Archive for the ‘pantheon’ Tag

Winter Break in Lisbon – Belem and Evening Sunset Walk   10 comments

Back on to the rather disorganised chaos that is a Lisbon Tram and onwards to the Belem district that holds plenty more of Lisbon’s famous sights. We hopped off at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.


It’s a massive and truly stunning building, blindingly white in the winter sunshine. I’m told its equally stunning inside but we’d save that for another day and earlier time as it was thronged with people.


The gardens outside were equally grand and the views were superb.


I had a day in Lisbon on my schools cruise in my youth. I remember liking Lisbon and this is one of the sights I remember from that day, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Henry the Navigator, whoever he was.


An impressive structure with great views across the water front to the bridge.


We were here for lunch but all the restaurants looked full until we found one that looked expensive but I was tempted in because I was hungry and because the stunningly attractive waitress beckoned me in and found us a table. It was expensive but the food was really good (and we had another custard tart for pudding!)

The Belem Tower is one of the most famous sights in Lisbon and on a clear and sunny winters day it does gleam in the sunshine.


Its very ornate and its position right by the waterfront is a fine one.


We declined the offer of a long queue and headed back to the flat.


We stopped off at Placa do Comercio which looked very fine under in the afternoon sunshine. We would have lingered a while but they were testing out the sound system for New Years Eve with bass so loud and low my kidneys were vibrating.


We could still hear it a couple of levels down in the Metro station. Last shot of the castle to bring the day full circle.


Well almost. Me and TBF decided there was enough daylight for another stroll so we headed out to the Miradors from the day before to watch the sun go down.


The white buildings and red roofs were especially fetching in the low sun.


The views from the Miradors were superb.


We wandered back to the flat past the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora.


And the Pantheon.


Both just catching the last of pink glow of the setting sun.


Our walk back took us through more wonderful narrow streets packed with tiny restaurants. Lisbon seemed to have more of these than any other place I’ve been. I wanted to eat in every one.


Many of the houses has this tiled effect on the outside.


And one final shot of our flat and the lovely little square it sat in.


A fabulous day in the sun and we all agreed Lisbon is a fine city and pleased we decided to explore as part of our New Year trip.


Onwards and southwards to the Canaries!


Rome – Castel Sant Angelo & Villa Borghese   8 comments


Our last day in Rome and how to spend our time. Plenty left to see, in fact probably another weeks worth. TJS put a vote in for Castel Sant Angelo and that seemed like a decent plan. Rather than take a chance on Roman Sunday bus we walked through the city. Very nice it was too. Past the Trevi Fountain


The Obelisco di Montecitorio


Through the maze lovely shady and quiet streets of the Centro Storico


And across the St. Angelo Bridge to the castle



When we walked past on our first day, just after lunch, there was a substantial queue. Today there was none.


It was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and then converted into a Papal fortress after the fall of the empire. You can just see in the photo above the ramparts of the secret passageway (Passato di Borgo) that linked the castle to St Peters so the popes had somewhere to retreat to in times of war


The route through the castle takes you over the drawbridge past the the castles defences and then both inside and outside around the ramparts. Its a much bigger and robust construction up close than it looks from a distance, possibly as its dwarfed by St Peters just up the road


The views as you climb get better and better




The view of St Peters Basilica is especially good from the castle



You can see the bridge of the secret passage better in the photo below


I like this photo as it gives a great view down over the canopy of the stunning umbrella pines that are a real feature of Rome


The castle has its main immense circular keep protected at four corners with equally impressive bastions


The upper floors have lovely corridors and rooms some of which are lavishly decorated with some really impressive frescoes


I really liked this room which seemed to be telling mythological stories with an incredible level of detail


I liked the idea of a story about the attack of the giant lobsters seen in the middle of the photo


This room had a stunning ceiling decoration surrounding the supporting pillars


The best was saved for the summit terrace where the views across the city were as good as those from Il Vittoriano




Vatican City and St Peters Basilica


And of course the obligatory football stadium shot


Across the Centro Storico



The River Tiber and Giancolo Hill


It was pretty hot up here in the full sun but another of those “I don’t want to go down” moments for me


Last look at the Pantheon and Il Vittoriano


One of the amazing rooms as we descended back through the castle


And a last view across the St Angelo Bridge


I had thought the castle would be mildly diverting but in fact it was excellent. There was loads to see, everything was well presented and most of the rooms were accessible. Combined with the views from the top I’d say it was as essential to visit as Rome’s other main sites


We headed back to Bianco’s vespette e forchette restaurant for lunch, another long and lazy affair with a couple of beers help things along. In the afternoon we hung out in the Villa Borghese, a huge expanse of green space in the heart of the city. I took a short stroll along to the small lake and Temple of Asclepius. It was a stunning spot busy on Sunday with picnicing families


Just behind was the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea




We spent the rest of the afternoon just lazing on the grass by a pleasant pond and small fountain in the park



And that was our Rome stay done and dusted. All we had left was another fraught metro journey to pick up our bags and head for the station for our next train ride.

