Spain 2011 – Besalu and Figueres

On March 3rd. we left Girona in the morning and headed towards Figueres, but on the way we turned a little to the left and visited Besalu – a small medieval town on a river:

The weather was not our friend, it was raining, windy, cold…But we did our best, walked around and took pictures in this grey light.

We even noticed a museum of miniatures over there but were not in the mood to study those super duper tiny things through magnifying glasses. Then we drove to Figueres, very close, and were again lost in the town – again hardships in finding teh Los Angeles Hotel…the same story as in Girona. I even thought -maybe it is better not to make a reservation beforehand so that once you get into a town or city – stay where ever you find where to park the car and see a hotel. But not to get into a labyrinth of one way narrow streets from which you have a hard time getting out. But once we found the hotel – we got to know that the parking is outside of the narrow-streeted downtown, almost in the fields, and so we were all set. as they say here. Well, in order to escape the hazard the next day we had to carry all our luggage to the car. So my tip for today is: don’t carry all your stuff once you travel with a car. Have some more small bags, take the most needed things into a bag from your bigger bag and carry to the hotel only that. because it was not the only place we had to park the car pretty far from the hotel, parking is in shortage everywhere in towns and cities, nothing strange about that. And most of the hotels either charge you 10e for parking in their premises or advice you to park in some public parking.

So here how Figueres looksk like:

You can see how cold it was…9C is 48F ( for fellow Americans).

They like hanging things in their balconies – this time it is cows…

There is a Catalonian flag hanging from a balcony on the top, the sight very often seen over there in Catalonia, which is in a way struggling to gain independence from Spain. I say in a way – not all citizens want it as far as my questioning went :-). But what concerns Figueres – I think it would be a very unknown little town if not fro Dali who bought its castle, remodeled it and built a museum-theater here in the middle of the town where he lived during winters himself together with his Gala and where as if he is buried. So here is his castle-museum-theater from the from and from the back:

Yes, the museum looks very different from the front and the back – seems like they don’t belong to each other. But in Dali’s world all the unmatchable is matched :-), as is this to my eyes crazy sculpture on an old root, with some drapes…by the entrance:

But I like this blue picture with a little ladder, also in front of the entrance:

Over the front door, of course, hos and Gala’s heads’ sculptures are installed:

The souvenir shops around are inviting with such images in their windows:

And then you enter the museum:

The pole for the boat is made…from old tires:

If you wonder what is in the car…here it is:

Here are the walls of this cloister:

I guess every country has its own share of artistic people who don’t let anything go to waste . I also believe that those ladies in the windows and on the roof here and there – were his muse-helpers, helping Gala to do her job.

There is a lot of Dali’s artwork in the museum that we have seen in books, that looks familiar. But there are lots of pieces that are not so published. But it covers his development though his stages, from the start, and I would say – it is really worthwhile to visit it. We spent there for maybe 2 hours and I could still walk around longer, though, to tell the truth – it amuses, entertains, but nothing touches your heart. At least my heart. So here are some of his works:

Look at this picture above from far away so that it becomes small…I didn’t see it over there until at home i made it small and here it is!

This was Dali’s bedroom and evidently he liked his soft watches so much that he slept under tham:

In one of the halls we found this and I guess – it is his last resting place (or maybe I am wrong…):

I will end with a pic of Ciutadela – a fortress on the edge of the town where we climbed up and didn’t see much:







Spain 2011 – Girona

On the 8th day of our trip we investigated Girona. We stayed at Etap Hotel – wanted to drive to the center and tried to – but no parking space though there we so many and big parking areas around their central gloomy park – not a single free space there. So we drove back to the hotel, left the car there and walked 20 min to the old town which met us with this view:

It has a very Spanish shape of a town, as far as I already notices. The cathedral high up on a hill – not so easy to access… :-), I wonder how older people attend a mass there. Also – their church towers look mostly as if someone has cut their top or as if they ran out of time or material to finish it, but I guess – that is the style.

So we wandered in the medieval stone streets all over till we got to the Jewish quarter and the Cathedral there. Again – somehow historically there were Jewish quarters in almost every medieval center of the towns we visited. Why where they all pushed away (because I read stories that they were) -I don’t have the answer, I must read more about it…

I recently read in that Zanzibar in Africa is an stone city. I would argue – not only.

Yes, and as most of the towns we visited – it is like a fortress, surrounded with castle walls.

