Barcelona – Our Last Day

Our last day in Barcelona. We’re pretty wiped out. We managed to master the mass transit, but we still logged some miles on our aging tootsies. Cynthia and I both have blisters on our feet. Cynthia has managed to walk through the soles of her primary pair of shoes. Our favorite thing to say is “My dogs are woofin” referring to our feet.

Me personally, I’m looking forward to not hefting a camera bag everywhere I go and worrying about some crafty pickpocket or confidence man scheming to separate me from my valuables.

Not that I’m complaining. This has been an awesome trip and we have enjoyed almost every moment of it.

For our last day we decided to visit Casa Milà. I figured we could get there early and hopefully beat the crowds, which we did.

Inside Casa Milà

I really love the Gaudi architecture. So interesting, especially considering the time-frame he was working in. From the top of Casa Milà you can get a pretty amazing view of another of Gaudi’s works, one that is still in the process of being built, La Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia From Casa Mila

And the roof of Casa Milà is just plain cool.

Sentries Atop Casa Milà

Sentries Atop Casa Milà

After we finished up with Casa Milà we made our way back up the side of Montjuïc via the funicular to go to the Miro Museum. Sadly, no photography allowed inside the museum. And I had to check my camera bag by locking it in a locker. That was a little stressful, but it seemed safe enough. I just didn’t want to lose the camera on the last day.

From there it was back to the hotel room to rest up and then off the Bari Gotic area to see if we could find a nice restaurant for our last meal of the trip.

Spanish wine with lunch in Spain. Does it get any better than this?

We happened upon an Italian restaurant called Gravin and it was fantastic! We had a vry nice meal, a bottle of Rioja and a cafe and desert. It was a fine finish to an excellent trip.

Now it was back to the hotel to pack and get some sleep before getting up at 3:30 to check out and catch our 6:00 am flight back to America. This trip, like all of our previous vacations, is over in a flash. We’ll be happy to be home, but will miss the adventure.

Barcelona – Tibidabo And Park Guell

Tibidabo

It’s a little on the cold side, but the sun was out when we woke up with some clouds here and there. We decided to make our way to Tibidabo, the tallest point overlooking the city of Barcelona. The trip involved catching a short train ride to the outskirts of town, then catching the Tram Blau up the hill a ways to the funicular and then on up to the park.

We caught the train OK but found that the Tram Blau only ran on Fridays and Saturdays so we were left taking a bus up to get to the funicular. No problem, it only took us a bit to sort it out.

Funnicular To Tibidabo

When we got to Tibidabo the clouds started gathering and there was a brief rain shower. We took shelter in Temple del Sagrat Cor and grabbed some photos.

Temple del Sagrat Cor

Cross Inside Temple del Sagrat Cor

Mary Inside Temple del Sagrat Cor

Once the rains passed we walked around and took in the view, which is pretty amazing.

Jesus Atop Temple del Sagrat Cor

You can see all of Barcelona and on to the port and the ocean beyond.

Once we had our fill, we headed back down the mountain the way we came and all was going swimmingly until we got on the subway train to go back to the hotel. Without warning the train just stopped dead in the middle of a dark tunnel. All the power was just gone. Now keep in mind that Cynthia HATES being underground. She deals with it, but she simply doesn’t like it. To have the train just stop dead in a tunnel deep underground is one of her worst nightmares.

Fortunately, the power outage only lasted about 30 second or so and we were back on our way. I think Cynthia would have cracked if it had lasted too long.

Once we got back to the hotel and regrouped we decided to head out to Park Guell, a park designed by Antoni Guadi.

One of the things Cynthia really likes about Barcelona is the wild Quaker Parrot population. There are everywhere, but really show up in large numbers at Park Guell. And since Cynthia has a tradition of dropping one of the feathers she has collected from her dear departed Mr. Zippers she thought Park Guell would be a good place to do it.

Releasing The Zippy Feather

Getting to the park was not so easy. The subway drops you off nearby and you have to hike up a very steep, San Francisco like street to get to some escalators which then take you to another climb up the back of the park. All in all it was pretty exhausting on our already travel weary feet.

Park Guell

After we dropped the feather we walked around the park a bit before heading back down the hill and to the hotel.

Park Guell

At this point we’ve been on the vacation awhile and we had home the day after tomorrow. That’s one full day left. We’re pretty tired so we were in for the evening. Tomorrow we’ll give Barcelona a last “hurrah” and pack up to come home.

