Archive for the ‘Cities’ Category

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

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Barcelona – Beach Life   14 comments

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Our last day before flying home in the evening was a glorious one, clear, sunny and pretty hot. We decided to take a metro out to the far end of the beaches and walk back along the seafront. We’d been to the beach a few times before, notably on our first day and in the middle of the week for a swim

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The first day was a chance to have a sandwich on the rocks

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And a stroll down to this all-glass hotel affair at the far end. Probably an ugly monstrosity to some but I quite liked it

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A couple of photos from our second visit

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We went for a swim this time. Colder than I thought but great to swim in the sea on a warm day at the end of October

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The beach front is a good few miles long and really well done. By that I mean it’s not a natural beach. This whole area was derelict and run down before the Olympics came along. In order to make the city presentable everything was renovated and sand imported to make this splendid beach frontage

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As it was Sunday it was packed with locals all enjoying some warm autumn sunshine. It was a cracking walk just watching the people and soaking up the rays. Winter is long and cold in the UK so we wanted to make the most of this! 🙂

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The beaches are all spotlessly clean and the water crystal clear. Fabulous for a swim but as we were traveling at the end of day it wasn’t really on for us even though it was a perfect day. The whole walk is pedestrianized so no cars to trouble us. There is a bike path as well and it would be a very pleasant leisurely ride

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These two skyscrapers and strange sculpture dominate the southern end of the beach. Again I really liked them and I didn’t feel they were out-of-place

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After lunch we sat on the beach for an hour or so and paddled in the cool water

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A very relaxing way to spend our last afternoon

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We took another wander down to the big glass hotel

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And its cracking views through the palms back along the sea front

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Nothing finer than a stroll in the warm sunshine along a Mediterranean beach.

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We took our leave of the beach, walked back to town through the marina, ate some takeaway churros, picked up our bags and caught a train to airport for our flight home. Not back till after 1am but that’s what holidays should be about making the most of every minute

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What a fantastic city. Architecture, history, mountains and a long beach. Brilliant way to spend the last week of October

 

Posted December 1, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Font Magica   17 comments

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On our last evening we headed back over to the fountains near Placa Espanya and the Palau Nacional. There was already a massive crowd there and seating room on the steps was at a premium. What had everyone come here to see? The Magic Musical Fountain Show of course!

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Now I know you’re thinking “Magic Musical Fountains – how tacky” and I have to say I was dubious after the one we saw in Budapest

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However this one was done on a much bigger and grander scale and it was mighty impressive

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The way they controlled the water and the lights was really rather magnificent and I enjoyed it immensely and a lot more than I thought I would

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The description sounded like they did one show every 30 minutes but it just seemed to be one long continuous show for between 1-1.5 hours

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We arrived on the dot at 9 when it was crowded but if visiting again its best to show up 15-20 minutes after the start time as many people have wandered off by then and there is a lot more space and places to sit on the steps. Its not like you miss much as each combination is all on a similar theme

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We went and stood close up for the final few minutes before we headed back to the apartment. We’d been there 45 minutes which was plenty and it was a grand way to finish off our last night in the city

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I took several video clips which came out pretty well so I put them together in a little compilation below

 

Pretty good eh!

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As we walked back along the road to Placa Espanya the fountains, columns and palace looked wonderful

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The road was lined with smaller fountains also lit in a most charming fashion

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A bit tacky and cheesy but very well put on, and, a real novelty in Barcelona, free!

