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Posts Tagged ‘life’

For some reason, I cannot get the umlaut into my title.  So I apologize for starting this post off with a technical error.

I am not really a food blogger, so I am not going to regale you with the amazing food that we found to eat, all within easy walking distance of our Airbnb apartment.  Let me just say that Barcelona is much like Seville:  every where you turn there is a little hole in the wall that will sate you with wonderful food and great wine and beer.   Finding a place to eat is not a problem.   Deciding which one of dozens of options you are going to patronize IS the problem.

That being said, we had a wonderful dinner after our adventures at the Maritime Museum, and the next day was the day chosen to visit Park Güell.  We had purchased our tickets to this attraction on line, weeks before our trip.

A little history is in order.  Güell was a wealthy industrialist who admired Gaudí’s vision.  Together they decided to establish a planned community in the hills outside Barcelona.  Gaudí designed the whole place, including innovative ideas like separating vehicular traffic from pedestrians.   He envisioned a central market place, where the inhabitants could shop without having to go downtown.   This market place, called the Colonnade, was completely covered so the vendors could be in the shade.  On top of it was a large flat square for public gatherings, games, fairs and the like, that was completely surrounded by a structure known as the Undulating Bench.   There were public gardens planned.

Unfortunately, the idea did not take off.   Güell had a house constructed in the community, and so did Gaudi.  But they didn’t sell enough lots and ultimately Güell donated the entire property to the city of Barcelona for a public park.

The above photos are taken of the outer wall that surrounds Park Güell.  Alternating along the whole wall are these mosaics.   It really pretty much tells you in a nutshell what you are going to find inside.  There are fantastic walls and constructs of unworked native stone, and fabulous mosaics made of porcelain and glass.

We decided that since the park was only about a mile from our apartment, we would walk there.  We started out giving ourselves plenty of time just in case we got lost (we did not even though we have NO [gasp] GPS and rely completely on maps printed on paper [second gasp]).

It was a very pleasant walk along streets that were NOT choked with traffic.   The transports of choice seem to be either feet combined with public transit, or scooters.   Most of the streets in the area we were walking through were one lane, and one way.   It was quite wonderful and peaceful.   Along the way I spent quite a while admiring the brick work that was ubiquitous.

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Every structure in this part of town seemed to display gorgeous examples of the mason’s art.  Of course there were plenty of people who felt that they needed street side security for their windows.   But it also seemed that if you felt like you needed security you didn’t necessarily want to uglify your building.

I liked this one, where the barbed wire of the security grill was woven into a spider web.

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I also really liked this ironwork grill.

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So much so that I had to put my camera through its paces to get some art shots of it, while my very patient husband waited.   He was not feeling any urgency at that point.   We were within a couple of blocks of the entrance to the  park and we were about 45 minutes early for our appointed time of entry.   So he admired the view of Barcelona while I clicked away.

We enjoyed the view of the iconic entry to Park Güell as we descended the staircase that led to it.

We were still quite early, and so in no rush to join the queue at the entrance.   Along the way we paused to admire the fantasy of palms that were visible inside the park.

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They were inhabited by parrots who were busy eating the tiny fruits the trees were bearing.  Later on, within the park, we came across a colony of the same parrots who had chicks in nests, anxiously awaiting their parents’ return from foraging.

Finally the time arrived, and we entered the park.   Before you get to the famous sculptural section that we had paid to see, we walked past very plain stone retaining walls.   These were inhabited by an impressive selection of lizards, who were availing themselves of the drain holes the masons had left in the walls.

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These are just a couple of the different species sunning themselves.  As I was standing there taking the portraits of these reptiles, the crowds that were streaming by in their rush to view the work of Gaudí paused to try to see what I might be photographing.   They seemed to be concerned that they might be missing something that wasn’t in their guidebooks, which of course they were!   But to a person, not one of them “got” what I was interested in.  I know, I’m fairly weird.

Presently we proceeded along in the wake of the crowd, and were immediately surrounded by the mosaic work that Park Güell is noted for.

Believe me, there are dozens of shots I took of this artistry.  Everywhere you turned, there was color covering organic forms in concrete.   The blue tiles above are a good image of Gaudí’s artistic vision.   He haunted the porcelain factories of Barcelona, buying up their seconds and broken pieces.  The square tiles above were probably seconds, which he brought to the site and then had broken so they could be laid around the curves of the concrete structures.

