Parc Güell ~ Barcelona

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was twenty-one years old with a mission to see as much of Europe as I could. I had bought a month long eurorail train ticket and was trying to visit as many European countries as humanly possible with not much money. Back then I only spent one day in Barcelona and it was a mix of seeing the Olympic Park at Montjuic Mountain (which I found a little boring) and checking out the Picasso Museum (amazing).

But the next time (and the next time and the next time) I returned to Barcelona I had a plan. I knew what I wanted to see, which was pretty much everything created by Gaudí – Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Casa Battló. And all of these are so remarkable and beautiful that I must focus on each, one at a time. And first up is Parc Güell.

A little history for you – in 1890, the industrialist Eusebi Güell hired Antoni Gaudí to design the park which was originally planned to be a garden city with villas high above Barcelona in an area called Bare Mountain. It was inspired by the English garden city movement and its intent was to exploit the fresh air and enjoy expansive views of the city and the coast. There were sixty triangular lots available for luxury houses but nobody was interested. Only two homes were built on the land (neither by Gaudí), with Gaudí buying one of them and living there from 1906 to 1926, it is now the Gaudí House Museum.

By 1903 the two entrance pavilions had been constructed, as well as the main flight of steps, the shelter for horse-drawn carriages, the outer enclosure, the viaducts and part of the great esplanade, together with the water evacuation system.

The Dragon Stairway:

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The great entrance leads to the Hypostyle room, which was designed to be the market for the estate. It is made up of 86 striated columns inspired in the Doric order. The outermost ones slope in an undulating movement clearly contrary to the rules of classical composition, while reinforcing a perception of their structural role.

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Inside the room the absence of columns in some sections creates spaces that simulate three naves, like a great church. The ceiling is formed of small domes constructed using the traditional technique of clay bricks decorated with original tile-shard mosaics made by Josep M. Jujol, one of Gaudí’s assistants.

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My favorite area (and I think most people’s favorite) is the Greek Theatre but it has more recently been rechristened as Plaça de la Natura (Nature Square). Its original name was due to the fact that it was planned for staging large open-air shows that could be watched from the surrounding terraces. Although Gaudí always respected the lie of the land, this large square is artificial. Part of it is dug into the rock, while the other part is held up on top of the Hypostyle room. The focal point is the long bench in the form of a sea serpent and the views are breathtaking. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere.

This bench is world famous, even Salvador Dalí called the bench once the precursor of surrealism. And he has sat there!

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I mean seriously, check out the view.

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On the eastern side of the Greek Theatre square there is an original iron door which leads to where there used to be the gardens of Casa Larrard, the former mansion that Güell adopted as his own house, but which has been a school since 1931. The route, which runs at a level higher than that of the house, passes through a pine grove with the portico backing onto a retaining wall made from unworked stone. The portico adopts the shape of a great wave atop slanting columns, with a double colonnade that acts as a buttress. It is one of the finest examples of the organic architecture upheld by Gaudí.

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While the park is completely enchanting with all of its, let’s just say “stunningness”, my favorites are always the gorgeous mosaic tiles. Which a lot of were planned and designed not by Gaudí but by his often overlooked colaberator, Josep M. Jujol.

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And the best mosaic of them all, the dragon which guards the entrance to Park Güell – El Drac. A conduit running inside the Hypostyle toom collects the rainwater that filters down from the square, sending it to an underground tank, which uses the dragon’s mouth as its overflow. Genius, I tell you.

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There is a large area of the park that is open free to the public. But all of these areas to visit mentioned above you need to buy a ticket, adults are 7.50€ and children are 5.25€. I would advise to buy tickets online to bypass the long line that sometimes happens with the beautiful park.

I would love to hear about your experience at Parc Güell if you go or if you have been before. I find this such a magical place that it always draws me to it every time I am in the fabulous city of Barcelona.

 

 

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Have you been? They are breathtaking! So beautiful. We had just finished exploring the Ring of Kerry the day before and headed northwest to check them out the day before we had to head back home. Film buffs will recognize them as the cliffs of insanity from the movie The Princess Bride. (LOVE that movie. so good)

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The cliffs are one of Ireland’s most famous tourist destinations receiving over one million tourists every year. They’re in Clare county and located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region. The cliffs consist of mainly Namurian shale and sandstone and it’s possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through at the base of the cliffs. 300 million years old? Wow.

I was really REALLY wanting to see a puffin. I think they are one of the cutest birds ever. Sadly, we didn’t see any (insert sad face) but maybe you’ll be luckier. If so, please send a picture.

You are free to walk along the cliffs. There aren’t any guard rails so if you have young children please make sure to watch them. I was astonished at so many people sitting on the edge with their feet dangling! It made my stomach drop a bit. Cuz you know, one slip and well, I’d think you’re a goner.

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The day was a bit hazy when we were there. But still gorgeous.

O’Brien’s Tower is located at the highest point of the cliffs. It was built in 1835 by Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for Victorian tourists but is also rumored to have been built for a woman he was courting. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower on clear days, the Twelve Bens in Connemara, beyond Galway Bay can be seen, and typically the Aran Islands to the west.

The cliffs are a must see when in Ireland. Don’t forget to add them to your sightseeing list. I’m off to watch The Princess Bride again.

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My Top 5 Books of 2017

It was really hard to choose this list. I read so many great books and to narrow it down to my top five, well, let’s say for this Libra, it was a difficult task. But I did it. 🙂

eleanor Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

I completely fell in love with Miss Oliphant, with all of her quirks and idiosyncrasies, she made me laugh and cry. You know throughout the story that something bad happened during her childhood and she’d spent growing up in foster homes. Now she lives by herself, goes to her job and talks to her mother once a week. Read it and love it.

 

ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

Meet Ove. He’s one of those cranky old men that you see shuffling down your street yelling at the kids to get out of the way or the dog to quit pooping on his yard. But beyond the grumpiness is a story and a sadness. When a young chatty young couple and their two young daughters move in next door, Ove’s life begins to change with an unexpected friendship and a cat. I was not wanting this book to end.

 

lg Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

I couldn’t put this book down. Inspired by real events, this is a story of three women during World War II, their lives woven together through romance and tragedy. There is Caroline, a NY socialite working at the French Embassy; Kasia is a spunky Polish teenager wanting to be fighting against the Germans and caught up in the Polish underground; and finally Herta, a Nazi doctor who has convinced herself that she is doing the right thing. I think this is the best book I read all year.

road The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Okay, so this book came out in 2007 but I’ve never read it until this year. And I finished it in a matter of days – you’d see me at the beach with my nose in this book. A son and father are wandering fire ravaged America. They must rely on each other as lookouts and the only person they trust because there is evil lurking at every turn. It’s a profoundly moving story about needing to move forward, to move on when there seems to be no hope. And a story of unconditional love.

 

rules The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

You’ll read this as fast as you possibly can. It’s that good. A memoir by Ms. Levy as honest as I’ve ever read. She’s been knocked down, gotten up, knocked down again. It’s beautiful and messy and soul-baring with surprising humor. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

What were some of your favorite books of 2017? See y’all in 2018!!