Showing posts with label Barcelona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barcelona. Show all posts

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Sorsogon: Bulusan Lake & Volcano, Barcelona Church & heritage houses in Juban

Sorsogon Provincial Capitol
If you're looking for something else to do in Sorsogon after whale watching in Donsol, drive down south! The province has a few interesting sites south of Donsol, particularly in the towns of Barcelona, Bulusan, Juban and Matnog.

The capital of the province is also named Sorsogon. Sorsogon City is actually two towns that were merged when the city was created: Sorsogon and Bacon. Drop by the Sorsogon Provincial Capitol which has a really elegant park with centuries-old trees still standing. Taste seems to be a missing element among many local governments. But Sorsogon proves that it still exists.

Barcelona Church, Sorsorgon
A few kilometers from Sorsogon City is the town of Barcelona. The Barcelona Church is the best preserved Spanish colonial church in the province. But the altar has been altered. In front of the church are ruins of the Old Barcelona Presidencia. We noticed construction going on beside the ruins of large letters which spell "Barcelona, Sorsogon." By now, it should be finished and I'm sure this will be a popular photo spot for visitors.

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon
Further down is the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park where Lake Bulusan is located. The lake, on the southern slope of Bulusan Volcano, is quite small at 28 hectares. There are facilities for rowing and kayaking. You can also walk around the shore which is a little over two kilometers, or hike up to Bulusan Volcano.

The town of Bulusan used to have a fortress church. The church is no longer there. But the walls and belfry, which must have doubled as a watchtower against Moro pirates, are still standing.

Bulusan Volcano, Sorsogon
Bulusan Volcano towers over the towns in the southern end of Sorsogon. We got a really nice view of the volcano from Irosin Church.

Grajo Heritage House, Juban, Sorsogon
On the way back to Sorsogon City, we passed by Juban which has five elegant heritage houses namely Alindogan, Alindogan-Gorospe, Grajo, Lasala, and Olondriz.

Anyway, you can visit all of these sites in a day. At the southern end of Sorosogon is Matnog, the jump-off point for Samar. The town has the best beaches in the province, particularly Subic Beach on Calintaan Island. That's my next target.

Here's something for you. Saw this quite a lot around Sorsogon. How many people are in this tricycle?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spain: FC Barcelona's Camp Nou

Since we were in Barcelona, I made sure to visit Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona. Completed in 1957, this UEFA 5-star rated stadium is the largest in Europe with its capacity of 98,772 people.

In Camp Nou, one can find the FCBotiga Megastore where you can find tons of FC Barcelona paraphernalia and items. If you're a big football fan, make sure to get tickets for the Camp Nou Tour and Museum which cost 13€.

The Barcelona Bus Turistic conveniently stops in front of the stadium. While the Collblanc (L5) and Palu Reial (L3) Metro stations are 8 minutes away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spain: Montjuïc and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympic Games. The Opening Ceremony is still vivid in my mind, especially the archer who shot a flaming arrow immediately over the cauldron high above the stadium to light the Olympic Flame, the first time the lighting of the flame deviated from the usual torch run to the top. Thus, seeing the Olympic Stadium, the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, and the cauldron on top when I visited Montjuïc was exciting.

Montjuïc (or Hill of the Jews) has a storied past having been selected to host the 1929 International Exposition (World's Fair). The surviving buildings from this event are the Palau Nacional, a grand structure which now houses the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), a museum that holds the largest collection of Catalan art in the world; Estadi Olímpic (the Olympic stadium); Font Màgica fountains; and the Poble Espanyol, a showcase of architecture from all over Spain (just like Nayong Pilipino without the cheap and ugly replicas), among many others. The Olympic Stadium was said to be poised to host an anti-fascist Olympic Games as an alternative to the 1936 Berlin Olympics when the Spanish Civil War erupted.

For a time, Montjuïc also hosted Formula One racing. The Spanish Grand Prix was held there for four times until a terrible car crash in 1975 that killed four spectators. After the 1992 Olympics, the Olympic Stadium has been the home of RCD Espanyol football team since 1998. The Miro Foundation can also be found in Montjuïc.

