Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.



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.


I also really liked this ironwork grill.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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This is us shortly after we arrived in Malaga, enjoying a nice cerveza on our minuscule balcony at Hotel Los Naranjos.

We rode down from Madrid on a high speed train which reached speeds of 300 km per hour and I have a photo taken of the speed monitor on the train to prove it. We were awed.

Now we are ready to go in search of sustenance….

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Those of you who have been following The Havens are aware that we are going on vacation in the near future.

Actually, that can be amended to the VERY NEAR future!   We are actually flying off on Sunday.   We have our house/cat/dog sitter arranged for, with an appropriately lengthy list written.

This time around we decided to use a luggage forwarding service and send our big bag with the formal clothes and stuff we were only going to want on the cruise ship ahead.   Yesterday we got an email notifying us that our luggage had arrived at our port of embarkation.   So, I can honestly say that my clothes are already on vacation, enjoying the Mediterranean climate, but probably  not eating tapas at a local restaurant.   Or, I HOPE they aren’t eating tapas!   I’d hate it if my formal gown got too fat for me to wear!

Actually, the whole luggage forwarding thing got to be very confusing for Ruby, who KNOWS what packing means and she doesn’t like it!   So, in preparation for the bag being shipped, one day a couple of weeks ago, we laid out everything that was planned to go into it  so we would know that a.) it all fit and b.) that the bag would not weigh too much.    Needless to say, this activity sent poor Ruby into a tailspin of depression:   “You are packing, it is so wrong!  You are going to go away and leave me.”  Insert sad puppy dog eyes here.

So, we packed, we weighed, we rejoiced.    Everything fit and the whole thing was FAR below the 50 lb. maximum.   Then we unpacked and put it all away.

Ruby was confused.

Then we packed it all up again a couple of days ago.    Sad puppy dog eyes, histrionic sighing, etc. were once again her role.   Then the FedEx guy came and collected the bag and it went away, and we were still here.

Ruby was dumfounded, befuddled, and ultimately relieved.

I’m not sure she will believe us when we pack our carry on bags tomorrow.   We are going to a big blues jam party at a friend’s place Saturday afternoon and evening, so she’ll probably think it is all a big false alarm again.

Boy is she going to be upset when we actually leave on Sunday morning and don’t come back.

Mallory has a feather fetish and this morning discovered my prayer stick on my altar, which she had systematically started denuding of its feather decoration.   I have reconstructed it, it is somewhat the worse for wear.   But the whole concept of the prayer stick is to remind me of important things and events of our lives, and so in later years the disheveled feathers will remind me of Mallory.

I did NOT kill her, although the impulse was there for a moment when I exited my bedroom at 3:17 a.m. on the way to making coffee for Jim, and discovered her rolling about in fevered abandon amidst the shredded remains of my prayer stick.

Life goes on, and we have made a lot of progress with our therapist and are looking forward to down time on the vacation to talk some of the things we have learned over.

I’m not sure I’ll get around to making another post before we leave….

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This month the assignment for the Gardening Gone Wild photo contest is entitled “On The Road Again.”  The judge this month, professional photographer Allan Mandell,  has this to say about our assignment:

“This is what I am looking for:  that choice image you discovered when you were out there on unfamiliar ground with an open mind and open eyes, when you were far away from home or close to where you live. But you still sought out a garden, other than your own, to reveal the soul of the place you were in. Every culture on earth has a way of expressing its essence through a sacred spot, or garden. Maybe your farthest travels have been a few hour’s drive away, or maybe they have been long plane-flights away, no matter. Let me see the beauty you found when you were way out there, tuned into the universal language of the garden.  Let me see your treasures from the road.to offer a photograph taken of a garden you visited, somewhere, sometime.  . “

Gosh, I’ve been visiting gardens since I was first taken to the Balboa Park Zoological Garden in San Diego California at the tender age of two.   Since then, I have seen many memorable gardens.   I can still remember the complete awe I experienced at Hampton Court, Hyde Park, Stratford on Avon, and Versailles when I went on a student tour in Europe when I was 17.   I took lots of pictures with my little Kodak Instamatic, and of course they are all complete junk as far as photography goes.   They serve to remind me of an amazing summer, though, so they serve their purpose.

It seems like everywhere I go I wind up in a Botanical Garden, or looking at someone’s estate garden, or peering through someone’s gate at a courtyard filled with beauty.

That was taken in Sevilla, Spain, and I took great pains with the exposure and trying to line up that shot.   But the hot Spanish light and the dimness of the entryway made it extremely difficult to get a great picture.

Another thing I noticed when I started going through my photos looking for “The One” to enter was that most public gardens are open for viewing during the middle of the day, and so you are always stuck in the worst possible light for great photography.  That was certainly the case when we were in Funchal, Madeira.   This is a view of a formal garden at the Royal Botanical Garden there.

Another problem that crops up fairly often is the view being marred by the surrounding city infrastructure.   That is what is wrong with this shot of a fantastic formal garden across the street from the Monument to the Explorers in Lisbon, Portugal.

Judicious cropping would help, of course, but I don’t see any way to remove the rows of buses parked around the edges of the garden.   The light that day was very dark and weird, because half the time it was raining on us.

For a few years I lived in San Francisco, California, and I was a regular visitor to the Strybing Arboretum there.   I had just moved to the big city from a rural Alaskan milieu, so I really needed open space to help me cope with the urban ambiance.   I haunted that garden, sometimes I needed to be away from people so badly I would go down to the remote northwest corner of the garden at dawn, where there was a tall chain link fence sheltered from the view of passing traffic and pedestrians, and climb over it so I could experience the gardens all by myself.   That was a magical, if slightly illegal, thing for me.

Eventually my partner allowed me to start using his rather wonderful camera, and I used up quite a lot of film learning to take nice pictures.   One day I found a painter ensconced in front of the sedum and succulent garden, painting his version of what was going on there.

I quite like that photograph, even though the actual garden is not what is in focus.

Here’s another Spanish image, taken from the Atlantic Coast of Spain outside Doñana National Park.   This one speaks quite eloquently of the Mediterranean coast and the courtyard gardens you find there.

Ultimately though, I decided not to enter that one in the contest because the angle of the shot makes the whole thing feel a little “off” to me.

Instead, I am choosing this image of the rose garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.  This garden is a three hour drive away from here, but we go down to St. Louis to visit it on a regular basis.  One time I went there on a solo road trip and discovered that Dale Chihuly had done an art installation on the grounds.

What a treat I had, wandering around discovering each new little jewel of the exhibition tucked here and there on the grounds.   I was entranced by how he embellished the gates to the Rose Garden.   Somehow, I just love the combination of formality and wildness in this picture.   To me, it really expresses the totality of the whole arboretum, with its mixtures of formal settings juxtaposed with woodland gardens, which then give way to all sorts of demonstration gardens.   Those encompass everything from experimental vegetable plots to perennial borders to prairie meadows.

Somehow, I feel this one shot sort of wraps up the whole Missouri Botanical Garden heart and soul in one package:  wildness and formality, art and nature, horticultural science and inspirational demonstrations.

Don’t forget to visit the other offerings for what promises to be an interesting series of photographs.   You can find them here.

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