Spain: Antoni Gaudi’s World of Design

Location of Spain in Europe
Location of Spain in Europe

 

Theme: European Christmas Holiday  Country: Spain  Languages: Spanish  Unit of Currency: Euro  Locations: Barcelona & Madrid  Year: 2012  Bucket list: Photographing Antoni Gaudi’s architecture

Nighttime Cityscape; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Nighttime Cityscape; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

DO: TAKE IN THE ARTISTIC CULTURE

Barcelona:
  • Celebrating the Christmas spirit and following an architecture map around the city

 

Casa Batlló

 

Parc Güell

 

  • Photographing the city at night
Street Architecture; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Street Architecture; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Christmas Decorations Street; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Christmas Decorations Street; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Christmas Decorations; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Christmas Decorations; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Lit Architecture; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Lit Architecture; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Nighttime Traffic; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Nighttime Traffic; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Hop On and Hop Off; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Hop On and Hop Off; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Window of Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Window of Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Multiple Lit Christmas Trees; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Multiple Lit Christmas Trees; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Water Fountain; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Water Fountain; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Lit Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Lit Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Colored Trees; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Colored Trees; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Christmas Tree; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Christmas Tree; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Close-up of Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Close-up of Casa Batlló; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

 

Madrid:

  • Witnessing the psychedelic side of the city

 

One of the Coolest Christmas Trees:

IMG_7971 IMG_7972

 

 

 

Creative Style of Antoni Gaudi’s World of Design in Barcelona, Spain:

1) Barcelona, Spain – Rising to the heavens with eight candle-wax spirits, the enormous Sagrada Familia Church remained a masterpiece in the making. Eccentric genius and Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi was run over and killed by a tram before he could complete his strangest, most controversial conversation. It is finally slated for completion in 2026 to mark the centenary of his death. Gaudi, a national hero, is buried in the church’s crypt, but his spirit persists throughout the city (as I had witnessed!).

Gaudi’s uniqueness – Gaudi put Barcelona on the architectural map with a design approach that was rooted in a playful Catalan sensibility later expressed by Picasso, Miro, and Dalf and led us into a world of inscrutability and creative invention. One of my favorite pieces that he created was that of Park Guell. His designs with tile-encrusted benches and undulating ramparts that overlooked the beautiful city of Barcelona underneath its structure are remarkable. The “House of Bones” or Casa Batllo was called this due to its skeletal quality; however, his aspirations were to create this masterpiece as the illustration of marine life. The building was formulated of stained glass walls, ceramic details, unique elements inside (i.e. mushroom-shaped fireplace), and sinuous curves (there was not straight line in this fabulous design!).

2) Mediterranean Sea – The coastal drive was not a disappointment! The Hop on & Hop off tourist bus was an exceptional idea for a location that had many different sights to see. Driving past the volleyball players and the waves crashing against the small rocks reminded me of why I adored the water and beach. The beach guided into a port that exposed various private yachts and cruise ships stopping in Barcelona for the day. Aerial cable cars (similar to mine in Zurich, Switzerland) were offered to take in the views above the enormous architectural buildings and never ending Mediterranean Sea. I was limited with time and was not able to partake in the cable cars, but the bus was just the right spot to take in the beautiful cityscapes and dive my senses into the Spanish lifestyle.

Purple House; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Purple House; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

3) Tapas – Authentic Spanish food was one of the highlights in Spain. French fries with mayo and garlic, cheese-filled croquettes, pala (rice & seafood), and white sangria quenched my taste buds and had me desiring more well into the night. The food was excellent in Barcelona; definitely a successful and tasteful time!

Light Post; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Light Post; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

Spanish Menu; Barcelona, Spain; 2012
Spanish Menu; Barcelona, Spain; 2012

 

 

Up-all Night Attitude in Madrid, Spain:

1) Madrid, Spain – An elegantly formal, even decorous city by day, Madrid was transformed after dark into one of Europe’s liveliest capitals. My first thought arriving in my flamboyant neighborhood that I had chosen to stay in a hostel was that it appeared that everyone was out, strolling the streets, at the local pubs, and creating obstacles as I went to reach for the door to get inside the hostel. I soon discovered that my last destination on the European Christmas Holiday was in a homosexual and rainbow-filled neighborhood. Please do not get me wrong, I have no problem with individual sexuality; I am simply explaining my unique experience that I had in this up-all night city. I felt this was the location where the people really created a positive and fun-filled atmosphere. The nightlife was incredible and I met so many interesting people – I was surprised to find out how diverse Madrid really was.

