Posts filed under ‘Spain’

Wandering Barcelona

Well, before I begin I want to show you the ceiling in the post office. We had to get some stamps and I had to take a picture of it………..

Alex took the day off work and we went to MNAC in the morning (Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya). We’d not been when we were living here and it was on the list of things to do.

We approached from the 55 bus stop on the way up to Montjuic.

As you can see it was a gorgeous day, the type of day we had grown used to when we lived here. I took most photos of the architecture and Alex has a few of the displays.

The stairs reminded me of Escher drawings so I HAD to take some pics of them.

I loved the way you could see through the building by all shapes of doors and portals. The building itself was built for a World Exposition in the 1920s.

It is truly a grand building housing some beautiful exhibits

After the museum we went to meet Joy for lunch and slowly made our way back to the apartment.

June 12, 2008 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

Segovia – Day Two (June 4, 2008)

Before I begin day 2 I should say a bit more about the hotel we stayed in. A group of entrepreneurs purchased the entire building with the objective of opening a hotel. The building, as purchased, was divided into may independent sections such as shops, restaurants and apartments. Workmen began to tear out the divisions and discovered a trove of art treasures hidden behind false ceilings and walls. The ceilings in particular had been protected so well that little restorative work was needed. Apart from the fantastic Mudéjar moulded ceilings from the XV century, (see photos here) the hotel also has the most important Roman remains found in Segovia, apart from the Acueduct, and that is the “Aljibe” which was the biggest cistern in the city and now has been turned into a meeting lounge in the hotel. Excavations are still ongoing in the basement as more discoveries are being made. The hotel is right across the street from the chapel where princess Isabella of Castile/Leon was crowned queen in 1474.

We got up at 7:00 and headed down to breakfast with other delegates in the conference (I forgot to mention that we were here because Alex was presenting a paper at a conference being held here). I have to say I enjoyed breakfast more than I thought I would. Having breakfast with learned historians leaves one VERY INFORMED of the area. I really enjoyed the small talk and left with a plan of touring the city on my own as Alex was working all day.

The first place I wanted to see was the Alcazar……………….

This place has a history that goes back to the early days of the 12th century. Over the centuries it served as the Royal court, state prison and a military school. I was the third one in and the place was empty, I had it all to myself. The first room I entered the Old Castle Hall containing articles of war.

The mounted knights were full sized…………

The details were amazing and I kind of got carried away with the sense of who had come before me, especially when standing in the throne room…..

The next room was as impressive, called the Galley Chamber because the shape of the ceiling resembled an inverted hull. Queen Catherine of Lancaster had this room built in 1412.

The other rooms including the centre court were filled with artifacts collected from the artillery school

They warn visitors that the climb to the top of Torre de Juan II is an arduous climb of 152 steps. I figured that wasn’t bad so I climbed up. Yes, it was 152 steps but they failed to mention that each step is much higher than normal. I climbed to the taop and was rewarded with spectacular views.

It’s funny to note that when I was leaving I had to use the washroom which was down a flight of stairs. There was a small sign leading down further to some roman ruins which aren’t mentioned anywhere.

I left Alcazar and went way down to where the rio Eresma flowed. We found a footpath yesterday and someone mentioned at breakfast that this went around the city so I wanted to walk it. I started at the bridge.

The path followed the river but there were a few branches so I kind of kept to the foot of the cliff to make sure I ended up going around the city.

Looking back on the path as I climbed back towards the walled city

The building at the end of the wall is an old slaughter house that has been turned into a museum, Museos de Castilla y Leon.

I had to hurry at this point because I need to meet Alex for lunch at 2:00. We met at Plaza san Martin and here she is waiting for me………

When lunch was over I returned to the place I had entered the city after the walk. I stood on one of the towers and walked along the wall where I came across the museum. I decided to go in and I was the only one there. It was all about the history of Segovia, describing the origins of its geology, the inhabitants and architecture. There were artifacts from the bronze age, visigoths, romans and medieval. There was even a skelton of a roman centurion with pieces of his armour still attached. I had an almost personal tour guide as each guard was more than eager to tell me about their part of the museum. I saw this water driven machine consisting of two massive wooden hammers. Someone mentioned it might have been the device that so terrified Don Quixote in the night. Once again I had to hurry because I was going to meet Alex for a visit to a chapel that was once a synagogue.

