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.

Teatre del Liceu

Monday December 7

We spend most of today cleaning and packing so that we will be ready on Wednesday for our flight home. Packing always takes me longer than I think it will and I want this all taken care of so that we can enjoy our last day in Barcelona. I finally got a photo of the man who sells propane for the on demand hot water heaters and stoves.  He walks up and down the streets everyday banging a wrench on the side of these large canisters.  The noise can be heard for blocks, even inside our apartment with the windows closed. So different from home.FullSizeRenderFinally we are ready to go to the opera.  We are going to see Lucia Di Lammermoor, which is a tragic opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. Here is the floor plan and the seats range from the €14.00 we paid for our seats to €300 for a seat in Zone 1.  Imagine, it would cost €600 or $900 Canadian for a night at the Opera!Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 7.07.57 PM

Zone 1: €299.00     Zone 2: €199.00     Zone 2B: €187.00     Zone 3: €161.00               Zone 4: €117.00     Zone 5; €80.00     Zone 6: €56.00     Zone 7:€38.00                            Zone 8: €14.00     

The first lime green dot on this plan, on the lower right side in zone 8,  along with the red dot beside it were our seats.  Right up next to the ceiling, with no view of the stage at all!  However, we did have a little TV screen to watch the opera and there were English subtitles which were a huge help in following the plot of the opera.  The picture quality was quite poor but it was great having the subtitles.  Bob summed up the plot this way ”It took the heroine two and a half hours to die!”                         DSC02951

The music and the singing was wonderful and of course the venue was absolutely stunning.  I didn’t know if I would enjoy it, not being able to see the stage, but really it was OK.  Of course it would have been so much nicer to see the actual stage instead of a fuzzy rendition but the only tickets available were in Zone 5 and it would have cost €160, or about $240.00, a bit too expensive for us!

Here is Bob standing by our seats, right up near the beautiful ceiling, and a few more photos showing the theatre, the orchestra way down below us, the cast, and the lobby after the performance.DSC02934

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On the way home we see many beautiful lights and some sad sights too.Image-1

Picasso Museum, Frederick Maré Museum

I know I am terribly slow finishing these last few posts from our trip but finally, I am going to get it done. Thanks for hanging in and being patient.

Sunday, December 6, 21015

We only have four days left until we leave for home and there is still so much we haven’t seen. It is difficult to believe we have been travelling for almost three months and now it is almost over.  Today we are going to visit the Picasso Museum and the Frederic Maré Museum.  They are both free today as it is the first Sunday of the month.

On the way to the Picasso Museum we pass the MEAM (European Museum of Modern Art) where we saw the Odd Nerdrum Exhibit way back in September. All the streets in this area are very narrow and I am glad Bob seems to know where we are going, because I certainly don’t!FullSizeRender

The Picasso Museum is always busy and today we need to line up and wait to get in but the line moved fairly quickly and we were entertained by this very talented group of musicians while we waited.FullSizeRender

There are no photos allowed inside the museum and they are very strict, so I have no pictures of what we saw, but here is a link to the museum collection if you want to see some of the work on display. FullSizeRender

FullSizeRenderThe Picasso museum is located in five large town houses or palaces. The original palaces date from the 13th-15th centuries, and the buildings have undergone major restorations. The museum is quite ornate and has many interesting architectural details and courtyards. We spent several hours here, there is so much to see; there are 4,251 works in the permanent collection!

On our way to the next museum we stop to visit the Santa Maria Del Mar.FullSizeRender

This church was damaged by fire in 1936 and we can still see soot on the walls and ceilings, and the damage that the fire did to its columns.  FullSizeRender FullSizeRender

The columns are spaced 43 feet apart, the widest of any Gothic Church in Europe. This church was built in just 55 years, from 1329 to 1384 and it is the only surviving church in the Catalan Gothic style.  The interior is quite beautiful, and full of light even though it is not ornately decorated like so many of the churches that we have seen.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender

We climb some old stone steps and there is a great view from the second floor behind the altar looking towards the front doors and beautiful stained glass windows.
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Next stop, the Frederic Maré Museum.  We had a very brief visit to this museum in September but it was closing so we had to dash through the little bit of it that we saw. It was a fascinating place and we wanted to return for a more leisurely visit.  There is a lovely secluded courtyard right outside this museum so we stop for a much needed rest and a rather late lunch.

