Park Güell

Tuesday, December 8

Bob went out this morning to get a few groceries and all the local shops were closed!  He finally found somewhere to buy food for our last few meals in Barcelona. We discover that today is Immaculate Conception Day, a Spanish National Holiday, and almost all the shops are closed. I had planned on shopping for a few last minute souvenirs and some sketchbooks that I really liked. No luck, so we catch the metro to Park Güell, where we spend our last day in Spain.

Our walk from the metro to the park is all uphill! Luckily there are escalators for the very steepest part of the climb.  I liked the imagery of the two nuns walking in front of all the graffiti, and the ‘tree’ is actually a drain pipe with some sculptural concrete additions. I’m glad we don’t have to park here.Image-1

Park Güell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.  It was designed by Antonio Gaudi for Eusebi Güell and construction on a garden city started in 1900. There were to be sixty single family homes built but the project wasn’t successful and only two homes were actually completed.  One of these, Gaudi’s residence, is now a museum and the other, Güell’s residence, is now a public school. The park became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1923 after Güell died and in 1984 it was declared a UESCO World Heritage Site.

We bought our tickets in advance as there are ‘only’ 400 people admitted to the Monumental Zone of the park every half hour.  While we waited, we got some refreshments from a little shop that was built right into the rock cliff face.  We entered at the Teatre Grec, or Nature Square, which is partly dug into the mountain and partly held up by the Hypostyle Room. There is a long undulating bench in the shape of a sea serpent which surrounds three sides of this square. The back of the bench forms a balustrade and the entire bench is covered in mosaics made with coloured ceramic shards most of which came from demolition projects and discarded objects.FullSizeRender

I read that Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit on soft plaster so that he could figure out the correct shape of the bench seat so that it would be comfortable!”

There are great views from the square, both of the main entrance with its two whimsical buildings, and of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The house on the left was the porter’s residence and the building on the right is now the gift shop.FullSizeRender

The Hypostyle Room is under the square and it is a covered space that could be used for gatherings and markets. All the columns lean a bit this way or that, none of them are perpendicular to the ground.  The columns hold up the square and rainwater collected on the square is filtered down through the columns into a cistern underneath the floor. It is quite amazing.  Notice the dog’s head decoration.Image-1

At the main entrance there is the monumental flight of steps, flanked by two convex walls decorated with more mosaics, that leads up the Hypostyle Room.FullSizeRender

These are some of the many different, colourful mosaic tiles on these stairway walls. Image-1

There are sculptures and three fountains on this flight of stairs but this one is the most famous. This brightly coloured salamander, or dragon, depending on what we read is a favourite of the people of Barcelona and most visitors. Everyone wants to touch it and take their picture beside, or even sitting on the salamander. There is a guard assigned specifically to prevent people from touching the salamander to prevent further damage.  Thousands and thousands of touches eventually wear away the tiles and can cause breakage. It is an impossible job as nearly everyone attempts to make some sort of contact with this creature!FullSizeRender

We head towards Portico of the Washerwoman, which starts near the main entrance, with a spiral ramp and columns in the shape of a spiral curve that ends at a rough caryatid known as the Washerwoman because she carries a basket of washing. Image-1This ramp takes us back to the Nature Square and we spend some more time here, enjoying the sunshine and the views, along with a bit of people watching. FullSizeRender

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On the other side of the square there is another walkway called Planters Viaduct, which we follow and end up in an interesting area with more strange leaning columns and stone chairs. This is such an incredible place!   I can only guess at the hours and hours it took to create all this and wonder at Gaudi’s incredible vision and imagination.FullSizeRender

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There are so many fascinating details everywhere.  It really is a visual feast and almost too much to absorb in one visit. I would have loved to draw some of this but there just isn’t enough time to see everything and draw too.  Image-1On the way back to the square we meet this rather strange fellow.FullSizeRender

I rather reluctantly say goodbye to this wonderful place. Just outside the park gates I see a building, which appears to be unoccupied, and announce that it would make a perfect studio for me!  Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?FullSizeRender

I love these zebras we see on the walk back to the metro.
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It is a good thing that we got most of our cleaning and packing finished last night as we had some unexpected excitement tonight.  The stairway in our apartment has one of those elevator chairs that run on a rail for handicapped people.  Tonight a woman was on her way down the stairs on the chair and it stopped working.  She was getting very upset and, even with Bob’s help, her husband was not able to get her out of the chair and down the stairs. Finally we suggested calling the fire department and soon they arrived. Six of these strong firefighters finally managed to get this poor lady out of her chair and safely down the stairs.  It was quite the procedure, and it meant that for almost two hours no one could go up or down the stairwell .Image 2016-05-22 at 12.09 PM

Finally, to bed, all packed and ready for the long flight home.

