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Two Days in Madrid

Palacio de Madrid

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After our time in Toledo, we took an early train back to Madrid. Our flight wasn’t until the following evening so we had almost two full days to explore Spain’s Capitol.

We stayed in a boutique hotel near the Palacio de Madrid called Hotel Principio Pio which felt very similar to Hotel Per La in Los Angeles. One benefit to hotels when arriving at a destination early in the day is that often you are able to check in early. We arrived around 10 am and even though check-in wasn’t until 3 pm, our room was ready so we were able to set our bags down and relax a bit before we started to explore the city. I only really had two goals for our time in Madrid, the Prado Museum, and Palacio de Madrid. We decided to break them up and do one each day.

Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor

After settling into our hotel, we headed to the Prado. I was able to buy tickets online in advance which allowed up to skip the line. The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art museum and is known to house one of the world’s finest collections of European art, especially Spanish art. Being my first visit to a European art museum, I enjoyed seeing new-to-me artists such as Goya, Francisco de Zurbarán, and El Greco. Probably one of my favorite parts of the museum was a special exhibit that showed the similarities between selected works of El Greco and Picasso. Picasso spent many hours in the museum in his youth and many of El Greco’s paintings were the inspiration for some of Picasso’s famous works. The Prado is also home to an older version of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I could’ve stared at it for hours comparing it to the most famous one. If you enjoy art and art museums, the Prado is a wonderful museum that you need to visit in your life. Wonderful guided tours of the Prado can be found on Viator.

We started our second day in Madrid with a guided tour of the Palacio de Madrid. While I was able to get tickets to the Prado a few days in advance, all the tickets to the Palace were booked up so, to see it, we had to book a private tour. In the end, I am glad I did because our tour guide explained a lot about the palace and the history of Spain that you wouldn’t get just by walking through. It did get crowded at times, but we had earpieces so we were able to hear her even if we were separated, which was really nice. More tours should invest in this equipment!

Lions on the stairs of the Royal Palace

Lions on the stairs of the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest palace in Europe at 135,000 m2 (1,450,000 sq ft) and is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although these days it is mostly only used for official functions. The palace is full of lavish furnishings and amazing Spanish art. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in most of the palace so I don’t have any pictures to show you. One of the rooms that was open on our visit was the crown room where a rather simple-looking silver crown is on display. It is much less ornate than what I expected anyway and our tour guide explained that the Spanish “are not the British”. Overall, I highly recommend a guided tour of the Royal Palace and I had a great experience with Madrid walking Tour and Royal Palace Skip the Line tour on Viator. Combination tours of the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace are also available on Viator.

Architecture of Madrid

The Architecture of Madrid

After our tour of the Palace, we still had the whole day ahead of us and we had checked out of our hotel, so we booked a hop-on hop-off bus tour. This allowed us to get to see the rest of the city and enjoy the breeze from the top deck of the bus. From the bus, we learned more about Spanish history, including that in 1874 a military coup overthrew the monarchy of Spain. A dictator named Fransisco Franco ruled from 1939 to 1975. In 1969, he named Prince Juan Carlos (the grandson of the most recent king of Spain) as his successor. When Franco died, Juan Carlos transitioned the government from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy and his family still rules today. In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated the throne and said “We do not want my son to wither waiting like Prince Charles.”

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week as we fly to our final stop on the trip, Iceland. To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Flint Institute of Arts

The Flint Institute of Arts is a small art museum located in Flint, Michigan. What drew me to the museum is actually their art school. After my glass blowing experience at the Corning Museum of Glass, I was bound and determined to find a place nearby to learn more about glass art.

The art school at the Flint Institute of Arts is surprisingly affordable. With classes for kids, teens, and adults, the FIA teachers everything from painting and bookmaking to photography and even glassblowing. They offer one-day workshops to get your feet wet in flameworking to make glass beads. What had me most excited was the 6-week glass blowing class.

Before signing up, we took a trip to the museum to check it out. For a small museum, they have a pretty large glass gallery which of course features a few Chihuly works. The museum houses the Glass Glass Collection featuring collected by Sherwin and Shirley Glass. Their collection includes the work of 88 diverse, international glass artists.

