Tag Archives: UNESCO

Mission San Francisco Solano – Sonoma, California

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Mission San Francisco Solano was the 21st, last and northernmost mission in Alta California.

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 It was the only mission built in Alta California after Mexico gained independence from Spain. The difficulty of its beginning demonstrates the confusion resulting from that change in governance.

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You see, the California Governor wanted a robust Mexican presence north of the San Francisco Bay to keep the Russians who had established Fort Ross on the Pacific coast from moving further inland. A young Franciscan friar from Mission San Francisco de Asis wanted to move to a location with a better climate and access to a larger number of potential converts.

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Here is a photograph of the Mission in 1910

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and one taken by the Tin Man……….notice that the building is very much the same today and the original bell stands where it always has…

 

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The Mission was successful given its short eleven year life but was smaller in number of converts and with lower productivity and diversity of industries than the older California missions.

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The mission building is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park and is located in the city of Sonoma, California.    

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Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano, so Tin Man considers this a most important historic landmark!

We so enjoyed walking about and exploring the historic site…..alas we were the only ones inside, the trinket shops were packed but there seemed to be no interest in history today……

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On July 4, 1823 the soldiers placed a large redwood cross on the place in the Sonoma Valley where they expected the ‘new’ Mission San Francisco de Asis to be established. Then they celebrated Mass to consecrate the location. They then returned south to begin gathering men and materials to begin construction.

Tin Man imagined marvelous breads baking in this oven all those years ago….

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Beginning in October, 1823 Fr. Altimira had the opportunity to build his new mission at the location he chose but since Mission San Francisco de Asís would remain open this Mission needed a different patron saint. Altimira chose San Francisco Solano, a 17th-century Franciscan missionary to South America.    His company of soldiers and neophytes set about building all the facilities needed in a California mission. His annual report for 1823 listed no baptisms, one marriage, one funeral.

Father Altimira was admonished by investigating church officials for his over-use of flogging. Fearful of a native uprising, he left for San Rafael and then moved on to Mission Buenaventura in southern California. As a result of growing Mexican pride, there was considerable sentiment in favor of forcing out priests who were Spanish-born. In 1828, Father Altimira voluntarily returned to his native Spain.
His replacement was Father Buenaventura Fortini, an older priest, who was both a fine administrator and a kindly man of the cloth, who gained the respect and trust of the Indian population.

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Tower of Belem : Lisbon – Portugal

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Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal.

The Tower was originally built on a small island in the Tagus River and now sits on the shore due to the river being redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site  because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.

The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles.

The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and the 100 foot four story tower.

On the outside of the lower bastion, the walls have spaces for 17 canons with portholes open to the river and an ocular in the north.

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The upper tier of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ that circle the platform.

King Manuel I was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order of Christ is repeatedly used numerous times on the parapets.

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These were a symbol of Manuel’s military power, as the knights of the Order of Christ contributed to numerous military conquests in that era. 

 The bartizans, cylindrical watchtowers, in the corners are cover in zoomorphic corbels and domes covered with buds. The corners of this platform have turrets topped by Moorish-looking cupolas.

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The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros.

This rhinoceros is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art and probably depicts the rhinoceros that Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1515 which was caged in the tower at one time.

This is the same rhinoceros that is mentioned in my post about Marseille : CLICK HERE to see that story….

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As you walk about the area you realize you are surrounded by all sorts of wonders…

Like this bridge….. Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge)

If you have been to San Francisco, California, and this bridge looks familiar……well it should……

  It was built by the same company (American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design.

Until 1974, the bridge was named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar). The name “25 de Abril” commemorates the Carnation Revolution.  It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999.

Also nearby is the Monument to the Discoveries  located on the edge of the Tagus’ northern bank, it was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.

The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief.

As we were enjoying all the marvelous sights, a submarine suddenly appeared….

Then, just across the road, is Jerónimos Monastery  located along the Praça do Império (Empire Square),   it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz; and as a church for seafaring adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama‘s successful voyage to India.

Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing artifacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.

Just amazing………all these beautiful historical sites nestled together!

Well you know the Tin Man…….an appetite has been worked up and we are off to  Restaurante Triperio

Oh the delights begin………

Marvelous Olives, Famous Portuguese Bread and the Cheese…..France, you best beware….this is good!

Then the Soups…….on the left a wonderful Bean Soup and on the right an OVER THE TOP Garlic and Bread Soup…

Then the most amazing Pork and Clams in a Traditional Broth with Olives and Vegetables….

But Alas, it is time to bid farewell to Belem…I do hope you enjoyed visiting this most wondrous of places with me….

Temple of Debod – Madrid, Spain

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While visiting Madrid, we had the great pleasure of visiting the Temple of Debod

The Tempolo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple and was originally built just over 9 miles south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae.

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In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.

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It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based.  Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.

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From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself.

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In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy.

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Spain sent a large team to assist in the relocation of the monuments and temples.

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As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

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The temple was rebuilt in the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972.

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  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

This was a most amazing and touching experience….

….but as always with The Tin Man…..an appetite has been worked up!

To celebrate being able to visit such an ancient monument, we have decided to dine in the oldest restaurant in the world………….Restaurante Botin’s…

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Francisco de Goya worked at Botin’s  as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts

The first floor has all the original cabinetry from when Botin’s opened in 1725

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The staircase leads to dining in the basement which once held all the ovens in which the suckling pigs were roasted…

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Now a marvelous dining area…..

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still serving that wonderful sucking pig………roasted to perfection…

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….especially when served with roasted new potatoes and Amstel Beer…

Syracuse – Sicily

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Syracuse  is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse.

The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes.

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This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times,

when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world.

Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Syracuse next to the Ionian Sea.

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The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state.

Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth, exerting influence over the entire Magna Graecia area of which it was the most important city.

Once described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, it later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire.

Our trek to Malta took us to this enchanted city for only a brief time…

on our way we passed by Mount Etna,  the tallest active volcano on the European continent, 10,922 feet high.

It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity, which was quite amazing to watch…

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We had met a lovely couple in Messina, who suggested a stop in Syracusa to visit the Piazza Duomo

We stayed in the Hotel Roma which is actually part of the Temple of Athena, now the Syracuse Cathedral….

We arrived at night and the city was magical……with all sorts of promises for daybreak….

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We stayed in the Hotel Roma…….which was once part of the Temple of Athena..

in one section of the hotel you could look though the glass floor and gaze upon the Altar of Atena….quite literally walking on history!

Our room had a marvelous balcony with views of the Piazza Duomo …

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In the morning we dashed off around the corner to see what treasures were hidden at the back of the hotel…

There it was the Temple of Athena, now the Syracusa Cathedral…..

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The charm of this construction of a modern place of worship upon a much more  ancient one is heightened by the fact that some of the columns “trapped” within  the walls have been tilted and twisted by earthquakes that the cathedral has endured  during its history.

In these deformities one can see “frozen” in time the awesome  force of nature that shook Syracuse in its ancient history.

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The temple of Athena in Doric style was erected in the fifth century BC the tyrant Gelo after the victory against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Imera.

The Athenaion had six columns in front, with 14 columns along the sides. Part of the temple is currently visible on the left side of the cathedral…

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In the seventh century the temple was converted into a church by the bishop of the city Zos.

The church, of Byzantine style, was dedicated to the Nativity of Mary.

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The floor dates from the fifteenth century and in 1518 the nave was covered with the wooden ceiling still preserved.

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In the sixteenth century was also erected the bell tower. In 1728 the façade was reconstructed.

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We found being in this structure that survived so many years and served so many people in different capacities so very interesting…

Now off to the markets……..

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The city is brimming with beauty….

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We come upon the Fountain of Diana……

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……so this Siracusa, known to English speakers as Syracuse, was a wonder to behold…..

One of the great ancient capitals of Western civilization, founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth which soon grew to rival, and even surpass, Athens in splendor and power.

