Saturday, January 21, 2012

This Is Not A Decorating Blog -- But...

I know, I know!  Perhaps this is jut premature Cabin Fever, even though I just got back from beautiful and "warm" Madrid.

Whatever it is, the Christmas Tree is still in the process of being deconstructed and I spent most of today puttering around writing lists about all the things I want to do around the house (not including replacing the roof, carpeting and flooring!)  I want new faucets for the bathroom sinks and showers/tub in an "oiled bronze" finish.  New shower rods are a must!  I am shopping for a stand-alone towel rack for the upstairs bath - what is with all this chrome?  Who uses chrome anymore? 

Today I finally hung the three vintage Eiffel Tower prints in the upstairs bath and they look beautiful!  But the bath still lacks - something.  Finishing touches are definitely needed.

I decided perhaps candle sconces on either side of the mirror, and perhaps some metal scroll work to hang above the framed prints as a finishing touch. I have always wanted a lamp in the bath, and so I moved one up there not long ago, but while it looks wonderful the cord is a real problem!  There is nowhere to hide it.  I've only one outlet in the bath, to compound issues.

Practically speaking, to have a second outlet wired (on the far side of the vanity) just to satisfy my fancy for a lamp - well, ridiculous, even if it could be done.  Given the configuration of wiring and water pipes, I'm not sure it could be done where I'd want it, but if it could be done it would probably cost a small fortune.  "Small fortunes" are not in this year's budget! 

Lo and behold, tonight while I was shopping around for new shower rods, towel racks and a coordinating magnifying mirror so I can finally honorably retire my 40 year old Plastic Wonder that is now held together by tape and a prayer, and wondering what (if anything) I could/would do about the lamp I've got up there now, I had a brain storms and did a google search for battery-operated lamps.  That led to Lamp Lust (I'm not kidding, darlings) and "wireless" wall sconces!  I found the absolutely perfect wall sconces for the upstairs bathroom and I ordered a pair tonight.  I'm so happy! 

They are battery-operated LED lamps that I'll be able to hang on picture hangers!  Can't wait for them to arrive!  These are gorgeous...

They will coordinate perfectly with the color scheme in the upstairs bath and the shades will hide the cold white glare of the LEDs. 

Not exactly the "French" look I was after - I had been thinking black metgal shades over "candle" lamps - but very mod/Art Deco and the color is PERFECT! 

This is the shower rod I'm thinking of buying (from J.C. Penney).  It will replace the chrome tension rod that was installed when the house was built 21 years ago.  About time I replaced the thing, don't ya think!

It will go perfectly with the dark bronze finish on the "new" light fixture I had installed a little over two years ago to replace a really cheap and chintzy looking "box" fixture that, while still working perfectly since originally installed when the house was built, would soon be impossible to find the right size light bulbs for!  The "beading" will echo beading on the interior of the frame around the "new" mirror I put up at the same time as the light fixture; it replaced a gigantic plate-glass mirror that was perfectly serviceable but just plain - plain.  I had checked into having a custom frame made for it -- ridiculously expensive!  I opted to Craig's List the mirror after it was taken down and moved outside and purchased the current framed "portrait" style mirror that I bought at Menard's on sale for about $40. 

Ohmygoddess, sounds like I'm obsessing.  I think I am, I am.  What's wrong with me?  This is ridiculous! 

Tomorrow I'm going to shop for faucets and replacement shower fixtures...

Deconstructing Christmas

Hola!  It's nice and bright here today, and a balmy 13 17 degrees F - much warmer than yesterday!  There's a snow cover now.  In addition to the recent snow yesterday I'd say I got another 3-4 inches.  Good thing I had just got the driveway shoveled out the night before...

My footprints from last evening and critter prints in driveway this morning.
Seriously, this stuff is the fine gritty kind of snow and I'll go out and sweep/shovel it away later on.  Tomorrow we're due for a high of 36 degrees F and it will feel downright tropical!  Unfortunately, freezing rain and fog are promised along with the warm temperatures.  Blechy!  So, I will make the trek to the Pick 'n Save later on, around noonish, and rub elbows with all the other crazed shoppers, and pray I don't get run over in the parking lot, but if I do, mark my words, I will leave a VERY BIG DENT in your machine of death.

