Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Day in Montserrat

Located high on an outcrop in the peculiarly shaped mountains west of Barcelona is the Monastery of Montserrat. You approach it along a very winding road which you can then look back on from the monastery car park.


There are several viewing platforms outside of the monastery itself which allow to you look up to it and back down the valley the way you have come. Here is Rich contemplating the view and the monastery itself

DSCF0158 DSCF0150

The monastery houses a statue called the Black Madonna and is a popular site of pilgrimage for those coming to seek her blessing. It is quite a substantial complex now with its own post office and police station, as well as a large hotel servicing the pilgrims – not to mention the souvenir shops and cafés to service the tourists.


During the middle of the day the place was certainly filled with tourists. This shot of the courtyard outside the Basilica gives you an idea. We didn’t see a single monk throughout the day, although there did seem to be a group of nuns visiting.



We arrived in time to hear the boys’ choir sing for afternoon prayers. The Basilica was absolutely packed – and very humid – but beautifully decorated inside. Unfortunately the light level was rather low and I didn’t have my new tripod with me, so the photos I took were all too blurred to be interesting. Later, after I had nipped back down to the car to collect the tripod, they had turned the lighting down even lower so the only usable shot of the interior I have is this one:


which shows one of the many varied lamp holders which lined the nave illuminating some of the decoration on the adjacent pillars.

Around the monastery are a number of hermitages, presumably originally reached by further long and arduous climbs from the monastery itself, now there are two funicular railways taking you up and down the mountainside from the monastery to visit them.


The picture above is of the longer of the two funiculars, which takes up to the level of three Hermitages and from where you can get the most dramatic views of the monastery nestled on its ledge in the ravine.



We didn’t quite make it to any of the hermitages, although if we had had more time to spend there I would have liked the trek I think. This last one is a picture of the four of us on the route to the Hermitage de Sant Jeroni, the track which gives you the best views back down to the monastery.


Sitges Sunrise

We were up early this morning to drive up to Montserrat but for some reason I was awake earlier than I needed to be and took a stroll along the prom with my camera. Didn’t quite manage to capture the sunrise itself, but got this shot shortly afterwards.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dinner at Al Fresco

At Al Fresco

(L to R) Brett, Rich & John

Sitges Festival

There seems to be a fiesta brewing in Sitges tonight; here were a group of school children outside the Town Hall doing some kind of masque which involved lots of fireworks and bangs.

Sitges Festival

In a side street we also found these huge mannequins being prepared for a parade tomorrow.

Sitges Festival Sitges Festival

Chilling in the pool

Chilling in the sun

This is me, relaxing on a lounger in the shallow-end after a dip in the pool. This holidaying is hard work, don't you know!
And yes, I know I'm pasty white, but I am not a sunbather at all; I avoid exposure whenever possible.

Farewell to Jeremy

Farewell Jeremy

Jeremy's holiday finished today, as he needs to be back in work tomorrow. This is him just before we waved him off for his flight.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

La Sagrada Familia

Here are some views of the Cathedral de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The first shows the exterior of the top of the Passion Façade. The design of the cathedral is absolutely saturated with symbolism but to be honest, this picture of the construction cranes above the towers of the apostles symbolises Barcelona for me far better than the audio-guide’s talk of apostles, evangelists and bishoprics.

La Sagrada Familia

Within the cathedral, it is even clearer that this is a work in progress; it is a building site.

La Sagrada Familia

The detailing in the completed cloisters is exquisite though.

La Sagrada Familia

We braved the stairs up the towers to enjoy the view; here we are, surrounded by Gaudi, high above Barcelona.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Views from the hotel

A couple of views of the gardens of our hotel. The first one is actually looking across the pool, although it is out of shot, the second is the view from my bed out of our balcony door.

Views from the hotel

Views from the hotel

Monday, September 19, 2005

The LGMC Synchronised Swimming Team

The LGMC Synchronised Swimming Team
The LGMC Synchronised Swimming Team getting in some practice.

Sitges Old Town

There are some fantastic houses in Sitges; proper old-style Spanish architecture mansions. There are a couple along the seafront and plenty around the edge of the old town. Here is a picture of one we spotted while exploring and also a view of the rear of the church from the town hall. (No idea who the statue is of.)

Sitges Old Town

Sitges Old Town

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dr. John enjoying the pool

Dr. John enjoying the pool

Sitges Parish Church

Sitges Parish Church

Sitges Parish Church

The Church and the grandiose old government buildings behind it.

Jeremy enjoying the view

Jeremy enjoying the view
Jeremy F enjoying the view over the Med from the Plaza d'Iglesia in Sitges.

Sitges Promenade

Sitges Promenade

A view along the Sitges seafront promenade from the area of our hotel towards the town

Through the Round Window

Through the Round Window

Rich C peering through the hotel walls.

The Water Feature

The Water Feature

The entrance to our hotel is filled with the sound of running water; very Moorish. Alas this shot is slightly marred by a dirty lens.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Le Flamboyant

Le Flamboyant

The view from our table at Le Flamboyant restaurant on our first night in Sitges. We plan to go back there again and, as the weather is promising to be more reliable now, we'll probably be sitting amongst the faery lights.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A day at Hampton Court Palace

Palace from the Driveway
The Palace as seen from the driveway.
This is the older, Tudor facade of the building.

Palace from the Privy Garden
The Palace as seen from the Privy Garden (the river side).
Here you are seeing the Georgian facade. You can just see the tall chimneys of the Tudor building at the left.

Brett & Rowan head for the tea room
Brett & Rosie heading for the Tiltyard Tea Room
On arrival at any stately home, though, the first thing you must do is visit the restaurant/coffee room. There the friendly staff will help relieve you of your money while you plan what to see first. £11.95 for a sandwich, juice, water and strawberries & cream! Jeez! It's a good job the rest of the day was good value for money.

Chimneys & Heraldic Beasts
Chimneys & Heraldic Beasts
Henry VIII certainly liked his chimneys. If I recall my 'O' Level History though, I think they were a status symbol, being quite new and fashionable in the 1500s.
The Heraldic Beasts are to be found all over the Palace. They are sculptures of some of the creatures traditionally used as Supporters to Coats of Arms. At the main entrance to the Palace they are all holding shields bearing the Arms of prominent families. Here, they appear to be holding halberds.
This view is taken from the Tudor kitchens complex.

The Gardens
View from the Palace down towards the Great Fountain Garden.
After doing all of the Palace tours, we headed out into the gardens. Once there, the first thing that you have to do is try the famous Maze!

At The Centre Of The Maze

We survived and made it to the middle of the maze. This is Brett and I relaxing at the centre.

Sunken Garden

One of the sunken Pond Gardens.

Good Queen Bess Wuz 'Ere

Elizabeth Regina wuz 'ere!

The Tudor Rose

Some very ornate gilded fencing at the river-end of the Privy Garden. They were done in sets of five. Here you see the Tudor Rose for England but there was also the Harp of Ireland, the Thistle of Scotland and something I'm guessing was either a daffodil or a leek for Wales, as well as the badge of the Order of the Garter.

The View From My Window

The view from my window

It is a lovely day today; temperature in the mid-twenties and the sun is shining. I thought I would share this view from my window with you. I can sit on my sofa and see nothing but the trees moving gently in the breeze. I am a lucky man.