A Travellerspoint blog

Evora Portugal - Ancient Cromlech Older than Stonehenge

sunny 15 °C
View The Iberian Penninsula in December on CherylGypsyRose's travel map.

Evora is a historic 2000 year old city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled old town boasts Moorish, Roman and Catholic monuments, hilly cobbled streets, narrow lanes and spacious squares.

The Alentejo region is a major provider of the renewable resource, cork. All manner of cork items are sold including purses, shoes and hats. (Likely more necessary for the industry now that so few wines have actual cork stoppers!!)
The bark of the Cork Oak tree is removed manually with an axe once every 9 years. Bark cannot be harvested until the tree is 25 years old. The bark is only taken from the tree base to the branch line. The Cork Oak lives about 200 years.
The famous acorn fed pigs that turn into Iberian Ham feed off the acorns of cork oak tree.

There are numerous Neolithic stone formations in Alentajo but the ones not to miss are the 95 standing stones of the Almendres Cromlech about 15 km from Evora and 4 km from the village of Guadeloupe.

The term cromlech refers to a prehistoric circle of standing stones with a religious or spiritual overtone.

The Almendres Cromlech is older than Stonehenge and was in continuous use for 3000 years!

The dirt road from Guadeloupe to the parking area near the Cromlech is narrow, full of ruts and potholes. I was afraid the taxi driver would refuse to take his car further but he persevered and we did not get stuck in the muddy patches.

The one person in Evora who does tours was away for the weekend. The cab fare (and tour rates) on weekends is ten Euros more than on weekdays. The driver spoke German and Italian as well as Portuguese but no English.
Cab fare was 45 Euros because it is Saturday and we booked for 9 am
It was a fine sunny day, much nicer than yesterday. As I walked down the path leading from the car park to the stones I had no idea what to expect. The bright morning sun was shining in my eyes when the path curved and they came into view.

Beneath the shadows of cork and olive trees, a holy place, a message from an ancient people. It was larger and more expansive than I had expected, the placement of the rocks deliberate, their sizes and shapes purposeful.

The intimacy of the site was amazing. We were alone in the field, no other tourists, nobody but us. The stones were spread out in an oval shape, I touched them, hoping to leave a fingerprint, a bit of DNA.

Nobody knows exactly what this site was used for, possibly sun worshipers. Maybe they did ceremonial sacrifices here, I hope not since this is the highlight of my trip.

For thirty minutes I was completely engaged with mostly egg shaped stones, some taller than me. Words cannot describe, and pictures cannot capture, the beauty of this monument on a sun drenched December morning.

I reluctantly trudged back to the taxi. 'Wonderbar,' I said to the driver, 'magnifico'. My eyes watered as I climbed into the back seat.

It was a quiet ride back to Evora. We enjoyed a cafe au lait in the main square and were rewarded by the music of a folk choir along with a metal working demonstration.

The square I really wanted to see was the one with the Roman Temple. Pretty impressive for recent stuff. I am all about pre history now. Where did they come from and where did they go?

On this sunny day the Roman Temple ruins are stunning. The Temple of Diana has been here since 200 AD.

I like the saying painted on the fence, "Everything is a story".

We had lunch in the courtyard of an upscale restaurant with Moorish architecture, seems to be connected to a pousada. It was very pleasant. I had plum cake and Rhea had a Bifana. The Bifana is a just cooked pork cutlet on a bun and was Rhea's go to Sandwich.
We each sampled a bite of the others food. Biting down on the chewy crust of the bun I dislocated my jaw.
Ouch, throbbing pain and my teeth did not meet on the left hand side.

The Museu de Evora is located in the Bishop's Palace. Admission was about 3 euros, it is closed on Mondays and free on the first Sunday of the month. We were disappointed in the small display of prehistoric archaeology, the Roman tombs were more impressive:
We toured the museum, had a drink on the third major square, poked through souvenir shops and then stopped by the church with skulls and bones. The Chapel of Bones is located in Saint Frances Church. Very macabre, kind of a downer after this morning.

There is a museum in the church and stairs lead up to rooftop viewing points, Along the way I looked at their collection of nativity scenes from around the world.
A street fair was set up near the bones cathedral so we looked around and on the way back to our hotel stopped at an indoor market to buy cheese and fruit.

