Tuesday, July 8, 2003

2003 European vacation with Angie

A couple days after Tim and Faith's wedding, Angie headed off to Prague for a semester of school at CVUT. I figured when her semester was over it would be a great opportunity to join her and travel through Europe for a couple weeks. It was, we did, and it was great!  We started our trip with 2 nights in Prague, followed by a sleeper train to France where we eventually found our way to Ronchamp for a night; then to Geneva for a night; 4 nights in Rome; 2 in Cinque Terre; another sleeper to Barcelona for 1 night; and ending with 2 nights in Paris.  Needless to say, by the time the 2 weeks were up, I was exhausted!

We had debated on a Mediterranean cruise, a bus tour, or go on our own with train passes. I ended up stumbling upon a fantastic deal on 2 first class train flexi-passes, so that's what we opted for. Ordinarily about $1000@ for these passes, I got them for $500@. Someone had gotten them as compensation for a travel problem they had and couldn't use them so they were looking to sell them. The passes worked out even better then I'd hoped for! I even sent Angie's to her ahead of time so she could get a little more use out of them since I knew were weren't going to use all 14 days of train travel and they were good for 2 or 3 months.

 So after about 10 months of planning, the day finally arrived---June 24th, 2003. I hopped on a plane in STL and headed to Prague by way of Detroit and Amsterdam. I am amazed at how easy it is to get around the airports in the foreign countries we've been to. Announcements on the plane were even done in English as well as a couple other languages. Pathways in the Amsterdam airport were color coded for different itineraries, too. I even shocked a couple people on one of the planes when I spoke a little Russian with them (the only time I used any of the 3 semesters of Russian I had in college!) The flights went well and I arrived in Prague (Praha, as they call it) by late morning. Angie was there to great me and we were on our way to a fantastic trip.

June 25 and 26---Prague 

 

June 27---Eurail to Ronchamp and up to Notru Dame du Haut

 

June 28---Eurail to Geneva

 

June 29---Eurail from Geneva to Rome 

 

June 29-July 2---4 nights in Rome 

 

July 3 and 4---Cinque Terre

 

July 5---Barcelona  

 

July 6-8--Paris 

 


This was a very different vacation for me!  I don't usually travel somewhere without knowing where I'm going, how I'm getting there, and where I'm staying every day.  But it was nice having the option to be spontaneous at least for part of the trip.  It was wonderful traveling around Europe by train---especially with 1st class Eurail tickets.  I would love to do another Eurail train trip---but with a lot less luggage!

 It was a great 2 week trip starting in Prague and going on to Ron Champ, Geneva, Rome, Cinque Terre, Barcelona and finally Paris.  Not just because of the sights, but also for the fantastic undivided time with Angie!

We certainly had our share of trials and tribulations!  Or should I call them adventures!!??  But it was a trip I'll never forget and cherish forever!!! 


Sunday, July 6, 2003

2003 July 6-8---Paris


The last city on Angie's and my 2 week trip around Europe.  It was a very busy 2 weeks.  We started in Prague  (where Angie had just completed a semester of school)  , then went to Ronchamp, Geneva, Rome, Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and now on to Paris for a couple days.  To check out our trip from the beginning, click here:  Prague

July 6:

AFter spending a hectic day traveling all over Barcelona the day before, now it was time to head on to Paris---our final stop of our 2 week whirlwind trip. 
This was a full day of travel. We were up and at it early--about 7:30am. So early that we had about an hour to wait for the train. So we went to international reservations and reserved first class seats for the 2nd part of our train ride to Paris, the TGV out of Montpellier to Paris, for an additional fee of 3 Euro @ for reservations on a premium train. Angie went hunting for our breakfast. She did good---chocolate doughnuts and pineapple juice. We boarded the train about 8:30 and again were in a different configured first class train car. It would have been nice if the air conditioner in it hadn't gone out as soon as we left. Our 4 1/2 hour trip got VERY uncomfortable by the time we reached Montpellier, but there were no other seats available on the train(good thing we had made reservations the day before).

