A Travellerspoint blog

Jewel of Andalusia

Travel Musing....

So it’s our second day at Granada, which is a little town in the south of Spain. We spent the first day seeing the famous tourist attraction – Alhambra Palace (which was the reason to travel to Granda - please read my blog entry Alhambra Palace for more details). But for second day we had no plans and had the whole day to ourselves – so we did what we usually do, take the map and walk around the little town to see places we think are interesting.

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Granada town view

It was November morning, so it was cold and the clouds in the sky were making it difficult for the Sun to come out. But still it was a good day to explore the town and if you had a simple jacket on, you could walk around. We studied the map and formed a vague plan on which direction to go. Then started walking through the narrow alleys, small cafes, open squares. It started getting uphill and we were walking through little homes washed in white, through a school, some buildings and the roads were slightly deserted. I was getting worried I like to walk in places where there are people around but I guess we were walking in some residential area and so it was a little quite. So we kept going.

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Narrow alleys

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Homes washed in white

But you never really know where you are going in a new place though you have the map and have read all reviews about the place on the internet. At crosswords, you think you are using logic, road map, road signs and general geographic observation, to decide, where to go - RIGHT or LEFT ?? But you use your gut to take you there where you have never been.

After nearly 2 hours of aimless walking, I was getting hungry and little restless. But you just listen to yourself and go in the direction your soul tells you to walk. More often than not your soul will guide you, it will take you where you are meant to go and the best part you don’t know what to except. It then arrives the special moment – we reached a high point from where we saw magnificent views of the Alhambra Palace standing tall, the jewel of Andalusia. The sun had fully come out with slight breeze and there was no one around, we stopped right there to adore the view of the jewel.

But if you ask me to take you there, I might not know the directions to that place ;). It’s when you just let yourself go and follow your gut, do you get views worthwhile!!

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Magnificent views of Alhambra Palace from across the hill

Quick review:
We walked around the Albaicin somewhere between Calle Elvira, Plaza Nueva and Sacromonte. It's an easy walk and along the way there are some cafés & restaurants to sit back and enjoy the views.

Posted by deeptisubraya 05:21 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes attractions thoughts Comments (0)

Invalid ticket at Alhambra

Travel musing

We were in Granada visiting the most popular tourist attraction – Alhambra Palace. Visitors have to book tickets in advance as one may not get tickets if you just decided to walk in. This is because only a limited number of visitors are allowed in a day and they are distributed through each hour, so that the Palace can be preserved and doesn’t get too crowded at any point in time. I appreciate the idea, I think this approach should be adopted at many historical sites which tend to wear & tear due to so many tourist visiting them.

Going back to Alhambra – there are many tickets you could buy - the day tour, the evening tour, the walk through the gardens, the general life tour etc. We chose two tours – a visit to the Nasrid Palaces, scheduled at 9:00 AM and then a visit to the Palacio de Generalife (which is another section of this palace), scheduled at 2: 00 PM.

I was enthralled with the Nasrid Palace and its beautiful Islamic architecture. The views it had to offer of the town, the beautiful gardens that open to fountains, the intricate work on the doors, ceiling and pillars made it impressive place. Huddled around the magnificent gardens the palace was almost like a paradise and I was lost in it. There was couple for their wedding portrait and I thought of it as incredibly romantic! Alhambra sure is one of the most romantic background for a photo shoot. :)

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We sang, danced around the Palace Halls, Towers, Alcazza gardens, posed for photo at every step, strolled through the souvenir shop but couldn’t decide what to take home and stopped for long lazy lunch. After all this we took the long walk from Alhambra Nasrid Palace to Palacio de Generalife (though its not far, we were walking slowly enjoying every view the place had to offer).

At the entrance of Palacio de Generalife, was a doorman, who was a old gentlemen dressed in uniform of sorts. I handed my admission ticket but he refused our entry. I was stunned! How could he refuse our entry and so I enquired why he did not allow us when we had a valid ticket. He pointed out the time on the ticket, which showed 2:00PM and we were late. It was almost 4:00PM!! The doorman asked us to move back as there were other visitors.

In all the wandering, singing, dancing walking lazily through the first part of Alhambra Palace we had lost a track of time. My husband was disappointed and started the ‘I told you so…’ conversation. We had such a wonderful time the whole morning it couldn’t possibly end feeling sad.

I was all flustered and angry, but I decided to try again and walked up to the doorman and spoke to him to explain that we were around the palace itself but we lost track of time. He did not understand what I was saying. I presume he didn’t follow English and spoke only Spanish.

