15 December 2008

-2º and frosty

And I find myself back in Minnesota. It is -2º Fahrenheit right now. "Feels like" temperature is -18º. 'Tis the season.

09 December 2008

la sagrada família

La Sagrada Família, considered Gaudí's masterpiece, was begun in 1882 and will not be finished for at least another 20 years. Those big towers you see? The biggest ones haven't even been built yet. When it's finished, there will be 18 in all. Eighteen towers.

barcelona, spain

Two nights is much too short for Sevilla, but that was all I had before catching a flight to meet Melissa in Barcelona. 

Barcelona. City of many things, but for this trip, the city of Gaudí. We spent our one full day in Barcelona hopping from one Gaudí place to another; ate our picnic lunch in his Parc Güell. Good place for a picnic, I say.

06 December 2008

el laberinto

A palace garden isn't a palace garden without a labyrinth made of hedges.

el real alcázar

Although it was built on the site of a true Islamic fort, the Real Alcázar (translation: Royal Palace) was actually built in the 14th century by Christian rulers in the then-popular mudéjar (translation: "I love the Alhambra and want one for myself") style.

Not that I could really tell the difference between a 14th-century copycat and the real thing.

03 December 2008

sevilla, spain

From Lisbon I hopped an overnight bus to Sevilla, Spain. My instructions from veteran Sevilla-travellers at my Lisbon hostel (easily the best hostel in the world) were to "get lost and then go find some flamenco." They told me to get lost specifically in the Barrio Santa Cruz—one of the oldest barrios of Sevilla, known for some of Sevilla's most winding, narrow (cars don't fit), picturesque streets. The little alleys are so maze-like that even if I hadn't been trying to get lost, I still would have succeeded.

02 December 2008

pastéis de belém

Pastéis de Nata are little Portuguese custard tarts. The Pastéis de Belém shop in Belém, Lisbon is famous for their pastéis de nata, because they've been going since 1837, because their recipe is über-secret (rumor has it only three people know it), and because they're soooo good. They sell so many in a day that your little custard cup of heaven is guaranteed to be served to you fresh out of the oven, still warm. A sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar? Yes, please.

azulejos e pedra

01 December 2008

on porto and port (and european decorations)

Porto is port wine's namesake, and the place where most official port wine is blended and aged. Technically, though, the warehouses are across the river from Porto, in a separate town (although you wouldn't know it to look at it) called Vila Nova de Gaia. The big port producers all have Hollywood-style signs above their warehouses, peppering the hillside with "Sandeman" and "Graham's" and "Dow" and the like. The main tourist attractions in Porto, therefore, are the warehouses, where you can get a tour and—more to the point—a tasting for a few euros or less.

I went to Croft's warehouse for my free tour and tasting—and tasted a ruby, a white, and a twenty-year-old tawny. I could wax pretty eloquent about the history of port and its different types, but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that I really like port. A lot a lot.

The top photo is of a Porto street (or two) and its seasonal attire. So far I've found most of Europe to be very good at dressing their cities for the holidays.

i spy

This storefront security camera proved more entertaining than was probably intended.

lisbon, portgual