This quote from the museum’s site explains this rather curious museum, and a virtual reality tour gives a better idea of our visit to this fascinating museum.

“The Museu Frederic Marès is a unique collecting museum that preserves the collections assembled by its founder, sculptor Frederic Marès (1893-1991), which came to form part of the patrimony of the city of Barcelona through his donation in 1946. Two years later, this museum was inaugurated in a part of the old Royal Palace of the Counts of Barcelona in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Its original Verger or courtyard garden, still remains intact.

Frederic Marès turned sculpture into something beyond his artistic calling. Throughout his lifetime he amassed an extensive Hispanic sculpture collection which ranged from the ancient world until the 19th century, in which religious polychromed carvings predominated. This now makes up the most uniform section of the museum. Marès also donated part of his own sculptural oeuvre, which is on display in his Library-study.

The Collector’s Cabinet is the home to a display of tens of thousands of objects that make up a vast collection of collections that documents past lifestyles and customs, mainly from the 19th century. There you can find amusing, unique items like fans, pipes, clocks, jewellery, photographs, toys, keys, pharmacy bottles and reliquaries, all presented in an intimate atmosphere evoking Marès private universe.”

Here are some of my pictures of this incredible collection.FullSizeRender

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There was an old picture of the Liceu Opera House, where we will see an opera tomorrow.FullSizeRender

We make our way back to the Barcelona Cathedral to get a picture.  Last time we were there, a large tent and stage ere erected in front of it which made picture taking difficult.  Today there is a Market in the square in front of the Cathedral, so there are balloons in my photo and lots of people everywhere.  FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderThere were Christmas tree vendors, and several families were buying their trees,FullSizeRender

and there were rows and rows of stalls selling nativity scene figurines and crèches of all styles, sizes and shapes.Image-1

We leave this busy street and catch the metro back to our neighbourhood and our narrow, quiet street.FullSizeRender

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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bob isn’t sure he wants to visit yet another church but I insist that we visit Antoni Guadi’s Sagrada Familia. This basilica is so huge it is really difficult to get a good photo.  These photos are from the Wikipedia information of the Sagrada Familia. This is the Passion Façade…800px-Barcelona_Temple_Expiatori_de_la_Sagrada_Fam_lia_(2050445207)…and here is the Nativity Façade. We purchased our tickets yesterday so we won’t have to wait in line, but we arrive a bit early so we walk around the exterior of the Cathedral until it is time for our entry.  I must warn you that I took 458 photos today!!  I am doing my best to only pick a few for today’s post but it is a difficult job.  The first stone was laid for this church in 1882 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2026!  Construction is now funded by the tourists who come to visit.1280px-Sagfampassion

Here are only a few of the sculptural details we saw as we walked around the church.Image-1There is so much history and information about this amazing church. This Sagrada Familia site has lots of information. The ‘History and Architecture’ and ‘The Basilica’ sections are presented in a simple format with lots of great pictures. The ‘Symbolic Visit’ in the Basilica Section gives great close up photos of the façade with brief descriptions and be sure to check out what the Sagrada Familia will look like when it is finally finished.