It was fun to wander in such settings with almost no people at all. We found a St. Narcisus grave somewhere. maybe in some little church. Who was St. Narcisus – I have no clue, I only know the legend that Narcisus was very handsome, so he sat on a lake looking at his image and was admiring himself so much. that he turned into the flower:

Somehow I have a felling that this particular St. Narcisus has nothing to do with the flower or his image. i also noticed by this time that Spanish like having either dead Christ in a realistic pose lying in their altar, or other saints in or on their coffins – a coffin theme in their decors is very prominent.

Here, wow, the stairs to the Cathedral – wonderful stairs!

from this joy we started taking pictures of ourselves :-), as if trying to tell the world- we were here!

Then we visited the Cathedral museum with its cloister:

The columns were very elaborate:

the museum itself:

the most precious artifact in the museum is the 11th ! century embroidery “The Creation of the World”:

The Cathedral has the widest Nave in the world!

and then outside:

the interesting point about this photo is that only now while looking through pictures I noticed that long tailed lizard playfully landed on the roof in the middle. While over there – we didn’t even notice it. Creative Spaniards.

Then we descended through narrow stone streets, which looked one nicer that the other, especially because they were empty from cars!

And we landed at the river front where we had a very tasty meal as they call it “menu dia” – we could choose two plates of whatever was offered and one pastry or sweet plate, plus a drink. The restaurant was on the side of the old town on this river, very strategically called “Selfe Serve”:

After lunch we walked a little to the right side of the old town and here we saw the stairs to the city wall – as my mom noticed – for free! They have been to Dubrovnik, much shorter walk on the city walls over there is far from free. So what could we do -we had to climb and walk…:-)

As you can see -it was a scary walk – the wall is so narrow and so high…

but very beautiful:

And here is the last picture of one of their central squares:

There is much more of beautiful Girona. But we saw it in the evening, in the rain, so no pictures. We even had a wonderful chance to listen to an Armenian pianist Gerard Gasparian in their Casa Cultura de Cultura. My advice -go to the center not of the old town, but of the new town on this side of the street – find the information center in Seu Generalitat de Catalunya right in front of Casa de Cultura – and go from there.






Spain 2011 – Catalonian Coast – Costa Brava

On March 1st we packed our luggage and left with a metro, then we a train to Barcelona Airport, terminal #2, where on one end of it all the shuttles from hotels and car renting places stop. In a short while an orange shuttle came -Sixt it said on its side. The rental office was not far away, except that the airport area is so complicated, so many one way streets, highways, exist, turns – it was hard to imagine how are we getting out of the office alone in the car and how are we getting back. In actuality the first part was easy. that latter one – hard. The office itself was also orange and very nice. very big, with the girls behind the counters speaking English. They even had coffee, yogurt, OJ, fruit and muffins for the hungry travelers. Very fast we got a small car and were off for adventures. The positive part – they are driving there on the same side of the road, unlike in New Zealand :-). For the record – they charged us 184e total with the fees for the two weeks. It came to a little 13e/ day, not bad.

Off we went, around the city through its highways or beltways towards the sea in the north of it and tries to stay on Rt C32. At first it went completely by the sea, then it went through towns. sometimes passing towns on their sides, but all the time we had to be careful and know the next town to follow the right direction, for as you know – in Europe they usually have many round-abouts and they almost never write on the directions the number of the road, but only the next town. The first stop by the sea – somewhere in Mataro area where we noticed an easy access to the beach :

The next stop – I am not very sure which town was that. but it had a big castle-church sticking on top of it so we drove into its narrow streets towards the sea, got almost stuck there. got scared :-), didn’t find any place to park until we drove out and parked up on a cliff under that strange church-castle, then descended down to the town train station, and up again – lots of climbing up and down in those coastal towns…:

WE even climbed to the top of the cliff to that church-castle (from the back side it is gray and really looks like a castle) and took a picture of its doors:

And then off to Tossa De Mar:

Where there was no problem to park the car though we took the last spot in a small parking place – I wonder where do people park during the season… – by some old ruins which I don’t know nothing about:

I don’t know where those people of those several cars from the lot were, because the whole town looked like dead. like a ghost town with most of the shutters down…

Very existentialistic…Like in an Antonioni’s movie…

But the town was as pretty as it can be and we were as luck as we can be to get pics without crowds in them:

Then we reached the castle-medieval part of the town which was especially impressive:

They usually have a walk on those fortress walls, as I noticed later, wherever they have a fortress. So here is a view to a small beach from those wall. They have another bigger beach, but I can imagine why there is tension in Costa Brava for a space in a beach…Once we had a British couple who said they have a small cottage somewhere there for the summers and they are very angry with the other big nationality in Europe whose people are always the first in the morning to take all the spots on their closest beach. Being used to spacious Lithuanian beaches by the Baltic I didn’t see where is the problem. Now I saw :-).

