Semana Santa

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Holy week in Andalusia, Spain is a big deal. I just witnessed it over Spring Break. It’s an incredible experience. Every night there are processions through the streets of Nazarenos with usually two pasos. There are marching bands, one before Jesus and one after the Virgin Mary. And these processions last for hours and bring tourists and Spanairds alike to the region.

If you recall, I was in Spain this past summer with my sister. Normally I wouldn’t go back to the same country so soon, but since our Spring break fell over Holy Week, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. I traveled with my friend, Margaret, this time. Margaret is Catholic, and knows a lot about the various saints and practices of the faith. Since I’m Lutheran, this was quite helpful. Margaret is also quite the foodie, so I’ll credit her with my new-found love of salmorejo too.

We spent 3 nights in Granada, 1 in Cordoba and 4 in Seville. We enjoyed beautiful Spring weather and walked nearly 150,000 steps during our journey. That’s 61.35 miles, for those of you who would like a more familiar measurement.

What is unique about Semana Santa in Andalusia are the nightly processions. Imagine your entire congregation, parading through the streets to the main Cathedral and back. Members participate in wearing costumes of Nazaranos, penitents, and could also be in a marching band. There are 30 – 50 strong, burly men that are carrying each paso that weighs up to two tons. They work in 20 minute shifts and carry the paso about a block at a time in between rests. Young children participate and hand out candies throughout the route. They also hand out pictures of Jesus or Mary from their pasos.

The “costumes” of the Nazarenos have been around longer than the US has existed. But a group from the US has used a similar costume for some very undesirable reasons. So as an American, it takes a little getting used to the sight. But once you understand the ideas behind the costume, it’s not bothersome. The costume is to keep the penitent anonymous, and they are reflecting on the walk that Jesus made before he was crucified.

Nazarenos

We were in Seville for the climax of the week – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Seville is Semana Santa on steroids compared to Granada and Cordoba. We didn’t have to worry about cars until Sunday afternoon because all of the streets had been blocked off the rest of the time.

The Andalusia region of Spain is a lovely place to visit. Semana Santa is a very special time to be there. I’m curious about what it would be like during a “normal” time of the year. But I truly enjoyed the Semana Santa experience. If you have the opportunity to try it out during that time, I highly recommend it!

Sofia’s Place

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Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of the big three museums in Madrid. It was the first one we visited. It is known more for contemporary art. But the big reason why one goes to the Reina Sofia is for Picasso’s Guernica.

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This is just a photo of the post card I bought. There are some areas in the museum where photos are allowed and some not. Guernica = no photos.

I didn’t really know anything about Guernica until last spring. I was delivering a survey to senior classes at school and I walked into a CIS (College In the Schools) English class. The teacher had a stack of articles about Picasso’s Guernica. When I saw it, I mentioned to the teacher that I’d be seeing it this summer. He asked if I’d like a copy of the article. Naturally, I took it. If you click on either of the links, you’ll get to the Wikipedia page and a Picasso site page. Both give in detail what the painting signifies. But the article that I got from this teacher talked about this being one of (if not the first) the first works by Picasso that made a statement about what was happening in the world. This dramatic piece about the horrors of war did not make it to Spain until Franco was gone. It arrived in 1981. After a few different locations, it’s now found in the Reina Sofia.

Anther artist that you can enjoy at Sofia’s place is Salvador Dali. Here was one I liked…

Dali at Reina Sofia

In Madrid, our plan was to hit the big three museums. One down, two to go. They are definitely worth your time!

TMI… Shaking my head… It’s just TMI…

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I don’t exactly think of myself as a prude. But as I toured in Spain I was just shocked at the clothing, or lack thereof. Maybe I just haven’t traveled in the heat of the summer in a country that doesn’t have a major religious dress code. Granted, I was in Istanbul in March. In India it was hot, but the women wore beautiful saris and kurtas. I now own several kurtas and kurtis. They’re all cotton tops that have a variety of lengths that one wears with leggings, salwars or churidars. In other words, you wear some kind of a pant with them. I swear I saw someone wearing one as a dress in Barcelona! The thing about a kurta is that its got slits on the sides that go up far enough so you can reach into pockets. So wearing a kurta as a dress, really isn’t the intended style choice.

