"Gargoyles & Graffiti"chronicles architectural elements that I find interesting or unique in my travels. Gargoyles are my passion, but today graffiti (which I hate but am learning to love as it is everywhere) is as much a part of architecture as the gargoyles and decorative railings that thrill me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Amalfi Cathedral Wall Paintings

St. Andrews Cathedral at Amalfi, Italy
One of my favorite spots on my recent cruise was the town of Amalfi, Italy. I did a ship tour that went to Sorrento, then Salerno where we boarded a boat to Amalfi and back. It was the first time I got to see the Amalfi Coast from the water. I do have to say that the view is more impressive from the road, but it was still amazingly beautiful. The sun warmed us as we made our way out of Salerno, passing Vietri sul Mare and the hotel Moises and I stayed at in 2003. Nice memories, but the most impressive memory from the tour was the town of Amalfi.

The Cathedral at Amalfi is a combination of the old Cathedral and the newer one shown here. 
Bell tower at St. Andrew's Cathedral 

I paid the extra fee, maybe 6 euros, to visit the ruins of the old Cathedral. The wall paintings are exquisite. 

Wall painting Amalfi Cathedral

The wall paintings are from the 9th or 12th century. I have not been able to confirm which they are. But I noticed something interesting. The one above has the face showing, but most of them had the faces cut out. I would love to know why. If any reader has any information on this, please let me know.

Typical wall painting with face cut out at Amalfi Cathedral

Two faces cut out and one showing
The day had gotten very hot and there were throngs of people milling around the small town, but the Old Cathedral was quiet with very few people and unbelievably cool. There was areas I would have loved to photograph, but by then I was out of battery on my camera and my phone. Boo hoo.

More information on this Cathedral can be found on Wikipedia here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gargoyle-Inspired MNAC: Griffins and Murals

MNAC Griffins from end of 13th century Catalonia

The MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) is chock full of gargoyle-inspired art, accessories, ceiling panels and statues. I especially loved the Gothic section. It took me one day just to view it. There was so much more to see and I really wanted to go back the next day and see the rest, but I misplaced my ticket that allowed me to come back for a second day. I would have had to pay again, so instead, I went on tours to other places while in Barcelona.

More 13th century Catalonia coffers
Close-up of a Griffin 13th century Catalonia

I especially enjoyed a series of mural called The Conquest of Majorca. It gives us a bird's eye view of what life was like back in this time. From MNAC website - 

The mural paintings of the Conquest of Majorca come from the former ancestral home of the Caldes family in Carrer Montcada in Barcelona, a building later known as Palau Aguilar. Discovered and removed in 1961, these paintings are one of the most important examples of early or Linear Gothic Catalan painting. This magnificent example of painting on historical subject matter narrates the conquest of the island of Majorca by James I the Conqueror in 1229.

MNAC mural Conquest of Majorca from Barcelona

MNAC Mural Conquest of Majorca from Barcelona
Fascinating stuff and so gargoyle-inspired. I do so love the Gothic much more than the Romanesque.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gondolas, Kids and a Barking Dog

Gondola service at Venice
On my walk around Venice, I came across the Gondola Stand shown above. I walked out on the pier and admired the three guys preparing their gondolas for the day. They were all dressed so nicely and were briskly shining their boats, and in a split second, one of them fell in the water. In Spanish, I yelled out as I saw him pull his drenched phone from his pocket - "apaga el telefono" or turn off the phone. I had just read about how to save a cell phone that had gotten wet on the internet and that is the first step. Normally people in Venice can understand Spanish as their dialect of Italian is so close to Spanish, but I assume he didn't understand. Granted he was really upset for falling in. His friends were laughing and the water is questionable. One could get a horrible eye infection minimum from the water. He made a rude gesture to me and basically told me to you know what. I really was only trying to help, so that is why I don't have any photo of the gondoliers. At that point, I was afraid to take their photo.

School children crossing a bridge at Venice

I kept walking across the bridge and admired a group of school children. They were like any group of school children, running and loud, but they all stopped to admire the view from the bridge.

Venice school children admiring the view
After we crossed the bridge, I came across the funniest little dog. He barked at each and every person that came by. I wondered how many years he had been doing that, as it appeared that he belonged to the owner of the little stand near by.

Barking dog at Venice

Monday, May 13, 2013

People Watching at the MNAC Barcelona

MNAC Barcelona
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya is a wonderful museum at Barcelona. The treasures include many findings from archaeological sites all over Catalunya and beyond. I finally made it there after three failed attempts. Before entering the museum though, what interested me was the people outside. 

Outside tower MNAC Barcelona
The air was cool and crisp, the sun hot and the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue. I took about fifteen minutes to snap some shots outside before going in. 

Lovely couple outside MNAC studying a map
First I stumbled upon this lovely couple so engrossed in their map.

Couple outside the MNAC

From the looks of it, the gentleman was sure of where to go. From her face, not so much so.

Youth in front of the MNAC fountain
A few minutes later, this young woman stood in front of the MNAC fountain and was telling her friend something. Next thing I know she struck a pose and I got a great photo.

