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.

Lisbon

Wednesday, October 22

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, with a population of three million people. It is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, predating Paris, London and Rome by centuries.  I didn’t know any of that before our visit.  Although we spend the better part of the day in Lisbon, we barely scratched the surface of the area we visited.

A twenty minute train ride into Lisbon places leaves us a short walk from the plaza in front of the Arco da Rua Augusta. This arch symbolizes Lisbon reborn from the ashes of the devastating 1775 earthquake.image

Lisbon is known for its cobblestone paving with black and white patterns.  The origins of these cobblestone pavements date back to that 1755 earthquake. During Lisbon’s reconstruction, the earthquake’s debris was used to make these cobblestone streets and sidewalks. They are beautiful legacy from a terrible event.image

We were lucky enough to see some men working on a sidewalk. They were able to chip a stone in their hand to exactly the right size and shape that was needed. The man in the first photo was whistling happily as he worked, although i think it must be very hard on the body.image

The first thing on our agenda was to get a Sim card for our iPad. The Information lady said we could find a shop a few blocks up the hill, right behind the new elevator building. We never did find that, but we found a big mall and got a SIM card there. By this time we needed lunch, so we check out the mall’s food court. Bob got a huge plate with five kinds of meat, fried beans, rice, french fries, salad and a deep fried banana all for 4.65€, about $6.70 Canadian, and I eat my packed lunch. It is just too difficult finding food that I can eat, especially when I understand so little Portuguese or Spanish.  It is easier and less stressful to pack my own meals.image

Next on the agenda was finding an art store to see if they could help me locate some life drawing venues.  No luck there, but I did buy a few new drawing pencils. They sent me to the nearby Fine Art College, and after waiting some time, a lady there informed me that they did not have any drawing sessions for non students.  If I had wanted to rent a studio to do printmaking it would have been fine, but nothing for drawing and they did not know of any life drawing places in the city.  Remember this is a city of three million people!  I couldn’t find anything on the intenet either, so I decided to quit trying.

We did walk by the Santa Justa Lift, also called Carmo Lift, which is an elevator in the historical city of Lisbon, that connects the lower streets of the Baixa neighbourhood with the higher neighbourhood beside it.
imageIt is 45 meters high, and after a short wait we ride to the top for great panoramic views of the city. The panoramic views from the platform at the top of the elevator were spectacular.image  imageimageThis one is for Pat, looking down from the the top platform, only 150 feet or so…imagebut the crazy thing is that Lisbon is so incredibly hilly that on the other side of the viewing platform we are almost at ground level! If you look closely you can see people sitting on the patio just below where we are standing.image

I thought this was interesting.  If you need to add toilets just run the pipes on the outside of the building.  This sure wouldn’t work back home when it reaches -30°C!image

We take a quick free tour through a military museum about the Revolution in 1974 that put an end to the dictatorship that ruled Portugal for 48 years, then walked back down towards the old Jewish part of the town.  We visit the Sé Cathedral, which is the oldest Cathedral in Lisbon, its construction began in 1147, and it has survived many earthquakes.image image imageThese vestments are from the 18th Century. I thought they were particularly beautiful.imageI have such a difficult time with people begging.  Some of them appear to be in such desperate condition that it is hard not to give them some money, yet we are told not to do this as it only encourages more begging… This woman on the steps of the Cathedral wasn’t having much luck when we went into the church but when we came out she had changed into this posture and more people were stopping to put money in her container. Is it easier to give to someone who doesn’t make eye contact with you?image

In the old Jewish part of town we walk down a street of tiny stores that sell buttons, and a bit of ribbon.  I wonder how so many stores selling only buttons can survive?image

Many of the houses here are completely tiled.  We decide not to walk any further as it is very hilly and we are should think about catching the train home.image

Walking home from the train I stop to take this picture and a lady on a motorcycle stops to tell me that she keeps forgetting to bring her camera to take a picture of these white birds, first in Portuguese and then in quite good English.  Bob counted almost thirty birds in this tree.image

 

Iugula! Verbera! Missus!

Monday, October 19

We are still in Merda and we are going to visit ten Roman Ruins today if we follow Bob’s schedule!

Today’s title is from one of the plaques from the Amphitheatre yesterday.  Bob wanted me to use it for the title yesterday but I forgot so here it is today. It is what the crowds would shout at the Amphitheatre when the gladiators were fighting.  Kill him!  Beat him!  Pardon him! These were not easy times…

#1 The Mithreó House, a rather grand Roman residence that has mosaics, wall paintings, three patios, garden rooms, family rooms, commercial and industrial rooms and hot baths.  It is located outside under a protective roof.image

#2 The Aquaduct of San Lázaro image#3 The Aquaduct of Los Milagros ( I think). There is some confusion over the name of this one.  Bob thinks he can hold it all up!imageimage

#4 The Circus, or Racecourse, which was a kilometer around the track, and they ran around this seven times during the course of a race!  We walked the track and out through the gates that the charioteers would have entered.  The Circus held 30,000 spectators who would often spend the entire day from morning to dusk watching the races.