Today I am continuing deconstructing Christmas around the place.  The family room and dinette are now stripped bare of holiday decor - except for the flameless pillar candles, I'm keeping them out permanently, not just relegating them to Christmas use.  Today the more traditional look battery-operated candles that have been gracing the front window and the windows above the sink will be put away.  I am tempted to leave them out - I love the look of "candles in the windows." We'll see...

Look, nearly stripped bare of Christmas!  Just a few more tear drop ornaments to remove
from the barberry branches and those boxes on the mantle will be whisked away...
The room with the mostest is the living room.  I've got the mantle cleared of ribbon, candles, stockings hung with care, ornaments, and the Christmas-decorated topiaries that held down either side of the firebox are now wrapped in plastic and stored.  I'm taking the crystal and tear-drop ornaments off the barberry branches I've got inside a tall hurricane glass.  The branches will remain.  They look vaguely oriental, to go with my vaguely oriental accessorized room.  Christmas accessories from around the room are nearly removed.  It looks bare, naked and cold.  Would a 5 foot long t.v. across the mantle make me happier, I sometimes wonder...

The monster project is - THE TREE.  I keep looking at it and sighing.  Where to start, where to start?

I'm just procrastinating, darlings!  Right now I'm taking a break, deciding how I'm going to tackle the tree deconstruction.  I think I will start with the faux presents piled up around the base, and then remove the new tree skirt and give that a good shake-out before carefully tucking it up with tissue paper to avoid accessive wrinkling over the next 11 months.  Sigh.

It's probably more than a little silly to be feeling "blue" about having to do this.  One year I let everything up until the end of February!  But since I have a cleaning lady now, I don't want to seem er, excessively eccentric.  She's coming on Thursday and I want the house looking back to normal by then.  Dirty, but normal.

So, I've got boxes piled up on the coffee table and sofa, tissue paper all over the place, the vacuum is out and has already sucked up a quarter ton of glitter (it breeds in the carpets if you don't get it all, I tell you).  At least I'll be able to play around with the furniture again, shoving it this way and that to see if I can hit upon some combination, some angles, I haven't tried before.  I've lived here for 21 years so that's pretty tough to do.  The room isn't exactly small, but it's not exactly large either, and I must leave space clear for a path from the front door, it's my main path into the house since I don't drive and therefore don't pull into the garage and use the service door into the family room!  Maybe that's why I want new furniture.  Mind you, the "old" furniture is in near-perfect shape.  I (now my cleaning lady) vacuum it regularly, I have it professionally cleaned once a year, and I have faithfully flipped the cushions and fluffed up the Lawson-style attached backs at least once a month.  Stinky feet are allowed, but not dirt-encrusted shoes.

Looking back over the past 3-4 months, I realize just what a FRENZY I was in, geez!  I don't know what got into me, but whatever it was, the house has never looked better.  I realize, too, that all of that frenetic activity got me through a bleak, nasty time of year, despite the above-average temperatures.  This year, for some reason, winter really got to me.  WHAM! 

Unfortunately, I spent Thursday and last night (and okay, time this morning too) looking at those decorating blogs - I should NOT do that!  Damn!  They make me feel all itchy restless.  I think part of the problem is that after Christmas, I just want to get out and start working in the gardens!  LOL!  Hmmmm, guess I answered my own question - it was those decorating blogs that got into me.  Not envious of other people's beautifully large and well-put-together homes (this house is more than large enough for me, and quite comfortable for me, Mr. Don, Georgia and Michelle when they visit).  Maybe envious of having all that fricking TIME to work at making House Beautiful.