Youth striking a pose in front of MNAC
For more information on this great museum, click here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Walk Around Venice Part 2

DHL Venice
One of the most fascinating things about Venice is that everything that is normally done by truck almost everywhere else in the world is done by water. Above is DHL's solution to Venice waterways. 

Venice Bridge
There are also an enormous amount of bridges. Above is a photo of the large bridge that connects Piazzale Roma to the area by the Santa Lucia train station. This area is definitely worth a walk around. A hotel I once stayed out is across the water from here, the Hotel Carlton Grand Canal. 

Hotel Carlton Grand Canal

There is also an amazing Church right by the train station. I am so sorry I didn't go inside. It is the only all marble facade Church in Venice, and the interior photos I've seen now that I am back look incredible. It is the Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth. 

Detail of the Santa Maria di Nazareth Church at Venice
The entire facade is marble and very intricate. Gargoyles would love living here! More information on this beautiful Church can be found on wikipedia here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Walk Around Venice Part 1

From my walk around Venice

Probably I could have taken 1000 photos in one morning walking around Venice. There is just that much to see. Venice is so busy and frenetic. Even early in the morning, there were so many people out and about. In two hours, I saw a Church with a Priest standing out front, a fake beggar (I swear the guy had legs that looked in great shape, yet he was walking around with a shawl over his head and all bent over with a cane) and all kinds of transporation vehicles on the city of water. 

Note the beggar in the background

Musicians playing. Garbage heaping.

Musicans playing

Garbage day at Venice
Some graffiti, but compared to most places we visited, it was very limited.

Graffiti at Venice

Friday, May 10, 2013

Venice: Italy's Charmer

Venice waterways

Venice never changes. With the insane amount of people and activity and the fact that most places must be reached by boat or bridges, it would seem that Venice would be a frustrating place. The first time I went, I felt overwhelmed by its insanity. Who builds a city on water? But this time, my second visit to Venice, I appreciated it so much more. Definitely a gargoyle-inspired city and also a working city.

Arriving at Piazalle Roma by the bus station
I got off the ship at 8am, which gave me plenty of time to get in to Venice and walk around a bit before having to go to the airport. I walked to Piazzale Roma, which I don't recommend. The People Mover would have been a better option, but I was in a hurry and there was a big crowd heading that way as we exited the ship. If you take the People Mover, you end up right by where you need to be to drop off luggage at $7 euros a bag. There is a green awning right next door to the luggage place. If you don't know where it is, the local people can't help you. They have no idea, but a tourist happened to overhear me asking at the bus station and she got her husband to point out the place. 

Early in the morning, the line had about ten people waiting. When I came back around 11am to pick up my luggage, there were probably over 100 people waiting to store luggage, so the place gets crazy.

Venice by Piazzale Roma

I didn't venture too far from the Piazzale Roma, just took in some small canals and walked around by the train station. Having been to Venice before, I had done the major squares and even though it would have been great to see San Marco again, I knew I would get lost and not find my way back. Just venturing out a bit was really quite fun. I was a bit tired from the cruise, so instead of walking the two hours, I found a place to sit down and have breakfast and people watch. 

In true Venice style, a group of four musicians came by and played for us. It was amazing. For a few euros tip, we enjoyed some wonderful music. 

Musicians by Hotel Papodopoli

I also discovered a hotel that looks really great. It is walkable from the bus that comes from the Venice airport, which by the way was $6 euros and really easy to use and a nice ride. The other option is to arrive by train. The hotel is far enough in to walk everywhere, yet close enough to bus and train options that you don't need to take a private water taxi to your hotel, which will set you back anywhere from $80 to $100 euros. 

Hotel Papodopoli at Venice
Information on this hotel can be found here

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rome Cabs: Five Stars Once Again

Photo courtesy of Rome Cabs
I realized after I booked my cruise that I would be traveling from the Rome Airport to Civitavecchia on the exact same date one year later. Rome Cabs provided such an awesome service, of course I booked with them again. Was I ever surprised and pleased that the same driver, Irene, was waiting for me with a sign with my name on it after my long flight. I couldn't have been happier to see her. She now speaks more English and between her Italian and English and my Spanish and English, we had a nice conversation on our way to the port. She is a lovely young woman, a transplant from Poland. She could not be nicer and more service-oriented.

I believe that attitude starts at the top and the owner of Rome Cabs, Stefano Costantini is amazing. He has communicated with me many times directly and I have only taken two transfers with them. The service they provide is five star. Between their detailed instructions on their website and the video that shows you where to meet your driver when you arrive, and the follow up, I know it will be a smooth ride in every way. Having traveled in to Fiumicino Airport two other times, I know what can go wrong. Not being able to communicate with the Italian taxi drivers and ending up having to take two vehicles just to fit luggage to not finding our driver at all on another trip when I booked with somebody else, I used to dread arriving at Rome Airport. Not anymore. If you have a flight in to Rome or need to go to the port, use Rome Cabs. They also do tours. To learn more about Rome Cabs, click here.