It’s hot. I get it. But do I really need to know all of the details of your undergarments? I grew up in a time where you didn’t show your bra straps. Now, of course, it’s a fashion statement. Plus, that requires prior planning about said undergarments. Both my sister and I agreed that it would require just too much work/effort to coordinate undergarments with whatever ensemble we chose to wear for the day. This “style” was not limited to just the young and tiny. We saw this over and over with women of all ages and sizes. A common theme was a near shear top with some kind of frilly bra. Whenever I see those tops I think to myself, “I have to buy 2 garments instead of one.” I’d need a camisole or something for underneath. No such thought process in Spain. As for what nationality the scantily clad women were, I don’t know. They didn’t seem like they were American. They tended to speak in a non-English language.

The reason why we were paying attention to attire is that in many sites, there is a dress code. When you visit churches, you are expected to dress respectfully. On the La Sagrada Familia website, it specifically says, no shorts. Well, when we scoped it out the night before, we saw lots of people with shorts. My friend, Margaret, had been there before and we sent her a quick email asking if it would be ok to wear shorts if we saw lots of other tourists wearing them. She jokingly replied that we should be ok as long as our butt cheeks weren’t hanging out.

We were fine with our attire the next day. But fast forward to the following day. We went to Montserrat. Montserrat is a Benedictine Monastery. Yes, a MONASTERY. We were taking photos of the beautiful scenery and ran across this…

Dress Code?

No way! We’re at a monastery! People are there to touch the orb of the Black Virgin. My sister and I just laughed and laughed. After the butt cheeks warning from Margaret I just had to take a photo and immediately send it to her. Eek!

I don’t know… I guess I’m just modest and I’m a total rule-follower. So if the suggested dress is pants, covered shoulders, etc. I’m going to do it. You’ll never catch me with my butt cheeks hanging out. Mine don’t look quite that good… But still… I think there is a certain amount of respect for the culture of the place that one is visiting that is needed. I have traveled enough to realize that it is better to fit in with the place than force my own culture on them. I know it’s hot. But there are other ways to deal with it than being darn near naked!

Casa Mila aka La Pedrera

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When we arrived in Barcelona we took a train from the airport and then the metro to the Passeig de Gracia stop. We emerged, got our bearings and started walking toward our hotel. I knew that we turned left one block after La Pedrera. So as I was looking for it, I was disappointed to see that it was undergoing a major renovation. Oh well, what can you do? We could see tourists on the roof, so we knew they were still open for business, we just weren’t going to get any cool pictures of the facade.

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When you first enter La Pedrera, you are at the center light-well/courtyard. From what I understand, these light-wells sound like a great idea for having natural light in an apartment. From the audio guide, I understood that people still live in La Pedrera. For the tour, one takes an elevator to the roof. Then one takes some stairs to the attic, where there are informational displays about Gaudi and his architecture. Then one goes to the apartment that is furnished in the style of the time of Gaudi. And lastly,  one ends in the gift shop.

Rooftop, La Pedrera

The rooftop is one of the highlights of La Pedrera. The distinctive chimneys and view of Barcelona make it very captivating. As we walked around, my sister asked me how comfortable I’d be without the fencing and to imagine it as it was before tourists. The fencing does take away from the beauty, but I’d be extremely uncomfortable without it.

Chimneys, La Pedrera

The attic was cool, literally and figuratively. There were films and models explaining Gaudi’s architecture. As a math teacher, I’ll be looking up the catenary curve to learn about the mathematics of it. The arches in Gaudi’s work are made up of them. Think of holding the two ends of a piece of string. When you turn that curve upside down, you get your catenary curve – something like that.

Arches, La Pedrera

The apartment was next. The attention to detail is quite extraordinary. Straight lines were definitely not Gaudi’s thing. Look at the doorways and fixtures…

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After the apartment you make your way through a couple of gift shops. As with all of the Gaudi sites, the admission fee is steep. With an audio guide you’re spending just over 20 euro per ticket. But the work of Antoni Gaudi is one of the main attractions of Barcelona and what makes it such a cool city. My recommendation is to allow for the sites in your travel budget.