We visited and she went back to the conference. I went to our room for a nap……. Ask me if I love naps.

We met around 9:30 had dinner and off to sleep.

June 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm 1 comment

Barcelona, The Final Two Months

Well, it had to happen. Our stay here is coming to an end. We stayed with Jackie and Sebastian for the last few months and had an absolutely fantastic time. I don’t think I managed to get on their nerves but I have been known to be wrong. Jackie and I would have some pretty heated discussions in the morning and most times she was right but I’d never admit that. I’ll miss the times we had.

Most of the last few weeks was saying goodbye to all the amazing and woderful friends we had made over the past year. There are some that will remain close to my heart forever (and they will never know who they are). I’ve put together some photos of some of the people we partied with or dined with or just hung out with over the last few weeks.

Bradley at Wushu’s

Paul

Francesca, I’ll miss her humor and outlook on life. We had fun communicating. Sha actually thought I spoke Italian but that’s a whole other story.

Sara, my spanish teacher. We became good friends. I really hope her and Andrea come to visit us in Canada. Actually I hope they all come to visit us in Canada.

Matt, a great friend whom I met in Spanish class.

His wife Elena, always smiling. The two of them were a lot of fun.

Marc, another friend from Spanish class.

I had to have a few friends who were closer to my mental age and Elena’s cousin’s baby fit the role. Same sense of humor too.

Jackie, Alex, Joy and Jesus at Joy and Jesus’ casa. They had us over for a farewell lunch

Alex and Andres having a chuckle. Andres taught Alex how to make mate.

Francisca and Sylvie fooling around. Those two were really great people. Sylvie was stressing out about her newly purchased piso in Bari Gotic. It’s an amazing place and I am sure she’ll love it when all the work is done. Francisca returns to Chile in October and we hope to visit her soon.

Mireia, she just finished her Phd thesis and was preparing to defend it. Her and Pau were super and Pau has to send me my honorary Catalan citizenship card. I’ll hold him to that too.

Jackie getting her hair done

Pau, Mireia and Jackie having a discussion. I’ll miss my discussions with Jackie………

Joy and Jesus

I have missed posting photos of many others because I don’t have them or they are really blurry. Photos taken while drinking too much wine ……

Last, but not least is Naomi. It was through her thoughtfulness and consideration that we met most of these people. Naomi always made sure that Alex and I were invited to different places. She is a bundle of energy and always up for a good time.

Many thanks to all of you who made Barcelona a special place and time for us. You are all invited to visit us in Canada anytime. Our home is always open to you so please come.

Now for the next series of adventures ………

May 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm Leave a comment

Last Visit

This was the last visit to Barcelona’s beaches. It was ana mazing day and lot’s of people were out. Many booths were open on the boardwalk and the crowds were thick.

It was kind of weird though, looking south the sun was shining and the air clear but looking north was another view altogether.

A fog was rolling in off the sea and it had this really strange effect. People were wondering what was happening and the sun worshippers began to leave in droves. Soon, the beach looked like this…….

The fog itself was low and buildings above it still had sunlight. Made for a neat photograph and dramatic effects.

All in all, it was a dramatic last view of Barcelona’s beaches. One I’ll not forget.

May 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

A Great Day

Tuesday, April 17, 2007.

What a day. In the morning I worked on some photos that I had set aside and around noon I went over to Alexandra’s archives so we could go for lunch. Alex wanted to go to a place with a terrace that was across from Parc de le Ciutadella. We had a great lunch outside. The park trees have their new growth of green and it was really spring like (at a temperature of 24 + it was more like summer). After we ate, Alex went back to work and I went off to the park to lay around in the grass. I found a great place in the shade of a palm tree so I pulled out my ipod, set up my knapsack as a pillow and lay down on the grass. Lot’s of people all around me doing the same thing, just relaxing.

