Archive for November 2013

"If Paris is a city of lights, Sydney is the city of fireworks" - Baz Luhrmann


Sydney is the most populous city in Australia, with a metropolitan area population of approximately 4.12 million. Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales, and is the site of the first European colony in Australia, established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet from Britain. A resident of the city is referred to as a Sydneysider. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast. The city is built around Port Jackson, which includes Sydney Harbour, leading to the city's nickname, "the Harbour City". It is Australia's largest financial centre and is home to the Australian Securities Exchange. Sydney's leading economic sectors include property and business services, manufacturing, tourism, media, health and community services. Sydney is a major international tourist destination notable for its beaches and twin landmarks: the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and contains many bays, rivers and inlets. The city has played host to numerous international sporting, political and cultural events, including the 2000 Summer Olympics. In the year ending 2012, Sydney received a total of 10.5 million international and domestic visitors, which injected $11.7 billion into the state of New South Wales' economy. Other attractions include Royal Botanical Gardens, Luna Park, Darling Harbour, some 40 beaches and Sydney Tower.

Sydney is a vast sprawling city, and the suburbs in the city metropolitan area spread for up to 100km from the city centre. The traveller visiting the suburbs will find less crowded beaches, parks, cheaper shopping, commercial centres, cultural festivals, and hidden gems. Sydney is a major global city and one of the most important cities for finance in the Asia-Pacific. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games of 2000, and continues to attract and host large international events. The city is surrounded by nature and national parks, which extend through the suburbs and right to the shores of the harbour. Sydney is the oldest European settlement in Australia, having been founded as a British penal colony on 26 January 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day, the national public holiday, with major festivities around the city and the Harbour). The settlement, commanded by Governor Arthur Phillip, was named "Sydney" after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, who was the British Home Secretary at that time.

Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with one third of its population born overseas. European settlement rapidly displaced the Aboriginal people of the Sydney area with the first colonists largely coming from England, Ireland and Scotland. The Australian goldrush in the mid 19th Century attracted many more immigrants, including a significant number of Chinese. In the early 20th century, Sydney continued to attract immigrants - mostly from the U.K. and Ireland, with the White Australia Policy preventing non-European peoples (and even Southern Europeans) from settling. Australia's immigration patterns, and consequently, that of Sydney, changed significantly after WWII, when migrants began to arrive from countries as diverse as Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Poland, Lebanon, Iraq, South Africa and the Pacific Islands. In recent decades there has been a huge surge in Asian immigration, especially from China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Phillippines. Sydney's culture, food and general outlook reflect these varied contributions to the majority Anglo-Celtic institutions and social establishment.

Sydney is recognised worldwide for its vibrant gay community. Every year, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is celebrated on the first weekend in March, drawing people from all over Australia and the world for the celebrations. Sydney became the centre of the world's attention in September 2000 when the city hosted the Summer Olympics - officially announced by the IOC Chairman at the closing Ceremony to be the "the best games ever"! The Olympics saw a major building and renovation program take hold of Sydney, positioning it as one of the great world cities of the 21st century. Sydney is comfortable for travellers to visit any time of year. The city enjoys over 300 sunny days each year.

Summer (December to February) is the best time to enjoy Sydney's beachside outdoor lifestyle. Temperatures usually reach around 26°C (about 79°F) but it can be very hot, with temperatures climbing to over 40°C (104°F) for a few days each summer. Summer days can be humid, and sometimes have searing dry winds, but they frequently end with a "southerly buster", a cold front sweeping up from the south, bringing a clearly noticeable drop in temperature, rain and thunder. Within hours, the storm can pass and the evening continues cooler. Hot windy days can create a risk of bushfire, and on days of severe risk national parks and walking trails may be closed. 'Total fire bans' are also common - they will be announced on weather reports and on signs at national park entrances (also on the website of the Rural Fire Service). Occasionally low pressure systems drift down from the tropics, giving periods of more unstable weather. You won't need to pack much more than T-shirts to visit Sydney in summer, but remember your hat and sunglasses.

Autumn (March to May) is still warm with mild nights. There can be good days for the beach in March, but you can't count on it. It is a good time for visiting attractions, going to the zoo, catching ferries around the harbour without the summer crowds. You may need a warm top for the evenings, especially for May.

Winter (June to August) is cool, not cold. Average July maximum temperatures are 17°C, and daytime temperatures rarely drop below 14°C, but night-time temperatures can fall to below 10°C. Most rain falls as a result of a few off-shore low pressure systems, which usually result in two or three rainy weeks during winter. The Icebergs will be in the ocean doing their morning laps, but most of Sydney will be well away from the beach. It does not snow in Sydney, and unless you intend spending long periods outside, you can usually get by with just a warm top. Sydney is a year-round city, and only the outdoor water-parks close for the winter. If the beach isn't your scene, and you don't like the heat, winter may be your time to visit.

Spring (September to November). Spring days are great for exploring Sydney's attractions, bushwalking, cycling, and the outdoors. Beaches are generally patrolled from the end of October, and Sydneysiders start flocking to the beaches in November. Sydney's Western Suburbs, which lie away from the coast, tend to be hotter during the day and a little cooler during the night. They miss the afternoon sea breezes and the night-time warming effect of the ocean. Sydney has air conditioning in all public buildings, and on some public transport. It is common to catch a bus or train without air conditioning on hot days. Carry water during summer and remember sun protection year round. Sydney Climate and Weather information is available online at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Lets See A Few Places You Should Visit while You in Sydney.

