Wow, so interesting to see Spain’s King Juan Carlos I is abdicating in favor of his son, soon to be King Felipe VI, after spending so much time in Spain and visiting all the royal palaces and hearing about the various monarchs to see history in action.
Gaudi the artist has several works of art in the form of buildings spread throughout Barcelona, unfortunately he died in the 1930’s prior to completing the church, however he did leave behind models and drawings of the finished design, even more unfortunately many of these were destroyed during the Spanish revolution, as his workshop within the church was set afire. However, his apprentices and other master builders were able to salvage or remember the designs and set about finishing the church. Gaudi was a naturalist and incorporated many shapes from nature in his designs, but with artistic flourishes. It’s hard to believe he was designing in such a way in the early 1900’s, they really appear more modernist.
La Sagrada Familia is an amazing church initially designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, one that is still being completed to this day!! They say it is finally close to being completed, only another 20 years or so to go! (I’d bet on the ‘or so’ personally…). This is the one place that everyone says if you can only see one thing in Barcelona, then this is it. And it doesn’t disappoint, it is unlike any church you have ever seen.
Amazing exterior of the church, the traditional spires in a non traditional way
Taking a photo of the scale model
From the amazing facades of the church, the front is the “Passion” and the back the “Nativity” I’m not much of a church goer, much more of an architecture lover, but these scenes are unlike any I’ve seen at other churches and quite powerful, yet quite avant-garde
Magnificent stained glass
Interiors of the church, church pillars, inspired by tree trunks, the “branch ” structures also made for better support.
Kind of looks like batman, but it’s a saint
Jesus on the cross
View of the ceiling looking up
I overheard a guide say that the most work was done in the last 20 years, partially due to Gaudi’s death and the partial destruction of his models and drawings in the 1940’s and that the parts of the interior didn’t have a roof until the last ten years.
I look forward to visiting again to see what else unfolds. And a tip, buy tickets online, will save you a 2 hour wait to get in!
Another Gaudi designed building is the apartments known as La Pedrera, commissioned by a wealthy family as their personal residence as well as rental and ground level retail space. It is unlike any building I’ve ever seen
Here is the roof where function meets … whimsy(?)
Water towers and chimneys reimagined
Interior courtyard, looking down from above
From below up
In the attic
Casa Batlló is another building he designed
In addition he designed parks that emphasized his take on natural forms all in the 1910’s, will have to check them out next time!
I also went to the Picasso museum, but no photos were allowed. Barcelona was where Picasso spent many of his teen years, attending art school in Barcelona and visiting the brothels by the harbor, which inspired one of his earliest and most famous works, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”
I’ve traveled the world, many destinations that would be considered exotic, like Machu Picchu or Dubai, yet I have never visited Paris, France, much to the amazement and amusement of many friends. And since I’m tired of being made fun of for having never visited Paris, I was basically been peer pressured to visit Paris ;). Oh woe is me :).
In truth, it was the perfect place to end my three month adventure. The city is a fabulous walking city, very alive, filled with gorgeous architecture, beautiful food, stylish residents, towering churches and history around every corner. My favorite thing to do is sit on a bench and transport myself back into history and pretend I’m seeing it through the eyes of someone in the 1500’s or 1800’s, as if I’m part of the royal court or just a normal citizen, marveling at (and resenting) the riches.
Yes, I had to take this typical shot of the Eiffel Tower, it’s iconic and also the easiest to take
View of the Eiffel Tower from a River Seine cruise
Eiffel Tower all sparkly
The Louvre is huge! It was a former royal palace
Inside the Louvre, so many people…
Venus de Milo
The Mona Lisa, the crowd was fifteen rows deep, I got this close and just couldn’t handle the crowd any longer. I’d been told how small the picture was, so this was a case of lowered expectations, it was bigger than I expected :). From my visit to the Loire Valley, the reason the Lourve has the Mona Lisa and not an Italian museum is because Leonardo spent his final years in France.
