Saturday, April 27, 2013

Another Link for the Missionary Choir

Sorry about not posting this link as well last time, but Brother Zimmerman put up one of our other songs and I want the parents of the missionaries who may check our blot to have a chance to see the sons or daughters.  They are such an awesome group.  We sing a lot.  A couple of times a week we have a youth group from somewhere in Spain who comes to Temple Square and part of their activity usually includes a tour of the Missionary Training Center and a short presentation by President Sitterud, who always asks the missionary choir to perform.  I'm going to miss this group, who leave for their fields of labor in 3 days.
The link:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Called To Serve!

Here's a link to Scott Zimmeran's YouTube posting of our missionary choir last Sunday evening.  These wonderful missionaries leave next Tuesday for their various fields of labor, most into the 3 missions of Spain and the other into the 2 missions of Italy.  They are an awesome group.
Please enjoy this video:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our Young Missionaries

We are now in the final week with the 70+ missionaries currently in the Madrid MTC.  They are just the most incredible young men and women you could ever hope to meet.  Every Sunday evening we gather on the steps of the Temple and sing and last night was out last opportunity with this group.  I was busy doing the music and Vivienne was busy accompanying so we weren't not able to get any pictures, but another couple on Temple Square who are serving in the Temple took some excellent pictures of some of our missionaries, so this blog is mainly to give you the link to their blog so you can know what's going on.  By the way, their blog is full of wonderfully interesting experiences here in Spain and I recommend it to any of you who are interested in knowing more about both Spain and the Church here.
Their link is:
Check it out.
Next time I promise to blog our wonderful trip to Segovia.  Have a great week everyone!

Friday, April 12, 2013

La Granja

Our trip last Tuesday with Paco and Suzi Serrano to La Granja and Segovia was so amazing, and I took so many pictures that I've decided to break it into 2 postings.  Otherwise the size of the posting would probably discourage all but the most loyal of readers to skip over it.
The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (Spanish: Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso) is an 18th century palace in the small town of San Ildefonso in the hills near Segovia, 80 km north of Madrid, central Spain, formerly the summer residence of the Kings of Spain since the reign of Philip V
Due to their location on the forested northern slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama, these were favorite hunting grounds for many Castilian kings. In the 15th century, Henry IV of Castile built the first hunting lodge on the site, along with a small shrine dedicated to San Ildefonso (Saint Ildefonsus), which gave this place its first name.
Isabella I of Castile granted both buildings to the monks of the Parral monastery in Segovia, who built a granja (farm) and an almshouse alongside.
Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.
The site was purchased from the monks in 1719 by Philip V, after his summer palace nearby at Valsaín burned to a shell. Beginning in 1721, Philip began building a new palace and gardens modelled on Versailles, built by his grandfather, Louis XIV of France. Like Versailles it embraced a cour d'honneur on the approaching side, and formal gardens, with a main axis centered on the palace, that were surrounded by woodland in which further hidden garden features were disposed. Like Versailles, La Granja began as a retreat from the court but became a center of royal government.  The gardens are replete with fountains and hidden retreats covering over 1500 acres.
 Pictures of the countryside on the way to La Granja.  It has been a cold, wet spring so the landscape is not as lush and green as it will be in another 2-3 weeks.  That is very apparent on the grounds of the palace and in the gardens.  In fact, they don't turn on the fountains throughout the gardens and park until after the 1st of May.  But the benefit of going now is there were no crowds, a wonderful blessing.

A spillway from the damned lake.  There has been so much rain and snow in the mountains that they are releasing water to avoid later flooding.
 La Granja straight ahead at the foot of the mountains

 Approaching the palace and gardens from the village
 Parking just outside the Palace.  The streets and architecture were unusual.  
Notice the trees, though not yet in bloom.
 Looking back at the village from the Palace entrance.
 The largest tree I can remember seeing, having never seen the Redwoods in California.  
This tree was huge, located just outside the entrance to the Palace.
 Entrance to the Palace fromt the village. 
Vivienne, Paco and Suzi. I should explain our dress: It was our personal "P-day".
 The street lamps were charming.
 This looks like the Whomping Willow of Hogwarts.
 Entrance to the gardens of the Palace
 Inside the Gardens entrance looking at the side of the palace, the so-called "Horseshoe".  
Actually the back of the palace, inside the gardens, is the most striking view of the palace itself.
 Another side view
The start of the gardens on one side of the palace.
At the end of this manicured section at the end of the road, in the distance you can see the fountain of fame, or Fuente de la Fama pictured below.  
Keeping in mind the fact that this palace, including the gardens, statuary and fountains are older than the birth of our country, they are truly amazing.  

 Unfortunately you can only appreciate the splendor of this single fountain by standing at its edge.  
The photo does not show the fine detail of the figures.
 Looking back from the Fuente de la Fama to the Palace
 About 1/2 mile away up one of the many other roads, or "calles" was this fountain, the plaza of the baths of Diana, of Greek mythology.  