House Beautiful is important.  Yeah yeah, not in the greater scheme of things blah blah, but you know what, there's nothing quite like coming home to a well-appointed, beautifully-kept home after a damn long hard stress-filled day at the office.  A glass of wine, the fireplace on (in winter or rainy damp days), or stretched out with my feet up on the deck (weather permitting, any other time of year -- hell, Mr. Don and I were sitting out there enjoying wine coolers on January 11th!) .  All that nasty stress and b.s. that one has to deal with out-in-the-real-world just falls away like dragon's scales and disappears.  It's a form of magic, I think.

And there are still lots of things to do around here to get it looking the way I want it -- pictures to hang, I still have the issue of the towel rod in the bathroom that is now hiding in a closet so I don't have to look at it and feel guilty about not getting it back up on the wall; not after the fisaco of trying to do so and having to deal with the holes I created, eek!  Yeah, I patched them and painted them but they shout out to me every time I visit the loo...  Not to mention I'm sick and tired of the decor in the family room, but the furniture is still perfectly good even though it's not the red leather sectional I really want.  I will settle for wallpaper stripped off, the horrid stencil job I did around the ceiling banished forever, the oh-so-1980's sponged wall treatement and wallpaper border around the middle of the room gone!  I just can't figure out what color(s) I want the walls to be.  Where did all this indecisiveness come from...

Well, I think it's time for a glass of wine, a sandwich and back into the living room to tackle the Christmas tree.

Updated about an hour later:

About 11:45 I stepped outside, bundled up with shovel in hand, and attacked the driveway.  A scant 55 minutes later, and I didn't even have to take cold breaks to come inside and warm up - it's done!  Ta da!  The sun is WARM, people, WARM!  It felt so good.  I ended up working in my sweatshirt near the finish, huffing and puffing away and it felt so good.  Now the drive is already starting to melt, but the sun is now moving around near the back of the house.  The deck will start to melt now.  It's a mess.  I swept some of it off this morning but the rest of it - eh - I'm just going to leave it and take a nap.

Nothing makes me feel more decadent than snuggling down under an afghan on the recliner and taking a nice 2 or 3 hour nap, when I've just got loads of other things I should be doing.  Tee hee hee!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our Last Day in Spain: January 9, 2012 Part II

Now that I see the videos DO download (although it takes forever), here are more of Mr. Don's videos!

Video above taken from the garden of Sculptor Macho's residence.  It's views from the old city out over the escarpment of the River Targus, including a view of St. Martin's Bridge.

Video above is a Toledo video, but not sure of what!

Video above this is from Sculptor Macho's house.

The video above is of the Alcazar.  The Alcazar's roots go back to Arab (Moorish) times in Spain and means "fortress."  During the Civil War Franco's forces bombarded the Alcazar (which was a military academy at the time) for, I believe our guide told us, 37 days (or perhaps it was 39 days), until there was nothing left but rubble.  Many years later, the Alcazar was reconstructed over the original footprint.  Archaeologists were brought in to recover as much of the ruins as possible and these bits and pieces were incorporated into the new building project wherever it was possible to do so.  The Alcazar one sees today in Toledo is totally rebuilt, but it represents an exact a replica as far as was historically and engineering-wise possible at the time.  It makes me cry, to think of the loss, and it makes me cry to think of what the people went through to rebuild the irreplaceable once again.

After we got back to Madrid, we left the travel agency (Julia Tours, gracias!) and just up the street was the park that houses the monument to Cervantes.  We had visted it on January 6th (the day of the Feast of the Three Kings) and found it walled off with white plastic construction walls, and the plaza itself was filled with litter and generally scruffy and sad looking, which I attributed to (I hoped) celebrations the night before (the night Mr. Don and I attended the Parade in Madrid along the Paseo del Recollectos).  It mad me so sad to see it that way after my memories of such a sparkling place filled with people relaxing in the sun in October, 2002!  But when we walked toward it the evening of January 9th, a miraculous transformation had taken place!  The white plastic walls were gone!  The litter was gone!  We could see the monument to Cervantes and the backside of it as well with its wonderful fountain.  Mr. Don took much time to get photos and video.  It is a very popular site and it was hard to get "clean" shots, even near sunset, for all the tourists crawling (literally!) all over Don Quixote and Pancho!

Hypnotizing, isn't it...

