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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spain - Madrid, Toledo, Zaragoza, Barcelona

Finally, the last post of my Spain and Portugal trip. Sorry for all the delay. Been too busy/lazy to blog. Lol.
We passed by the Plaza de Colon in Spain where a monument built for Columbus is standing. The Plaza was originally known as the Plaza de Santiago or St. James’ Square. It was renamed the Plaza de Colon in 1893 in honor of the four hundred year celebration of the voyage of Columbus to the Americas which took place in 1492. There is a statue of Columbus standing at the top of the tall 4-sided column. He appears to be pointing west, indicating the route he would take towards the islands of the Caribbean.

The Columbus Monument.

Another side of the Columbus Monument.
After that, we headed towards Toledo, which was the former capital of Spain. It was declared a Wolrd Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures.
A view of the old city of Toledo. The Cathedral on the left and the Alcázar on the right dominate the skyline.
The old city is located on a mountaintop with a 150 degrees view, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River.
Another view of the city of Toledo across the Tagus River.

Me with the Alcázar and the city of Toledo in the background, across the Tagus River.

After a short drive, we arrive at the city of Toledo. The city was celebrating Corpus Christi, Toledo’s most important festival and one of its oldest, before we came. Thus, there were tapestries draped along the streets where the procession took place.
The decorated streets of Toledo

Along the streets of Toledo, we also entered a shop with specialized in decorated ornaments and jewellery in gold.
A crasftman manually decorating an ornament with gold.

A picture of some people scaling a rocky cliff face. Happened to see this.

The Tagus River and the Puente de San Martín (San Martin Bridge), a medieval bridge. The bridge was constructed in the late 14th century by Archbishop Pedro Tenorio to provide access to the old town from the west.


We also walked past the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes during the city tour. This was founded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to commemorate their triumph over the Portuguese at The Battle of Toro in 1476. On the exterior walls of the Monastery, chains of the Christian prisoners freed by Fernando el Católico in the taking of Malaga and Baeza are hung.
Prisoner chains hung on the walls of the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.

The next day, we headed to Zaragoza, also called Saragossa, the capital of the former Kingdom of Aragon.
A picture of a field of windmills on the way to Zaragoza.

The Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar (Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar) is a Roman Catholic church in the city of Zaragoza. Local traditions take the history of this Basilica to the dawn of Christianity in Spain attributing to an apparition to St James, an Apostle who had brought Christianity to the country. Mary, the Mother of Jesus appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper. This wooden statue and column of jasper is enshrined in the Basilica and only a small opening is unprotected. This opening allows the faithful to come to kiss the pillar at the back of the sculpture.
The Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar

One of the towers surrounding the Basilica.

The Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar
Then, we headed to Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona, in Catalonia. "Montserrat" literally means "jagged mountain" in Catalan. It describes the peculiar aspect of the rock formation, which is visible from a great distance. It is the site of a Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.
Also world famous are the Montserrat Choir boys who perform Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music daily. And I have to say, the trip up there in the cold with rain and strong wind was worth it. The choir was beautiful.
A view from the Montserrat.

Another view from the Montserrat. At the top of the cliff face in the middle of the picture, a cross is erected.

A zoomed picture of the cross.
The summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea-level. It is accessible by hiking trails which connect from the top entrance to the Sant Joan funicular, the monastery, or the base of the mountain.

A picture of the steep tracks of the monorail. After taking the monorail up, you can hike to the peak of the Montserrat.

The entrance to the Church.

The rows of candles lit by pilgrims.

Next, we headed on to Barcelona.

First we went to Gaudi's most famous project, the La Sagrada Familia. The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Temple of the Holy Family), often simply called the Sagrada Família, is a massive Roman Catholic church under construction. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. The Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), who worked on the project for over 40 years. Gaudi devoted the last 15 years of his life entirely to this construction. Parts of the unfinished church and Gaudí's models and workshop were destroyed during the war by Catalan anarchists. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.

The Sagrada Familia. One the left is the new reconstructed design while on the right is the original design by Gaudi.

Close up.
Every part of the design of La Sagrada Família is rich with Christian symbolism, as Gaudí intended the church to be the "last great sanctuary of Christendom". The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed) and the Passion façade to the West. The Nativity façade is so called because it presents the birth, childhood and young manhood of Jesus. The Glory façade was given that name because it represents the situation of man within the general order of creation: his origins, his problems, the roads he must take and his purpose. The Passion façade is so called because it represents the Passion of Jesus, in other words, the pain, the sacrifice and the death.

The Nativity façade to the East.
Close up details of the Nativity façade to the East.

Close up details of the Nativity façade to the East.

The interior.

The Passion façade to the West. The Passion façade is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being flogged and on the crucifix.

The Passion façade to the West.

Close up of The Passion façade to the West.

After visiting the Sagrada Familia, we went to Park Guell, also a famous work by Gaudi, built from 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí". The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell. Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudí. One was intended to be a show house, but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward, Gaudí, at Güell's suggestion, bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906.
The walkway in the park, resembling tree trunks supporting the roadway. Gaudi designed them in a way that integrates into the landscape.
One of the buildings at the entrance of the Park.

Stairways to the top.
Gaudí's multicolored mosaic dragon fountain at the main entrance.

Tiled mosaics on the ceilings.
The two buildings at the entrance of the Park.

Benches in the Park. The unique shape of the serpentine bench enables the people sitting on it to converse privately, although the square is large. The bench is tiled and in order to dry up quickly after it rains, and to stop people from sitting in the wet part of the bench, small bumps were installed by Gaudí.

Doric columns support the roof of the lower court which forms the central terrace, with serpentine seating round its edge.

Rounded bumps flanking the sides of the walkway, which represents a rosary.

There are also other buildings that Gaudi designed that we saw when we had a city tour of Barcelona.
Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera.

Casa Batlló
Another view of Casa Batlló.

After the city tour, we went to the Barcelona Olympic stadium (Estadi Olimpic), which was the venue for the 1992 Olympic games.
Estadi Olimpic

Inside the Estadi Olimpic

The Olympic Torch.

After that was free time, so my mum, her friends and I decided to visit one of Gaudi's famous buildings, Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera.
Outside Casa Milà

Catenary arches under the terrace of Casa Milà.

Casa Milà Central Atrium. View from the top.

Casa Milà Rooftop. This is the chimney.

Casa Milà Rooftop. Mosiac tiled patterns.

Casa Milà Rooftop.

From a window facing the Central Atrium in Casa Mila.

An umbrella stand. All the furniture in the rooms were also designed by Gaudi.

The ergonomic handle of a door designed by Gaudi. All the handles of the rooms in Casa Mila are shaped differently.

Interior of Casa Mila from Ground level. The staircase.

Yup! That is the end of my Spain and Portugal trip! It was a good trip and I enjoyed it. And one of the few trips that I really relaxed because I had no worries about school nor work.
I will just end of with a picture of the nice and gentlemanly Portugese driver that followed us, handled our luggage and drove us everywhere for that 2 weeks.
The Portugese driver and me.


~ { 10:39 PM }
reflections @ 10:39 PM 0 comments