Rome was magnificent, perhaps not the ideal time to visit in the heat of summer, but we loved it regardless. The atmosphere in the local neighbourhood where stayed is something I recall just as fondly as the amazing places we saw. As I said, I threw my coins into the Trevi Fountain so I just need to set a return date now

Rome – Pantheon and Spanish Steps   12 comments


Another day and another city walk to tick off the big sites. We were into the swing of earlier starts (or me waking everyone up earlier) and we headed back to the Centro Storico. First stop was a proper look at the Pantheon


Its 2000 years old and one of the most important and influential buildings in the western world. Its also Rome’s best preserved ancient monument. It’s quite hard to take a photo that includes the amazing roof, the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built


You can see it here together with Il Vittoriano taken from the roof of Castel Sant Angelo


It was originally built in 27 BC but was burnt down then struck by lightning and destroyed a second time. Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it a third time in 125 AD and has stood the test of time ever since. It was originally a temple dedicated to all gods (pan = all, theos = gods). After the fall of the Roman empire it was consecrated as a Christian church which spared it from the plundering – largely anyway – that befell many roman buildings.


Over time it became an important burial chamber. Italian kings Umberto I and Vittorio Emanuel II are buried here as is the artist Raphael


Its the dome that commands the attention as the pinnacle of Rome’s architectural successes.  If it looks perfect, that’s because it is. The diameter is exactly equal to the internal height  of 43.3m. Not bad for 2000 year old technology. The most fascinating aspect for me was the Oculus, the hole in the centre of the roof. Not only was it an open symbol to connect with the gods but its vital to the structures stability by absorbing and distributing the huge tensile forces in the dome, much like the key stone in arch. The panels you can see were recessed  to reduce the dome’s immense weight


With an open hole in the roof where does the water go when it rains. Answer, through these small holes in gently sloping floor. Ingenious


Speaking of the floor, while on our travels and in visiting many wonderful buildings I had to remember to look at the floor. It was almost always as stunning and beautiful as the walls and ceilings. The Pantheon was no exception




Its an extraordinary building, historically, architecturally and visually, both inside and out. I’m glad we took the trouble to get there early and beat the worst of the crowds


A final couple of shots from the splendid Piazza Della Rotonda outside the Pantheon before we moved on



As you walk through Rome the number of churches is almost beyond comprehension and every one we stuck our head into was just glorious. This one – I think – is the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena that never got a mention in my guide book



We were headed across town and passed through the Government buildings area around the Piazza Colonna. I took a shot of this nondescript building as apparently its where the Italian PM stays when he’s in town


The Colonna di Marco Aurelio, carved with images to celebrate the victories of Marcus Aurelius


We moved on to another of the city’s well know sites. This is the Piazza di Spagna.


Overlooked by the Spanish Steps and the Trinità dei Monti. It was very popular but I really liked it. The square and steps were big enough to handle the crowds and there was a pleasant atmosphere. It was a famous subject and haunt for famous writers and poets. Keats lived around here for a while


There is also another lovely fountain at the base the Fontana della Barcaccia


Its shaped like a sinking boat and fed by the same water supply as the Trevi Fountain. As the water pressure is low, it’s sunken appearance is actually a clever piece of engineering



TJS was feeling the strain and needed a lie down on the steps


Excellent views to be had as you climb the steps to the top



From there we took a walk along to the Pincio Gardens. The views across the city from these gardens on the fringe of the famous Villa Borghese park were tremendous



Just below the gardens is another of Rome’s huge and impressive squares, the Piazza del Popolo



As always centred around another very fine fountain



We headed back for another long afternoon rest (and afternoon stroll for me). In the evening we decided to head out for a walk on our way to an evening meal in Trastavere.

I wanted to see to see the Piazza de Campidoglio, supposedly one of the finest in Rome. The walk along the lane leading up gave great views over the Forum





The square was indeed rather fine and pleasantly quiet in the early evening


The approach guarded by a couple of X-rated statues


The bridge over the river Tiber on the approach to Trastavere


The Trastavere district has become a renowned area for dining out in Rome. Its a more gritty area than where we were staying but the narrow streets were buzzing with activity and hundreds of restaurants and bars. Like always everywhere looked welcoming and we had a fine meal


One thing I noticed in Italy is that they never seem to turn away a customer. No matter how busy a place looked if you showed up they would always magic up a table from somewhere. This happened to us a few times and I just think that’s great. Too many times in the UK you are made to feel like an inferior person for having the audacity not to have booked or worse see a half empty place but still be told they are too busy to serve you


With a belly full of food we took a lovely stroll through the busy streets trying to take mental notes of places we’d like to eat when we come back



The hot weather in Rome was occasionally a problem but it comes into its own for wonderful al fresco dining


We took a tram back (much more reliable than buses) and had a nice evening view of Il Vittoriano



And the floodlit Imperial Forum




And just for a change we ate another pile of Gelato on the way back to the apartment. Be rude not to. When in Rome…….


