Almost every window anddoor in Madrid has abalcony….
….many surrounded by beautiful hand painted frescos
Mass at the nearby Cathedral and dinner at Café Europa
Day 2 – We pick up our rental car at the Atocha Train Station, site of the March 2004 bombing that killed 191 people – 911 days after 9/11(We quickly learned to lookfor the “Salida” man tohelp us find our way out ofthe subways)
Our first stop was El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen
The monument is an undergroundchurch and the tomb of GeneralFrancisco Franco, topped with a 500foot stone cross which can be seen froma distance of 30 miles. Althoughsupposedly honoring all the dead in theSpanish Civil war, many Spaniards seethe site as a reminder of the years ofsuffering under a Fascist dictator. Theprisoners on the Republican side, manyof whom lost their lives in the process,were forced to quarry this huge cavernout of the rock.
Segovia is Spain and Castile at its best - twisting alleyways, the highestconcentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe, pedestrian streetswhere no cars are allowed, all surrounded by the citys medieval wall. Onthe northwest extreme of the wall is the famous Alcázar castle whereQueen Isabel promised Columbus the financial backing he needed todiscover America. On the southeast end is the world renowned Romanaqueduct, the longest and best preserved of its kind anywhere.The tallest building in Segovia is still the16th-century Cathedral, aprominent landmark as oneapproaches from anydirection.
And suddenly, youturn a corner and seethe giant Romanaqueduct, constructedalmost 2000 years ago
The aqueduct transports water 20 miles to the city from a spring in the nearby mountains. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 93.5 feet. There are both single and double arches supported by pillars.
Back through the streets of Segovia to the other end of town…..
….to the Alcázar castle, theinspiration for many Disney films
Back on the road to Toledo, …where you take an elevator ride up to the “old city”
Toledo is a just south of Madrid. It is the capital of the community ofCastile-La Mancha. It was declared a World Heritage Site byUNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritageas one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place ofcoexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures.
Centro de Arte Reina Sofía – with works by Pablo Picasso,Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and others (but again, no pictures allowed) Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso, depicting the Nazi German bombing of Guernica, Spain on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish Civil War
At 7:30 PM we fly to Lisbonand taxi up a long and windingcobblestone road to HotelAlbergaria Senhora Do Monte Not only is it a charming little room full of Portuguese tile….
…..the view off the balcony is breathtaking!The castle to left, the lights of Lisbon, and theChristo Rei statue glowing from across the river
La Sagrada Família (in Catalan, “The Holy Family”) is a massive RomanCatholic basilica. Antoni Gaudí designed and started construction in1882 and worked on the project for over 40 years.
The building was designed to be built over 200 years, and with nogovernment funds….only public donations. When asked aboutthe long construction period, Gaudí is said to have joked, “Myclient is not in a hurry.”
Our ride then takes us out tothe harbor, with Montjuïc inthe distance
We end the bike tour with lunch atan outdoor bar on the beach inBarceloneta
Back to foot travel, we walk throughthe Old City seeking out the sites inthe book, Shadow of the Wind, byCarlos Ruiz Zafón
We lose our way and find ourselves on Manzana de la Discordia (Block of Discord)Casa Batlió, designed by AntoniGaudí and Casa Amatller,designed by Puig i Cadafalch
After a short rain, we walk over to Casa MilàCasa Milà, or La Pedrera, is the largest civil building designed by Gaudí. Itwas constructed between 1906 and 1910. It was Gaudis last work beforedevoting himself to the construction of the Sagrada Família.
They say the roof is closedbecause of rain, but wesneak up anyway….wellworth the risk of gettingreprimanded!
View from the top –Sagrada Família inthe distance
Goudí designed so much more than buildings Art in the parks,Paving tiles lamp posts Wall tiles, doorFurniture knobs, coat hooks
The hanging chain sculpture….….with its mirror image,was the inspiration for one ofGaudí’s buildings
We walk back to our hotelseeing glimpses of Gaudí’sgenius throughout the city
Day 7 – We rent a car to drive to Montserrat and TarragonaAfter a shortdetour, we seewhat we’relooking forhigh in themountainswest ofBarcelona
The funicular takes us up themountain to the Benedictineabbey, Santa María deMontserrat (“jagged rock”)
After dinner overlooking thesea and ruins, we get back inthe car to find a place tospread Uncle Nick’s ashes…in the Mediterranean as herequested
We find a beautiful beach with a rocky point at the end – other than acouple of surfers, the only other visitor was an older gentleman with hisdog….that looked remarkably like Uncle Nick’s dog, Sparky
As it begins to sprinkle, wesay a prayer and send UncleNick on his way to Greece
As we begin to walk away, the gentleman asks in Catalonian what we were doingHe nods and smiles knowingly as we try to explain in our broken Spanish
And as we drive back to Barcelona, the rain stops and the cloudsseparate as if to open the gates of Heaven
Day 8 – our last day in BarcelonaA walk through the city and a climb to Montjuïc Plaça de España
Montjuïc is a broad shallow hill overlooking the harbor southeast of the citycentre. It was the site of several fortifications, the latest of which, the Castellde Montjuïc, remains today. The fortress dates from the 17th century. In 1842the garrison (loyal to the Madrid government) shelled parts of the city followingdisturbances. It served as a prison, often holding political prisoners, until thetime of General Franco. The castle was the site of numerous executions. The Palau Nacional houses the Museu Nacional dArt de Catalunya