I started this blog in 2010 to make an accounting of my collecting and puzzling travels. Since 2017 that collection has doubled and the travels have subsided. Now I shall endeavor to entertain the random reader with highlights from Puzzle Palace.
Any who have read my posts in the past will know that I have a thing for Berrocal Puzzles. George and I first used a set in the Netherlands many years ago when it was delivered to us. Since that first dinner together, we had decided to purchase 3 more set. Over the years I have managed to obtain 3 cofinettas and one Posateria Veronese. This means we can have a dinner for 8 people.
Pieces broken down
Another decision we made was to only use the sets with other puzzlers. Since we have moved to Boca, we have had two Berrocal dinners. This week, that number increased to four. The first was for our decorator. Now I know the isn't a puzzler, but she has been so interested in the Berrocal's and has begun to purchase them for her clients. We knew she would appreciate the service.
The second was a dinner we had with Nick Baxter and his wife. They were in Florida for a wedding and found the time to stop by to check out the house and to enjoy a nice dinner with us.
I take great pleasure in cooking, and believe it or not, washing the dishes after. The handles of the Berrocal service are so sensual. It is a joy to wash dishes when you get to feel these. There is also the added bonus of being able to reassemble the Puzzle when everything is done. I have sent photos of this to the Berrocal Foundation and they were thrilled that the pieces are 'living art'. If you have a set, I strongly urge you to make use of it. It is well worth the time spent polishing and washing.
Service for 2
An empty table
I hope you enjoy these photos of our last two dinners.
I have been remiss in posting. It was a glorious green Christmas this year. Both of my daughters were here and my grandchildren as well. It was a busy couple of weeks at Puzzle Palace. Because of this activity, I thought I'd post a bit about Christmas puzzles.
I love Christmas. The lights, the tree, the decorating, baking cookies, and hosting parties. George on the other hand is a curmudgeon and hates Christmas. The whole Christmas season. Now please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right. It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight. But one thing I know is that it is NOT that his heart is two sizes too small. No decorating, no tree, no Christmas celebrations allowed says my Grinch George.
But then, we came to a compromise. I get a small family Christmas and an even smaller tree. One that is no more than 3 feet tall. Where can one find a three foot tall Christmas tree? And better still, where would one put it in this house? Our main room has a 20' ceiling, our main living room has low ceilings but with the furniture there is no room to place a tree. But as with all other puzzles, we found a solution. We have a rather large table in the middle of the room that stands about 2 feet high. I decided this would be the perfect place for a tree. But where to find that tree? Easy! I'd make one. I'm not a very creative person (although I do have grand ideas) so I enlisted my lovers aid in the design. We came up with a rather wonky tree that was just perfect. I subsequently looked at our collection and even found items that were purchased years earlier that hadn't been put together.
All of our Christmas decorations this year were puzzle related. I even managed to find George a puzzle Advent calendar. At some point I decided I needed a snowman and since snowmen are not to be found in Florida, I made some instead. Each one is still fully functional as a puzzle.
Since I know I will be up late doing something I shouldn't, I'd like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year from George and I.
(Apologies for a late posting. This was set to be posted 2 weeks ago or so I thought. Dummy Roxanne can't work out the calendar puzzle.) Our puzzling in Spain did not end with our visit to the Berrocal Foundation. After leaving there, we spent one more night in the hacienda before heading south toward Gibraltar. One night while we were lying in bed talking we decided that we while were here, we might as well go see a rock. After all, it was only 2 hours away from where we were and we had an extra day.
As we were driving down there, we kept seeing signs for ferries to Tangiers. We decided to stop and see what it was all about and as a lark bought ferry tickets for 4 pm that afternoon. We continued to Gibraltar, found our hotel and dropped off all of our luggage before driving to pick up the ferry. An hour later we were in Morocco! Spontaneity has been the theme of our relationship and it hasn’t ended yet. When we left the ferry, we managed to find a local guide. You know the kind…the ones who bring you to a 'friends' shop to buy items you are not interested in. This one was good though, we told him we wanted to buy dates, spices, and puzzles.