Posted November 30, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Tibidabo   17 comments

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From our apartment balcony we could see a fun fair up on a hill. This is Tibidabo, the highest point in the hills in the immediate vicinity of the city. We thought it was worth a look. Despite being several miles outside the city the city transport system saw us easily to the top, by suburban railway, funicular and then bus

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The views from up here are excellent. You can just about make out Montserrat in the middle of the photo below

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This Radio mast has an observation platform you can go up, one for another day

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And of course spectacular views over the city

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The hill in the photo below is the Bunkers del Carmel that we visited earlier in the week

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And a distant view of the Camp Nou

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The hill top is strange mixture of Theme Park and very elaborate church, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor

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From a distance it looks not unlike Cinderella’s castle at Disney Theme Parks

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Its quite beautiful in its own right, just rather odd to see it effectively in the grounds of a cheesy theme park

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I liked the contrast between the red and grey stonework

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And some nice frescoes inside

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The theme park has two areas, the upper level is really simple kiddy style rides. This plane ride is its signature feature and whilst it look impressive from a distance it was amazingly tame and pathetic

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Quite photogenic though

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This little video gives you an idea of the “thrill” factor

 

The lower section of the park has some proper rides but we weren’t even allowed in to take a look, tight gits!

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Considering the fact that there are only half a dozen decent rides, the entrance fee was typical of Barcelona, namely a staggering £30 each

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We declined that offer and satisfied ourselves with a wander about, a laugh at just how pathetic some of the rides were and enjoying the views.

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I suspect its better to visit late afternoon and stay till evening when the park is lit up and the night-time views over the city would be great

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We were satisfied with a couple of hours to look around as we had a much better evening entertainment planned. Just time for a last evening beer on the terrace

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Off so see one of the city’s more unusual attractions

Barcelona – Moderniste Architecture   10 comments

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To quote my guidebook “Barcelona’s Modernisme buildings arose during La Renaixenca, a period of great artistic and political fervour that was deeply connected to Catalan identity, and which transformed early 20th Century Barcelona into a showcase for Avant Garde architecture”

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Most people associate this with Antoni Gaudi but he wasn’t alone. He had many contemporaries all of whom followed the same principles that Gaudi is so well-known for. It was also not confined to Catalonia, the same moves were seen across Europe where it was just given a different name such as Art Nouveau in the UK.

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The style is very much about curves or at least using the curve to bring everything together. Unifying architecture with nature was also a key theme as seem in the branching tree-like columns of the Sagrada Familia. Despite the name seeming to indicate a rejection of older styles, in fact the reverse was true and many inspirations from Gothic, Islamic and Renaissance can be seen. It was also responsible for reviving many traditional artisan trades especially in stone-work, stained glass and tile-work, especially Trencadis (the use of ceramic fragments to create mosaics, best seen in Park Guell)

I wrote a post about the Sagrada Familia, the incomplete pinnacle of Modernisme but we saw many other of their creations on our wander through the city so I thought a post dedicated to them was in order. So as Rafael McTell once sang “Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Barcelona”

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I chose our apartment on the basis that it had a roof terrace and overlooked La Pedrera (“The Quarry”) and its very odd chimneys on the roof

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They reminded me of chess pieces and they have the trademark Trencadis mosaic effect again

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Its one of the most striking buildings and gleamed white in the sunshine

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As with all these buildings the balconies and their railings are a central, eye-catching feature

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It also looked pretty fine lit up at night

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Just down the road and perhaps the weirdest of all these buildings is Casa Batllo. The photos don’t really do justice to the colour and the decoration. Due to its position and the trees that screen it its hard to get a decent photo

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It’s a bizarre combination of resinous curves, blues, greens and purples. Supposedly even weirder on the inside but like all things Barcelona, costly to visit

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It looks especially fine at night. In fact it was the very first building we saw when we emerged from the train station after our flight

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The usual “the photos don’t do it justice” remark applies

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I think eclectic sums this one up. Not sure I’d want to live in it but its stunning regardless. Me and the kids loved it, TBF was less certain

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Next door is Casa Amatller, designed by Pui i Cadafalch, one of Gaudi’s contemporaries. A heady mix of gothic, dutch and other styles

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This dormer window and balcony caught my eye

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And a couple of doors down is the Casa Lleo Morera by Domenech i Montaner. Together with the previous two buildings it forms the Manzana de la Discordia (block of discord!)