Here is a wider beach.

The sun was setting fast, it was good for some pictures, not very much for the others, and definitely bad for us – we had to rush fro to reach Girona we had to drive at least an hour on the narrow winding mountain roads. The last views of Tossa from the road:






Spain 2011 – Barcelona: a little further from the center

One morning we went to Sarria – which used to be a separate village when Barcelona engulfed it into its hug. It was ways away from our place but to take a metro would be a hazard too – we would have to change trains several times. So we enjoyed the different and never boring buildings where people live and then we passed through a district of mansions, which reminded Los Angeles rich areas, and at last reached the main square of Sarria:

Here is the main church of Sarria seen in the back of another square:

An interesting thing – while we sat in a square there we heard parrots shouting. Then we noticed the green maybe even amazons or some other species running around the trees and picking branches for their nests somewhere behind the roofs. We saw a lot of them having homes in the tops of palm trees in Park Guell. That was quite strange- as if parrots like warm weather and some days even in March over there seemed cold for us.

Montserat Madona – the Black Madona is usually found in a copy in every church in Catalunya. At the end of the trip we had a chance to see the original in their Montserat Monastery and even touch the magic ball she hold in her hand.

I guess this is just an interesting modern design of a window in an old building.

Spanish seem to like such doll-human figures. I don’t know why they were there exposed in the administration center of Sarria, maybe being prepared for the upcoming Mardi Gras…I also saw lots of such, but smaller figures used in Argentina to decorate their La Boca area of Buenos Aires – only in friends’ pictures. Maybe it is something about their culture.

Little streets of Sarria were a new thing to us still, it was like an introduction to small Spanish towns that we saw later. Lots of nice little shops, that is what one would expect:

Then we walked to Monestir de Pedralbes (it was praised in the books):

And even reached Palau Reial and Pavellons Guell where the gate was locked and we could only see this Gaudi’s dragon:

On the way back we saw a very impressive modern group of apartment buildings with this gate (we didn’t figure it out weather it is Gaudi’s or not, though it seems to be in his style):

The sun was shining at a bad angle, and the street was busy. So we didn’t bother crossing – it was already a big walking trip, we were too tired. The man in the center of the gate is a sculpture.

This Collegi de les Teresianes was also on our way home:

On another afternoon we visited the Cigar – Torre Agbar -the controversial piece of modern architecture:

Then some skyscrapers in Barceloneta:

Then some sculptures and squares in Gracia district:

There are some trees imported from Argentina that have such roots, looks like crocodile skin:

We even saw Arc de Triomf:

And I’ll finish Barcelona topic with a picture for us was strange in itself and strange that we noticed it only on the third day of staying there -it was by our house, on our way:



Spain 2011 – Barcelona: Some of Gaudi’s works

I have shown some of Anthony Gaudi works in others blogs already, though I mentioned that he is not the most favorite architect of mine. I agree that he was very creative, just extraordinarily creative. And some of his artistic details appeal to me, too. Especially his metal works. And that he has built so many of his strange buildings sticking from the other ones in Barcelona, that you can’t escape getting to see at least some of them. This time – the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

It’s pictures are shown so much everywhere, you already know almost by heart how it looks like. Good it at least has a rather big square in front of it -so you can get the whole picture. And good the square is full of trees and greenery. The not so good thing – they still have lots of cranes sticking together with the Cathedral towers- not a good match for an eye…But did it meet my expectations – not fully. I expected it to be higher, I didn’t know why. And I didn’t particularly like the crosses on top of the towers. But I liked the same word repeated and repeated all over on them – it looked very nice and with taste. And I liked both entrances, not that anyone reading this don’t know them by heart:

And here is the funny thing – form one side it seemed that the Cathedral had its own nuclear power station…:

The question – is it safe enough? 🙂

And the other day we visited Park Guell, done by Gaudi, sponsored by Guell. The road almost form our apartment led directly to the park, a steep road up with elevators going only one direction – up. That is the first time I saw elevators used in the outside settings. Well here and towards the Museum of Catalunya Art. The main street by where we lived seemed to initially be a canyon, Avenida de Vallcarca. So its walls were turned into rather steep streets, but better them than nothing. So here is the elevator:

Actually, we entered the park from the back side, from the top of it. and then descended down towards its main gate, then again up, it involved a lot of climbing and breathing… 🙂

This part is amazing when you see it from the side – the whole big square hold on columns!