We are staying at the Moov Hotel just inside the old city gates. It is located in a refurbished bull ring but the hotel is ultra modern.
The room is not huge but very good value for money spent.

I asked for ice at the hotel desk and they helpfully scared some up. Back in the room I take an anti inflammatory and ice my jaw. The ibuprofen kicked in, I felt a bit better. We walked to a nearby wine bar "Winetime" for supper. I had a beer and dates wrapped in Iberian ham.
I recommend this place as the waitress was super friendly, the price really reasonable and there was some ambiance. My portion of the eight euro bill was 6.75 Canadian.

The next morning we had time for a coffee before getting to the bus station.
The main square, Placo do Geralda, is near our hotel. Back in the day, during the Inquisition, public executions took place here. Today it is pretty tame by comparison. We sat by the cafe window to enjoy the view with our coffee.

One end of the square features Santa Antao Church. Nearby is a marble fountain built in 1571.
Santa Antao Church is built over the old site of a Knights Templar church.
I cannot put any of my teeth together and can barely open my mouth. It seems less painful when I don't move my mouth so I resign myself to remaining silent except for emergencies.
We get two seats each on the bus so I am happy, lots of room.
We are going to Lisbon, our last stop.
On the one hour bus trip I go through my photos of Evora. I edit the rocks, enlarging areas that might have a picture or some marking.

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Archaeologists have found faint markings and drawings on some of the stones and put forward some theories, but it remains pretty much a mystery. Why would a neolithic society take the time to move, modify and embellish large rocks?
The cromlechs are 6000 years old.
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The scenery along the route to Lisbon:

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:50 Archived in Portugal Tagged budget roman stonehenge portugal neolithic cork alentejo cromlech megaliths pre-historic Comments (1)

Cabo da Roca Portugal - Where the Land Ends

sunny 17 °C

21 December 2016: the final day of our three week trip through the Iberian Penninsula.
We are taking the train from Rossio Station, Lisbon to Sintra.

Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its many castles and manor houses.

Frequent and inexpensive trains leave from Rossio Station. The trip to Sintra is just 40 minutes, an easy day trip from Lisbon.

Right beside the Sintra Station a series of buses can be taken to the various castles.

First we took a bus to Cabo da Roca.

Cabo da Roca is the most westerly point of land on Eurasia. Cape Roca.

It used to be considered the end of the world.

The cape is located 42 km west of Lisbon. The rugged cliffs are over 100 meters above the Atlantic Ocean.

The shoreline is exhilarating - with the wind whipping our hair into spirals and a casual approach to safety along an un-fenced path, we join other tourists happily taking selfies above the crashing waves.

We are glad we came. It seems a wild kind of beauty, a bit edgy. I keep an eye on the other tourists since I don't want some psychopath to give me a little shove.


The mat of greenery is an invasive succulent
Carpobrotus edulis. Native to South Africa, it was introduced to a domestic garden about 30 years ago and has taken over the landscape.

The poet, Luis Camoes' (1524 - 1580) line, "Where the land ends and the sea begins" is inscribed on the monument:

Back in Sintra we take a bus to the most spectacular castle. Wow, the Sintra Mountains are fairly steep, the road is very narrow and twisty. The bus driver honks at frequent blind curves to warn oncoming traffic we are taking up the entire road.
After the majestic Cabo da Roca it is too pedestrian to view a castle. It is heavily treed here, colder, we are quite high up. The road where we line up to catch the bus back to Sintra is so steep it would be easy to topple over and roll back down to town.
There are so many tourists we end up standing on the ride down. This is low season!

It is late afternoon when we get back to Lisbon.

Now the longest day begins as we leave for home at five am - it has come to that point where it is past doing anything but mark time.

We wander around Rossio square, pick up a few souvenirs, have coffee, dodge the homeless who hang around the steps of the National Theatre and one last time walk down Avenida Liberdade. We have been staying near a very posh street, where the rich folks shop.