Of course COVID-19 swept in and postponed my dreams of becoming a glassblower. But, just because I can’t take classes right now it doesn’t mean that I won’t ever. Hopefully they will be able to open for classes this summer. I will definitely be sure to share my progress in learning the glass arts!

Thanks for stopping by! If you are interested in learning more about the Flint Institue of Arts Art School, visit To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

Mainely Acadia: Wendell Gilley Museum

A Gilley duck on display in the Wendell Gilley Museum.

Have you ever made a stupid mistake when planning a trip? On this trip, even though four people were sitting around the table when we booked it, somehow we managed to book our flights a day later than our house in Southwest Harbor. Luckily, the owner of our house sent us a reminder the day before so we had time to find someplace new to stay. The bad thing was that we had several hours to kill between when we needed to be out of our house in Southwest Harbor and when we could check-in in Northeast Harbor. Luckily, there is plenty to do to kill time on Mount Desert Island.

We started our day at the Common Good Cafe, an interesting coffee shop/breakfast place that is entirely on donations to support the soup kitchen they run in the offseason. We enjoyed popovers and coffee outside on our last full day in Maine while we listened to local musicians. It was a unique dining experience, but it was good to know that you were supporting the local people and the popovers are just as good as Jordan Pond House!

Carved Puffin at the Gilley Museum

After breakfast, we headed to another Southwest Harbor establishment, The Wendell Gilley Museum. Wendell Gilley was a Mount Desert Island plumber who gained fame for his wooden bird carvings. The museum opened in 1981 and features many of Gilley’s pine and paint bird carvings. The carvings are very intricate and amazingly lifelike. The museum is small and typically features a non-carving exhibit among the many carvings. If you’re in Southwest Harbor with time to kill or looking for something to do a rainy day on Mount Desert Island, The Gilley Museum is not a bad place to check out. They regularly have a carver on hand and it is very interesting to watch them work!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week to see where else we went to kill time on our last full day in Maine. Be sure to read about previous entries in our Mainely Acadia trip, as well. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

Toledo Museum of Art

On a rainy, late December day, we headed out to explore the Toledo Museum of Art.  We visited this museum on a field trip in high school, but we had bus trouble that left us with not much time left to explore. Ever since then and I have been wanting to return. I’m glad I finally got the chance.

ñI was most excited to check out the glass gallery. Opened in 2006, the glass gallery is located on the other side of the street from the main museum and the building is made entirely of glass. Several times a day, the glass gallery showcases glassblowing demonstrations. When we were there, the artists made one of the Three Little Pigs while telling the story. It was fun and kept the kids in the audience entertained as well. The glass gallery was a lot like a smaller version of the Corning Museum of Glass. They even offer glass workshops that allow you to create your own glass projects on certain days. These are not offered every day, so check the website for details.

The museum is a bit smaller than the Detroit Institute of Arts, but there was still a lot to see. The thing that I remembered most from my last visit were the ruins of the monastery at St. Pons de Thomieres (above, right). They have the artifacts put back together and arranged in a room with blue lights on the ceiling that make it look like you are outdoors. It stuck with me from all those years ago and it was good to see these artifacts are still on display for people to experience art and architecture of the middle ages.

The museum is free for anyone to visit but parking is $7 for nonmembers. To plan your visit visit If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

Corning Museum of Glass

We began our first full day in the Finger Lakes area with a plan. We would get up early and head to the Corning Museum of Glass. I have to thank Doug Parker of Cruise Radio for first turning me on to this museum and it has been on my list to visit for years now. If you’ve never heard of the Corning Museum of Glass, let me give you a brief run down of what they have to offer: unique, glass sculptures, a large exhibit on the history of glass (it may not sound exciting, but it really is interesting), glass blowing demonstrations, and a make your own glass experience.