Now I tried to keep my cool and I tried again, I used sign language to explain that we got late and we have come from very far to see this place. It didn’t seem to work. He could not follow me. He gestured me to move back.

I tried again, this time I simply smiled and he ushered us in. I then realized - Smile, the universal sign opens many doors, many hearts :). It makes up for language barriers, distance barriers and maybe even can amend some rules.

Needless to say I enjoyed touring the Palacio de Generalife too. We sure would have missed something if we had not pushed our entry through the doorman. And I now remember to smile before I give up on anything or anyone, it might just open the door I have been waiting for.

Have you ever pushed your way through a doorman? How did you get past? Did you ever lose track of time because the place was so beautiful - when and where?? Would love to hear your experiences. :)

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:47 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings people trees attractions thoughts stories Comments (0)

Alhambra Palace, Granada

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In a quiet little town in south of Spain, is the Alhambra palace (which literally means "the red one"). One of the most iconic tourist attraction and perhaps the only palace with Islamic architecture in Spain. The palace and fortress was built by the Nasrid dynasty, the Muslim Rulers in Spain. They ruled from 12th century and these palaces served as royal residence until 14th century when Spainsh Rulers took over. In the 15th century the Palace of Charles was built within the Alhambra fortress. It was restored in the 19th century and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Supposedly the theme followed by various rulers in building different parts of the Alhambra palaces and its fortress was 'paradise on earth', which can be experienced even after so many years of it being built. Or was it the touch of autumn which transformed this place into a paradise. I don't know which one it is, but definitely it is one of those few places in the world, you visit it once (even if its just for a day) and it stays with you for a lifetime. And again here I must add my photos don't do justice.

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Nasrid Palace

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Beautiful archways looking into the town

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Palacio de Comares

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Military District

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Star shaped marble ceiling with exquisite Islamic Art

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Intricately designed column arcades

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Alhambra sits on a high point and offers beautiful views over the whole Granada town

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View of the Alhambra Woods

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Portico and pool in the Alhambra complex

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Courtyard of Palace of Charles V, built 15th Century within the Nasrid fortifications.

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Fountains and flowing water are a common feature around the Alhambra
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Palacio de Generalife

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Views of Nasird Palace from Palacio de General life

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Walking back from Alhambra palace to the town

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View of Alhambra Palace from the foothills

Quick review:

Admission Tickets:
Would strongly recommend to book online tickets (which are hard to get otherwise) in advance and then plan your stay/trip to Granda accordingly. Only a allotted number of tickets are allowed entry to the palace each hour. This is to limit the no of visitors in each hour hence its difficult sometimes to get the day and time that you are looking for.
There are 4 main parts to the Alhambra - Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Partal and Generalife. And there are numerous tours - the nasrid palace day tour, the general life tour, the garden tour, the night tour. Plan how many hours you would like to spend and how much of the palace you want to cover. Its a huge palace and can easily take more than 5-6 hours to visit this place. And stick to the timing issued on the ticket, as they are pretty strict about it. We took the Blue circular pass - Pass to visit the Alhambra and the Generalife in two consecutive days (a general visit and a Evening visit).

How to get to Granada and Stay in Granda:
We took a bus from Madrid in the afternoon and by late evening were at Granada. We checked into our hostel and stayed for two nights.
The bus ride was comfortable and economical with beautiful vistas of the countryside of Spain. The hostel was one of the most beautiful hostel I have stayed in and staff/people were friendly and gave tips, maps etc to navigate around Granda.

How to reach Alhambra:
There are buses from various points in the city taking you to the Alhambra palace which is very conveinent. Or you can walk through the city towards the Alhambra palace. The hostels/hotel should be able to give you route. We took the bus in the morning as we had entry at 9:00AM into the palace and did not want to be late. And while returning from the Palace we walked downhill into the town. It was easy hike down after a lovely day of sightseeing at Alhambra.

Posted by deeptisubraya 01:10 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings attractions review ancient_sites Comments (0)

An encounter with Pablo Picasso’s work

Travel musing..

I was looking forward to exploring Madrid, I had done some research on the place and was thinking of walking in and around the city – parks, plazas etc, but then we decided to visit the modern art museum. Spending time at a museum (boring idea??!!) is not exactly how I like to explore and know a city but I thought we could spare an hour or two.

So we head to Renia Sofia Museum, the largest contemporary museum in the world. While checking out the museum map/literature I had heard some of the painter/artist’s names the museum was exhibiting and one name that caught my attention was Picasso. Sure I have heard of Picasso (who hasn't !?!) but I had never seen any of his works or knew why he was considered a genius. You can call me the ignorant kind when it comes to art. So I did not know what to expect.