We arrived late morning, entering through the Passion Facade and the sun was shining through the green, blue and purple stained glass windows on the East side of the Church.  Our first view inside the Sagrada Familia was breathtaking. FullSizeRender

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We had booked a time to climb up the Nativity Tower so that was our first priority. There is an elevator up to the top of the tower which gave wonderful views of some of the other towers… Image-1

…and the City of Barcelona. When Gaudi was asked why he lavished so much care on the tops of the spires, where they are not easily seen, he answered: ‘The angels will see them.’Image-1

We had a choice of taking the elevator or the stone staircase down. So, of course we chose the staircase! At first the stairs spiral around the open centre of the tower but then they change into a narrow spiral staircase of 370 stone steps!Image-1

We find a place outside to eat our lunch and then visit the museum in the basement before continuing our visit inside the church.  This was an excellent decision as we learned so much about the construction and history of this incredible building. There were many working models ranging from small to very large.  Can you spot me in the reflection?Image-1

Models continue to be built and used daily as the church is still under construction. There were people on the scaffolding working on this one earlier.FullSizeRender_4Back upstairs and the sun has now moved around to the west side and it spills into the church in a riot of colour.  These photos have not been colour enhanced, and they do not even begin to compare with actually standing in the church and being bathed in a rainbow of colour.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_5The pillars are meant to look like trees in a forest and the light to appear like dappled sunlight, but it is so much more than just that.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Looking up, there is so much to see here wherever we look.FullSizeRender_4

This view looks down the main aisle to the altar.  FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_2

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The ceiling is not to be believed, and..Image-1

the doors are incredible too.  These are the Nativity Façade doors…Image-1

and the Passion Façade doors.Image-1We spent the entire day here, only leaving once it was starting to get dark outside.  I wanted to see the church with its inside lights on, but it was not nearly as spectacular as it was with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows.  I feel a bit sorry for all the people who are only now entering the church for their visit.  Although it is still very beautiful, they will never know what they have missed. Compare these photos with similar ones taken when the sun is shining. FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

This model of the Sagrada Familia shows the finished views from all sides.  It is scheduled to be completed in 2026 and we would love to be able to return to Barcelona to see it in all its splendour. Who knows?Image-1

If you didn’t see this on the Sagrada Familia link provided earlier, you really must take a couple minutes to watch this video to see a computer simulation of the Sagrada Familia when all its towers are completed in 2026. It is phenomenal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teatre del Liceu, Casa Batlló and Strange Plants

While we were walking down La Rambla on our way to the Gran Teatre del Liceu my eyes caught site of some very interesting packets of seeds for sale at one of the many sidewalk vendors. We both had quite a chuckle when we took a closer look at these unusual seed packets.  However, be warned, these are rather X rated plants! imageBarcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu was founded in 1847 and is located on La Ramba, which is the centermost boulevard in Barcelona. It is very popular with tourists and locals and is always crowded with people enjoying the sights.  We have a short tour which includes the Vestibule, the Hall of Mirrors and the Auditorium.  Our guide explains about the cheapest seats, in the galliner which translates literally to the “henroost” and we buy tickets for Monday night which will be our second last night in Barcelona.  The tickets are only €15, we certainly cannot afford the €325 seats!  Imagine paying $1,000 CAN for a night at the opera!

This historic theatre has a very interesting history that includes two fires, the latest occurred in 1994 and completely destroyed the Auditorium. There is a good short video and more information about the Gran Teatre del Liceu here.image

After our tour, we walk several blocks to one of Antoni Gaudi’s incredible buildings, Casa Batlló.  We have tickets to go inside, €22.50 each, expensive, but we really enjoyed the visit.  FullSizeRender

I took lots of pictures but then found this video that shows almost the same photos as those I took, so I will include the link to the video.  Watching it made me feel like I was back there walking through the building.  I have also included a second video which is a more fanciful walk through Casa Batlló, but it does give a sense of walking through the rooms.  The little balcony at the very top of the building, it is the same one we stood on to take this photo.FullSizeRender_2

Did you notice that the building looks like it has been made from skulls and bones? The “skulls” are the balconies and the “bones” are supporting pillars.FullSizeRenderThe building was designed by Gaudí for Josep Batlló, a wealthy aristocrat. Señor Batlló lived in the lower two floors with his family and the upper floors were rented out as apartments.  Today there are still private individuals living in the apartments.  Imagine living in such building, and imagine having hundreds, or even thousands of people touring through your apartment building every day! There were several photos of the interior with its original furnishings, which I found very interesting.FullSizeRender

