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I(Chris) spent a day in Rotterdam and walked from the Maritime Museum to the Museumpark along the street Witte de Withstraat. Part 1 covers the shops, bars and restaurants on Witte de Withstraat.

Museumpark is an urban landscaped park located between the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Westersingel, Westzeedijk and the complex of the Erasmus medical center in central Rotterdam. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the Kunsthal, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Chabot Museum, and the Natural History Museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam) are all located there and connected with each other by this landscaped park.

First, the establishments – the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (see a dedicated post later)

Chabot Museum is home to one of the most important collections of Dutch expressionist painter and sculptor Henk Chabot (1894-1949).  The white villa was built in 1938 and represents a highpoint of the functionalist ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ (New Construction) style of architecture. It was designed by Gerrit Willem Baas and Leonard Stokla in 1938 as a private residence.

Chabot Museum’s next door neighbor – there are a few more houses/villa that are built in this style in the area. But I couldn’t tell if it was built around the same time as the Chabot museum or it is a later emulation.

In Het Nieuwe Instituut – the Museum of Architecture, Design and Digital Culture – shows temporary exhibitions with a recurring theme of innovation. The museum examines the designed world and how it is constantly being changed by new technologies, new ideas and shifting social priorities. The concept is similar to that of the MAAT in Lisbon – click here for our earlier post.

Instead of a lawn, the institute has a pond covered in algae in front of it. Look carefully, it is green water.

The institute has a modern and comfy cafe

… but the bookstore (not so much a shop, but more like an open market) was closed. The stalls were all covered up.

The park was designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA in close collaboration with the French landscape architect Yves Brunier and the designer Petra Blaisse.

The park has a very innovative design: four zones – a paved zone; a romantic zone with trees, flowers and a pedestrian bridge (just visible above); a city zone which is covered in asphalt and often used for public events; and a well-tended orchard area.

I used all my time in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen so the Kunsthal was closed by the time I got to it.

Although it is not eye-catching like a work by Gehry, this is a masterpiece of architecture by Rem Koolhass –  read more about it here: https://www.kunsthal.nl/en/about-kunsthal/building/

One of the sculptures outside the Kunsthal.

The city’s Natural History Museum is next door.

As I walked back towards the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, one can see the other side of the museum where Claes Oldenburg’s Screwarch is installed.

I read somewhere that the ponds and fountains in this park are designed to act as buffers to prevent flooding of the city.

The green and built spaces around the park are really harmonious.

I will definitely come back to have a closer look at the museums and relax with a drink at the establishments on Witte de Withstraat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I(Chris) spent a day in Rotterdam after a meeting in The Hague, which is only a short train ride away.

Rotterdam is actively marketing itself as a popular destination for international visitors, an alternative to Amsterdam. It was built around the river Rotte in 1270 and grew rapidly over the centuries but in 1940, during World War II, the entire city center was destroyed by bombs.

The city was rebuilt, opting to break from the past, and commits itself to contemporary architecture.

Witte de Withstraat is a street which connects the Maritime Museum (just visible in the photo below) with the Museumpark.

It is the cultural center of the city which is full of restaurants, bars, museums and interesting shops.

“Work hard, play here” at the Metropole Cafe

I was there in the afternoon so that the seating areas of the bars and restaurants were somewhat empty.

But one can imagine that the place must be really fun at night.

The street is the scene.

Somebody proposed to Sam with this graphics ? Cool.

And there is of course a Dutch “coffeeshop” nearby, this one with subway-style turnstiles ! (not clearly visible in the photo) and a sauna/massage salon next door.

These establishments are facing an open park, so it is not at all sleazy as it may sound.

This sculpture of Sylvette by Picasso marks the beginning of the Museumpark.

See part 2 for the next segment of this thoroughfare.

 

 

 

 

Dear Readers,

It has been a tradition of this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. In Part 1, we posted photos of places we visited in the second half of 2017. Here are the places we visited in the first half.

As you will see, we went to the two other capitals on the British Isle, the administrative center of the Netherlands, and the wine capital of France.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Loch Ness, Scotland in June

Edinburgh, Scotland, June

Glasgow, Scotland, June

Cardiff, Wales, June

The Game and the Castle

The Hague (Scheveningen), Netherlands, May

St. Emillion, France, in April on our Alps-Atlantic drive with A and F

Biarritz, France in April, the Atlantic !

Bordeaux, France in April

Arcachon, France in April

So this is goodbye 2017.