Barcelona Bus Turístic
For two days, I got to ride on the Barcelona Bus Turístic, a tourist bus with an open-air second floor. It was a really good decision. It may seem expensive at first (it's 20€ for a day pass and 26€ for two days), but it is very convenient and a good deal! The bus ticket allows you unlimited rides on the three lines (Blue, Red and Green). The bus stops within meters of all major tourist attractions so it saves you a lot of time from walking. Although the Metro may be cheaper, the some stations were quite a distance from major attractions. So this is highly-recommended especially if you have a limited time in Barcelona.

Spain: Picasso's Barcelona and La Ribera on the Picasso Walking Tour

Museu Picasso is another must visit when in Barcelona. Although there are several Picasso museums, the one in Barcelona is the first and only one established on the express wish of the artist. But as an introduction to the museum, I decided to join the Picasso Walking Tour in order to experience and understand Picasso more by visiting places he frequented in Barcelona during the many years that he was there.

Discovering the bohemian Barcelona where Picasso lived, walking its streets, hearing anecdotes of the famous painter's friends as well as the events that influenced his life and artistic career was a great way to understand the Picasso story.

We visited Els Quatre Gats, a restaurant in a modernista building frequented by Picasso and intellectuals of his time; the friezes on the facade of the Col-legi d'Arquitectes, his only piece of public art in Barcelona; as well as the Llotja de Mar, the building which housed the art school where he studied, among many other sites.

We were also brought deep into La Ribera, a district which hosted Picasso's last studio before he departed for Paris. The district has a beautiful basilica namely the Santa Maria del Mar. We also got to pass by another basilica, the Mare de Déu de la Mercé, in Barri Gotic. Stops are quick so you can opt to come back if you want to explore the interiors.

The last stop is the museum which contains the world's most important collection of works from Picasso's youth and formative years. The whole cost of the tour is 15€ and this includes entrance to the Museu Picasso. And since tickets to the museum are given to you, there is no need to join the long lines to get one!

But if you just want to visit, a ticket to the museum and the temporary exhibition would cost 9€. Entrance to the museum is usually free on the first Sunday of each month.

Barcelona Walks
Aside from the Picasso tour, there are three other walking tours offered by Turisme de Barcelona (Barcelona Tourism Office). These are Barri Gotic, a tour of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter; Barcelona Modernista which takes you to the works of modernist architects Antonio Gaudi, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Luis Domenech i Montaner; and the Gourmet Walking Tour, where you can experience Barcelona's cuisine. Check the tourist information kiosks for schedules.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spain: Hospital de Sant Pau & Palau de la Música Catalana

The world has taken notice of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, another Catalan Modernista architect, whose works have also been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Just a few minutes from the Sagrada Familia is the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a sprawling hospital complex built between 1901 to 1930. It is in fact a functional hospital up to today.

Another work of Domènech i Montaner is the Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall built in the Modernista style with rich decoration on its facade. There are guided tours to the grand Modernist Concert Hall and other smaller halls at 10€ per person. But tickets have to be purchased at least one week in advance because there is a limit of 55 persons on each tour.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spain: Gaudi overload in Barcelona: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Palau Güell, Casa Mila & Casa Vicens

When in Barcelona, make sure you visit the works of Antoni Gaudi, one of the foremost architects of the Modernista style (Art Nouveau). His unique and avante-garde works have become icons of Barcelona, many of which are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List under Works of Antoni Gaudi.

Foremost of these structures is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, the unfinished church we all know as Sagrada Familia, one of Spain's most popular attractions. Construction for the church began in 1882 and continues up to today. It is scheduled for completion in 2026, a century after Gaudi's tragic death.

Gaudi had worked on the project for 40 years until his death. When asked why the construction was taking so long, he was said to have remarked, "My client is not in a hurry." Gaudí had intended the church to be the "last great sanctuary of Christendom."