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#5 Excavations at Santa Eulalia Church.  These excavations are beneath the church and have the remains of four different times: Roman Houses, 3rd century, a Christian necropolis, 4th century, which contains a mausoleum for Saint Eulalia, a martyred child saint, a basilica dedicated to Saint Eulalia, 5th to 9th centuries, and the present day church from 1230 until now.  imageimage#6 As we are walking we come across the ruins of a Roman hospital and pilgrim’s hostel, built on the remains of the site of an earlier necropolis.  There are ruins everywhere in this city!image#7 Next stop is the Temple of Diana, which was built in 1 BC, and later had a palace built inside of it, which can be seen at the back of the temple.image #8 Plaza de Espana is next, and time for a much deserved rest and some tea and cookies.image

#9 Trajano’s Arch which is 15 meters high and was once covered in marble. Part of it is now lower than the road that runs through it. The right hand pillar has an area around the column that goes down to the original base of the arch.
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#10 The Citadel and Conventual, which is a Moorish fortress in 835 and later a convent in 1229.imageimageIt has a really neat underground cistern that we walk down this tunnel to visit, complete with goldfish.image

Bob is sure he can pick up one of these cannonballs.  What do you think?
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#11 The Roman bridge over the Guadiana River which was built 2,000 years ago was still in use in the 19th century and became a pedestrian only bridge in 1993.image

#12 The Morería Archaelogical Area is 12,000 square meters of ruins that had several modern building constructed over them in1980 in a way that allows visitors to still walk around the ruins.  It is quite something to see. Look closely, one of the pictures has me somewhere in it.image image

Whew!!  I can’t believe we managed to see all this, and it didn’t even rain on us.  Somehow we saw twelve different places, not the original ten Bob had planned for us!  It was a busy day but a very interesting one.

Madrid, Bibliotec National, and Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Thursday October 8

We have a quiet day at home, but we end up spending quite a bit of the day looking for accommodations in Madrid, but we aren’t having much luck.  Madrid seems to be quite expensive, not many places have parking and we aren’t getting answers back from some of the places we contacted.  We decide that we will stay where we are and take the bus into Madrid.  It is a 40 minute ride and Bob is looking forward to not driving for a while.

Friday , October 9

We take the bus into Madrid which works very well.  It is every comfortable, kind of like a Greyhound Bus, and it is very relaxing for both of us.  First stop in Madrid is the Canadian Embassy as we were told we could vote there for the upcoming Canadian election.  Turns out we can’t, as the ballot has to be mailed in and the package was sent to our home address.  The very tall first building is where the Canadian Embassy is located on the very secure 21 floor.  Lots of security in this tower.
imageBack on the Metro to find the Archeological Museum.  I love the metro!  It is fast, easy and offers great people watching.  On our way to the museum we see the Bibliotheca National and I can’t bypass a library so we go check it out, but not before stopping to say hello to this cute fellow.image

The building is very big and beautiful, but we discover it isn’t a public library, entrance is only available if you take a tour, which are all sold out for today. We are allowed to go in and check out a Rudyard Kipling exhibit in a room near the entrance after showing our passports, getting our pictures taken, putting our bags through an X ray machine, and getting a visitors pass!      imageThere was only a collection of Kipling’s books in the exhibit, not too interesting, but the room attached to it had some great old books and manuscripts…imageimage

……including what I think must be a facsimile of a Leonardo Da Vinci sketchbook.  Hard to make out as all the labels are in Spanish.  The staff also tell us about an exhibit downstairs that we can visit.  Turns out it is “Caligrafía Española” el arte describir.  Of course we have to see this.  The first thing we see on entering is this wonderful collection of calligraphy equipment from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Most of these are the same tools used by calligraphers today.image  There are many books and font samplers and these two beautiful examples of flourishes.image image

Finally we arrive at the MAN, the Museo Arqueológico National.  Turns out it is a great museum, and we get to see a facsimile of Lucy.  I remember talking about australopithicus and Lucy when I taught Social Studies many years ago.  Isn’t she beautiful?image

There is a display with examples of archeological sites in Spain, and it turns out they are everywhere.  This Screen grab says it best “Spain, A Huge Archeological Site.”  I think you could look almost anywhere in Spain and find an archaeological site!imageIn the museum there are some very intricate mosaics.image They are even more incredible when you see the size of the individual mosaic pieces.imageThe next exhibit has several room sized floor mosaics that are equally as stunning.image

I love old doors and this one is a beauty.  It just looks as though I am touching it….image

We are amazed at the technology that was in use so long ago, but the one item that probably surprised me the most was the Speculum magnum matrios, a vaginal dilator used  in gynaelogical exams, surgeries and childbirth.  The Romans developed this medical technology in the First Century AD! It is hard to imagine, and this looks very similar to the ones in use today!image

We stop for tea after two hours, and then do our best to see everything else but we ran out of energy and time and I am afraid we rather quickly strolled through the Egyptian and Greek rooms without trying to see and read about everything. There are about fourty rooms here, and they are all pcked with so much to see. We are pooped, but we enjoyed this museum a lot.  It was extremely well laid out, had lots of great videos, English signage and beautiful exhibits.  It always amazes me that so many items have survived so many centuries intact. I also did a few drawings at the museum.imageimage