I don’t know how long I lay there but a group of swedish girls sat down close by to sunbathe. One of them, Erika, started chatting, really friendly and bubbly (almost too bubbly). She was here in Barcelona for a month. It turns out she comes here every year for a month and has been doing so for the past six years. She tells me that she has made friends from all over the world and has kept in touch with most of them. We hung about for most of the afternoon and when she left I went to a new spot by the big fountain. I looked out over the scene in front of me and couldn’t beleive it. This was more like dreamland than reality.

I think the thing that really clinched it all was when this guy cycles in and stops by one of the palm trees. He was carrying all kinds of things, 2 guitars, a drum and a big bag full of other stuff. He parks his bike and begins to unpack. Next thing I know, he’s pacing off the distance between the palm trees. I was really curious so I watched what he was up to. Turns out he was stringing up a strap between the two trees. A bunch of his friends arrive and they all settle in. They just radiated a joie de vie that made me slightly envious. It was really amazing. Anyhow, the strap was for walking on. Some were tightrope walking, others sitting around dinking matté and others making music. I loved it and thought about all the young people over in Canada who should make it a point of coming to Barcelona. It’s a paradise or maybe it’s mine. who knows.

Anyhow, for the past few weeks I have been playing around with a game on internet called Second Life. It’s like a chat room but you have animated characters that represent you and there is a virtual world to explore. It’s quite the place with buildings and roads and averything else a person can think of. I usually go to this specific spot and just watch the interaction of the animated characters. All kinds of outfits and animations that I could never describe in words. My point is that watching people in the park was so similar to watching the fantasies in Second Life that I immediatly fell in love with Barcelona all over again. It’s not the place for everyone but for me, it is amazing. Some compare it to Paris in the beginning of the last century.

I’ll miss this place.

April 19, 2007 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Easter Weekend

We had an amazing Easter weekend. On Friday, Alex wanted to go to a parade which was starting in Raval at this huge old church. Other churches added groups to the parade. It started at 5:00 so we went close to where it bagan. Apparently, it makes its way to the cathedral and arrives around 8:30 at night. Leading the parade were 2 mounted police. Beautiful horses and uniforms. The riders were very friendly too.

We picked a spot where people were shortest and right across from the mounted police. While we were waiting for the parade to start we met these three Catalan women. They were just too funny. They were chatting up the mounted police and flirting with them. They were laughing and have a great time. We chatted with them and they told us all about the parade, where they lived, how long they’d known each other and lots of other chit chat. The one on the right said I looked american and apologized when I told her I was canadian. We had so much fun with them.

The procession started and this massive float came down the street. It was being carried by many men who were actually under it and physically carrying it. One man was in front of the float yelling out instructions and directions. There was lots of gold on this float. Really gorgeous.

The fixtures just glowed in the sun. Very beautiful creations and I am sure they were REALLY heavy.

In between the floats were people walking. A group of Spanish women in traditional dress walked by and I managed to get her attention and a big smile. I was so excited I blurred the shot. I had to soften it up to save the photo but her smile was beautiful.

The parade had other marchers and one other huge float but I didn’t manage to capture them well. The crowds were too dynamic and it was hard to get good photos.

On Saturday, Sebastian drove us to Besalou, it’s just 50 kms from the french border and on the way we could see the snow covered mountains of the Pyrenees. Just beautiful. The drive through the country was just great. The trees were just showing the tinge of green that showed new life was on it’s way. It made me feel amazing inside and I enjoyed it immensley. We arrived at Besalou and I was really pleased we had come here. It was like out of a book.

Walking around the city we popped into an artist’s tellier. Josep was the artist and once again we were treated like old friends by another catalan. They are so welcoming. We chatted with him for quite along time and he shared a bit of muscatel wine with us. A really interesting individual and I loved his workshop.

Lot’s of studies and unfinished pieces.

We left Josep and wandered around the town some more. I guess you can only see so many old buildings and churches. I tried imagining what it was like 700 years ago but couldn’t get there.

The others had a good time and Alex wanted to see some part of the Jewish legacy that this village held.

Just outside the walls, down by the river, was a very serene scene. I could have sat under the tree and lost myself. Everyone was getting hungry and we still had to get to Olot.

