Monday, October 17, 2011

 Montserrat about an hour or so from Barcelona. I first took a subway, then a train, then a train with a cable, so the train would not go flying backwards down the mountain. Perched up high in some very strange rock formations this monastery was looming above me somewhere. The slow moving train inched its way up and we climbed higher and higher. Winding up the hill, the speed started to increase and the valley below opened up in all directions. We arrived at last and me and ten thousand other people dashed out of the train and tried to get into the basilica to hear the boys choir. It was tight and a bit uncomfortable as I seemed to move into the basilica on no will of my own, the crowd directing my every move. Once the boys started to sing the crowd seemed to dissolve with the sound of beautiful voices. Outside the hike I took was both invigorating and a bit challenging. Once I reached the end of the trail I had a view of the monastery below and that of the valley even further down. It was a great peaceful moment that I enjoyed, all alone, cool breeze,  for almost 50 min.
 Before the hike, ready to go!
 Back in Barcelona: My own personal butler, checking up on me.
My private view up high on the side of the mountain. The monastery below.

Barcelona, the many faces.

 Danko my hosts dog, that I wanted to take home with me. He was checking up on me to make sure my stay was good. Above him is part of the facade of Sagrada familia. Top is Casa Batilo
 Just one of the many parks and green areas of Barcelona. The people enjoying the weather, park benches with the young and old just relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day. As I wandered around this city, I saw people of all walks of life. The expressions were engaged and purposeful or just serene and relaxed. I walked all over this city and even as my feet grew tired, I marched on. Why? Every corner and every street was interesting to me. People eating and drinking, laughing and smiling. Lots of dogs on leashes scampering in parks or along a busy road. Wine being drunk by smartly dressed young men and women as well as old couples doing their late afternoon ritual. I really like this city.
Gaudi, well... I have already gone gaga so now another look on one of the main reasons for coming to Barcelona. This is on the roof top of Casa Batillo. The strange white looking thing is an organic inspired chimney that Gaudi used to make an otherwise boring or utilitarian looking object into a thing of beauty. The shimmering tiles were like scales of some sleeping creature that would soon awaken. The curving teal tiles like a spine or ridge of the lizards back, slithering over the roof line, and at the same time becoming the roof it self.

Barcelona: The food post!

 Casa Delfin: This place was the first spot I ate on recommendation from my great hosts I stayed with. After looking at the daily specials, and not seeing any lamb as recommended by my hosts, I asked, "What is good?" The waiter pointed to "Fish soup". Well, being from the desert.... it did not at all sound good. But I said, when in Rome, oh I was in Barcelona, so when in Barcelona do as the locals do. I did, and it was fantastic!
 Winding around the Market in the Gothic quarter I saw fish stalls, fruit stands and meat stands. Just walking around made me hungry. The quality of the food was apparent, as was the pride and enthusiasm  of each of the vendors. Smiling at me as I walked by, I became more and more accustomed to the strong fish and meat smells. I had enough, I had to eat at this place!  Again with recommendations by my hosts, I tried to find a restaurant they suggested. Well on the corner with a large, u shaped wooden bar, and many small wooden tables I sat down and started to order. My limited spanish was very little help, as I did not need to find the bathroom, or describe where I was from as I would normally do when speaking my adopted language. I started with vino tinto, or red wine. That was easy, but now for some food. I decided on a tactic of pointing at different tapa's on the menu. The bartender sent my order to the kitchen, and then started to carve some cured ham. What I ended up with was the picture above. The ham is on the right, with bread spread with olive oil and tomato sauce in the middle, with grilled squid in olive oil and sea salt on the left. What a great meal, and three very different tastes.
Do you like chocolate? Well I do and another recommendation was Cacao Sampaka. In the upper Ramblas area it was beyond belief. Rows of chocolate bars, drops, and a wide assortment of chocolate with different percentages of coco. In the back was the real surprise. A small restaurant with a bar that served the most amazing thing, hot, thick, drinkable chocolate! The intense smell and taste as the "Cocao Azteca" hit my taste buds was overwhelming, and satisfying. It truly was a one of a kind treat!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Going gaga for Gaudi

I made my way out of the depths of the subway, which by the way is one of the easiest to navigate in Europe in my opinion, and up towering above and behind the trees was Gaudi's masterpiece, Sagrada Famila. It is still 20-30 years before they "think" it might be done. The facade is like one big carving out of wax or some other substance resembling nothing like any other church in the world. Inside as I was walking under its tree branch like columns I noticed  all forms of nature, and it is nature that Gaudi works from. As I navigated the forest I gazed up in wonder. Was this some futuristic alien designed place of worship? Could this actually be alive?  Perhaps it was a living, breathing space craft from another world.  This was worth the flight over here, it is truly that amazing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Walking around this park with all of the strange and interesting designs, patterns and unique use of tile, one can see the strange world of Gaudi unfold as unreal as something a child may have made. A closer look will have you astonished at the detail, but still leave you feeling you are in an altered world!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hitchhiking for a long time.