I also like the white ceramic tile with its border of raw stone.   The juxtapositions of these materials happened over and over throughout the park.

Once we had sufficiently admired the mosaic walls, we proceeded to the main staircase where the Salamander resides.  This mosaic fountain is probably one of the most famous images of Gaudí’s sculpture.  You can find “Draco” everywhere in Barcelona: on tea towels, trivets, coffee cups, etc. etc.  A few years ago some madman attacked him with a sledge hammer, but he is fully restored now.

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I don’t want you to think that it was EASY to get this shot.  It required quite a lot of patience, because most of the time the fountain and its surroundings look like this:

We continued on our pilgrimage, past more amazing rock work and mosaics.  The Colonnade itself is a wonderful sculptural place, and I can imagine how pleasant it must have been to be able to set up your market stall in this deep shade in the summer, and out of the rain during the winter.

The ceiling of the colonnade is decorated with numerous medallions.  These installations epitomize the way Gaudí scavenged for mosaic material.  I believe he may have been the original recycler.

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This is one of the central medallions in the ceiling of the Colonnade.  Take a close look at it before you move on.   Notice the bottoms of cups and saucers around the central flower.   Notice that the arm of the flower at 12 o’clock appears to have been formed in part by a broken porcelain figurine.  You can see its chest and arm, and you can also see the bottoms of bottles elsewhere in the form.

Oh here.   Just take a look at a series of shots I took of the medallions in the ceiling.  I was fascinated.

Above the Colonnade is the square with the Undulating Bench.   This bench was also decorated with mosaics made from porcelain, bottles, and broken tiles.

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On the back side there were drains and gutters.   I loved the fact that where the water was draining from the square the details in the concrete were water drops.

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I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the buildings where Güell and Gaudí lived.   But here is a detail of the windows of the home built for Güell.

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One of the other features of the park is the road/walkway system.   This was specifically designed to keep the pedestrians safe.  The walkways were under and shaded by the roads.

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Here is another one of the walkways.  The rock work was designed to mimic the bark of the local trees.

In another area, there were spectacular spirals worked into the pillars.

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By this time, we were overcome by the crowds and were suffering from sensory overload, so we decided to leave the park and have some lunch.    We walked back to our little apartment, enjoying the sights of the residential streets of Barcelona along the way.

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We all have a bucket list.   Ever since our good friend Doug went to Barcelona over a decade ago and came home with amazing photos of his odyssey through Gaudí’s architecture, I’ve felt a need to go see it for myself.   Then my niece went there just a few years ago, and reinforced that desire.

We like to cruise, and we REALLY like cruising on Seabourn’s ships.   I believe I have written about what that is like on previous occasions.   You can search “Seabourn” on my blog and find several posts, one all about the on board experience.   you can find it here.  Anyway, when we found a Seabourn repositioning cruise that began in Barcelona, we decided to book a cabin.   We traveled to Spain several days in advance of the sailing date, so that we could do some sight seeing.

First, let me tell you right away that if you decide to go to Barcelona and want to visit some of the popular sites, it is WELL WORTH getting on line and booking your tickets to those sites in advance.  The most popular venues are ticketed in such a way that the number of people inside is controlled, so they do not get too crowded. Your ticket will have a date and time, and you must be there during the window of opportunity for entry.   If you show up at the place you want to visit with no ticket, you may find yourself waiting in a very long line and then perhaps not even be able to get in that day, or possibly having to wait several hours before you can enter.  So take my advice and BOOK AHEAD.

That all being said, I have to tell you that I wish we had planned to stay much longer in the city of Barcelona.   There is a LOT to see and do, and it is a fantastic place to eat, drink and be merry as well as be completely gobsmacked by art and architecture and history.  We booked a very nice apartment through Airbnb, and completely enjoyed our non-hotel experience.

So.   To the sights!   While Barcelona is host to a myriad of amazing artists, the one we were most interested in on this trip was Gaudí.  I will not bore you with a biography of this architect.   If you are interested, google him and you will have PLENTY of fodder for your edification.

Our apartment was in the village of Gracia, a few blocks off the main drag.  Every time we walked down to catch the metro, we walked past two of Gaudí’s very famous buildings: La Perdrera and Casa Batlló.  We never actually paid for the interior tours available for these buildings, and in retrospect we probably should have.   There are thousands of images of these, so I’m just going to favor you with a few of my favorite captures from the street.

La Perdrera:  The exterior of this iconic house is sculptural.  Bear in mind that this was designed and built in 1906-10.