There is a chapel at the back which you can visit if you want a glimpse of the interior. But if you want to take the elevator up the towers (waiting time can be over an hour) or visit the museum in the crypt of the church where Gaudi is buried, entrance fee is 8€, an amount which goes to the construction of the church.

Palau Güell is a town mansion he designed for industrialist Eusebi Güell. At the moment, it's partially open to the public due to restoration, with limited access. I saw the outside of this building while touring La Rambla.

Casa Batlló is a building redesigned by Gaudi for the Batlló family. Also know as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) because many parts resemble skeletal parts, this colorful home is remarkable and very representative of Gaudi's works. You need to pay 16,50€ to be able to enter but it's very much worth it.

Walking around its different rooms, the courtyard and rooftop made me realize the brilliance of Gaudi's mind. His creativity was indeed ahead of his time.

Casa Vicens, a home designed by Gaudi for industrialist Manuel Vicens, was his first important work. Since it is private property, visitors can only marvel at its exterior. In fact, the property is for sale. And you can own this World Heritage Site for 30 million euros!

Casa Mila is more popularly known as La Pedrera because it resembles a quarry. Gaudi designed this building-home for the couple Rosario Segimon and Pere Milà. The building is now owned by Caixa Catalunya.

They charge an 8€ entrance fee to visit the interior and wonderful rooftop. Since it was raining when I visited La Pedrera, I had to forgo going up to the roof.

Finally, another icon of Barcelona is Park Güell built on top of Carmel Hill. This is a Gaudi work which you must visit as well!

The park was supposed to be part of a commercial housing project of Eusebi Güell that did not take off. It was eventually purchased by the municipal government and converted into a park.

Many of the park elements are characterized by multi-colored tile mosaics. Entrance to the Park Güell is free. And for those who had been watching America's Next Top Model, they did a fashion runway show there in one episode.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spain: Barcelona's Barri Gòtic and La Rambla

Hello from Barcelona! We finally arrived this morning after a five-hour early morning bus trip from Valencia. After settling down, lunch and a short siesta, it was time to explore this cosmopolitan Spanish city. And the best place to start is by walking along La Rambla and exploring Barri Gòtic!

An iconic and busy central street of Barcelona, La Rambla (also called Las Ramblas or Les Rambles) is a 1.2 kilometer tree-lined pedestrian mall. And it sure had character!

I enjoyed watching the many street performers in colorful and creative costumes, the various souvenir stalls, pet shops (which sold turtles), flower stands and the artists' makeshift studios among many others. And there were just so many people!

Rambla in Catalan, as well as in Spanish, means an intermittent water flow, derived from the Arabic ramla which means 'sandy riverbed.' It was a very charming street and I very much agree with Spanish poet Federico García Lorca when he said that La Rambla was "the only street in the world which I wish would never end."

Along La Rambla is the entrance to another iconic attraction of the city, a street market called the Mercat de la Boqueria. I enjoyed the many tastes, colors, and scents inside the market, indeed a feast for the senses with its diverse selection of goods. I tried out the chocolates and candies as well as the fresh fruits.

After exploring La Rambla, I went deeper into Barri Gòtic, Barcelona's Old Quarter. The district stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere.

Don't miss the many fabled structures including the covered Gothic walkway above Carrer del Bisbe Irurita, the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia where her remains are buried in a magnificent crypt, and Placa Sant Jaume where the Casa de la Ciutat (Ayuntamiento) and Palau de la Generalitat are located.

In the Cathedral, you'll notice thirteen geese in the central courtyard of the cloister. The number represents the age of Santa Eulalia when she was martyred in the 4th century. Magnificent chapels are scattered around the cathedral. Aside from Santa Eulalia, another popular saint buried in the Barcelona Cathedral is St. Raymond of Penyafort.

It would be best to get a free map and suggested walking routes from any tourism office or kiosk conveniently located around the area in order to maximize your trip to Barcelona. The brochures I got were a big help.
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