Where will we end up this year ? … if all go as planned, it will be more exotic and involve longer distances in 2018.

Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our first post of 2018. It is a tradition of this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. Overall, we traveled less in 2017 than 2016, at least in terms of distance traveled. We did not leave Europe after our Hong Kong trip concluded in January 2017. But we entered the Arctic Circle, visited the capital of Norway, England, France and Portugal.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Oslo, Norway, December-January – Astrup Fearnley Museum

Tromsø, Norway, December – 350 km inside the Arctic Circle

London, December – overnight business trip

Paris, France, December – on the Grande Roue

Lisbon, Portugal – attended a conference at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

Rotterdam, Netherlands, in November – outside the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Lucerne, Switzerland, August – with S&J + family

Panorama from Mount Rigi above Lake Lucene

Verbier, Switzerland in September for business

Aix-les-bains, France in July with friends

Travels in first half of 2017 to come in part 2.

 

Just before catching my mid-afternoon flight home from Lisbon, I (Chris) had a walk through this place and a quick bite with a bunch of new friends (J, K, L, R & S). It was a really fun two hours.

I took most of the text posted here from its web site, click here to visit.

“It’s in the year 1846 that a threads and fabrics Company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense”, one of the most important manufacturing complex in Lisbon’s history, sets in Alcântara. This 23.000 m2 industrial site was, subsequently, occupied by a set of industrial use related companies.”

It was Sunday and the place was packed with rural farmers selling fruits and vegetables.

Artists and craftsman selling their work.

A giant fly on the wall of a hostel within the grounds.

Not Rio, it’s Lisbon.

Plenty of street art.

A mural that stretches across one side of a large warehouse.

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“An urban fragment, kept hidden for years, is now returned to the city in the form of LXFactory. A creative island occupied by corporations and professionals of the industry serves also has stage for a diverse set of happenings related to fashion, publicity, communication, fine arts, architecture, music, etc., attracting numerous visitors to rediscover Alcântara through an engaged dynamics.”

Among the shops, eateries and offices, a company installed two escape rooms – “LX Escape – Burlesque Edition” – click to see the backstory of the escape rooms here. We wanted to do it but decided to have lunch first. But then I had to leave … and later my friends decided to see Fado with dinner instead. Well, it means the escape rooms are waiting for me to return.

There are quite a few buildings on the site and I did not have the time to walk through them.

I wonder what’s the story behind these images …

It must remind people of Covent Garden or Camden Lock in London. See also our posts on similar ideas of retail/art projects: Common Ground in Seoul and PMQ in Hong Kong.

Great project. It works. Every city needs at least one of these.

One evening after the day’s meetings are over, I(Chris) and friends walked along the Belém waterfront from the conference venue to a gala dinner. Here are some of the photos taken during the walk.

We started from the Fundação Champalimaud at the western end of the waterfront – the sun was setting.

The Monument to the Veterans from Overseas (Aos Combatentes do Ultramar) was the next landmark.

I believe there are soldiers standing guard at this monument from time to time.

Our next sight is the famous Torre de Belem. The tower was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The tower was built in the early 16th century on a small island in the River Targus near the Lisbon shore.

The tower was built by the military architect Francisco de Arruda, who had already supervised the construction of several fortresses in Portuguese territories in Morocco. The influence of Moorish architecture is manifested in the delicate decorations, the arched windows, the balconies, and the ribbed cupolas of the watchtowers.

A modern waterside cafe

Continuing our walk eastbound after passing a small park, we came to a marina.

On the other side of the marina is the Altis Belém Hotel.

Then the Belém lighthouse … a historical landmark

Then, there was the Museu de Arte Popular. It has to be said that this is a sad looking building when it is compared to the others on the waterfront.  Notice the black cable that runs across the facade of the entrance ? Enough said.

Our dinner was at the Espaço Espelho d’Água – a truly beautiful place, we had an apéro followed by dinner.

Entrance to the venue.

From the terrace of the venue … sculpture in a pool in front of the river

The Espaço has a small art gallery at its entrance.

… and a bar that was completely shrouded in vegetation.

On the far side of the Espaço is the Monument of the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) which celebrates the Portuguese age of exploration in the 15th and 16th century. The main statue is that of Henry the Navigator.

Further into the distance, one can see the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and the National Sanctuary of Christ the King (Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei) on the hill.

If one continues to walk (which we did not), the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology is not far (see earlier post about this new landmark).