The Paintings are huge, and amazing. Yet I always wonder how that artist was able to distinguish themselves enough to land their sponsors and ultimately be hanging in the Louvre, just what was the moment.
Bling bling inside the Louvre
Notre Dame, often imitated in churches I’ve crossed paths in my travels, nothing quite like the original
Notre Dame arches
Gorgeous, intricate stained glass inside Notre Dame
Notre Dame all lit at night
The Arc de Triomphe has a boo boo 😦
Cool little statues on a building
The River Seine
River Seine at dusk
The River Seine at night
Staircase at the 6th floor loft I stayed at for one night, god I’d be fit if I lived here
The food in Paris, and France in general, was just amazing! Such quality ingredients. Their bread is 10,000 times better than the bread we have in the US! No exaggeration at all! We need to do better at breads and croissants!!
Amazing pork chop, not sure where the smaller European portions are, we were looking for them…. This was delicious!
Pâté, yum with some crusty bread
I had a lot of preconceived notions about Paris and France, some were true, yes the food is delicious, but other than one hotel clerk, every French person we met was quite lovely, especially in the restaurants. And it wasn’t because we were in tourist restaurants where they are used to English speakers, frequently, we were the only English speakers in a restaurant. Perhaps it’s because we always greeted them in French? I don’t know, but we never encountered any of that rudeness that I’d heard about.
So yes in short my forced, peer pressured trip to Paris was well worth it 🙂
To break up the long drive from Bordeaux to Paris, we stopped in the Loire Valley for an afternoon, night and morning. There are several Chateaus in the area, several being castle like or fortified houses in the least.
Chenin was the first we stopped at, Chenin being known as the castle where Joan of Arc first passed the test of faith by knowing it was the king, Charles VII dressed as a commoner. She had visions that he was to take back lost lands and be named the true king, which he hadn’t been yet, as the church where coronations were held was in English hands. Believing her to be inspirational, he then sent her out as a leader of his army (well there’s debate over whether she was really in charge of the army…but the results are what matters). The French army was beaten down and defeated by the English to that point but they had quite a reversal of fortune after she joined the battle, taking back most of the lost land. The French took back the coronation church and Charles VII was named king, the French continued to have many victories with Joan on the front lines. Unfortunately, she was captured by the English and the Burgandians (A French region they were aligned with) She was tried and actually burned as a heretic on May 30th, 1431 (exactly 583 years ago today as I write this) on what we would call trumped up charges. Eventually English were formally defeated and the Burgandians signed a peace treaty as well leaving Charles VII leading the whole of France. A second posthumous trial was held for Joan of Arc and she was found not a heretic and was declared a saint.
Chateau at Chenin
The oldest mention of Joan of Arc
Statues of Joan of Arc became very popular
More of Chenin Chateau (Castle)
Chateau Ambiose, the final resting place of Leonardo DiVinci, but unfortunately no the castle I wanted to visit. We hoped to visit the one where they have models of all the things that DiVinci had envisioned and had drawn up sort of blueprints for including a helicopter!!! Unfortunately, this Google led us to this one instead of the one a mile away… We just assumed they had moves the models… Ah well this one was nice too 🙂
Only about 10% of the Castle remains
Picture perfect little town
My good friend Zulema met up with me for some wine tasting in the Bordeaux region of France. We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast in the French countryside near the town of Pugnac. The bed and breakfast was on an estate that used to house a winery. The lovely British couple that owns it, has completely restored it from it’s formerly sad state to a wonderful countryside B&B, with a few modern touches like a pool, mini golf course as well as lovely gardens. Our trusty station wagon size Renault since the smaller cars were all manual shift, I guess the French don’t like automatic drive. Since I haven’t driven a stick in over 20 years, didn’t think it a great idea to relearn in France…
We had a lovely dinner in a small family owned restaurant in the town of Pugnac, with a set menu, wine, salad, soup, entree and dessert, plus coffee for €18 or about $26, which for France is a bargain! The server spoke very little English, we probably should have studied a little more French to figure out that she was saying rare cooked beef….