1. Sydney Harbour

Port Jackson, containing Sydney Harbour, is the natural harbour of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The harbour is an inlet of the South Pacific Ocean. Widely considered to be one of the world's finest harbours, it is known for its beauty, and in particular, as the location of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge which connects central Sydney with the Northern Suburbs region extended metropolitan area. Its entrance is between North and South Heads, where naval and military stations are located.

The location of the first European settlement in Australia, the harbour has continued to play a key role in the history and development of Sydney. The city itself lies on the southern shore. The Parramatta River forms the harbour's western arm. Many recreational events are based on or around the harbour itself particularly the Sydney New Year's Eve celebrations and the starting point of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The land around Port Jackson was occupied at the time of European discovery and colonisation by various tribes including the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Eora and Wangal peoples. The Gadigal people are said to have occupied the land stretching along the south side of Port Jackson from what is now South Head, in an arc west through to Petersham. The Cammeraygal lived on the northern side of the harbour. The area along the southern banks of the Parramatta River, west of Petersham to Rose Hill, was reported to belong to the Wanegal. The Eora people lived on the southern side of the harbour, close to where the First Fleet settled.
sydney harbour offers so much not only for tourist but locals as well.start the day off with a walk through the gardens view the harbour government house and a great view of fort dennison.continue around to the opera house stop have a coffee and then onto circular quay take a look at the old customs house walk up the hill and view some of the old buildings.back down hill to the quay and you maybe lucky to see a royal carribean cruise ship docked with the back drop of the sydney harbour bridge a great photo.keep walking around the water front past the old wool storage warehouses now great food outlets.you will find sydney tallships a must to look back at the area that you have just walked. sit back and sip a drink whilst sailing around this wonderful harbour.a fabulous day out.










2. Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the facility is adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens, between Sydney and Farm Coves. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the facility formally opened on 20 October 1973 after a gestation beginning with Utzon's 1957 selection as winner of an international design competition.

The NSW Government, led by Premier Joseph Cahill authorised work to begin in 1958, with Utzon directing construction. The government's decision to build Utzon's design is often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns as well as the architect's ultimate resignation.

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3. The Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, New South Wales, is the most central of the three major botanical gardens open to the public in Sydney (the others being the Mount Annan Botanic Garden and the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden). The gardens were opened in 1816, and are managed by the same trust that manages the adjoining The Domain. The gardens are open every day of the year, and access is free.

The gardens are situated on the shores of the Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House and Circular Quay on the western boundary. The gardens cover 30 hectares and attract over 3 million visitors each year. Situated east of the Sydney Opera House, and overlooking Farm Cove, the gardens occupy 30 hectares in area, and are bordered by: the Cahill Expressway to the south and west, Art Gallery road to the east, and Sydney Harbour to the north.

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Stay Safe

The Australia-wide emergency number is 000, with the ambulance service, fire department and police being available through this number. Be on the lookout for the usual big city petty crime problems. Lock your car, and keep valuables safe or hidden. People begging may ask for money or cigarettes, but they are generally harmless. They will often make up the usual stories about needing a train fare etc. Simply say "Sorry, no" and they will usually leave you alone. Sydney has some of the violent crime issues that plague major cities, however, in general, no special precautions are required visiting the typical tourist areas during the day. Most assaults in Sydney take place in or near pubs and nightclubs at night, and involve alcohol. Most involve young males as perpetrators and victims. Most robberies occur in nearby quiet laneways, or parks close to pubs and nightclubs at night. The most common perpetrators or robberies are drug addicts. For this reason, take care around King Cross, The Rocks, Oxford St, and the George St Cinema District, especially late at night on Fridays and Saturday nights. Avoid Redfern station late at night. Even changing trains at night is best done at Central rather than Redfern. Women should take extra care at bars and keep an alert companion at hand, especially in the central hostel area, and take precautions against spiked drinks.

Some areas Sydney have a reputation, generally gained by news reports of motorcycle and other gang related violence. However, if you want to venture out into these areas during the day, there is no exceptional risk. If you're planning to head way off the tourist trail to some suburban pub or nightclub for a night out, seek some local advice. It may be a nice pub, but it pays to be informed. Areas around railway stations tend to be hang-outs for youth gangs in Western Sydney, particularly on Friday and Saturday night. Stay in company, and don't engage. 

After 9PM, smaller outer suburban stations can be very quiet, and many are totally unstaffed after this time. The trains can also be empty when they get towards the end of the line at this time. Don't expect a taxi to be waiting at every station only the major ones will have a well patronised taxi rank. Travel in the carriage closest to the guard's compartment, which is marked with a blue light on the outside of the train. Drunk people are common on trains late at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. If you ever feel concerned for your safety on any train, you can call 1800 657 926 to speak with Sydney Trains security, then can sometimes arrange for a transit patrol to board the train and provide assistance. It is generally more advisable to seek assistance from the guard however as Transit Officers are few and far between. In more modern trains, you can press the button in the entry area to speak with the guard. Every train station has an orange emergency help point monitored by CCTV that connects to Sydney Trains security, usually towards the centre of the platform. Nightride buses, which replace trains after midnight, can arrange for a taxi to meet you when you get off. Ask the driver.

