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Athens, Greece

Bring out the stuffed grape leaves, the tzatziki, greek salads with huge chunks of feta cheese then throw in a lot of old buildings and monuments and there you have it – my first trip to Athens, Greece. It is now a proven fact that I can indeed eat those things every single day. Because that’s pretty much all I had during my week in Greece. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. And it was the best food I’ve had in months – I must have been a Greek Goddess in my earlier years because I can’t get enough of everything Greek.

We arrived late in the evening, there was only one flight out of Barcelona to Athens leaving at 6:30 p.m. so we arrived at the airport around 10:30 (3 hour direct flight plus one time difference). The hotel, Grecotel Pallas Athena, had reserved a driver for us at the airport and he whisked us to our boutique hotel, smack dab in the middle of Athens. The location is superb, the eclectic design is super fashionable and I never turn down a free breakfast, which was delicious as well. But as I said, we arrived late, thankfully there were still plenty of options for dinner for us to choose from. We wandered through the streets to the restaurant the front desk dude told us about and enjoyed our first views of Athens. Here are a few sights from that first night:

We found where we needed to get some food in our bellies and guess what we had? Tzatziki!! And a few other things. And there were two singers to help us get into the Greek feeling and welcome us to Athens. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and crashed. A full day was upon us in the morning!

First things first. Breakfast! Yes, tzatziki was involved. 🙂 Along with fresh fruit, a pastry with spinach, a very hot tea and lots of water. Only then were we ready to venture out to the glorious Acropolis in the sky. And I do mean in the sky! It’s high up on a hill. AND we walked! Very proud of ourselves. It wasn’t too difficult but the day was super hot and I only brought a small bottle of water. From the hotel it was about a 30 minute walk to the entrance. You need to buy tickets (I think they were 20 euro each) and there is a place before you enter to buy drinks – lemonade slushes, coffee, beer but NO water! And I can’t even tell you how many times I heard people ask for water and every single one was incredulous that water wasn’t sold. Even one lady said to the man, “You don’t have water!?”. “No, no water,” he answered. “No water?!”, she asked again. He replied, “Maybe if you ask me twenty times more there will miraculously be water.” Needless to say she left without ordering anything. I smirked and ordered a lemonade and strawberry slushy. But then the joke was on me – nobody can enter the Acropolis grounds with any food or drinks. Ha! But water is allowed …….

So Jess and I tried to down my slurpie as quickly as possible, resulting in about 28 brain freezes.

And we were in! There were TONS of people there. But it’s quite an expansive place so you can move around pretty easily, minus those first steps to get up to the top of the hill but once you’re there people spread out. But don’t think about getting any pictures with only you – well, it’s probably doable but difficult.

I was already impressed. First stop was the Theatre of Dionysus – which funny story. We looked out over the Theatre and Jess said that she thought it looked different. I shrugged my shoulders and said wouldn’t it be cool to see an opera here. I think they must do things there still because there were lights set up and speakers, etc.

We continued on … but it was still bothering Jess. She said again, I remember it differently. How, I asked. Well, it seems very open to fight lions and animals. OMG, I laughed so loud that I think I scared people around us. I said, I think you’re thinking of the Colosseum in Rome. 🙂 Ahhhh, good times. Let it be said Jess is a very smart woman! She’s a lawyer in Los Angeles but we all have our blonde moment from time to time.

It was amazing how old this place was, pottery sherds of the Neolithic period (4000/3500-3000 BC) and of the Early and Middle Bronze Age, show that the hill was inhabited from a very early period. Seriously, walking around where people lived in 4000 BC really blows my mind.

The Acropolis was dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena. It was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important present remains including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. There is a restoration project that has been going on for years so we saw scaffolding, cranes, etc. But with things that old they all need a little help from time to time (don’t we all?).

We spent about two hours touring the grounds and taking lots of pictures, just like everyone else. Here are my favorites.

Alright, enough with the old stuff. We needed a cold brewski to take a break in the day. From the Acropolis we could see a very well preserved temple that looked interesting to check out. So after our beer, stuffed grape leaves and ….tzatziki!!! Sorry, I’ll stop. Maybe. We searched around for the temple. Turns out it’s located in Agora with lots of other ruins, a church and a museum. So, when in Athens, go see the temples.

It was the Temple of Hephaestus that we were seeing. The Doric order temple was dedicated to Hephaestus (naturally), who was the son of Zeus and Hera, and a god of blacksmiths, metallurgy, and craftsmen. This temple has been incredibly well preserved so one can easily see the Doric trademarks. The columns are fluted, or grooved. Above the columns is a thick, horizontal element called the frieze. Doric friezes are decorated with alternating patterns of triglyphs and metopes.

The metopes are blank panels in between the triglyphs. Very often, Doric metopes were carved with reliefs of scenes from Greek mythology, and the Temple of Hephaestus is no exception. The friezes of this temple depict scenes of the twelve labors of Hercules, the battle and fall of Troy, and an unidentified battle scene. It’s possible that the metopes that were not carved were, at one point in time, painted. We do know that some art has been lost from this site; records indicate that bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena Ergani once stood inside as well.

As I mentioned, this temple is located in the Agora which was a place for the citizens of ancient Athens to meet, bond and deliberate on the issues of the day. The Ancient Agora was a dynamic place, where the great thinkers Sophocles, Socrates, Protagoras, among others, would meet and where ordinary citizens could come and interact with their peers, voice their concerns, agree on solutions and courses of action.

