City Parks and Botanical Shows

Parc de la Ciutadella was, and is, beautiful. I had been looking for a place to sketch on our trip, and I needed to be out in nature, yet away from the city while we were in the city. If that makes any sense? So Joanna and I found a lovely park with interesting statues, I sat, and was able to draw for a good amount of time while she relaxed on a bench. The sculptures looked like dragons, or gargoyles, and were made completely of stone. They were at the entrance to the park, and as we walked in, we saw a beautiful fountain with a baby cherub on top of a sculpture. I sat there and drew for what felt like hours, but it was really under an hour, and Joanna is such an amazing travel partner. She just sat taking it all in while watching people go about their day. I always liked to do this too, but I love to have a sketchbook in my hand because my mind is filled with art constantly; it always wants to be drawing, painting, sculpting, or doing something creative. I don’t know if any of you can relate but that is how my brain processes information. After a while, I start to feel for the people that are with me on the trip, even though they don’t mind, or say they don’t mind, and so we make sure to have plenty to do around where we are at in the moment.

While in the park, we were lucky to happen upon a botanical show filled with orchids. We were walking among these beautiful orchids from exotic places all over the world and we saw our first lacy leaf plant from Brazil. I didn’t write the name of it down here, but it looks like the Swiss hole plants that I find on the Internet. Many years later, I ended up getting a plant along the same lines, but not exactly the same as the one we saw that day. The show wais a special for orchids and we were lucky to come across that one plant which stayed in my mind for a very long time. The orchids were beautiful but I did not end up drawing them in the book in time but that plant really stuck with me. I wanted to do a whole series of green leaf plants because I just love the color green. That’s probably why my new series is focusing on trees because I admire how green envelops the Earth. My favorite thing about plants is that when man-made structures turn to rubble, plants will take over and the earth never stops growing; no matter how many times humans try to pull weeds, or re-create nature, it always comes back really strong.

After the orchid show, we walked around the park some more and found an interesting sign on a plaque in memory of lesbians and transsexuals from 2011. We walked farther along into the city, and we came across a protest where the police were starting to come with their riot shield, so we kept walking. We jjust wanted to keep enjoying the city and find more beautiful things to look at. That day ended up being an amazing art day for me, and an amazing exploration day for both of us. We felt like we really got to know the city that afternoon, and the people. I find it important, not only to eat at local restaurants, shop and local shops, but go to local places where the everyday person is walking about. It’s in these moments, where I find my most cherished memories from traveling. I hope this blog finds you well and I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday. I have noticed more people read my blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays but I will try to keep up my one Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine. Please let me know in the comments what day you prefer for my posting these blogs because that would be really helpful. Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Spanish Sea and Sangrias

Tranquility and subtle beauty awaited us on the shoreline of the Mediterranean. Joanna and I put on our dresses and walked down to the Sea. We wanted to just sit and relax while possibly gathering some treasures. We thought a lot about where we were and reminisced about our younger days when we took a trip to Maui. Wherever we go together, we have to find a body of water to sit and be thankful for this life. We feel deeply connected to the water, the land, and the air. These three elements all being in one place is magical. We also brought a bottle of wine to share down by the sea which is always a nice time. As we sat and the sun set, we decided to come back the next day for some daytime relaxation. I wanted time to sit with my sketchbook. The night air was warm and inviting and the moon was beautiful overhead. We had to get back to the campsite so we packed up our belongings, trinkets, the empty wine bottle, and made our way back to camp. We spent all night singing and laughing hysterically about our entire trip. It was one of the best nights I have had on a vacation.

The next morning we awoke to some other tourists cooking their breakfast outside our tent. They were German and very pleasant. After they finished their breakfast, they broke camp. Joanna and I just sat and watched them for an hour and they reminded us of circus performers. They had so much stuff to break down, pack up, and were in and out of their tents many times. After they finally left, we were in hysterics again about the whole experience. We decided to walk around the camp, look at the animals, and treat ourselves to the restaurant breakfast with a Café con Leche of course! When we were finished, we sat a bit and took it all in. Camping Barcelona is an amazing place all on its own. Then, it was time to go back to the sea. Thank goodness I brought my bag and had a hooded sweater inside of it. The weather drastically changed from the night before and there was a chill in the air. I love the unpredictable nature of wind. We sat, I sketched, and Joanna marveled at Mother Nature for a while. There was still a good portion of the day left so we decided to make our way to Mataró for some Sangrias at our favorite restaurant.