He took us to a market to try some dates, but flew through so fast I was unable to buy any more. We then were taken to a spice shop with prepackaged spices….Nope. I didn’t want this. I wanted the big piles of spices so I could pick my own. He obliged. From here he took us to his 'friends' shop selling all kinds of tourist trinkets, clothes, jewelry, and carpets. We managed to find a nice cedar puzzle box and turned down all offers of everything else. I’m sure we insulted the shop keeper when we wouldn’t even look at his rugs. (Our floors are all a beautiful marble and we don’t want them covered.) I asked after puzzle rings, but I think because of our lack of interest in other items in the shop they were unable to find what we wanted. A moroccan dinner in a rather empty restaurant and we were on our way to a local bar to try some moroccan wine. I was uninterested because it would be midnight by the time we got back to the car and I didn’t want to drive with alcohol in my system. Those roads were bad enough sober. George had a liquor and god knows how many drinks our guide had because the bill was $35! We were returned to the ferry and headed back to our hotel. It was an adventure. 4 hours in Morocco just because we could.
The next day we awoke, checked out of the hotel and made our way around the rock to the cable car ride to the top. While driving, I saw the road ended and the rock stuck out over the ocean. What was I going to do? As it turned out, this was a rather easy puzzle to solve. The road went through the rock! We drove on and got lost many times. I’m sure we drove down every path they have in that city. We went to the top, had a lovely walk and just enjoyed the views. Around 1 pm we returned to our car and drove back to Málaga to return the rental car and find Jardines Picasso.
We ended up taking a cab from the airport to the park. We were dropped on the side of the road and went about our hunt for the last Berrocal sculpture of the trip. As we were walking George mentioned that we had found all of the other pieces rather easily and that I shouldn’t be disappointed if we couldn’t find this one. I wasn’t willing to give up and as we walked past a few rather large trees I squealed with delight. I had found it! Our mission was complete! We had found Statue #5! We had a nice climb on it to take a few photos and made our way back to the apartment we were staying at for the night. Along the way, we passed a building that looks vaguely familiar....
The walk was peaceful, quiet, beautiful. After about an hour we made it to the apartment where I cooked a very simple dinner before packing for the short walk to the boat.
The next morning we awoke and made our way to the cruise terminal to board our ship home. One would think our puzzling would end there, but it didn’t. We brought on board 2 escape the room games and finished one the first sea day we had. We really enjoy these and bring along a couple on each trip we take. They pack up easily and don’t take up too much room. When we finish them, they can’t be reused so we have more room for puzzles in the luggage. This first one we did was a level 2 and it took less than an hour to finish. The next is a level 3 and I’m sure it will take us much longer.
Our first port of call was Cadiz, Spain and while we looked for puzzles we were unable to find any that we didn’t already have. But! We did find some public works of art that reminded us of puzzles. The first was a lock that has a pen shank. It was in honor of those who were imprisoned or lost their lives writing about injustices. The second was a pair of large sculptures with tangram shaped animals around the outer edges. We took a walk around one of the and realized they weren’t playing with a full set, but rather a mix of pieces.
After 2 sea days we came to Punta Delgado in the Azores. Here we hired a private guide along with another couple and drove around the island to see the lakes and some absolutely stunning landscapes. As it was Sunday, no shops were open and we didn’t expect to find any puzzles. We didn’t. Instead we bought a few bottles of liquor and rebounded the ship. After a late lunch, my lover went to the cabin to take a nap and I wandered back down the dock. Much to my surprise I stumbled across a board game much like parcheesi called Marralhinha. The board itself is lovely and it had to come home with us. We now have 5 sea days to learn how to play it. Our next stop? Fort Lauderdale and home after a month away. We are hopeful that all the shelves have been put up so I can continue to put away the boxes that are left and that George’s workshop is finished so he can begin working on puzzles in earnest. Update: The shelves are finally all in but the workshop is still a work in progress. This home building puzzle has been going on two years now. I'm ever hopeful it will be finished soon.