Almost directly across the street is Casa Batlló.   Apparently, the owner of La Pedrera saw this house and immediately hired Gaudí to build his own surrealistic paradise.  The exterior mosaics and roofs are amazing.   We spent a lot of time standing around just looking at them.

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We did not spend our first day immersed in architecture, though.   We planned a fairly easy day to accommodate our jet lag.  We took the metro down to the maritime museum and spent a pleasant morning being awed by the gigantic building and the amazing models within it.

Called the Drassanes, this place began as a shipyard for the Spanish royal navy, construction of which happened in the 13th century.   In the 16th century, another building was put on top of the original.   When they were doing excavations during the restoration in the 2000s, they discovered a Roman cemetery beneath it all.  Needless to say, the place has been around for a long time, and the structure itself is probably even more interesting than the ships and models inside it.

Bear in mind that the gold encrusted royal yacht in the right hand shot is 60 meters long.

Before we even got into the museum, we were captivated by this wonderful wooden submarine.   It was donated to Barcelona in 1859!  This is a replica of the original.DSCF0269

After spending several hours in the museum, we walked along the waterfront to a restaurant serving Neapolitan style pizza, baked in an authentic wood fired oven imported from Naples.

The pizza was great!

I will continue this odyssey in the next post….

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Hard to believe that it will be the equinox and Jim’s birthday in just a few hours.   We have a pile of stuff to burn, so I suppose we’ll have a bonfire tonight. I had one last week because the pile had gotten unmanageable.   I had pulled out the black bean vines and harvested the pods.   So the vines needed to be burned, as there were plenty of sundry insect eggs deposited on the leaves.  The patch did REALLY well this year.   Bear in mind that it occupied the part of the bean bed not being used by the pole beans.   In an area that was 4’x16′ I harvested almost ten pounds of black beans, once I had them shelled and dried.   I think that is outstanding production. The cats thought the black beans in the shell were fascinating.   Miss Mallory, being blind, checks everything out by sound and smell.  The crate of bean pods sounded very very interesting, as I had to shove them down in it to get all the pods in there.   As it rested in the kitchen, it made intriguing crackling and rustling noises. DSCF0526 After I finished shelling the beans, I went out and dug the sweet potatoes.   Those vines had gotten delusions of grandeur, were determined to take over the whole northwest section of the garden.   They were well on their way to doing just that. DSCF0528 They did not seem to mind me walking on them when I was headed out to pick the tomatoes, which are at the back of the picture.   What you do not see in this shot is the fact that some of the vines had found their way under the fence and were on their way towards the neighbor’s yard.   Thank goodness this is a non-hardy tropical plant, or we could be in danger of being covered with sweet potato vines the way Alabama is covered with kudzu. They look so pretty on the garden cart. DSCF0532 That is 48.2 pounds of sweet potatoes.   I have a similar quantity of butternut squash curing in the back bedroom.  The freezers are packed with vegetables and fruit.   I just made a liter of herb vinegar for salad dressing.  I put up the last batch of sweet gherkins the other day. Anyway, the bonfire took care of the old cucumber and squash vines as well as the bean vines. While my back was turned, my dill self seeded. DSCF0516 DSCF0517 There is cilantro in this bed too, and the parsley plant just to the east of the dill has seeded the path next to it.   I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to plant parsley and have it not take.   Then you have a plant to go seed and throw seeds into a bark mulch and not get watered all summer, and voila!   Happy little parsley plants.  Go figure. Jim has been gone for a couple of weeks, off to visit people on the East Coast and to attend a class in making Windsor chairs for little people.   He got home yesterday, and it is REALLY great to have him back.   He isn’t a very noisy guy, but the place is preternaturally quiet when he is gone. While he was gone I spent some quality time with the slide collection from my father’s house.   Found some real gems that I will be sharing soon.   These two shots are from around the same era in my life.   The first is of me in my high school graduation gown and cap, sharing my diploma with Horace, my boa constrictor.   The second one was taken in the Sierra foothills as we released Herman, the bull snake, into the wild. PICT0167 img614 Yes, I kept snakes when I was a teenager.   I guess that is what happens when you are born in the Year of the Serpent, as I was. The chairs Jim made arrived here just a couple of hours after he did.   Here is a shot of the new little chair next to the Papa chair.  The little chair still needs to be sanded and painted, but I think it looks beautiful. DSCF0537 This is a chair that will be suitable for a child that is three or so, and will be useful to the young person until they start to shoot up around ten or eleven.   After that, it can be used for seating for a teddy bear, and then a place to stash your coat and purse when you reach working age. I convinced him to invest in the bending form for this chair, because I would like to see a small cottage industry happen.  When I suggested this to him over the phone, he pointed out that he had only been retired for two months, and I was already thinking of a job for him.  Well, if one can make a little money doing something one loves, why not?  This would be a great thing for a proud grand parent to give to a beloved little one.  At $450, it is not inexpensive but destined to last for centuries. Fall is definitely here.   The sumac is turning, as is the poison ivy.   The Petite Prairie is looking fantastic in the evening light right now, as the tall grasses are making their seed heads. DSCF0533 Stay warm.   Hug someone you love, you never know how long you have with them.