 

 

Scheveningen Beach (Strandweg) is Holland’s most famous seaside resort. And being only 15 minutes from the center of The Hague (Den Haag), it is being used year around by residents and visitors.

The beach faces the North Sea (which is generally not known for fine weather). I imagine it must be quite a change from day to day and season to season.

The water was probably too cold for bathing in early May when I was there.

Presumably, this was low tide. What a wide beach, see how much sand there was between the water and the umbrellas.

Beach club. The beach is at least 1 km long.

It has an abundance of attractions and beach pavilions. The Pier offers visitors a unique experience in a historical location. Scheveningen was mentioned in records as early as the 1200’s.

The Pier offers broad thoroughfares, both outdoor and enclosed, bars, clubs and traditional food trucks, a Ferris wheel, a zip line, a bungie jumping tower, and hotel suites.

From this photo, it looks like I was on a cruise ship.

At the end of the Pier is the hotel (De Pier Suites, I think).

The Ferris wheel is over forty meters high and has 36 closed gondolas with air conditioning (otherwise too cold and windy in the winter!).

Looks rather dramatic.

Visitors can zip line (side by side) down the 55 meter high Bungy tower on the Pier reaching a speed of 60-80 kilometres per hour. The total distance is 350 meters.

I can imagine this place to be packed and really fun and lively in the summer, especially in the evening.

Bungie jumping is facilitated by a crane which moves a cage that serve as a platform for the jump. There was an attendant manning the cage who probably whispers words of encouragement to those who become cowardly at the last minute.

We have been to two other beaches in Europe this year – click to see Biarritz and Arcachon (also has Ferris wheel on the beach).

 

In June, we went to Cardiff to see the Champions League final match between Real Madrid and Juventus. Real won.

We stayed an extra day and visited the famous Cardiff Castle which is in the middle of the city. It was also used as to host hospitality services to sponsors of the match and their guests.

The Castle was a Roman fort, has an impressive Norman castle and an extraordinary Victorian Gothic fantasy palace, created by art-architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the world’s richest men at his time.  The Bute family brought prosperity to Cardiff by exporting coal all over the world.

In 1947 the Castle was given to the people of Cardiff by the 5th Marquess of Bute.

Within the walls of the Castle are tunnels which came into their own as air-raid shelters during the Second World War.

The Norman castle has an outer walls which provides a shell for smaller buildings within it.

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From the top of the Keep, one has panoramic views of the city of Cardiff.

The stadium is just visible behind the clock tower.

The house was renovated in 1865 and the process lasted 16 years. There are a number of opulent, highly decorated rooms in the main house.

The Arab Room is stunning.

Almost a theme park but this is real – somebody with serious money lived in it.

The house is being used to host various functions, both governmental and private.

We walked through the library where they had shelves full of old or antique books, all topics from science to literature. E.g., a set of books about English gardens in four seasons.

The Clock Tower was built on the site of a Roman bastion and completed in 1875.

It is a great tourist attraction.

Cymru !

Continuing with our trip to the West, from the Alps to the Atlantic …

From Arcachon, we took a ferry across the bay to Cap Ferret.

Cap Ferret is a headland which takes the form of a spit, which separates the Atlantic Ocean from Arcachon Bay.

Lots of people took their bike across as there are good beach and forest trials (so we hear).

By the time we bought the ticket and waited for the boat, it was past 4pm. And the last boat to come back to Arcachon would leave in less than 30 minutes, which was the time we had on that side of the bay.

The place really deserved some slow quiet exploration. Oh well, it was a rush for us but the trip across the bay was pleasant and relaxing.

This region is a haven for wildlife. Islands within the bay include the isle of birds (‘L’ile aux Oiseaux’) and a protected nature sanctuary  – Banc d’Arguin, a landing ground for migrating terns.

Next to the ferry landing are restaurants, bars and ice cream parlors – low key but popular. Holiday homes are further behind.

After we and many daytrippers left on the last boat, the place must be quieter and cozier.

Conde Nast Traveller has a really nice piece about Cap Ferret.

According to the article, the place is like a European Martha’s Vineyard. Don’t confuse it with Cap Ferrat another beach town which is located on the Mediterranean shore of France.

The place that we missed is Dune du Pilat – the tallest dune in Europe, with sand stretching one and a half miles long and piled 350 feet high. Not visible in the photo below, there were wind-assisted sand surfing on the dunes.

