Monthly Archives: June 2012

Enjoying Barcelona

Outside of Gaudi’s architectural marvels I didn’t take that many photos in Barcelona, that’s either because it isn’t very interesting or more likely because I was too busy enjoying what the city has to offer. I loved Casa Batllo, Sagada Familia, Camp Nou and Palau de la Musica Catalana but there was so much more to Barcelona with it’s unique culture, fantastic restaurants, lively bars and random festivals (see fire jumping iPhone pic). I really enjoyed Barcelona and could definitely see myself coming back for an encore performance some day.

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Sagrada Familia

During my time in Japan I suffered multiple bouts of ‘temple fever’ or ‘temple rage’ where I’d seen so many temples and shrines that just the thought of seeing another made me flip out in a fit of rage. It’s nothing against the temples themselves, it’s just that after a while they all start looking a little similar. There was potential for that here in Europe, with churches, cathedrals and basilicas taking the place of shrines and temples but luckily I’ve been saved by a few truly interesting examples such as the Strasbourg Cathedral and now Gaudi’s epic Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s magnum opus hasn’t been completed yet but it’s close enough that you won’t feel ripped off waiting in line for over an hour. Cranes working on the continued construction of the church dominate the exterior but inside you’ll find a treasure trove of stained glass windows, gorgeous sculptures and unique designs that are unique to Gaudi (there’s also secret magic squares for geeks like me that notice that kind of thing). The columns and roof were apparently designed to represent trees and branches but it made me think of spiders, and no doubt it made other visitors think of something entirely different, which is all part of the fun. If you’re in Barcelona don’t miss the Sagrada Familia, there’ll probably be huge lines but it’s worth the wait.

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Posted in Barcelona, Spain Tagged , , |

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo

I have a confession to make, I’d never heard of Antoni Gaudi until I came to Barcelona….SHAME! I guess that’s one of the good things about travel though, you can’t help but learn a few new things along the way. Now that you architects are over that shocking revelation, I will begin to throw praise upon Mr Gaudi, he of the flowing lines and organic style that impressed me so much during my time in Barcelona. First up was Casa Batllo, a restored building that is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I think that’s why I like Gaudi’s work so much, it’s bright, bold and refreshingly different. I could go on forever but maybe you should check out the photos and see for yourself.

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Palau de la Musica Catalana

I’d heard that the Palau de la Musica Catalana was a thing of beauty and not to be missed if in the area so I took it upon myself to check it out. It’s a concert hall but you can take an organized tour if you want to experience the architectural splendor in the absence of an actual concert. Arriving fashionably late I soon realized that all the English tours were done for the day so rather than leave empty handed I decided to go ahead and take the Spanish one. I didn’t understand much but you’d be surprised how much can be deciphered from tone, emphasis and body language. The place really was beautiful and I quite enjoyed branching out a little and doing the tour in Spanish, yay for me.

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Posted in Barcelona, Spain Tagged , |

Camp Nou

As a football fan I couldn’t come to Barcelona and not go to Camp Nou, home of the disgustingly good Barcelona football team (I’m a tortured Liverpool supporter by the way). They have an amazing set up and it’s not hard to get caught up in the history of the club, especially as they’ve been so dominant recently with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and the boys running wild in the Champions League and Spanish La Liga. There were plenty of interactive screens and memorabilia on display but I think I enjoyed walking down the players tunnel the most, they recreate the sound effects of a packed stadium which is a nice touch. I also paid too much money to have a photo holding a replica Champions League trophy….day light robbery but it had to be done! I’d love to come back to watch an actual match but doing the whole tour thing was a pretty good substitute.

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Two Days in Valencia

I had two days in Valencia and it felt like enough time to get out and see what made the city tick. The city of Arts and Sciences seemed like the major drawcard but there were a few nice surprises including crossing paths with Andrew Bynum of all people during qualifying for the European F1 Grand Prix (sadly he wasn’t keen on a photo).

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Gulliver’s Playground

I loved the story of Gulliver’s Travels when I was younger (and still do), I also loved playgrounds when I was younger (and still do?), so naturally I thought this playground I stumbled across in Valencia was pretty cool.

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City of Arts and Sciences

I’d seen a few pictures of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia but it didn’t prepare me for the sheer size of the complex. It covers a huge area with a range of entertainment venues and modern architectural wonders designed to look like everything from a giant eye to the skeleton of a whale.

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The Best of Italy

And that concludes my three week Italian odyssey. I didn’t go everywhere but I’m calling this “The Best of Italy” anyway, I’m out of control with all this editorial power. I managed to enjoy a little bit of everything from the mountains of the Dolomites to the canals of Venice, the ruins of Rome and the beautiful waters of the Amalfi Coast. While pretty much everything was great, I think the highlights for me were hiking in the Dolomites, cycling in Rome, exploring the Cinque Terre, seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa and relaxing in Sorrento. The Italian people were friendly everywhere I went (except maybe Pompeii) and impressively patient with my poor grasp of the Italian language, grazie!