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Every once in a while the phrase “It’s like Grand Central Station around here” passes my lips.  There was a while, back when the economy crashed, when it was more like a crossroads in  the middle of nowhere, but those times have passed.

Last week really seemed to epitomize the sort of busy-ness that brings that  feeling to the fore.   As fearless readers of this blog are aware, we are in the midst of getting our place prepared for installation of a solar array.   There is a seemingly infinite regression in jobs like this.   The very first thing we had to do was move the big rocks out of the terraces on the root cellar.   That was so we could have the mountain range dirt pile placed on it.    Before the dirt could be moved, we had to buy and install landscape retaining bricks so the dirt would stay where we wanted it to.   And so forth and so on.

The next part of the job is to get Jim’s shop arranged in such a way that the inverters (and ultimately our back-up batteries) will have a safe, secure and weather proof spot to live.    Over the years, the barn has begun to severely show its age, and Jim’s shop was far from being any of those things.   In point of fact, last year the door of the shop devolved into such decrepitude that it could not even be closed, much less bear any resemblance to an actual door.  At any rate, we have people working to remedy the situation.

The shop has been radically changed.    This is how it looked before Jim started cleaning it out.

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Outside the barn, once the clearing up was begun, looked like this.  Notice the “door”.

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After all the gear and detritus was cleared out, the workers came it and removed the sheetrock and 1/2″ styrofoam board insulation from the outside walls and ceiling.   At that point it became obvious that the previous owners’ idea that cardboard and 1/2″ masonite would be adequate barriers to keep varmints out of the space between the floor of the barn loft and the ceiling of the shop area was ridiculous.   As our poor workmen began to tear down the interior, they were showered with sticks, nuts, sunflower seeds, straw, and sundry bird and rodent leavings.   The squirrels and starlings and rats and who knows what else had found that six inch space to be a delightful place to live.

At any rate, after deconstruction and cleaning, the space looks like this.

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Outside, the barn looks like this now.

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Right now we are waiting for the electrician to come and do his magic.   When he is done, there will be proper wiring in the shop, including 220V and several circuits WITH circuit breakers.   Additionally, the origin of the  electrical service to the barn out by the meter pole will also have a circuit breaker box and a couple of proper outlets so we can run our pool and concrete mixer in more safety.   Granted, that box “does” have fuses, but we would like something more updated.  After the electrician, the insulation contractor will do his thing.   Then the actual windows, doors and sheetrock can be installed.

So, in addition to having workers in and out of the yard and barn, we have electricians and insulation contractors knocking at the front door so they can make their measurements and estimates.   Of course, my regular procession of clients proceeds through as well.

Did I mention that we have a young man working for us two days a week?   We do.   He is the epitome of youthful strength and enthusiasm, and was instrumental in the moving of rocks listed above.   He has also helped us split wood, move dirt, build rock wall, and I don’t know what all else.   Observe the transformation in the back area of the property.

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To add to the list of jobs going on, our lovely tenant was taking his wife and family to Walmart when his spouse informed him that she had forgotten her list and they needed to go back and get it.   For some reason, this infuriated him; not that Walmart is that far from here (less than 2 miles), and not that they had gotten that far (to the end of the block).   He drove around the block and pulled into their carport, yelling and carrying on.    She hopped out of their van and ran into the house to get her list while he sat impatiently in the van with his foot on the brake, muttering imprecations.  She got back in the vehicle, at which point, still yelling at her, he stepped on the gas and promptly drove the van into the side of the house, since he had neglected to put the thing in park while he waited and had forgotten he was in “Drive” rather than “Reverse”.

