Sunday, May 25, 2008

Maspalomas, Gran Canaria


I spent three days at the Riu Palace Hotel at the edge of the Maspalomas sand dunes on the island of Gran Canaria. Thus ended my Spanish holiday and it was back to London.


Above, views from my hotel room.

Last day in Barcelona


It appears that London is not alone in having a 'gherkin' tower.

This turn of the century building at the Barcelona wharf reminded me of the Main Street train station at Disneyland.

A portion of Barcelona's old city wall.

Poble Espanyol in Montjuic Park, which sits at the top of a hill...

...and has great views of the city. The next day I flew on to Gran Canaria for a little sun.

Gaudi's Casa Batllo, Barcelona


When paying a visit to Barcelona, don't miss this splendid Art Nouveau extravaganza, Casa Batllo.

A ceiling light fixture in the parlor.

An obscure glass window.

Looking down the main staircase.

Another downshot from the staircase to the main floor.

A light shaft in the center of the structure brings light into every floor. This was shot through one of the rippled obscure glass railings.

The top floor has these succession of archways, which instantly reminded me of the corridor to the wizard's chamber in The Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


When I decided to go to Spain, there was never any question that I would go to see Gaudi's masterpiece, the incredible Sagrada Familia (temple of the Holy Family), one of the most unique buildings in the world. Construction began in 1882 and if all goes well, it will be finished in about twenty or so years.

The main entrance features sculpture by Josep Subirachs.




Not terribly long ago, there was no roof over the nave, but at this point only one end is still uncovered.

It was a rainy day but at one point the sun came out, allowing me to take this shot.

The stained glass windows cast colored light against the walls and pillars.

The organic pillars recall flowers and trees.

How often do you get to see a famous, major cathedral under construction?

Another shot of the ceiling.

Elevators take one to the top of the cathedral, then one can cross and walk down these steps.

The towers, representing the apostles, are topped by these amazing clusters of sheaves of wheat and clusters of various colors of grapes, representing the Eucharist. Yet to be constructed is the tower representing Jesus, taller than the others and in the center of the structure.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Barcelona


I took a bullet train to Barcelona so I could see more of the countryside. Why doesn't the United States have trains like this? It made just two stops and took three hours, hitting speeds of 300 kph. There was even a movie! The ride was velvety smooth and best of all, no hours of waiting at an airport.

Not too far from my hotel I caught sight of one of the famous Gaudi buildings, the Casa Mila. It was an overcast day so the light wasn't the best.

Nearby the Casa Mila is the Casa Terrades.

It's said that Barcelona has more Art Nouveau buildings than any other city.


I was on my way to the totally unique Gaudi cathedral Sagrada Familia, which I'll save for the next post.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Via Gran, Madrid


The Via Gran is Madrid's version of Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue, with high end shopping, restaurants, hotels and a few big movie palaces.


The Cine Capitol is probably Madrid's finest cinema. I wondered if the auditorium had been split -- a little research revealed it has not. Two additional theatres were put in auxiliary spaces within the enormous building so that the large auditorium (1,367 seats) remains intact. Pictures I've found of it on line (at cinematreasures.com) reveal it to be a mini Radio City with flamboyant Art Deco flourishes.




The Via Gran leads to Madrid's rather opulent main post office.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Toledo


On my second day in Madrid, I walked to Spain's biggest train station, the Atocha, with its surprising central jungle-like plaza, for a day trip to nearby Toledo. I was immediately impressed that Spain has the latest in high speed rail travel. I was also struck by how similar the Spanish landscape resembled Southern California. When the Spanish settlers reached what they would eventually call Los Angeles, it must have felt like they were home. The hills are rocky, dusty and dry, though of course the buildings, for the most part, are centuries older.

Toledo, an ancient walled town, covers the the top of a hill. Walking up the hill from the train station, one crosses a bridge over a small river with dramatic vistas like this.

If you visit Toledo,be prepared to be charmed by its narrow streets and for plenty of climbing. The steep streets twist and wind and without a map, you'll find yourself making strange elliptical routes. El Greco's masterpiece, The Burial of Count Orgaz, is housed in a small church.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Madrid: Prado, Parqe del Retro


At the end of March and beginning of April, I took a holiday to Spain. First stop was Madrid, which continually surprised me. The first surprise was the beautiful new airport -- the second was how easy it was to get to the center via subway (and only 2 Euros!) Clean, new and fast, it quite a change from the Tube. My hotel (by careful consideration) was only a five minute walk from the Prado. Across the street from the Prado was a store with sculptures looking down at the street.

The Prado, of course, is one of the greatest museums in the world. In addition to more Goyas, El Grecos and Valesquezes than one can imagine, there's The Garden of Earthly Delights (Bosch), probably the most popular attraction, and for good reason. Seeing pictures of it doesn't quite prepare one for seeing it in person -- few paintings are this entertaining. I had to wait about twenty minutes to get into the crush to view it but then spent twenty minutes myself. What I didn't know was that the triptych folds and there are also paintings on the backside left and right panels in shades of gray. Also wonderful is a large room of Goya's dark and disturbing period. It made me think of Rod Serling's Night Gallery with tortured souls and ghouls and giants.

After the Prado, I strolled through the beautiful Parque del Retro nearby. Among its features are formal gardens, long promenades under the trees and this neo-classical collonade facing a boating lake.

One of the sculptures at the boating lake. This was my first day -- more to follow.