Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wildlife in the changing Andorran Pyrenees

I joined a group of volunteers under the auspicies of Earthwatch to help scientists collect data on the effects of climate change on the flora and fauna in Andorra. The work was over a period of six days, in the fresh air of the steep mountains with spectacular views. Our accommodations were more than adequate at the Hotel Bringué in the El Serrat community above Ordino, Andorra. We are at about 5,100 feet above sea level.

Here is the view from my room. 
Cows are grazing below the balcony.

Each work day we traveled by vehicle to the trail head, and then headed up the steep terrain to various sites.

Wildflowers were in abundance in the springtime environment, but I never expected to see fields of wild daffodils!

We were always assured gorgeous scenery and challenging hikes.

Brooke is setting tea bags in the soil to measure microbial activity. 
We are working at about a 45-degree angle.

Diana and Brooke take a siesta on the steep mountain.

Setting mist nets to catch small birds. They are banded and measured before being released.

Studying birds in the field. Principal Investigator Bernat looks on.

Jana is the certified bird specialist. Irene is learning. Both of these capable scientists were invaluable to the project. Their patience was much appreciated, and they were positive and happy people to work with.

This was one work site at about 7,500-foot elevation. Spectacular!

One happy camper!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Catalonia 2017

My two weeks in Catalonia begin in Barcelona, a wonderful city to visit. Most interesting is the modernist architecture of Gaudí and others of the late 19th century.

Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló are to the left of the corner building.

Antoni Gaudí was not the only remarkable architect working in the modernist style. Casa Amatllo was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1867-1956), and opened to the public three years ago. A guided tour was an excellent introduction to this beautiful landmark.

Façade of Casa Amatller

Central stairway in Casa Amatller

Gaudí's mushroom inspired fireplace alcove in Casa Batlló

A tour of Gaudi's Casa Batlló was remarkable for the high number of visitors. The audio/video device supplied to all tourists was very effective in learning the features of the house while sharing the visit with hundreds of others.

The roof at Casa Batlló is fun to explore

Casa de les Puntxes, Casa de las Puntas, House of Spikes,
also by Puig i Cadafalch

It's time to leave the city and visit the birthplace of cellist Pablo Casals, at El Vendrell, a beautiful beach town on the blue Mediterranean. The home is now a museum. Casals lived here until his exile in 1939. He never returned, in protest of Franco's fascist government.

Iberia 2017

A series of opportunities drew me to spend a month in Spain and Spanish lands.

Plaza Cibeles. Note the banner "Refugees Welcome."
(Click on any photo to enlarge, then zoom in)

The trip began with a visit to the Teatro Real in Madrid to see Alberto Ginastera's 1967 opera Bomarzo. My review of the performance is published at Peninsula Reviews.

Entrance to Sorolla house and museum in Madrid

I also wanted to visit the former home (and now museum) of the painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923).  His paintings of the sea and beach scenes are superb.

The artist's studio

After four wonderful days in Madrid I boarded a bus for the five-hour trip north to San Sebastián, in the Basque Country. My dear friend María met me there and we traveled the 30 minutes by train to her town of Zarautz.

View of Zarautz, population about 23,000

Beach at Zarautz, looking toward Getaria

San Francisco Church, Zarautz

Waterfront at Biarritz, France

María and I visited with her friend Michele in nearby Biarritz, who hosted us for the night in her beautiful and artsy home near the sea.

María and Michele