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”
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
I’ve always wanted to visit Spain, mainly for culinary reasons, as it is known as a gastronomic delight, but it is also one of those countries you learn about in history class. I think I’ve figure out why its so hard to teach history in the US, and especially in CA, we are such a young country, there just isn’t as much history you can go out and touch. In Spain and Portugal, the field trips can be to the Roman wall which was built 2000 years ago, or to the square where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen before he set off in 1492 to sail the ocean blue…
Plaza Mayor, used to be the most important plaza, still has governmental buildings but Plaza del Sol is the real happening spot. But lots of tourists and lots of “performance art” happening here, think Venice/ Hollywood Blvd but more annoying! Your requisite statue men, guitarists, singers, but some new ones for me, a guy dressed as a baby in a crib that makes a very ear piercing cry and these guys that make a high pitched “clicking in tongues type noise” to sell a whistle. Ok, please make it stop, this buzzing, clicking, bird being tortured sound these guys make in Plaza Mayor doesn’t make me want to buy their stupid whistle,on the contrary, they make me want to run away!
It’s sweet, they still do weddings there, and the new couple is presented to the square and everyone claps for them.
Madrid is home to many, many museums. The Prado museum has a wonderful collection of paintings and sculptures, this painting from the 1504 by Hieronymus Bosch “El Jardín de las Delicias (The Garden of Earthly Delights” regarding the creation of man, the pleasures of the world and hell, it’s so surreal during a period where the paintings were so classical.
A different kind of museum (It kind of goes with my Lisbon Beer museum) 😉
I found this place called the Museo de Jamon, or Ham Museum. It is not really a museum but it is a temple to ham, or more correctly, Spanish cured pork, because it is far beyond “just ham”. The curing process preserves it so well that it does not need refrigeration. It has an amazing flavor and is usually quite simply prepared, usually just the meat and maybe some bread or breadstick to wrap it around or if you want to get fancy, wound around some melon- all very tasty! And making me contemplate how much of a pain it would be to carry a package around for another couple of weeks and would US customs allow it in…,
But getting back to the Museo de Jamon, it’s really a bar with an awesome deal. At the stand up counter, you walk up, the waiters/servers exclaim “digame” (literally tell me) and my response is “copa de cerveza.” Then a whirl of motion happens and a cup of cerveza and some bits of salami type pork is set in front of you. And if you choose to leave, it’s €0.70 and you’ve had a beer and food for about a $1, but you ask for another and you get another cup of beer and a different type of tapa, this time it’s a little ham sandwich. ut the place is just packed all day long
Or you can order a full size sandwich or a plate of the cured pork yumminess if you so desire. B
I love the many plaza’s and squares just made for gathering
And Churros and chocolate…
Fountains in the main gardens
Statue of satan, one of the only statues of such in Europe
Gorgeous garden view
Beautiful main train station
File this under you just never know what you’ll hear and see any day when you are looking. At the train station and I witnessed a more interesting arrival, about 30 African men in traditional dress came up singing for an arriving older gentlemen, who had to be a church elder, the most beautiful harmony, kind of Lion King sounding, was quite cool