After a short break due to our return home and the thanksgiving holiday, I return with my final thoughts on our trip to the Berrocal foundation. I pick up where I left off. On Sunday, we returned to the Berrocal Foundation around noon and met up with both Beltran and Carlos. Once again, we were greeted warmly by both brothers. On this day, I spent a bit of time wandering around asking questions of Carlos on individual pieces that caught my eye. I was particularly enamored by Torse Du General II,Opus 90; and Alfa E Romeo, Opus 104. The first being a puzzle with an interchangeable locking mechanism and the second a rather macabre sculpture with a removable hand which has a knife running through it. If anyone knows of a place to find Alfa E Romeo in the boxed (book) form, do let me know. It is now on my hunt list.
I was intrigued by the paintings hanging from the walls and from a number of rather brightly colored sculptures that were around the outside of the room. These came from an opera set that Berrocal had done. The props were all to be burned and he went in and rescued them before they were destroyed.
I was shown a book of art done to experiment with the various ways to show how a piece was done. I was shown copies of Sevilla and Madrid which were a real shock because I had just purchased these two pieces but was unaware of the size. They are much larger than I expected.
While Carlos entertained me, Beltran and George talked about different man things relating to the tools in the workshop and CAD. After an hour or so, we settled on chairs around the large Adriano and began discussing a melamine copy of David that Beltran pulled out. It seems that there was, at one time a thought, of making the minis in that material, but the technology was such that the mold lines could be seen. I was honored to be able to see and feel this piece. George took it apart with great difficulty. I think it was his first time at disassembling one of these works.
Carlos brought out a few pieces I wanted to see for possible purchase, and a few more that I had not requested. In the end, I own two having purchased them on this trip, and bought another artists proof. This time it was the dove made for the ’92 Olympics. We had a rather lengthy discussion about the provenance of a piece given the most recent of these sold on auction went for an insane price simply because it was owned by Robin Williams. After another hour or so of conversation we all went over to the house for lunch. When we arrived, our first sight was art. Art everywhere. This place put many museums to shame. We saw Miro, Dali, Warhol, and Picasso to name a few, all upon entering the main room. We were given a brief tour by Beltran while we waited for Carlos to return with the missing ring for my Paloma belt.
Beltran made us a wonderful lunch of couscous that I may try to copy when we return home. He was very generous and gave me his recipe. As I was sitting down, I looked over his head and found a Franco Rocco. Without asking I very rudely picked it up and started to play. When I explained to my lover what I was holding, I soon lost it to him. Needless to say, neither of us got far into it.
I was shown the drawer upon drawer of Posateria Veronese pieces they use for special dinners and was asked if I would like to use them. I smiled politely and shook my head no. Beltran was rather excited to show me the Coffinetta, but Carlos cut him off with a "she’s got 3". We had a nice little chuckle about how much I could have saved had I bought two more sets of Posateria Veronese. We were told this set still sells and is a favorite gift for weddings. I can understand why. It is beautiful and I know our puzzling friends have enjoyed using it.
We were shown many more interesting pieces in the house and I again found one or two I would like to add to our
collection. My favorite being the balls from Romeo and Juliet encased in plastic. THe other is that Benjamin tapas plates and ice bucket set. Beltran’s wife Claudia arrived and we spent a bit of time talking with her. By now it was late afternoon and we had been with the brothers for around 6 hours. George and I expressed our great appreciation for them giving such a large part of their weekend to us and said our goodbyes.
Before we left Beltran made sure we used the loo. He liked the hidden door. We liked the artwork and of course I had to take a few stallies for my uncle. I was curious about the record player and was told it did indeed work. As we were saying our goodbyes and taking a group selfie, Beltran hit upon a bust of the Spanish king. He explained that it was cut at the top because the queen came out of the kings head, and the prince came out of the queens head. The piece used the same mechanism as the hood ornament of David on the car.
Throughout this journey, I gained greater respect for Berrocal not only as a puzzle builder, but as an inventor and an artist. I feel very privileged to have been able to spend the time in the foundation that I did. We left giving both brothers and their families an open invitation to Puzzle Palace and hope they will take us up on our offer.
