Notes from Puzzle Palace

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Merry Christmas!

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.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Puzzling in Spain part 2

(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. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Final post on visit to the Berrocal Foundation

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.