If you are going to the beach, take the same precautions as you do anywhere in Australia. The biggest thing to remember when swimming at any Sydney beach is swim between the yellow and red flags. These flags are places by the lifeguards and indicate the safest place to swim at the beach away from dangerous currents. Sydney has no really dangerous jellyfish. Bluebottles (Portugese Man-Of-War) are blueish-purple stingers that hit the Sydney beaches a couple of days every summer, when the wind direction is right. They have an air-bladder that floats on the water, and stinging tenticles. Often the air-bladder can be no bigger than a coin. You will see the evidence of them with their air-bags washed up on the beach if they are present. They can give a painful sting - even when on the beach - but it won't keep everyone out of the water. Apply a heat pack if you can, or ice, or salt water. The best way to remove the pain is to run the affected area under the hottest water you can stand. Vinegar is useless. Sometimes small transparent jellyfish appear in the harbour and estuaries. You can usually avoid any groups of them, but they are mostly harmless. More rarely larger purple jellyfish are in the harbour and other estuaries. If you see these in the estuaries, best to stay out of their way. Probably more of an issue to water skiers than to swimmers.

Sydney ocean beaches all have shark mesh nets around 100 metres out to sea, and are regularly patrolled by air for sharks. A shark alarm will sound if any are sighted, and you should get out of the water. The risk of shark attack swimming on a patrolled beach between the flags is virtually nil. Shark attacks are rare on Sydney beaches, but they have occurred, although there have been no fatal attacks for 45 years. Advice is to avoid swimming in murky water after storms, or at dusk or at dawn, and to swim in the netted enclosures within the harbour and other estuaries.
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls" - Anonymous


Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia proper. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with warm summers and chilly winters. Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and in 20th-century history, during both World Wars and the post-war Communist era. Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, and Petřín hill. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

1. St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague, and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. The full name of the cathedral is St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral. This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in the country. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, the cathedral is under the ownership of the Czech government as part of the Prague Castle complex. Cathedral dimensions are 124 x 60 meters, the main tower is 96.5 meters high, front towers 82 m, arch height 33.2 m.

The Cathedral is part of the Castle and houses impressive remembrances of Prague's long history like the 1.5 ton silver casket of St. John of Nepomuk and the chapel of St. Wenceslas, built by Charles IV. Part of the chapel is a locked doorway to the chamber holding the Crown Jewels. This door has seven locks, the keys to which are held by seven different government or church officials, something some U.S. cities might consider. Now to the Treasury, which displays a fraction of the many religious treasures owned by the Cathedral.

These crosses, monstrances, and reliquaries were designed and executed by the best craftsmen, who had access to gold, silver, and precious gems. Among the relics are the usual splinters from the cross but also rarer items like a swatch from the table cloth used at the Last Supper and a piece of the loin cloth Jesus wore on the cross. There is an extra charge to see these items; it is worth the cost.

The current cathedral is the third of a series of religious buildings at the site, all dedicated to St. Vitus. The first church was an early Romanesque rotunda founded by Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in 925. This patron saint was chosen because Wenceslaus had acquired a holy relic the arm of St. Vitus from Emperor Henry I. It is also possible that Wenceslaus, wanting to convert his subjects to Christianity more easily, chose a saint whose name sounds very much like the name of Slavic solar deity Svantevit. Two religious populations, the increasing Christian and decreasing pagan community, lived simultaneously in Prague castle at least until the 11th century.
The present day Gothic Cathedral was founded on 21 November 1344, when the Prague bishopric was raised to an archbishopric. Its patrons were the chapter of cathedral (led by a Dean), the Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice, and, above all, Charles IV, King of Bohemia and a soon-to-be Holy Roman Emperor, who intended the new cathedral to be a coronation church, family crypt, treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place cum pilgrimage site of patron saint Wenceslaus. The first master builder was a Frenchman Matthias of Arras, summoned from the papal palace in Avignon.
Matthias designed the overall layout of the building as, basically, an import of French Gothic: a triple-naved basilica with flying buttresses, short transept, five-bayed choir and decagon apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. However, he lived to build only the easternmost parts of the choir: the arcades and the ambulatory. The slender verticality of Late French Gothic and clear, almost rigid respect of proportions distinguish his work today.

The interior views are awe inspiring! So vast and amazingly ornamented you think you are looking at a painting even though you are standing in the middle of it. Definitely worth the whole tour just to explore some of the stonework, painting, stained glass, metal work and statuary. One of the most amazing cathedrals you will ever experience.








2. Astronomical Clock


The Prague astronomical clock is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. The Clock is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

Try to avoid during the busier times to get the most out of it.  Everytime you walk past this place you will stop and stare at the beauty, and maybe understand why the designer had his eyes taken out.  The best way to get an understanding of this place is not the tour guides, but the locals.  If you get the chance, spend a night with some Praguers and get them to tell you about this place; it means so much to them.



3. Mozart Dinner 

The harmony of musical and culinary arts is served in historically protected neo baroque Boccaccio Ballroom. The historical ballroom provides appropriate stylistic setting for Mozart Dinner Concert in Prague. The splendid and famous neo-Baroque Boccaccio Ballroom is a meeting place for hosting exclusive events. Built in 1927 immediately became one of the favorite places for Prague´s high society´s events. “Soireé dansantes” were held here with participation of many famous people, like Jan Masaryk, a Minister for Foreign Affairs, or the US ambassador to the Czech republic and many others. The Boccaccio Hall has been restored to its entire 1925 splendor. In 1993, the reconstruction started to bring back the best times of the Boccaccio. Artificial marble was restored, all wall decorations and paintings were recovered and newly gilded, statues of little cupids, hanging music instruments or arrows of love just under the ceiling were carefully reconstructed, mirrors and light fixtures replaced. And despite the horrible state before the reconstruction, the original beauty has been saved.
"Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine." - Henry James


Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. Florence is famous for its history. A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was also the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. The historic centre of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year, and Euromonitor International ranked the city as the world's 72nd most visited in 2009, with 1,685,000 visitors. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the city is noted for its history, culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace, amongst others, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Florence is also an important city in Italian fashion, being ranked within the top fifty fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, it is also a major national economic centre, being a tourist and industrial hub. In 2008, the city had the 17th highest average income in Italy. In 2013, Florence is the 2th best world city, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Tourism is the most significant industry in central Florence. From April to October, tourists outnumber local population. Tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia museums are regularly sold out and large groups regularly fill the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, both of which charge for entry. In 2010, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine ranked the city as their third favourite tourist destination. Studies by Euromonitor International have concluded that cultural and history-oriented tourism is generating significantly increased spending throughout Europe. Florence is believed to have the greatest concentration of art (in proportion to its size) in the world. Thus, cultural tourism is particularly strong, with world-renowned museums such as the Uffizi selling over 1.6 million tickets a year. The city's convention centre facilities were restructured during the 1990s and host exhibitions, conferences, meetings, social forums, concerts and other events all year.

1. San Miniato al Monte


San Miniato al Monte is a basilica in Florence, central Italy, standing atop one of the highest points in the city. It has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany and one of the most beautiful churches in Italy. There is an adjoining Olivetan monastery, seen to the right of the basilica when ascending the stairs. St. Miniato or Minas was an Armenian prince serving in the Roman army under Emperor Decius. He was denounced as a Christian after becoming a hermit and was brought before the Emperor who was camped outside the gates of Florence. The Emperor ordered him to be thrown to beasts in the Amphitheatre where a panther was called upon him but refused to devour him. Beheaded in the presence of the Emperor, he is alleged to have picked up his head, crossed the Arno and walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus to his hermitage.
A shrine was later erected at this spot and there was a chapel there by the 8th century. Construction of the present church was begun in 1013 by Bishop Alibrando and it was endowed by the Emperor Henry II. The adjoining monastery began as a Benedictine community, then passed to the Cluniacs and then in 1373 to the Olivetans, who still run it. The monks make famous liqueurs, honey and tisanes, which they sell from a shop next to the church. The interior exhibits the early feature of a choir raised on a platform above the large crypt. It has changed little since it was first built. The patterned pavement dates from 1207.


The centre of the nave is dominated by the beautiful freestanding Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix), designed by Michelozzo in 1448. It originally housed the miraculous crucifix now in Santa Trìnita and is decorated with panels long thought to be painted by Agnolo Gaddi. The terracotta decoration of the vault is by Luca della Robbia. The mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St Minias was made in 1260. The crypt is the oldest part of the church and the high altar supposedly contains the bones of St Minias himself (although there is evidence that these were removed to Metz before the church was even built). In the vaults are frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi. The raised choir and presbytery contain a magnificent Romanesque pulpit and screen made in 1207. The apse is dominated by a great mosaic dating from 1297, which depicts the same subject as that on the façade and is probably by the same unknown artist.


The crucifix above the high altar is attributed to Luca della Robbia. The sacristy is decorated with a great fresco cycle on the Life of St Benedict by Spinello Aretino (1387). The Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo to the left of the nave, "one of the most magnificent funerary monuments of the Italian Renaissance", was built in 1473 as a memorial to Cardinal James of Lusitania, who died in Florence, to which he was Portuguese ambassador, in 1459. His is the only tomb in the church. The chapel is a collaboration of outstanding artists of Florence: it was designed by Brunelleschi's associate, Antonio Manetti, and finished after his death by Giovanni Rossellino. The tomb was made by Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino. The chapel decoration is by Alesso Baldovinetti, Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo, and Luca della Robbia. Situated on a hill outside Florence with unsurpassed views of the city, this structure is one of the finest examples of Tuscan Romanesque architecture, built between the 11th and 13th centuries.


This 1000 year old Basilica is named 'The gate to Heaven' , the words sculpted in marble at the entrance, is a beautiful church in both exterior and interior rising high above the city of Florence. It is located quite away from the main sights across the river. If the walk seems quite challenging and it is with many steps on the way, take bus no. 12. When inside, go to Sacristy: up the stairs towards the altar and enter the door to the right - it is absolutely stunning inside! 



Tip: to avoid disappointment, make sure you know opening times: summer daily 8am–7pm; winter Mon–Sat 8am–noon & 3–6pm, Sun 3–6pm. Entry is free. They only ask for 1 Euro donation fee to go inside Sacristy which is worth it.











2. Statue of David

David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a 5.17-metre marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence. Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504.

Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome. The statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence in 1873, and later replaced at the original location by a replica.














