In the city of Gaudí

In the winter of 2012 I went to Barcelona, the city of Gaudi. We visited the Sagrada Familia, Parque Guell, Barrio Gotico, among other things. It’s a city full of life!

 

Curiosities about the city:

Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya and the official language is Catalan.

There were no beaches in Barcelona until 1992. The seaside of Barcelona was full of local industries up until the city decided to host the Olympic Games and they created these artificial beaches

They are crazy about football, with one of the worlds’ largest and richest football clubs, FC Barcelona. The club’s Camp Nou stadium in Europe’s largest, with a capacity of 100,000.

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Barcelona was a fun trip with Ricardo. We stayed in a hostel with a beautiful old facade, but inside was awful. It’s called AWA Happy Hostel Barcelona. It is on Rambla de Catalunya 52, close to Casa Batló and Passeig de Gràcia. I remember, however, having had a good time there on the balcony of the hotel, which has a beautiful view of the city, talking and smoking with Ricardo. I think this hostel is now closed.

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On this trip I had a horrible hairstyle. I cut a fringe but it was too short. I hate the photos of this trip because of it. It was in Barcelona that I first went to Starbucks, strolling along the famous Ramblas and the surrounding streets, that stretches for 1.2 km connecting Plaza de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.

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We visited the Sagrada Familia, which is eternally under construction. The back facade is very pretty. It’s an amazing interpretation of Gothic architecture. We did not enter because the queue was giant.

The Sagrada Familia is the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world and it was designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Gaudí’s work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.

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We also went to the Gothic Quarter, Casa Batlló and Casa Mila, these last two being renowned buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí’s.

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The Gothic Quarter encompasses the oldest parts of the city of Barcelona, and includes the remains of the city’s Roman wall and several notable medieval landmarks. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area, along with the former Sinagoga Major. It retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares. Most of the quarter is closed to regular traffic although open to service vehicles and taxis.

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I really enjoyed the Parc de la Ciutadella, gave excellent photos because it is very beautiful, with a large fountain designed by Josep Fontse and a triumph arch.

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There was one night when we went to Montjuic to see the fountain lights show, next to Palau Nacional and Plaza de Espana. The fountain, like most of the surrounding developments, was constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.

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We went for a walk near the Playa de la Barceloneta and the marina.

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In our last day, we went to visit Parc Güell, very beautiful. It was also designed by Antoni Gaudi. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site.

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People had also warned me about the pickpockets in the subway there (there are even security guards on the subway who whistle to tell you when there are pickpockets nearby) and one time we were in the subway and a lady warned me that I was being robbed. I look back and I see a woman opening my backpack! When I looked at her, she ran away and did not steal anything. Uf, I was lucky!

In a maze of gondolas and canals

I went with Ricardo to the most romantic city in the world, Venice. It was a trip that was very important for me and I felt like my wanderlust desire was awaken again.

Curiosities about the city:

Venice is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by 400 bridges.

The wooden piles on which the city was famously built have done their job with sturdy water-resistant efficiency for centuries. However, Venice is notoriously sinking by up to 2mm every year.

The Carnival is very famous. The Medico della Peste mask – the unnerving face-disguise which bears avian features and a long beak – is (as its name says) a reference to the plagues which swept Europe in the Middle Ages.

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We took advantage of the fact that there was a new low cost airline (Volotea) flying from Porto and we bought a direct flight to Venice, super cheap. I will never forget what I felt when I arrived in Venice. What a sense of wonder! We arrived at sunset and seeing all that with that light was breathtaking: the Grand Canal, the colorful houses, the beautiful bridges, the churches…

The Grand Canal forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city, with more than 170 buildings on both sides. Amongst the many are the Palazzi Barbaro, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ d’Oro, Palazzo Dario, Ca’ Foscari, Palazzo Barbarigo, Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the church of Santa Maria della Salute.

Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. Consequently, one can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the grand canal by boat.