Barcelona – Montserrat

Happy And Amazed!

For our second day back in Barcelona we decided to head off to Santa Maria de Montserrat which is only about an hour outside the city by train.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located in the Montserrat mountain.

To get there we took the subway to the Espanya rail station and then purchased tickets for the train and the cable car that take you up to the monastery itself.

Cable Car

When the train drops you off at the Arie cable car station you walk up a some steps and are greeted by the site of the cable cars heading up and down the mountain that the monastery wayyyy up on the cliff face, It is just a little intimidating.

Cable Cars

Cable Car

It’s only a 5 minute ride and for me it was no big deal. Others (like Cynthia) found it to be somewhat nerve wracking.

The views riding were amazing and the view from the top was just spectacular.

View

We wandered around the complex and we wanted to continue on up to St. Jerome but the funicular train as closed for repairs and we didn’t have the energy to make the hike up the side of the mountain.

We did get to see and hear the Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir in the basilica

Quoir

We also climbed up to touch la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”) one of the black Madonnas of Europe

La Moreneta.

This also gave us a nice view of the basilica

Basilica

We spent the better part of the day just walking around taking pictures

Cross

Votives

m1

Eventually we wound up at restaurant in the Hotel Abat Cisneros. This place was incredible! The restaurant looks like one that you would need a coat and tie to eat in. But they gladly seated the bedraggled tourists and treated us to one of the best meals I have had in my life.

After we had eaten our meal we made our way back to the hotel with a quick stop at the El Corte Ingles for some supplies (water, chips, etc.) and called it a day. We watched some TV and I even downloaded some English programs to watch on the laptop just to give us a chance to wind down and get away from the news of Libya an Japan that has been a constant backdrop to this magnificent vacation.

We have two more full days here before coming home. We’re hopeful for more good weather. But for now, sleep.

Valencia – The City Of Arts And Sciences

The City Of Arts And Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) is an amazing architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and it is THE thing to see if you ever get to Valencia Spain.

We took a trek out to the complex on our visit two years ago and I got some pretty good photos so I was keen to give it another whirl with my new gear and my (hopefully) improved photographic skills.

This time I decided to get there before sunset and shoot during what is known as the “golden hour of photography” which is that time between when the sun goes down and it gets fully dark. I think the results are pretty good overall.

This first shot is straight out of the camera with no post processing

City Of Arts And Sciences - No Gimmicks

The reset of these were done using HDR processing where I combined three separate exposures and combined them using tone-mapping software.

A-DSC00288_9_7_tonemapped

A-DSC00318_9_7_tonemapped

A-DSC00357_8_6_tonemapped

A-DSC00394_5_3_tonemapped

A-DSC09963_4_2_tonemapped

A-DSC09972_3_1_tonemapped

A-DSC00023_4_5_tonemapped

A-DSC00105_6_4_tonemapped

A-DSC00111_2_0_tonemapped

A-DSC00133_1_2_tonemapped

Valencia – Day 4

Las Fallas Fireworks @ 1 AM

We stayed up late last night to watch the fireworks at 1:00 am. Suffice to say, we were pretty tired by the time we hit the sack.

During Las Fallas there is a tradition called La Despertà where each morning starting at 8:00 am marching bands go down the streets waking everyone up. These bands are followed by men detonating large fireworks that make a lot of noise.

For the most part, we’ve not encountered this experience on our street. Our hotel is a bit out of the way so they don’t tend to make it to where we are. Yes, we do hear the fireworks late into the night and then starting up in the morning. It’s almost midnight as I write this and it sounds like a war zone out there.

But this morning La Despertà found our quiet little corner of the city and let loose with a barrage of fireworks that seemed to go on for about 15 minutes. We didn’t hear any bands playing, but we may have slept through that part. But the explosions could not be ignored. We woke up while it was going on, but we were so tired we fell back to sleep as soon as it was over.

We ended up sleeping in till about 10:30 am. This meant we missed breakfast at the hotel so we set off to a local restaurant.

After breakfast we just wanted to walk around and take in the sites. The first thing we wanted to look at was the progress of the Virgin being built from the carnations brought by the Fallera during the Ofrenda.

The Virgin

Flower Offering

She’s coming along quite nice.

