Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pony Ride in Spain

One of the great features of our first hotel in Catalonia is the pony rides. We paid a nominal fee for Jacob and Lucy to ride around the property on ponies. Lucy was a little nervous at first but Jacob had experience from last Christmas, so he was ready to go. We walked down to the stables to get the mounts.

Lucy's horse comes out to see us

Lucy's horse is named Pinchy (or maybe it was Pinchot, the owner's accent was a bit thick). Jacob's is named Rocky. We guided the horses up to a building where the saddles are kept.

Jacob holds Rocky's lead

Rocky poses for the camera

Pony pals

After the owner saddled them up, Jacob and Lucy got on and were ready to ride.

Saddled up horses

Lucy gets on

Lucy ready to go

Jacob ready to go

We set out, first following the driveway back up to the main road.

Jacob and Rocky off on an adventure

A happy rider

Soon enough we discovered that the ponies like to take breaks and eat any vegetation in front of them. Pinchy was especially hungry and made many stops along the way.

A snack break

We came back down the hill and wandered along many different paths in the woods. It was fun and a lot more riding than we were expecting.

Jacob looks back to check on Lucy and Mommy's progress

Returning from one path

Lucy and Pinchy were always catching up

We agreed with the ponies that much of the vegetation was fairly interesting. We saw some pretty flowers along the way.

Some nice flowers

The kids enjoyed the ride immensely, pretending to be cowboys and adventurers.

Pinchy stops for one last snack

At the end of the ride, Lucy got to help cool down and brush the horses. Jacob and I headed back to our cabin to get dinner started. After a good long ride, we all had good sleep that night.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our Catalonian Hotel, Spain

Now, back to the beginning of the Spain trip--The first hotel we had on our Catalonian trip is located in a park up in the rolling mountains about an hour from Barcelona. We had to turn onto a dirt road just after kilometer marker 8 of a winding mountain road. The entrance is non-descript and the drive down the driveway took a good three minutes. This place is not easily accessible. But it is quite beautiful, nestled away in the hills of the park. It's more like a cluster of buildings on a hillside than a hotel. The views are wonderful.

View from our hotel

Another awesome view

The place has a nice garden (the gardener gave us some veg!) and a gigantic bird coop that contains six chickens, a peacock, and a peahen.

Some of the chickens

The best shot I could get of the peacock

Jacob and Lucy were disappointed that the pool wasn't open yet (early May temperatures were hot enough for us but not for the locals) but they loved the outdoor seating in front of our cabin.

Our patio

Our quarters

Inside is quite spacious, with a well-stocked kitchen and living room. "Well-stocked" for the children of course means a cabinet full of toys!

The kitchen

The living room

The toy cabinet

Even better for Jacob and Lucy, the compound has multiple playgrounds, including a Foosball table and a ping-pong table. Neither game was as satisfactory as the swings and climbing opportunities the place provides.

Jacob goes head first down the slide

Lucy goes from swing to swing

Lucy pushes Jacob on another swing set

Lucy in the log cabin

Jacob and Lucy made up a game called "Alert." Every now and then they'd claim a storm was coming and they had to rush into the log cabin as fast as they could. They weren't done until they sealed up all the shutters. We heard them making storm sounds from inside. Obstacle courses were another favorite of Jacob's.

The biggest fun might have been the pony rides we did on Sunday afternoon, but that's a story for the next post.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Barcelona Playground, Spain

After purchasing tickets to see the inside of the Basilica Sagrada Familia, we had to wait about an hour to use the tickets. Luckily, a small park is across the street and we were able to kill plenty of time and use up the kids' excess energy.

Walking into the playground

The equipment was fairly standard. Lucy pretended to bake treats made out of sticks, leaves, and dirt. Jacob was able to make several obstacle courses through the playground. He had Mommy and Daddy time him. His goal was to finish in under a minute. Our counting was...flexible. He was quite successful.

Jacob crosses the hanging ropes

The hardest part of the course

Lucy also wanted in on the action and encouraged us to count slower as she ran the course.

She also encouraged photos

After a while she went back to baking treats for us. They were pretend treats and we pretended to eat them.

Carefully adding ingredients

Time went quickly and shortly we were off to visit the big church across the way!

Back of Sagrada Familia

Sunday, July 27, 2014

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Today begins posts from our Spain trip back in May. This church is one of the last things we saw, but the most grand.

The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is the most famous religious landmark in Barcelona. It is visible from many parts of the city and has been under construction for more than a century. The original 1882 plan was a simple, conventional Gothic church. A new architect was brought in, Antoni Gaudi, who let loose with his fervent and fabulous imagination. The church has a deliberately organic feel and look to it. Gaudi lived on site supervising the construction for the last 14 years of his life. He died in 1926. In 1936 many of his models and plans were destroyed in a fire started by partisans in the Spanish Civil War. Construction resumed in 1952 and has had a recent boost from increased attention (in part due to the Olympics) and increased revenue (thanks to charging admission to the church). The building is still under construction though the hope is to finish by 2026 for the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi's death. Work is progressing.

Our first sight of La Sagrada Familia

Under construction

The back of the church

The exterior has three main entrances--the Nativity facade, the Passion facade, and the Glory facade. The Glory facade is still being built but the other two are done. When we visited, tickets were sold by the Passion facade but entrance was through the Nativity facade.

Nativity facade

More of the facade--the Holy Family's life

The Holy Family

Passion facade--Way of the Cross and Crucifixion

More from Christ's Passion

We bought tickets when we arrived and had to wait an hour to get in. Pre-ordering on line might have been a better option but we didn't know when exactly we'd get there. The wait wasn't too bad. On our way in, we picked up the audio guides, which were very informative but a little hard to follow from spot to spot. A map would have helped out.

Jacob listens to the children's audio guide

The interior has plenty of light but the columns to support the church struck me as odd. Listening to the description I found out the obvious explanation. The columns look like tree trunks, splitting at the top and having a leaf-like canopy at the ceiling.


South aisle

The ceiling

The stairs to the towers also look organic, winding around in the corners of the church.

Spiral stairs

The main altar is a bit garishly lit by its baldachin but is otherwise the plainest thing in the basilica.

Main altar

Underneath the altar is the crypt, visible through small windows on the sides.

The crypt seen from upstairs

The crypt includes much more than the chapel we could see. After the obligatory visit to the toilet for the children, we found an extensive museum dedicated to the construction of the church. Several displays showed the interesting mathematical background to the design.

An explanation of some geometrical patterns used

The pattern of the church worked out upside-down with ropes and small weights

The crypt is where Gaudi had his workshop, the one that was burned during the Spanish Civil War. It is now a workshop again, with models approximating his design and model makers still working.


A model of the final appearance (1:25 scale)

Gaudi's tomb is also in the crypt though I did not find it. I did find a 1989 bust of Gaudi by Josep Maria Subirachs. He also sculpted the figures for the Passion facade.

Gaudi by Subirachs

I had mixed feelings about the church. My first impression was it was over the top with personal style, a style unique and off-putting. The more I learned about it, the more I appreciated it. I still haven't embraced the visual style. Perhaps on its completion my opinion might change or with more familiarity.