Thursday, March 26, 2015

#SOl15, Day 26: Hola Barcelona

As my European journey to four European countries and England continued, today we ventured through Southern France by high-speed train to Barcelona, Spain. 

Along route, we saw a glimpse of the Pyrenees, rolling countryside, vinyards ready to bloom, and the seedy underbelly of Europe, a reminder that the Euro is at a near all-time low as Spain continues to suffer from the global financial crisis. 

Our ever-informative guide reminded us that not so long ago Spain was under the rule of a dictator, General Franco and that the Catalonia region of Spain still seeks its independence. 

Barcelona is a beautiful city with streets lined with Neolithic architecture, open-air markets, and flower stands. 

A view of the city from our hotel: 

Legend says anyone who drinks from this fountain will return to Barcelona. 
Above: Stain glass designed by the famous architect Gaudie, at the entrance to a large market. 

Scene in the market:

Streets of Batcelona: 

The Gaudie House: 

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia: 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#SOL15 Day 25: Opulence and Death--Versailles & Catacombs

15, Catacombs, Romanticism
Once again I'm blogging for the SOL Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Today is Day 25 of 31. 

Extremes and binaries. These two words embody my thoughts about today's visits to the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Catacombs.  

I've long been fascinated by the Treaty of Versailles and the concessions France demanded and received as WWI ended. Today, however, focused on Versailles as the seat of France's government beginning w/ Louis XIV. His decision to relocate the center of government strikes me as similar to Czar Nicholas retreat to his summer palace, where he, as well as Louis XVI lived in opulence. 

How often history repeats itself. 

If the Palace of Versailles represents ostentatiousness, the Paris Catacombs is more reverent and humble in tone. It's not eerie. The catacombs suggest reverence for life, a spirituality of respect that grew out of the Romantic movement. Throughout the catacombs are placards of poetry. Since I dong speak French, I'll get them translated later. 

Over six million bodies found their final resting place in the Paris Catacombs: 

The Catacombs are over a mile long and took over 20 years to relocate the bodies from graveyards to the Catacombs. Initially the bones were just stacked, reflecting the neoclassic belief that the spirit found another resting ace after death. Only after the Romantic movement w/ its emphasis on man's relationship to nature were the bodies treated in a more respectful manner. 

#SOL15, Day 24: They Say You Want a Revolution--In Politics and Art

For me the SOL challenge continues on day 24 from France. 

Joining us on a city tour of Paris, Valerie repeatedly emphasized iconic moments in France's history and the over through of the monarchy by talking about the French constitution, the storming of the Bastille, and the power of common folks in a democratic government. 

We visited Fragard Perfume factory and learned how the French revolutionized the fragrance industry. 

In the Artist district, a different revolution took place as Paris gave birth to French Impressionism. Artist still work there today. 

Our day ended w/ a trip up the Eifel Tower and a boat cruise along the Seine. Both the tower and the iconic bridges down the Seine remind us that revolutions in architecture also have a lasting impact on our lives. 

Just for fun, the macaroon pictured here exploded in a revolution of flavor when I devoured it. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

#SOL15 Day 23: Mona Lisa [and Other Art] Make Me Smile

Today's SOL begins in England and ends in France. 

"It's  not every day you get to wake up in England and go to sleep in France." Our guide Nucki's sage comment motivated 45 teens and adults to rise up and load the coach at 5:45 am for our Eurostar train ride through the Chunnel, for what was the best international point to point trip I've taken, excluding cruises. 

Upon arriving in France, we traveled directly to the Louve. Of course we saw the Mona Lisa, but my nerd moment came when I saw what appeared to be the Geecian urn pictured in text books w/ "Ode on a Grecian Urn. Nicki told us it would take a hundred days looking at each of the 60,000 pieces of art in the  Louve only five seconds to see them all, and that's w/out taking restroom breaks or sleeping. 

We also visited Notre  Dame Cathedral and returned to the Latin Quarter after dinner.