Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Gaudi: Nut or Genius?

Antoni Gaudi was awarded the title of architect in 1878. As he signed the title, Elies Rogent declared, "Qui sap si hem donat el diploma a un boig o a un geni: el temps ens ho dirà" ("Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.")

Our hotel in Barcelona has lined the hallways with black and white photos of the walkways and arches of the park that Gaudi designed. I fail to understand what I'm looking at ubtil I return to the hotel after visiting the park. I missed my chance to imitate some of these otherworldly shapes and images.

Here are a few more Gaudi photos. I vote genius.

Speaking of Eurotrash Gypsies...

Tampa, Florida

My SIL and BIL have left their home in Venice (Italy) for a three week vacation in the area of the Italian Amalfi coast. This is one of my most favorite places. My sister-in-law has posted some lovely pictures on her website. I envy their ability to think outside the box about where to live and the courage to implement their thoughts.

We're doing some last minute maintenance before heading out on our annual seven-month camping trip. This year we're focusing on America's west coast.

- We rented a carpet cleaner yesterday and sucked seven months worth of grime out of the carpet.

- Mom's pool pump is cavitating. I suspect a bad O-ring is letting in air somewhere. I'll have to fix that before we leave.

- I need to get a spare key made for the RV door and hide it outside somewhere. We locked ourselves out in the Mexican desert last year and locked our cell phones and Toyota keys inside. Thank goodness for Good Sam's road service.

- My dermatologist didn't take any new biopsies. That indicates no apparent cancers for a change. I should be good to go for a few months. I'll find another one out in California this summer and try to wear a hat and sunscreen for a change.

- Mrs. Phred convinced me to pack the SCUBA gear. It would be cool to see some giant kelp somewhere on the Pacific Coast this summer.

- Mom's blood work tests, blood pressure and weight were excellent, once again. She has the constitution of a water buffalo.

- We need to wash the RV and check the fluid levels and tire pressures.

- The automatic satellite dish is malfunctioning. I Jerry-rigged a connection to our portable dish. With my database of azimuths and altitudes from last year, I hit the satellite perfectly on the first shot. We're taking the RV in Tuesday to see if they can get the automatic dish working. If not, it's no big deal, we can use the portable.

- I'm trying to find an adapter to drop the tow bar for the Toyota about nine inches. I've been to two likely vendors and have been referred to a third vendor who might have the right gadget.

- The tow bar itself is slightly bent and one arm does not retract properly. This gives us only an inch or two of tolerance about positioning the Toyota to hook it up for towing. I have a lead on a welding shop that has a big press. If that doesn't work out we'll go to the Roadmaster factory in Oregon. We drove right by it on our last trip though Oregon.

One of our first stops will be New Orleans for some jazz and good food. We hope to leave Wednesday.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

In Search of Gaudi

Barcelona, Spain

For our last day in Barcelona, we decided to find and photograph as much of Gaudi's work as we could.

In the evening we find a tapas bar. Tapas are "little plates" of food, A Spanish tradition that we have come to enjoy. We order a bottle of red wine and:
- deep fried camembert cheese with a red fruit sauce
- grilled duck liver with ginger bread and mango sauce
- battered mushrooms with garlic mayonnaise
- sun dried tomatoes with mushrooms and artichokes
- hazelnut, walnut and pistachio ice cream
- crepes with a cream filling and chocolate sauce

Grown by Klingons?

Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi's Cathedral (The Temple of La Sagrada Familia: Expiatory Temple to the Holy Family)is about half finished. It's clearly the strangest piece of architecture we've ever encountered. We can't resist returning again for night pictures.

George Orwell said that the Anarchists should have blown the thing up when they had the chance.

The building has been under construction for over 110 years. The ground floor is a construction area full of bags of concrete being formed into strange shapes by a crew of 300.

We arrive just before dark and pay the euros to tour the interior and museum. The lift to the steeple closes just before we arrive, but the interior and large museum in the basement is interesting. Gaudi appears to be one of those strange geniuses from outer space like Nickola Tesla or Salvador Dali. His concept for the church was rendered with thousands of small bags of sand suspended by strings and reversed in a mirror.

We go into two nearby places for tapas and wine, waiting for the lights to illuminate the church.

Gaudi works with shapes from nature to create a structure that appears to have been grown by space aliens, rather than built.

The interior arches are graceful curves. As they close the church to tourist, we hear a mass being conducted in a small area of the church, perhaps 1,000 square feet in area.

When the top is completed, it will feature a much taller tower topped by a huge cross that emits laser beams. One again we wish for a time machine to go forward 200 or 300 years to see the completed building.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Picasso Dogs

Barcelona, Spain

Perhaps the strangest sight in Barcelona is the cathedral designed by Gaudi. The work began in 1891 and, by the time of Gaudi's death in 1926, only one bell tower had been completed. The church is covered with massive scaffolds and towering cranes as work progresses 24/7 at a feverish pace. Eventually there will be 18 bell towers. Maybe we'll find a way to get back this evening and see it when they light it up.

Like all the cities we've visited in Spain, Barcelona has an old section full of twisting alleys. We wander down the Ramblas at night. It's packed with pedestrians, street artists, immigrants hawking flowers and beer and beggars. We pick a restaurant which promises Basque cooking. One of the things I get is squid cooked in something very black.

We decide to buy two day passes on the double-decker tour busses for the two days we have to visit Barcelona. Today we rode the bus for several hours and then find and visit the Picasso art museum. I'm struck by the Picasso dogs (white blobs with four legs, a tail and a head with two eyes on the same side like a flounder) in many of his paintings and also the many different abstract representations of a little girl called Margarita Maria in his Las Minenas series. As I understand it, Picasso became slightly obsessed with a 17th century painting of a royal family by Velasquez and did 57 interpretations of it, including many different abstract faces of the little girl...looking at them change was psychotropic...

The tour bus tape described this building as "torpedo-shaped". Mrs. Phred had another word for it. It's supposed to be spectacular at night when lit up.

But back to the Gaudi cathedral: this is a closeup shot of the strange asparagus stuff on the top of some of the lower steeples....

Our train from Valencia to Barcelona...A fast train, but it made a lot of stops along the way.