Friday, October 17, 2008

My day in Montserrat, Spain

Traveling to the Monastery in Saint Mary's Square of Montserrat was GORGEOUS!

Nestled upon these amazing cliffs is a beautiful Monastery and Square--and the views are absolutely BREATHTAKING!

These next photos are of the walkway of the square--the actual square itself--and monastery within:

The facade of the Monastery:

And a little more up close and personal of that clock tower, window and facade:

View from within the square:

Statue on hillside of the carrying of the cross:

These next photos are some of the statues found inside the square:

This is me--taking it all in, within St. Mary's Square:

We ate in this amazing restaurant that you can kinda see jutting out to the left of this next photo--where you could enjoy some amazing views from its vantage point:

These next photos are views taken from the walkway to and from the restaurant and along the square:

Now if you didn't happen to see enough walking around--you can always take a tram ride or a funicular. This is the station where you catch it:

One of the most famous things about Montserrat is the L’Escolania choir school which is located here in a monastery atop steep limestone cliffs. It is Europe's oldest boys choir and is comprised of boys singing soprano or alto--ranging in age from 9 to 14. (of course, when their voices begin to change--it's time to move on or join an adult choir!)

This is a photo of the dorms which house the boys:

Unfortunately the boys choir was not singing while I was there--but I did manage to find this 26 second Youtube video that gives you a little taste of what they sound like--along with the vastness and scope of the monastery here in Montserrat:

Another of the most famous things about Montserrat is the 'Black Madonna'

This statue of the Madonna and Child is known as La Moreneta. (which means the dark little one) The dark color of Our Lady of Montserrat is attributed to the innumerable candles and lamps that have burned day and night before her, but no one really knows for sure.

It was believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church--from the late 12th century. Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. The statue's sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage.

Now, for those of you who know me well--and realize that I have an entire CATEGORY of my blog dedicated to DINING and FOOD subjects--will find no surprise in the fact that I had to stop along the open markets along the way to take in the local folks fresh baked goods,nuts, fruits, cheeses and sauces:

I ended up purchasing one of these fig/nut creations to take back to my dear hubby:

And some goat cheese for him as well! (I must admit that dear daughter and I had our healthy share of the goat cheese too.) It was DELICIOUS!

Would it sound totally redundant and silly for me to say that I had an absolutely GREAT time? OK then. . . you didn't hear that from me. . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Next stop. . . Barcelona, Spain!

Here is dear mother-in-law and I overlooking the Beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain!

The weather was PERFECT! The day was sunny and warm and the sights were UNREAL!

We had a blast taking in the city:

This next photo is a modern day billboard on one of the buildings that I thought was kinda cool:

But then, I liked the 'homemade' one even better:

Here's what the little taxis looked like:

And just like Rome and other parts of Italy, they also had scooters everywhere in Barcelona:

Oh! And then, of course we had to stop at a sword and knife shop! I mean, when in Barcelona. . .

And then we come to GAUDI! I mean this architect was AMAZING! You can't visit Barcelona or Catalonia Spain and not visit some of his amazing buildings and artwork.

His name was Antoni Gaudí. He was born on the 25th of June in 1852. To say he was brilliant would be an understatement! He was definitely 'unconventional' and always thinking outside the box! I don't think he even knew how to draw a straight line! (just kidding) He used the natural environment and surroundings to draw from when creating his designs. He definitely pushed the envelope with his more rounded, whimsical and colorful projects (far removed from the square and traditional designs of others before him) Hence, we now have the the term 'gaudy'--when describing something 'over the top'.

He was a master at combining the traditional elements with amazing ornamentation and truly imaginative designs. You can see for yourself in the following photos:

This poster encapsulates perfectly the creative genius of Gaudi:

And then we come to the unfinished masterpiece of this man:

The Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia--which means Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family. This project was begun in 1882! Gaudi worked on this massive creation for nearly 42 years--right up until he was struck by a trolley and killed in 1926. Apparently he didn't leave any written plans for the continuation of this great project.

But he did construct a model of his vision for the cathedral--and a few notes and drawings. So work continued on la Sagrada until a fire in 1936 destroyed all of the notes and designs he left. Then in 1952 work began again--but there was much debating and disagreements

And amazingly--construction is still underway today, with the aid of volunteer builders. You can actually tour the constructed areas. If you do visit the museum there, you will be able to watch stone cutters cutting the stones required for the construction. Also there is a model displayed of what the final Sagrada Familia will look like. I don't think I'll be able to go back and see the completed project--as it slated to be done in approximately 80 years!

OK--I went NUTS at the Sagrada Familia! The facade of the building, the statues, the spires--I just couldn't stop taking photos--because. . .well, it was TOO much! So you'll just have to see the rest in my lil' slide show! I hope you enjoy it--but trust me--it is more fun to actually BE THERE and see it up close and personal!