We became big fans of roundabouts (traffic circles) because they made U-turns a breeze when we went the wrong way:)
We got much better, we only got lost once per trip towards the end or I mean took the scenic routes once per trip 😉
Lovely city of Bourg, right next to the town we were staying.
On the River Garonne
A very nice wine maker at a tasting
At Pugnac winery, which would have been walking distance to our B&B, we received a tour of the whole facility, very cool.
St Emillion, known for expensive wines and gorgeous country side
A church where they had just found a cemetery and were excavating it
Gorgeous cobblestone streets
Overlooking the lovely town of St Emillion
Fantastic meal in Bordeaux, one of the best we had in France, good wine, oysters and charcuterie. We forgot to ask for the fromage,ie cheese. One of the cutest little bistro’s ever!
Church time! Stained glass
I thoroughly enjoyed the French countryside in the Bordeaux region, the towns of Bourg, Pugnac and St. Emillion, as well as Bordeaux city were all quite cute and charming. And the wine is très magnifique!
Tarragona was a pleasant day trip from Barcelona, only about 50 minutes by train along the coast. It was an ancient Roman city, as important as Barcelona back in Roman times, with several ancient ruins excavated. They have excavated the Roman amphitheater, which in later years was made into a church, a prison and a nunnery. It’s fascinating to see these greater than 2,000 year old structures and imagine a gladiator walking into the arena with thousands of people cheering in the stands. I’ve always been fascinated by the Greek and Roman period, so since I didn’t make it to either, this was the next best thing 🙂
Here is where a church was built into the amphitheater, you can make out that it’s in the shape of a cross.
This tunnel is the only thing that is remaining of the Roman circus building.
Carrying on with the narrow streets theme…
And of course a church
All in all a pleasant morning spent on Tarragona
Barcelona is the very modern Spain and if you ask those in Andalucia, not really Spain ;). Also if you ask many in Barcelona they’d agree they aren’t really Spain, they are Catalan. Catalan being the language spoken by 95% of Barcelona residents, but also the historical region of Catalan, before it was absorbed into Spain, which also included parts of south west France. To my ears, Catalan sounds like you take 1/2 Spanish and 1/2 French and there you have Catalan, makes sense really. There is a very strong separatists movement, which may see formal separation voting later this year if some local politicians have their way.
Barcelona is quite the modern dynamic city, filled with skyscrapers, turn of the century buildings, medieval structures, century spanning facades, and hidden layers of Roman architecture under many corners. It’s a fascinating and surprising cornucopia of sights, sounds and (delicious) smells. I have to say my favorite tapas meals were here in Barcelona and the only city I wished for a companion so that I could sample more exotic dishes at each meal!
Barcelona is also a city of art, with Picasso, Antoni Gaudi among the primary contributors, I will do a separate blog just for Gaudi as his work is quite prolific in Barcelona.
Near the harbor is this statue in honor of Christopher Columbus and his journey to the new world, as well as to the King and Queen
Gorgeous buildings throughout Barcelona, this was a connection between buildings
Another gorgeous building
Randomly walked into a fashion show with kids modeling summer wear.
Catalan people have some strange customs, these hugely popular little figures are set out for Christmas, they are of various celebrities, squatting to take a you know what??? Why?? Why??
Again, upon some excavation work, Roman ruins were found underneath the former royal palace, now the city museum. It was so interesting to see how 2,000 year old history can just come to light and be displayed.
It appeared to be a fish sauce factory, winery and laundry at various times in Roman history.
Since I was in the gastronomic town of Barcelona, I thought it a good idea to try a cooking class, and what better dish to try than paella!
At the market, buying ingredients for our feast
The meat section of the market, yum Iberico jamon…
A few Tapas before cooking paella
A huge pan! Hmm how could I fit that in my kitchen
Our chef Eduardo explaining technique, properly stirring the ingredients is important as well as turning the pan
Pheh, hard work cooking this Paella
Finished dish with sangria
My final stop on my train tour through Andalusian Spain and another beautiful Moorish built eddifice. The Mezquita, a former Mosque, turned into a church after the Spanish kings retook the city.