The owner and his father were behind the bar when we opened the door. This place was amazing and the owner always gifted us a little taste of a drink he really liked. Each time we went there, the drink was different and always delicious. We ordered the White Sangria and some hush puppies. Both were divine. Joanna and I tried Sangria at different restaurants throughout Barcelona and only the one place in Mataró. The clear, or white, sangria was quite refreshing on a hot day and made us feel hydrated. The red Sangria felt like a dance with a loved one. They both were created with fruit, yet the red tasted like a meal, then made us want to Dane, or move about. The white made us feel like relaxing and sitting at the restaurant. We ended up ordering a few more tapas and talking with the proprietor. He and his father had many stories and we ended up staying to meet his mother. We love finding family owned and run businesses when we travel. It is nice feeling like we are helping an actual person over a corporation. The feel of a family owned business also feels more like home. Where is somewhere in the world you would go back to if you had the chance? 

Thank you all for reading and have a marvelous Monday!

-Karen Hilliard

Ode to Café con Leche

Café con Leche is a Spanish treat that ignites the senses into a flurry of wonder. The English translation is coffee with milk but let me tell you, this is not the taste that will befall your lips and tongue. Coffee with milk just tells the story of an everyday wake up and go, throwing coffee in a travel mug with a dash of milk just to get a jolt of lightning to start the day…a quick sip of love while sitting in traffic. Whereas a Café con Leche is something else entirely. For example, it is much smaller, much stronger, and deserves much more time to consume. Sipping this delicacy will transport the consumer into a world of complete happiness and a love affair with oneself. Everywhere we went, and on a daily basis, we found a café, then ordered our Café con Leches. We sat. We sipped. We enjoyed deep meaningful conversations. This is how the coffee of Spain deserves to be treated. The internet compares this drink to our Lattes and there is a slight comparison, however, I implore you to travel to Spain and decide for yourself which drink is better. I am sure you have all figured out my opinion and vote by now, and it is not the American version.

While we were traipsing about Barcelona we happened upon a huge Starbucks. I wrote huge because our Starbucks here in Las Vegas are small and on almost every corner. This one was large and in charge from the outside. We did not go in. While in other countries, other states, other cities, even towns, I always try to find the local places to enjoy a meal or beverage. I understand the want for comforts of home and it isn’t because I love to give my stomach a mystery. Although, I am always hopeful for a delicious delicacy over a night in the bathroom. The real reason to taste new foods and drinks is an exploration for my tastebuds. Traveling and seeing the world is not only a trip for my eyes, nose, and ears, but my tastes as well. I love giving my business to small shops along the way. Even if I have a hard time affording certain prices, I try to purchase something small. Coffee in foreign countries always seems the most reasonable. What is your go-to beverage of choice while traveling? In America, I love a hazelnut latte and cheese danish. Anywhere else in the world I try their coffee with milk and compare it to Spain’s delicious treasure. 

I hope this blog finds you all well and thank you to those of you offering to “buy me a coffee” through the website. Here is the information again. Each cup of love is appreciated and keeps me inspired for the daily creative bursts. The aroma alone awakens all my senses. Make sure to leave your Instagram or Facebook handle so I can thank you on social media as well. If you would like to show support, here is the link and I truly appreciate the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content! Here is the link to my Instagram where I try to post daily. You can also find me on Facebook at my art page Karen Hilliard Art. I value all of you and thank you for reading! Have a blessed weekend and hopefully you all find enjoyment in any activity you do, even a nice sit on the couch watching Netflix…this is always a favorite of mine.

