The first photo is a great example of what's good about HDR work, the ability to record a scene closer to how our eyes actually see it. This is especially true of an interior shot with the exterior also highly visible - and capturing both the highlights and shadows that you can see detail in both.
Shooting this as a "normal" single exposure severely limits your options to either capturing the shadows and losing the highlights; or capturing the highlights and having the shadows block up and have no detail. Personally I much prefer to have both!
The next photo is an example of how you can shoot into the sun (it was about a 45 degree angle to camera left) and maintain good detail and texture to both the foreground and background. It also showed that this angle didn't cause flare down the lens, even at its wide end.
The final photo in this post is an example of shooting directly into the sun and I also included it in the shot, complete with some lens flare. I don't feel it was too excessive on the flare and doesn't distract from the photo. You the viewer may not agree but we are all entitled to our own opinions here - art is very subjective but I hope you agree with me on this one.
I also like the "starburst" on the sun from shooting at f/11. While I could have closed down to f/22 to increase the effect, I would have also introduced diffusion across the entire image, which I didn't want.
All the images were processed in Lightroom before being merged and tonemapped in Photomatix Pro, then a few finishing touches back in Lightroom before exporting as JPG's.