I 40 and its interesting people you meet along the way!

Dinosaurs and mannequins

After a morning hike on the white house trail at 7am, I returned to Thunderbird motel to pack up, ate breakfast, and hit the long road back to Flagstaff. The long and somewhat boring route when one gets to highway 40 must have been the reason so many strange, somewhat alarmingly bizarre roadside attractions were placed here in the first place. As I came over the ridge of another part of the dreary highway the madness appeared. Giant dinosaurs sort of crappy looking, with mannequins hanging out of their jaws, other mannequins posed by rusted out cars and school busses. It was creepy and bizarre and somewhat cool.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

Escaping the desert heat I drove and drove up through Phoenix, and into the cool pines of Flagstaff. I had some great pizza, coffee at an interesting coffee house and just enjoyed the cool weather. I then broke free of the huge population, 50,000 or so of Flagstaff and hit the road East into the Navajo Nation. Heading East on interstate 40 for about 50 or so miles, I then made the turn North onto 191 further into Navajo land I ventured, until I reached my destination. Canyon de Chelly is a natural wonder that is so breathtaking even my photo will only give the viewer a glimpse or suggestion of its true beauty

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plain of the six glaciers trail

I had come near the end of the trial. After the tea house about one more mile and then time to turn around. This shot is on my way back, snow receding now and in the distance the famous Lake Louise. The 8.4 mile hike was rewarded with views that only can be described as breathtaking. Actually at some uphill, snow and ice filled trail areas I was breathless! What an extraordinary, visually sensational area this is. Banff National Park, just west of Calgary in Canada is a true wonder, I hope to go back.

Tea House on the "Plain of the six glaciers" trail

As I continued up the steep and sometimes snowy trail, the beauty all around me made the somewhat strenuous hike easy. Of course  a tea house built in 1927 that served tea and hot meals was also a factor in my decision to hike the Plain of the six glaciers trail.

The amazing Canadian Rockies

Standing still for a moment I realized the awesome beauty that was all around me. Sheer cliffs with ice and snow clinging to their sides and sparkling in the warm sunlight, I gazed in awe at the sight before me. How small I felt, insignificant in fact to the massive glaciers that perched upon their mighty mountain tops.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Surprise on the trail

As I worked my way up the trail, a surprise awaited me, lots of snow!  Treading carefully in my trail shoes, I made crunching sounds as my feet went deep into the white, powder. Luck would be on my side as other hikers had already created a footpath I could follow. Stepping into the tracks that determined my route, I suddenly broke through the icy, cold crust sending a large brick size piece of snow and ice cascading down into a fast moving stream. This was a reminder of the precarious path I was on.

The long hike

The hike started at lake Louise, it was a wonderful day starting out around 9am. As the sun slipped between clouds the water on the lake would be turquoise one moment with sparkles, and then go suddenly a darker shade. Quite an amazing site. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Banff National Park

As I drove from Calgary, I fast approached a strange sight.  A small thin, jagged line of snow covered peaks started to appear on the horizon. The expanse that was once far in the distance was now looming ever larger, closing in with walls of rock and snow. It was beautiful.  I was now in Banff National Park, with the amazing, towering Canadian Rockies surrounding me. Standing here at Lake Louise the waters a pale, robin egg blue, with the glacier in the distance.

Welcome to Calgary

Here is the welcoming crew at Calgary Westways guesthouse. A wonderful bed and breakfast in a quiet, tree lined area. Jonathan, Miikka, BeBe just made the trip a wonderful experience.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Calgary Canada

Downtown Calgary is quite a beautiful site. The cool air was like nothing I have felt in months. Light drizzle of rain, splash of a car wheel next to me, tall sparkling glass buildings all around. The green parks  were covered with flowers and fountains with water shooting in the air.