So we have had the insurance people ringing the doorbell and the phone, as well as the contractor who repaired the damage:   one exterior door and 7 studs in the wall with all the associated  demolition to siding and interior that that entails.

Are you surprised to know that on Saturday morning, when things were all quiet, I was not all that polite to the hapless Jehovah’s Witness who rang my doorbell, disturbing my peace?

However, things are getting along.   The wood fired oven platform/barbecue pit area is now walled.   We finished that yesterday, except for the coping stones around the top.   I think it looks rather splendid, actually.   When there is actually an oven it will be really cool.

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For the first time in years, the path along the back of the house is a path, rather than a repository for rock designated for the wall.

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Lest you think all is perfection here, there is a project at the end of the path that has been put on indeterminate hold.   The sewer line at that corner was dug up and then promptly reburied when winter arrived.   There is a need for the entire line along the back of the house to be dug and replaced without the dip in the middle and with a proper drop so that the drains will remain clear.   I have no idea when that will get done.

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We have a couple of other projects going on.   The fence line marking the north border of the Stroll Garden will be changed.    We are rotating it 90 degrees to extend towards the vegetable garden.   That will make the pond area part of the Stroll Garden.  Tomorrow, our worker will dig the post holes for the new line, and the fence will be built shortly thereafter.

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Just to the north of that is the garden fence, with the raspberry bed in front of it.   In short order, I am going to dig out a path next to that raspberry bed, and then Jim is going to build a bird cage over the raspberry patch.   At the far end I will install a small blueberry patch.    The cage will also keep out the rabbits and the squirrels and the groundhogs, so I believe that we will be the benefactors of the berry bushes rather than all the wildlife.

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Another project that will be completed PDQ is the pouring of a concrete slab on which to keep the compost piles.   Here again you can see a transformation in the area.

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It was while I was trying to find a good picture of the mess sort of indicated in the first picture above that I discovered how very very good I am at framing photographs in such a way the big messy areas of the yard do not show up!

Meanwhile, the Petite Prairie is absolutely beautiful.   The culmination of the Stroll Garden proves how very worth while all the improvements around here really are.

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For those of you who have been following the saga of the mouse in the house, I can report that all the attempts Impy was making to catch that mouse that fell from the attic were unfruitful.   She, however, was.   And so now we have her and her litter of progeny disporting themselves about the house.   The young mice are about an inch long and very very cute.   Also, they are very very fast and very very light, so the cats are not catching them and neither are the mouse traps.

Now.   I have a few hours before my first client, so I intend to go work on the rain garden, which needs some severe curbing on its enthusiasm.

And rain.   We need rain.

Talk to you later.

 

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I walked the labyrinth this morning.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately; taking new rocks in, mostly.   Several years ago I joined the Labyrinth Society’s 365 Club.   The goal was to walk a labyrinth every day for a year.   I started out strong, but after about a month and a half I stopped doing it.   It seemed that what should have been a meaningful spiritual exercise was becoming rote and routine, and I didn’t really like that result.   So I stopped trying to make the 365 day goal.

Maybe I will try again this year.   I don’t know.

I do know that I have been very inspired by Twylla Alexander’s labyrinth journey.   She made a commitment to walk one labyrinth created by a woman in each of the 50 states.   She recently completed this journey, or at least the first part of it.  The second part is to write a book about it.   Her break in the journey turns out to be a pause to create her own labyrinth.  Many of the women whose labyrinths she walked are going to send her a rock for her labyrinth.

My labyrinth was one of the ones she chose, and her visit was special.   One of the results was to rekindle my relationship with my own labyrinth.   I also decided to refurbish the inner circle.    Today I was taking a couple of new denizens in, and while I was at it I took the rock I had chosen to send her along.   While I was making this pilgrimage, a sort of prose poem came to me.

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About Life’s Journey

Sometimes you walk alone; sometimes you have company.   Both ways are good.

Often there is a path for you to follow; but sometimes you have to create your own.   These both are valuable experiences.

Love is all around you; never forget that it is infinite.

When you are looking for answers, leave no stone unturned.

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You never know what is hidden on the other side of an interesting but not THAT remarkable rock.

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It is good to look at things from more than one angle.

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Always try to finish what you start; but be willing to be interrupted for beauty, friends, and rest.   Procrastination is not always a bad thing.

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Now, I have procrastinated long enough.   I must go dig my potatoes, and work on establishing order in the rain garden.

 

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