Right on the corner of our street and Avenida Liberdade is a neighbourhood bar. Rhea has tea and - I forgot to mention I fixed my own dislocated jaw the other night, long story but it worked, I had a sandwich with a nice glass of red.
My suitcase is stuffed, I am also carrying my day-pack and purse. Souvenirs fill all the nooks and crannies and Rhea has my shoes in her larger suitcase. I threw out my old sandals - (I had planned on this if necessary) since I purchased the espadrilles. Still, to choose a carry on size suitcase, which I check, limits space for souvenirs.
So we are back in the hood, cab fare is 13 Euros to the airport, so much construction or it would have been less.
On one congested corner a lone policeman was directing traffic. It turned out to be cheap entertainment as one driver kept trying to sneak ahead - 4 times the whistle blew and 4 times traffic completely stopped to enable this guy to back up and wait his turn. The cop was visibly ticked off and ignored the offending car when his actual turn came up. The driver did creep ahead again but got waved back.

I flew home from Lisbon 4 years ago and don't recall the airport being so confusing.

We are early for our flight and the KLM desk isn't manned until two and a half hours before takeoff. We have to hang around on the third level common area with other people who are laying on all the seats and using all the charging stations.
I filled out a complaint card as I had nothing to do. My cell phone and tablet both needed charging, Rhea's phone was dead too, boring!!

I wanted to look up a word I read at the information Centre in Cabo de 'Lusitania.'

There was a group of young people monopolizing the three (THREE) charging stations with their laptops ???
Finally I went over and made a general announcement:

"I have to use a charging station."

I may have struck them as a little bit crazy, and who knows if anybody spoke English, but one young man acknowledged the charger I was waving around and unplugged.

I looked up Lusitanians - oh, ancestors of the Portuguese people.

Rhea covered her face with a scarf and tried to sleep while I kept one eye on the luggage and the other on solitaire and before you know it we were last in line for the KLM counter. Lucky we didn't miss our flight.

We change planes in Amsterdam, very straightforward and I spent the waiting time getting rid of all the change in the bottom of my purse. Dutch cookies, licorice and peppermints prove I spent three hours in Holland.

We had changed our seats for this leg of the journey - Rhea had an aisle seat a few rows up and I had a window seat. Why a larger person would accept a middle seat is beyond me. I had not taken my jacket off before sitting down and basically missed my chance.

KLM0677 was held up on the runway for 30 minutes. I sat scrunched in the corner pocket for 8 and a half hours.


If he folded his arms, which to his credit, he did for at least five of those hours, I shared the armrest with his stomach. He had a nap right after takeoff so I surreptitiously snapped a few pictures. I felt sorry for him also by the way, he couldn't have been comfortable either.

I am miffed at KLM. Their economy seats are too small. They crowd us in like sardines.
KLM has enhanced economy for which there is a substantial additional charge. Those seats are the size of normal economy.

Why it is acceptable for me to be sharing my seat with a stranger on a trans Atlantic flight is beyond me. Aisle would have been so much better, I could have moved one leg and arm into the aisle and had access to more air.

When things got to be too much I leaned my forehead on the window and took pictures.
This one is very interesting as it is over snow, not clouds, and I could see, but the phone camera did not really pick up, the lights of a settlement. I wondered if we were over Iceland or Greenland?
The time passed, I survived, it is 12 degrees C in Calgary, we are lucky!
And my sweet three year old granddaughter was thrilled that I was home. She loved her ladybug dress and ?

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:45 Archived in Portugal Tagged coast west atlantic budget europe lisbon portugal souvenirs klm sintra camoes rossio azulejo Comments (0)

Ancient Dolmens near Antequera Spain

sunny 17 °C

In July 2016, UNESCO named the Antequera megalithic dolmens a world heritage site. Dolmens are ancient burial sites and Megaliths are massive stones used in prehistoric construction.

We took the high speed train from Barcelona Sants Station to Antequera on December 6. The trip took 5.5 hours, average speed, 250 km per hour.

The Antequera Santa-Ana station is actually 17 kilometres from the town. Thank goodness there is a bus into town about every half hour. Buy bus tickets in the information office inside the station for just a few Euros.

