Friday, 4 July 2008

Barcelona and Zaragoza

¡Hola!
I'm back from Spain! I've had a great week, lot's of sun, Gaudi, jamón y queso sandwiches, cerveza, espresso and walking! So here's a quick (!) rundown of my holiday and some photo's.

My dad and I arrived in Barcelona at lunchtime and after dumping our stuff at the hotel and changing into our summer clothes we headed out for the first of many coffees. Found a nice little cafe round the corner from our hotel which also had a good cocktail menu and selection of tapas. Then we set off in the direction of Park Guell, I've been a big fan of Gaudi for ages so I was really looking forward to seeing his architecture and designs. It was a fairly long walk from our hotel but that's how I prefer to see a city, it's the best way to get a feel for it and you always see unexpected things. Barcelona is one of these city's were all the buildings have something interesting about them, also the streets are wide and there are lot's of trees about, really nice to walk about in.

Found this guy playing an instrument called a Hang at an entrance to the park......want one!

video

The park is beautiful, full of nooks and crannies that we didn't have time to explore properly, some day I will definitely be back though and spend a day adventuring.

Some windows on buildings by Gaudi at the park.




Mosaic tiles on Gaudi's famous bench.



On our first evening we stumbled across the St John's Eve celebrations. We heard loads of fireworks going off and followed this huge crowd of people and ended up on the beach which was jam packed with all sorts of people! Everyone had fireworks and bangers which were going off all over the place, you really had to watch your feet! There were samba bands, fire jugglers and people in costumes with big sticks with sort of catherine wheel style fireworks going off on the end running about. It was totally unexpected and the atmosphere was electric, everyone was having so much fun and we saw no trouble, it was the kind of celebrations that just couldn't happen in the UK without some drunken yobs ruining it all.

On our second day we headed to Zaragoza where Expo 2008 is being held. Expo is also known as the World Fair, the first being held in Crystal Palace in 1851.

I didn't really know what to expect from Zaragoza but it's actually a really beautiful city, full of nice churches, shops and a nice leisure complex beside the river with outdoor pools and sports pitches. Not many people spoke English but thanks to my friend Katie I had a Spanish phrase book with me and quickly figured out how to ask for a beer! In the square there is a gorgeous church with towers and colours tiles on the roofs called Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Basilic of the Pilar), it's a magnificent building.



Fountains in Pilar Square and nice buildings.







The Expo was amazing! Full of clever and imaginative design, ideas and displays. I would recommend to anyone if they ever get the chance to visit one. The theme was water and sustainable development and there are over 100 countries participating (rather disappointingly no UK). Each country had it's own section of the pavilions to exhibit what they wanted which ranged from state of the art technology showing films and animations to creative interior spaces featuring water features and objects to dance and gastronomy. There were also exhibition spaces in buildings and structures that tied together the overall theme, plenty of decently priced eating places, stages for concerts (Bob Dylan is playing there in July) and three bridges built for the event.



One of the bridges.



Expo at night. The place was beautifully lit and there was entertainment and food well into the night.



The main structure of the event, an internatianally renowned bridge complete with exhibition space and space age sliding doors.



After spending three nights in Zaragoza we headed back to Barcelona. By the way Spanish trains are nothing like here in the UK. They are so clean, efficent, spacious and every seat comes with a pair of earphones as they show films although they are more expensive and they have a pretty strange system for buying return tickets!

Over the next three days we visited our rooftop pool, Casa Milà, the fort on Montjuic by cable car, the beach, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Palau Guell, Le Ramble and saw the Font Magica from Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, and Spain winning the European Cup.

The interior of an apartment in Casa Milà in it's original 1920's style. Ths building was designed by Gaudi on the request of Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon so they could live in the bottom apartment and rent out the rest of the building.




Chimneys on the roof.



The two courtyards let natural light into every room.



Casa Batllo, another Gaudi classic.



There were a lot of scooters in Barcelona, looked like so much fun!



Looking up at the Sagrada Familia, that's Jesus sitting up there on the bridge between the towers.



The interior of the main section of the church. Gaudi's idea was that it would look like a forest with tree like pillars supporting a roof of leaves and holes of light. As you can see the builders are still hard at work! They estimate it should take another 25-30 years to finish, I can't wait to see it again and I really hope I get to see it finished, it's easily my favourite building in the world!



The Nativity façade which features story's from the bible and a wee baby Jesus above the door with Mary and Joseph. The walls are also covered with words, animals and plants, half from the land and half from the sea. The pillars on either side of the door are supported by turtles, one a sea turtle and one a tortoise. Everything means something and is there for a reason, the whole building tells a story and the really exciting bit is there's still more to come. Eight of the twelve bell towers are already built and are over 100 meters high and there will be two more huge towers, the 170 meter high central dome in honour of Jesus Christ and the tower of the Virgin Mary standing at 125 meters plus others to make eighteen in total. A whole block of flats will have to be destroyed to create a park outside the main entrance (the Façade of Glory, this has still to be completed) which will be reached by a bridge over the road and provide a point from which to view the whole building.



Detail on doors.



It’s such an interesting building I could go on about it for hours but already this blog is way to long! So, amazing holiday, thanks Daddy! And now I’d better get down to some serious work and drumming practice, I’m off again to Nice in eight days, I don’t think I’ve ever had holidays so close together! Speaking about drumming practice, my pipe band MacKenzie Caledonian won the British Championhips (grade 3A) while I was away! Whooo hooo! It’s the European Champs after my trip to Nice so hopefully we can do the same again!


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