So much for the colorful and bright part of the park. The rest of it is, as my mom called it, gloomy and I called it dusty:

Someone living by the back of the park thought that their house was too dull and decorated it to make more amusing, especially for those who have climbed enough that day:



Spain 2011 – Barcelona: Barri Gotic and Ciutat Vella

I bet those were the most attractive parts of Barcelona for us. We entered Ciutat Vella from Rambla through Plaza Reial which looks very Renaissance:

Then walked and walked around and around through narrow streets till we would see one church, then another, then notice and admire decorations on street corners:

and the church facades:

and funny eye balls on one house:

Here is the Music Palace from a side street. Lots of their very beautiful churches and buildings lack viewing space, they are cramped in between or surrounded too close by other buildings…So it is hard to get them in their all beauty on a picture not speaking about getting the full view for admiring them in their full splendor.

Behind this building we dived into the Medieval part of the city – Barri Gotic, which seemed at first unreal, like in a movie:

Those were the wall of the cathedral and the castle connected to it But the Cathedral view is not good for they had cranes fixing its towers. So I am showing only the insides which we admired a lot. And I was very happy our camera was sensitive enough to take pics in that low light that they had without a flash that they don’t permit. So here it is – the most breathtaking view I saw in Barcelona:

As my mom said – it was good that we had time to walk and stay in the Cathedral twice, for after one visit it is hard to grasp it and to remember anything. Those pure Gothic lines without any decor on them are very impressive…Its altars were more crowded with decors, which is understandable, but at least it had those pure walls.There was also this crypt -under the main altar, with the remains of some saint, that I forgot whose…:

One of the nicest altar sculptures to my eyes – by the Baptizing pool:

There was also a cloister that we missed the first time – it had the historic geese the monks used to have there :

And again some more of the Old Medieval City:

The Archeological Museum:

And some bright shops:

And the Church of Santa Maria Del Mar – also a Gothic wonder!:

And when my mom got tired, she had beer, even in that cold weather, she said it helped her:



Spain 2011 – Barcelona: Rambla, the seashore and Montjuic

Rambla, the best known “as if” a pedestrian street of Barcelona starts from Plaza Catalunya and stretches to the sea. I say “as if” because it has that pedestrian – market part in the middle where lots of kiosks are dislocated selling flowers and souvenirs and where the mimes are presenting their acting pieces – mostly “live sculptures” – to tell the truth a very sad sight…The sides of Rambla are open for cars, so you have to be careful, as everywhere there on the streets. But first of all – the beautiful “Umbrella” building you get to see if you come our from a metro station Liceu:


Then the center of Rambla with Miro’s mosaic:

And the mimes:

And a strange Dali lover/painter/gallery owner:

By the way- as many as there are beautiful houses in Barcelona, we had a hard time finding any commercial art galleries, except for this strange one. Rambla is also known for its Mercat de Boqueria – a market of the most interesting an variuos foods:

Some more beautiful casas:

And here we are – on the sea shore:

That bridge with a wavy top has a good construction to open up once a yacht wants to enter or leave the port by turning the middle part.

I guess it is Miro’s sculpture , by the sea.

Lots of yachts. In two days we even went to the beach area, they had nice instruments for adults to train there (it wasn’t warm enough to do anything else) and also for kids to climb:

From there we headed towards Montjuic -which is a mountain and we had to climb it…Or could take a cabin like this to get there – but we didn’t go as far as where those cable cars start:

So we climbed and climbed…and took pictures on the way:

I would like to call this picture “Stairs to nowhere” as there is an analog in Alaska – “A bridge to nowhere”.

We went through the parks there, climbing up and down the switchbacks, didn’t reach the Castell, the Stadium, but saw an Ethnological museum and a Miro museum on the way:

Didn’t enter them…It was too late and we were already tired. But the museum I am most sorry about that I didn’t enter is the big one – Museu Nacional d’art de Catalunya:

Its size scared me, but I should have allocated a day to visit it…it can be best reached from Plaza d’Espanya, there are even escalators that take you up to the museum. Here is a view to the Plaza from the museum stairs:

Far away in the distance Mount Tibidabo is seen. We didn’t reach it.