We made our connection for the TGV about 30 minutes after arriving in Montpellier and were off for another 4 hour trip to Paris. The TGV was very nice. It had a fold out table with seats facing each other. Angie and I sat on the side of the train with one seat facing each other. As on most of the other trains, there was a snack car where we were able to get some lunch.


I was surprised at how smooth the train travelled even though we were supposedly going in excess of 200m/h. The countryside was again lush with lots of farmlands. Looking out at a distance, it was really hard to tell we were going so fast. The only hint we got that we were going that fast was that the electric poles next to the tracks were just a blur as we went speeding by them.



Saturday, July 5, 2003

2003 July 5---Barcelona:


We are nearing the end of our 2 week trip around Europe which started in Prague after Angie's semester of school there.  To start from the beginning, click here: PRAGUE


July 5th: Barcelona
This part of the trip caused me the most consternation when planning our European vacation. Barcelona was so far from anywhere else we were going that I wasn't sure how we could fit it in. I even checked into flying. Angie had studied a lot of the architecture in Barcelona and was hoping to get to see it first hand. I ended up going to Europe not knowing if we would make it to Barcelona, but with the rail system being so good and the sleepers being a good way to spend the night, we decided to go ahead with the expedition.  So when we left Cinque Terre, we booked a sleeper train out of Milan and headed to Barcelona.
We were rather surprised when we woke up and looked out of the window of our sleeper room. Don't know what I expected, but it looked like we were in a desert. We were still a little ways from Barcelona, but it made me wondered what we would see there.

We made our way to the dining car and had our free breakfast of---bread and jelly.
                             
Our train arrived in Barcelona about 9:30 am. We had decided to book a sleeper train to Paris for that night, so we went and stood in line to do that. Our plans were foiled again. The sleeper was sold out, as well as the train to Paris the next morning. But there was a train to Montpellier the next morning, so we went ahead and made reservations for it, figuring we could connect to something going to Paris from there.
So our priority now was to try and find a hotel so we could leave our luggage and head out to explore Barcelona. The first hotel sign we saw was right there in the train station, so we went to check it out. 100Euro for the night and we could check in right then, so we took it and checked out our room. (I did find it interesting that in almost all the hotels that were set up for 2 beds, the beds were actually pushed up next to each other.) The room was nice and even came with free internet access down in the lobby.
                                        

Soon we were walking to see the sights. It was so different from what we had seen in most of the places we had been so far. No old narrow roads and alleys, instead there were wide open roadways.

Even the walkways were wide.

There were even outside escalators.



Then in the middle of all this was a nice little park.
Fortunately Angie seemed to know where she wanted to go, so I just followed her. The first stop on her agenda was Pavello Mies van der Rohe. It was originally built as the German Pavilion for the 1929 World's Fair and was the last of the Mies van der Rohe's works before he emigrated to the United States.
inside the pavilion

 angie in the little courtyard

From there we wandered up to Olympic Park and checked out some of the structures there, including the Sports Palace, stadium, and the area by the Telecom towers which were built for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
 another view of the Telecom tower
 Olympic Center
 inside the Olympic Stadium

Then we caught public transportation and headed to the part of the city where Gaudi's La Pedrera and Casa Batllo buildings are. Built in the early 1900's, they had very unusual and interesting styles to them.

Gaudi liked to use undulating stone in his structures and these residences are no different. Here is the La Pedrere building which was recognized by UNESCO as "World Heritage" in 1984.


Inside La Pedrera is an apartment that can be toured, as well as a small museum in the top floor. The furnishings in the apartment were period pieces of the early 1900's.
interesting seat for 2.  I also really like the flooring---a parquet that looks good!

 nice office!---sort of Tommy Bahama-ish
 pretty modern kitchen for the early 1900s!
But the most fascinating part to me were the chimneys on the roof.
would be so neat to live here and hang out on the roof!  Especially at sunset!


 even has a courtyard to the complex

From the museum on the top floor.