As we started walking through Picasso's works I was plain staring at some of the paintings because I could fathom them – the dialogue in my head was something like this - that line, is that a nose? ; oh my god are those supposed to be eyes; is that someone’s face... so on and so forth. I could not follow any of the sketches and was forming opinions and being judgmental about every painting I saw as if I were an art expert. (things we do when we are ignorant... common on we all do it!!!).

Then we walked into this big room and a huge painting, 11 by 26 feet, was hung on the wall and it was the only painting in that room. It was a black and white painting but it was so dramatic, powerful and stirred up a lot emotions. I went forward read the note below the painting – ‘Guernica’ – it was a Picasso’s masterpiece.

There are many masterpieces in the Reina Sofia museum but this one stands out and speaks so loud. I stood there for good 10 minutes or so, to see the many elements/emotions the painting had. Then took a huge sigh and realized why Picasso was considered a genius. Once you see the painting its almost difficult to ever forget the image.

The Spanish government appointed Picasso to paint a large mural to display at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. It was created as reaction to the aerial bombings on the town Guernica in Spain by German and Italian forces during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Guernica shows the cataclysms of war as well as the anguish and destruction it inflicts upon people, especially innocent civilians.

After it was completed, Guernica was exhibited worldwide during a limited tour, and it received wide acclaim and became famous. The exposure brought the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention. It was hung in a New York's Museum of Modern Art until 1981, fulfilling Picasso's wish that it should not be shown in Spain until democracy was established. It was then exhibited at the Prado Museum (in Spain) , and moved to Renia Sofia Museum (its current house) in 1992. This painting has attained an enormous reputation over the years, and has become a reminder of the devastation of war, becoming an anti-war symbol and an embodiment of peace.

My encounter with Pablo Picasso’s work ranged from being ignorant to being judgmental about his style to being totally taken back and realizing why he is called a genius – all these range of emotions in less than two hours.
I felt this compulsion to write about this experience because in some way it was a revelation. When you step out of your usual, judgmental mind set and are willing to see/learn things then you realize, how little you know or limited your thinking is. And isn’t it why we travel - to open up to new perspectives, to learn a few things more and to see the works of geniuses. So when in Madrid do visit Renia Sofia Museum and see this masterpiece.

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Photography is prohibited inside the museum, so the picture is from Wikipedia
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PicassoGuernica.jpg#mediaviewer/File:PicassoGuernica.jpg

Posted by deeptisubraya 22:38 Archived in Spain Tagged art attractions philosophy review thoughts stories Comments (0)

3 things to do in Madrid

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We took an early morning train (Renfe) from Barcelona to Madrid. We then checked into our hostel, which was centrally located and walking distance to the attractions we wanted to visit. We had a day and half to see things in Madrid and decided to check out:

Museums
Now I am not an art expert or art lover but we had no fixed plan on sightseeing so we decided to check out the art museums. I honestly did not know what to expect and how much time to spend at the museums. Out of the many museums that are there, we visited two of them - Renia Sofia (Modern Art museum) and Prado museum (Art museum).

Reina Sofia Museum
It is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world and has collections of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro among many other Spanish modern artists. But the highlight of this museum is the 20th century's most famous painting, Picasso's "Guernica". It definitely leaves an impression on you and is a must see when in Madrid. Besides modern art we also saw some temporary exhibitions. The collections were wide ranging with variety of styles that were interesting and thought provoking while some were just abstract.

Prado Museum
Established in 1819 this is an Art Museum which has the world's richest and comprehensive collection of Spanish, Italian, Flemish and masterpieces from other schools of European paintings. We bought the audio tour, which took us through important paintings and masterpiece and it was engaging experience.

Although I thought trip to art museums maybe boring as I don’t understand much of classic or modern art but by the end of the museum tour I was quite, as in totally silent maybe in contemplation mode because my mind was reeling with impressions, colours and images. We spent almost the whole day between the two museums. And I would definitely recommend a trip to art museum when in Europe because its an experience and brings a whole new perspective about how you see things. There is no photography allowed inside the museum.

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Renia Sofia Museum in Spain

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Temporary exhibition in Renia Sofia Museum... I totally got this!! Every woman needs shoes in all possible colors ;)
Photography is not allowed inside but could not resist clicking this one!

Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is Madrid's main plaza, a huge enclosed square that over centuries was used for bull fighting, executions, political events then as a market place etc. There are nine passageways connecting to the square. The plaza is surrounded by restaurants and souvenir shops. When we went to visit, some work was going on so we did not see much happening here, although it’s a nice place to sit and enjoy evening coffee & famous Spanish Churros :).