We climb up to the roof with its crazy chimneys and its famous ‘Dragon’ spine and great views over the neighbourhood rooftops.FullSizeRender

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By the time we finally see everything it is getting dark outside and the Casa Batlló is illuminated with coloured lights.FullSizeRender_4

There are many interesting buildings on this street including several shops with beautiful window displays.Image-1

We also notice many more police on the streets than when we were in Barcelona in September, no doubt a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris. I don’t know if I will ever get used to seeing police with so many weapons. the picture is blurry as I zoomed in from a distance.  I discovered they do not appreciate tourists taking photos!FullSizeRender_3

As we walk back towards La Rambla we come across an area with lots of food trucks so we have supper, enjoy the Christmas lights, and watch all the people. The streets are packed with hundreds of people out enjoying the evening.FullSizeRender_2

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The side streets are lined with motorbikes and scooters, row after row of them.  They are a very practical mode of transportation in a city that has next to no place to park cars.FullSizeRender_3

A crowd has gathered around a huge Christmas tree and before long a group of young carollers arrive and the lights are turned on.  FullSizeRender_5 Image-1

Hundreds of Swarovski crystal snowflakes decorate the tree! We stay to listen to the carollers and we both start feeling rather Christmassy!FullSizeRender

On the way home I had to stop in the Mobile World Centre as there were some great dinosaur displays, it seemed to have something to do with a new Samsung phone? The centre is open to the public and showcases the latest technology, applications and innovations in the area of mobility but I was really only interested in the dinosaurs!FullSizeRender

 

Peñiscola, Spain

Sunday, November 29th, 2015.

Our holiday is drawing to a close.  We will be in Barcelona tonight so that we can return our rental car tomorrow.  Our last nine days in Spain will be spent exploring Barcelona and visiting the sights.

As we left Valencia we were stopped by the police to allow this protest march to cross the road. We later discovered that police had evicted staff from a public broadcasting television station after it was closed by the government due to austerity measures. Check here for a short video and more information.

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On the drive to Peñiscola.FullSizeRender

There is a castle in Peñiscola, about three hours south of Barcelona, that we want to visit because the Game of Thrones Season Six had some scenes that were shot there. I found a good picture of the castle at www.spain  Somehow I missed getting a picture of the castle that shows where it is located on top of the hill in Peñiscola.r_castillo_peniscola_t1200389.jpg_369272544

We find a place to park, which isn’t always an easy task, and head towards the castle, which is near the port.FullSizeRender_2

Soon we are trudging up steep hills, past narrow streets, looking for the way to the castle, which doesn’t seem to be marked anywhere.FullSizeRender_5

We pass this interesting building which is covered with sea shells.FullSizeRender_3

Quite by luck we find the right road up to the castle and we soon are standing on one of the castle courtyards. The Peñiscola Castle was built between 1294 and 1307 by the Knights Templar. This last great fortress was to become their last refuge as they were evicted and arrested in 1307 by James II of Aragon. In 1411 Pope Benedict XIII converted the castle into his papal seat and lived there until his death in 1423.  Remember all this took place years before Colombus even set sail for North America in 1492! FullSizeRender_2

We explore this interesting castle, wondering what areas might have been used for the filming for the Game of Thrones.  The castle was never finely finished as the Knights Templar were never able to completely finish its construction.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Can you spot Bob?FullSizeRender_2

Looking down the same step narrow steps.FullSizeRender_4

We think this doorway must be a good candidate for the inclusion in the TV show.