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Positano on the Amalfi Coast

I took a bus along the Amalfi Coast to see what all the fuss was about and boy what a day! The bus ride alone was epic, snaking along those narrow coastal roads with each corner offering a unique opportunity for carnage. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip but I think I enjoyed Positano the most, there were beautiful views everywhere but this romantic town seemed to have a little something something extra.

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Posted in Campania, Italy Tagged |

Chasing the Sorrento Sun

If there is one thing I will remember about Sorrento (other than limoncello) it’s the sun, it was everywhere. That might sound stupid but it dominates my thoughts and can definitely be seen in my photos which feature a lot of sun rising and sun setting. I enjoyed my time chasing the Sorrento sun and it’s a great base to explore the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Naples.

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Posted in Campania, Italy Tagged , , , , |

Taming Mt Vesuvius

After Pompeii put my 14 year old brain to sleep I decided to get to the source of the problem, Mt Vesuvius. Back in 79 AD this bad boy erupted, wiping out the cities of  Herculaneum (not really living up to the name…) and Pompeii, killing around 16000 people in the process. Taming Mt Vesuvius wasn’t going to be easy so I cheated and took a giant 4×4 two thirds of the way to the top, this isn’t the only way to do it but it was by far the most convenient at the time. There were some interesting rock formations and the view from the top was amazing. It was another scorching day but not half as scorching as that infamous day back in 79 AD. Mount Vesuvius isn’t done quite yet though, it’s the most active volcano on the European mainland and a genuine danger to the 3 million people living nearby. If you want to impress your friends I suggest mentioning that Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, they’ll love you for it.

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Posted in Campania, Italy Tagged , |

Pompeii, or What’s Left of it

Exploring the ruins of Pompeii seemed like something I couldn’t miss, in retrospect I probably could have. It’s an interesting place and I enjoyed learning about the history behind the eruption of Mt Vesuvius but I probably saw enough ruins in Rome to keep me going for the next few years. I wanted to love it but most of the time I felt I was back in school on a geography field trip, waiting for the teacher to turn away so I could go buy an ice cream and lie in the sun. I’m sorry Pompeii, I just wasn’t feeling it today.

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Posted in Campania, Italy Tagged |

Pizza in Naples!

Pretty much nobody wants to see photos of food other people ate on their holiday but this was a pizza in Naples, where it was born damn it! Get over your food envy already!

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Posted in Campania, Italy Tagged |

All Roads Lead to Rome

All roads lead to Rome, including my own. Only for three days though as I’ve got a schedule to keep people! Rome was very….um….Roman? With lot’s of grand monuments and epic ruins to keep me busy while I tried my best to overcome the intense heat that has been following me round these last few weeks. While some places are overrated and some are underrated I think Rome is appropriately rated, a historical location with lots of interesting things to enjoy. Vatican City was a must-do, as were the Pantheon, Colosseum and Spanish Steps but for me the highlight was cycling down the Appian Way, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it.

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Relaxing at the Spanish Steps

Here’s a nice shot of people relaxing at the base of the Spanish Steps on another hot day in Rome, definitely a better alternative to walking up them…

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Posted in Italy, Rome Tagged |

Cycling the Appian Way

Cycling the Appian Way (one of the earliest and most important Roman roads) was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in Italy. After renting a bike I cruised over the old cobblestone road at a leisurely pace past some gorgeous scenery. In was nice to get out of the big city and into a more rural area to see a different side of Rome. Naturally I bit off more than I could chew and went all the way out to Lake Albano, a popular spot that luckily had no shortage of gelato, an essential source of energy for the grueling trip home.

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Posted in Italy, Rome Tagged , |

Exploring Vatican City

Today I got up bright and early and headed to Vatican City in an attempt to tick off my Dan Brown inspired list of sites with the least amount of time spent in lines as possible. In the end it didn’t go too badly, I was the first person to the top of St Peter’s Basilica (awesome view!) and had a quick look around the square before making my way to the Vatican Museum. It was at this point where I got back to the reality of traveling around Europe in the summer and the outrageous lines that go with it. There was around an hours wait to get into the museum but I’m getting used to in now so it wasn’t too bad. Some of the art and architecture was beautiful and the Sistene Chapel is probably worth the wait by itself. All in all it was a fun morning exploring Vatican City.

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Posted in Italy, Rome Tagged , , , |

The Pantheon

The Pantheon was a nice surprise, sure it’s overrun with tourists like me but it’s a beautiful space and I love the light that comes through the top of the dome, two thumbs up!

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Posted in Italy, Rome Tagged |

The Roman Forum

It is so hot, so very very hot. Obviously it’s the perfect day to explore the Roman Forum and all it’s ruins. I’ll probably go in the early afternoon to maximize the intense heat and dehydration…

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Posted in Italy, Rome Tagged |