Jul 13, 2018

Our last 24 hours in Europe

After our visit to Sagrada Familia we went back to the same place ( we went there after the walking tour ) for more of that great quiche.  Then we headed back to our apartment.  We were leaving in the morning and we needed to get ready.  This was the first sunny and warm day that we had here in Barcelona and it was a shame to spend it inside.

I took this photo to show you how narrow the apartment was.  It had everything we needed but it was long and narrow.

This was where Colin hung out to relax.  Here he is editing photos for me.  Those white cups along the floor were to remind me that there was a slight lip to step up into the kitchen.  Mi amore 🙂

I washed my hair and we packed. We enjoyed some wine, read a few blog posts and prepared some photos for the next post.  It has been a struggle having just the one laptop when we travel.  We often both want to be on it at the same time.  We have two desktop computers, one of which we take in the RV and one laptop that we also travel with.  I don’t think that we need to purchase a second one just for travel.  However I do see Colin’s point, why should I hog the computer just because of the blog 😳   Sorry it has taken so long to catch up to real time with our trip posts.  I have no idea what else I can do but finish my posts once we get home.

I just wanted to mention that in Barcelona more so than any other city we have been in on this trip I was offered a seat on the Metro, each and every time, immediately, be it a male or a young female.  Another observation that has nothing to do with this post was that we saw many many dachshunds in Italy, some in Nice but none at all in Barcelona.  We always started a conversation in Barcelona in Spanish and for the most part we were well received.  Many were pleasantly surprised at two Canadians speaking Spanish.   The French are snobs and most were not open to speaking French with me when we were in Nice.  When they did, they all asked if we were from Quebec 🙄

Bags packed, hair washed, photos edited and a few glasses of vino consumed, we were ready for dinner.  Colin had spied a small Mexican restaurant just a block and a bit away.  I really did not want to walk any more than I needed to at this point.  Nice and bright.

They had a huge and very thorough menu.  We noticed that many locals stopped here to either eat in or do a take out order and we even saw a few Uber pick ups.

I had a vegetarian burrito with the works and it was excellent.

Colin’s vegetarian enchiladas came a few minutes later than my meal and he said they were delicious.  I just realized that I was never offered a bite.  We also shared a bottle of Mexican wine as it was much cheaper to buy the bottle than order by the glass.  It was actually very good.  This final dinner in Europe turned out to be one of our favorites.  Our host has added it to her recommended places to eat on her list for her guests.  Can you believe it, a Mexican dinner in Barcelona?  Yes we spoke Spanish with the staff who were all from Mexican.  Great final evening.

Saturday, June 9th, we were up early as we had to walk about five blocks to catch the airport bus. We certainly were perfectly situated to all that we needed here.  Adios Barcelona, we sure hope to be able to return one day and adios to our very special apartment.

We flew back to Canada on TAP Air Portugal in business class.   This is the first leg, from Barcelona to Lisbon.  I wore a scarf around my neck to protect my throat and chest.

After a lovely lunch, we flew into Lisbon.

The most uncomfortable business class lounge ever.  I have my blow up neck pillow at the small of my back and with my feet on the chair I was reasonably comfortable.  Colin sat on the same green chair at a small table just to the right of the photo.  The food was good here and the wine passable.   As you can see, I have my notes spread around me on both sides.  I was writing a post or two.  It might have been the post about Santa Croce in Florence with the tombs of Galileo, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.

Airports in Europe are old and small which means that buses are used to take passengers out to the larger planes that are parked far out at the edges of the airport.  However that means that one must climb up to the plane.  After all Presidents, Royalty and the rich and famous must also ascend to their aircraft.

Adios Portugal, we will be sure to come back and visit.  We are flying to Toronto.

