This summer I had an amazing opportunity to travel Europe for 3.5 weeks. Here are some of the highlights:
Spain - Barcelona, San Sebastian, Toledo
Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra, Algarve Coast
Spain - Seville, Granada, Cordoba
Ireland - Dublin, Galway, Belfast (occupied Ireland)
La Sagrada Familia - Cathedral in Barcelona. This cathedral is still being built (it's incomplete), but it is the most modern cathedral I have ever stepped in. This picture only captures the pillars, but stain glass and details around the cathedral are all part of the brilliance of architect Antoni Gaudí. His fingerprint is found throughout the city of Barcelona making it perhaps one of the most artistically interesting cities I have visited.
The cathedral reminded me of what I liked and disliked about growing up religious. Conversations where had about what it means to worship in a place of beauty, whether that matters at all, and is it justified to spend tons of money to build something beautiful in the name of a religion.
Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, I stopped and realized before I make any final decision on my thoughts on this, I would have to hear music being played in the space. There was no music during our visit.
Park Guell. We visited Park Guell on the last day we were in Barcelona and it's desert terrain reminded me of where I grew up. At the top of the park you can look over the city, but it's a hike through desert wilderness. The bottom of the park they sectioned off requiring visitors to pay a fee to enter Gaudi's masterpiece which mind you he designed as part of the park. We were outraged to hear we had to pay a fee to see it!!! It would be like someone charging you to walk through Central Park. Visitors and locals alike are outraged as this change just took place last October. (Thank you awesome Spanish economy.) Suddenly the park a place designed to be a resting place or a place to sit with friends for however you long you like became regulated.
Basque Country. After spending a few days in San Sebastian we rented a car to explore the Northern Spanish coast. We found this hidden gem during our travels and parked the car to hike out to it. It was difficult to pick just one picture to represent Basque Country, as it was insanely beautiful. It reminded me of the Wenatchee Valley.
Towards the end of our day exploring Northern Spain, We found a beach in a local small town on our way back to San Sebastian. It was here where a lady made us a ham sandwich after much fumbling of trying to speak Spanish/English. Once it was figured out, I enjoyed the best ham sandwich my life.
Next stop was Lisbon, my new favorite city in Europe! If someone were to tell me I had to pick one European city to live in for the next 5 years, I would not hesitate to pick Lisbon as my new home. Lisbon, a city full of color with an ocean view in a dry tropical climate is my kind of heaven.
|View of Lisbon from Castle Jorge. I've never been one to be afraid of heights.|
What I loved most about Lisbon is the tiles or "Azulejo's" that people use to decorate their homes. We went to the Azulejo museum and saw tile art from the different centuries. If I ever have a house I want to decorate part of it completely in in these kinds of tiles. I love how it brings color and personality to the building.
For some reason, I seem to LOVE cities that have hills. In Lisbon I stayed in the Alfama neighborhood, or the hilly part of the city. The views were amazing, but the breeze off the ocean was even better. At night I slept with the windows open, and since it is desert the air gets cold at night (unlike in NYC where you still suffocating at midnight). For me, being a child of the desert, I found this incredibly comforting. Lisbon has the climate of my childhood and everything I love about New York mixed into an exciting new culture.
Sintra. Not even 30 miles out of Lisbon is magical place called Sintra where dreams come true. It has everything starting with the forest covered "Mountains of the Moon" to dramatic cliffs that drop off into the ocean with secret beaches waiting to be discovered. Our first night arriving we searched for a beach to see the sunset over, we found this one where we had to hike down steep cliffs, which this picture does not do justice describing. It was the type of place that makes you feel alive. Later that night we watched the mountains glow from our balcony as a full moon illuminated their outline. The next day we went down to the Algarve coast of Portugal where we beach explored all day.
If I were rich I would go to Lisbon and Sintra at least once a month from New York (not kidding). It might be my favorite place in the world.
The rest to be continued.....