We walked from our hotel in Barcelona to Sants Station. We were hoping to get a coffee but were held up at the entrance. Bags, jackets and purses go through a scanner at train stations.
There was an issue with my suitcase.
'You have a knife!' Rhea and the agent advise me. I squinted at the screen. The paring knife in my suitcase looked like a dagger. 'You can have it, no problem,' I volunteered.
No I had to go into a private side room with a different guard. I opened the stuffed suitcase, praying the knife would be near the top.
Whew! I pulled it out and handed it over. 'This?' he sniffed and handed it back. 'You can take it. Now show your passport and sign this paper.'
Just like that I am a free woman boarding a train with a knife in my suitcase. I had knitting needles in my purse and, as I pointed out to Rhea, I could probably gouge somebody's eyes out. People travel with pens all the time and they could inflict a bit of damage. Not to give anybody ideas.
I was baffled the knife wasn't confiscated. It is pretty dull but the guard never even tested the blade. Handy for cutting off a bit of cheese as we travel or saw off my arm if I fall into a crevice with my suitcase.

Antequera is a pretty ancient town in the fertile district of Andalusia. It would be an easy day trip from Malaga but we have booked two nights here.
High speed train tickets were seventy five C each - a good deal booked online.

We have double booked hotels for the first night. This happened because of free cancelation - Rhea had booked a room for one night too and her email said cancel by Dec 3 but it meant cancel on or before December 2.
When she casually mentioned her booking (morning of Dec 3) it was too late for either of us to cancel.
She tried to argue her case but no luck. We decided to take a cab from the bus station to my hotel which we had for two nights and we would leave her big suitcase in my room.
The Hotel Toril is not fancy but it is clean and the room I was assigned had three single beds and was huge. It was also very quiet. Wifi was terrible but you could get it in the lobby.

Around 3 we walked to the tourist office which was a block from Rhea's hotel. Many shops were closed for siesta.

Her room was not as big as mine but was cute and clean and very well located on San Sebastián Square where the hop on and off bus starts.
She decided it would be easier to stay at my place since I am navigationaly challenged and needed to be guided home.

Antequera has a population of 42000 and has a 5000 year history.

La Pena de Los ENAMORADOS, a limestone hill, can be seen from almost everywhere in the town. It is known as Lovers' Leap and has a legend.

It appears as a man's profile, the sleeping giant.

The Pena de Los Enamorados has a significant connection to the Menga dolman: on the summer solstice the rising sun shines over the peak of Enamorados and straight across the entrance to the chamber.


The Menga Dolman is almost 30 metres long and is the largest in Europe. It is about 5000 years old. The heaviest upright stone weighs over four times more than the heaviest stone at Stonehenge! The Menga Dolmen is unusual because of its alignment with a natural monument, Enamorados.

Nearby is the Viera Dolmen which is, in customary fashion, positioned towards the sun.

A bit further away (and due to lack of transportation we did not visit) is The Tholos of el Romero which is positioned towards el Tocal Mountain.
The three megaliths and two mountains were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2016.
We visited the information centre on site first to watch a video portraying an educated guess of how the huge rocks were moved and put in place in pre historic times (lots of manpower). Then we viewed the Menga and Vierra Dolmens.

The hop on and off bus stops here for 20 minutes. We actually stayed longer and took a later bus around to see the dolmens again.

Following our two full circuits on the hop on and off bus we visited the municipal museum which was closed until 430 pm.

It is a large museum with displays of the prehistoric dolmens, Roman tombs and statues, including a first century bronze Ephebe (considered the most beautiful Roman sculpture in Spain), paintings, church silver and a nice gallery of the works of Christobal Toral Ruiz.

Contemporary artist and home town boy, Christobal's gallery had a suitcase theme including a huge interpretation of Valesquez' Las Meninas where suitcases represent people.
I liked this painting, she only has a carry-on:

The Museum of Civilization, Antequara, is worth a look. It is closed on Mondays and closes every day at 2 - plan a morning visit.

Nuns in habits were selling special Christmas cookies from convents but we bought ours at a bakery. Polvoron cookies are a type of shortbread, very crumbly, flavourful, melt in your mouth. We bought a dozen for 12 euros, the nuns were selling them for seven dollars a kilo - these are very light cookies.
The convent cookies are interesting: there are two shuttered windows. The first one is where you place your order and the second one is where you receive your purchase.

Antequera is an ancient town, as the name suggests. The dolmens go back to the Bronze Age. Then there was the period under the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths who were invaded by the Moors in 711 AD. The Moors held power until the 15 th century when Ferdinand 1 of Aragon drove them out.
We saw Roman ruins, the alcazaba and numerous Catholic Churches. A very historic town. Pleasant, slow paced, sunny and warm.


