Horseback Riding in Montserrat, Spain

Trail ride at Three Rivers Ranch, Spain

On our excursion to Montserrat, my family hiked half a day and rode horses the other half. We descended the mountain and arrived at Three Rivers Ranch where we met Juan, a Spanish cowboy. His primary focus is his cattle which explains the variety of cows lazing in the sun adjacent to the stables. We learned that he leads trail rides as a way to exercise the horses. We enjoyed getting to know our horses’ personalities and learning best riding practices.

The beautiful countryside that is part of Montserrat National Park reminded me of Tuscany– rolling hills, vineyards, and gorgeous landscapes in every direction. Hon, I felt grateful that the day worked out so well, and that Hubby and I had an opportunity to share a full, active day with three of our four kids. We all love adventure, exploring, and being outdoors.

Writing this post reminds me of other trail rides, one of which was local and a great activity with tweens and teens. (info on that coming soon…)

Hon, do you like to horseback ride?

Hiking Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain.

Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m. 

The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.

Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.

Finnsaway
Climbing a vertical, rocky path.

Rock Formations, Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain

One of the highlights of traveling to Spain was hiking Montserrat. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit the historic monastery on the other side of the mountain. Montserrat, which means jagged mountain, “has had religious significance since pre-Christian times. Before Christ, a temple was built [there] by the Romans to worship Venus.”

“Miracles are attributed to the Black Madonna found in the 12th century, which is still the destination of pilgrimages today. The monastery owed its strong growth to these ascribed miracles. The basilica of the monastery was built in the 16th century, in the transition period between Gothic and Renaissance. The Black Madonna is kept in the basilica.” (Barcelona.de)

This mountain is home to one of the most important religious sites in Spain. A residence for the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, the mountain is visited not only by those seeking spiritual rewards but also by those looking for one of the most spectaculars views of Catalonia. The history of Montserrat goes back to 880 when a group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains.

The monks are also the owners of the Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house that continues to operate today. It is the oldest press in the world, having published its first book in 1499. Music lovers will appreciate L’Escolania choir, a boys’ choir of sopranos and altos based at the Benedictine abbey. They perform every day at the Basilica of Montserrat.

Trip Advisor
Image source: © Jorge Franganillo

The rivers that formed the delta carried large rocks and pebbles that gathered in the delta itself, as did limestone as a result of decaying organic material. Then, some 25 million years ago, there was a shift in the earth’s plates resulting in the sea being pushed further out and the area around Montserrat being pushed upwards. As a result, the land was exposed to air, leaving the formation of rocks and limestone to suffer the effects of the weather.

Over the course of the next few million years, the rainwater and wind carved shapes into the limestone, which was relatively soft compared to the stone, producing the incredible system of curves and peaks that is Montserrat today.

The Culture Trip

House of Many Colors: Casa Vicens, Barcelona

Image source: Accessable

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí.

The first place we visited in Barcelona was Gaudi’s first project. Casa Vicens was designed and built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852-1926) “is one of the most noteworthy figures in universal architecture.” The house is a marvel even before you enter, with its wrought iron palm leaf gates, ceramic tiled walls, and interesting doorways. The garden is planted in colors that coordinate with the house.

Gaudi was lauded for “his support for traditional architecture, along with his exceptionally ground-breaking genius both in terms of shapes and the building and structural systems of his projects.” He designed buildings where “the construction and ornamentation are integrated in such a way that one cannot be understood without the other.” Casa Vicens was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005. ( https://casavicens.org/casa-vicens/)

Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of the Gaudi architecture?

Palm leaf fence, ceramic-tiled walls, and unusually shaped doorway.

Wall of ceramic sunflowers and leaves.

Lantern with colorful disks in entranceway filled with texture, colors and patterns.

Vivid blue arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

Cool perspective and view of cherub sitting on a ledge.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 2

Joan Miró

At the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I found the sculptures and enormous wall hangings as intriguing as the paintings. The museum has several outside areas as well as interactive art and a place for young children to explore and build. Kudos to including the kiddos! Just like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, I’d return to the Foundation if I traveled to Barcelona again.

Miró insisted that art ought to be an extension of life and part of life itself…His increasing knowledge of ceramics and sculpture led him to cultivate some of these techniques using more weather-resistant materials…Beginning in the 1960’s he was particularly prolific sculpting in bronze. In Miró’s view, both sculpture and ceramics were closely bound to nature…Landscape claimed the last word: out in the open, his pieces interact with their surroundings and, to some extent, give back to the land that which has always belonged to it.