3. The Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo della Signoria, better known as Palazzo Vecchio, has been the symbol of the civic power of Florence for over seven centuries. Among the works of art safeguarded in the museum: the Cortile di Michelozzo; Michelangelo’s celebrated Victory in the Salone dei Cinquecento; Donatello’s Judith in the Sala dei Gigli; the private rooms of the Medici court and among these the marvellous Cappella di Eleonora, the chapel with paintings by Agnolo Bronzino. The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy. Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke's residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.
In 1299, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace, worthy of the city's importance and giving greater security, in times of turbulence, to the magistrates. Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and the Santa Croce church, began constructing it upon the ruins of Palazzo dei Fanti and Palazzo dell'Esecutore di Giustizia, once owned by the Uberti family. Giovanni Villani (1276–1348) wrote in his Nuova Cronica that the Uberti were "rebels of Florence and Ghibellines", stating that the plaza was built so that the Uberti family homes would never be rebuilt on the same location. Giovanni Villani wrote that Arnolfo di Cambio incorporated the ancient tower of the Foraboschi family (the tower then known as "La Vacca" or "The Cow") as the substructure of the tower into its facade; this is why the rectangular tower (height 94 m) is not directly centered in the building. This tower contains two small cells, that, at different times, imprisoned Cosimo de' Medici (the Elder) (1435) and Girolamo Savonarola (1498). The tower is named after its designer Torre d'Arnolfo. The solid cubicle shaped building is enhanced by the simple tower with its Giorgio Lederle's clock.

Above the front entrance door, there is a notable ornamental marble frontispiece, dating from 1528. In the middle, flanked by two gilded lions, is the Monogram of Christ, surrounded by a glory, above the text (in Latin): "Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium" (translation: "Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords". This text dates from 1851 and does not replace an earlier text by Savonarola as mentioned in guidebooks. Between 1529 and 1851 they were concealed behind a large shield with the grand-ducal coat of arms. Michelangelo's David also stood at the entrance from its completion in 1504 to 1873, when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery. A replica erected in 1910 now stands in its place, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus.
“It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world” - Oscar Wilde


San Francisco is the leading financial and cultural center of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. The only consolidated city-county in California, San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, giving it a density of about 17,620 people per square mile. It is the most densely settled large city (population greater than 200,000) in the state of California and the second-most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City.  During World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Today, San Francisco is ranked 44th of the top tourist destinations in the world, and was the sixth most visited one in the United States in 2011. The city is renowned for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former prison on Alcatraz Island, and its Chinatown district. It is also a primary banking and finance center. Every neighborhood in San Francisco has its own personality, from the hippie chic of the Upper Haight to the hipster grit of the Mission. The Marina district boasts trendy bistros and postcard-perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, while Noe Valley offers quaint and quiet boutiques. Wave hello to the sea lions at Pier 39, and sample local cheese and charcuterie at the Ferry Building. Sit in on a yoga session in Dolores Park or marvel at the Dutch Windmill across from Ocean Beach.

1. Marin Headlands

The Marin Headlands is a hilly peninsula at the southernmost end of Marin County, California, USA, located just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects the two counties and peninsulas. The entire area is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Headlands are famous for their views of the Bay Area, especially of the Golden Gate Bridge. The two best things about the Marin Headlands are 1) the views and 2) how easy it is to get there from the city. On a clear day, there are really amazing views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the coastline in general. There are also plenty of places to park all around the area and you can just go from there in terms of how much you want to walk around and explore. The Headlands sometimes create their own clouds when moist, warm Pacific Ocean breezes are pushed into higher, colder air, causing condensation, fog, fog drip and perhaps rain. The hills also get more precipitation than at sea level, for the same reason. However, despite being relatively wet, strong gusty Pacific winds prevent dense forests from forming. The many gaps, ridges, and valleys in the hills increase the wind speed and periodically, during powerful winter storms, these winds can reach hurricane force. In summer, breezes can still be very gusty, when the oceanic air and fog cross the hills.

November through February in the Headlands are dominated by periodic rainstorms that blow in from the Pacific, often originating in the Gulf of Alaska, and give the area the majority of its rainfall for the year. These cloudy, gray, and rainy days often are interspersed with cool but extremely clear ones. As winter turns to spring, the April-to-June weather tends to be dominated by powerful winds, less rain, and clearer skies. Summer days alternate between clear and warm intervals, giving way to foggy and cool periods. September and October bring the highest average temperatures of the year and the longest stretches of clear skies. If you're looking for an actual hike, this isn't necessary the best for that but you can certainly make a day of visiting the area and walk around as much as you want with a few more rugged trails here and there. Particularly nice was walking along the Lagoon trail and then going left when you hit the beach. Amazing coastal views with some somewhat unbeaten paths that require a little more trekking/uphill climb.

Tip: Be advised it can be very cold and windy here, so bring jackets/windbreakers and be prepared for that.

2. San Francisco Opera


San Francisco Opera (SFO) is an American opera company, based in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola (1881–1953) and is the second largest opera company in North America. The Opening Night Gala of San Francisco Opera is considered to be one of the most prominent events in the musical and social life of San Francisco.

Great performance. The Opera house is Nicly decorated. There is a cafe downstairs. You can also participate on the pre opera information that takes place around one hour before the performance. From an aquatic point of view the Opera House could have been better, but then again what can you expect from a opera house built many years ago.

In 1927, $4 million in municipal bonds were issued to finance the design and construction of the first municipally owned opera house in the United States. The architects of the building complex were Arthur Brown Jr., who had designed City Hall between 1912 and 1916, and G. Albert Lansburgh, a theater designer responsible for San Francisco's Orpheum and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Completed in 1932, it is one of the last Beaux-Arts structures erected in the United States and employs the classic Roman Doric order in a reserved and sober form appropriate to its function commemorating all those who served in World War I. A colonnade of paired columns screens colossal arch-headed windows above a severe rusticated basement, a scheme that owes something to Claude Perrault's severe East front of the Louvre. The interior contains a grand entrance hall with a high barrel vaulted and coffered ceiling parallel to the street, with overlooks from staircase landings at each end.