Paris – Tour Montparnasse   14 comments


I like tall buildings and I like looking down on cities from the top of them. When I looked at the cost of going up the Eiffel Tower I wanted a better alternative. The Tour Montparnasse ticked more boxes. For the same price I could visit twice so I could see the view in the daytime and at night. It was walking distance from the apartment. And of course it was well sited for excellent view of the Eiffel Tower itself


Its renowned as the ugliest building in Paris and you can see why when compared to Notre-Dame, the Basilica de Sacre Coeur or indeed the Eiffel Tower itself. I liked it though. It sits out on its own in a not particularly attractive part of the city anyway and doesn’t really detract from the rest of the feel of Paris. As smoked brown glass buildings go I thought it was quite stylish. 209m high and built in 1973 for you fact-meisters out there


While we’re on that subject. The buildings I do find offensive are those that sit right in the heart of glorious historical cities and their architectural gems where no effort has been made to make them blend in. I lost count of the times when walking through a particularly glorious neighbourhood I’d turn a corner and there would be an ugly concrete block or sheets of plain glass right next to a renaissance building or medievakl church or palace. This was especially true and particularly galling in Venice and Rome where architectural gems abound and the city feels like a living outdoor museum. My theory is that these buildings are almost exclusively local authority, banks or hotels. The Town Planners who allow this should be shot. There I’ve said it.

And on the subject of High Street Banks, why do they have glass and windows anyway. Who goes window shopping at Banks. What do they think people are looking at. Point of Sale Literature displays for current accounts. Bloody hell! Rant over, sorry!


Back to the story. We booked in advance but there was absolutely no need to. There was no queue at the ticket office and there were no more than fifty people up there. Which was a surprise for it was a glorious clear sunny day and the views were magnificent. The Eiffel Tower of course takes centre stage and as I’d hoped the Tour Montparnasse was a wonderful vantage point. La Defense where we went on first day is behind it here


I like this photo as it shows the elevated section of the Metro. A bit Train-Spotty I know but I liked that section for some reason


You can stay indoors and look through the glass but the best views are from terrace on the roof. The glass walls protect from the wind (and from jumping off), but there are gaps so you can take photos direct as it were. Here’s the Jones family looking summery


And some zoom shots of famous landmarks. This is the Palace of Les Invalides and its gorgeous golden dome


The Arc de Triomphe


The Pantheon


Basilica de Sacre Coeur at Montmartre. Me and TJS were massively chuffed when we looked at the photo later and realised we’d captured the Stade de France in the background! 🙂


And the church of Saint Sulpice round the corner from our apartment


Possibly the only photo of me from the entire holiday. Enjoy it while you can


From up here you realise just what an immense city Paris is. This was especially true when looking down on some of the other cities we visited. Rome seemed especially and surprisingly small by comparison


This is the cemetery of Montparnasse. We were all staggered at how big it was. Jean Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg are in there somewhere


Our apartment is somewhere in this shot. Right hand side of the road about 2/3 the way up I think


This shot shows just how quiet it was while we were there. Going in the morning was a great plan. The sun was in the SE and most of the main city sights were to the north and west so the light was just perfect


A view over the Jardin de Luxembourg to Notre Dame and beyond


And over the Seine towards the Louvre and beyond to Montmartre


Stylish ladies having a sit down with a weird teenager behind


And a final classic shot across to the Eiffel Tower. The top one is from the roof terrace and the second one through the glass on the floor below



I could have stayed up here all day picking out sights and features but there was more Paris to see. Satisfied with our experience we headed off to do more stuff for the rest of the day. In the evening we returned for our second visit to see the city at night



It was much busier and we timed it just wrong to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. The night-time views were still amazing though


I never really got the hang of night shots with the camera. Most are a little blurry as I had the shutter speed low to allow enough light in. I probably should have pushed the ISO Sensitivity much higher so I could increase the shutter speed and reduce the shake. I need to practice more.


I don’t think I could enlarge any of these for the wall but at this size hopefully they show just how great the views were. Saint Sulpice.


Notre Dame


Basilica de Sacre Coeur


Our road, the Rue de Rennes


The fair at the Jardins de Tuileries


And last shot of course goes to the Eiffel Tower


Late finish but well worth it. Stupendous views over a wonderful city

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