Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 3, 2015

A Casa Debbio moon

We arrived back from Spain in time to see this glorious moon from Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Fireflies appeared at about the same time as the moon and filled the garden with flickering fairy lights…perfect.

It is almost time to return to Australia. I am going to miss my new garden and the wonderful views. I will be planning my next trip as soon as I get home.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 2, 2015

What do you think of selfie sticks?

I really don’t like them…but I don’t get selfies. Why the sudden need to take photos of yourself all the time?

Barcelona is a very busy city and there are many tourists. Quite a few of those were waving selfie sticks all over the place. Here is me with a pout. Here is me with a smile. Here is me twirling around, yes really.

Most didn’t seem to be aware of their surroundings. I saw people taking photos of themselves in front of blank walls, rubbish bins, stairwells and advertising posters. That must make for some fine viewing later.

These 2 at least were trying to get the Sagrada Familia in the background, but most seemed oblivious to anything besides themselves.

selfies

My friend, who shares my view on selfie sticks, developed a strategy for a bit of photo bombing. She managed to sidle up behind the selfie takers and position herself between the couple for the photo. Not one person even noticed. PC will be in many Barcelona tourists shots.

I am pleased that the silly things have been banned in a few galleries and museums, a trend I hope continues.

What do you think of selfie sticks?

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 30, 2015

Alone in Park Guell

Like good tourists in Barcelona we got back on the open top tourist bus after our visit to the incredible Art Nouveau Hospital (see the previous post) and went to see Park Guell.  The park is actually quite a distance from the bus stop…all uphill.

When we arrived we stood in the queue for a while until a very nice attendant informed us that we would have to wait at least 2 hours to get into the park. It was hot standing in the blazing sun by this time, so we thought we might move on.

When pressed for more information the attendant told us that the park is open in the morning at 6.00am and there is free entry until 8.00am. The lack of a fee wasn’t as tempting as the thought there would be few people at that hour.

We arrived the next morning at 7.00am to a completely empty park. This is the people free entrance.

Park Guell

 

The lovely staircase with the dragon is usually swarming with people, but we had it entirely to ourselves.

Park Guell

Park Guell

 

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell was originally meant to be a luxury housing estate. Eusebi Guell employed Antoni Gaudi to design an organised estate with 60 triangular lots where houses would be built. Only 2 were built and when they failed to sell Gaudi bought one and moved his family there in 1906. He lived there until 1926 and the house is now a museum.

The staircase leads to the Hypostyle Room, which was to be the market place in the estate.

Guell Park

Park Guell

Look up to see the beautiful Gaudi designed tiled ceiling.

Park Guell

Park Guell

The beautiful terrace in the middle of the site was planned for staging open air shows. It is surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent.

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

There is an amazing colonnaded footpath under the roadway viaduct.

Park Guell

 

The gardens are beautifully maintained. We started to see a few Barcelona residents on their early morning runs as we walked along the paths.

Park Guell

We walked to the top of the park to the Turo de Tres Creus, Gaudi’s monument to the Cavalry for some great views of the city.

Park Guell

Thank you to the attendant who told us about the early opening. I recommend that you get up early and visit the park without other people…it will be worth it.

Park Guell is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and it is always busy in the middle of the day. Early in the morning you will have it to yourself and be able to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. I’m sure Gaudi would approve.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 27, 2015

If you had to be sick…

A good place to be in the early 1900s would have been the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona. I think it was way ahead of its time for patient care and comfort.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

 

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It was built between 1902 and 1930. There were 27 pavilions built, 16 of which are in the Art Nouveau style. The architect, Lluis Domenech i Montaner,(Gaudi was not the only architect in Barcelona) built isolated pavilions, each one assigned a specific medical speciality and linked to the others by means of a kilometre of underground galleries.

This is a model of the site.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It is no longer a hospital and has been renovated and transformed into a research centre in the fields of healthcare, sustainability and education. The Art Nouveau Site, one of Catalonia’s cultural and artistic treasures, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

It is magnificent. Come for a walk through this incredible place with me.

Our introduction to the site was through one of the underground tunnels…amazing.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The materials chosen for the Art Nouveau Site were the best, the most durable and the most suitable, without overlooking the artistic aspects, for the purpose of creating pleasant, natural surroundings for the patients.

The buildings are of brick. The gable roofs are covered with semi-cylindrical Spanish monochrome clay tiles in a variety of colours. They also feature ventilation shafts surmounted either by glazed ceramic or decorated stone and ornamental pinnacles, also in glazed ceramic.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The hospital-garden concept was a new one when the site was built. Domenech’s aim was to create a cheerful, optimistic atmosphere that would alleviate the pain and suffering of the patients.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The stone sculptures, capitals, floral details, corbels and guardian angels were designed by the architect himself. Beautiful ceramics adorn every building.