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Plaza Mayor

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One of the passageways connecting to the square

Royal Palace
We went in early next morning and found long lines and lots of tourists waiting to visit the Royal Palace. It is not used as a royal residence any more, but some official functions do take place here. On most days it is open to public and one can see the throne room, the king's private apartments, the impressive dining room, the royal chapel, the armoury and the royal pharmacy. The furnished rooms of the Palace are quite beautiful with exquisite furniture and decor befitting a royal residence. There is no photography allowed inside.

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Royal Palace of Madrid

Review:
Attractions: We did not estimate that we would spend almost a whole day visiting the museums (although it was an interesting experience) and since we did not have much time left we could not cover the other attractions in Madrid - parks, other plazas, flamenco dance show or bull fighting.

Traveling to Madrid: Madrid being the capital of Spain is very well connected by trains and buses to/from all other parts of Spain. The train from Barcelona to Madrid was just a three hour journey and from Madrid we head to Granada.

Stay in Madrid: There are lots of options available, we chose to stay in centrally located hostel close to the Plaza Mayor. It was clean and comfortable, well connected, we had many options of dining around the place.

Admission tickets: Museums had entrance tickets (on certain days and times there is free entrance) and the audio tour is additional but worth it. Royal Palace also has entrance tickets.

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:06 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings attractions review Comments (2)

There is lots to do in Barcelona..

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We had three days in Barcelona and it just flew by, because there is so much to see and do, besides the 'football'. Here are a few things we did :
Barcelona is a City by Gaudi! Me and my husband are fans of Gaudi's work so most of the time went in visiting and admiring his masterpieces. The first attraction we saw in Barcelona was – Temple of Sagrada Familia. It is being built since 1882 and expected to complete in 2026. It is UNESCO world heritage site. (please read my blog entry http://deeptisubraya.travellerspoint.com/62/ to know more)

Plan a few hours for a visit to the park Guel. When I went in I thought its just a park, we will quickly walk around and move on. But I spent a whole morning there. It’s one of most beautifully designed parks I have been to. (please read my blog entry – park Guel for some photos -http://deeptisubraya.travellerspoint.com/97/ )

Any direction you walk in Barcelona you are bound to find a Gaudi building :), and we explored two of Gaudi’s building – Casa Mila, also known as a La Pedrera. It’s appearance from outside with a wave like structure and a rooftop which takes you to space leaves an impression on you (please read my blog entry – http://deeptisubraya.travellerspoint.com/63/ to know more). Another building we visited was the Casa Batilo, where Gaudi's creative use of space, light and structure leaves you reeling. (please read my blog entry –http://deeptisubraya.travellerspoint.com/96/ to know more)

If after all of this you still have energy ;) there is so much the city has to offer. We decided to take a ride on the Hop on – Hop off bus, Barcelona is a big city and it’s best way to get a flavor of all the districts around. So many interesting sites :

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Street Art, Muse, Inspiration - Barcelona has such things all over the city!!

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The National Palace of Montjuic

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Different Architecture styles all infused in one city..

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Agbar tower and Football Stadium - we did not have enough time to visit :(

But you can only feel a place when walk through its streets. And walking through La rambla street is an experience for the five senses. Also walk through the Bari Gothic area which is an old town with medieval buildings. (please read my blog entry – http://deeptisubraya.travellerspoint.com/101/ to know more).

Quick review:
Attractions: There are so many more attractions to visit and see in Barcelona like the Camp Nou Stadium, Flamenco dance shows, La Boqueria (famous fruit, vegetable and meat market), Tibidabo amusement park and beaches which we could not cover because of time constraint.

Caution: Like most touristic cities in the world, watch out for your camera/wallet and personal belonging.

Posted by deeptisubraya 23:16 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes churches art buildings people night attractions Comments (0)

La rambla - it's all happening here

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One of the best things in Barcelona is its – La rambla street. The long street stretching over 1.2 kms always has something happening at any time of day and night. We were staying close La Rambla so I have been here at 6:10 AM (on way to catch a flight), 10:20 AM (crossing over to catch the tour bus), 8:40 PM (strolling along the street), 2:05 AM (lost in the street) and it was always filled with something or someone – its filled with :

Street statues – Dressed in practically anything & everything - historical figures, mythical characters, movie characters, cartoon characters. They are all there. They even let you take picture for as little as one euro but the problem is there are so many you would like to pose with.