-Karen Hilliard

Sagrada Familia

The largest unfinished church in the world was worked on for 43 years by its architect Antoni Gaudi. His remains are in the crypt of his famous Sagrada Famila in Barcelona. He died at 73 years old by being hit by a tram while crossing the street to go to confession. It has been reported that he was dressed in simple cloth and his appearance resembled that of a beggar and no one knew the man lying in the street was the most famous architect in Spain. The local taxi drivers refused to take him to the hospital due to his appearance. He had broken ribs, a bruise on his right leg, and internal bleeding that was severe yet no one knew. He was taken to a hospital for the poor because he had no identification and it took his friends three days to find him. He unfortunately died on the third day due to his injuries. This post was going to be all about the church yet I found this information fascinating how we still treat others with sustain today based on appearances. His life may have been saved if the circumstances were different, simply, if he was dressed in fine clothing as the most famous architect could have been. His death is tragic and sad and was in 1926. Please treat others with kindness, always. Back to his life’s work…

The facade of the church had three sides. One was beautiful, colorful, and inviting. One was dark, mysterious, and seemed cold. The last one I am not sure if I recognized at the time of our trip. His three visions were the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, and the death of Christ. More information about the facades can be found here. The beautiful exterior of the church that we saw invited us in and what a wonder we got to behold. I just stood in awe of the sculpted walls, stained glass, and height of the interior. Looking up and touching the columns was a surreal experience. Imagining how early craftsmen worked with scaffolding and ladders amazed me. Wondering what thoughts went through the architect’s mind drove me deep into my own psyche. He truly represented the life and death of Christ. I hope that when he went, on that third day, he felt proud of his accomplishments instead of sad it was unfinished. The inside was ransacked during the Spanish Civil War and later worked on by others to express Gaudi’s vision. It was an amazing site to see.

Just sitting in the church and feeling its warmth and solace was a wonderful experience. Hearing the music play and the watching man at the organ get in touch with the movement was breathtaking. We sat for what felt like hours in silence. I drew a bit and then we explored the church. We saw where the great architect is buried and the beauty of the crypt. I am still in awe of the stained glass and the reflection of color around the interior. I added some photographs for you all here. If you would like to read more information on his death, you can click here. If you would like to see the Sagrada Familia in person, I highly recommend it! Park Guell is visited more often than the church yet Gaudi put his soul into the creation of the Sagrada. What are you passionate about? What sets your soul on fire?

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content! Here is the link to my Instagram where I try to post daily. You can also find me on Facebook at my art page Karen Hilliard Art.
Thank you again for all of your support! 

So Many People!

The sounds of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” came booming from the DJ’s speakers. Cyndi’s image was being projected on the wall in all her glory from the original video production circa 1983. My cousin was dancing, feeling the music, and enjoying the night life. She had mentioned earlier during the day that she wanted to find a club, or discotheque while we were in Spain, and go dancing. After walking many hours through the night, we found a discotheque, or so we thought. People were dancing and music was playing, a classic, yes, but we had no idea we would be hearing a song from the 80’s when traveling half way around the world to go to a Spanish disco. It was an interesting scene and state of events that transpired to say the least. We ended up meeting an awesome person and dancing with her for the rest of the time the club was open. She invited us to stay at her flat for the night because it was really late, however, we declined. She was very concerned about us since it was so late. 

We all ended up leaving the scene at the same time so Joanna and I walked with her for a while. She went her own way and we headed to the square in the main part of the city. It was 3 am and no transportation vehicles were heading back to the campsite so we decided to sit in the center of the square. After three men came up to us trying to sell us beer, we decided to leave the area. Since it was so early, or late, depending on your version of time, we chose to try and find Patk Güell and be there when it opened. So there we were, on foot, walking hopelessly around a city, trying to find a map. We were wearing those Merrel Barefoot shoes that we both had just purchased right before the trip for running. We learned this night and day that these were not the best shoes to have worn on a 36 hour walking excursion. We found a bench outside of a restaurant and Joanna closed her eyes the moment she sat down. I stayed awake as a lookout just to be safe. About an hour went by and we started walking again.