Pendants We Made

I was most looking forward to making my own glass. I have watched the glass blowers at Greenfield Village for years, and I’ve always wanted to give it a try. So, we looked online the day before and all the glass blowing was already booked up for the day. Instead, we booked flame working and Chris and I both made a pendant. I am so glad we did that! It was a great experience to use a hot torch and melt the glass together and form it into a tear drop (right). While we were waiting, we got to watch people doing the glassblowing and they were literally only

Chris’ Etched Glass

doing the blowing. A worker was the one putting the glass in the kiln and molding it to shape. Knowing that, I am so glad we chose the flame working instead. Getting to actually create something with your own hands is a really good feeling! After we did that, we actually went back and tried our hand at the sand blasting, which is something anyone, any age can do. We were given a glass (I chose a bowl. Chris did a glass) and were given tape and stickers to cover it. Then, you put it in a sand blasting machine and any area that isn’t covered got etched. Chris’ glass turned out really cool (left)!

If you are in the Finger Lakes, you HAVE to stop at the Corning Museum of Glass! The exhibits are interesting. The demonstrations are unique. There are not many places these days where you can get to see glass blowing. If you are visiting, definitely budget time and a little extra money to create something. If you don’t get to do glass blowing, don’t feel bad, there are a ton of other ways that you can create a unique memento of your trip and get a conversation piece out of it!

To plan your visit to the Corning Museum of Glass, visit If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Wall of Monet paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Before our trip, we weren’t planning on stopping at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but then we heard that they had the largest collection of Monets outside of Europe and we had to check it out. Gallery 252 is dedicated exclusively to works of Monet. Grand Canal, Venice hangs on the wall in there as well as Meadow with Poplars. They also have a large collection of American Impressionists and the most complete collection of John Singer Sargent anywhere. If you enjoy impressionist paintings, this museum is a must see!

Of course, the MFA is a large, urban art museum and has more to offer than just impressionists. They have a large wing full of modern art and as well as ancient art. One of my favorite galleries in the museum is the musical instrument collection. They had crazy instruments I had never seen before! Of course, this bass clarinet player had to take a picture of the small, curvy bass clarinet on display! They also have galleries dedicated to jewelry and textiles. If you enjoy art, there is something for you to see at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston.

If you plan to visit the MFA, plan to get their early or you will have to wait in line outside. It was 90 degrees and sunny on our Boston day and they didn’t have an awning or anything to stand under. It got pretty hot and uncomfortable waiting to get inside. We visited through the ROAM (reciprocal admissions) program with our DIA membership and the girl behind the counter was happy to tell that the DIA is one of her favorite museums. That made me smile.

To plan a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, visit If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

A rare photo of me at the Eric Carle Museum

Ever since I discovered that there was a museum dedicated to picture book art, specifically Eric Carle art, I knew this was a place I would have to visit. So, when mapping out our East Coast Road Trip, I was excited to discover it was only about an hour out of the way.

The museum in Amherst, Massachusetts was founded by legendary children’s book illustrator, Eric Carle. The museum is definitely geared towards children and families with interactive exhibits at the children’s level. The museum is home to three galleries: the Eric Carle gallery and two rotating galleries. My favorite was definitely the Eric Carle gallery. It was interesting getting to see unpublished pages from his books as well as a timeline of his life. During our visit, the middle gallery featured the art of Leo and Diane Dillon. I don’t know that I had ever read any of their books, but the art featured was beautiful. The east gallery featured a Paddington bear exhibit that the kids really seemed into. I’ve never read any Paddington books or seen any of the movies, so I couldn’t really relate to it.

Admission to the Eric Carle Museum is only $9 for adults; youth, teachers, and seniors are $6. It is a small museum but it is definitely worth a visit if you have children or are just a fan of picture books like me! Admission includes the galleries, the picture book library (that is organized by illustrator, not author, in case you were wondering), and the art studio where kids can create their own art. The museum is also home to an auditorium that features films inspired by children’s books as well as live music, theater performances, and lectures. Most are included with museum admission. Beginning on September 8, the Eric Carle exhibit is transforming in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar! I wish I could go back to check it out!

Thanks for stopping by! To plan your visit to The Eric Carle Museum, visit If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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