The completely white stretch of shore in the photo is it. One can drive to the bottom of it and climb to the top by stairs.

Because it was the last boat back to Arcachon, the line to get on the boat was long but every one was in good spirit and the weather was cooperating.

The pier on the Arcachon side later that day.

Arcachon was developed as a resort in the 19th century, and the promenade is populated with large hotels – some with a fancy façade but most are efficient modern constructions.

The big hotels, the shopping streets behind them and the wide, sandy beaches in front are all part of the ville d’été (summer town), the district of Arcachon designed to accommodate and amuse Victorian holiday makers arriving on the train from Bordeaux.

When we were there, Easter was still a bit too chilly for sea-bathing.

The streets were packed with people, however. We were lucky to have found underground parking near the beach after some searching.

We did not have time to explore the ville d’hiver (winter town) which has beautiful splendid mansion so we read in a guide afterwards. Some are visible from the water while we were crossing the bay to Cap Ferret (see later post).

The ferry pier after the last boat service was quiet.

We could not resist the Ferris wheel – never been on one that is on the beach.

For the first revolution, because the sea is featureless, we did not really see/feel how quickly we rose in altitude.

Tiny people we saw … it happened surprisingly quickly.

 

Near the top, looking towards Arcachon Bay …

Very quickly we found ourselves at the very top – the view was magnifique and the breeze was so refreshing. Unforgettable.

Looking towards the mouth of the Bay … we couldn’t quite see the Atlantic which is on the other side of the peninsula.

Before Google Earth, the quiet aerial view of any place, let alone a beach town, at this height must have been so unique.

We will try to go on more in the future, for now, see our other Ferris wheel experience in Vienna, London, and Lyon.

 

 

 

 

While we were staying in Bordeaux-Medoc, we decided to go to the Atlantic coast and visit Arcachon (more about Arcachon in a later post).

To avoid traffic on the main highway, we detoured according to our GPS and drove along D650. Since the landscape is flat, D650 is almost mathematically straight and run parallel to the main highway. We recommend you follow us on Google map as the above map is too small to see it on the post.

The area’s main business apart from tourism is oyster farming in Arcachon Bay (Bassin d’Arcachon). The road runs along the southern shore of the bay linking a number of oyster farming villages. We stopped off at the port of Larros where there is a jetty promenade.

The bay covers an area of 150 km² at high tide and 40 km² at low tide. Obviously we arrived when the tide was low. It was a mess but there was no smell.

The port offered a view that we have not seen before. Boats were moored and beached, until the tidal water returns. Acres of mud as far as the eye can see and in less than 12 hours, all submerged (we assume).

The mud was apparently solid enough for people to walk out. Love to make a time-lapse video of the returning and receding tide.

This bay is the largest oyster culture area in France – “Ostréiculture arcachonnaise” – it even has its own wikipedia entry.

According to Wikipedia, wild oysters have always been collected and consumed there, as evidenced by some writings dating from the Gallo – Roman period. The oyster which was then found in the bay was the flat oyster, or “gravette” (Ostrea edulis). The official exploitation of oysters began in 1849.

Several different species of oysters dominated the bay in succession, first the Portugese Crassostera angulata in 1868 after the flat oysters were decimated by disease in 1920’s, then in the early 1970’s viral outbreaks killed most of the oysters in the bay. It threatened all the farms in the area.

Later it was decided to introduce a Japanese species Crassostrea gigas which is the only species raised today. The jetty has a roll of small buildings presumably housing all the equipment for oyster farming. Some were left rusting outside.

Lining the sides of the jetty are several large oyster bars – but they served a very limited menu. “La Tradition” on the menu includes twelve No. 3 oysters, bread and wine, 19 euros. This is as fresh as one can get but no discount here.

We were hungry and went to a proper restaurant – Les Viviers.

Our 12 No. 2’s.

This was how one gentleman ate his seafood platter solo at Les Viviers.

This lucky fisherman caught a mermaid in his cage.

After lunch, we continued our journey to Arcachon.

Continuing with our Easter Alps to Atlantic trip …

After Saint-Emilion, we headed south directly to Biarritz by-passing the city of Bordeaux (which we would later visit). The drive down A63 was easier, a lot less twists and turns, and the landscape is flat. This area, Landes is part of an estuary but looks a bit like Florida, for different geological reasons.

The day we arrived, the weather was incredibly warm – every one rushed onto the beach – we suspect that most of the people on the beach were locals as the tourists had not yet descended on this place.