Nowadays, it a peaceful place with shady trees, paths and cats among the ruins. We checked out the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles and the Stoa of Attalos. The stoa was another place to meet but also an ancient version of a mall, it had 42 shop spaces on the two levels. It was destroyed in 267 AD by invading Herulians. Its restoration took place between 1953 – 1956 by the American School of Classical Studies with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I really enjoyed the Agro and check out the restaurant Heliaia close by the ticket entrance to the Agros. Yummy food! (see I didn’t say it) and a great view of the Acropolis while you enjoy your food and drink.

Some of my favorite pics from the Agros area.

After the Acropolis and Agros we were a bit pooped. We walked back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner. I did a little research for dinner – I like to eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels so I always do a bit of delving into the internet for the best places. And this time it also still had to be within walking distance. On our way to the restaurant we turned down this street and there was one cute restaurant or bar after another. And then there was the place I had chosen – Bandiera at Taki 19, Athens. They don’t have a website but the food and house wine was one of the best places we ate in Greece. We had the hot pepper and cheese dip, tzatziki 🙂 and a greek salad. YUM YUM YUM.

Now I’m googling good greek restaurants in Mallorca. Must have more greek food! After the fabulous dinner we stopped by A is for Athens and had a glass of wine at their rooftop bar. Nice place!

And there you have it folks – Athens, Greece. We had an early wake up call to catch our ferry to MYKONOS! Check the blog soon for my time in Mykonos and Santorini.

And our word for the week in Greek was thank you – EfcharistĂł!!!! xo -k

architecture · art · barcelona · beauty · catalonia · celebrity sighting · love love love · Road Trip · spain · travel

Parc GĂĽell ~ 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 GaudĂ­ – Parc GĂĽell, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Casa BattlĂł. And all of these are so remarkable and beautiful that I must focus on each, one at a time. And first up is Parc GĂĽell.

A little history for you – in 1890, the industrialist Eusebi GĂĽell hired Antoni GaudĂ­ 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 GaudĂ­), with GaudĂ­ buying one of them and living there from 1906 to 1926, it is now the GaudĂ­ 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 GaudĂ­ 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 DalĂ­ 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 GĂĽell 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 GaudĂ­.

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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 GaudĂ­ 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 GĂĽell – 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 GĂĽell 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.

 

 

beauty · birds · ireland · love love love · planet · Road Trip · travel

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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architecture · arizona · art · travel · usa

Taliesin West ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the biggest names in architecture. I had only seen pictures of his marvels, but when I was in Phoenix my Mom and I went to his winter residence (and school) – Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ. Of course he doesn’t live there anymore, Wright died in 1959, but it continues today as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, an accredited school. It was built and maintained entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it the most personal of his creations.

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Taliesin is in Spring Green, WI and was his summer residence. He built it for his lover Mamah Borthwick, in part to shield her from aggressive reporters and the negative public sentiment surrounding their non-married status. Both had left their spouses and children in order to live together and were the subject of relentless public censure. In 1914, while Wright was working in Chicago a male servant hired from Barbados set fire and murdered seven people with an axe. One of those being Mamah and her two children. I could continue on but this post is not about Taliesin, it’s about Taliesin West.

With everything that Frank Lloyd Wright designed, he believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. Not to overtake but to become one with it. I love this idea.

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Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship (his apprentices) began to “trek” to Arizona each winter in 1933. In 1937 Wright purchased the plot of desert land that would soon become Taliesin West. He paid $3.50 an acre on a southern slope of the McDowell Range, believing this to be the perfect spot to build: a residence, a business, and a place to learn.

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Drafting Room at Taliesin West

I am in love with this red door of the drafting room.

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He wanted Taliesin West to connect with the desert, the structure’s walls are made of local desert rocks, stacked within wood forms and filled with concrete. Natural light was used as much as possible with windows but no glass, only an open space for birds to fly through and sunlight to beam its rays throughout the rooms. Light beige canvas was used for the roofing and could be rolled up or down depending on the day.

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For Wright everything he did was intentional. He was fascinated with the petroglyphs found on the Taliesin West property, the clasped hands of the American Indian symbol of friendship. This is often referred to as the running arrow; however, Mr. Wright preferred to call it the whirling arrow. Found in many places around the property but seen here on a rock and near the water fountain at Taliesin West.

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Wright enjoyed entertaining. Almost every Saturday he would invite people over for cocktails, dinner, maybe a movie or a dance production. They would start in the Garden Room, one of the most popular rooms at Taliesin West. Here you have a long bench but also Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous butterfly chairs.

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Every year upon his return to Taliesin West he would walk around with making changes and shouting orders to his apprentices. Taliesin West was a continuing project for Wright, always changing things with new ideas and improving the space with different concepts. Throughout the years he added to the dining room and one brilliant addition was the cabaret theatre with six-sides in an irregular hexagonal shape, it provides its occupants a “95% acoustic perfection”. Someone in the very back can hear even the slightest whisper from the stage.

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Piano space cut into stone in cabaret theatre

And speaking of the stage, his apprentices would learn more than just architecture. The Taliesin Fellowship were taught to learn all aspects of life, integrating not only architecture and construction, but also farming, gardening, and cooking, the study of nature, art, music, and dance. He would have parties almost every Saturday and half of his apprentices would cook and the other half would serve and clean up. Or if he wanted a special dance or music set for his guests, the apprentices would learn the dance or the song and perform.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Taliesin West and would recommend it to anyone, especially if you love architecture. There are many different types of tours, we did the Insight Tour which lasted about an hour and a half. Ticket prices are $34 for advanced purchase but if you are an Arizona resident you get 50% off, so don’t forget to mention that if you are! Enjoy and I would love to hear about your favorites of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Taliesin West. 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ. 480.627.5378