in Madrid this fall and I am in the process of working on a schedule with some lovely ladies who have a textile teaching studio in the heart of Madrid. I will release details once things become finalized. Let's just say that I am on board to teach some spinning and needle felting classes! In Spanish! I am nervous but excited to practice in my new language. Until then I am studying all of the textile terms in preparation.

But until I can release the details, I want to share the perfect day I had this past Sunday with my husband of almost 10 years.

We took a picnic lunch to Parque de Quinta de los Molinos, which some of you might remember from a previous posts here and here. It was a beautiful day, it is still a little warm here in Madrid, with the days getting up to 30C (82F), but in the shade it was perfect. As you can see the leaves are changing, and I am excited that my favorite season is here!

The thing about this park is that there are many olive and almond orchards. They are very old and very charming. You can walk amongst the orchards if you want, or in our case picnic, and even come and pick the fruit when it is at peak.

The park also has an estate house, grand walkways, manicured gardens, and eucalyptus trees, which I love to photograph.

Here is the area we settled on for our picnic. We had lunch early, around 1pm, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. (Most Spaniards eat lunch on Sunday around 3 or later, and they sleep in.) In fact except for the dull roar of traffic noise, we could pretend that we were in the countryside. The soil (dry and rocky) and the smell of pines reminded strongly of the mountains in my home State of Colorado.

We ate, we lay on our blanket looking up at the sky and talked. Sometimes we were silent, listening to the breeze in the trees and the bird song. These moments are what life is all about. 

But... there was only so much time you can sit, lie on the rocky ground so we packed up our picnic and made our way leisurely out of the park. Note to self: Picnic more often.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lisbon day 4 Sintra

I took me so long to post the last day I had in Lisbon, because it was bitter sweet.
The loss of a dear loved one will hit you in unexpected places. Plus, I would not recommend going here in August if you do not like crowds. It felt like a theme park as in you had to pay for every little thing and there were lines. Leave extra time for the bus, it ended up taking us an hour and a half to get to the train station from the last castle.

Speaking of castles, that is what makes it an attraction. So. Many. Castles. Castelo dos Mouros was the one we really saw. "castle of the two Moors" was mostly just this grand wall enclosing a beautiful wooded area. I am sorry that we didn't really catch a lot of the history behind this.

This is the site we had lunch. Have you noticed that on the left side of the tree is the old wall, and on the other side is a newer wall?

The views were amazing.

Here is a view looking back down onto the town of Sintra itself.

And some of the other castles? (click to enlarge)

Pena national palace from a distance...

...and up close.

Unfortunately we did not really have the time go in. I am glad we left when we did, it took about 4 hours to get back to Lisbon and I had to fly out that night.

So that was my trip. Next time we are in Portugal we want to visit Porto. Have you visited Sintra?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lisbon day 3. Yarn shops and Museu Nacional do Azulejo

This was the day I had completely to myself to explore the city. Now I do not know about you, but I still find it a little scary to venture off by yourself in a country where you do not speak the language. I know that people do it every day, but this was my first time.

I, of course, spent the morning looking up the local yarn stores. The first one was in walking distance from my hotel and is called Tricots Brancal. It was closed for August. I had a peek inside though and from the window and it looked like it had a good selection. I was not courageous enough to get a photo but here is a link to it's location.

Then I went to a different than usual metro stop and on the way I past this beautiful recycling bin.

The next shop I went to was downtown. It had a beautiful mosaic tiled sign on the sidewalk, a fair percentage of businesses in Lisbon do, but from what I could see, it was not worth going into.

There are several of these types of stores in Madrid should I wish to go. Plus in Madrid, I speak the language. As for how I would explain these type of stores to Americans... it is like a big box craft store in a small space. Because it is a small space, you need to have an idea of what you are looking for. In other words, it is not a store you can browse easily in. For example if you want buttons, you go in ask to see their button samples. The clerk will then hand you a book from under the counter with samples of all the buttons they carry, you can select one and they will go into the back and get it for you. Most of the stuff that they carry is on display in the windows, so you should have a good look at what is there before going inside.

A beautiful building on the other side of the street.
I had saved the best  store for last. Retrosaria. From everything I have heard, this is the best yarn/fabric shop to visit as a tourist in Madrid. Not only the owner speaks english, but the saleswoman that was working that day did as well. They have handspun 100% Portuguese wool (grown, spun, dyed), Portuguese merino wool to spin or felt, and several yarns and fabrics from Portugal.

The shop can be intimidating to find, as it feels like you are going up to an apartment building. I highly recommend going to the website and looking at the directions to get there. It is on the 2nd (US 3rd) floor with no elevator.

There is also a selection of international yarns, notably German, sewing and knitting books and fabrics.

I can not really hand sew and I do not have a sewing machine, but I saw some fat quarters from Japanese fabrics there that I knew that I would want in the future. I bought both a lab science one and an underground science one, as well as some Portuguese designed ribbon with Snow White (shown) and Little Red Ridding Hood (not shown).


This is what I bought. Admittedly most of it was German made, but the fiber is100g of Portuguese Merino in a natural brown, and the cotton yarn on the lower left is Portuguese made 100% recycled denim yarn. 

Outside the yarn store I found another ship.

Then I did my most adventurous thing yet. I headed to the Praça do Comércio to try and catch a bus to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (Tile Museum). Now I knew the numbers of the busses that went there, and that they stopped in the Praça, and I got there ok. I just wish that I had looked up more information ahead of time though. the Praça is huge with bus stops on three sides and in two different lanes. Eventually I thought that I had found the bus that I wanted and I waited patiently to ask the driver if he went to the Museum. Luckily he spoke a little of English and I was able to point out the museum on the map so he was able to help me.

Here is a shot I took from the bus. Not the best, but a good view of the city as seen from the bay.

Lisbon is known for it's tiles or "Azulejos". I knew that I had to try and get to this museum because it was so unique and also craft related. I think that it is inside an old convent. The entrance fee is reasonable, 5€, and there was a beautiful courtyard with a nice cafeteria, which is nice because this Museum is off the beaten tourist path.

I did not see any signs saying not to take pictures, so I took a few sans flash. I found I really liked the repeating geometric tiles. These ones looked like they were 3D.

Here they explained (in English too) how they would paint the tiles. How they transferred the designs was particularly interesting. They would use the "prick and pounce" method which I almost used for my stained glass kits. Here is a good explanation of the technique.

There was also an old chapel in the center of the museum.

What I assume is a reliquary with a modern ceramic sculpture in font of it. It was a little creepy.

I found some sheep in the tiles too.

I have to admit that I took a taxi back to the hotel. I usually do not do that, but I was unsure of where the bus stop was going back and it was going to be a bus trip, a long walk uphill and then a metro to get there. There were taxies in front of the museum and it only cost about 3€ more then my proposed trip on public transportation.