"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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Amsterdam: Waterways & Bicycles

Amsterdam waterways

When on the Avalon Waterways cruise on the Rhine, the trip included a canal cruise in Amsterdam. This will be a photo post of what we saw.

Notice all the bicycles in the bike parking garage

Amsterdam probably has more bicycles per capita than any other city. They are everywhere!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Brussels: Better than Brussel Sprouts

Close-up on wall of Grand Place in Brussels
Before my cruise from Barcelona to Dover, I angsted over whether I preferred to go to Bruges, Ghent or Brussels on the day we docked in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Each place had its own charm. Bruges has the waterways and cute shops and is so convincingly medieval, even though it is said most of it was bombed during the war and rebuilt. I was told that Ghent is a bit more authentic and a real town, not a tourist trap. And finally Brussels .... a few people tried to discourage me from going to Brussels. But I think Brussels must be a lot like Brussel sprouts, either you love them or you hate them. I happen to love them, so maybe that is why I loved Brussels so much. (Just kidding.) 

Grand Place

In my mind, what's not to love? Okay, so it is a bit dirty but what super congested city is not. There is a ton of construction going on now and supposedly many pickpockets. I didn't see any or hear any horror stories from our bus tour group. But the buildings are awe-inspiring and being the seat of the European Union, it is just so darn interesting. Every other block has some embassy or other, and there must be over a hundred museums. 

Mannequin Pis, Brussels

We did a walking tour and honestly, we didn't walk far. It just took forever because of the crowds. It was a Saturday so we did not have the added traffic from the business people. There were a lot of tourists from the UK though, so since I was only there the one day, I am not sure if the tourist sites are more or less crowded during the week. When you come upon Mannequin Pis and see this little boy statue who is famous for peeing and has over 300 costumes in a museum, or round the corner and see for the first time the Grand Place, the central square of Brussels, with all its medieval buildings still in operation, you understand why it is so crowded. It is just that great ... one of the most beautiful sites on earth, truly. To make it even more special, there was a wedding going on, and the limousine waiting for the lucky couple was an old convertible Jaguar. Ou la la.

I loved Brussels. I loved the chocolates, the fun-loving people, the restaurant where we ate ... I mean, when is a mass-produced meal for cruise ship tours good? Normally if the meal is edible, I am happy. We had chicken, but it was delightful. I loved the old streets and the city museum I visited. The only thing I didn't like is we had to leave. I wanted to stay longer.

Little boy scooting along with his brother and dad

First mall in the world with lots of chocolate shops

On the tour bus back, I chatted with a lovely couple who sat behind me. I explained to them that I was torn on which tour to take, but I was happy with my choice. They said that they had encountered the same dilemma the year before and and chosen Bruges. Therefore, they opted for Brussels this time around. She turned to me with a big smile and said, "I never expected to come back so soon, but here we are just one year later." She gave me hope that I would go back, but truth be told, I would probably opt to go to Brussels again. I just loved it that much.

Lovely couple from the tour

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Faces in the Stone: Santiago de Compostela

Stone face in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Continuing in a gargoyle frame of mind - on my cruise from Barcelona to Dover, I scouted out architecture with faces in stone in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was started in 1077 and has been added on since then up until the 18th century. It is a treasure trove of medieval artifacts and architecture, including gargoyles. But there are also a ton of stone faces that are absolutely fascinating. I took a bit of time to locate as many of the different faces as I could. Many are from medieval times. 

More stone faces in Santiago de Compostela, Spain Cathedral grounds

St. James the Elder, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
Virgin Mary on one side of statue
Virgin Mary on Cathedral wall, Santiago de Compostela
Controversial information can be found on Santiago de Compostela here

Santiago de Compostela is located in a beautiful, green part of Spain so unlike Madrid or Sevilla. The people of this area, Galicia, are said to have Celtic roots like the Irish. I can not wait for my return to this wonderful area of Spain. We reached it on the cruise from Barcelona to Dover at the port of Vigo. It is the third most important pilgrimage site in the world. I strongly recommend a trip there. It does not disappoint.