 There were thousands of large sea shells in the facade of the fountain.
 All over the grounds are hundreds of pieces of beautiful marble statuary mounted on heightened pedestals.
 The next one we discovered was The Fountain of Frogs, or Fuente de las Ranas, depicting the metamorphic turning of frogs into men, or vice-versa.  
I wasn't sure.
 The figures were 1/2 man and 1/2 frog.  None of the fountains were operating; they turn them on when May arrives, but you can imagine what these would look like. 
 Notice the large underwater piping to produce the huge eruptions of water out of each of the figures, and then contemplate how this was possible to achieve in an era before electricity to run the pumps that now do the work.
 Calle Larga, or "long road" led to a large crossroads.  
In the photos immediately below I captured the view of these roads, each of which led to many other fountains, benches and statuary.

 Looking at the back of the palace from the crossroads of Calle Larga.  
When the pools and fountains are full, water cascades down over these marble steps.

 At the base of the cascading marble steps is this pool featuring figures of Neptune, god of the oceans.
 Neptune with his trident
 Back at the palace gates looking down the village street to where the car was parked.  
During the heat of summer thousands of people flock to this summer palace of the ancient kings and enjoy the parks and fountains and cool weather.  
La Granja is fantastic.  
And we didn't even tour inside the palace.  
That will be another visit. Invitation to Michelle, Shakayla and Heather, and anyone else.  
Come visit and we'll take you there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

MTC Excursion to Real Madrid Soccer Stadium

All of you Soccer (or futbol as it's really called) Fans can eat your hearts out.  On Thursday, preparation day for the missionaries in the MTC, we have outings in the afternoon for those that are interested in seeing some of the sights around this magnificent city.  Today 13 missionaries, myself and 2 staff members took the Metro and toured the legendary home of Real Madrid Soccer.  The name of the stadium is Santiago Bernabeu (sorry, I don't know what the name stands for; maybe one of you soccer aficionados can tell us).
If there are parents who occasionally check our blog and your son or daughter is not in this posting, I apologize.  I can only go on one outing each Thursday and these are the missionaries that went today to Real Madrid, so maybe next week I'll be with a different group.  There are currently 65 missionaries and tomorrow 8 more arrive from the U.S., and then next week 11 from Italy.  Things will get interesting because the MTC was originally built to house 72.  Thus begins the wave, or tsunami, of missionaries.  It's exciting but hectic.
Leaving the MTC for our Outing.  In the foreground, Hermano Cuesca, in charge of exercise program and related activities.
 At the Stadium.  
Sister Noakes is something of a soccer fanatic, having played at the high school, collegiate and club levels
 Group Picture Outside the Stadium, called Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
 Going into the Metro from Pavones, the Metro stop nearest the Temple.  Don't know what the artwork interpretation is supposed to be but the Sisters are creeped out by it.
 Here we are, inside the stadium.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  It was breath-taking.  Notice the strange looking wheeled contraptions on the field in the lower right.  They were some sort of space age mega-lights used to enhance the growth of grass, and they move slowly like giant sprinklers on alfalfa from one end of the pitch to the other.  I think it seats somewhere around 90,000.  
All individual seats.  No benches.  Five levels and not a bad seat in the house.
 Excited missionaries to be in the stadium
 Located inside the stadium is a giant museum of the greatest moments and players in history, and also a lot of interesting artifacts from the history of the sport, such as the pictures below:
 I really like the artifacts from the first days of the sport in Madrid.  The art of manufacturing soccer balls has definitely improved over the years.

 One of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, Alfredo Di Stefano
A golden cast of his foot.  He played back when I was a baby.  Real Madrid was unbeatable back in the 1950s.  Kind of like the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi a decade later.

There are long hallways filled with trophies of every size and description from the past glory days.
 View of the Pitch from the VIP seats
 Missionaries in the VIP seats.  It'll probably be a while before any of them sit here to watch a game.
 More missionaries in the VIP seats
 The grass-growing machines.
 Down on the Pitch where the players sit
 On the Pitch
 On the Pitch
 On the Pitch
 On the Pitch
 On the Pitch.  Elder Malan kissing the "Holy Ground"
 On the Pitch
 On the Pitch.  Sister Noakes, in her exuberance and unknown to the rest of us, was wearing a Real Madrid jersey under her suit jacket, which she revealed here on the Pitch.
 My moment of glory on the Pitch
 In the "First Team" locker room.  Before last year this was not open to the public.  You can see Ronaldo's locker in the foreground.  It was pretty awesome.
 Sitting in the Team "dugout" where they sit during the game, right on the Pitch.
 There was a life-sized team photo from last year's victorious team, so the missionaries assumed the "sitting" position (no real bench) while I took their picture.
There were more photos but that's probably enough to bore everyone who's either not a parent or a soccer fan.  Jared (my son), eat your heart out.  I thought of you every step of the way.
Next post will be of the incredible trip last Tuesday to La Granja and Segovia.  I took 130 pictures, so I'm doing a lot of editing before I post, but it's hard to leave any out.  I'll try to put in some interesting history as well as photos.  See you soon.