2) Christmas lights – Every corner and all streets were lined with Christmas lights above the busy sidewalks and roads. In my particular street, there were flashy eyebrows and faces that sparkled when I walked below them. In other parts of the city, there were presents, Madrid city-shaped, and Christmas tree lights outlined in the sky.

3) Epiphany – On the day January 6th when I had visited Madrid, there was a Christian feast day that celebrated the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. In other words, there were colorful parades, thousands of people walking about, Christmas lights covering the streets, and dozens of shops closed for the big event! All around the world countries celebrate this event in their own way – without getting into too much biblical context, Spanish traditions originally included children receiving presents on this day rather than Christmas, but now presents are given on both days.

4) Running with the Bulls – Not that the world wide event was being held when I visited Madrid, but it was cool to be in a city close to where I have heard a multitude of stories of Running with the Bulls. Though this is a brutality event, the Spanish population takes great pride in their bullfighting and this popular event in the beginning of July. Brief background: Festival of San Fermin, or the Pamplona bull running officially begins on July 6th every year with “chupinazo,” which takes place on the balcony of the Casa Consistorial in Pamplona. Thousands of people congregate in the square awaiting the mayor’s official announcement that the fiestas have begun, a rocket is launched, individuals sprint as fast as they can away from the raging path of the bulls, and the partying begins.

Here ends the European Christmas Holiday, but stay tuned for my overall favorites of the Europe trip and for more adventures in 2012! Time to head to the UK for a few days, travel to Paris for work, and then journey to Angola for yet another exciting opportunity to work offshore!

 

Belgium: The Perfect Hub For Chocolate

Location of Belgium in Europe
Location of Belgium in Europe

 

Theme: European Christmas Holiday  Country: Belgium  Languages: Dutch, French, & German   Unit of Currency: Euro  Locations: Brussels  Year: 2012  Bucket list: Sampling Belgian chocolate

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

DO:   SAMPLE BELGIAN CHOCOLATE

Brussels:
  • Exploring the city and indulging in chocolates
Best Belgian Chocolates; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Best Belgian Chocolates; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

The Tunnel; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
The Tunnel; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Grand Square; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Grand Square; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Christmas Tree; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Christmas Tree; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Belgian Menu; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Belgian Menu; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

TV Reflection; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
TV Reflection; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Boy Peeing Colored Statues; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Boy Peeing Colored Statues; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Sign; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Sign; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Statue; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Statue; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

Rainy Conditions; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Rainy Conditions; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

 

 

Divulgence of Chocolate and Culture in Brussels, Belgium:

1) A connoisseur’s nirvana – Belgian is worldly known for its chocolate. I had the luxury to sample Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate, which this company has been around since 1857! The caramel filled chocolate sent my taste buds into another dimension. The richness and creaminess in one bite was truly riveting and beyond satisfactory. The locals were raving about the secret recipe that was in the Neuhaus Belgian luxury chocolate – some refer this as the chocolatiers code (a recipe that no one, but the Neuhaus’s themselves know).

Neuhaus has dedicated a unique art of chocolate-making that challenged the competition and compelled only the smoothest and creamiest chocolate mixture. I would describe this as the sweetest, most fragrant chocolate that I have been introduced to in Europe. The diversity of chocolate is profound – milk chocolate pralines, truffles, and bars were created to make the average traveler, like myself, fit a piece of gourmet chocolate in a small pocket for later. 

 

2) Belgian waffles – Any corner I turned, Belgian waffles were happily greeting me. The assortment of flavored waffles and chocolate waffles was intense – a mixture of sugar, dough, and their own special treat mixed into the batter invented a great taste like no other. A lot of people were soaked from head to toe, an umbrella in one hand and a waffle in the other! Of the gastronomical contributions of Belgium, I would open-heartedly agree that chocolate waffles were legendary!;

 

3) La Grand Place – the heart of the continent’s capital combined squares of Brussel’s gigantic, one-of-a-kind Grand Square, otherwise known as the Grote Market to the Dutch. Dozens of authentic lace and chocolate shops, museums, art galleries, and many other Belgian flavored stores generated a mass of beautiful buildings and diversities of cultures. The Christmas tree carefully positioned in the middle of the square made this location a fun-filled atmosphere and a great spot to sightsee!

