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 🙂
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 think Portugal is an excellent starter vacation for those making their first trip overseas. Though they do speak Portuguese, (which I liken to taking Spanish, French and Italian and mixing it all up into one language, with some other flourishes), generally, in most touristy areas they will speak English as a second language and most things are in English as well as Portuguese. Plus, even with the exchange rate, it is still a relatively good deal for Americans and definitely for other Europeans.
The main plaza at night
Main plaza by the sea, so nice to have these large squares where people gather, meet up, done, walk, etc ….
Main plaza entrance during the day
Monument dedicated to the time when Portugal was a seafaring power
A castle/look out on the harbor
Even the side walks have pretty designs
A nice view of a typical street in Lisbon, sidewalk cafe, pretty design on the sidewalk and bloody stairs!
Yummiest egg tart -Nata
A cool shot of the metro entrance
The Alfama at the top, with the city climbing up the hill to the Alfama. If you remember back about Valparaiso, another city built on hills that the artists built everything without any assistance by architects or engineers? Well Portugal, the architects and engineers led the way, with the accountants behind them, and the artists snuck in and put their flourishes on everything. It all works and is generally more orderly than you’d expect for such a hilly place.
Really cool and free museum! Had Roman ruins, which were situated on top of Moorish ruins, on which the city was built. The bank planned a little remodel on their building, but found these ruins, so they decided to open a free museum.
Cool mural you could only make out from the tower above. It depicted all of Portugal’s conquests when it was a sea power back in the 16th century. It’s quite interesting when you think that Spain and Portugal were the superpowers back then.
Really truth be told my kind of museum, one dedicated to booze
So pretty, Old Town Dubrovnik, the walls surrounding the town are massive and in tact. I’ve been to many fortified towns in Europe, but these walls were the most complete ( entirely complete) and just massive, while there has been some rebuilding of the walls over the years, the footprint has basically been the same. The town itself is filled with steps, my calves were crying! I’ve wanted to go to Croatia and the Dalmation coast for a long, long time, even pre-dating it as a filming location for Game if Thrones. I still have visions of sailing the ocean blue around Croatia and the Mediterranean coast, thanks to Marijana and E-Lin, hope Michael is working on those sailing skills ;). Though Dubrovnik was a part of the former Yugoslavia, it seems a somewhat ill fit, it seems to share more with it’s neighbors across the Adriatic Sea, (well other than a really difficult language of Croatian). And indeed, as tiny as it was, it was always it’s own city/state since it’s founding in the 7th century, as it was a very wealthy sea trading town, with strong defensive walls to protect it and wealthy enough to pay tribute if that worked better. It repelled the city/state of Venice through its history. It was only after a huge earthquake in 1666 that devastated the town, causing the gradual decline in power and strength as well as influence, and when it inadvertently surrendered to Napoleon, it finally lost its independence(He said he just wanted passage through, when they lowered the gate, well… In their defense, they were masters at diplomacy and negotiation, it just didn’t work this time.) Sometime after, during/after the Austro/Hungarian rule it was joined with the newly put together Yugoslavia, as they shared a common language and some ancestry with the Croatians and Serbs.
Sadly the city was besieged during the Croatian/Serbian war that broke out in the early 90’s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fallout in the region, namely Yugoslavia breaking apart into (eventually) five separate countries. However, as it is a Unesco world heritage site, they did assist in the rebuilding and at this time the city has been restored for the most part to its former beauty.
This is Old Town Dubrovnik, looking back at it from Fort Lawrence, yes that water really is that clear and blue
Wider shot of the whole town, so gorgeous!
So, so blue
The whole of Old town, shot from above at the cable car station
Fort Lawrence, the next hill over, a sort of forward observation hill
For scale, look at the size of those walls!
So pretty at night, this was the view from my balcony by the way. I picked the best guesthouse ever. Sweet family, plus only 5 minutes from the entrance at the Ploce gate, and even better, the stairs to get to the guesthouse were not bad, in comparison to other places, not bad at all!
Clock tower lit up
The Stradun or Main Street
A bit of sunset action in the harbor
Buca bar, off the side of the wall, looking out to the Adriatic
Lemon beer, refreshing
Stairs!! I think I’d be in quite good shape leg wise if I lived at the top of the stairs…
Stairs to church, sense a theme here…
View through one of the look outs on the wall to the city below
The Minceta tower, any Game of Thrones fans recognize this?
Dubrovnik is a magical town and I hated to leave it. That being said, I don’t think a visit during the height of summer would be very pleasurable, everyone else has found it as well. It suggest early fall, it’s still warm and the tourist flocks will have died down. Late spring was nice as well, just a bit rainy, but even with the rain, during the day it generally cleared up by the afternoon, I didn’t have days that were total washouts. Just gorgeous! And around Dubrovnik are wonderful islands, plus some lovely vineyards with some very nice Dalmation Coast wines. There is one grape that grows near the shore that receives extra sun-via regular sun, sun reflected off the rocks and sun reflected off the water, so the wine making process doesn’t need any added sugar, that wine was very tasty 😉
I could go on and on about Dubrovnik and post more and more pics……
In fact check back later, I’ll probably add more to this post 😉