Amazing this is the other side of the Cervantes monument!  No tourists were seen splashing about the fountain!  Away across the plaza  from this fountain stands the monumental but sadly, now vacant, Edificio Espana.  Before it is another splendid fountain.  I do hope there are plans afoot to redevelop the Edificio Espana.  According to this website, there is a hotel in part of the premises, but it sure didn't look to Mr. Don or I that there were any occupants in the building - which is a shame, since it has beautiful balconies and must have incomparable views of the city!

At the corner, we took a sharp right and headed down the Gran Via for a 40 minute walk toward out hostal.  Oh my, it was a long walk, indeed!

All I wanted was to get something to eat and go to bed.  My stomach was really bothering me; at least, it felt like it was my stomach, but I was hungry too.  How could I be sick to my stomach and still be hungry?  I was not familiar with the symptoms of HEARTBURN!  Little did I know...

Side Note: Music That Reminds Me Of Madrid!

First of all, the one, the only, Marc Antoine and his wonderful acoutstic guitar, playing smooth jazz mega-hit MADRID:

A personal favorite, a quirky version of J.M. Serrat's MEDITTERANEO:

Another smooth jazz mega-hit by The Rippingtons, SPANISH GIRL:

2012 Tata Steel

Chess femme standings after R5:

Group B:

1.Harikrishna, P.4
2.Motylev, A.
3.L'Ami, E.
Timman, J.
5.Bruzon, L.
Nyzhnik, I.
Reinderman, D.
Tiviakov, S.
Vocaturo, D.
10.Cmilyte, V.
Lahno, K.

Potkin, V.
13.Ernst, S.
Harika, D.

Group C:

1.Turov, M.5
2.Tikkanen, H.4
3.Adhiban, B.
4.Grover, S.
Sadler, M.
6.Brandenburg, D.
Goudriaan, E.
Schut, L.
9.Ootes, L.
Paehtz, E.
Tania, S.
12.Danielian, E.
Haast, A.

Hopman, P.

Our Last Full Day in Spain, January 9, 2012

"Looking up" while walking down a narrow sidestreet in Toledo, Spain.  Taken by Mr. Don.  As a kid, I lived in old neighborhoods in Milwaukee where the houses were reach-out-and-touch-someone close.  Perhaps we didn't "know thyself" but we sure got to know our neighbors :)

I hope this turns out okay. I've been having problems uploading video, don't know why. If this works, it is Mr. Don's, taken inside the Cathedral at Toledo.  Unfortunately, his camera died while we were in Madrid and while he had his video camera which can take excellent stills, he had to ration his battery power because of the videos he wanted to shoot!

If I can't post them here, I will find somewhere else to do it.  In the meantime, I've called the crows to lunch -- with the new snow cover (and more expected tomorrow) they have been visiting more regularly looking for hand-outs.

How many arches can a gate have???  I count at least eight (including that last outside edge on the other side of the gate).  St. Martin's Bridge gate - old city-side. I believe Mr. Don took this photo.

What a beautiful photo of old Toledo!  Taken by Mr. Don.  I know he took this photo because I was down the slope, across from the second "tier" of greenery on the left getting ready to take a photo of a lovely "secret garden" on the other side of a wrought-iron fence...

Isn't it beautiful!  A green growing garden in January.  Yes, Madrid is warmer than we are here, but it's not tropical!  I got the answer to my question as to why these things would be growing further down the hill, when we turned a sharp corner and after clearing the building I saw the larger part of this "secret" garden on my left!  It was open to the public but we didn't stop -- we were on our way to the Synagogue of the White Virgin.  However, I noted (with a gardener's eye) that the primary exposure was to the south/southwest and with an open exposure as it had, sunlight would flood in...  Not many climates can grow oak trees and palm trees in the same garden...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Around the Blogosphere: Chess Femme News

Time to check the other chess blogs run by chess femmes and see what's up with them:

Susan Polgar

Interview with Judit Polgar
January 18, 2012
Thornhill Sisters are National Junior Chess Champions
January 18, 2012
GM Viktorija Cmilyte manages to draw a game in which she had 2 queens, hmmm...
Tata Steel Chess 2012 "En Passant" Round 4 Interview
January 18, 2012