Tap Air is nowhere near Turkish Airlines, but we did have a lovely flight with seats that stretched flat out and all the amenities including a lovely duvet.  The food was very good as you can see by this menu.  The first course was Lobster Canape with Sunflower Seeds ( I cut off the top of the menu ).  Each course was delicious and the service excellent.  The wine was top notch, from Portugal.  The staff were a tad snobbish and would not reply to our Spanish and insisted that we learn Portuguese.  By the way we said no to the pre landing meal, water only was all we needed.

I can personally attest to the best porto ever, well at least that I have ever had.  I might have indulged in three wee ( and yes they only serve in small glasses ) glasses 🙂  Purely for medicinal purposes as it did calm my cough for a bit.

Sunset all the way to Toronto.  We arrived about 10PM and spent the night at an airport hotel.  Rather then head out first thing on June 10th we had decided on a noonish flight so that we could sleep in a bit and help the jet lag.  Of course we got back to the airport with enough time to enjoy the Maple Leaf Lounge before our lovely flight to Calgary.

After 90 minutes or so in the business class lounge in Calgary we were demoted to regular economy class back home to Kelowna.   As I did in Lisbon I walked out to the plane which was somewhat smaller 🙂

Home Sweet Home.  We live in what might be described as the tail of an arrow ( the outline of the lake  in the middle of the screen ) .  We are about mid tail, at the top of the length of the lake.

So great to be home after four long weeks in Europe.  I hope that you enjoyed the posts.  Sorry that the last bit has been rather late due to my illness but better late than never 😎   Please email me your thoughts if you want to be private rather than make a public comment as I really appreciate your input.  We are going to be doing something like this again, in about 10.5 months from now.  Thank you my dear readers for sticking with me, I appreciate each one of you.






Jul 12, 2018

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

After our free Gaudi walking tour Colin also wanted to see the inside of Sagrada Familia as well as take exterior photos on a sunnier day.  I was able to get a pair of senior tickets for our last full day ( June 8th ) in Barcelona for an 11AM entrance for only 22 euro or $34.35CAD, a good price I thought.

So much for packing and hair washing bit it was worth the effort.

Gaudi dedicated 43 years, almost his entire career, to this, his most prestigious and complex project.

So much detail.

There are twelve bell towers, four on each facade.  They symbolize the apostles.  Note the different letters on the front of each of these.

I believe that this is the Pinnacle of Saint Judas Thaddaeus tower.

The pelican had been put below the Tree of Life.  It is the ancient Christian symbol of the Eucharist.

Veronica holds the veil with Jesus’ face on it.

In the sculpture above Gaudi put his own face on the statue on the left. I can see the resemblance.

There is a lot going on in this photo and it all means something.  Amazing mind that created these plans.

This had been taken on our first visit here with the waking tour.

This final facade is very modern looking compared to the other three facades.  It is called the Glory facade and behind where we are standing is an entire block of apartments that will be destroyed so that the entrance to the Basilica can be built.  It will be very grand indeed but not so much for those who will be put our of their homes.

We were told what the fruit represents but I can’t remember what.  My mind was boggled.  As you can see this entire project is such a mix of styles and construction that it is difficult to see how it is supposed to come together.

So much to take in.

Once inside we just kept looking up.  We were in awe.  It looks so different inside.  Once large room.

Stained glass was everywhere. One large section top to bottom would all be in greens and blues. Another section in oranges and reds.

Very difficult to photograph as it was so very very large and one really needed professional equipment to do justice to this wonderful Basilica.  We mostly just walked around looking up and taking it all in.  Under the main alter are crypts and Gaudi is in one of them.

I was so glad of our timing in that I was there for this.  They have put in a few pews in front of the alter and I just sat and listened to the Angelus followed by an Ave Maria solo.  As I listened I looked around me at the light streaming through the stained glass windows with goosebumps up my arms.  A rather moving moment.

I suggest that you Google Sagrada Famila for more photos of the interior. We were just happy to be in the moment while there.

I will leave you here for tonight and finish off the rest of this day and our last day in Spain in my next post.