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I’ve no idea what this roof decoration is but many buildings in Barcelona have them

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Nearer the centre of the city is the Palau de la Musica Catalana. The exterior decoration is amazing, but it’s squeezed into a really narrow collection of streets and almost impossible to get a decent photo

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As with all these buildings its stunning on the inside as well and expensive to tour. Must be a fab place for an evening concert

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I’d also chosen our apartment as it is right in the heart of the L’Eixample district where most of these Moderniste gems reside.

We had an hour or two to kill on our last full day so we took a wander around the streets to look at some of the lesser known buildings. This one is the Palau del Baró de Quadras

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The front of this building was interesting, La Casa Comalat

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It was the rear of the building that was really eye-catching

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It reminded me of the resin secretions that you see in the “Alien” movies or more possibly bones, muscles and sinews, again linking back to Gaudi’s use of the curves of nature

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Considering its tucked away on a back street it’s quite an extraordinary sight

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This one is Casa Serra with its fairytale feel and ornate balcony. Its home to some vague and meaningless government department of street light maintenance or some-such.

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This bizarrely roofed example is the Fundacio Antoni Tapies

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The Palau Montaner is less weird than the previous one but stunning on the outside. Apparently its even more stunning on the inside but it was always surrounded by barriers and police so I assumed it must be home to some important Catalan person involved in the recent situation

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I liked this one because of the name, Casa Thomas. I have a mate with the Thomas surname so I was pleased he had a building named after him and so was he when I sent him a picture!

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They really do put a lot of effort into bay windows and balconies in these buildings

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I think this one is the Conservatori Municipal de Música de Barcelona

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A more modern style design, the Casa Manuel Llopis Bofill

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This one came as a surprise, a very fine church tucked away in a residential zone. The Parròquia de Sant Francesc de Sales

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My personal favourite was the Casa de les Punxes (House of Spikes)

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Probably down to my childhood love of fairytale castles and their pepperpot roofs

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As well as the roof, the decorations, window boxes and balconies are all very striking

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It seemed to catch the sun whenever we walked past it hence I took lots of photos

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Its red brick facade and roof caught the sun and contrasted beautifully against the blue sky

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An (admittedly not terribly interesting) fact, it’s the only fully detached building in L’Eixample

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I’m going to borrow a phrase my good friend Mark used when he was Barcelona last year. I don’t know very much about architecture but I like what Gaudi and his colleagues did in Barcelona. All of the buildings were unique in some way and almost every other building bears their influence. Turns a wander around this area of the city a real stroll of discovery

Barcelona – Day Trip to Montserrat   13 comments

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A week in the city and time for a day out in the countryside. The Mountain area of Montserrat is a well know day trip from Barcelona and very well organised on public transport. A direct train from the city to the bottom of the mountains, a cable car ride or funicular railway to the centre and a couple of other funiculars to get around. All included on one ticket. Easy

The train journey was a relaxing way to kick off, trundling through the suburbs before reaching open country and the first glimpse of this amazing range of mountains through the window

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It was pretty chilly when we hopped off the train to wait for the cable car. I worried we might not have dressed appropriately for cool mountain weather. The cable car was a fantastic way to make the trip into the heart of the mountains

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Montserrat is a hugely significant and sacred place in Catalonian culture. It felt fitting to visit it now in the midst of the current situation. The Monastery, Monestir de Montserrat is the home to La Moreneta, (the “Little Brown One” or Black Virgin”) a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. It’s a sacred relic of Catalonian culture.

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The small complex of buildings also houses a museum with some original works by Caravaggio, El Greco and Picasso.