The War Memorial Opera House is a historic and scenic building. Food buffet is available before the performance. Theatre seats have very little leg room. If the program and cast is good, one can be distracted but more often than not of late, this is not the case. Dolores Claiborne, for example, based on a story by Stephen King, was creatively staged, with an often clever libretto but basically lacked music. The male leads and the female supporting cast were good to excellent but the soprano only functioned in the lower registers, such as they were.
The San Francisco Symphony performed most of its concerts in the house, from 1932 to 1980. RCA Victor recorded the orchestra here, under the direction of Pierre Monteux, from 1941 to 1952 and in a special stereophonic session in January 1960. The orchestra also made a few recordings for RCA with Enrique Jorda in 1957 and 1958. In later years, the orchestra used a special acoustical shell that was placed around the musicians, greatly enhancing acoustics for concerts. The orchestra's final concert in the house was an all-Beethoven concert, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, in June 1980. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the house was regularly blacked out and performances were monitored by air raid wardens.

In spring of 1945, the United Nations had its first conference there. The UN Charter was later drafted and signed in the Herbst Theatre next door. Six years later in 1951, the Treaty of San Francisco was drafted and signed here and in the Herbst Theatre. During the years of Kurt Herbert Adler's general directorship, the inadequacies of the house became apparent as the season was expanded. In particular, there was a lack of office space and rehearsal space.
In 1979 the backstage area was extended, followed in 1981 by the opening of a new wing built onto the house on the Franklin Street side. This gave spaces for sets, coaches, and dancers as well as more administrative space. At the same time, the nearby Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall, with a stage the same size as that of the Opera House, was opened as part of the complex which included the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

If you get a chance to see an opera at San Francisco's Opera House, go. Don't think about the price. If you can get tickets, the building itself is amazing, and the SF opera company is among the best. If anything, just go for the spectacle. You'll be glad you did. The summer performances have been great value with wonderful voices and exciting visual productions. Both Mary Magdalene and Tales of Hoffman were entrancing. The opera house is a classic, beautiful setting. The only drawback is the uncomfortable seats, even in orchestra; they must have been made for much smaller people.
























3. The Palace of Fine Arts 

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo, which San Francisco hosted.  It was built to have the feel of an overgrown Roman ruin, and they had not built it to last as they had expected to tear it down once the Exposition was over.  However, the city of San Francisco developed such love for the Palace of Fine Arts that they decided to keep it. The Palace required a fair of amount of upkeep, though, and by the 50s it became obvious that the original construction would not last.  Caspar Weinberger, an assemblyman at the time, and a number of influential San Franciscans rallied to collect donations for reconstruction of the Palace. Their efforts paid off as most of the original structure was torn down and reconstruction started in 1964, at a cost of ten times the original.

Today, the Palace of Fine Arts remains a beautiful picturesque oasis that lures tourists in with its simplistic beauty. The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Francisco, California, is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is the only one still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009. In addition to hosting art exhibitions, it remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals, and is a favorite location for weddings and wedding party photographs for couples throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and such an icon that a miniature replica of it was built in Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim.
Included the exhibit palaces of Education, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Varied Industries, Agriculture, Food Products, Transportation, Mines and Metallurgy and the Palace of Machinery. The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who took his inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture in designing what was essentially a fictional ruin from another time. While most of the exposition was demolished when the exposition ended, the Palace was so beloved that a Palace Preservation League, founded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was founded while the fair was still in progress. For a time the Palace housed a continuous art exhibit, and during the Great Depression, W.P.A. artists were commissioned to replace the decayed Robert Reid murals on the ceiling of the rotunda.
From 1934 to 1942 the exhibition hall was home to eighteen lighted tennis courts. During World War II it was requisitioned by the military for storage of trucks and jeeps. At the end of the war, when the United Nations was created in San Francisco, limousines used by the world's statesmen came from a motor pool there. From 1947 on the hall was put to various uses: as a city Park Department warehouse; as a telephone book distribution center; as a flag and tent storage depot; and even as temporary Fire Department headquarters. Built around a small artificial lagoon, the Palace of Fine Arts is composed of a wide, 1,100 ft (340 m) pergola around a central rotunda situated by the water.
The lagoon was intended to echo those found in classical settings in Europe, where the expanse of water provides a mirror surface to reflect the grand buildings and an undisturbed vista to appreciate them from a distance. Ornamentation includes Bruno Louis Zimm's three repeating panels around the entablature of the rotunda, representing "The Struggle for the Beautiful", symbolizing Greek culture.

While Ulric Ellerhusen supplied the weeping women atop the colonnade and the sculptured frieze and allegorical figures representing Contemplation, Wonderment and Meditation. The underside of the Palace rotunda's dome features eight large insets, which originally contained murals by Robert Reid.

Four depicted the conception and birth of Art, "its commitment to the Earth, its progress and acceptance by the human intellect," and four the "golds" of California (poppies, citrus fruits, metallic gold, and wheat). The Palace of Fine Arts was not the only building from the exposition to survive demolition. The Japanese Tea House (not to be confused with the Japanese Tea House that remains in Golden Gate Park, which dates from an 1894 fair) was purchased in 1915 by land baron E.D. Swift and was transported by barge down the Bay to Belmont, California where it stands to this day. The Wisconsin and Virginia buildings were relocated to Marin County. The Ohio building was shipped to San Mateo County, where it survived until the 1950s.