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I love how the old stone steps are worn from all the feet that have climbed up and down them over the centuries.
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FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_5These stairs lead to the dungeon. As we walk down them I imagine the terror so many people must have felt as they were dragged down these very steps.FullSizeRender_4

There was an exhibit in the dungeon about the Knights Templar that was interesting. In one of the photos below you can see a grate in the dungeon floor.  Beside it is a photo of the cell with restraints that was under that grate,  It was a weird feeling looking down into that cell, and at the table and other torture instruments in that room. I wonder if there are ghosts that linger here?Image-1After the dungeon we climb up to the top of the castle for some great views of the town and surrounding countryside. Looking down on the town shows just how close together the houses are, they really are one on top of the other as they climb the hill towards the castle. You can also see the high rise apartment buildings that are being built along the ocean front.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_3

This doorway is on the outside of the castle walls.FullSizeRender_4

Around the corner and down the hill from the above photo, there is a garden area with a refuge for raptors that are wounded, sick, or born in captivity.  They are rehabilitated and once well enough they are returned to the wild.IMG_2589

Can you spot the two girls climbing the walls?FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass what must be the biggest paella pan ever.  They were using what looked like a small shovel to mix and serve the food.FullSizeRenderWe need to reach Barcelona by 6:00 to meet our Airbnb host and we are still three hours away. About 150 km. from Barcelona the odometer on our rental car turns 6,000 kilometres!

It takes us a while to find our apartment.  It is located down a narrow side road that looked like an alley so we didn’t think we were in the right place. The only place we could find to park the car so I could go out and look for the apartment is in a handicap parking spot. There really are no parking spots anywhere around here.  Just as I was getting concerned that we wouldn’t find the apartment I hear someone call my name.  Our host has just arrived and she sees me looking rather lost and confused standing on the sidewalk.  Turns out that little alley is indeed where the apartment is located.

We put the car in the garage, which isn’t an easy job, the street is very narrow and the garage is barely big enough for the car, and we get settled in our last apartment of the trip. Later in the evening we go for a little walk and discover a fair only a few blocks from our apartment. This little girl was so intent on catching her ducks to win a prize.FullSizeRender_5

Valencia

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our apartment in Valencia is a short metro ride from the old part of town.  We bought four tickets to get us into town and home again.  However when it came time to go home our tickets weren’t working. Turns out we purchased four tickets that had to be used all at the same time so the other two were no longer valid.  It cost us over € 9 for two one way tickets because we had also chosen too many zones.  We bought two tickets to get home for only €3, however we later discovered that we could purchase ten tickets for €7.20, only €.72 a ride!

First stop today is the Mercado Central, a market held in a huge iron, glass, and tile Art Nouveau building. The meat and fish aisles are always interesting, so different from our stores back home.Image-1

Hams are a big seller in Spain and I still find it strange to see them hanging in shops.  No refrigeration seems to be needed, and take a look at the prices, up to €149 a kilogram!Image-1

We bought some fruit for a snack and then headed towards the Valencia Cathedral.  Yes, another cathedral!FullSizeRender

Some refreshments and a rest in this lovely plaza and we are ready to check out the cathedral. FullSizeRender_2

After skirting past the gypsy women begging on the streets and the church steps we enter yet another magnificent cathedral. Originally built in 1262, it has been added to throughout the centuries and it now has three entrances. The one we chose gave us this view of the cathedral as we walked through the doors.FullSizeRender

The day light just before the altar comes from this beautiful octagonal dome.FullSizeRender_3

There is another gorgeous dome over the Chapel of St. Joseph, which is one of twenty eight smaller chapels located in this cathedral. Most of them are incredibly ornate with lots of gold and jewels and carvings. Although these magnificent cathedrals are truly awe inspiring, we wonder about all the money that has been spent building them and we are also quite aware of the church’s role through out history.  So many horrors have been perpetrated in the name of religion. It is a strange sort of paradox.FullSizeRenderThe high altarpiece and the frescoes are amazing.  We sit for quite some time just in contemplation.  This is Bob’s favourite altar of all that we have seen so far. The frescoes of musical angels on the dome above the altar were only discovered in 2004 during some restoration work.  They had been covered by a wooden ceiling and no one knew they were even there.   Click here if you want to read more.