This magical place became the largest, wealthiest city-state in the West and a bulwark of Greek civilization.

Rulers such as Dionysius filled the courts with Greeks of the highest cultural stature—among them the playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, and the philosopher Plato

We are left, sitting on the Piazza Duomo, sipping our cappuccino, preparing for the next leg of our journey……

…..suddenly the air if filled with beautiful music…..and there he is…

a young boy sitting on the steps of the Temple of Athena with his accordion….

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……….like a dream, I say…………..like a dream…….

ciao

Berne – Switzerland

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In 1983 the historic old town in the center of Bern/Berne became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Berne is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life

The train from Zurich to Berne provided the most amazing vistas and we knew we were in for a delightful treat…

The structure of Bern’s city center is largely medieval …..

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Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge , an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets.

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It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Munster…..

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The festive May Pole in the Munster…….

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Thanks to 6 kilometers (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe….oh yes we walked them all….several times…..

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The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited…..

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Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published….

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There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town.

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Nearly all the 16th century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng.

One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen  or Child Eater Fountain

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All along the street, each building has a set of Cellar Doors….

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These are actually the entrances to cafes, shops and clubs…..under each establishment is another one!!

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Every corner we turned held another beautiful view….

Have you noticed that it is very quiet in the town??

Well we chose the perfect time to visit Berne….there was a giant Family Expo being held….

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We had the entire town to ourselves!  Marvelous!

We fell in love with all the beautiful fountains and statues throughout the town…..

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Berne is just enchanting……

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The fresh crisp air off the snow covered Alps was just divine…..

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……..We were ready for some great Swiss Food….

europe2 669……since it was a holiday of sorts, finding an open restaurant was not that easy…..

We found the wonderful Ringgenberg with a beautiful patio for al fresco dining…

Oh what delights awaited our palates…..

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Cream of Asparagus Soup with Mushrooms topped with Asparagus and Delightful Tiny Pancakes…

….of course since we are in Switzerland, the Cappuccino is topped with Marvelous Chocolate….

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We fell in love with Berne and hope to come and visit her again one day….

europe2 647europe2 656Hope you enjoyed this visit to Berne with us……..until next time……

Avignon – France

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Avignon  is located in southeastern France bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a place I have dreamed of visiting since I was around ten years old.

When we checked into the hotel and opened the window, we were greeting with an amazing view of the Palais des Papes

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Often referred to as the “City of Popes” because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism.

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Avignon is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.

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In addition, its historic center, the palace of the popes,

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 and the bridge of Avignon………..

……… Pont d’Avignon  Only four of the eighteen piles are left; on one of them stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet.are well-preserved.

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But the bridge is best known for the famous French song Sur le pont d’Avignon.

In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome.

The Palais des Papes is an amazing building….

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By choosing to “move” the Vatican to Avignon Clement caused a schism in the Catholic Church.

At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily of the house of Anjou.

The French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers (the last Count of Toulouse), made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290).

Nonetheless, Philip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom,

when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Philip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain…..interesting tax laws!

Here the flood levels were recorded ….

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The Popes who resided in the Palais des Papes were

Clement V: 1305–1314

John XXII: 1316–1334

Benedict XII: 1334–1342

Clement VI: 1342–1352

Innocent VI: 1352–1362

Urban V: 1362–1370

Gregory XI: 1370–1378

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This period from 1309–1377 – the Avignon Papacy – was also called the Babylonian Captivity of exile, in reference to the Israelites‘ enslavement in biblical times.

The inside of the Palais is eerie and haunting…

europe2 799It feels strange to walk these empty rooms and hallways….

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….and of course there is the garden of the Rocher des Doms…

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Now time for some lunch at 46 Bistro……….escargot …….of course…

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…then a walk about town……to the place to be…………the Place de l’Horloge..

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….looks like these two have been sitting around here for a while…

…amazing Carrousel…La Belle Epoque…

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We visited the most wonderful Musee Lapidaire, CLICK HERE to read about that visit…..

