Monday, June 29, 2009


After exploring the historical sites in Toledo, our visit to Madrid was all about the Arts and Madrid is a fantastic place for that. The Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyseen museums are located within approximately a quarter-mile of each other and form what is referred to as the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid. (note: We were not allowed to take photos in two of the museums so several of the images and some of the background information below were borrowed from the Wikipedia website.)

We started with a tour of the Museo del Prado which was founded 1819 to hold the royal collection of arts. With 1300 works on display, it is considered one of the world's best collections of European art from the 12th to the early 19th century. The building itself was huge and beautiful.

This is the 'Descent of Christ from the Cross,' 1435, by Rogier van der Weyden. This particular painting was striking because of the vibrancy of the colors and the skillfullness of Weyden in creating almost photorealistic images.

These are the La Maja Vestida ("The Clothed Maja") and the La maja Desnuda (The Nude Maja) painted by Francisco Goya in approximately 1800. The Nude Maja was considered quite scandalous at the time.

The Museo Reina Sofía (Queen Sofia Museum), Spain's national museum of 20th century art, was opened in 1992. The addition of Picasso´s "Guernica" to the Reina Sofía collection was a major milestone in the development of what is now considered one of the most important contemporary art museums in the world.

This is Tommy trying to get into the head of Picasso.

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum) fills the historical gaps in the collections of the other two museums. It includes Italian primitives and works from the English, Dutch and German schools. It also has an extensive collection of paintings from European and American Impressionists and Expressionists from the second half of the 20th century.

The collection started in the 1920s as the private collection of Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (1875–1947) and was later expanded by his son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921–2002). In 1985, the Baron married Carmen Cervera (Miss Spain 1961) who was influential in persuading the Baron to locate the collection in Spain. The museum was opened in 1992.

The large installation sculpture behind Stacy was in the entrance courtyard. The students labelled it The Bacon.

Here are representative works from Renoir and Monet.

There was also a temporary exhibit of works by Matisse.

In addition to the major museums and their collections, we visited a small private gallery and enjoyed the public art in the parks.

After 6 days of travel, we board the AVE high speed train for a quick 2 hour trip back to Sevilla.

This was a long and tiring trip. At the end of it, we had two students who were sick with a fever, sore throat, and nausea in one case. Friday, the staff at the Texas Tech Center got them both to the clinic and by Monday they were back to full speed. I can't say enough about the support that we get from the staff here. Thanks Doug, Donna, Mia, and Sara.

For more photos, follow this link: Madrid Photo Album.

Monday, June 22, 2009


A highlight for the summer is our excursion week where we will get a chance to see much more of Spain. Saturday morning, it was another early morning departure for a 6 hour bus ride to the first stop, Toledo.

Along the way, we passed through the land of Cervantes and Don Quixote. So, it was appropriate to visit a castle with some nearby old windmills. Castles like this show up frequently on hill tops along the highway. This one was nice because it gave us a chance to see the surrounding country as well as the castle, windmills, and small village below.

In Texas and the United States, we have a very limited sense of local history. Lubbock County was founded in 1876 and the town of Lubbock founded in 1890 and incorporated in 1909. Of course, the southwestern United States was inhabited by Indian and Spanish cultures long before that but the community of Lubbock is young from a historical perspective.

Toledo, Spain, the first stop of our excursion week, had its first inhabitants during the Bronze Age, 1300-700 BC. Located in central Spain, it was a commercial and administrative center during the Roman Empire. Toledo was the capital of Visgothic Spain under control of the Visigothic Christians (400-700 AD). From 700-1500 AD, Toledo and much of Spain were under the control of the Moorish Muslims from northern Africa. During this time period, Christians, Muslims, and Jews peacefully coexisted and Toledo flourished as a cultural and commercial center. Spanish Catholics took control in the 15th century and the capital of Spain was established in Madrid.

Today, Toledo is a beautiful city with about 80,000 inhabitants. Old Toledo is a fortress city on a hill surrounded on three sides by a river. There are many historic sites to visit including the palace and cathedral.