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Here is another view of the main aisle and one of the side aisles with the smaller chapels.FullSizeRender

These life size statues of the Apostles are from one of the entrances to the cathedral.  They have been replaced by copies and the originals are now kept inside the cathedral museum for safe keeping, but it was closed for renovations so they were displayed in an alcove.FullSizeRender_5An intricately carved altarpiece, built in the 16th Century holds the Holy Chalice, which is said to be the chalice Christ drank from at the Last Supper.FullSizeRender_3

And here is the Holy Chalice, aka the Holy Grail.  There is more information about the history of the cup here.  We were told that there is more scientific investigation currently taking place to prove that this is indeed the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper.FullSizeRender_4

We climb 207 steps to get to the top of the Torre Del Micalet. Construction of this bell tower started in 1381 and it is one of the most important landmarks in Valencia.image

Here is El Micalet, cast in 1539, and weighing 11,000 kilograms.  Shortly after this photo the bell chimed the hour.  It was very loud!  All cathedral bells have names, and this cathedral has 14 bells ranging in size from 11,000 kg to 260 kg.FullSizeRender

We spend quite some time up here, admiring the view, and enjoying the sunshine. The octagonal tower on the roof in the center of the picture is the outside of the white dome above the altar and the dark domes are above the side chapels.FullSizeRender_5The two curved buildings just visible on the skyline on the far right hand side of the picture are part of the City of Arts and Sciences Complex. We are going there tomorrow.FullSizeRender_2

Now we need to descend the 207 spiral stairs that we climbed to get to the top of the tower. We have certainly done our share of stair climbing this trip.FullSizeRender_3

Valencia has a ‘dragon house’ so of course we have to find it.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was a bit disappointed to only find one small dragon sculpture over the doorway and two pillars with a little dragon on the bottom of each of them. In case you didn’t know, I love dragons.image

Bob finally gets to try the seafood paella he wasn’t able to have on his birthday.  image

We make our way back to the Cathedral for a concert. Bob thought we would be way too early but when we arrived about forty five minutes before the concert it was already packed. We managed to find seats in the side aisle near the altar, which was actually behind the stage, but there were TV screens so we got to see most of it.  We both enjoyed the performance even though we weren’t exactly sure what it was all about. A young boy sang several songs and it seemed to have something to do with Christmas.image

The Christmas lights were on after the concert.  It still seems strange to see Christmas decorations without any snow.image

On the Road to Valencia

Thursday November 26, 2015

Bob is loading the car and we will soon be on our way to Valencia.  This is the view from our balcony.  As you can see, we were right on the edge of Los Alcázeres, just fields beside us, so it was a nice quiet location.FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_5

Before long we are passing lots of salt pans, which are large shallow ponds of sea water. The water evaporates and leaves behind the sea salt, which is then harvested and piled into these enormous piles of sea salt.  Seems strange to think that the salt we eat is produced in this fashion. I had visions of workers out raking up sea salt from the salt pans, not bulldozers and big machinery.  A bit naive on my part I think.Image-1We stop to stretch our legs and have lunch near this beach.  It is certainly not as pretty as other beaches we have visited.FullSizeRender_2The view in the opposite direction.  This is an area full of condos and apartments and partially constructed buildings. FullSizeRender

We stopped for another break a bit further on… FullSizeRender

and found these strange hairy balls, hundreds of them all over the beach!  Some of them were several inches in diameter.  Does anyone know what they are? FullSizeRender_4

We detoured into what we thought was a little town called Alcoi, thinking we could go for a walk in a park area near the town, but we got a bit lost in what turned out to be a rather large city. We also discovered that the park didn’t have any easily accessible areas for walking, so we were soon back on the road. Next stop was the town of Xativa where we visited the ruins of a once grand castle with 30 towers.  FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_2

It was getting late in the day and we only had just over a half hour before closing so we saw as much of the castle as we could before the sun set and the castle closed. This was one of the water features in the garden area of the castle. FullSizeRenderThe view from the castle was quite spectacular.FullSizeRender_5