The Column of Progress stood for a decade after the close of the Exhibition, but was then demolished to accommodate traffic on Marina Boulevard. Although not built on the exhibition grounds, the only other structure from it still standing in its original location is the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, known now as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.


“Getting lost is the only place worth going to.” - Tiziano Scarpa


Venice is a city in northeastern Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon. Venice is the capital of the Veneto region. In 2009, there were 270,098 people residing in the historic city of Venice. The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city historically was the capital of the Republic of Venice. Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities. The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.

1. Grand Canal


The Grand Canal is a canal in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. Public transport is provided by water buses and private water taxis, and many tourists explore the canal by gondola. At one end, the canal leads into the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station and the other end leads into Saint Mark Basin; in between, it makes a large reverse-S shape through the central districts of Venice. It is 3,800 m long, 30–90 m wide, with an average depth of five meters.

Venice's main water thoroughfare, lined with great Renaissance palaces, is a colorful and busy spectacle of gondolas and vaporetti. There's so much to see that you can hardly take your eyes away. In the day, you can see all of the historical buildings and admire the architecture. At night? Magic. Pure magic. It's just so beautiful! The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families faced huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos; this contest reveals the citizens’ pride and the deep bond with the lagoon. The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old traditions, such as the Historical Regatta, are perpetuated every year along the Canal.

Because most of the city's traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. There are currently three more bridges, the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell'Accademia, and the recent, controversial Ponte della Costituzione, designed by Santiago Calatrava, connecting the train station to Piazzale Roma, one of the few places in Venice where buses and cars can enter. As was usual in the past, people can still take a ferry ride across the canal at several points by standing up on the deck of a simple gondola called a traghetto, although this service is less common than even a decade ago. Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. Consequently, one can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the grand canal by boat.

You can't visit Venice without seeing the Grand Canal which snakes through the two large islands that comprise what today is called the City of Venice. The best way to see it is by walking alongside and over it and by taking a Vaporetto ride up or down it. I recommend buying a multi-day pass that will cover your entire time in Venice.
Riding on the Vaporetti is much more expensive than riding buses in Italy's other cities, but this is Venice where most everything is more expensive. Take the #2 Vaporetto from the train station to St. Mark's to experience the entire Grand Canal at a faster pace than the #1. You can also use the pass to get to Murano Burano, and the other islands. My family and I especially enjoyed cruising around a night. An important reminder about the Vaporetti is that you must validate your ticket each time you use this form of transportation. If you don't and you get checked, the officials will levy a stiff penalty on the spot (nearly 60 euros). I saw this happen to three tourists. Ignorance of the law was not an acceptable excuse.

Venetian Gothic architecture found favor quite late, as a splendid flamboyant Gothic beginning with the southern façade of the Doge's Palace. The verticality and the illumination characterizing the Gothic style are found in the porticos and loggias of fondaco houses: columns get thinner, elongated arches are replaced by pointed or ogee or lobed ones. Porticos rise gently intertwining and drawing open marbles in quatrefoils or similar figures. Façades were plastered in brilliant colors.




2. Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto


The Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto is a 15th-century palace on the Grand Canal in Venice, northern Italy, next to the much larger Palazzo Corner. Built in the Venetian Gothic style, it was originally two palaces, Palazzo Barbarigo and Palazzo Minotto, later joined together. The Barbarigo palace was owned by the Barbarigo family for several centuries and was the birthplace of Gregorio Barbarigo, who once refused the Papal Crown. It was later owned by the Minotto and Martinengo families. Three staterooms face the Grand Canal and another three face Rio Zaguri. In the first half of the 18th century frescoes and paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Francesco Fontebasso and Carpoforo Tencalla were commissioned by Pietro Barbarigo. Its chapel has Louis XIV Style elm flooring inlaid with olive-root marquetry. The palace's doors, are in the same style, banded in walnut with bronze handles shaped as vine leaves. The floors of the staterooms are a blend of terrazzo paving and Venetian "pastellone" paving. Musica a Palazzo is a cultural association of classical musicians who, since 2005, have produced opera performances staged in the Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, a Venetian Gothic palace facing the Grand Canal.


The piano nobile of the palace, with its backdrop of frescoes by Tiepolo and sculptures by Carpoforo Tencalla, is its main performing space. The performing style follows the 19th-century Italian practice of "Salotto Musicale" (Musical Salon). The operas are performed without a stage, with the audience becoming part of the scene. The program alternates famous operas, such as Verdi's La traviata and Rossini's The Barber of Seville, with Duetti d'amore, a selection of love duets from La bohème, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto and other popular operas.

Act 1 of La traviata at Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. Starring: Antonella Meridda as Violetta The musicians, a string trio and a piano, have perform in concert halls around the world, including Lincoln Center, Musikverein, La Scala and the Mozarteum. The ensemble stage La traviata at the Royal Pavilion during the 41st Brighton Festival and won the Argus Angel Award for the best production of the festival. Verdi's La Traviata re-work for 3 singers and 4 instruments so that it could be performed in a salon for a small audience rather than in a crowded theatre. The music is wonderful, the singers great and the performance very moving, especially because the audience sat among the performers.