The hop on and off bus was open air and the other tourists were Spanish.

Nothing seemed very commercialized, the hop on bus cost 6 euros (Seniors rate) and the dolmens were free. Unbelievable.

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On December 8 our bus to Malaga left at 9 am. We decided to walk as the depot was only a ten minute stroll from our hotel. We stopped for a coffee at a corner bar. Very good coffee for one Euro each. There were 2 Irishmen having a shot with their morning cuppa and one was very talkative. This was our first encounter with native English speakers - it is Dec 8, we have been in Spain for a week!

The hotel clerk had given us directions, the Irishman gave us directions and the bartender escorted us out and pointed the way. Ten minutes. Half an hour later we got directions from a restaurant waiter and thirty minutes after that we rolled into the bus depot.

The sleeping giant dominated the skyline as we headed south to Malaga:

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:39 Archived in Spain Tagged museum spain espana tapas megaliths dolmens polvoron pre-histórico Comments (0)

The Coast of the Sun - Malaga Spain (Costa del Sol)

17 °C

Malaga, on the southwest coast of Spain, is one of the world's oldest cities. Phoenicians lived here 3000 years ago. Greeks, Romans and Visigoths followed. The Moorish alcazaba sits where a Phoenician fortress once stood.

Today Malaga is the transportation hub of the Costa del Sol tourist industry.

Bus tickets from Antequera to Malaga, less than an hour away, are five Euros. Taxi fare from the bus station to our seaside hotel was ten.
La Chancla, our hotel, is right on the beach.
December 8, 18 degrees C, a glorious sunny day.
There were torrential rain storms along the Costa del Sol on the weekend, a lady drowned in the basement of a strip club in Malaga. She used her cell phone to call for help but the rescue team failed to save her. Media pictures of the water in the streets were really disturbing. You would never imagine such an event had taken place today.
This is Thursday.
Our hotel cannot be reached by car, the restaurant and some rooms face the beach and the lobby is on a very narrow street. With no traffic the area is quiet and easy to walk.
There is a roof deck overlooking the Mediterranean right outside our room.
We were too early for check in but the front desk looked after our luggage and we spent the next few hours having coffee, walking on the beach and watching dogs and kids play in the sand.
A drum band was performing. Dec 8 is a holiday in Spain. There were two holidays this week so hotels have been in high demand. Constitution Day on 6 Dec and Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the eighth.
We have only heard one native English speaker since we arrived in Spain.

People do not pick up after their dogs on the beach where owners allow them to run off leash. Needless to say you keep a close eye on where you step if you venture out on the sand!!
The government in some cities is attempting to educate the public about poop scooping. The theft of a giant inflated dog turd commissioned by the municipality to remind pet owners to 'pickup' made international headlines.
However I digress because this was in Torrelodones near Madrid, not in Malaga.
Apparently in the summer months more of an effort is made to keep dogs off of beaches in the Costa del Sol.
The name of the beach in front of our hotel is

It is a popular city beach, six coves, a playground and fine sand.
There is a view of the harbour, very pleasant, with a good mix of locals, students and tourists. For me it is lovely in mid December. It must be wall to wall people in the summer when you can actually swim. Great for kids. The dog poop worries me though.
There is no shortage of restaurants. What is not apparent is a souvenir shop. Nice to be at a place where tourists are not so abundant!!
The hotel La Chancla terrace restaurant has a wonderful view of the sea and lots of tourists and locals stop in for a drink or a meal. We enjoy cafe con leche and churros - everyone receives a small glass of tester juice, fresh juice.
Churros are like fried dough that you dip in sugar - a type of fritter. Cafe con leche is coffee with scalded milk.
Most people who come to the coast pass through Malaga on their way to somewhere else. We are in what was once an old fishing village. Several people are fishing. There is a rowing club and a boat yard for sardine-fishing boats nearby.