Yoga on the beach sponsored by a local radio station.

Biarritz is a beach town on the Côte Basque, French surfing mecca, resort for royalties since the 1800’s, and only 15 miles from the Spanish border.  It is only 50 kilometers from Donostia-San Sebastian where we visited last summer, see here and here.

Our hotel room offered an incredible beach view. We could hear the surf all night.

The colors of the sky and the sea changed quite dramatically during our stay. In front of the hotel is a plaza and a rusty modern sculpture.

It was quiet at night. From a distance, one can see the lighthouse.

The lighthouse – Phare de Biarritz – is dramatic with its sweeping searchlight.

On the waterfront separating the Grand Plage and the Plage du Miramar (not visible) is the Hôtel du Palais (the brightly lit building above), the city’s landmark luxury resort and former royal residence.

A symbol of Biarritz, the Rocher de la Vierge is a rocky outcrop topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Reachable via a footbridge built in 1887 by Gustave Eiffel, who is also known to have worked in the capital.

Looking across the Grand Plage late afternoon, the Rocher and footbridge were just visible through the holes and arches in the rocks.

Rock arches.

The above has been predicted to collapse in a few years time.

Surf class

These kayaks came from somewhere, landed on the beach for a while and then paddled back out and left in minutes  …

According to the New York Times, this beach town is back in vogue since its popularity peaked in the 1950’s. The newspaper article (here) was published in May 2017 – two months after we visited Biarritz – we were literally ahead of the Times. <wink>

Lots more photos to come …

 

 

A few more snapshots …

Saint-Emilion is on the east in the Bordeaux wine region and the right bank of the Dordogne. In the region, there are 5400 hectares for growing vines, 800 wine estates and 127 that are listed and opened to the public.

The vineyards of Saint-Emilion are ancient. Back in the Roman times – as early as the second century, vines were planted to take advantage of the limestone soil and temperate oceanic climate (no temperature extremes and rainfall well distributed throughout the year).

Saint-Emilion was ruled by a jurade – a council of local notables – until the French Revolution. In 1948, the council was turned into a guild to promote the wines of the appellation.

For a thousand years, Saint-Emilion exported its limestone for construction use leaving behind underground quarries and miles of tunnels – some becoming wine cellars. This Cave is next to our hotel and uses the remaining defensive wall as a part of the cellar.

There are 3 levels of quality in the classification of Saint-Emilion wines – Grand Cru Classé, 1er Grand Cru Classé B and 1er Grand Cru Classé A (highest).

We have never seen such a range of bottle sizes.

And there is the Comptoir des vignoble in the village main street which deals in high-end wines and has a monolith cellar from the 12th century.

It lists the prices, like stock prices, of four famously good and expensive wines by the vintage year, Chateaux d’Yquem, Mouton, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, outside at its entrance. Petrus 2009 was listed at around 3500 euro.

Another wine store – Merchant of Thirst

We had dinner at L’Envers du Décor which was recommended by the hotel receptionist.

All the tables and several walls were covered with the ends of wine box which were stamped with the name of the wine it contained and its origin.

The wine we ordered – its box happened to appear on our table top.

Fun place.

Saint-Emilion is a popular place because of its environment, history and produce. The communes of Saint-Emilion, there are 22 of them, extends over 238 sq km between Libourne and Castillon-la-Bataille, and bound to the south by the Dordogne river.

The town is named after a monk named Emilion (duh) who came to settle in the 8th century.

We really like it because it is small enough for one to see the entire town which is surrounded by vineyards as far as the eyes can see.

There were numerous monasteries, convents and churches in the region attracting various schools of monks and nuns – Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Ursulines. It also welcomed pilgrims of the Santiago de Compostela trail which is not far from the area.

There were a fair amount of restoration of houses in the small town but they all seem harmoniously done.

The UNESCO designation in 1999 helped preserved the local ancient practices of wine-making and many old buildings.

This is a old lavoir, a public place set aside for the commune to wash clothes. They were essential until laundromats and private plumbing made them obsolete.  We really liked the set up – a raised lip around a shallow pool of flowing water and a sheltered section.

The center of the village in front of the monolith church and market hall. It was a lively cheerful public place. We did not see the church – a 12 th century building dug into the limestone plateau and whose current structure still forms a single block. We were in fact standing atop of it when the photos was taken.

We are sure the scene is quite common but for urban dwellers like us it felt a tiny bit Renoir-esque.