Today was day 2 of the Ofrenda so there would be more processions blocking and clogging the streets. You can’t turn a corner without running into them.

Random Fallera Procession

Cynthia wanted to go to the Torres De Quart to honor the tradition we have of releasing a feather from her dear depated bird, Mr. Zippers. A tradition we started several trips ago. I was not in any condition to climb the structure, so Cynthia climbed up on her own and let the feather go.

Torres De Quart

We had a good time continuing to explore the city and then we went back (yet again) to our favorite little lunch spot La Pappardelli. We again had some local Valencian wine recommended by our waitress.

Today's lunch wine

Since we ate here regularly on our last trip and we’ve been regulars again on this trip the staff treat us very well. One of the waitresses even said they think of us as family. That was very kind. They always give me a complimentary grappa at the end of the meal which I find to be very cool and a nice finish to the meal.

Grappa!

After lunch we did some more exploring.

Art Covered In Old Shoes

After which we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before my big project.

I wanted to go back to the City Of Arts And Sciences to take some photos. But I was very particular in wanting to go just before sunset to take advantage of the “golden hour” which is that time just after the sun goes down and before it actually gets dark.

We’ve just returned from that excursion and I think I got some VERY nice pics which I will be posting before too long.

Tomorrow is La Crema and The Nic De Foc (Night Of Fire) so it’s going to be a long and exciting day!

Valencia – Day 3

The sun came out today in all its glory. Yay! We got up and had breakfast and then made our way to Gullivar Park and then on to The City Of Arts And Sciences, the fantastic complex of buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava.

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

We spent a good deal of time here, just walking in the abundant sunshine and taking photos.

When we were done we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for lunch. On our way we encountered some of the thousands of people preparing for the Ofrenda, an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary in the square next to the cathedral.

Here you can see the giant Virgin and the lattice work where the flowers will build her dress.

The Virgin

It’s hard to convey in pictures, but there are thousands of women in traditional garb who will be marching into the square for the next two days. All of them carrying flowers to complete the dress of the Virgin Mary.

Ofrenda 1

Ofrenda 2

Ofrenda 3

Ofrenda 4

Ofrenda 5

Ofrenda 7

Ofrenda 8

We grabbed some lunch and then took a break back at the hotel room before venturing out again. The festival is in full swing and the Ofrenda has streets blocked all over town as the Falleras and their escorts arrive from all corners to make their offerings.

Falleras

Flower Offering

The Virgin

Lights Of Ruzafa

In Valencia’s Ruzafa district is where you will find the legendary light displays that are set up in celebration of Las Fallas. We missed these on our previous visit to this festival so we made it a point to seek them out this time.

As we wandered the area we encountered some of the largest, most ornate fallas we’d ever seen

Falla

Falla

But what REALLY sets this area apart is the incredibly ornate light diplays

Ruzafa District Light Display

Falla in Ruzafa District

Ruzafa District Light Display

Ruzafa District Light Display

Obviously, these things attract a large crowd so it does get fairly jammed up pretty much as soon as the sun goes down. Still, it was worth a bit of jostling just to see them.

After that we were pretty tuckered out. We’re hitting the sack a bit early in anticipation of sunshine tomorrow.

Valencia – Day 2

After such a great day yesterday we were a bit disappointed to wake up to rain in Valencia. Not a lot of it, but enough to dampen our spirits somewhat. We grabbed some breakfast here at the hotel and went back to the room. We were still tired from the night before and with the rain we decided to take a nap. That ended up being a great idea because we slept soundly for a few more hours and when we woke up the rain had stopped.

We set out exploring and as it approached 2pm we decided to attend the daily mascleta which is a daytime fireworks display designed for percussive effect rather than visual. Thousands of festival goers jam in to the central square to be as close to the event as possible. When it goes off it is so loud you can’t hear yourself even if you shout. The display goes for a full 5 minutes.

I recorded this on my cell phone. It does not do the event justice, but it gives you an idea

After the mascleta we went back to the room to re-organize and then went to have a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Pappardella.