We finally arrived in Olot and had a great meal there. It took a bit of time to find the restaurant because Sebastian was looking for one that they had been to a while ago. It was well worth the wait because the food was sooooo amazing. After eating we finally managed to catch up with Joy and her friends. We had been paying tag with her all day. We all went for a drink at some bar in Olot and then headed home. We went over towards Vic and saw snow by the side of the road at the higher elevations. It was a great day.

April 10, 2007 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

Cantonigròs

This past weekend we went on a camino with Pau and Mireia. This hike had been in the works for quite a while. Sebastian and I had talked about organizing one way back in January. We wanted to hike up north, around Vic and Pau, who is a member of the hiking feferation in Vic, knows many of the trails there. We contacted him about a month ago to see if he was available to go for a hike with us. Sunday was the day we went. We let people know where we were going and when to meet but in the end only Alex, myself and Sebastian went from Barcelona. We left for Vic on the 9:20 train out of Placa Catalunya.

Pau i Mireia

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Vic. Pau and Mireia met us at the train station and off we went. They told us that they had made reservations for lunch and that we would be hiking to the restaurant, eating and hiking back. We were in for a huge, pleasant surprise. We headed off in the direction of Olot, which is north of Vic. The highway progressively climbed as we got further from Vic. The whole landscape changed from what we were used to in Barcelona. Most of the trees were bare of their leaves and the sky, wow, so dramatic. The sun and clouds were having this huge battle for dominance and the clouds were winning each skirmish, although at times it seemed the sun would win. It was like this for the entire day and made for some of the most dramatic skies I had ever seen.

So here’s a photo of what Barcelona was like on Thursday of last week, lush and green. Keep this in mind when you view the photos from our hike.

We pulled into a parking lot for a restaurant and our hike began. we were in an area called Cantonigròs. Pau pointed the way and off we went. The light was really flat so it was hard to get good photos since there was hardly any contrast.

We walked down the highway to a dirt road that went towards the mountain.

Actually, the road ran along a valley in between mountains, the scenery was amazing. We walked past working farms and the livestock was right there. Some of the biggest bulls I have ever seen were here too. These are cows by the way.

The path eventually started to wind it’s way upwards. It started off with a gentle climb and as we entered the forest we ran into some hunters with their dogs. We could hear dogs howling since we entered the valley. I’d never seen hunters with dogs before (except in the movies) so it was quite a treat.

Aparently there are a lot of wild boars here and signs were everywhere warning hikers of the possible danger. We kept on walking upwards and the path started to narrow at points as we made our way across the terrain.

That soon ended as we started some serious upward movements. The path varied from lots of vegetation to rock. The sky kept up the show and at this time, the clouds were really winning the battle. They were so thick it was getting dark.

You could see we’d climbed a fair bit up into the mountains

and of course we had to shoot some photos (just the excuse I needed for a rest)

After our rest, ooops, I mean photo session, we climbed at a much quicker rate. The slope of the path increased quite a bit. I was sweating like mad. I sweat easily, even just doing my weight workout. I keep meaning to ask a doctor if it’s good to sweat so easily or is it a sign that something is up. I’ll have to wait until I get back to Canada I guess. Here’s the view from a little higher up, note the sky again. The sun is starting to gain a little ground.

At this point we’re “almost” at the restaurant. It’s on top of that mountain in the back and if you look closely you can see the trail that leads up. This was going to be fun (tongue in cheek).

We started up the trail and Sebastian, the mountain goat, went bouncing up the trail. You can see where we had come from and now, where we are going.

I went up at a good rate and stopped about half way up. I could actually hear my heart pounding, it was amazing. On the way up there was a marker and it gives you an idea of just how high we’d climbed in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

On top of this mountian were more trails continuing on and walking the narrow trail gave you fantastic views on both sides of the range.

It was weird because the sun was winning the war on one side and it seemed like the clouds were gathering on the other side to attack.

This was an amzing place to be. So close to the edge and nothing to guide you. You really felt the three dimensional world when you looked at the edge of the cliff.

There was also a geological marker placed at the top and there were indicators to different areas on the horizon.

As high as we were, the trail climbed even higher. Since our table was ready we only went so far.

From here we turned around and went back to the restaurant.