……………..we encountered wonderful architecture, as we strolled about….

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….of course the cafes attract our attention….

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….and we decide to have dinner at lou Mistrau….beautiful outdoor dining with wind shields….good because it is quite nippy….

we begin with………….you guessed it escargot…..the best we have ever eaten…

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….followed by my very favorite dish on the planet…..Cassoulet……

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….then perhaps some beef and potatoes….

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……ahhh but let us not forget dessert and cappuccino ….

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walking about we encounter these wonderful ladies dressed in vintage clothing….

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It has been a most wonderful visit, filled with discovery, wonderment, lavender, culinary delights…..

…..but we must move on….

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Barcelona – Spain

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Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona.

After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon.

Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona.

The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.

It was going to be difficult to top our experiences in Valencia (https://the-tin-man.com/2013/07/23/chapel-of-the-holy-grail-valencia-spain/), but we felt that we must stop in Barcelona.

The Hotel was quite nice and centrally located.

We immediately found the city to be much more dirty than other cities in Spain.

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I know, I know, I know……everyone raves about Barcelona………

…..and a trip there is not complete without a visit to see the works of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet

Gaudí was a Spanish Catalan architect born in Reus, in the Catalonia region of Spain in 1852.

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Much of Gaudí’s work was marked by his big passions in life: architecture, nature, religion.

Gaudí studied every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts in which he was skilled: ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry.

He introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces.

After a few years, under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement which was reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by nature.

Gaudí rarely drew detailed plans of his works, instead preferring to create them as three-dimensional scale models and molding the details as he was conceiving them.

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 Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Gaudí’s works reflect his highly individual and distinctive style and are largely concentrated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, notably his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família, his masterpiece, and still-uncompleted ,

is one of the most visited monuments in Catalonia…..so of course we had to go….

…this is when my realization that I did not like Barcelona began to take form..

The walk to the church was through sidewalks strewn with litter and with people bumping into you and panhandlers in the streets…….so very, very different from any other city I have ever visited in Spain…

Then we come upon the Gaudi masterpiece…………

…a carnival atmosphere, shouting, lines of people, tour buses with loud speakers, walking tour guides with bullhorns……….for the love!!!

Then there is the church…………sorry to all you Gaudi lovers…………it is ugly…

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After that visit, I needed a more traditional building……The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia

The cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century

europe2 130The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city.

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One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square……….

and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity.

The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street, according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia, see much more traditional.

The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

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The choir stalls retain the coats-of-arms of the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

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Augustine found that his people had also left their mark in the Cathedral…

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….but wait, there is more…….more Gaudi…now off to Parccount eusebi Guell

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The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell, after whom the park was named. It was inspired by the English garden city movement

We did pass this most beautiful entrance to a private home on our walk to the Parc….

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Upon our arrival at the Parc, we were once again taken by the carnival atmosphere…the Parc was filled with vendors, street hawkers and panhandlers….and so very, very dirty and littered with garbage….

…..a World Heritage Site……………..REALLY!

……here are some shots from inside….

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the view was nice….

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Okay off to see more sights….one more Gaudí……

Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera  (meaning the ‘The Quarry’)

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 the building was designed by  Antoni Gaudí and built during the years 1906–1912. It is located at 92, Passeig de Gràcia

Standing outside the balconies reminded me of Mardi Gras masks…

The work of Gaudí is too whimsical, too hobbit-like, too gnomish and just a bit too creepy for me…

Some other sights around town…

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Then we come upon the Torre Agbar.

According to the designer, the shape of the Torre Agbar was inspired by Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona,

by the shape of a geyser rising into the air, and by the male genitalia, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel in association with the Spanish firm B720 Arquitectos and built by Dragados.

Jean Nouvel, in an interview, described it as having a phallic character. 

As a result of its unusual shape, the building is known by several nicknames, such as “el supositori” (the suppository), “l’obús” (the shell) and some more scatological ones.