Next stop: Barcelona, Spain!

 

Belgian Chocolates; Brussels, Belgium; 2012
Belgian Chocolates; Brussels, Belgium; 2012

Luxembourg: Before Sunrise

Location of Luxembourg in Europe
Location of Luxembourg in Europe

 

Theme: European Christmas Holiday  Country: Luxembourg  Languages: German  Unit of Currency: Euro  Locations: Luxembourg City  Year: 2012  Bucket list: Visiting Grand Ducal Palace 

 

Pastries; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Pastries; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

DO:  WALK AROUND BEFORE SUNRISE

Luxembourg City:
  • Spending a few hours venturing around the city before the sunrise and photographing the brilliantly colored Grand Ducal Palace
More Pastries; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
More Pastries; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Entrance of Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Entrance of Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Art Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Art Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Reflection of Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Reflection of Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

First Christmas Tree; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
First Christmas Tree; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Street View; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Street View; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

City View; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
City View; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Blue Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Blue Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Yellow Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Yellow Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Bats in Street Light; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Bats in Street Light; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Unique Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Unique Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Eerie Sky; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Eerie Sky; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Before Sunrise; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Before Sunrise; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

 

Early morning Photography Sessions in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg:

1) Dark shadowed sky – Due to the early morning arrival in Luxembourg City, the sun did not yet make its presence. This provided the utilization of night photography and bought an hour before the sun was about to rise. In addition to having a good photography session, one of my favorite images was that of black crows circling the street lights and the majestic buildings enclosing the city’s statues. The sky was a tone of coloration that I had not seen on this trip; a touch of blue and black streaks hung over the Alzette and Petrusse rivers below.

2) Sunrise– As the sun slowly shown its presence, the busy streets around the city displayed brightly lit Christmas lights that aligned the ripples of the cobble-stoned streets. The blue and white sky quickly awoken the city and soon the large amounts of traffic were visible.

3) Location & uniqueness – For a capital, it is Lilliputian – just 80,000 residents – but is known as the undisputed heart of the country. Strategically located at the crossroads of Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg City was built around a 10th century castle. I toured the city on foot and was able to walk through the city in an entire morning. Along the trip, I viewed various pastry shops, restaurants, and landmarks.

4) Grand Ducal Palace – The official residence of the royal family and Erstwhile town hall looked amazing lit up with the festive, yet soothing shades of orange, red, green, purple, and white. This was one of the main attractions in the city and definitely crafted the artistic and architectural atmosphere to the city’s sacred treasures.

Next stop: Brussels, Belgium!

Green Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012
Green Building; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; 2012

Liechtenstein: Top 10 World’s Smallest Countries

Location of Liechtenstein in Europe
Location of Liechtenstein in Europe

 

Theme: European Christmas Holiday  Country: Liechtenstein  Languages: German  Unit of Currency: Swiss franc  Locations: Vaduz Year: 2012  Bucket list: Visiting the world’s top 10 smallest countries

 

DO:  CHECK OUT THE VADUZ CASTLE

Vaduz:
  • Spending a few hours in the capital city of Vaduz on a rainy stopover

 

Strange Encounters:

The train ride traveling through the Swiss and into the Austrian Alps was truly amazing! I realize that it is a bit hard to describe the experience that I had; it is one of those times that you had to be there or in the future experience this incredible journey with your own eyes. With that being said, the best summarization I can present for this unique adventure was one word: PHENOMENAL! The mountainous view, the bright blue sunny sky, and the train gliding along the path of the never-ending train tracks made a portrait in my mind that I will never forget. Along with experience, I was able to travel through a country that I knew little about – Liechtenstein.

With a location nestled in the Alps, it had approximately 55,000 individuals that live within this small country. Ironically, I spoke to a young girl named Angie, who grew up in Liechtenstein and now lived in Vienna, Austria. She told me stories about the royalty of her country and how friendly the people living in the city were. In addition, she mentioned that few tourists visit this location, because mainly they are passing through via train on the railways.

I was very pleased to know that I had discovered a new place and absorbed a great deal of knowledge about the beautiful country of Liechtenstein through a local. It really is a small world!