After visiting the main floor of the Berrocal Foundation, we were taken down to the lower level.Here the molds, unfinished pieces, inventory of finished pieces, large artworks and other items were stored.As we made our way there, the excitement was mounting.The room was dark and only lit by the glow of our cell phones.Carlos turned on one small light and we were off.
George asked permission to film, more lights were turned on and off he ran.While my beautiful lover filmed, I walked around corners and took photos and listened to Carlos describe what I was looking at.There were boxes upon boxes of pieces of the cofinetta that were in various stages of completion.I can’t tell you how many pieces were here.It is an amazing amount of raw material.We spent a great deal of time discussing sunk costs and bringing the rest to market.Wow is all I have to say.
As I turned a corner, I saw the original molds along with the Styrofoam mockups for the statue in Jardines Picasso.I saw the fountain I wanted to visit in Málaga.I saw plastic wrapped art that pained me to see closed up and hidden from the world.It was all I could do to not grab a blade and start ripping off the shipping wrap.
I began looking at the molds and the first one I came to was for the Paloma Box.Not only was the mold there, but there were also unfinished pieces.What a find!I hunted for years to get my Paloma Box and here they had many unfinished in this basement.It’s a shame that they are sitting like this, but after talking with the brothers, I can understand why and what they are trying to do.It makes my pieces all the more special.
After wandering around in the bowels of the building for an hour we went upstairs to the office space.Here we saw the cabinet that the famous photo is on and the office workroom.In the middle was a long table with books and papers laid out on it.To me it looked like a memorial to Berrocal. I would have loved to pick up some of the papers and read them, but it wasn’t my place.We learned that at any given time he had three or four projects going on.The last of which was his memoirs and a collection of the final pieces he produced before he died. An Anthologica part 2 if you will.We turned around and were confronted by a massive bookcase filled with all genres of material. In the middle of the books was a case filled with many of the multiples.I was surprised to see that Maria de O was missing. In it’s place was a photograph of the work.As I scanned the shelves, I stopped and lusted after four pieces in particular.I’ve always said I wanted these and one day I shall find them.La Menina II, Hoplita, Sixtiasis, and Maria Manuela.
I’ve a line on Hoplita and should have it by the end of November all things going right.I was surprised by the size of it. I expected a much bigger puzzle.He also showed us a wine bucket and tapas plate version of Benjamin. What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on that piece.
From here, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet on Sunday at noon.George and I went back to our hacienda for a lovely local dinner and to mull over all we had seen today.
We started this trip on 10 October and are ending our main European trip on 30 October when we jump on a cruise ship back home.It has been a wonderful adventure up to this date and George and I have both concluded that if we had not made it this far it would still have been worthwhile.BUT!This is the real reason for extending our stay beyond our trip with Oskar and José.I was first invited to visit around five years ago. I had contacted the foundation when I purchased a Berrocal on ebay that had a missing piece.They gave wonderful instructions on how to send it to them and they restored my puzzle.Since then, I have gotten the collecting bug as I stated in the last post and have gone head on ever since.
We were to meet Carlos on Sunday, but George and I decided to go over and scope out the area when we arrived Saturday.We were leaving when who should pull up?Wow!We pulled over, greeted each other and began our tour of the factory and the workshop.This was a surprise for all of us.He didn't expect us and we didn't expect the warm welcome.
What can I say?This place is amazing!It has something like 23,000 square feet of space.It's massive.Three floors worth of materials, puzzles, sculptures, paintings....It's all in here.I walked in and my eyes were immediately drawn to a laser cut sculpture.This was done by a gentleman who was an artist in residence and is on loan to the foundation.While I asked questions and listened to Carlos speaking, We spent close to four hours with him on the first afternoon.This first post will only cover a small portion of what we saw and did on this first day.Forgive me for being long winded this time around.
He began our 'tour' with an explanation of the large photographs at the entrance.The first is an image of around 700 Mini Davids with the shoulder and neck removed and the next is the photo of David as a hood ornament.When I asked why the pieces were removed, I was told it was because that is where the serial number goes.That makes perfect sense.It would help ensure that none were released without consent.An easy way to avoid the copies.