After a nice meal and a bottle of wine we took to the streets where we encountered a procession of Falleras apparently leaving some event and going back to their respective neighborhoods. This provide Cynthia and I with a few hours of photographic fun

Cynthia Getting The Shot

Fallera Procession - 1

Fallera Procession - 2

Fallera Procession - 3

Fallera Procession - 4

Fallera Procession - 5

Fallera Procession - 6

Fallera Procession - 7

Fallera Procession - 11

Fallera Procession - 12

Fallera Procession - 14

Fallera Procession - 15

Fallera Procession - 17

Fallera Procession - 19

Fallera Procession - 21

After this we went back to the hotel room once more to get ready for the evening where we planned to go find the legendary light displays of the Ruzafa district.

Valencia – Day 1

The last day in Barcelona yesterday was good. but the weather was the pits. We saw some sights and enjoyed some good food, but the photo ops were pretty much non-existent. Despite our overall good attitude, we were a little bummed.

Today was the 3 1/2 hour train ride to the city of Valencia for the 2011 Las Fallas festival. We were here two years ago and simply fell in love.

As we left Barcelona the rain was falling in earnest and the weather reports called for rain in Valencia for at least a few days. But as we got close to Valencia the skies began to clear and by the time we got tot he hotel it was downright sunny. Huzzah!

Street

Valencia, even without the festival, is a fantastic and picturesque city. Add to that the fallas and it becomes magical.

Cathedral

Falla

Falla

Sadly, due to all the rain of the last week, many of the fallas have been damaged. The artists are working fast and furious to repair them and seem to be doing a good job. Today is the day they are being officially setup so the ones we are seeing are in various states of completion and repair.

We came back to the hotel room after enjoying a nice lunch at Pappardella, an Italian restaurant we found during our last visit.

We spent almost two hours over a leisurely lunch and a bottle of local Rioja

Wine break. Enjoying a local Valencia blended rioja

Since leaving Barcelona this morning Cynthia has been a little sick. Nothing major, but an upset stomach and some fatigue have taken her a bit off her game. The lunch really helped, but we knew we’d both benefit from a siesta so we went back to the room and sacked out for a few hours. When we got up we headed back out. The evening weather here is pretty perfect. And the city and the fallas are very cool at night.

Falla

Falla

Falla Infantile Procession

Random Band

Lights

Tower

Now were are back in the room and considering our options. There is a huge fireworks display at midnight. If we have the energy we may head out to see that. If not, there’s another one tomorrow night. And the night after that. And the night after that.

It’s good to have options!

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 2

After collecting ourselves back at the hotel room we headed out and braved the metro to go see La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2026.

The structure is amazing to see in person. I was particularly happy to have my very wide angle Sony 16-35mm lens with me to capture a few images. These are both done using HDR techniques that involve taking 3 separate photos, each with a different exposure setting, and blending the images together to create one high dynamic range image that brings our the detail and evens out the overall exposure.

Sagrada Familia - HDR

La Sagrada Familia - HDR

And later that evening for a night shot

Sagrada Familia - Night Shot 2

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 1

The sun came out today. After a full day of rain yesterday we were very happy to see it. We got up and headed out for some breakfast and then walked down La Rambla to the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia aka the Barcelona Cathedral to watch the Sardana dances.

Human Statues

La Rambla was bustling early. The crowds were building fast and the human statues were gearing up for a busk-o-rama day.

And the beggars were also taking advantage of the sunshine.

Beggar

Walking through the Barri Gotic on the way to the cathedral we marvelled at the ornamentation on the buildings in the neighborhood

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

During our wandering we stumbled upon the secluded Gothic cloister which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) where 13 white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred.

Goose

After communing with the geese for a bit we found our way to the front of the cathedral for the main event. Each Sunday the citizens of Barcelona gather in front of the cathedral for for the Sardana Dances. Some to dance, other just to watch and listen to the cobla.

sardana dances - 4

sardana dances - 3

sardana dances - 2

sardana dances - 1

After this it was back to the hotel to recombobulate and have a snack. The walk back was met by extremely large throngs of people jamming La Rambla

Crowds On La Rambla

Next up, La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona – Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Since it is raining and we have also mastered the metro, we decided to spend the day at the museum looking at art. Not a bad choice at all. Unfortunately, I find photographs from inside a museum to be kind of boring. I love seeing the art and browsing the gallery and I do take photos, but the results always seem kinda bleh. Here are a few that I like from the day. You’ll note that two of them are not actually pictures of the art, but are of the historic building housing the art. And one is of the intrepid William The Sheep.

William Loves Art

useu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

From The Floor

From The Floor

Saint Sebastian