Sunday, February 26, 2006
Montserrat Part 2
This first picture is of the backside of the Basilica. It's quite beautiful. The second picture on the right is of the inside courtyard of the basilica. It's also very beautiful. (I'll be repeating myself a lot if "beautiful" is the only word I can think of to describe this place. It's all beautiful!)
I found the statuary over the door portals to be the most attractive to the eye. And of course, you need a pic of yours truly to put it into scale. (grin)
One of the most famous attractions, and the thing that caused the Catalonians to build a monastery and church way, way up in the mountains in the first place is something called the Black Madonna. It's a very old wooden statue of the Madonna and Christ Child whose skin, for some reason, turned black. It's really interesting because the rest of the statue still remains covered in gilt (gold leaf).
The mountains there are full of weird little caves and grotos. So the Catalonian Christians, hid the madonna in a cave around 800 A.D. and didn't return to fetch it until about 1000 A.D. Most scholars think that they really didn't fetch it - they lost/forgot about it.
So when the Moors were finally pushed back far enough for it to be safe and/or they rediscovered it. They brought it back out for the Benedictine monks to enjoy. The monastary was seiged and destroyed by Napoleon around 1849. So when the Spaniards rebuilt it, they made it an open place of pilgrimage. Looking around this very beautiful but exceedingly remote place at such a high elevation made me wonder - what the heck were they thinking!!! It must've been an incredibly hard endeavor to build it not just once, but twice at a time when only human and animal power was available.
BTW - in the picture at right, you can see a tiny white area elevated up in the back of the choir. That's the area where the Black Madonna is visible to the sanctuary. Very few churches have that feature.
Well, I have one last thought to share. As it says in the book of Proverbs, it's better to have a simple soup where there's love than a great banquet where there's no love. I've had a banquet of the eyes for sure, but I was alone the whole time. :^( ...maybe next time will be different.
One last view... Cheers! -Kev
Friday, February 24, 2006
Montserrat, part 1
The Montserrat Benedictine monastery and church is nestled in the lower reaches of the Pyrennesse mountains that separate Spain from France. The area offers you some of the most spectacular mountain views of Catalunya.
I was able to visit the holy grotto where visitations by the Virgin Mary were reported. I got hear the Montserrat Choir boys recitals and take some mountain hikes with breathtaking views. I also took a funicular (one of those steep mountain-side rail cars) to the top of the mountain with amazing views of the Catalonian countryside, as well as down to the Santa Cova, the secret cave where medieval Spaniards hid the Black Madonna from the invading Moors.
At noon, the church held a mass and at 1:00 pm, the Choir Boys of Montserrat sang. It was quite a beautiful and spiritual experience.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I was really lucky this trip. I barely made it out of Nashville before the heaviest snow hit. The trip from Nashville to Atlanta was really bland and fortunately only 35 minutes. However, I totally lucked out that my flight from Atlanta to London was upgrade to business class. Can you see how much leg room there is in the photo on the left?
Day One in Barcelona, Spain - I'm taking this trip primarily to participate in a board of directors meeting for PASS, the Professional Association for SQL Server (www.sqlpass.org). I'm currently serving as the president of the organization. The PASS board of directors are staying at the Hotel Fira Palace (http://www.fira-palace.com/barcelonahotels/ing/index.htm). It's a very nice hotel with lots of marble all over the place and just a couple blocks from the beautiful National Palace of Catalonia.
We spent all day in deep discussions about key strategy for the organization. And the last two days of the week, we'll be hosting our European conference.
The meetings are productive, but tough due to jet lag. Everyone was tired and struggling through the day. After finally wrapping up the first day of meetings, we met again for dinner. Now, you have to remember that in Spanish culture, dinner doesn't happen before 9:00 pm.
The Spaniards are still very zealous about siesta. That means that everything shuts down between about 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Heaven forbid that you should need a MaxiPad, because there won't be anyplace open to sell it to you. That also means that no one is ready for dinner until late, except for tourists. Dinner on our first full night kicked off around 8:30 pm at a great portside seafood restaurant called La Fonda. You can see some pictures of La Fonda at http://www.lafondadelport.com/principalin.htm.
Spanish dinners are slow and languid. The Spaniards don't believe in "turning tables" like at US restaurants. We even got to celebrate Wayne Snyder's "33" birthday. Go Wayne! (Yes, it was his birthday. No, he's not really 33.)
Night life in Barcelona is non-stop. Everything is open very late. Families with small kids were coming into the restaurant at 11:00 or 11:30 at night! Almost every restaurant is open until at least 1:00 am. The bars don't really even kick into high gear until at least 2:00 am. Lots of tourist attractions, like the Catedral at left are, if not open, at least well lit for you to take pictures.
The last thing to mention about my first two days at Barcelona is the gorgeous fountains at the base of Montjuic, where the palace is located. They must've been the inspiration for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. They have beautiful light and music shows most of the night.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Wanna set me straight?
P.S. The previous post is called "Valentime's Day Brick" because Katie Jo calls today ValenTIME'S Day instead of ValenTINE'S Day. And the choco-brickerrific gift came from my mom.
Valentime's Day Brick
Grandpa Chuck is a senior Olympia and, despite terrible back problems, is in great shape. He's gold medal'ed many times over the years. My mom is very active and has the blessing of good genes. I think that they both look really young and healthy for their age. Now don't they look like the kind'a couple you want to be when you're hitting 70?
Emily was the one who figured out that the box was a Valentines gift and quickly tore into it. I'm not sure if you can see, but it's a HUGE thick slab of chocolate with the words "Love, Grandma & Grandpa" written across it in red.
Needless to say, there was no keeping the little girls from such a treasure! It was certainly a wonderful gift and they're still enjoying it today. Are those not the faces of some REALLY happy kids?
Of course, Dad just couldn't resist taking a small bit himself. And boy howdy, it was yummy. I hope you have a great Valentine's Day too. My girls certainly did.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
From all I've heard from friends who moved to Nashvegas to make it in the music biz, this sounds about right to me!
And now for something completely different:
A True Story
Earlier this year, the dazed crew of a Japanese Trawler was plucked out of the Sea of Japan clinging to the wreckage of their sunken ship.
Their rescue, however, was followed by immediate imprisonment once authorities questioned the sailors on their ship's loss. To a man they claimed that a cow, falling out of a clear blue sky, had struck the trawler amidships, shattering it's hull and sinking the vessel within minutes.
They remained in prison for several weeks, until the Russian Air Force reluctantly informed Japanese authorities that the crew of one of its cargo planes had apparently stolen a cow wandering at the edge of a Siberian airfield, forced the cow into the plane's hold and hastily
taken off for home.
Unprepared for live cargo, the Russian crew was ill-equipped to manage a now rampaging cow within its hold. To save the aircraft and themselves, they shoved the animal out of the cargo hold as they crossed the Sea of Japan at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Funny, but it sounds like an urban myth to me. Perhaps someone wants to check on http://www.snopes.com to find out if this is a true story or not?