Spain and France artist tour

This trip was unexpected and free. Indirectly we ended up with a trip won by my sister who had donated to the local classical station. They couldn’t work it out with kids and all and we were the lucky ones several people down on their list. It felt like cheating to go considering we had not donated (we did later become members).

The trip itself was a fully guided tour through Spain and the South of France called “In search of Pablo”. We would follow in the long faded footsteps of some of the greatest artists. We would be with a larger group of mostly retired folks. We are not big on guided tours, preferring the control your adventure mode more. Still, in the end we met a great group of people and the go-go push of a guided tour does cram a lot into a short period of time.

I was not sure how to document this trip. I could go sequentially, by topic, by artist, or by location. I chose to keep it somewhat sequential, highlighting artists and locations along the way. I let the photos guide me more than the itinerary. I was tempted to educate on the artists themselves but chose not to–I’m no expert–and there is a ton of information out there. I chose to reflect on my feelings being there.


A magical town of food, art, wide streets, and athletic people wandering about. It feels like a young town, similar to a Berlin but warmer and cleaner. We arrived early to explore because it would be our first time in the city and the tour we were part of only spent two days there. We focused on food and beaches.

A most memorable dish that still stands to this day was the octopus eaten at a busy stall in La Boqueria.

Tapas in general is food on top of bread with a toothpick. The story we were told was that waiters used to put bread on top of a guests wine glass to prevent flies from getting in. Restaurants began to compete and soon meet, cheese, olives began to decorate the bread. Today the tapas are on large plates either at the counter or being walked around. Like dim sum you just point and eat. You are then charged per toothpick.

One of our favorite parts of Barcelona is Barconaletta which is a small section of town right on the beach. It’s much older and more rustic. There are apparently rules about tourists living there so it still feels very local. The restaurants in this area are fantastic…but we wouldn’t learn that until we returned to Barcelona several years later. 

Glistening with freshness.

Churros con chocolate! Only to be eaten by teenagers late at night on their way home from parties.

Why can’t there be a place like this in Portland? Such commitment.

Just a reminder not to eat in the hotel. 

Barcelona is a shoe mecca. I would be in trouble if I lived here…which we plan to do one day.

One of the best decisions we made was to get an all day pass on this bus. They are everywhere and you can get on and off at will. They have earbuds that talk about the different sights around Barcelona. They are not too slow and go everywhere you need to go. I covered a lot of ground that day.

Night time in Barcelona resonates with music and smells of food floating in the air mixing with the cool stones of the buildings and streets.

Where were there during the National day of Catalonia where a protest was being organized that had millions of people hold hands across Catalonia. Their claim for independence is still a debate.


Antoni Gaudi

Some of his work I find odd but two things stand out for me. The first is his belief in nature as a model for architecture. While he heavily used nature as a guide towards architecture I was most impressed by his desire for architecture to represent nature, to create a space that surrounds you with the forms and beauty of nature itself.

The second is the Sagrada Familia. On a personal note I’m not a big believer in religion or God but have always felt that if I was, nature would be the place I would feel most connected. Churches are for me hideously removed from nature and are sour reminders of our constant misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the divine. The Sagrada Familia on the other hand takes Gaudi’s belief in nature as divine, and manages to create a structure that honors and expands on natures immense and awe inspiring capabilities. It’s the same feeling I get looking at El Capitan in Yosemite or the expansive Oregon coast. Even though the Sagrada is unfinished it’s a must see.




We took a quick train ride up to Montserrat. The day was cloudy and cold so when we arrived we could hardly see a thing. We were cold and disappointed. After coming from warm Barcelona we were surprised how cold it was and had to purchase extra shirts to get warm. The clouds did finally lift in a flurry of rising wind. As if Barcelona sent a deep breath of warm ocean air over the mountain the clouds up and want away. Suddenly before our eyes were massive rock cliffs and a view of the valley below.


Pont du Gard

Another place I had been as a teenager only when I was there you could walk on the top. No safety lines, no fence. It was a scary experiences even for an adventurous teenager. They claimed it was not allowed now due to the integrity of the structure and I tend to believe them. Once again, I found myself more struck by the beauty of the ancient olive trees planted near by.



Carrières de Lumières and Château des Baux de Provence

When we got back to the states I had to look this place up. We traveled on a bus to yet another destination and disembarked for the tour. This place was beautiful. There were cliffs, views, old buildings, and working catapults. The limestone mine ran these shows where they projected images on the floor, walls, and ceilings inside. When we first walked in some people feel over from being so disoriented. It was best to find a place to sit down and just watch. It was a bit like being weightless.


A view of the inside with projections all over.

Pablo Picasso

Seeing his early art filled me with a sense of hopelessness. Before the age of thirteen he was incredibly skilled. What I would do to have Picasso as a Pictionary partner but it was clear that any hopes of me achieving greatness had sailed.

The museum in Barcelona covers most of his early work and is simply a wonder to walk through silently gazing and different distances attempting to see individual strokes that bring you closer the person behind the paintings.

It also helped me understand the process of his evolution in a time of well established perspective paintings.

Salvador Dali

Playful and outlandish he was more a marketing genius than an artist. I was especially drawn to his painting of Beethoven using octopus ink and I believe only using his feet. I recall the guide saying something about it being a bet, still, I’m most impressed by art created on a whim.



Vincent Van Gogh

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Musée Renoir:Walking around Renoir’s house was interesting but to be honest I found myself sitting in the orchard of very old Olive trees sketching one tree in particular. This moment would represent a highlight of the trip.


Collioure with Matisse

Our fist stop in France after leaving Spain was this cute little town. Very picturesque and a great place to spend more than the one day we spent there.


Paul Cezanne

This photo was my only one of the inside. I was told to put the camera away immediately after. I expected more standing in the places where these artists worked and lived. I was always left flat. It’s possible that because I grew up in Santa Fe knowing some artist (who later became famous) I already had a vision for what an artists space would look like.


Arles France

I had been to Arles as a teenager with my folks but I remembered none of it. With the tour we spent quite a bit of time walking around the town.

I can never resist a photo of an accordion player.

Church stone floor worn down smooth from millions of shuffling feet.

Teenagers lounging amongst old buildings and new art.

Modern Art Museum in Nice

The tour group was headed somewhere that day but we needed a break from getting on a bus each day. We stayed in Nice and walked around ending up surrounded by yet more art. However, I will admit that it seemed a fitting contrast to find in the modern art museum. It certainly makes you ponder art more in relation to the greats. At tim

es I was taken by a piece but more often that not my reaction was more like “whaaaaat?”.

I do believe this one was named “Blue”.

There was a lot of art with plastic bottles, doll heads, and kitchen appliances. I keep feeling like the artists were all exploring not what surrounds but rather what haunts us. The picture below is just such an example. A body full of hands? Unexpectedly my photo caught the shadow of the figure. I must have done it on purpose at the time because the sculpture is off set, but honestly until I converted it to black and white I didn’t think anything of it.


Nice was busy and ho hum. The beach was all pebbles that were hard to walk on. The slope to the water was steep and this combination created a treacherous exist from the water. I watched a poor soul crawl out because standing was not an option. We did experience a magnificent sunset with a full moon on one side and the sun on the other.