Thursday Special

Winding: a twisting movement or course

synonyms: twist, turn, turning, bend, loop, curve, zigzag, convolution, meander, meandering, looping, serpentine, sinuous, snaking, snaky

Looking down on Nature Square and the undulating bench

Welcome to Park Güell, one of the major works of Gaudí in Barcelona. Access to the Monumental Zone of Park Güell is limited to 400 tickets every half hour. Which seems an awful lot of people on such a short time frame as you are not obliged to exit within half an hour and most likely explains why it is so busy! To avoid having to wait for several hours to enter the Monumental Zone it is best to purchase your timed tickets beforehand.

Eusebi Güell entrusted to Gaudí the plan to create an estate for well off families in a large property that Güell had purchased in the zone known as ‘bare mountain’, a location with magnificent views over the plain and the ocean.

Monumental Flight of Steps. Framed by two convex walls with merlons (crenellated parapet).

Only one sixth of the plot could be built on for residential use only. And in the beginning work progressed well, but the difficulty of transport to the plot made it nonviable and in 1914 Güell decided to stop the project.

Upon the death of Güell the estate was offered to the Barcelona City Council who opened it as a public park in 1926. The UNESCO declared it a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site in 1984.

Hypostyle Room – the ceiling is formed of small domes in the Catalan vault technique. It was conceived as a covered space that could serve as a market for the estate.
Portico of the Washerwoman

I think you might agree with me that this site definitely complies with pretty much all the meanings of winding.

…will your grass be green, your sky be blue?

Leaving Durham behind, we continued northwards to Alnwick in Northumberland where we would spend our last couple of night in England before heading over the border for 10 days. We stayed in a welcoming B&B on the outskirts of the town and within easy walking distance of the gardens that were our main reason for stopping here.

I have desired to go
where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

After all the beautiful sunny warm, even hot, days of September thus far (with the exception of Norwich) the weather finally turned. We woke to thick fog and rain. With only one full day here we had no choice but to make the best of it and set off to visit the famous Alnwick Water Gardens. On the way, and in a bid to get out of the wet for a while, we popped into Barter Books, originally a Victorian railway station on the North Eastern line and now a second-hand bookshop. And far more…


…an enchanting place filled with poetry lines linking the bookshelves above your head, 40 foot murals and a model train-set in the air; a station café, free wifi, comfortable armchairs and plenty of seating.

O western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.
~ Anon (early 16th century)

The books are almost the last thing you look at.

There were, naturally, several books in this second-hand bookshop in Alnwick Northumberland that I could have walked out with, but the thoughts of having to carry them around with me for the next couple of weeks turned me off the idea.

The thought of living in this pretty little town however…

‘He breathed in air/He breathed out light/ Charlie Parker was my delight.’ ~ Adrian Mitchell

It’s quirky, it’s rambling and it’s the most eclectic place to browse in. Set up by Mary Manley in 1991 it is a second-hand bookshop based on the swap system and called Barter Books and home of the original reproduction ‘Keep Calm and Carry On‘ second world war poster.

And it was very tempting to abandon the garden visit and settle in for the entire day here!

This is Peter Dodd’s ‘Famous Writers’ Mural. In brief, this is a huge (38′ x 16′) mural comprising almost forty life-size characters – specifically, famous writers in the English language from 1800 onward.

They reminded me very much of the Murals in Coit Tower San Francisco.

Finally I will leave you with this poem written by Louis MacNeice an Irish poet who was part of the generation of the Auden Group, also sometimes known as the “Thirties poets”. I find it quite poignant.

“To Posterity”

When books have all seized up like the books in graveyards
And reading and even speaking have been replaced
By other, less difficult, media, we wonder if you
Will find in flowers and fruit the same colour and taste
They held for us for whom they were framed in words,
And will your grass be green, your sky blue,
Or will your birds be always wingless birds?

By: Louis MacNeice (1957)

Thursday Special

On a rather damp and grey day in Barcelona my daughter and I decided to take the Tourist Bus and see the city at leisure. One place we wanted to stop off at and have a look was the Monastery or Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes in the north-west of the city. Due to road closures we had to disembark at the Palau Reial-Pavellons Guell and walk up the Avenue Pedralbes to the monastery. No great hardship.

The Royal Monastery of St Mary of Pedralbes, founded by Queen Elisenda de Montcada in 1327, stands as a unique historical and cultural testament to the Poor Clare community who lived there continuously from 1327 until just recently.

The different rooms are grouped around the three-storey Gothic cloister. They include St Michael’s Chapel, the dormitory, refectory, kitchen, infirmary, storerooms, abbey room and chapter house, plus various day cells.

The chapel of St Michael is decorated with a magnificent series of murals, which according to two contracts dating from 1343 and 1346 were a commission given to the painter Ferrer Bassa by the Abbess Francesa ça Portella, who wanted to make the room her private cell. They have recently been re-opened to the public after a ten year period of restoration.

The Sepulchre of Queen Elisenda de Montcada (c. 1292-1364), consists of a marble, two-sided tomb occupying two storeys of the cloister within an arcosolium (an arched recess used as a place of entombment).

The medicinal garden of the cloister is a representation of how the medieval herb garden would have looked. Considered the world’s largest Gothic cloister, it has two galleries with twenty-six columns on each side made of nummulitic stone – limestone containing fossil remains – from Girona, and a third upper gallery added later.

The exhibition “The Monastery of Pedralbes – The Monastery Treasures” is located in the old dormitory. I will show some of the exhibits in a separate post as they are quite unique.

There is so much to see including the abbey room and the refectory, that we could have stayed much longer. I would recommend that you make time to visit this wonderful place if you are in Barcelona. There is much more to the city than Gaudí .

It is easy to reach by public transport, buses  H4, 63 and 78, as well as the Blue Tourist Bus.

