Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Puzzling in Spain

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.

Torso Vectra
 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.  

Friday, October 18, 2019

Post DCD trip with Oskar and José

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.

Bring on the Berrocal tour!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


For my 6th year in a row, I attended DCD again.  I'm not sure if the main draw is the puzzles, or the people.

After a rocky start leaving Boca we finally made it to Delft on Friday afternoon.  We were unable to meet with Guido of Recent Toys because of one delay after another.  We missed the train in Boca, had to take an Uber to the airport only to have that flight delayed.  When we arrived in Frankfurt there was some commotion at the customs inspection so we waited over 1/2 an hour to get our bags on the x-ray machine feeder.  As always my bag was singled out (don't have jerky in your bag) and this time George's was too (the scissors that got through Miami didn't pass the muster in Germany.) We were sure we missed our connecting flight only to discover that this plane was delayed by an hour.  When it finally arrived, because of some 'weather' in Amsterdam, we had to sit on the tarmac or another 45 minutes before we were able to take off.  When we finally got our luggage, we had 3 large suitcases
to haul around and simply got on the train to Delft.  We were both dead.

We were staying with Peter Knoppers yet again.  He and Friede are wonderful hosts.  We truly enjoy our time with them. On Saturday we decided to take two of the suitcases to Oskar's as we would be spending a week with them bicycling in the south of the Netherlands.  George and I brought along a little surprise for Oskar. His very own 3D printer.  George had great guilt over not using the small one  I bought him for our South American cruise, and we had been after Oskar for a while to get a 3D printer.  You can only imagine the look of surprise on his face when George took it out and gave it to him.  You can only imagine the look of dismay on my face when I realized what he had done and I didn't have my camera out.

They put it together but didn't play right away.  There was puzzling to be done.  Throughout the visit with Oskar poor Andreas measured for the twisty puzzle museum.  He even got the exact weight and length of this SPH.  We had the opportunity to see Steve and Ali's latest adventure into brass puzzling and were thrilled.  George loved it and I asked to be added to the puzzle of the month club.  I think I now have a standing order for whatever they decide to make.  After a few hours Dave Pitcher showed up with his beautiful twisty puzzles, but it was sadly time for us to return to Peter's for dinner out.  Not to worry, we would be enjoying a whole lot more puzzling in the morning.

At DCD proper, we met with old friends yet again.  I always enjoy talking with Geert Hellings and Tony Fisher among others.  This is really why we attend DCD.  It's honestly not the puzzles, although we did manage to purchase 57 this year.  The amount of 'necessary' puzzles gets smaller each year.  Could it be that we are satisfied with what we have? Have we reached saturation point?

This year saw more people and more tables than in the past.  Yes, I know the room looks empty.  This was taken just after lunch was served.  Food always seems to clear the room.  It was very nice to even see Nick Baxter there!  What a surprise that was.  After the day was over, we left rather abruptly.  I want to apologize to all who  I didn't say good-bye to.  I was taken by surprise when Oskar said it was time to leave.  Until 2021!  See you then.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

DCD presentation

As promised, here is my DCD presentation.  It is best viewed as a presentation as there are stacked photos and videos to watch.

For now, we are off on a short Holiday with Oskar and José Van Deventer.  

Friday, October 11, 2019

Long overdue post

Is anyone still reading this blog anymore?

I have not been an active blogger for the past 3 years.  It's not for lack of puzzle parties, or puzzle purchases, but rather because I was ending one life and starting another.  I have finally quit Hong Kong after 25 years, left my old life behind and started a new one in Florida.  It was my intention to begin blogging again at my last post, but circumstances dictated otherwise.  I am now fully retired, divorced from a life of misery, living in a wonderful area, and married to the most amazing man I have ever known.

Take this as notice that I shall be posting again about our adventures in puzzling.  Both in our travels and new puzzle purchases, and also in our house.  You see, when George Miller and I married, we combined our collections and fulfilled a life long dream that we each had.  We have built for ourselves a small puzzle house.  One in which you can look at, touch, and play with all puzzles.  It's a real treat for both of us to have this.

We are now in the Netherlands for Dutch Cube Day and will be heading from here to Spain to visit other puzzlers, do some puzzle shopping and visit a museum dedicated to puzzles.  In the coming months I will write about this month of travel and about the home we have created for ourselves.  Expect a bit of gushing about how wonderful my beautiful lover is (because it's true).  Expect non-solving videos of puzzles I fancy.  Expect reports on our visits with other puzzlers.  This time around, I will not be going it alone.  I have a fellow puzzler along for the ride. Expect his contributions to be much more sensible and technical than mine.  He may even solve a puzzle or two as we go along.

On Sunday we will be giving a short talk on our home and an update on 2D and 3D printers.  After it is over, I will post them here for your viewing (dis)pleasure.  As a preview, I give you a few photos of what we have done in our home.