Little huts are set up along the beach for the purpose of grilling sardines.
Although we have not come across native English speakers tourists (until today) most people can speak English. 'Hola do you speak English?' Shyly, 'A little' and off we go. The girl at the desk speaks excellent English and is very helpful.
It cools off after 430 but it does not get dark until 630. I post pictures on Facebook and announce it is 18 degrees on the Costa del Sol. It is minus 27 in Calgary - we just missed the bad weather - we picked the right time to get out of Dodge but it will be a shock going home.

It is relaxing to sit in the sun listening to the waves. The view from the roof deck and the restaurant is stunning and the narrow streets quaint and charming.

Breakfast at the hotel is included in our room rate. We ordered the same thing every morning although you can order anything from the menu. An omelette with ham and cheese, a dish of fresh fruit, bread, cherry tomatoes, juice and coffee. The juice is wonderful, all fresh, and the coffee, only one cup, is one third espresso and two thirds scalded milk. It packs a punch.

On Friday we decided to do laundry as there was a laundromat about five blocks away. I had been looking for my room card (key) but had not yet gone into panic mode.
Case solved.
On Saturday we took the bus to the old town.
Fabulous churches, gardens and statues and a lady singing Silent Night as we passed by:

Near the Roman ruins, just past the alcazar, a lively choir was singing folk tunes. Some people got up to dance. We spent an hour enjoying the sights and sounds of Teatro Romano Square on a sunny afternoon in the south of Spain.
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Booths were set up in the square selling items to raise money for charity. Entertainment, shopping and history all in the same place. I bought a cute doll, new and made in Spain for a quarter of what the store price would be, a steal really. There was a cute blanket, bunting bag to go with it for an extra two euros and, kicking myself now, I was too cheap to purchase it as well. The follies of a shoestring tourist!!

Near the bus stop there were more booths selling Christmas items.
Poop is one of the decorations. These have imitation flies on them:
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I know they sort of look like doughnuts here but they are plastic. We saw poop in Barcelona Christmas markets and I didn't want people to see me taking pictures and acting like an ignorant foreigner. Be respectful of the host country's customs. I didn't want to draw attention to myself in Malaga when I took a picture of the poop either!
I cannot find anything about the poop replicas on Google -there is a lot about the pooping log and the pooping figure placed in Spanish (Catalan) nativity scenes though. I think poop signifies fertility to the land, prosperity and good health in Spain so it has an accepted place in their Christmas traditions. Apparently there are cookies made to resemble poop so why not plastic poop.
In Catalonia children are given a pooping log to look after and on Dec 8 the parents keep the log under a blanket while the children encourage it to poop out candies.
On Sunday our bus to Granada left at 130. We had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed the violin music. Every morning there is a different musician - very pleasant and civilized.
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We decided we could take city transit to save a bit of money. We did save 4 Euro but it was a hassle dragging our suitcases up the bus steps and we forgot to get a transfer so paid for both buses.
We passed by the Christmas market again and noticed a display of dream catchers - invented by North American indigenous people - we saw them in China too.

We had time for hot chocolate and churros. The hot chocolate is so thick, it is like drinking chocolate pudding!!

We enjoyed our seaside vacation so much we decided to stay on the beach in the Algarve for two days.
For now we are off to Granada to visit the Alahambra.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:33 Archived in Spain Tagged beach spain espana mediterranean malaga sardines azulejo seat61 Comments (0)

Barcelona Spain: Cheap Seats at the Opera

sunny 17 °C

Barcelona, the Capitol of Catalonia Spain, is located on the north east coast of the Iberian Penninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea.
Our seats on KLM flight 0678 are near several families and one child or another cried continuously from Calgary until we changed planes in Amsterdam (8 hours). I watched three movies and hardly slept.
Tip: stick with the regular meal service. I ordered kosher just to see if it was better. I was served twenty minutes before my companions, the dinner roll and cake were still frozen and the main course was mashed potatoes. I ate it all starting with the cake. This is what makes me a good traveller, I am not a picky eater.
We arrived at Barcelona El Prat Airport on December 2. It was a gorgeous sunny day, about 17 C. The blue sky melted into the Mediterranean, dazzling.
The grass was green, flowers still bloomed, a bit humid.
The first thing that struck me in the airport was the garbage. The floor was littered with paper, garbage cans were overflowing.
Who are these litterbugs? I was disgusted and kept stopping to take pictures, it was fascinating and shocking. Millions of travelers pass through this airport.
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We later learned the airport cleaners had been on strike for a few days.