Jul 11, 2018

Continued from yesterday’s post

After our tour of Casa Batllo and a very light snack we were ready for our tour of Casa Mila.  During our free Gaudi walking tour the day prior Colin decided that he definitely wanted to see this second home.  I went online and was able to  secure two tickets at the senior rate of 16.50euros each so about $52.00CAD for both of us.  I wrote the first part of this post about June 7th yesterday and you can find that here.

Casa Mila is best described as a huge wave set in motion.

Casa Mila is widely known as la Pedrera because of its rough outer appearance that resembles a stone quarry.  The building is made up of two blocks of apartments interconnected by interior courtyards and a shared facade.  Gaudi designed the building when he was 54 and at the height of his powers.  The building was declared a Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Once inside, the tour starts on the roof.  Included in the price of our ticket was a regular headset with explanations of what we were looking at.

They are huge.

Are you thinking Star Wars?

We actually thought that the roof was the best part of the tour.

The dark and stormy clouds were approaching.  Shortly after this photo we went inside and the skies opened.  Sadly when it rains the roof is closed so all those who came behind us missed seeing this amazing roof.

This is Barcelona from the rooftop.  I love all the greenery in this city.  The blue on the horizon is the ocean.

The rest of the tour had us descending the levels.  Amazing architecture.

There were many displays of nature that had inspired Gaudi’s work.  There were examples of how he created the impossible in structure simply by inverting things he saw in nature such as a tree with many branches.  We also saw many samples of the furniture he had built, most ergonomically constructed to the degree of how your wrist rested on the arm of a chair.  I am a detailed person but this boggled my mind.  The man was a genius.  There are still actual rented apartments in the building so there were areas in which we had to be quiet so as to not disturb the tenants.   A full set of apartments was on display along with actual furniture of the time, toys that children played with,  musical instruments of the time, mementos and photos as well as a very well done video of life in Barcelona in that era.  I have no photos to show you.  We enjoyed the tour and the presentation but neither of us were inspired to take photos.  We really did enjoy the tour and it was worth the price of admission to see the roof.  Neither of us agreed with the free walking tour guide that this was the best of the two Gaudi homes we saw on this day.  They each had very different visions for us to enjoy and we were glad that we saw both, however, Casa Batllo was our favorite.  It was mid afternoon and we had been walking since 8AM and had only stopped for a croissant and a coffee, we were hungry.  We stepped outside into heavy rain.

It took a few blocks to find a place that we could relax and enjoy a menu of the day.  We were rather late in the afternoon ( 4 PM ) and our choice of tuna was sold out so we settled for a fish dish ( ? cod ) with roasted veggies and potatoes and more veggies on the side.  I only recall that the wine was very good.

The day was far from over.  Back home to put our feet up and relax.  The pink thongs on the right have great arch support and feel like you are walking on air.  The other four pair are my walking shoes that I switched out day after day.  Some days I wore two pair.  Of those four pair I had to have the heels redone on three of them!  That is how much I walked over the last four weeks.

I don’t know how many steps/miles I walked on this day but the day was far from over.  We were not too far from our next stop but I just could not walk that far as had been our original plan so instead we walked three blocks to the metro and just went the one stop.  Barcelona has the best deal on metro tickets.  You can get ten tickets for a mere 10.2 euros, so 1 euro per use.  Best of all both of  could use the same card.  One of the best transportation deals on our entire trip.

Nest stop of this very long day was to see the Magic Fountains located at the Museu Nacional D’art de Cataluny.  We would have loved to check this place out but we only had three full days and four nights in Barcelona.  I really hope that there will be a next time.  The entire area you see in this photo was shoulder to shoulder people.  There were dozens of tour buses dropping people off.  We were happy to have come early enough that we got a spot mid overpass along the edge.  However it was still unusually cool for that time of year.  I was tired of being cold not to mention tired of walking so much each day considering I was healing from my head wound and still was coughing non stop.

Wow, okay it was worth the effort to get here.

We took so very many photos.

