|Tunes & Travels|
by Jennifer Matthews
I found Spain to be one of those places you visit and don’t want to leave… or it stays with you and haunts you until you return. I arrived in Madrid and entered the bustling city with eyes wide open. It was very alive and festive. I caught public transportation and headed to the ’Old’ City. I didn’t have reservations so the adventure began as soon as I stepped off the bus and landed in a colorful section of town. Just by exploring and walking the streets, I found a wonderful, very affordable room with a balcony that overlooked a garden courtyard and winding stone street. Some of my favorite experiences in Madrid was the Prado Museum. It is revered as one of the greatest Museums on earth!! Check out their site at pradomuseu and also go to spanish arts. The museum offers incredible works from great artists such as Raphael, Bosch, Goya, Rembrandt, Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, among many others.
For music I highly recommend going to an authentic wine bar/cafe and listening to traditional flamenco musicians. I found the best way to locate the Flamenco venues is to ask the locals what some of their favorite neighborhood places are. Here is a site that has some good listings in Madrid for live Flamencol... Of course try not to overlook the traditional Flamenco dancing in Spain as it is also very powerful and beautiful. Here are two great sites to check out for listings… they are pretty detailed and give you many good overall options. spanish fiestas & madrid info.
After spending five days in Madrid, I caught a train to Barcelona. The ride was sweet because I got to see some of the inner landscapes of Spain. It was hilly in parts with open plains and wonderful distant castles now and then in the distance. The train I caught was pretty slow moving … so if you take this route you need to account for a good 7-8 hour trip. Once I arrived in Barcelona I found it a bit tricky to find accommodations without a reservation. However, I did find something near to the famous Cathedral known as La Seu or officially named Cathedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulalia, after Barcelona's patron saint Eulalia. It is huge and fabulously GOTHIC!! Check out the site for more details … Cathedral
I found Barcelona to have a lot to offer. I recommend taking many days to roam and discover the jewels of this city on your own. Here are some sites to guide you through Barcelona.. bcn guide & barcelona tourist. Another huge attraction for Barcelona is the work and buildings of the great architect Gaudi.
Here are two more places I found to be pretty special and worth the trek to. Take a train from Barcelona to the Montserrat stop. I believe it is a two hour ride and I found the ticket to be inexpensive. Montserrat is an incredible Monastery in the Catalonia region of Spain that exists well up on top of and within a mountainous area. There is a large Cathedral there where the world famous boys choir live and perform daily for visitors. You have to get up the mountain to the Cathedral (you can drive or take a cable car) and once at the monastery level there are several trails that lead you to different shrines and ancient places of pilgrimages. There are 13 different small chapels and Monastery’s that were built into the mountains where pilgrims and Hermits would climb to live and pray. It is known as a Holy Mountain and I can tell you I felt a great divine presence there. If you are looking for a spiritual retreat, I highly recommend this trip as it is enlightening. Also in the main Monastery is the 12th century Shrine of Our Lady, also known as The Black Madonna. Apparently there are numerous miracles that occurred with the intercession of the statue. Go to sacred destinations. When I was at the Monastery, I entered into a long line which I thought was for seating to listen to the Boys Choir … Boys Choir.
Along this wait I began to realize that we were not being seated and something else exciting was going on. Soon after I came face to face with the Grand holy statue of the Black Madonna. Next thing I knew I was on my knees in front of the statue and kissing her hand. That is what millions of people travel there to do. They wait in line and each and every person gets a chance to stand face to face with her, kiss her hand and pray for a miracle or a blessing. Once I was face to face with Our Lady and realized there was no choir concert, I followed the followers and joined in the great moment of Reverence for this beautiful Icon.
I felt blessed!! Finally I did get to hear the Boys Choir and I tell you I was transported!! I don’t think there are words in the English dictionary to describe the beauty of the sounds that came out of that Cathedral. I can tell you it sounded something close to what our idea might be of what heaven sounds like when angels sing. There is also an impressive small art Museum located next to the monastery that is a must see. There were some incredible paintings there and an impressive array of old ancient scrolls.
After three days in Montserrat, feeling revived and inspired, I returned to Barcelona and took a bus from Barcelona’s main bus terminal thru the winding roads of the Pyrenees leading to the gorgeous azure Mediterranean sea town of Cadeques. I found Cadeques to be a very unique place. This sea village is a paradise for artists and people who want to lay back, relax by the ocean and be immersed in a very artistic community. This is a town where not only Monet and Picasso frequented and painted, but also Salvador Dali, who was actually born and raised there on the sea. He owned a small apartment in the village where I was invited to hang out with a travel writer who I met while traveling on the same bus as me to Cadeques. She was the only one on the bus who spoke English and was happy to tell me her story of how she was hired by Dali’s manager to write a biography on Dali’s later life. There is a Dali museum, which was once his home and after he passed on, was kept as a museum. I had the opportunity to spend the day there and it was inspiring and gorgeous. Check it out at DALI
The streets are narrow and winding in Cadeques. The buildings are white and almost resembled Greece to me with it’s white villas nestled into the Pyrenees hills. There are many quaint art galleries where the artists actually live and work out of. I found the restaurants and cafes to be primo and just a blast to experience. The food was always out of this world as was the abundance of red wine and bowls of fresh olives. Most often I found that in the small hotels and shops, the doors and windows were usually open so you are always surrounded by the ocean air and wind. It was bliss. Of course sunbathing topless is encouraged and that was a wonderful feeling to lay next to this blue gorgeous water on the rocks and jump in for a swim at my leisure. Cadeques is a heavenly place… no question about it. It is also a photographers paradise. Check Cadeques out at the world/Cadeques
Painting by Salvador Dali of Cadeques
Tips: Be it ! Live
it ! Do it! This is one of the best trips you’ll ever take.
Spain is as incredible as you might imagine it to be. I would recommend
taking an extra week or two to travel through the southern towns and on
down into Morocco for a day of shopping and sight seeing. Also, I hear
the Northern region into the Basque county is something
to be explored. I never had a single reservation on this trip which made
it that much more fun. Once you travel into the villages you can spot
a small hotel or hostel that is very cheap with great, or at least with
interesting, ( I say this in the most artistic way) accommodations. If
you are female, I found Spain to be a safe place to travel alone. However,
if you plan to travel to Morocco via Spain, I highly recommend not going
alone and best to go with a male.
I have been a professional singer for over
twenty years and teaching voice lessons for over ten years. I received
my vocal training at the University of Colorado School of Music at Boulder
and Denver and at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University
in NJ. Singers who influenced me greatly in my early years were Linda
Rondstadt, Anne Wilson from Heart, Robert Plant, Ian Anderson from Jethro
Tull, Judy Garland & Aretha Franklin.