The restaurant, Sanctuari de Cabrera, is in a building that heralds from medieval times. It was a church and a sanctuary and the church is still there beside the resaurant. A really amazing place and a fantastic treat.

We had salad, mountain paella, beef, wine, dessert,coffee and penty of great conversation. I might add that at the beginning of the day, we, or should I say they, decided to speak only spanish and catalan. I survived and even managed to get into the conversations.

Pau and Mireia even taught me how to drink wine from a porron, a catalan wine dispenser. It takes a bit of time to master and after pouring lots of wine on my face and shirt, I finally managed it.

Here’s some clearer photos of the porron.

The room was very humid with all the cooking going on and the outside looked so uninviting. Fog was just rolling across the ground and being inside was so comforting.

The cooking was done like it has been for centuries, by fire. The kitchen had few modern conveniences since the place was so isolated.

When we left, it seemed like the sun was finally going to win the war, at least in the valley we were heading down into. The dark clouds were still blowing across so it could go any way.

The return trip took far less time than it took to get up there and when we finally made it back to the car, the sun poked out and gave us a grand farewell.

Shortly after that photo, the clouds waged a massive assault and won the day. Less than 2 hours later, the rain started.

Pau and Mireia had given memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. A fantastic day with fantastic friends.

February 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm 5 comments

Thursday’s Walk Feb 15,2007

I post all my photos in a place called Flickr. It’s more than just a storage place for photographs, it’s also a virtual community of photographers, artists and all types of creative individuals. One of the things I enjoy about Flickr is the ability to join a group. These are special interest communities. One may be only for critiquing, one for Black and White photography, etc.

There is one that stands a little above the others with the addition of it’s own web site that interacts with Flickr. It’s called UTATA. The admins are great for getting projects going and a regular project is the Thursday Walk. This week was Utata Thursday Walk 44. All you have to do is get out there on Thursday and take some pictures. This Thursday I did and this is what I saw and where I went. Those who visited will remember these places.

When I stepped out of our apartment I was met with clear blue skies, a great day.

I started my walk towards the Med and on the way I saw two police on horseback. We don’t see too much of that here in Barcelona so I was pretty cool.

At the next corner there were a bunch of police directing traffic. Four officers were on the sidewalk watching three others in the street. I suspect they were from the police academy and were training. I tried to get their photo but one waved me off so I figured I shouldn’t push it.

I kept walking towards the Arc de Triomf at the end of Psg Sant Joan with the sun in my eyes, it was really bright.

Once on the other side of the arc I noticed the bicycle path, this city has a very large network of cycle paths all over the city and on weekends the people are out in force on their bikes.

Looking to the right I noticed I could see the spire of Santa Maria del Mar with the sun shining between the buildings, gorgeous light.

I walked down the centre of this massive walkway and noticed a large group of elderly men playing a game of ……… Don’t know what it’s called but they were into a serious discussion (maybe cursing the dam paparazzi which was me)

I walked all the way down to the entrance of Parc Ciutadella and ventured in towards the mechanical sculpture. I turned and saw the Musee de Zoologia.

That big gear to the right is part of a massive sculpture. There were ducks in the water and they weren’t afraid of people because I got really close to one.

From there I walked throught some groves of palms and other trees. They were watering the sun shinning through the branches made for a very dramatic scene.

I stayed until they turned off the water, the air was cool and you could feel the oxygen that was in the dense brush, really fresh. I went over to the big fountain and just sat on a bench observing people with their dogs or kids or just reading books.

The sound of the water, the sunlight shining throught the trees and the cool air in the shade made this place a very peaceful and relaxing place.

I was supposed to meet Alex at 1:30 and go for lunch. It was around 12:30 and she called to see where I was. I told her and 10 minutes later she joined me. We went to lunch at a place on the corner of Psg Pujades and Lluis Companys, of course we ate out on the terrace and it was Paella day.
It was a wonderful day, it was a Thursday Walk

February 16, 2007 at 4:20 pm 3 comments

Two Weeks

Well, it’s been a very busy two weeks. Last week we went out for beers with Keiko, Sarah, Francesca and Matt. Keiko is going back to Japan after being away for over 8 years.