The “castel daou rey ” meaning the King’s Keep is a romanesque tower, built in the 12th century, where it might have served as the city hall in the past.

Part 2 to come.

Our first night of the 2017 Alps-to-Atlantic trip was spent in Saint-Emilion.  This small medieval village is known for its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site and extremely well known for its red wine.

Our hotel “Au Logis des Remparts” is located at the edge of the village center and was built using a part of the remaining defensive wall. The village is so small that the hotel’s location is essentially central.

There are three floors. There is an elevator for luggage but not people.

One can see parts of the rampart with a walkway on top and a stone parapet.

This village was recognized by UNESCO in 1999 and it was the first wine-making entity that was listed as a “cultural landscape”.

While our room is unremarkable, the garden is heavenly.

Geometrically-shaped trees in the middle.

We and our friends really like it and spent a good few hours lying on the lounge chairs, staring up at the trees, and falling asleep.

We had it all to ourselves.

Can’t remember the last time we had such a naturally serene and relaxing moment.

Since it was the beginning of the season, the owner was moving the sculptures around the garden looking for an optimal place to show them.

The pieces are apparently all available for sale.

The weather was perfect to be outside. But it is too cold for swimming.

The patio has the perfectly shaped shady olive tree (I think it is an olive tree).

We took our breakfast underneath it one morning.

Highly recommended.

We went to Donostia-San Sebastián in early June. It is the European Capital of Culture for 2016.

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Historically, it is a resort town, located in the Basque Autonomous Community, an area with its own local language – Euskara (basque in basque)apparently unrelated to any other languages in Europe.

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For several days, the sky was overcast and judging by the number of bathers on the beach, the sea might be a bit cold (we did not try the water ourselves).

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Mount Igeldo and  Santa Clara island in a distance.

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This is after all the Northern coast of Spain and not the sunnier Mediterranean side.

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It has one of the best in-city beaches in Europe. The beach is flat and deep.

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One can sunbathe and swim right next to major historical buildings and churches.

Zurriola Plage

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La Concha Plage, Mont Urgull in the background

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La baie de La Concha and La Concha Plage

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Paseo de la Concha

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At the eastern end of the Paseo and the beach.

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The city sits at the mouth of the River Urumea. Zurriola Bridge and mouth of the Urumea.

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The Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and completed in 1999. It is the home of the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

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The complex is stunning at night. During the day, it is a bit of a contrast from the 19th century buildings in the area.  But it’s not an eyesore since it is really isolated on the waterfront.

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We would love to spend more time here and enjoy the festivities of the European Capital of Culture but we had to do a day trip to the nearby Bilbao – posts to come soon.

The city has a great website here if you plan to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foro Italico, formerly Foro Mussolini, is a Fascist-era sports complex in Rome, Italy. I(Chris) saw this as a part of a tour of modern Italian architecture.

The forum was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini (literally Mussolini’s Forum) under the design of Enrico Del Debbio and, later, Luigi Moretti (according to Wikipedia).

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At the foot of Monte Mario, it is home to numerous sports venues, such as the largest sports facility in Rome, the Stadio Olimpico, Rome’s 70,000-seat football stadium.

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From the main road, an open, broad parade ground paved with mosaic tiles lead up to the stadium.

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There were some damages to the tiles. I believe they were not treated as a first priority as repairs go because there is some tension among the Romans about what the stadium represented.

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Benito Mussolini who ruled the kingdom of Italy from 1922 to 1943 is il Duce (the leader). He ruled constitutionally as the prime minister until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a dictatorship.

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He developed a cult of one-man leadership that focused media attention and national debate on his own personality. Towards the end of World War II, he was captured while trying to escape, and executed by communists.

The tiles are organized to repeat fascist slogans. I can imagine the sight of athletes or soldiers marching in formation over these mosaics.

Duce a noi = Leader to us

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Molti nemici molto onore = many enemies, much honor

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The ornate Stadio dei Marmi with its running track is surrounded by 60 marble nudes, each donated by an Italian state.

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The stadium was inaugurated in 1932.

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It has marble steps lined by marble statues in classical style portraying athletes that perform various sporting disciplines.

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The adjoining building is the seat of the Italian National Olympic Committee (originally built for the purposes of the Fascist Male Academy of Physical Education).

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The forum remains much as it was originally conceived.

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I don’t know what the sport portrayed by this statue is – taming a wild cat ?  – it has no modern day equivalent.