Alexandra Kosteniuk's "Chess Blog"

The most exclusive chess pocket watch ever made!
January 16, 2012
I'm not sure what, precisely, a chess pocket watch is.  I mean, can one play chess on it?  It doesn't look like it -- so what, exactly, does it do that is "chess?"  In any event, there is a smoking hot photo of GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who has done modelling for many years to supplement her chess earnings.  This photo is - well, see for yourself.
Girls just wanna play chess - two news reports about girls and chess
January 16, 2012

Alina L'Ami

Her husband, GM Erwin L'Ami, is playing at Wijk aan Zee (2012 Tata Steel) and she is there doing this, that and the other thing, including blogging at her blog and taking photos, etc. for (I presume) Chessbase reports.  She always has something entertaining to photograph or write.

Catch up on Jennifer Shahade.  She's been busy playing poker and doing her chess thing.  Naked Chess, anyone?  I'd be much more interested if the male players looks less like 13 year olds who can never get enough to eat and more like Chipendale hunks :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More Photos from Toledo, Spain

I'm nearly to the end of the - first round of photographs!

Photo by Don:  A look back toward one of the gates on St. Martin's Bridge (the gate old-city side)

Photo by Don:  Looking out across the St. Martin's Bridge from the old city gate.

My photo: St. Martin's Bridge from the far side of the river.  The tour buses line up alone this winding road and if you lose your group, you can always hope to find your bus here!

Tomb of Nehmes Bastet, Singer, Found in Egypt

I love her name!  Here's the story from the BBC:

Egyptian tomb holds singer Nehmes Bastet's remains

Archaeologists working in Egypt have discovered the tomb of a female singer in the Valley of the Kings.
The tomb was found by a team from the University of Basel in Switzerland who came across it by chance.
The woman, Nehmes Bastet, was a temple singer during Egypt's 22nd Dynasty (approximately 945 - 712BC), according to an inscription in the tomb.
The coffin found in the tomb contains an intact mummy from almost 3,000 years ago.
Professor Susanne Bickel of the University of Basel told the BBC that the coffin was opened on Monday and she was able to see the "nicely wrapped" mummy of the woman who was buried in the tomb.
The opening of the coffin was carried out by Prof Bickel and her Basel colleague, field director Elina Paulin-Grothe, together with the Chief Inspector of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, Dr Mohammed el-Bialy and inspector Ali Reda.
Prof Bickel said that the upper edge of the tomb was found on the first day of Egypt's revolution, on 25 January 2011. The opening was sealed with an iron cover and the discovery was kept quiet.
Last week, after the start of this year's field season, the feature was identified as a tomb - and one of the very few tombs in the Valley of the Kings which have not been looted.
'Painted black'
Elina Paulin-Grothe said that the tomb was not built for the female singer, but was re-used for her 400 years after the original burial, according to AP.
There are other non-royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Prof Bickel said, which mostly date from the 18th Dynasty (1500 - 1400BC).
The woman in the coffin was the daughter of the high priest of Amon, Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP.
The discovery was important because "it shows that the Valley of the Kings was also used for the burial of ordinary individuals and priests of the 22nd Dynasty", he added.
Egyptian news site Ahram reports that the wooden sarcophagus was painted black and decorated with hieroglyphic texts.
This tomb is only the second found in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922, and is referred to as KV64 in the naming system used to label tombs in the valley. It is one of a cluster of tombs without any wall decoration found near the royal tomb of Thutmoses III.
A tomb found in 2006, known as KV63, had seven coffins in it but none of them contained any mummies - it seems to have been used as a burial cache.

2012 Tata Steel

Standings after R4:

Chess femmes in Group B:

1.Harikrishna, P.
2.L'Ami, E.
Motylev, A.
4.Lahno, K.Nyzhnik, I.
Reinderman, D.
Timman, J.
Tiviakov, S.
Vocaturo, D.
10.Bruzon, L.
Cmilyte, V.
Ernst, S.
Harika, D.
Potkin, V.