We traveled up a giant hill and came across a little living area inside the city filled with locals and sweet little storefronts. We bought some fruit, a map of the city, and watched some dancing, then we carried on in the hopes of finding the park designed by Antoni Gaudi. Following the route on the map led us straight to signs leading the way to the park. We still had a ways to go to get to the entrance. We were two of the first people there and other locals were walking their dogs or doing their morning workout routines along the trails. All I wanted to see was the mosaic features of the park. I wanted to find the dragon, or iguana fountain. Joanna opted to sleep when we found the sitting area at the top of the park. We took some photos and then she took a nap. I traveled on looking at all the features and did some sketches. I found the fountain and then the park came alive with people. So many people. There were tourists hustling and bustling about, musicians, and local merchants selling their wares throughout the park. I went back to find my cousin and just saw a sea of people. I closed my eyes, tried not to panic, and thought of where she would be. I turned, opened my eyes, and I saw her across the sitting area. We locked eyes and walked through the craziness toward one another. After hugging each other, she calmly looked at me and said, “Someone sat on my head! That is what woke me up!!”

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend! Next week I will do my best to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

-Karen Hilliard

Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content! Here is the link to my Instagram where I try to post daily. You can also find me on Facebook at my art page Karen Hilliard Art.
Thank you again for all of your support! 

Off to Barcelona!

I mentioned in my Alaska posts about traveling with my cousin and having a glorious time, well that being said, traveling abroad with Joanna was marvelous. Everything about the trip was wonderful from one moment to the next. We were up one night in our house at the time, and decided to buy plane tickets to Spain. We don’t remember why we chose Barcelona. Maybe it was because I had a book on the shelf and had always wanted to go there, or maybe it was just a whim as most of our trips were. I wanted to see the architecture of Antoni Gaudi and definitely his vision come to life at Park Güell. While there we found other gems such as the La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila, La Pedrera. I will be writing a few blogs about these wonders and taking you all through Barcelona with some shenanigans.

Flying to Spain was a treat of comedy all on its own. The night before we left, my cousin wanted to celebrate her first time going to Europe and I almost missed it. I had no idea we were doing this and was out with friends. When I got home she surprised me and I think this is a lovely tradition to spend with your travel partner. I look back on that moment in time fondly. Getting together or toasting to an upcoming experience was a highlight of the trip. It prepared us, in a way, for the unknown and started our journey off with much laughter. Our vacation was then centered around joy, happiness, and excitement for what lay ahead. We arrived at the airport in Las Vegas the next morning. We had a connection flight to another state in the USA before reaching Europe. When we touched town for that layover we learned our plane was full. We were asked if anyone wanted to accept a voucher and take a different flight. We said sure because we were in no hurry, however, we had no idea what would happen when we got to Spain. The voucher covered a coffee and sandwich so we were in a great mood. Also, we got $500 toward another flight, and later learned how we had to use that quickly to buy another ticket for somewhere else. So vouchers are great if anyone travels a lot but not so much for people like us on a budget.

We finally got on a plane to Europe and they fed us once we left America and hit international airspace. The food was delicious. We had a man dressed like Johnny Depp with his Captain Jack Sparrow makeup, walking up and down the isles, and making the same facial expressions the actor does. So…we saw Johnny Depp!!! Or, so we tell ourselves this. He even came and sat in my armrest while he waited for the bathroom. Then, he looked down at me and did that pull back surprised look he does. It was uncanny how similar the two were. After this wonderful flight, we got on a plane to Barcelona, Spain. We were so excited when we touched down and ready to start our journey to the campsite by the beach. We walked the long terminal to the baggage claim and waited at the carousel for a while. After everyone got their bags and the carousel finally stopped we realized, our bags were not there!! Where were our bags? Stay tuned on Wednesday to find out what happens next. Thank you for reading and have a marvelous Monday!!

-Karen Hilliard

Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content!
Thank you again for all of your support!

The link to my Christmas Ornaments is here and below. 13 more days until Christmas!!