Spain 2011 – Barcelona – Passeig de Gracia

This winter we decided to go to Spain. For different reasons. One of them being – not to get too dis attached from Europe, the other – to do this not an easy travel till we are not old and have some energy and be done with it :-). Being raised behind the Iron Curtain I have never dreamt of seeing Spain, but I knew that it had a lot to offer. Maybe even too much, I would say – almost on every other kilometer…views and views worth stopping and taking pictures. So expect a lot of them in this Blog. I tried to select only the best ones, but there is still a lot of them…

To fly to Spain is almost the same as to fly to my country Lithuania, not an easy trip. So we had to travel there at least 20 days to make it worth. I flew there alone on the morning of Wednesday, February 23, then Andrei joined me in the evening from Ukraine, his country of origin, and then the next evening my mother came from Kaunas with RyanAir – Kaunas-Brussels-Barcelona to spend 7 days with us. We rented an apartment in Barcelona for 6 nights , between Valcarca and Lesseps stations on a green L3 metro line, so the first thing I did in Barcelona airport – changed some euros to pay for the apartment and went to the train station. Bought a T-10 ticket for 8.25e which is good for traveling with trains, metro and buses in certain city limits for 10 travels – and got to the apartment, which they call Parc Guell. In fact – it is close to Parc Guell. A smart Chilean couple bought an older building and are renovating it little by little as I understood, and renting to travelers. It had two bedrooms and a kitchen – dining room-corridor. it also had a big outside sitting area, but not for the cold weather we got. I can even write the address of the owners, because it is 70 e cheaper to rent directly from them versus through the internet company: call Mauro at 628695349, the address: Carrer de Bolivar n 17, 08023:

The apartment met me with this Picaso:

I liked it. The only thing I didn’t like about the apartment was the entrance – one has to get to our doors bending under the stairs leading to the second floor and for people of my height that means keeping awareness every time you enter or leave or otherwise have head bumps. After resting a little I went into the city and the first views I saw were a cozy church-corner and a modern library with strange decorations in front:

The first feeling – what a wonderful life people have in Barcelona. That feeling didn’t disappear till the end of the trip. It seems like everything is done for the people to enjoy life – the playgrounds are colorful and creative, the parks are nice and cozy, lots of benches to sit and enjoy views, all the multiple flat houses are so different from each other and so well designed, that it was hard to pay attention to the pavement – there was always a draw to look into the fantastic shapes of balconies, windows and other designs of the exteriors. And one has to pay attention to where one walks…

Spanish seem to love and keep dogs the same as other nations. And they have a taste in picking breeds :-). That is my opinion, for it matches my taste. But they never pick after their pets and I couldn’t understand why…That was the only shortcoming and it made their streets look very much like Bangkok, which is dirty…and sometimes even smelly. Which makes you miss American cleanliness in the streets a lot :-). But if you lift your eyes – it is so rewarding and all over Barcelona:

It is as if those windows create a rhythm on each facade and you can even hear their music, old and new:


Who else could think of making this otherwise dull modern glass facade so playful?

All those buildings are mostly on Passeig de Gracia, the street that stretched from our house to the very center of Barcelona – to Plaza Catalunya. It took me around 1h to reach it the first day.

Yes, those are oranges or mandarins right in the middle of the city.

A little detour from Passeig de Gracia led to one of the first houses by Gaudi. This one was not so chaotic like his consecutive buildings that I didn’t like much. At least not as much as they expect while advertising Gaudi right and left which made me think they are using him as a marketing catch. Whereas there are so many more elegant and tasteful buildings around his and nobody pays as much attention. To finish my opinion about Gaudi – I like Hundertwaser much more, and I compare them because their styles are comparble. We were lucky to see Hundertwaser buildings and a toilet interior in New Zealand, they are on this Blog. So here is this “not so bad” Casa Visens, which has the influence of Moor architecture:

I am ending this post with the entrance pic to the metro station Diagonal (not to make you too tired ):

Gaudi’s La Pedrera is in the background, but as I say – his buildings are too much advertised everywhere, so I don’t want to emphasize them. They are a matter of taste.