Chess femmes in Group C:

1.Turov, M.4
2.Adhiban, B.
Tikkanen, H.
4.Goudriaan, E.
Sadler, M.
6.Brandenburg, D.
Grover, S.
Ootes, L.
9.Paehtz, E.
Schut, L.
Tania, S.
12.Danielian, E.
Haast, A.
14.Hopman, P.½

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Tata Steel Chess

Hola!  Nope, I haven't forgotten all about chess, just been distracted by other things :)  Here's the link to the official website.

Here are standings after R3 for the chess femmes!

The B Group is hosting three:
1.Harikrishna, P.3
2.L'Ami, E.
3.Tiviakov, S.2
4.Lahno, K. Motylev, A.
Nyzhnik, I.
Reinderman, D.
Timman, J.
Vocaturo, D.
10.Bruzon, L.
Cmilyte, V.
Harika, D.
Potkin, V.
14.Ernst, S.½

The C Group features five chess femmes:
1.Turov, M.3
2.Goudriaan, E.
3.Adhiban, B.
Grover, S.
Sadler, M.
Tikkanen, H.
7.Brandenburg, D.
Tania, S.
9.Danielian, E.
Haast, A.

Ootes, L.
12.Hopman, P.
Paehtz, E.
Schut, L.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Scenes from Toledo, Spain Part VIII

The House (now a Museum) of Sculptor/Artist Victorio Macho

This beautiful former private residence provides, perhaps, some of the best views of Toledo, its cliffs, hills, the ancient walls (Roman, Visigoth, Arab, Spanish) and, of course, the winding river Tagus.  The terrace garden area overlooks an incredible vista.  I, and no doubt millions of other visitors, wish they could live there for always and always.  It is the former home, and now houses the crypt and a museum of some of the works, of artist/sculptor Victorio Macho.  They are everywhere in this lovely garden - I took many photos of the views and of some of the sculptures!

We could be in Tuscany!  This is the view looking straight ahead upon entry to the inner garden courtyard.

A view over the river to the left.  Notice the ancient remaints of footings for a bridge in the water - they are, I believe, Roman.

A view of the river to the right.  This is the famous St. Martin's Bridge.

A close-up shot of the hill across the river...

Cacti plants, just below the railing.  You can see the river far below peeking through...

Scenes from Toledo, Spain Part VII

Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes

This church and attached monastery were constructed under the auspices of Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in the 15th century, as a future burial place.  As it turned out, they opted to be buried in Granada after the later conquest of that city.  But the Church remains in Toledo, and it is a stunning one!  The courtyard area (cloister?) of the monastery contains a beautiful garden that I remember well from our 2002 visit, but I did not remember the horrid STENCH of cat urine in 2002 that overwhelmed the place in 2012.  PEEEEEEUUUUUUUUWWWWWW!  It absolutely reeked, stank, smelled to High Heaven, and was enough to make a grown man retch.  YECH!  My guess (and it's only a guess) is that due to budget cuts under the "austerity program" imposed on the Spanish government by international lenders, the cats are still roaming about freely (as in the Parque Rentiro in Madrid, where you can't even approach parts of the park because of the stench of cat urine and spray) but the areas the cats frequent are no longer being hosed down on a regular basis.  Too damn bad!  The overwhelming, gag-me stench, was enough to totally put me off this beautiful church.  I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there!

Walking toward the entrance to the Church.

An orange tree in the cloister.  Even I know oranges don't grow in Spain in January; upon closer inspection, it could be seen that the oranges were sere and wrinkled; they'd never been picked when in season!  Still, they made a lovely sight.

Another view of the cloister garden; notice the arch on the second level.  Our guide said it is called a "Seville" arch and is known only in Spain.  You can see the obvious blending of Moorish, Gothic and Spanish elements in the architecture of this church.

One of the few interior shots I was able to get because of how the sun was angled.  The decorative stonework inside the church is simply amazing.  One could spend hours studying its intricacies!  I do not know if the pews are original; they were certainly uncomfortable!