Germany: Walt Disney’s Hidden Secret

Location of Germany in Europe
Location of Germany in Europe

 

Theme: European Christmas Holiday  Country: Germany  Languages: German  Unit of Currency: Euro  Locations: Munich & Schwangau Village  Year: 2012  Bucket list: Capturing the view of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Neuschwanstein

 

DO:  TRY LOCAL BEER AND BRATWURSTS

Munich:
  • Eating, drinking, and looking at Christmas Lights
Currywurst; Munich, Germany; 2012
Currywurst; Munich, Germany; 2012

 

Christmas Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012
Christmas Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012

 

Entrance to the Village; Munich, Germany; 2012
Entrance to the Village; Munich, Germany; 2012
Pink Christmas Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012
Pink Christmas Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012

 

Architecture; Munich, Germany; 2012
Architecture; Munich, Germany; 2012

 

 

DO:  VISIT A SAMPLE OF GERMANY’S CASTLES

Schwangau:
  • Trekking to see both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles in a lovely Christmas-filled village

Neuschwanstein Castle:

Inside Look at  Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Inside Look at Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Front of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Front of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Architecture of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Architecture of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Pose at Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Pose at Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Back of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Back of Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Horse Carriage to Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Horse Carriage to Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Path to Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Path to Neuschwanstein Castle; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Directions to Castles; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Directions to Castles; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

Entrance to Castles; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012
Entrance to Castles; Schwangau Village, Germany; 2012

 

 

 

Hohenschwangau Castle:

Village of Schwangau; Germany; 2012
Village of Schwangau; Germany; 2012

 

Front of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Front of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Steps Leading to Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Steps Leading to Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Architecture of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Architecture of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Creativity of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Creativity of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Small Tunnel of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Small Tunnel of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Back of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Back of Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Lit Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012
Lit Hohenschwangau Castle; Schwangau, Germany; 2012

 

Schwangau Village; Germany; 2012
Schwangau Village; Germany; 2012

 

Christmas Tree in Schwangau Village; Germany; 2012
Christmas Tree in Schwangau Village; Germany; 2012

 

 

“Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” in Schwangau Village:

1) The Romantic Road and Neuschwanstein Castle – A historical road and a fairy-tale castle was one of the highlights in this country. The Romantic Road stretched 200 miles from Wurburg to Fussen and dozens of medieval towns, villages, and castles linked the landscapes of rivers, lakes, and forests in between. King Ludwig’s two royal castles: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein capped the southern end of the Romantic Road, which led into a world of fantasy and creative design.

Neuschwanstein was by far the most theatrical, which was created by royal court’s set designer rather than an architect. Set on an isolated rock ledge and heart-stopping scenery, it was rumored that Walt Disney replicated his Sleeping Beauty castle in Disney World as that of Neuschwanstein. After hiking up a mountain for 30 minutes, I later discovered that the rumor was true and throughout my videos and pictures, I was able to perceive the vision that Walt Disney had envisioned.

2) Hohenschwangau Castle – Built on the remains of a fortress Schwanstein, this castle was recognized in historical records as dating back to the 12th century. Throughout the history labeled near the castle, it was mentioned that a family of knights were responsible for the construction of the medieval fortress. Sadly, the decay of the fortress continued until it finally fell into ruins at the beginning of the 19th century.

3) German funnel cakes – 3 dough balls covered in powdered sugar were a treat after the climb to Neuschwanstein Castle. As I watched the gentleman cook the dough and pour the sugar on the funnel cake, the sweet smell of white powdered sugar and fresh dough tickled my nose. I remember thinking to myself that a good cup of hot chocolate would be perfect with this delicious dessert. Later I fulfilled that craving and continued my journey towards Hohenschwangau in the drizzling rainstorm that had formed while eating the German funnel cake.

4) Munich’s cheese-filled bratwurst –When I thought of Germany, I associated it with the representation of numerous beers, friendly inhabitants, and bratwursts! Something I always loved as a kid was sauerkraut; cheese-filled bratwurst,s honey dijon, and sauerkraut was definitely one of my favorite snacks on the Euro trip. I determined that I enjoyed bratwursts as a great snack in Zagreb, Croatia. With some locally flavorful beers and a bratwurst this fashioned the ultimate snack! Not to mention, left my stomach and taste buds wanting more!

Next stop: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg!

Purple Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012
Purple Lights; Munich, Germany; 2012