Art, literature

Taking a Second Look

I have just finished reading Dan Brown’s most recent book, Origin, which had many references to  Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. These gave me reason to review photos I had taken of both.

As I looked at them, they gave credence to Gaudi’s words:

Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first. Originality consists of returning to the origin.

At Casa Mila, the influence of nature is obvious beginning with the facade which reminded of something growing from the earth.

Inside graceful nautilus shapes are among those reminiscent of the sea.On the rooftop are amazing organic structures with flowers and layers resembling the earth’s strata.

Sagrada Familia continues to illustrate Gaudi’s fascination with nature and his interpretations go beyond traditional which for me is his genius.

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Inside are soaring treelike columns.

Their branches spread across the ceiling giving one the illusion of being in a forest.

One could go on and on about the natural elements at Sagrada Familia, but as I looked at my photos I was stuck by contrasting religious images.

Ones depicting the birth story are delicate and detailed.

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In sharp contrast are the dramatic interpretations of the crucifixion.

Not only are they crudely done, there is such incredible sadness in them.

Without question, Gaudi was an architect of tremendous talent who was not afraid to think outside the boundaries.  While other of his work is complete, Sagrada Familia has been a work in progress for 140 years.

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Thanks to private donations someday, perhaps by 2040, it will look like this.

As in his other books, Dan Brown’s Origin raises some interesting questions, but what I most appreciated was being influenced to take a second look at Gaudi’s designs and again being awed by his originality.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Travel

Last Stop: Udaipur

With many harrowing hours on the bus behind us, we arrived at our final destination, Udaipur said to be the Venice of the East. The bus had to traverse a very narrow street not wide enough for two smaller vehicles much less a big one so our entry was rather dramatic in that we had cars, bicycles and motorbikes backed up in every direction. Talk about some horn honking!

As we navigated our way through traffic, I noticed something very different about Udaipur. It was clean, the sky was clear, there was more green and in the distance could be seen mountains and water meaning we had left the desert behind.

After a nerve wracking ride, we left the bus to board a boat that would take us to our hotel, the Leela Palace. Seeing it in the distance made my heart beat a little faster as it appeared we had saved the best for last.

And so it was. Rooms were sumptuous with a comfortable sitting area

and inviting views in every direction.

At every turn, the hotel was beautifully appointed making me want to stay there for days. It would take days just to learn one’s way around!

As much as I hated to leave the hotel, there were sights to see. Again by boat, we headed toward the City Palace, an enormous complex dominating Pichola Lake.

It is impossible to describe the majesty of this place with its graceful arches and stained Venetian glass,

its stunning works of art done with exacting detail

and breathtaking painted surfaces telling the story of the culture that had existed there. Photographs don’t begin to do the City Palace justice.

Across the way and again accessible only by boat is the Jag Mandir Palace which was used as a summer place by the royal family. Today it is a hotel and a popular site for weddings and other social events.

Having had our fill of sightseeing, we returned to the hotel for a wonderful evening of shared friendship, good food and entertainment.

Some of us even got into the act though we were not nearly as glamorous or graceful as the beautiful performers.

All too soon our stay was over and once again we boarded the bus for the airport and flights that would return us home. For each of us the experience was different, but there is no question that every one of us has memories indelibly inscribed in our heart. That is the gift of travel.

Travel

Next Up: The Js

Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodphur are the Js. What do they have in common? Each has a fort that once served as protection high above the city, and each is referred to by color.

Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, is the Pink City so called because of the pink painted buildings lining the streets of the old walled city. A highlight here is the fortress/palace of Amber built in the 1500’s.

It sits high on a hillside which means a long walk to the top or opting to take the trek on an elephant.

As with other sites we have visited, the architectural details are magnificent. One can wander for hours taking them all in.

A unique feature of the Amber fortress is the use of mirrors on walls and ceilings. Their glimmering surfaces cast reflections in every direction.

While there is much more to share about Jaipur, let’s move on to Jaisalmer, the Golden City located in the desert near India’s western border with Pakistan.

Here, too, is a fortress, and unlike others it continues to be inhabited, and its alleyways are alive with activity.

Ornate havelis dating back centuries and once home to wealthy merchants are still intact.

I love the color that changes from place to place

and signs of life that abound.

The main tourist attraction in Jaisalmer is a camel ride in the desert. I have to confess that the experience won’t go down as a highlight of this adventure!

The third J is Jodphur, the Blue City. Blue is said to be the color favored by Lord Shiva as well as a way of identifying property owned by the Brahmins, members of the highest caste. Speaking of caste, I am somewhat confused by the difference between it and class which were the terms used by guides to define social structure.In Jodphur, as in other places, what strikes me most are sights of people doing everyday things.

I’m taken in by its vibrancy

displayed in so many ways.

Here and elsewhere I am continually amazed and sometimes frightened by people and vehicles vying for space in what seems to be a most disorderly fashion. While that may seem unusual to me as a visitor, I suspect those who live here see it as nothing more than a way of life.

Again and again during this adventure, I am struck by the differences between my own life and that in this sprawling country, and I cannot help but wonder how it would be perceived by those who I am observing.

Travel

Next Up: Agra

Why go to Agra? Because it is the location of one of the world’s most famous structures, the Taj Mahal. I won’t go into its history except to say it was built between 1632 and 1648 to honor the deceased second wife of Shah Jahan. This woman bore 14 children in 19 years and died giving birth to the 14th. I have to say that made her worthy of her husband’s devotion.

We arrived at the site shortly after 6 AM and already there were throngs of people.

At first glimpse of the magnificent building, guess what happened? Everyone stopped to take a photo creating a crush of humanity.