Each of the 3 acts is perform in a different room in the Palazzo, and after the first act, the audience'll be offer a drink. The reception was friendly, the announcements bi-lingual. All in all, a wonderful, delightful experience. You should look forward visit to Venice and will make sure to go to the Musica a Palazzo again. In 1741 was hired the Ferrarese quadraturist Mengozzi Colonna, who painted the domestic chapel located in a recess of the building and hidden by two wooden leaves. Around it a Louis XIV elm flooring inlaid with olive-root and other prized wood marquetry. The following year Mengozzi Colonna intervenes also on the central hall designing the beautiful Venetian terrazzo pavings. The palace's doors are Louis XIV style, banded in walnut and with bronze handles shaped as vine leaves. The whole pictorial decoration represents the cultural interests of Gregorio and Caterina, freshly married. Four monochromes represent Sciences: History, Astronomy, Geography and Astrology. The other four, with mixtilinear framings represent the Arts: Painting, Sculpture, Music and Poetry. The frescoes in the overdoors depict Merit and Abundance. The parlor is also known as "the room of Wisdom", since it exalts the commissioner's idea of the arts and sciences giving wealth and nobility.
" Barcelona , centre of the wise, model of purity, quarry of Kings "- P. Baltasar Gracián


Barcelona is a Spanish city, capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia and the second largest city in the country, with a population of 1 million within its administrative limits. The urban area of Barcelona extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of around 4.5 million, being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, the Ruhr, Madrid and Milan. It is also the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. It is located on the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola ridge (512 metres). Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon. Besieged several times during its history, Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments. Barcelona is today one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world and a growing financial centre.

1. Sagrada Família


The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, English: Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop. Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926 less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família's construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s.



Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project's greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona, over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's cathedral, over Gaudí's design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí's death disregarded his design, and the recent proposal to build an underground tunnel of Spain's high-speed rail link to France could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said, "It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art" and Paul Goldberger called it, "The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages." The Basilica of the Sagrada Família was the inspiration of a Catalan bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella, founder of Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph. After a visit to the Vatican in 1872, Bocabella returned from Italy with the intention of building a church inspired by that at Loreto. The apse crypt of the church, funded by donations, was begun 19 March 1882, on the festival of St. Joseph, to the design of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose plan was for a Gothic revival church of a standard form.

The apse crypt was completed before Villar's resignation on 18 March 1883, when Gaudí assumed responsibility for its design, which he changed radically. Antoni Gaudí began work on the church in 1883 but was not appointed Architect Director until 1884. The style of la Sagrada Família is variously likened to Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism and to Art Nouveau or Catalan Noucentisme. While the Sagrada Família falls within the Art Nouveau period, Nikolaus Pevsner points out that, along with Charles Rennie Macintosh in Glasgow, Gaudí carried the Art Nouveau style far beyond its usual application as a surface decoration. The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed). The Nativity Façade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence. The Passion façade was built after the project which Gaudi planned in 1917. The construction was begun in 1954, and the towers, built over the elliptical plan, were finished in 1976. It is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being scourged at the pillar; and Christ on the Cross.

These controversial designs are the work of Josep Maria Subirachs. The Glory façade, on which construction began in 2002, will be the largest and most monumental of the three and will represent one's ascension to God. It will also depict various scenes such as Hell, Purgatory, and will include elements such as the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues.

The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres. The transept has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 metre grid. However, the columns of the apse, resting on del Villar's foundation, do not adhere to the grid, requiring a section of columns of the ambulatory to transition to the grid thus creating a horseshoe pattern to the layout of those columns. The crossing rests on the four central columns of porphyry supporting a great hyperboloid surrounded by two rings of twelve hyperboloids (currently under construction). The central vault reaches sixty metres. The apse is capped by a hyperboloid vault reaching seventy-five metres. Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse; thus the graduated increase in vault loft.





2. Casa Batlló


Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the heart of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house. It was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Casa Batlló evokes the creativity and playfulness of Gaudí’s work through the incrassate facades and creative floors. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project. The local name for the building is House of Bones, as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for a middle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.

The building looks very remarkable like everything Gaudí designed, only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work. It seems that the goal of the designer was to avoid straight lines completely. Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur.
A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George, which has been plunged into the back of the dragon. Exploring the building was a must see, it is so clever nod beautiful, the glass banisters were at a high so you had to look through them to see the inside core of the building and their mottled clear glass made the building look like it was underwater, just amazing. The audio tour went on a bit and it wasn't very good and giving practical advice on the features. My only real issue was the tourists, showing no manners or consideration for anyone around they, standing on staircases talking while people stand waiting for them to move, walking into your camera shot and them standing there with the mouths agape, have some consideration it's not hard. And of course the entry fee is far too expensive at € 20.35, a tad overpriced. The building that is now Casa Batlló was built in 1877 by Emili Sala Cortés, one of Gaudí’s teachers, commissioned by Lluís Sala Sánchez. It was a classical building without remarkable characteristics within the eclecticism traditional by the end of the 19th century. The building had a basement, a ground floor, four other floors and a garden in the back. The house was bought by Josep Batlló in 1900.

The design of the house made the home undesirable to buyers but the Batlló family decided to buy the place due to its centralized location. It is located in the middle of Passeig de Gracia, which in the early 20th century was known as a very prestigious and fashionable area. It was an area where the prestigious family could draw attention to themselves. In 1904 Josep Batlló hired Gaudí to design his home; at first his plans were to tear down the building and construct a completely new house. Gaudí convinced Josep that a renovation was sufficient and was also able to submit the planning application the same year. The building was completed and refurbished in 1906. He completely changed the main apartment which became the residence for the Batlló family. He expanded the central well in order to supply light to the whole building and also added new floors. In the same year the Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for that year’s best building award. The award was given to another architect that year despite Gaudí’s design.


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