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We took a brief wander around in the morning sun, pleased that our fears about cold temperatures were unfounded. It was warm and wonderfully sunny

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We’d come more to explore some of the walks as well as the Monastery. We took a trip down below the main complex firstly as I figured it would be in the sun for another hour or so. A short funicular railway eases the burden

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The views are spectacular and you get your first views of the weird towers of limestone that form this unique landscape

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The one on the left is called the elephant rock

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There is a level path that wanders around to the chapel of Santa Cova, built into the rock

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We returned to the village (if that’s the right word) and being close to lunchtime decided to head up the longer funicular to the top to eat our picnic

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The views back down to the Monastery were great and showed how high the railway takes you

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However the views across to the limestone pinnacles and formations was magnificent

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Found a warm spot in the sun to eat our picnic with views all around. Not a bad place for lunch

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TJF decided she didn’t fancy a walk and was happy to sit around and catch some rays. Me, TJS and TBF headed off across the amazing path that cuts across the base of some of the pinnacles and into the heart of the mountains

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There were flags on most of the pinnacles and several people climbing them. You can see one party strung out below the summit in the photo below

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It’s an amazing place and even though we didn’t want to walk far and leave TJF alone for too long, the views and the easy path just draw you along

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There is a viewing platform where you can look across to the high point of Sant Jeroni. It was tempting to try to reach the top but we didn’t have time

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The views all around and the warm sunshine and blue sky would have to do

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Panorama mode was engaged to try to capture the full effect

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Another pinnacle with flags on top and people climbing

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On the way back I spotted a path that looked like an alternative way back to the railway. TJS and TBF returned to collect TJF and I went exploring

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It climbed with ever-increasing steepness that had me blowing hard when I reached the top. The views just got better and better

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Here’s one of the climbers just topping out on one of the pinnacles

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The area is crisscrossed with trails and looks a fab place for a full day walking route around these monoliths and many chapels secreted within

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On the way down the route traversed an airy ledge and short tunnel through the rock. Very exciting

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A brief walk past the Ermita de Sant Joan to meet the rest of the family

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A magnificent and all too short walk

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We were back down in time for a better look at the Monastery before the sun dipped behind the mountains

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Its beautiful inside, more reminiscent of the churches we saw in Venice and Rome. La Moreneta is above the altar in the lower middle of the photo below but there was a long queue to see her up close to we left that to the more spiritual types

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A last look outside before the sun effectively set here and we headed down on the cable car to catch the train back to the city

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Something completely different from our city experiences. A grand day out.

Barcelona – Montjuic Castle & Olympic Park   14 comments

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We paid a brief evening visit to Montjuic on our first day but it deserved more attention. After one of our lunches in the market we headed up to take a look at the castle and beyond

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We walked up the top part of the hill to work off the excesses of lunch past this rather nice water feature and cascades, the Mirador de l’Alcalde

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The views through the trees to city below were very fine

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We decided to give the castle a go as it was, by Barcelona standards, reasonably priced

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It’s not terribly old having been built in the 17th and 18th Centuries and has been used more to bomb and destroy the city in the civil war and various uprisings than defend it. The site has several guns still in place

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The views across both the commercial and pleasure harbours as well as the city are superb, more than making up for the fact that the castle is well sited, well-kept and intriguing rather than genuinely interesting

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It’s clearly not one of Barcelona’s main attractions as there were only a handful of people there.

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All the better for us as we had time to stroll around in the peace and quiet and soak up the views and the abundant sunshine

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The main industrial port complex of the city

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It was pretty hot up here so many rests were needed

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A very relaxing and pleasant stroll for a couple of hours

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I tried to find some of the gardens listed in my guide-book on our way back down but only seemed to find roads and dusty kerbs. Almost by surprise we came across the 1992 Olympic Stadium

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I was even more surprised to find that you can just wander in and take a look for free – most unlike Barcelona

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It was rather cool to be able to see inside, made up a bit for not doing the Camp Nou tour

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The stadium looks a little tired but the Olympic Park itself is still rather grand and completely deserted

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Not entirely sure what this tower is. Some kind of telecommunications mast I think. It looked quite impressive with the sun behind

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I really enjoyed looking round the Olympic site (my first one)

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We carried on down the hill past the Palau Nacional and its art galleries

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Its an ornately grand building visible from all over the city

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It has a massive fountain at the base of the steps

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Very impressive in the late afternoon sun

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We’d be back here on our last night – more in a later post

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We finished our long walk at Placa Espanya with its Venice San Marco replica towers, insane traffic and bewildering underground world of subways and metro stations

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