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

Mijas and Granada

Tuesday, November 17

We leave for Granada today which is a good thing as our balcony is positively swarming with workmen this morning. Too bad all this painting is going on as it made it difficult to fully enjoy our apartment, which was really quite nice otherwise. We met some people in Seville who told us about a pretty white village named Mijas so we stop for a visit on our way to Granada.imageOne of the first things we see as we set out to explore Mijas are a lot of donkeys tied up along the main street. These are the donkey taxis that were first started in the 1960s by a local resident who used the donkeys to transport goods.  Early tourists wanted to take pictures with the donkeys and asked to have rides and the tips they offered were more than his day’s wages…and so began the donkey taxis.  I thought that they didn’t look very well cared for and that they were not very healthy and wasn’t interested in making them give me a ride.image image  So, here is the donkey ride I chose.imageWe found a lovely stone bench overlooking the valley and had our picnic lunch here.  imageThere is a very old tiny church which we visit and we want to buy a few things at their little shop but the store didn’t have change for 20€ so we said we would come back later, but when we return they are closed, so we are out of  luck.

mijas-villas.com has this description of the church:”Hidden away in a corner of the village, overlooking the wonderful valley leading to the coast, is the hermitage of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’. Built into a rocky outcrop by Mercedarian monks in 1520. Inside is the image of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’, the patron Saint of the village. According to the legend, she appeared on this spot on the 2nd of June 1586 to two young shepherds that had been led there by a pigeon. Subsequently an image of the Virgin was found concealed in a recess in the tower where it had been hidden for 500 years. In 1656 work started on the sanctuary cave, which is nowadays always decorated with flowers and pictures as offerings.”imageWe then walked around the edge of the town along some of the old original stone walls which offered more great views of the valley below.imageWe enjoyed the gardens along the way which were very well maintained and had more flowering plants than we have seen elsewhere as well as many water features.  It was very pleasant and relaxing.imageWe stopped to watch these rock climbers but they take a long time getting ready to climb so we have to move on. imageWe climbed a little tower on our walk through the town and it gave a nice opportunity to see the roof tops and how tightly packed together the houses are.imageI often see older people sitting on doorsteps or walking along the streets and wish I could take their pictures but I don’t want to be rude or intrusive.  I was able to take this fellow’s photo after we walked by. image

What is not to love about a street as pretty as this?imageCars manage to drive along the narrowest streets and we find them parked in some of the strangest places.  This car had travelled up the street in the second picture.  You may be able to see that the street became much narrower further on. We have no idea how it managed to navigate past the flower pots on this very narrow road or how it is going to turn around to get out of there.  We climbed steps to get to this road!imageAll to soon it is time for us to hit the road.  We need to be in Granada by 6:00 to meet our host for our next apartment.  The scenery changes soon after we leave Mijas, it is drier and we start to see olive trees.imageWe have seen graffiti everywhere we have been in Spain and Portugal.  These tags are all along the highway walls.imageSoon we are driving through mile after mile of olive groves.  We can’t believe how many fields of olive trees there are, stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions. I snap these photos as we drive by so they aren’t wonderful but they do give at leat some idea of all the trees we see on the way to Granada.image

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment or ‘like’ a post on this blog. WordPress just sent me a notice that my blog has more than 100 likes and that “my stats are booming and I am getting lots of traffic”  I’m not sure exactly how important that is but I think when people like a post or comment it makes it easier for others to find the blog on search engines.  I am still relatively new to blogging and need to do a bit more research into all this.

I started the blog so friends and family could follow my travels and as a place to show some of my art and I have been rather astounded to find that my blog has had 7,223 views by people in 50 countries since I started it for my trip to Paris in 2014.  So, if you do enjoy a post please feel free to offer a comment or press that like button.  I am behind on responding to comments but I do read them all and I am always thrilled that someone takes the time to comment on what they have read.