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Foro Italico has hosted important events, most notably the 1960 Summer Olympics.

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The entrance is marked by a huge obelisk, 17m high, made of marble from Cararra.

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Spectacular architecture by fascists, that’s in the past.

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The stadium can stay but we all hope the ideology never comes back.

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Musei Vaticani –  I (Chris) had in Rome an opportunity of a private guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.

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The tour was about 1 hour long and began at dusk after all the regular visitors had left.

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These are painted on the spaces at the top of columns. Notice the 3D effect created by the vividly colorful foreground and faded monochromatic background.

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The main attractions of the museum are not only the classical and Renaissance objects placed within it but also the artwork on the walls and ceilings.

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The painting above was done in the corner of a room.

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The Gallery of Maps (Galleria delle carte geografiche) is one of my all-time favorites – it is so cool to have all the beautiful and detailed maps in one place.

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The Gallery of Maps contains a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti.

Venice

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The gallery was commissioned in 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII and took Danti three years (1580–1583) to complete the 40 panels of the 120 m long gallery.

Sicily

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The highlight of the tour is the Sistine Chapel, the last of the 54 halls, the Musei being one of the largest in the world. The papal chapel was built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, for whom the chapel is named.

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This is where the Papal Conclave takes place to elect a new pope.

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I was initially told by the guide that photography is prohibited inside the Chapel but an official later indicated that during our visit, it is permissible as long as the flash is not used. Hurrah. I can share !

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The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were restored between June 1980 and December 1999, instead of appearing monochromatic due to candle smoke, it is now bright and almost spring-like.

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The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, I have never known his full name until just now) between 1508 and 1512. Along the central section of the ceiling, Michelangelo depicted nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

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One of the most widely recognized images in the history of painting, Michelangelo shows God reaching out to touch Adam.

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Below, appearing at the far end of the Chapel, is the next most famous painting by Michelangelo – the Last Judgement – a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity.

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This is, in the eyes of Renaissance catholics, how it all began and how it will end. Fascinating.

If you have been following the blog, you would have read about two Moscow metro stations – Komsomolskaya and Mayakovskaya – as well as the exhibition Subterranean Monument at the museum of architecture. Click on it to read.

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As I did not really have a chance to explore many of the interesting stations during my several days in Moscow, I tried snapping pictures wherever I can.

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Despite the palatial design and decoration of the stations and platforms, the metro carriages themselves are pedestrian, beige and brown color scheme, nothing special … it could have been the metro of any 20th century city.

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The facilities for electronic ticket processing are highly variable depending on the station. The stored value RFID-based fare card is known as Troika (Тройка), like the Oyster in London, or Octopus in Hong Kong.

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These looked as if they are taken from a 50’s sci-fi movie.

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Below are a collection of photos (that I think) will give an impression of not only the beauty in the metro system’s designs and decorations but also the scale and diversity in its implementation across the capital city.

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Wall and ceiling decorations

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Mosaics

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Light fixtures

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.

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and heros …

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If you want to see more stations, goto this link on CNN.

Mayakovskaya (Маяковская) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the Moscow metro system. The name as well as the design is a reference to Futurism and its prominent Russian exponent, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

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The station was built as part of the second stage of the Moscow Metro expansion, opening on 11 September 1938.

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Dushkin is the archeitect who proposed the use of a special kind of steal elements which allowed metal to be used to support a large amount of load acrosss the full width of the station.

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Located 33 meters beneath the surface, the station became famous during World War II when an air raid shelter was located in the station. During World War II, Stalin took residence in this place.

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The station has two rows of columns serving as support for the three arched vaults and each section formed by the arches opens into a small oval-shaped dome.

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On the ceiling of the station, inside each dome is a mosaic.

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Photo from 1938 at the Moscow Metro Exhibition, see that post here.

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There are a total of 34 mosaics, all by Alexander Deyneka with the theme “24-Hour Soviet Sky” – four sections have been created –  morning, afternoon, night and morning again.

In this mosaic, the planes are lined up to form the letters “CCCP”.

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In 2005 a new second north exit was built, along with a new vestibule. The ceiling was decorated with a mosaic composition from Mayakovsky’s poem “Moscow Sky”.

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Parts of the poem is also displayed.

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A bust of the poet himself.

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This station is the middle of Moscow.

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Think of it as an Oxford Street tube station or 34th Street Herald Square subway station.

In case you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.