The next room we walked into was part museum display area, part workshop, part store.I zoomed in on the small grey box that I recognized to be a jewelry display and was not disappointed.I left on Sunday with 3 pieces; just because.After being given a bit of background on this, we moved on to the main display area of the workshop. Here we saw the Almogávar for the first time.I’d seen images of these in lots of books and saw the videos that a friend had posted, and was therefore eager to see them in person.They did not let me down, they are huge!Each weighs between 300-500 KG! For the uniformed, the Almogaáares were named after Aragonese, Catalan and Balearic warriors.When these statues are standing tall, it is exactly what they look like.Strong warriors, that is exactly what these sculptures look like. When I asked, they can be taken apart, and have many times.But each one takes two people simply because of the weight and size of these pieces. I am fortunate enough to have found a full set of the smaller anvils and was thrilled to be able to see where they started.I know my anvils are heavy and they are much smaller versions.
We saw a large version of Torso de Luces, again, I have a smaller artists proof by my front door.We saw a copy of Diestro which is Olvedia, Spain.This was a precursor to Torero and Manolete (both of which we also have at home.)I saw a mock-up of Manolona as well as a small version of Sainte Agathe II which made me want to purchase yet another piece: La Menina II. I’ve been resisting on this one, but have come to the realization that we need it in our collection.Now I just need to hunt one down.
There were just so many pieces to see, I can’t remember them all by name.The pieces that started as the precursor to Citius Altius Fortius, (we have the much smaller version) was on display, and we were allowed to play with it for a while.Carlos also explained the mechanism and technical drawings to us.
I saw a large version of Adriano (yes, we have a smaller one) and immediately realized that it disassembles differently than my version.After a struggle I was told to use gravity, and with that hint, the piece came apart rather nicely.Now comes the hunt for Hadrian. We spend quite a bit of time discussing 3D printing and the use of reclaimed plastics before moving on to the work area.In this section we saw many many machines that were used to create the works almost all of which George has in his workshop.But then he hit upon a few he doesn’t have and I could see his wheels turning.Do I really need a heated saw that cuts through Styrofoam?On the benches I could see a few puzzles that were in the workshop for repair or refurbishing.Two Torso Sagas and a Richelieu.Carlos took us over to a rather long work bench and showed us the pieces of Torero both polished and finished, and raw from the moulds.After an awkward chuckle, he realized that we have seen many of these types of raw works on our many factory visits over the years.He proceeded to take Torero apart and give a bit of a talk on the way the pieces were made with anecdotes of his childhood as well.He again realized that we have the puzzle at home so he didn’t offer to let us do it.He said something along the lines of "I know you’ve done this before."
All in all, we loved this part of the tour.We next went down to the Bowles of the building where we saw the most amazing sights.But more on that in the next post.
For another opinion on this experience, take a look at Allard's post from May of 2018.
Due to very bad internet connection in the Azores, photos will come later.
This past week we have been on a tour of Spain. We decided that we would do a Miguel Berrocal tour for the rest of our holiday before heading back to the States via cruise ship. I got my first Berrocal in 2011 and haven't looked back since. I wrote then that I wanted only 3 or maybe 4....As of today, we are the rather pleased owners of 76 pieces with more to come I'm sure.
We started out in Barcelona enjoying the sights and found our first puzzle. No, this one isn't a Berrocal, or twisty, or even wood. It's a jigsaw! I know, I know. What right-minded metagrobologist (can I call myself that?) would be caught dead with a jigsaw? This one is different. Honest. First, it's big. Really big! 42,000 pieces. And it's not one for the house. We have decided that it will live in the garage. It will be perfect to look at on our way out to trips and as a reminder of where we have been when we return home.
From Barcelona we traveled to Zaragoza to see our first large Berrocal. In San Bruno square we saw Torso Vectra. This piece was commissioned in 1996 by Opel car company and was later moved from the factory building to the square. I had to see this piece as we own a small copy of it which can be seen when you enter our home. While very happy to be able to see this piece, I was saddened by the condition. The piece itself is in excellent condition, it's the pedestal that needs work. Vandals have written all over it with paint. Such a shame. But thankfully, they left the art alone. Our version of Torso Vectra is only around 4 inches tall, and has 2 parts. There were only 1000 made, and we have number 9446.