Barcelona Logistics – Avoiding Lines

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On a very hot day, we figured out which metro stop to reach and navigated successfully UP the hill/mountain (whatever) to get to Parc Guell. By the way, the Rick Steves’ guide suggests splurging on a taxi to get here. Take the advice. It’s quite the hike. And did I already mention it’s up hill the entire way?

We arrived to find a ticket line. There are ticket lines at all of the tourist sites. This was only day 2 in Barcelona, so we were just learning that you could buy your ticket, but your entry time might not be until a few hours later. It doesn’t make for easy planning. Certainly being spontaneous isn’t in the cards. At Parc Guell we walked around the free portion of the park, took some photos near the entrance/pay portion from the outside, and made our way downhill. We angled over to La Sagrada Familia so we could check out what we were getting into for the next day.

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Once again, at La Sagrada Familia we encountered long ticket lines. But we had also been looking at online tickets for that site. After scoping out the lines and asking a few questions of the helpful people in the red shirts, we decided that we’d go back to the hotel and buy online. This was the best decision!

We had decided to do a Gaudi day. We thought we’d do La Sagrada Familia in the morning. But when we went online, we wanted an admission ticket that included going up in a tower. The tower times are “sold” separately from your entrance time. The only arrangement that made sense was entry at 5pm and tower ticket at 6:30pm. So much for our morning idea. Once that was settled, we checked out the other two biggies.

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La Pedrera had an opening for 11am. We took it. We also got the audio guides with all of our tours. Casa Batllo (link has music) was a ticket that was good for the next 365 days. You could buy a “fast lane” type of pass for 5 euro each. We decided to just wing it with the fast lane and not purchase it.

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In all of these cases, an email was sent to my phone and that was our ticket in. As long as I had downloaded the mail to my phone, we were set. I will say that T-Mobile’s International perks have been great in both India and Spain. At La Pedrera I found a worker and asked where I should go if I got my ticket online. We were immediately led to get our audio guides and started our self-guided tour. At Casa Batllo, I asked the same thing. I was glad we didn’t purchase the fast lane thing because we were once again, led right in.

I realize that you do need to do some planning ahead when you do this. But trust me, your time is worth it. They are beautiful sites and you don’t want to spend your time waiting in lines and then waiting again for your entrance time. A little prior planning can save you time and keep you sane in a sea of tourists!

 

It’s here!

Carpet

My carpet arrived! While I was in Colorado, my neighbors intercepted the delivery at my door!

Back in April, I wrote this post about our visit to Jaipur Handicrafts and my sort of surprise purchase of a carpet. I wasn’t thinking about purchasing one, but loved the design of this particular rug and knew I couldn’t beat the price when it was made in pashmina wool. They told me that it would take about 3 months and would arrive in July. Knowing what it takes to make these gems had me surprised that it could be done that quickly. But lo and behold, it is now here.

After coming back from Spain, I was in Colorado for my annual trip last week. Hopefully I can get back to doing some writing in the next few weeks before I had back to school.

Hidden Gem of Barcelona

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One of my favorite tours was of the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona. It is a privately funded concert hall for the Orfeo Catala. The Orfeo Catala is a choir. The concert hall is amazingly beautiful. In order to see it, you need to take a tour or go to a concert. We took the tour. We contemplated going to a concert, but it didn’t fit into our schedule.

I had seen some photos in guide books of the concert hall. As I was doing my pre-trip research it was recommended that you get your tickets in advance for this tour. It was hard to know which day to choose, so I selected day 2 of our Barcelona portion. It was also a day in which there was a concert in the evening if we decided to attend. The building was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. If you would like to read about the Art Nouveau architecture, click here. It is a truly amazing structure, in a city that is full of them.

The central skylight in the auditorium is incredible. There is so much detail in the other parts of the building that it’s hard to know where to start to describe it all. So I might just leave it to pictures. I highly recommend checking it out as well as the surrounding neighborhood!

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