Excerpts from the Fundació Joan Miró

Hon, if you ever go, I highly recommend bringing headphones so that you can listen to explanations of pieces throughout the museum via your phone.

“Lovers playing with almond blossom,” resin, c.1975, These sculptures are models for the enormous sculptures displayed at La Defense, Paris.” Of the two people, “One is captured as a tall cyclinder with yellow and reddish regions, with a blue ball shape on top. The round blue shape is decorated with pre-historic style abstract shapes which would deliver symbolic meaning to this intriguing piece. There is then a second tall construction, with a pointed blue shape that leans away, though with a red claw-like feature which is placed around half way up. It could perhaps be a hand reaching out to catch the ball which sits on the other figure…” (joanmiropaitings.org)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 1

Joan Miró

Hon, I have lots to share from my trip to Spain. Our first stop was Madrid where our daughter is studying this semester. From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We saw so many different things from palaces to parks, churches to cobblestone street, and museums to mountains. So fun!

When I found out about the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I added it to my itinerary. Miró, a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy, wanted to create an international, interdisciplinary center that made art available to the public. He created the Foundation by donating the majority of his work which is supplemented by donations from his wife Pilar Juncosa, artist Joan Prats, and collector Kazumasa Katsutas.

The Joan Miró Foundation reminded me of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice because the artwork is housed in a smaller, interesting building set away from the center of the city. Whereas the Peggy Guggenheim Collection faces Venice’s Grand Canal, the Joan Miró Foundation, located in Parc de Montjuïc, sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of Barcelona.

The Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself, at first principally with works from his own private collection, with a desire to set up an internationally recognised centre in Barcelona for Miró scholarship and contemporary art research, and to disseminate the collection. The Fundació opened to the public on 10 June 1975 and has since become a dynamic centre in which Joan Miró’s work coexists with cutting-edge contemporary art.

https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/foundation/

“Figure in front of the sun,” acrylics, c.1968
In this diptych, the figure in each painting appears in a celestial landscape accompanied by the moon in one and the sun in the other.
View of Barcelona from museum terrace, “Sun, moon and one star,” bronze and painted cement, c.1968
Image source: Fundació Joan Miró

Spring Sings Hope

Hon, I’m currently in Spain and will have lots to post when I return. Hubby, one of our daughters and our son are visiting another daughter who is studying abroad this semester. We spent two and a half days in Madrid, then took a high-speed train to Barcelona. I’m so grateful to be on this trip!

Wifi isn’t the most reliable so I’m re-posting these pretty pics along with “Hope” by Emily Dickinson. The rhythm of the words gives this poem a “melody,” and the first two lines illustrate how I feel when my literary agent sends me a list of editors to whom she’s submitting my manuscripts.

Skyping With Spain

Congratulations, Skype-a-Thon participants!

Together, we’ve connected nearly half a million students and traveled over 14,500,000 virtual miles in 48 hours! Thank you to all the teachers, speakers, and students who made this achievement possible.

New Year’s Resolutions are built on foundations laid the previous year. One of the things I did in 2017, and definitely want to do more of, was Skype with classrooms.

Thanks to Microsoft Education and the opportunity to become a Microsoft Guest Educator, I participated in a 2017 global Skype-a-Thon on November 29, 2017.

Map of Spain.

Javier Ramos Sancha, a teacher in Aguilar de Campoo, Spain, asked if I could read to his Year 1 bilingual students. Aguilar de Campoo, a northern town in the province of Palencia, is “a key point on the route of Palencia’s Romanesque heritage.”

Skype-ing with Level 1 bilingual students in Spain.

Sharing stories across an ocean!

Guess who else the students got to meet?

Lucy!

What fun! Thanks Javier!

Earlier in the year, I also Skyped with a classroom in Canada. French teacher Madame Diaz and I have Skyped several times. It makes me so happy to connect with her students.

Thanks, Madame Diaz, for this note: “Hi Naomi, as usual my students LOVED getting to know you.”

Thanks, also, to children’s book author Darlene Beck-Jackobson, who took time to   discuss classroom Skype-ing with me! Check out her blog, “Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life.

Related Post: Skype Hype

Sources: Spain.info, Wikipedia, Microsoft Education