It is difficult not to have an omigosh moment as something so historically familiar becomes a reality. The white marble glistens despite the haze that appears to be perpetual in India.

Looking at the details of the Taj Mahal, one cannot help but marvel at the skills of laborers who worked with tools barely more sophisticated than hammer and chisel.

It always amazes me how often precious materials are used to create intricate designs in ancient construction. Here the beautiful exterior inlay designs are created with onyx, jade and jasper.

Just as stunning as the Taj Mahal are the buildings surrounding it.

The differing material and style create a lovely contrast.

From the Taj Mahal we ventured to the Red Fort which in some ways was even more dramatic.

Built over an eight year period the century before, it ultimately became a place of imprisonment for Shah Jahan as he lost power. It was irritating to learn he was placed there by one of his sons which goes to show that family loyalty is not always a priority!

There were multiple architectural influences here adding to the fort’s interest. They ranged from Arabic

to those more associated with Indian design.

One of the things that makes visits to sites like these is having a good guide. Ours was that and more as he shared information with knowledge and enthusiasm. He was open to questions about subjects having to do with culture, the answers to which go a long way to help understand place.

Maine, Random

Destination: Castine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of our favorite boat outings is to Castine, Maine, one of the oldest communities in North America.  Since the 1600’s it has been continuously occupied by settlers from France, Holland, England and  colonial America.  It has also been home to several Native American nations, so as you might guess, Castine has a rich and colorful history.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACastine is not a big town.  Most of the shops and eateries are right in the center.

Were it not for the Maine Maritime Academy where young men and women are trained for a life involving the sea, there would be few full time residents.

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In the 1630’s, the French built Fort Pentagoet, which was later destroyed by the Dutch.

IMG_4889Today, an historic inn is all that bears the name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocated up the road from the original fort, the inn is on the site of a hall occupied by English troops in the 1800’s.  Are you beginning to get a feel for Castine’s varied history?

Back to the inn, it is a trip back in time which makes it desirable for visitors.

For us, it is an annual destination where we meet boater friends for cocktails on the porch and a delightful dinner.

It is always fun to stroll around Castine to see stunning examples of Federal and Greek-Revival style homes that were built by wealthy pre-Civil War merchant families. For a peek inside one of these beautifully restored old homes, it’s worth taking a look here.   Many of you will recognize the work of one of your favorite fellow bloggers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn any given day, Castine is a wonderful lunch destination, and for us, it takes less time to get there by water than by car. It is a treat to tie up at the public dock and walk a few steps to Dennett’s Wharf for a tasty bite.

While there, you never know what you are going to see happening in or on the water.  Yep, Maine is the way life should be!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Travel

Through My Eyes: Quebec City

When you look at a map of the U.S. the northern part of Maine looks like it could be part of Canada, so that’s the first clue that it’s a pretty easy trek to places like New Brunswick, Montreal or Quebec City.

MaineAt the last minute the hubby and I decided a trip to Quebec City would be a great way to wind down our time in Maine. It’s little more than a 5 hour drive through small towns and beautiful wooded areas with the Kennebec River running through them.  

IMG_5275In places, one could almost feel as if nothing had ever been there except for the moose which motorists were warned to be aware of. Though Maine is said to have lots of moose, would you believe I’ve not seen a single one!

Quebec CityOn to Quebec City and the old town where French is the language of choice though on this trip it seemed that folks were a little more open to speaking English. Exploring the area is an absolute delight.  The streets are narrow and cobblestoned meant for pedestrians only.

There’s quite a lot to do there, but you can find out about all that on Trip Advisor or in a guide book.  What I’m going to share with you are the things that caught my eye.

Window boxes which no doubt change with the season.

Shutters, the kind that remind me of Provence.

Clever signs outside every shop and restaurant.

Art in unexpected places!

Quebec CityMurals so lifelike you felt like you’d entered another time.Quebec CityRooftops with their differing lines and colors.

Quebec CityThe market filled with local produce, meats, cheese and prepared goodies.  No way can I pass up a good market!

Quebec CityAnd, of course, the Frontenac Hotel built in the late 1800’s by the Canadian railway cannot be overlooked.

Quebec CityLocated high above the old town, it reminds of chateaux built in the 14th and `15th centuries in the Loire Valley.  No matter from which angle it is viewed, it is extraordinary.

So there you have it, my view of Quebec City.  If you’ve been there, please share what caught your eye.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Random, Travel

From Dream to Reality

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

For years I’ve dreamed about being in Italy, this time not in a country villa but in a town/city where I could immerse myself in everyday life.  Now the dream is a reality and Florence is where I’ll be for a month.  Why Florence?

FlorenceIt is one of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing spots

Duomo
Duomo

well known for the domed Duomo that can be seen from all over the city.

Santa Croce
Santa Croce

It is home to stunning architecture

David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria
David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria

and familiar works of art created centuries ago.  

FlorenceNow I’m sure to see much of those sites, but the real reason I’m here is to discover markets with all their temptations.

Florence/foodI want to buy fresh ingredients for meals we will eat at home

Florence/gelatoand sample every flavor of gelato. 

Coniglio stuffed with salami, spinach and fennel

I want to try as many authentic Tuscan dishes as possible.  In Florence, that should be no problem as there are thousands of restaurants.

FlorenceI want to explore tiny side streets hoping to find artisans at work

Florenceand when I need a break I want to stop at a sidewalk cafe for refreshment.

FlorenceIn the evening, I want to be part of the noisy crowds that eat and drink late into the night.

Hey, I better get started if I’m going to find out whether the reality is as good as the dream!  Won’t you join me for the adventure?

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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