Not all buildings are open to the public, but it is possible to enter a few. The Sant Rafael Pavilion was decorated with ceramics to guarantee hygiene, since they were easy to clean. The gentle colours also serve a therapeutic purpose.

Santa Pau Art Nouveau

There is a wonderful photo of the ward when it was in full swing.

Santa Pau Art Nouveau

The Administration Pavilion is the largest of the buildings and the richest in ornamentation and decoration. Built between 1905 and 1910, it was conceived as the main entrance and to house the administrative and hospital admission offices.

I would love these rose coloured tiles on my ceiling.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The magnificent staircase that leads up from the foyer has a ceiling with 9 vaults resting on stone and marble columns. The vaults are all clad with rectangular pink-lilac tiles arranged like sprigs. The small cupola over the stairs is a stained glass skylight.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

The upstairs rooms are magnificent.

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

 

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

Sant Pau Art Nouveau

It must have been a delight to come to these offices to work each day.

How far ahead of its time was this hospital?? It would almost be worthwhile being sick to be admitted to this incredible place. The photos do not do the site justice. It is impossible to convey the size and grandeur of the place.

If you come to Barcelona, do NOT miss this. As a bonus, it was remarkably free of crowds, unlike most of the wonderful sites in Barcelona.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 24, 2015

Beside the Spanish sea

We are in Barcelona for a few days. We drove across to Spain from Italy. Our good friend Maria suggested a stop at Cadaques on the Costa Brava. Maria’s tips are always good so we did just that.

The drive to Cadaques is very interesting. We drove along narrow winding roads through rocky hills to the coast. The people who settled here must have been hardy, the land is unforgiving. You can see the terraces built with dry stone walls where olive trees are planted. We know all about building stone walls after our tiny efforts at Casa Debbio.

Cadaques

Cadaques

Cadaques

Cadaques

Cadaques looks impressive as you approach, especially on a gorgeous blue sky day.

Cadaques

Cadaques

A few thousand people live in the village, but in summer it swells to 10 times that many as it is only a couple of hours drive from Barcelona. Many people come for the summer holidays and a lucky few have vacation houses there.

Salvador Dali visited in his childhood and later owned a home in Port Lligat, a small village on a bay next to the town. He is remembered with a statue.

Salvador Dali in Cadaques

There is some interesting architecture.

Cadaques

…and of course, there is the sea.

Cadaques

Cadaques

Cadaques

We walked around the headland for a view of the village.

Cadaques

Cadaques

Cadaques

 

Cadaques

 

Maria always knows the best places to eat, and we were delighted with our lunch at Es Baluard, right on the water’s edge, with cool, shady rooms out of the hot sun.

Cadaques

Our first meal in Spain had to be paella.

Cadaques

There are plenty of restaurants with tables in the sun, beside the sea if you prefer a fan while you eat.

Cadaques

As well as Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Walt Disney, James Mason and many other famous people have visited Cadaques…they knew a good spot when they saw it.

As we were driving off I spotted more towns by the sea…another time.

Cadaques

I look forward to discovering Barcelona again, it has been several years since our last visit.

We also stopped at Arles, a well known haunt of Vincent Van Gough, but I’ll tell you about that lovely place another day.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 21, 2015

Etruscan tombs

The Etruscans were the first people to settle the Maremma in southern Tuscany. Their civilisation lasted from about 800BC until they were assimilated into the Roman Republic in the late 4th century BC. The name Tuscany comes from the Roman name for the Etruscans.

In southern Tuscany the Etruscans buried their dead in careful constructed tombs. Much of what we know about their lives comes from funereal remains. Many of their ancient sites have been excavated over the years.

While we were at the magnificent Rocca di Frassinello we were taken to 3 Etruscan tombs that have been uncovered on the property.

Etruscans at Rocca di Frassinello
Our handsome guide, Simone, took us to the sites. Before being uncovered they would have just looked like mounds of dirt. It must have been exciting when the digging unearthed well preserved tombs, each one different.

The tombs have an entrance along a tunnel and inside there is a ledge where the body was put. A lot of work has gone into each one. I imagine these were for the more wealthy members of the community.

Etruscan tombs

Etruscan tombs

 

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

 

 

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

On the 30th May 2015 a museum will be opened at Rocca di Frassinello to display the findings. There will be an exhibit area in the winery to show how the Etruscans went about their daily lives and to see some of their unearthed possessions.