Texas Tech kids having a good time...

After a busy evening and day of sightseeing, some of the students took advantage of a few quiet moments to relax before heading for the train to Madrid.

More pictures from Toledo are available at the following link: Toledo Photo Album

Today we are in Madrid and the focus changes to art. There is an abundant variety of art venues and we are going to see as many as possible in the next three days.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Birthday Bash and Spanish Pole Fights

Today was Ross's 19th birthday. We took a class break to sing Happy Birthday (in Spanish) and have cake.

Lauren was so inspired by the bullfights last week that she tried it on a light pole. But, she was standing behind the cape (not the correct way) and took it in the eye. She will recover.

Granada & Alhambra

Yesterday was another excursion day with a trip to Granada and a visit to Alhambra and the cathedral located there. Visiting groups are scheduled into the palace at Alhambra and we had to make an 7:00am start to get there on time. Everyone made it to the bus on time but lost part of the night's sleep in the process.

Granada is located approximately 150 miles east of Sevilla. The location has been inhabited since the earliest beginnings of civilization with Celtic, Phoenician, Carthagenian and Greek communities located there. The moderate temperatures resulting from the altitude, availability of fresh water from mountain snow melt, and proximity to the Mediterranean sea made it an attractive location for settlements. The estimated current population for the Granada urban area is approximately 473,000.

The number one attraction in Granada is Alhambra, the Moorish palace and fortress complex constructed in the 14th century. Built to house the Arab rulers, the exterior of the palace is relatively plain. The emphasis was on the creation of an ornate interior with beautiful gardens and water features.

My complete collection of photos from Alhambra are available at the following link: Alhambra Photo Album

Alhambra and Granada were eventually conquered and the Moors driven out with the combined armies of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. This is the same Queen Isabella who sponsored the voyages of Columbus and Alhambra was the setting for some of their meetings. The Granada Cathedral, which is amazing in its own right, contains the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Here is a link to photos from the cathedral and the rest of the Granada trip: Granada Photo Album.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Photo Albums

When visiting the historic or art locations or when just walking around, we are overwhelmed by all of the unique sights that are completely different from home. With a digital camera, the impulse is to take dozens of photos. I have many more photos than I can post here but I have uploaded them to Google web albums.

Bullfight Photo Album
Cadiz Photo Album
Santa Maria Album

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

School Work

Most of this blog has been concerned with the sights and experiences of Spain. However, today I have to comment on the level of effort that the students are putting into the classwork. It has been a very long time since I have had the opportunity to work with a class that is so uniformly committed to mastering the material and it has been a pleasure.

For this summer, I am trying a different approach to teaching (and learning) statics that is based on complete vector analyses and the application of a computer tool, Mathcad, for the detailed calculations. Mathcad can be used for vector algebra the way that a simple calculator is used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The difficulty is that the students must be proficient performing derivations based on vector algebra before they can take advantage of the tool and that is a significant additional challenge.

Today we were ready for the second test. Several of the students did not feel secure in their preparation and wanted additional class time and more examples. They voluntarily agreed to an 8:30 instead of 10:00 class time this morning and we ended up working from 8:30-2:30 (normal lunchtime here). We had the test and everyone performed perfectly. It was great.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Santa Maria

The kids opted for a day trip to Cadiz but Kathy and I went to Santa Maria which was just a ferry ride away from Cadiz. Santa Maria was similar to Sevilla in terms of the appearance of the streets and buildings but much smaller and slower paced. In the streets, we didn't have to be constantly on the watch for speeding motor skooters.

At dinner on Friday night, we were serenaded by a couple of accordion players which is very typical in Sevilla and Santa Maria.

One of the more interesting discoveries in Santa Maria was the central market. The variety of meats and fish were amazing and sometimes unusual.

Something that we really enjoyed was a tour of a bodega where sherry wine is produced. We got a good explanation of the process (in English) and a nice sampling of their products.

A highlight for us was being on the water and seeing the sailboats. The Atlantic looked beautiful.