Thoughts of a geek

6 November 2011

Blog it all, continued

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 11:25 am

Continuing on from my last post, a few days after I got back from Switzerland (back in August, still), a couple of friends from NZ came to visit for a few days each. One was on the way (rather indirectly) to Canda, while the other was just visiting the UK. It was great to see both, and a good excuse to go and see a play (Anne Boleyn) at the Globe, take a day trip to Oxford, and have a lovely sunny picnic in Hyde Park. We also went to BBC Prom number 50. The BBC Proms are an annual series of classical music concerts every summer, where standing (so-called ‘promming’, for promenading) tickets are available on the day for £5. The one we went to had some contemporary classical music, which I did not particularly enjoy, followed by Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, which I did really enjoy. In Oxford we went got to see the bible that Anne Boleyn owned in an exhibition at the Bodleian Library, which was particularly cool after having just seen the play about her.

Oxford: Me by Oxford’s ‘bridge of sighs’

A couple of days after everyone had left, on Saturday 27th August, I went to Spain for a week with a friend from London. This made for a rather hectic time of things, but it was interesting to see all sorts of things. We spent a couple of nights in Sevilla, where I particularly enjoyed the old town (it reminded me a bit of Venice, with all the maze of crooked narrow streets, except without the canals of course). We then had 3 nights in Madrid, exploring the city. It has quite a buzz at night, and there is a great park called the Parque del Retiro which was my favourite part of the city. We then had a night in a cool little hostel in Valencia, which seemed like the friendliest of the places we stayed. There is great big beach too, where I went swimming in the lovely warm water. Just a pity there is no surf. Finally we spent 2 nights in Barcelona. I was not particularly keen on the city, it seemed too noisy and dirty, but I did really enjoy seeing all the Gaudi architecture, particularly Park Güell and most of all the Sagrada Família.

Sagrada Família is an amazing cathedral, the construction of which started with Gaudi in 1883, and currently planned to be finished in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death. It is absolutely amazing, and full of symbolism, all sorts of interesting geometrical considerations, and so much detail! It has (or will have) 3 facades. The Nativity facade representing Jesus’s birth, on the side facing the sunrise, has many ornately sculptured scenes, with hundreds if not thousands of different plants and animals, most made from plaster casts of dead or living specimens. On the opposite side, facing the sunset, is the Passion facade representing Jesus’s death. In start contrast to the ornate and organic curves and details of the Nativity facade, the Passion facade is abrupt and angular, with a bare minimum of detail. It is often described as looking like it is made of bones. It has twelve scenes representing the stations of the cross ascending in an S shape, with stylised figures of people. The third facade, which is to be the main entrance but is not yet finished, is the Glory facade. I did not get to see it as it was under construction and covered with scaffolding. Apparently the main entrance will be reached via a large staircase and tunnel under the road, representing Hell and sin.

Inside there is an amazing roof, designed to look organic like a forest canopy, with the pillars holding it up branching like tree trunks according to a geometric pattern. There are four different types of pillars in a pattern, each type being a different size, having a different number of sides, and being made of a different sort of stone. Hyperboloid windows in the roof and walls let plenty of sunlight in. There are many many other sorts of symbolism and detail in the design, some of which are detailed in a museum under the church, which also has lots of the plaster models and other things used in designing the church. All in all it is amazing, and a must-see if ever you are in Barcelona or indeed Spain, despite the queues and rather expensive entry fee. I spent about 3 hours there I think.

I took lots of photos in Spain, but unfortunately have not got around to sorting through them all to pick the best ones, label them and upload them. I should get onto that, they would tell the story better than just all this writing. But for now I should go to bed, and will continue writing the rest of this update again soon hopefully.


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