But these few photos give you the idea of what we saw.  We did stay until the end.  I think I kept hoping for just a bit more.  We enjoyed the fountains but would not go back.  A great end to the day.

Once we got off the metro we realized that we were hungry so stopped at a local place for some delicious tomato mixture spread on toast and an order of tempura to share.  So ended another long day.  Despite the next day being our last full day in Barcelona we manage to fit in a lot more.  Stay tuned 😆

But first a few more Gaudi links.

This link gives a very concise and short biography of the great man and how he died, almost an unknown on the street after a freak accident.  https://www.casabatllo.es/en/antoni-gaudi/?utm_campaign=CJ18&utm_medium=email&utm_source=thankyounew&utm_content=link_gaudi&utm_term=en

This link shows you when he created his outstanding works in a chronological order.


I hope that you have enjoyed Barcelona with us.  Only one more day to go.


Jul 10, 2018

Casa Battlo

Our apartment was only 1.3 KM away so that was an easy morning walk on June 7th.  We had pre purchased skip the line tickets for the earliest morning time slot so that we could avoid the crowds. The tickets were expensive at 21.5 euro each for a total of $60.65 CAD for both of us, the same price that we paid for our Vatican tickets.  However this tour gives you a headset to use in your preferred language that includes what looks like a smart phone attached which works as an augmented video reality guide.  This device allows you to view what the particular area or room that you are in as how it was back in the day filled with furniture, no other people there and showed how windows opened and so very very many other special things.  All the while listening to a description to what you are seeing. Certainly worth more than what we paid for our entrance fee.  They say to allow an hour there, we were there for at least 2.5 hours.  The place is fascinating.  Casa Battlo was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2005.  At the end of this post I will give you a very special link which we received as a thank you for our visit so that you also can experience the magic of Gaudi and Casa Battlo.

Needless to say that Colin took all these photos hand held without his professional equipment.  This is the main room or living room where the family would receive their guests.

You enter and walk up this curved staircase, note the handrails.  Perhaps like a serpent and then the skin effect on the wall.  Remember Gaudi got his ideas from nature.

An alcove where perhaps a young lady met a beau and enjoyed the fireplace.  Of course there was a chaperone seated across from them.  This was all designed by Gaudi as well as the furniture which he built himself.

The inside of the salon.  With the video guide we saw furniture in the room as well as how the windows opened ( very very clever ) and more.  I loved the view over the main street of Barcelona at the time and now.

Now that is a ceiling.

Note the swirls in the ceiling perhaps like a seashell and the light fixture like a flower.

The four glass panels on the right rotated for air circulation.

I signed the guest book ” Contessa & Colin Jewall /June 7, 2018 / Kelowna, BC Canada / Amazing home, beyond words !! “

Pure Gaudi genius, all about perspective.  I believe that this was at least five stories high ( here we only see two stories ) and yet depending on where you looked at it, from the bottom or middle, it all appeared to be the same.  At the bottom the windows were larger as were the tiles which were spaced further apart.  Part of the reason was to give more light on the different levels.  Gaudi had taken everything into consideration which was why the tiles at the top were a darker blue that those lower down.  I truly wish I could repeat all that I had learned that day but it is just not possible.

So much detail. The family had the main part of the house but there were a few apartments rented out. This is the door to one of them.  Each one was different with a letter used as the address.  Gaudi had even made a mold of his hand to make the door knobs perfectly fit a hand thus making the door easy to open.

A hallway in the servants area.

The roof above the servants area. These are some of the  chimneys for the house.  Everything had to be extraordinary in Gaudi’s world.

It looked like inlaid precious stones but it was smooth.

The spine of what some call the dragon along the front of the roof.

An example of how the video worked, there is no one on the screen even though the room was full of people in reality.

Do you think we enjoyed our time inside?

I love that flower effect on the building.  Those balconies look like skulls.

From Wikipedia…..”The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudí’s home), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.”

The building to the left of Casa Battlo is referred at the Chocolate House.  A family who had owned a chocolate business resided there and there are tours of the home.  Alas we had no time but the house is very nice on the outside.