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It is quite striking at night…

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Well we enjoyed our exploration of Barcelona, as we know it holds great memories for many; however, we did not find it enchanting.

…………off to the Train Station and on to France…….

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Tarxien Temples – Malta

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The Tarxien Temples (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈtarʃi.ɛn]) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta.

They date to approximately 3150 BC.   

The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with

the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

See my post on the Hypogeum : https://the-tin-man.com/2013/06/22/hypogeum-of-hal-saflieni-paola-malta/

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures.

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The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored.

acma-Tarxien-TempleAt the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta.

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The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two.

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The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

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Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

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Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

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Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple.

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Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The visit was most amazing and I was so taken by the skills and dedication of our predecessors to create something that would last over 5,000 years.

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When we were exiting I saw some archeologists working on a dig….they saw me taking a photograph and bent into the dig and began to yell with excitement and then popped up holding a spoon…..

……love people with a sense of humor!!!

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Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – Paola, Malta

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The Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

We knew that this was a must see place, so several months prior to our trip we went online in search of tickets.  The place is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmosphere inside the temple complex is highly regulated.  This allows for only ten people per hour to enter for a very limited time period and only 60 persons per 24 hours.  As you can imagine, tickets are sold out for around a year in advance!  I found two tickets available on a day when we were going to be in Malta!!!  You bet I bought those within seconds of finding them.

The Hypogeum is located within a residential neighborhood and a bus drops you off blocks from the site.  You then wander the streets from small sign to the next hoping you are going in the right direction…

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Hey the place is just another residential doorway…….we went right past it the first time!

Now access is VERY controlled, as I stated, so all personal items are collected…….darn, no secret photos to be had!

Since no photos are allowed the following photos of the interior of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni are all from Google searches.

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The Hypogeum of Paola, Malta, literally meaning “underground” in Greek, is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase  (3000-2500 BC) in Maltese prehistory.

Hypogée de Hal Safliéni

Thought to have been originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times,  as is proven by the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that have been discovered during the course of the excavation.

The Hypogeum was depicted on a 2 cents 5 mils stamp issued in the Maltese Islands in 1980 to commemorate the acceptance by UNESCO of this unique structure in the World Heritage Site list.

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It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 60 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof.   The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found.   The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museums Committee.   Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.   Following Magri’s sudden death, excavation resumed under Sir Temi Zammit.

The first level is very similar to tombs found in Xemxija in Malta.   Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended.  Remember that these rooms were carved into solid limestone with DEER ANTLERS!!!

This was built in the Neolithic Age.

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The second level was only opened when the original builders found that this level was no longer adequate.   This level is only ten meters below the street level.

The Second level features several apparently important rooms, such as

the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber  is roughly circular and carved out from rock. A number of trilithon entrances are represented, some blind, and others leading to another chamber.  Most of the wall surface has received a red wash of ochre.

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It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta.

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 The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers.   It has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

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This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.

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 Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern.  On the right side wall the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock.

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 The second level contains a 2 meters deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.

The focal point of this room is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.

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  The lower story contained no bones or offerings, only water.   It strongly suggests storage, maybe of grain.

Stories from the Past

There is an account that in the 1940s a British embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup, went on a tour of the Hypogeum and persuaded a guide to let her explore a 3 ft. square “burial chamber” next to the floor of the lowest room in the last 3rd sub-level.   She claims that after squeezing through this chamber she came into a large room;  where she was standing there was a large cliff with a steep drop and the floor of the cavern could not be seen.   Across the cavern there was a small ledge with an opening in the wall.   According to Ms. Jessup, a number of “humanoid beings” that were covered in white hair and hunched over came out of this opening.   They raised their palms in her direction and a large gust of wind filled the cavern, extinguishing the light of her candle.   She then claimed that she felt something brush past her.   When she went back to the Hypogeum on another occasion, she was told no such tour guide had ever worked on the site.