The Monastery of Pedralbes site gives you a lot more information about the monastery and Queen Elisenda de Montcada.

Paula’s (Lost in Translation) challenge this week is Traces of the Past

An amble around Durham’s cathedral

After two lovely sunny days in Lincoln we were ready to carry on northwards. Instead of heading for the A1 immediately we decided to drive through the Lincolnshire countryside via Gainsborough and Bawtry and get onto the A1 near Doncaster. A lot of this region is familiar to me as I grew up in Retford (Notts), Scunthorpe (Lincs) and then moved to Doncaster (S. Yorks) on my return from South Africa. I still managed to get confused on the outskirts of Doncaster though as many of the road routes have altered since I was last there. And then we hit an accident on the A1 and were at a standstill for about an hour!

Eventually though we were about to hit Durham, another city that although I have passed by many times I have never actually visited. My intention was to find the park ‘n ride and bus into the city, but obviously my directional awareness was totally absent on this day as I couldn’t find the site and finished up almost in the city centre where more roadworks were taking place. Heading back out of the city we eventually found the right road (it is next to the A1 but not very well signed) and caught a bus back into the city. It was a very hot day and by the time we had walked up to the castle and cathedral area we were feeling very warm!

Cathedral view from the river
Cathedral view from the river

First stop was to get some lunch and relax! We saw a nice looking café on the Palace Green and found a table outside. After 10 minutes we moved inside to get out of the heat. Now bear in mind this was mid-September in the north-east of the country!

p9130124

You are not charged to enter the cathedral, though a donation is suggested, and you are not allowed to take photographs inside either, which was rather disappointing. I did see a few people surreptitiously taking a few shots with their phones and a couple who had cameras were approached, rather more gently than my Lincoln experience.

I did make a few notes and sketches though:
Prior Castell’s clock – a highly decorative wooden clock; the shrine of St Cuthbert; huge pillars carved in a diamond or chevron pattern in the nave; coloured marble floors and a lectern stand with pink and green marble pillars and heraldic lions at the base. Inserts of patterned marble and bands adorn the upper columns. Shrines with traces of the medieval paint in red and blue… Lindisfarne Gospels

Cloisters - the windows would once have contained clear and stained glass
Cloisters – the windows would once have contained clear and stained glass

On entering the cloisters, where the monks would have once passed daily on their way to the Chapter House, the Monk’s Dormitory, Scriptorium, Refectory and Great Kitchen, I decided the photography rules no longer applied. The shadows on the stone slabs were far too tempting and how could I resist the flat wooden ceiling with shields at the intersections of each cross beam and the golden angels near the Chapter House.

More notes: Arched shadows form on the wide stone floor as the hot sun beams down on the cloisters. Wooden pews line the walls and marks in the stonework indicate that possibly a recess has been blocked up. Maybe where the monks stored their books? A pipistrelle bat flies down the passageways and surprises me – I have never seen one at this time of day before. Maybe the darkness in here confuses it into thinking it is dusk. Dust motes float in the air and I can almost imagine the slapping of the sandals of the monks from distant times in the all-pervading silence.

shadows

shadows-2

We exited the cloisters into a Memorial Garden which stands on the site of the Monastic buildings. A young lad sat peacefully on the bench studying his text book in the sunshine whilst we soaked in the colour and the beauty of the roses still flowering in September.

p9130067

The Ypres Rose
The Ypres Rose

Brought back from Ypres in 1917 by Lieutenant H J W Scott 5th BN:DLI. Since then it has travelled with the Scott family from Essex to Surrey and to Cornwall. Presented to this garden of remembrance by his son Mr O T Scott. Planted on Remembrance Sunday 1978.

College Green is a quiet area on the south side of the cathedral, it has a very beautiful secluded village like quality to it, with the houses being the home to members of Durham’s Dean and Chapter. Many of the buildings surrounding the Green originated in the Middle Ages.

p9130070

An arched gateway on the east side known historically as the Abbey Gates also called Prior Castell’s Gatehouse of 1495-1519 leads into the street called the Bailey. The gate is still locked each night. It has some delightful carvings on the ceiling.

The south western corner of the College is the home to the Durham Chorister School. This was originally established as a song school around 1390. Former pupils of this school have included the former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the actor, Rowan Atkinson most noted for his role in the BBC comedy Blackadder and as the comedy character Mr Bean.

As usual, colourful doors and interesting windows caught my eye as we made our way back to the Palace Green where we could catch the cathedral bus back to the Park ‘n Ride stop.

p9130064

For some inexplicable reason I failed to get a shot of the full west face of the cathedral (I have a vague recollection that there was scaffolding around some of it). To see some images of the cathedral then please visit this site.

These memorial crosses near the cathedral did manage to catch my eye. I was particularly drawn to the rather arts and crafts style of carving on the larger cross.

IF YOU ENJOY A WALK, LONG OR SHORT, THEN HAVE A LOOK AT JO’S SITE WHERE YOU ARE WELCOME TO JOIN IN WITH HER MONDAY WALKS.

Black and White Sunday: Countryside (and an ideal dwelling)

countyside-with-a-structure
Grasmere ‘Cottage’

The Lake District lies in north-west England and is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, if you like lakes and hills. High hills as seen behind this pretty house which is located on the banks of Grasmere lake. Surrounded by a pretty woodland garden, this sturdy stone-built house has curved sash windows, an extended roofline and a covered verandah. I could see myself sitting on that verandah on a swing seat piled high with cushions, a cat curled up in the sunny spot, a table cluttered with garden magazines, potted plants and coffee cups…

countyside-with-a-structure-2
Lambs gambolling in the fields

…admiring the view

countyside-with-a-structure-3
Lake Grasmere

Please visit Paula to see other representations of this week’s challenge.