Of course there is the ever present gift shop in places like this.  We definitely wanted a memento of Gaudi and his work.  We settled on a small colored glass piece for our coffee table based on Gaudi’s art.  I will have to make a point of taking a photo to show you.  It is certified as authentic Gaudi handmade in Spain.  We were tired and it was time to relax for a bit.  There is no place to sit and stop in all the places we have visited on this trip, one just keeps walking about.  We went next door to the Chocolate House where they have a shop as well as a small restaurant.  We had spent so much time at Casa Battlo that we did not have much time before our next stop.  We each had a croissant and I had a coffee.  Colin however had this huge cup of a mix of chocolates with milk and creme.  I stole a sip, divine 😉   All of this for only 5 euro total.  We were able to sit outside in the courtyard and relax for a bit.

As you can see this is going to be a very long day.  We are only at noonish on Thursday, the 7th.  I will continue the day on the next post.  Don’t miss it.

I almost forgot, here is a link to seeing this lovely home on your own.  You can chose to see the full tour or just the Noble Floor where the main salon is or the attic or the terrace/roof.  Here are the words that came with this link…

Good news for all those who can’t visit us in person; Casa Batlló opens Gaudí’s gem doors in a Virtual Tour that will surely delight the most intrepid and curious visitors.

A real adventure in which you will have the privilege of discovering, for the first time, the secret spots of the modernist building. 360º of Gaudinian concepts to find out about, endless allusions to Mother Nature by the very pioneering in a unique new style and an aura of mystery floating in the spaces that will be surrounding the visitor from the beginning to the end of the virtual route.

Is your hunger of curiosity insatiable? Don’t miss this chance to satisfy it!








Jul 09, 2018

A Gaudi walking tour and then more walking

Antoni Gaudi was born in 1852 in Catalonia and was considered the greatest exponent of Modernism.  Over the years he evolved towards a personal and unclassifiable style.  He was considered to be a genius.  Much of his unique style came from his study of nature, flow, form, color, shapes, light, animal and sea life and their forms, bones and more.  So much to say and to read about this man.  We knew a bit about him and had booked one tour as that was all our budget could manage ( it was an expensive one ) and after you have seen one Gaudi project that should be enough, right?  When we found the free Gaudi tour we knew that we would see more and we were pleased with that.  That tour led to more which you will see over the next few posts.  We could not get enough of his architecture.  The man was simply brilliant and beyond creative.  How fortunate that most of his work is in Barcelona and the surrounding areas.  We both took photos and some days there were hundreds.  It has been quite the task to sort them out over the next few posts.  So let us start with the Gaudi walking tour at 11:00AM on Wednesday June 6th.

We started the tour in this plaza where we saw the first commissioned work that Barcelona hired Gaudi  to do after he graduated from architectural school.  The picture does not do the work justice. This lamp post holds so very much detail which Gaudi would become famous for.  The city was not impressed with his work.

Next stop was the Palau Güell one of Antoni Gaudí’s early works in Barcelona and one of the most magnificent buildings of the Modernism. It is located in the Raval district, just a few metres from the Rambla.  This mansion was designed for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell and built between 1886 and 1888.

Our very knowledgeable guide took us through the ups and down of the construction and how after one of the many wars the family lost their home.  It is now the property of Barcelona and open for tours for a price of course.  This is one of the chimneys on the roof.

Casa Batllo which we have tickets to tour tomorrow, June 7th.

Gaudi renovated the facade which looked like this to what it is today.  During this presentation it poured rain twice.  The umbrella sellers were doing well.  I was dressed as warmly as possible and I did have my umbrella with me.  At this point I was coughing a lot but nothing i could do but keep taking cough syrup and suck on lozenges.  We did enjoy the presentation about the exterior of the building.  The color and detail were amazing.