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We stayed in a cozy hotel in the center – I cannot remember the name. The man front he reception could not even speak English, but we understood each other. I had never seen so many tourists together as in Venice, in St. Mark’s Square. What a madness!

The centerpiece of the piazza is, of course, magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica. Commissioned in 1071 by doge Domenico Contarini, this amazing church is built in Venetian-Byzantine style, a mixture of western and eastern styles.

The basilica has a separate campanile – bell tower – that stands 98.6 meters tall and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. There’s also two columns that pay homage to two of Venice’s patrons – St. Mark and St. Teodoro of Amasea. The columns have long served as the official gateway to the city.

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Close to the square, we visited  Palazzo Ducale. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923. Today, it is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

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We went to the Bridge of Sighs. The enclosed bridge has windows with stone bars and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino and was built in 1600. The name of the bridge comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

We also went to see the little shops inside Rialto Bridge. The bridge was designed by Antonio da Ponte in 1591. It has two inclined ramps that lead up to a central portico.

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Then we decided to go on one of the water buses, the vaporetto, to one of the other islands of Venice, with beaches and everything, more residential. These water buses are quite scary because when they hit the shore for people to leave, there is always a gap in which we can put our feet there or even fall into the water. We do not ride in a gondola, because it was an economic trip, but now I regret it.

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Last night we went out to have dinner in a typical Italian restaurant in front of a canal. It was beautiful! We had diner by candlelight, drank wine and then decided to try an Italian drink called Spritz. The drink was sweet but it had plenty of alcohol and the truth is that I drank too much!

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That last night Ricardo and I did not book a hotel. Our plan was to walk around the city, because the return flight was super early. We went to Casino di Venezia, very fancy, they even gave a blazer to Ricardo, because the dress code was mandatory. We left there and walked through the canals of Venice, now deserted and without tourists. It was interesting to see that more authentic side of Venice.

Across the Alps from Switzerland

During Christmas in 2011 I went with my mom to Geneve in Switzerland to visit my sister. Then we drove through the Alps to France, to visit the rest of my family in Dijon. It was not the first time I went to Dijon.

GENEVA

Curiosities about the city:

Geneva is a worldwide center for diplomacy due to the presence of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross. Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world.

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This year I traveled for the first time with my mother. We went to Switzerland and France for Christmas. We flew to Geneva, because my sister Zeza no longer lives in France as she moved to Switzerland with her boyfriend.

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My mother was in a plane only once, when she went to Madeira (many years ago) and I think she loved to travel this time. Geneva was full of snow when we went there. My nephew Luis had to wake up very early every day just to get the snow out of the car before he goes to work.

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I loved the little cottage where my sister lives, it’s super cozy. We visited Lac Lèman, a giant lake with a giant fountain, which is the symbol of the city. Unfortunately they did not have free time to take us for a stroll through the city center.

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As we drove to France, heading for Dijon, we passed the French Alps by car and it was magical to see those cottages all lost in the snow. I think it was the first time I ever saw snow for real in my life.

 


 

BEAUNE

Curiosities about the city:

Beaune is considered the “Capital of Burgundy wines”. The city is surrounded by some of the world’s most famous wine villages, while the facilities and cellars of many producers, large and small, are situated in the historic center of Beaune itself.

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This second time around in France, in addition to visiting Dijon again, I went with my brother Hipolito and his wife to visit another French city: Beaune. This city is very old and it has a famous Hospice of 1443.

The Hospice de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is a former charitable almshouse. It was founded by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, one of the finest examples of French fifteenth-century architecture, is now a museum.

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Beaune is the main center for the “Burgundian tile” polychrome renaissance roofing style of the region. We also visited a church called Collégiale Notre-Dame de Beaune.

 


 

DIJON

Back to Dijon, I visited all my family again.

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We also visited the same places where I had been last time: churches, historic center, etc.

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We spent Christmas at my sister Lila’s house and the New Year as a family in a rented warehouse.

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I think this trip was special for my mother because my father had died a few months before and I think my siblings had a beautiful attitude in not wanting us to be alone in this festive season.

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