I stayed at a home that was 1,000 years old. It had been modified and modernized over the years, but was still amazing to see its little touches. I still get giddy at thinking about all that house has seen in 1,000 years!
The Mezquita at night
The Moorish mosques arches have been retained in the church that now occupies the Mezquita
Arches as far as the eye can see
The former Royal Palace
The Roman bridge, as with much of Spain, the Roman Empire had conquered here 2,000 years ago, this bridge still stands from that time
The ancient streets (barely) accommodate cars now…
Granada was the next city on my Andalusian swing thru southern Spain, so after a slower train ride from Sevilla, I got to Granada. It is known for the Alhambra, a former Moorish palace that later became the royal palace of the Spanish kings, sitting on the hill overlooking the city. Everyone said I had to go see the Alhambra if I was in Andalucia.
Gorgeous at night, luminescent over the city, the moon and the Alhambra
Through the arches
How the city below looks
View from the top
On top of ruins within the Alhambra complex
An old Arab bath house. They were quite the engineers and had hot and cold water running to the baths. They also let the night sky in with these ceiling cut outs.
Ancient streets still have the cobblestone, and are so narrow, but now cars zip through
Narrow alleys of the Albacin, a part of the old city, winding, winding streets.
Flamenco in a cave, the city was carved out of the hills surrounding the Alhambra, frequently business inhabit cave like dwellings.
Garden exit shot
My journey to south Spain, the Andalucian area began with a nice high speed train ride from Madrid to Sevilla. Southern Spain was ruled by the Moors for the longest period and you still find their influence lingering here. Sevilla is also known as the most Spanish of Spain, all the images that are evoked when you think of Spain, they all started here (or so they claim) flamenco guitar and dancing, bull fighting, tapas, etc. It doesn’t get dark until after 10 pm and is close to a 1,000 degrees up until then, so now I understand why the Spanish don’t start eating until about 10:30 at night! And oh those tapas…
The Old town of Sevilla is a charming space filled with Gothic churches, winding narrow streets and the Alcazar, a beautiful former Moor’s palace that became the palace of the Christian kings after they defeated the Moors.
Arches, tiles, carvings…
Amazing Mosiac and tiles…
Doors and tiles
Another artsy shot, this would have been the view as visitors drove their carriage up
Another artsy shot
It’s huge, one view of the Alcazar, a side entrance
Last artsy shot
The Sevilla Cathedral is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in the world, it was built on the site of a former mosque, with the minaret incorporated into the Giralda, the tower.
Gorgeous at night
The Giralda, fantastic views from the top, was quite a hike to the top…
View from the Giralda tower, the orange grove, the only other thing left from the days of the mosque
From the Giralda, view of the Cathedral
View of Sevilla, from the Giralda
Christopher Columbus’ actual tomb (yeah the guy who sailed the ocean blue in 1492), inside the cathedral.
Some lovely tapas and red wine
Plaza España was another beautiful area, but this was built recently for the world expo. They did a nice job making it fit with the old world style, but it’s funny how the ancient buildings craftsmanship still reigns superior over the new structures, as the Plaza is less than 20 years old and already needs a restoration, but the 1,000 year old buildings seem to wear down less
Plaza España tribute to Spain’s cities
Hmm, all these horse riders
As I was heading out of Plaza Espana, there were several women dressed up in Flamenco type dresses, as well as the horse riders, interesting I thought. I had heard it was the Feria days, so I decided to go check it out.
These ladies were all too ready to accommodate my request for a picture and if I looked that great in those type of dresses I would jump at a photo too!
Every year they have a new lighted structure built for the Feria and each year is to be unique.
More beautiful Flamenco dresses at the Feria
There were private tents set up, where different organizations sponsored them, and members came and enjoyed and danced Flamenco