From here we went next to Madrid. This city had two sculptures we wanted to see, Manolona and Almudena. We succeeded in both cases and were not displeased. Manolona is one of my favorite pieces. George and I acquired it through an auction last summer and were shocked to discover the piece we own is the artist proof of the larger version seen here in Juan Carlos 1 Park. This sculpture is just to the right of the main entrance and very easy to spot. I shrieked with joy when I saw it and went running. The piece as you see it is resting on a bed of greenery that we later learned was not how Berrocal intended it to be displayed. But it's lovely just the same. The beauty of this piece is that you can go under it and get a totally different perspective. It is well worth the visit. From there we went to the Funducion Juan March to see the Almudena. This one is easily seen from the street, but to gain access to it, you must enter the building and then go out onto an open patio. We were glad we arrived during business hours so we could take our photo and head south to Toledo for a few days of sightseeing.
Our next Berrocal stop was in Sevilla. We went to the sight of the 1992 Worlds fair to see Doña Elvira. Sadly, the statue is behind a gate and has been permanently closed to the public. It is such a waste of a beautiful piece. George and I took a taxi there, jumped out, snapped a few photos of it and returned to the station to return to Cordoba for the night. I really wanted to get close to it, but didn't want to risk being arrested. When it was originally put into place it had a beautiful water feature around it. It's a shame that Seville didn't take better care of it. Another piece, Torso de Luces has all but been destroyed. It is not a city that takes care of it's public art.
Today we had the great pleasure of traveling to the Berrocal Foundation in Villanueva de Algaidas. This is something I have looked forward to for a very long time. But more on that in another post.
Every year we have a bicycling trip with Oskar and José. This year was no different, but we were much later than usual. But first, we had to introduce Oskar to his new 3D printer!
Sunday night George and Oskar stayed up well past midnight to learn the basics of the 3D printer. They worked for about 4 hours before calling it quits. Some of the highlights were Oskar trying to warm up the bed with a blow dryer, Oskar finally printing out his name, and George realizing that this particular printer didn't work well in Antartica because he forgot to calibrate it!
After a good night's sleep, we packed the car as full as possible, threw the bikes and helmets in the back, and headed for Zeeland. Over the course of three days, José tells me we cycled 83 kilometers. The first day found us at the beach and crossing over to a small town in Belgium, Knokke. (As it turns out, this is the same town we caught the train to Brussels in.) We enjoyed lunch and a very wet ride back in the rain. I realized that I need to purchase new rain gear as mine really isn't fit for any kind of real rain. We found no puzzle shops nor puzzles but after my DCD haul, I was fine with that. The first evening we had a very nice meal brought in, gourmet, and just enjoyed the evening.
The next day we ventured to Brugges and really enjoyed the city. A brewery tour, a lot of walking, some wild houses, a wild goose chase for a non-existent toy shop and we were done. This is a quaint little town that reminded me of Amsterdam. I will be visiting here again in the Spring.
The last day was another day of cycling in the Netherlands, this time to Sluis. A very beautiful fairytale town complete with moat and fortified embankments. Even though I was terrified, we rode our bikes around the entire top of the wall. Ok, it's supposed to be a walking path only, but as it turns out, we couldn't read the Belgian signs. We managed to find a toyshop and George and I bought 3 puzzles that we didn't have. We were all surprised by this. We also discovered why all the paintings by the old Dutch masters are so dreary and dark. Even on a sunny day, it was dank and dark. The wind must be terrible in the winter because it was awful in October. Or maybe I'm just used to Florida weather. After a wonderful ride back through some beautiful countryside, I made dinner while Oskar and George played with one of the SmartGames that I bought.
Friday morning and it was once again time to say our goodbyes. We took the train to Brussels airport and are now sitting patiently awaiting our departure for Spain.