She left on Feb 9 and we all had to say our goodbyes. She’ll be living with her mom just outside of Osaka. We’re all going to miss her. Francesca is heading out to Bilbao and then back to Florence until about mid March so it was kind of an adios for her too.

Sarah is friends of all of us. She was our profesora in Spanish school and we all keep in touch.

And here are the three togather. I call them “las tres chica teeras”. They are great people and I’ll miss Keiko.

After we got home from that little soiree, I received an email from a friend in Toronto. William is teaching classical guitar at York and he had a student, Jordan, who was coming to Barcelona for spring break and he wanted to buy a guitar. I bought mine here and I thought the luthier where I bought was a special place. I sent an email to Jordan and agreed to meet him when he arrived on Feb 10. We actually met up on Feb 11 in Bari Gotic. He was here with his dad, Ron for a few days of relaxation. We hit it off like old friends and ended up showing them the sites for their entire stay. We brought Jordan to the guitar store on Monday and he tried out quite a few instruments.

He found one he really liked, an Alhambra and that was that. We spent the next few days touring and dining and chatting.

For their last night here, we took them to our favaorite restaurant in Barcelona, Wushu’s. During our brief time together Ron and I discovered a link we had from way back. When I was around three or four we lived in Ottawa, just off Island Park Drive. Our backyard bordered with another house that was owned by a fellow named Joe Feller. Well, it turns out that Ron know’s Joe Feller’s son and had actually been inside that house. We had been chatting about links in life and that started me thinking about some other events that happened and put me into a particular space. One that came to mind immediately was the writing of the previous post, Tribute to Our Frineds (Ron and Jordan are part of that group now).

Listen to this, it’s so strange. The reason that post is there is because a female French journalist, dropped a copy of “The Little Prince” in the Sahara desert, during the Paris / Dahkar rally. I won’t go into the sequence of events that led up to the post but I will relate the last piece. We went to see Moussa (see Alex’s blog for more info) and his words really brought the value of things to the forefront. He was the catalyst that caused me to write something I only would think about. I’m sure there are many more I could find out about. Anyhow, that one was cool.

Jordan and Ron have left now but we, both Alex and I, feel our lives are richer for having met them. I must thank William.

February 14, 2007 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

Tribute to Our Friends

Monday evening, (see Alex’s blog here) Alex and I went to a photo exhibit in a bookstore, Libraria Baïbars, up on calle Muntaner. The author was Moussa ag Assarid, from a nomadic Berber tribe called the Touareg. To read all about Moussa, go to Alex’s site here. You must read about this amazing individual but this post is not about Moussa per se.

Anyhow, we arrived at the bookstore and listened to Moussa tell us “une petite histoire” about how he came to be here in Barcelona. While he was speaking I had a very strong feeling of familiarity. Not a feeling of “deja vu”, but a feeling of knowing. I couldn’t communicate the feeling to Alex because I myself did not understand it. We talked about it and I just couldn’t say why because I really didn’t know.

Well, Alex is very good in getting me to understand what’s going on and after a few days of discussions I think I now know why I had this feeling. Moussa is an individual whose personality is simalar to almost all of our friends here in Barcelona. This connection also made me understand another feeling I frequently get when we are with a group of our friends.

All my life, I have been conventional, ok, almost conventional. You know, the mainstream ideology. Since we arrived here, not one person we have come to call a friend is from the same background as me. They are all fiercely independent, adventuresome, free spirited individuals who do what their hearts drive them to do, doing what they enjoy doing, being in places they want to be part of. They are all extremely creative as scientists, chefs, artists, cinematographers, fashion designers, musicians, educators. Their educations range from high school to Phd’s and they are all share the same drive and passion as Moussa. I suppose while listening to him speak I had a subconscious link to those personalities but couldn’t consciously figure it out.

It explains also why I sometimes feel like a fraud when I am with my friends. I feel like I am only there because of circumstance, not through any planning on my part.

I realized too, that the same applies to our friends in Toronto. They have those same adventuresome characteristics

and Montreal …..

Anyhow, this is a tribute to you all (and you all know who you are). I’m very proud to be your friend.

February 7, 2007 at 9:47 pm 7 comments

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