Sometime after Miss Jessup’s first visit, a group of school children and their teacher visited the Hypogeum on an outing and entered the same burial chamber, which then collapsed while they were inside.   Search parties could not conduct a thorough search for the children or their teacher due to the cave-in.   The parents of the children claimed that, for weeks, they could hear the voices of their young children coming from under the ground in several parts of the island.  source:  http://www.philipcoppens.com/

Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defense system.   Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters.   Beneath Valletta some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor.   Prehistoric men built temples and chambers in these vaults.   In a pit beside one sacrificial altar lie thousands of human skeletons.   Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other.   The Government closed the entrances to these tunnels after school children and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned………….  According to National Geographic’s ”Ancient X-Files” there are no local newspaper reports or accounts from residents about the missing children, making it more likely this was an invented story.

Whatever the local lore is about this place, I can tell you that we felt very honored and thankful to have been able to walk these ancient rooms.  To imagine our ancestors toiling for years to construct this grand and beautiful place……….not to mention the marvelous ceremonies and rituals that must have been………..

Pena Palace – Sintra, Portugal

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We decided to take a private guided tour to the town of Sintra in order to visit the many palaces and learn more of this marvelous place.  Our guide was a lovely young Portuguese woman who had a real passion for the history of her country and knew some great places to eat!   Off we went in our minivan to find new and amazing places……….

The palace stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon.   It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world.

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The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.   It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

The palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to ”Our Lady of Pena” was built on the top of the hill above Sintra.  According to tradition, the construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

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In 1493,  King John II, accompanied by his wife Leonor of Viseu, made a pilgrimage to the site to fulfill a vow. His successor, King Manuel I, was also very fond of this sanctuary, and ordered the construction there of a monastery which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.   For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.

In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning.   However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins.   Nonetheless, the chapel (and its magnificent works of marble and alabaster attributed to Nicolau Chanterene) escaped without significant damage.

For many decades the ruins remained untouched, but they still astonished young prince Ferdinand.   In 1838, as King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors

Castle of the Moors

Castle of the Moors

and a few other estates in the area, including Monserrate Palace..

Monserrate Palace

Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is an exotic palatial villa, the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was built in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created visconde de Monserrate by King Luís

and the Convent of the Capuchos…

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of course we cannot forget the home he built for his second wife, The Chalet of the Countess of Edla…

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King Ferdinand then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

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The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.   Eschwege, a German amateur architect,  was much traveled and likely had knowledge of several castles along the Rhine river.   The construction took place between 1842–1854, although it was almost completed in 1847:  King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism.   Among others, the King suggested Vault architecture,  Medieval architecture and Islamic architecture elements be included.

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….., and he also designed an exquisitely ornate window for the main façade inspired by the chapter house window of the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar

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After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla.    The latter then sold the palace to Luís I of Portugal,  who wanted to retrieve it for the royal family, and thereafter the palace was frequently used by the family.   In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.   The last queen of Portugal, Amélie of Orléans,  spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.

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The palace quickly drew visitors and became one of Portugal’s most visited monuments. Over time the colors of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace was visually identified as being entirely gray.   By the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original colors restored, much to the dismay of many Portuguese who were not aware that the palace had once displayed such chromatic variety.

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In 1995,  the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Pena Palace is so large and so magnificent.    We so enjoyed our visit …………. now off for some food!

Caldo Verde……….delightful……recipe at end of post…….

………followed by one of my favorites……….Roasted Octopus….

what a fantastic day……..oh yeah, here is the Caldo Verde recipe…

  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 6 Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts Cold Water
  • 6 ounces Linguica Sausage, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  •  1 pound Kale, rinsed and julienned

Directions

 In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 3 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more.  Pour in water, bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook sausage until it has released most of its fat, 10 minutes.  Drain.

Mash potatoes or puree the potato mixture with a blender or food processor.  Stir the sausage, salt and pepper into the soup and return to medium heat.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir kale into soup and simmer, 5 minutes, until kale is tender and jade green.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve at once.