There are lots of market gardens visible in this photo.FullSizeRender_3

We still see lots of graffiti along the highways but we also see these murals. Too bad I can only glimpse them flying by in the car.FullSizeRender_2

There are numerous orange orchards and the trees are absolutely loaded with oranges, so many that they are falling on the ground. Sorry for the blurry image, this is another photo taken from the car.  I never did find a place to pull over and get a good picture of an orange orchard.  Too bad…FullSizeRender_4

Thanks to our trusty iPad and its GPS we find our next Airbnb apartment in Valencia and we were pleasantly surprised to find that our host had very kindly stocked it with all sorts of groceries! It also has lots of artwork as our host’s husband is Nico Munuera, a Spanish artist.Image-1

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

Granada Cathedral and Alcaiceria Market

We are back home and although we had a good flight home it was still 24 hours from the time we got up until we arrived home. It is going to take a while to get back on Alberta time. I have fallen behind on my blogging but I am going to continue posting until I have it completed. Thank you for following along with us so far and I hope you will enjoy the rest of our trip.

Saturday, November 21

We spend another day in Granada, as we want to visit the Cathedral and the Alcaiceria, which is a reconstruction of the Moorish Market that burned down in 1843. This market is a maze of narrow streets and colourful shops that are absolutely crammed full of merchandise. We purchase a few souvenirs and Bob has a few laughs at my rather pathetic attempts at bargaining.

IMG_2488The Cathedral is right beside the market so that is our next stop.  Upon entering the front door this is the what we see.FullSizeRender  Here is a closer view of the magnificent dome over the altar.  FullSizeRender_3This cathedral has a very ornate very large organ. FullSizeRender_4I spotted this stand with several huge medieval books but it was in a roped off area so I couldn’t get any closer to get a good look.FullSizeRenderA bit further on down one of the side aisles I was thrilled to find a display of these ancient books. They were behind glass but I was able to get a much better look at them.FullSizeRender_4The lighting wasn’t the best, but there were several cabinets with books inside. While I was absorbed in studying the calligraphy and painted images, the lights in the cabinets shut off and it was too dark to see them anymore.  I had no idea why the lights shut off and although we returned a couple of times to check if the lights had been turned back on I was out of luck. I am glad that I at least had the opportunity to see what I had.
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We have seen similar skull and crossbones in almost every cathedral we have visited. They are on tombstones embedded in the cathedral floors.FullSizeRender_2The pillars and ceiling are quite ornate and the space they enclose is immense.  Notice how small the people are.
FullSizeRender_3This is a view of the back side of the Cathedral, seems I didn’t take one of the front. If you want to know a bit more about the Cathedral check out this link.  http://www.thousandwonders.net/Granada+Cathedral  It also has some nice pictures.DSC01159There is a suggested walk through the Albaicin, on the hillside opposite the Alhambra so we head out to explore it.  The beginning of the walk was quite nice.FullSizeRender_3I quite liked this ‘Granada’, or pomegranate, on the front of one of the buildings we passed on our walk.FullSizeRender_2We do find this lovely little garden and one other garden attached to a little museum along the way.  In the museum garden there are several orange trees loaded with ripe oranges, and we ‘borrow’ one to eat later.FullSizeRender

We spent a fair amount of time checking our map and trying to figure out which way to go. The route was not well-marked and we had to backtrack more than once. It was a long walk up lots of steep roads and really for what we saw we weren’t sure it was worth the effort and time, but at least we got some exercise.FullSizeRender_2

This is a view of the Alhambra from a viewpoint on a terrace by some restaurants near the end of our walk.FullSizeRender_4

On the way back to the bus we pass this building with its ‘street art’ and bricked up windows.  We saw so many apartments and buildings like this, empty and/or abandoned, right beside occupied buildings and shops. I sure wouldn’t want to be living in an apartment next to an abandoned empty building.  FullSizeRender