Just four blocks away we came to Casa Mila, often referred to as La Pedrera.  If you look to the middle left you can see some dark sky which became darker.  The winds picked up and the rain fell in torrents.  Our guide told us that between the two homes this was the best to get a ticket for so we went home much later and booked a ticket for the next day.

We then took the subway to continue the tour at the famous Sagrada Família  which is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudí.  This is what it will look like when it is finished.

Construction started in 1882 and it is still not finished!  Gaudi was involved on a daily basis but of course never saw the end of the project.  There has been much controversy over this project.  At the moment it is said that it will be complete in 2026 but even our tour guide does not believe that that is possible.  There are so very very many towers and details yet to be built.  In fact there is an entire block of apartment buildings that must be destroyed so that the main entrance can be built.  What will happen to those whose homes will be destroyed?  Who will pay for their new residences?  Why was that block allowed to be built upon in the first place?

Our tour guide walked us around the three sides that were under construction and explained the changes over the years and some differences here and there.  Too much detail to take in.  Here we just finished getting wet yet again.  No Colin did not have his jacket with him.  This is where our free tour ended.  The guide only makes money for her time and knowledge by her well deserved tips.  I can only hope that everyone tipped her well.

Once again the tour went well over two hours and we were more than hungry.  I asked her to recommend a local place to eat and here we were.  Nice and warm with a view of the Sagrada Familia and the rain that continued to fall.  We had a large piece of the best spinach quiche ever.  To warm up Colin had a coffee while I had a lovely glass of Spanish wine.  The entire meal came to 13.6euro/$21.60 CAD, a very good price we thought.

Once we warmed up and the rain stopped we took the metro back to La Rambla where we walked about.  Yes there are a lot of tourists there but I wonder if they saw what we saw.

You have to look up and all around to see things.  Interesting artwork.

Outdoor massage?

Down one side street Colin found a store that sold the same shoes he had purchased in Rome. They did not have much of a color choice here but he did buy a second pair in beige for much less money.  Well they were made in Spain.

Everyone kept telling us that the weather was most unusual and it should be blue skies with sunshine at this time of year and that this was winter weather.  Nothing we could do about the weather so we just enjoyed what we could.  Just loved the detail on this building.

Guess we missed the Erotic Museum.

Just some detail on a small church we passed.

Looks like I was really moving.  We walked the length of La Rambla right to the water just so we could see what the area was all about as well as the port.

On the way back towards the metro station we stopped for a sangria.  So many tourist restaurants along La Rambla but we wanted to sit and enjoy the location and rest my feet :). Gulp!  That drink was just a euro less than lunch at 12.65 E/ $19,73 CAD.   That price was just for the one drink which we shared and I did not enjoy it.  Barcelona was the only place that when we paid with a credit card that they asked if we wanted it to go through as Euros or Canadian currency.

Always something to see.  She looks like she should be riding a motorcycle.

So we headed home via this interesting metro station.  There are three platforms here, where I am standing taking the picture, thru the arch to the next platform and you can see yet another arch with the red above it and a third platform.  Very creative visually.

So we got back to our cozy apartment where we rested a bit, changed for dinner and headed out to find the best tapas restaurant in the area as recommended by our host.  I had printed out instructions so we would not get lost.  We walked close to two miles and still could not find it.  I did  not have many more steps left in my feet so we headed back and vowed to stop at the first decent place.  I don’t have the name of the place but the outside patio was full of smokers and their smoke so we went inside.  It was very lovely looking although the menu was limited for us due to our diet.  We chatted with the owner in Spanish and he was surprised that we were from Canada and learned our Spanish in Mexico.  He kept commending us on our Spanish.

The photo is blurred but we ended up with a sushi salmon burger. The presentation was not what we expected, it came complete with wasabi and crisp fries.  Gourmet burger!  Then we had the long walk back.  I have no idea how I managed to walk so much in one day but now looking back I can see why my cold did not heal.  I never gave my body a chance.  Day after day I just kept pushing.  And the next day would be no different.  Stay tuned.







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