( Of special interest---seeing as Angie worked as a model builder at one of her jobs after graduating.)
From the courtyard on the ground level.  Love the naturalistic feel to the painting.
looking up to the roof
 interesting rails on the patio.

A short distance from La Pedrera is Casa Batllo--restored by Gaudi in the early 1900's also. It was originally designed for a middle classed family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona. We toured the residence, but no inside photos are allowed.
 Close up of the patio area

A short distance from there is the Sagrada Família. It is a massive Roman Catholic church still under construction. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. The temple is scheduled to open for worship by September 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

We were getting hungry by now, so we decided to find a nearby restaurant and have lunch before touring the church.

We elected to eat indoors since it was another hot day. Along with our Spanish potato tortillas that Angie had bragged about to me, we shared a pitcher of Sangria. Both were great. In fact after a few glasses of the ice cold Sangria, I was not feeling any pain for a few hours!

After lunch we went back to the Sagrada Familia. This is another of Gaudi's works. He spent the last 15 years of his life working on it and it still has a long way to go.
heading back to Sagrada Familia.
 some of the relief work around the outside of the church

 The different sides had a different feel to them---this side was rather grotto-ish
There is a fee to tour the inside, but we weren't going to go all that way and not see the inside!!!  The interior columns remind me of trees. You can see the molds and materials that are being used in it's current construction laying throughout the interior. Some of the plans for the church were lost in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as on modern adaptations.

Money from tickets purchased by tourists is now used to pay for the work, and private donations are accepted through the Friends of the Temple. I'm happy to say we helped build this church!
Even the stained glass windows are like none others i've ever seen before.

Back outside we continued to wandered around the whole building.

There are 3 facades to the church---the Nativity, Passion, and Glory. Each having a very different character from the others.
 interesting outside wall.

When we were done marveling at this work in progress, we did a little shopping in some nearby stores (and cooling off in the air conditioning for a bit).

Then we jumped on a bus and headed up to Parque Guell. It is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudi". The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Guell, whom the park was named after. There were suppose to be 60 houses built here, but only 2 were built (not by Gaudi). When they didn't sell, Gaudi bought one in 1906 and lived there with his Dad.
Now it's a municipal park and a neat place to wander around.
one of the walkways.

Gaudi seemed to design this park to fit in with nature pretty well as opposed to the flamboyance of a lot of his other places.

Being up on a hill, the park has great views of Barcelona and the bay.

Gaudí's house, "la Torre Rosa," is now a museum and contains furniture that he designed. Angie toured the house, too, while I rested my weary feet again.

The terrace was a great place to sit and watch people and look out over the city. We even bought some olives from a vender near there. Angie and i love olives. I don't know what they filled them with, be neither of us could eat them! I had even put my bottle of water on the table we were sitting at and they made me remove it from the table since I hadn't bought it from there.



Another view of the city from the park with the 2 Hansel and Gretel looking buildings near the main entrance of the park. I believe the one on the left is where the park care taker lives.

This is considered the main entrance of the park, although it was where we exited. Not sure how we ended up entering up above.
The idea of this being the grounds for a subdivision sounds great to me! I wouldn't mind living on grounds like this.

We headed down a street from the park and came upon another museum.

I forget what this place is called, but there was a lot of strange sculptures on the grounds. (Joan Miro museum?)


We checked on touring the inside, but didn't have enough time to make it worthwhile.
So we wandered around the free exhibits along the lawn and looked out over the city before heading to a subway station and going downhill underground. That was a rather interesting ride.
heading into the well done subway system

Then we caught more public transportation and headed back to our hotel. Got back about 9:30pm---totally exhausted again. Dinner ended up being peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our room and later we went down to the lobby to use the free internet to catch up on our emails.
One day is definitely not enough time in Barcelona!!! I hope to get back there some day!
Click here for our next stop---PARIS !