The second thing that struck me about Barcelona was graffiti. If you close your garage door someone will tag it. Oh, it turns out to be street art, and Barcelona is famous for it!! World class graffiti artists!!
We are staying at the Ayre Hotel on Gran Via. The airport bus (5 Euros ninety, you pay at the bus) stops at Placa Espanya, less than a block away. The old bullring now a shopping centre is a landmark. Barcelona does not have bullfights any more. We are staying in the Sants-Montjuic district because our room is under one hundred dollars a night and TripAdvisor gave it an excellent review. It is only three subway stops from La Rambla and the subway station is five minutes from our hotel.
Hotel rooms in Barcelona are expensive and we have scored a good deal.

A four star hotel with an inauspicious lobby, our executive room is on the fifth floor and faces Gran Via. The window opens to allow fresh air and traffic noise, but once closed our room is quiet. Such a lovely day, we slept.
The hop on and off bus stops at Placa Espanya, We purchased two day tickets for 35 Euros.
We had a light breakfast at the hotel but the lukewarm coffee con evaporated milk was a disappointment.
We got off at 92 Passieg del Gracia. La Pedrara: sculpted building by Barcelona's favourite son. Antoni Gaudi. It is another lovely blue sky day.
Casa Milla of the undulating curves and wrought iron balconies twisted like seaweed was controversial back in 1908 but was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Nicknamed la pedrera, stone quarry, it is a moderniste masterpiece.
Passieg de Gracia streetlamps have curved stonework benches in a Gaudi-esque style - I may try to copy this look with cob. They were designed by Pere Falqués I Urpi in 1906 and are inlaid with broken tile. Now I wonder about who inspired who - both architects were modernists, art nouveau.

Since it is December the streets and store windows were decorated for Christmas. We found the Hermes window with snowmen and ladybugs amusing:

We watched for street signs on the sides of buildings and were soon walking along the most famous pedestrian promenade in Barcelona.
La Rambla was fairly quiet at 10 am Saturday December 3. We enjoyed a proper cup of cafe con lache and bought cookies before hopping on the green line at Catalunya Square.

Palm trees line the boulevards and the parakeets are squawking vigourously. I never saw one though they make their nests in the palm trees. Originally from South America, brought in as pets, they are now a wild population of 10,000 in Barcelona. In 1975 the wild population was estimated at 50!!

The harbour area was sun drenched, people walked, jogged and cycled near the beach.

I like the Old Customs House situated near Port Vell:

Barcelona has an Arc de Triumph. It was built as the entrance of the 1888 World's Fair to welcome the nations.


Casa Batlló is another Gaudi work in central Barcelona on Passieg de Gracia. It is actually a renovation/remodel of an existing apartment building. We can be assured it looks nothing like the original!!

The Torre Agbar skyscraper (33 stories above ground, completed in 2005) is the third tallest building in Barcelona and has a number of nicknames. Here it represents high tech architecture in Barcelona.

I liked the metal sculpture that resembles the Olympic Rings but is meant to depict waves. The Onades (waves) stainless steel sculpture on the seafront is elegantly simple. Designed by Andrew Alfaro the lovely arches grace Placo del Carbo at the breakwater, greeting visitors who arrive by sea.

The Sagrada Familia, the church of the sacred family, designed by Gaudi, is a massive construction site. It has been under construction for 133 years and is a cacaphony of turrets, elaborate chimneys and sculptures rising high above the nearby park where senior men play a ball tossing game.

The little park is shady and peaceful just across the road from the hullabaloo around the massive building site where tourists flock to see what the fuss is about.
I will tell my kids to come when it is finished, maybe in 20 years. It is good to travel in late middle age, things take on a different perspective. Lifelong learning and all of that, walking around, finding your way in a strange city has to be mind expanding. See new things with new old eyes. An enigma.
The Roman Catholic Basilica, Sagrada Familia, could be finished in eleven years. It is the most visited monument in Spain.