A Stamnos, a large pottery jar for carrying wine, was found during the excavations by the University of Florence and Tuscany’s office for Archeological Heritage.  I’m sure the owners of the winery were delighted to discover that wine was being made on the site thousands of ears ago.

There will be guided tours to see the tombs as well. We feel very lucky to have been able to get a preview. Thank you Simone and the team at Rocca di Frassinello and Cala del Porto for organising our tour.

Rocca di Frassinello…www.castellare.it

Cala del Porto…www.baglionihotels.com/CaladelPorto

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 18, 2015

The most beautiful road race…Mille Miglia

Hot on the heels of the Giro d’Italia came the Mille Miglia…Thousand Miles. The original Mille Miglia was run in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957, with a break during the war years.

The race was reborn in 1977 as a race for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars produced no later than 1957. The route is similar to the that of the orignal race, from Brescia – Rome round trip. Luckily for us the route this year included Bagni di Lucca.

The weather was not as kind to the cars as it was to the bicycles earlier in the week.

Mille Miglia

It was raining when the first cars came through.

Mille Miglia

 

Hardy souls gathered regardless.

Mille Miglia

The first cars to come through Ponte a Serraglio were the new Ferraris and other modern sports cars.

Mille Miglia

These were great and the noise they made as they sped off up to La Villa was amazing. But the cheers really went up for the beautiful old cars. We would be here all day if I showed all of them…around 400, so I will just show you a selection.

 

There was a special treat when a beautiful blue Bugatti driven by a beautiful boy stopped for a while in the piazza.

Mille Miglia

Mille Miglia

He drove off with the sound of deep sighs in his wake.

Mille Miglia

…and they all drove off to Parma for the night. Wouldn’t it be fun to be in this race? You just need lots and lots of money, and a fair bit of dedication.

See Bella Bagni di Lucca for more on the Mille Miglia.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2015

Giro d’Italia comes to Bagni di Lucca

It was a very exciting day today in Bagni di Lucca.  The Giro d’Italia came through town. Even if you have little interest in bicycle racing you couldn’t help being caught up in the fun.

Streets and houses were decorated to welcome the riders.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Regular cyclists were out and about trying the Giro route.

Giro d'Italia

Our little piazza in Ponte a Serraglia was crowded with people looking forward to the big event. Luckily my balcony offered a birds’ eye view of the proceedings.

Giro d'Italia

There were cyclists waiting to see cyclists.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Before the cyclists came through there were lots of official vehicles and pink vans selling Giro merchandise. Jim lined up to buy a lovely pink hat. The reason for pink is that the major sponsor is the Corriere dello Sport, a newspaper printed on pink paper.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Sponsors’ cars came through at speed.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

…and the leading bikes appeared.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

The crowds were waiting  for them.

Giro d'Italia

…and then the main pack of riders sped along the river and through our piazza.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Then the official vehicles sped past and it was all over.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

What fun! I’m glad I was here. On Saturday afternoon we will all be back for the Mille Miglia which will come through Bagni di Lucca…it all happens here.

Go to Bella Bagni di Lucca for some photos from Bar Italia.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 11, 2015

The musical woodcutter

In Vergemoli we are very happy to have Sisto.

Sisto of Vergemoli

He lives directly below Casa Debbio at the very bottom of the village. He is about 80 years old, but he looks much younger I think.

He is a woodcutter as well as a carpenter. He cut this huge pile of wood himself last week and has been busy stacking it.

Sisto's wood

If you have followed the blog for a while you may remember that I have written about Sisto before. He has 100 speakers under the eaves of his house and most afternoons we can hear old Italian music or tango tunes echoing through the valley.

Sisto's house

Click here to see the post about Sisto and his house.

It is great to work in the garden, or to enjoy aperitivo on the terrace to the sounds of Sisto’s music…one of the many joys of being in Vergemoli.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 7, 2015

My big fat pink peony

Last year I bought several peonies from the garden show on the walls of Lucca. 2 of them were tree peonies. I very carefully planted them in pots at Casa Debbio.

This year they have both appeared and are growing. Just one of them grew a bud.

My peony

It grew.

My pink peony

…and it grew. It got caught in heavy rain and I thought the poor flower might drown.

My pink peony

My pink peony

My pink peony

My pink peony

…but it didn’t. This is what it looks like today. I think it is magnificent.

My pink peony

My pink peony

It is huge. That is my hand as a comparison.

My pink peony

I have several other peonies with buds. One has at least 20. I can’t wait to see those develop into peonies.

My peonies

 

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