Category Archives: Spain

Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Island of Majestic Contrasts

 

View from cruise ship of Tenerife, Spain.

The first glimpse of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is very striking.  The city nestled into the angular brown volcanic landscape and set off against the bright blue sky and deep blue sea is spectacular.

The largest and probably most famous of the Canary Islands, Tenerife was the starting point for Columbus’s long journey across the Atlantic to search for a better route to India.

Playa del Teresitas, Tenerife, Spain.We always like to get the lay of the land when we visit a new location and selected a tour from our ship, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, that would cover a lot of territory. Known for its beaches, we did see one, Playa del Teresitas.  (Famous, but still, in my opinion, no comparison to our Florida beaches). Read the rest of this entry

Lanzarote: Island of Hidden Beauty

Jameos del Agua, Lanzerote, Canary Islands.

The real magic of travel is when you discover something you knew absolutely nothing about . . . that’s what the experience visiting Lanzarote in the Spanish Canary Islands was like for me.

Mirador del Rio in Lanzerote, Canary Islands.I never heard of the architect César Manrique, who was from this island and returned to make it his life’s work to celebrate and memorialize its unique beauty. His installations are throughout the island, and we had the privilege of visiting two of them.  In both cases, their real meaning was totally hidden from view and not obvious until you enter, and then, Wow. The first was the Mirador del Rio, a stunning view of the volcanic terrain all the way to the Atlantic shore. My pictures will give an idea, but just do not capture the magnificence of the view or the experience.

img_1556img_1555

Read the rest of this entry

Las Canarias: Santa Cruz de la Palma

img_1299

Our first stop in the Spanish Canary Islands was Santa Cruz de la Palma, and the island was a real surprise. One of eight islands in the Canary chain, it was one of three we would be visiting this trip on the Regent Explorer.  I did not expect the incredibly dramatic rocky landscape, deep gorges, huge caves, lush vegetation, terraced farming or massive banana farming. My photos do not come close to capturing the beauty here.

We began the day with a walk around the charming capital city and checked out the Castillo de Santa Catalina, the only surviving of 9 forts established in the 1500s to protect the island from pirates. These islands were very important ports, and ships from the New World stopped here before proceeding to the European mainland, these islands were very attractive plunder for pirates of the era. The town had walls and was locked up at 9 every night, a practice that continued well into the 20th century. Read the rest of this entry

El Palau de la Música Catalana

Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.

I guess the third time is a charm. It’s taken me that many visits to finally get into the Palau de Música and I’m so happy I did. We did it all, a performance and a tour. We saw a fabulous evening performance in the theater – this one featuring four very talented Flamenco dancers.  If you have never had a lesson is this classic Spanish style or tried to play the castanets while moving you may not truly appreciate this precision-oriented, graceful, and expressive form of dance. Tappers might appreciate the rapid-fire footwork and core control. We were treated to a variety of Flamenco styles during the 90-minute performance. It was a magical evening.

The following morning, we returned for a daytime tour. You really need to see the facility during the day to appreciate the magnificent stained glass and incredible tiled pillars and interior workmanship.

Domènech Montaner designed the theater in 1908 as a daytime venue, so it’s important to really appreciate the dramatic details, artistic details, and the way he channeled light into such a tightly configured space.  Montaner was Gaudí’s teacher and the father of Barcelona’s modernista movement.

English language tours are held every hour and during the week you can usually arrive 15 minutes early and get tickets.  You can also buy them online.  Our tour guide was excellent and at one point turned on music by the 4,000-pipe organ so we could experience the remarkable sound quality. What an amazing combination of artistry.

Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.Stained glass ceiling at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.Details at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.The artistry continues outside at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.

Gaudí’s First House – Casa Vicens

img_0576

I was super excited to learn that Gaudí’s Casa Vicens is now open to the public for tours.  Up until a few years ago, it was a private home to the second family to own it (after the Vicens). Now privately owned by a bank it is being run as a museum. The cab driver didn’t understand where we wanted to go, which gives you an idea of just how “new” and unknown this property is today.  Located in Gràcia, it was once considered a country house.

We bought tickets online for one of the two daily English-language tours and joined a couple from Hong Kong as we explored the incredible house. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this home reflects so many influences and is a testimonial to Antoni Gaudi’s incredible obsession with details.

Built between 1883-85, the home uses stucco, plaster of Paris, ceramics, iron, wood, and paper mâché in design elements on walls, floors, and ceilings. Nature, as always with Gaudí, was the inspiration for many of the designs, from the chrysanthemums used on tiles to the fan palm design on the fence and gate and the ivy pattern etched into the wall over the dining room fireplace. Color is everywhere and function is never forgotten with external panels that rotate to maximize breezes, areas that can be closed in the colder months and Gaudi’s first accessible rooftop, so charming who wouldn’t want to visit.

With my husband Fred on the walkable rooftop at Casa Vicens.A portion of the property had been added in an expansion that Gaudí had approved in 1925, and that area, as well as the attic, are now used for exhibits explaining worldwide residential architecture of the era, details of the workmanship in the home, and the former uniquely landscaped gardens long lost to the sell-off of the surrounding land. The original kitchen was housed in the basement, now repurposed as an eclectic gift shop and the outside features a small café.

Add it to your list of ‘must-see while in Barcelona’.

 

 

Barcelona: You’ve Walked, Now Take a Ride

img_0725

Being blessed with beautiful weather, we decided to take a ride on a Hop-on bus. We didn’t plan to “hop-off” but just want to enjoy the pretty day, fresh air and cityscapes. I also wanted to take an updated picture of the famous Gaudí cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, under construction for more than 100 years and still not complete. I was curious if there were the same number of cranes as when I visited a few years ago. The cranes were certainly not as visible as before, although still in use.  To visit this site, you now need an advance purchased ticket due to the large daily crowds. You could also rent a car or hire a cab and I’ve done both, but it is enjoyable to sit up high in an open-air vehicle to view the area. Be sure to ride through the beautiful Gràcia, Pedrables and Sarrià neighborhoods and get up to Montjuic for some great views of the city and surrounding area.

Crowds waiting to get into La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

A Return to Beautiful Barcelona

 

Barcelona is truly one of the great cities of the world. It really has everything, a waterfront, Europe’s largest port, mountains on the horizon, temperate weather, history and more history, leafy boulevards, grand houses, delicious food, a thriving artistic community, incredible architecture, museums, and charming neighborhoods. The city combines a melting pot of cultures while maintaining a strong independent identity all its own. It’s a city that has reinvented itself throughout the years and has worked hard to earn the reputation it has today.

I have heard other people say they’ve been here before or more than once and seen the city.  That’s just not possible, there is way too much going on here.  Having visited before we had covered the obligatory major sites – such as La Sagrada Familia and fabulous Gaudi sites such as Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Pedrera (Casa Milà). If you’ve never been, don’t miss these famous iconic sites. But when visiting this interesting and complex city carve out some time for walking because there is nothing like exploring sections of the city on foot. Read the rest of this entry