When complete it will be the world's largest and most ornate church.
Below is a picture of a picture - the finished product:

Enormous, elaborate, eccentric, extraordinary. Evocative. Gaudi's obsession - he worked on it from 1883 to 1926 when he was hit by a tram and died.
He was dressed in shabby clothing as was his habit in his later years and did not receive the best medical care. Twenty-four hours later when his identity became known it was too late. He had been living in his office at the Sagrada Famillia and is buried in a crypt there.
The Picasso Museum is free all day Sunday so we take the hop on bus there. You must line up to get a free ticket and then signs point the way through the exhibits. Picasso was born in Malaga but spent his youth in Barcelona. The art of these early years is displayed. His interpretation of Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas is here. Works by other artists and acquaintances include Diego Rivera and Matisse.
We roamed around the narrow streets, stopping for tortilla (egg and potato dish) and a wee glass of wine.
There was a Christmas market near the Gothic church and lady beggars with long black skirts lined the stairs leading to Barcelona Cathedral (The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia)
We sat in a side chapel for a bit, then looked around, the mass was shown on tv screens here and there.
Instead of lighting a candle now you put money in a slot and a battery operated candle in a glass enclosure flickers on. I guess the centuries old tradition of actually lighting a candle was a fire hazard, but this new operation has lost all charm.
Barcelona Cathedral is a striking example of Gothic Catalan architecture. Construction began in 1298. On this site had previously been a Roman temple and a Moorish mosque.

There was a Christmas Market set up near the Cathedral. Most items were decorative Christmas tree ornaments or nativity scene figures.
The famous Catalan pooping log was everywhere. The Caga Tió is put to work by Barcelona children on December 8 - it is suppose to be covered with a blanket and beaten with a stick until it poops out presents, often candies.
They also sell pooping figures, caganeres. There are pooping figures made especially for nativity scenes and then, I think, just pooping figures in general because people find it amusing and it has been a tradition in Catalonia for 200 years.

We took the orange line hop on bus, then the green line and finished after dark. We got our money's worth from our two day hop on and off tour. Sunday was cloudy with occasional rain so the open air top of the bus was chilly. We vied for seats on the main floor and I had a sleep.
The earphones with the English commentator left a lot to be desired, I either could not understand or hear half of what was said and most of the time was unsure of what we were seeing. The streets were pretty after dark with the colourful Christmas lights:

We had a light supper in the hotel bar, Rhea had a ham sandwich and I had a beer. We learned the difference between processed ham and Spanish ham. Get the Spanish ham, it is good. Jamon. York ham is like soft processed ham, icky. Spanish or Iberian ham is dry, salty and chewy, and can be sliced paper thin.
Monday. I slept in, we are going to the opera tonight. A city bus that goes to Placa Catalunya stops outside our hotel, two euros fifteen each. We sat on a bench on la Rambla and watched the people.
Another lovely blue sky day.
I admire the interesting bark on the trees that resemble sycamores, the London Plane tree. Such a common street tree in Europe fascinates me with its peeling camouflage bark.
What do you see in the bark? Perhaps it is like reading tea leaves - I see two horses, a rabbit and a ladybug.
We want to make sure we arrive to the Palau de Musica on time so check out the neighbourhood, find the venue, and look through the neighbourhood shops. The Palau is distinctive on the exterior, a moderniste design by Muntaneer, completed in just three years.
Across the street I found the perfect gift for my oldest son, a replica Salvador Dali melting clock. There were also nice souvenirs at the Gaudi shop beside the Cathedral.

The opera, La Traviata, starts at 8 pm, we booked tickets online for 27 Euros each (roughly 41 dollars). A guided tour of the concert hall is 18 Euros so the opera tickets are a bargain.
From the cheap seats on the third balcony we can see two thirds of the stage and the entire orchestra.
Our surroundings are opulent. Stained glass, intricate mosaic, elaborate light fixtures, sculptures, wrought iron, the huge and dazzling skylight with an inverted central dome, a ceiling scattered with plaster roses - wow.
The Palau de Musica, built in 1908 in the Modernista style, is the only concert hall in the world to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
We stopped by a Supermarcat to get juice for tomorrow.
The taxi back to Hotel Ayre was eight euros.
We leave for Antequera by train tomorrow at 830 am! We will walk to Sants Station.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:27 Archived in Spain Tagged buildings barcelona beach spain espana catalonia gaudi mediterranean catalan picasso caganeres seat61 Comments (0)

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