Blurred, booooo!

Swinging around in an arc to get a photo of the altar-piece.   This is oil painted on wood.

A final unfortunately blurred shot toward the highest part of the interior.

Chains!  The outside of the Monasterio/Church.  According to legend, these chains once held prisoners held by the Muslim overlords of the city.  When the city was reconquered by the Christians in c. 1080 CE, evidently they saved the chains (why???).  The chains were added to this church by the Christian monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella some 400 years later - according to our guide, as a reminder to the local people that God had set them free from religious enslavement to the Muslims.  I had been expecting a story about Muslim captives being hung up by the chains to die and then slowly rot away. Was our guide white-washing the history of Toledo for public consumption?  Why would these chains of degradation of the Christians have been saved between c. 1080 and the early 1500's when this complex was built, to be put up on the outside of a church centuries later?  Hmmmm, is there a fishy tale in this somewhere???

Scenes from Toledo, Spain Part VI

Synagogue of the White Virgin

This is what our guide called it; online sites call it the Synagogue of St. Mary the White.  See Sacred Destinations website for further information.  Cf. Mary in Our Life: Atlas of the Names and Titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus (book excerpt at Google). 

Our guide told us that the site was originally used as a mosque, then converted to a synagogue, and after the explusion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella, the synagogue was converted to a church where the French "White Virgin" statue that I photographed at the Cathedral was first housed for many years, before being moved to the Cathedral.  It seems likely that the sculpture of the White Virgin was housed in the former Synagogue at some point for some years, since construction on the Cathedral wasn't begun until the early 1200s CE and took about 250 years to complete, while the Synagogue was a completed building by 1203 CE (another site I read said by 1080 CE).  Our guide also told us that there had possibly been a women's gallery (on a upper level) as part of the mosque at one time, but it had been removed at some point.  There is certainly enough room for a sort of balcony gallery to have existed all around the perimeter of the building -- but history tells us that the city of Toledo was reconquered in c. 1080 CE by a Catholic monarch and so it seems doubtful that a new mosque would have been built in the city after that date; then again, I would not have thought a new synagogue would have been permitted to be built, either...

The photographs at the Sacred Destinations website put mine to shame! But I'm posting mine anyway :)

Here's the photo of the White Virgin, again, just to remind you how gorgeous she is.  It is agreed that she is of French origin, of alabaster, sculpted some time in the 12th century (the 1100s CE) and is called "White" because of the predominant color of her robes.  However, she is also known as a Black Madonna because of the darker color of her skin!  Note: Some sources cite her as 13th century, and some at late as the 15th century CE. 

No more altar-piece - I don't know why it was removed and I don't recall our guide mentioning it.  I do not understand why anyone would want to partially "wall" over those beautifully shaped "key hole" windows (Moorish) on the back wall, either.  At the time of our tour, an art exhibit was taking place.  We were asked not to photograph any of the art, and so I obediently kept my camera pointed upward!  That's where the most interesting things were, anyway.  You can't really tell from this photo, but the ceiling is fully criss-crosssed with huge wooden beams.

This is a photo of the ceiling area in the alcove to the left of the "main" alcove in the photo, above.  On the left wall is a mural that was partially uncovered (or restored) - see photo below.

This is a photo of the ceiling above the central or "main" alcove, looking at the left wall - I was fascinated by the opening next to the obviously added-much-later oriole window -- there was no similar opening on the right wall.  I may be wrong, but from this I deduced that the alcoves were also added in a later renovation - probably during its tenure as a Catholic church, chopping up what must have been a wide-open space that was only punctuated by those wonderfully-shaped windows all around the upper roofline of the original mosque and then synagogue, and on the ground level the columns supporting the beautiful arches.

A view toward the roofline.  On the left side, you can see how one of the "alcoves" was cut into the original Moorish arch and the space walled off to form the alcove.  (The same thing is visible in the alcove on the left, at the rear of the photo).

The beautiful arches; the feeling I got was like waves of the ocean, depending on where you were standing when you looked upward. 
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