Street painters – Artist’s put their paintings in line along the street. They are put for sale but there are so many and so good that it takes time to just look through them. The artists have an empty canvas to sketch up any tourist wanting their portrait. It’s amazing to see how fast they sketch. Really talented artists!

Street act – There was this guy who collected trash coco-cola & pepsi cans from restaurants and other places. He had two or three bags full of them. He turned the can into pretty looking ash tray. He was making them in front of us and made each one in less than five minutes. There were loads of people flocking to see how he turned trashed can into ash tray and were buying it for 5 Euros. Talk about profitable recycle & reuse!

Street food – Now an absolute must do when in Spain is to try tapas at local joints, so every few blocks we stopped and found some amazing tapas.

Street band – Group of young men put up such a well orchestrated music piece then followed it with amazing dance routine right there on the street. It was fantastic and ought to be a part of some TV show or something. But for as little as one euro you get amazing live performances.

Street shopping - No sightseeing is complete without some shopping so there I was shopping at the stalls and bargaining & trying to save a few euros as I picked some beautiful souvenirs and memories.

It's a carnival on that street with so many people, tourists, artists, performers etc and there is so much energy out there. Some experiences are so awesome yet kind of difficult to describe.. Walking through La Rambla is something like that!! :) :)

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Welcome to La rambla

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Street statues night or day always there!!!!

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Street performance and shopping ... anytime!!!!!

Another street you must experience walking through is the Bari Gothic area. It is an old town of Barcelona, with narrow alleys, tall medieval kind of buildings and cathedrals. The structures are huge and gothic. Outside the cathedral there is huge open space, there was orchestra playing and locals began to dance a routine after a while they invited tourists to join too. I don’t know what ritual or festival it was but enjoyed an evening of a music and dance. It was late in the evening and by then my camera battery was out so I have no photos.

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Street leading to Bari Gothic

Quick review:
• This street is always crowded, watch your step, and be prepared it can get overwhelming.
• Plan some leisurely time, you can't rush through a crowded place like La ramble else you may not really enjoy it.
• Be cautious about your belonging - wallets, cameras, bags, phones, it can be easily stolen.
• Be sure to bargain your way on all the purchases.

Posted by deeptisubraya 06:40 Archived in Spain Tagged people night attractions review Comments (2)

Casa Batllo – Demystifying Gaudi!

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Now there are many reasons why one could visit Barcelona – football, beaches, nightlife but if you get stuck with an Architect (like I was!! ;)) then be prepared for days of mind blowing experience as you walk in and out different buildings of Gaudi in Barcelona.

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If you are sightseeing Gaudi's building from the rooftop of an open air tourist bus, my guess is, by the time you turn to see the Casa Batllo building you would have missed it. Because its among so many residential houses on that street its hard to see what the fuss is all about (Its just one more of Gaudi's building!!??!!)

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It takes time and little bit of understanding to appreciate Gaudi's works, a glance is just not enough!

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One of the many building that has Gaudi’s influence, is the Casa Batllo in Passeig de Gracia. It was built in 1877 but in 1904 Gaudi reformed the building for a wealthy family and it was used as a private residence. It has been recognized as a UNSECO world heritage site since 2005.

The building is now a popular tourist attraction for Gaudi fans and architectural students. Starting right from the entrance, balcony, staircase, ceiling, doors every detail has been thought out and designed by Gaudi to take you into a world of underwater or perhaps a world of myriad colours and shapes inspired by nature.

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Like the chimney inspired by a mushroom

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Like the top façade which looks like scales of colorful fish

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Like the railing of the staircase which resembles a backbone of a vertebrate

The list goes on and what’s beautiful is the combination of unique design with functionality.
Some more unique features are

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The typhoon effect on the ceiling

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The parabolic arches of the attic

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And yet again by the time you reach the rooftop you are left reeling!

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As you walk out, you are sure to stand back and stare at the building which when built was known as 'House of Bones' by the local residents.

The building which was built to serve as a residential home, is over 100 years old and yet even today people flock to see it and it manages to capture visitors attention and makes you think about Gaudi's insight!

Quick review:
• There are long lines at the entrance of architectural students and Gaudi fans.
• There is an entrance ticket and the audio tour is additional (would definitely recommend the audio tour, it gives the story behind every aspect of the building).
• If your using the hop on hop off bus - With the city map there are various discount coupons on admission tickets, do not forget to use them!
• It took us over 2 hours to see the entire building, so again plan well and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:27 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings attractions Comments (0)

Park Guell - Out of a fairy tale book!

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Park Guel was initially planned and commissioned to be built as garden community with luxury homes away from industrial city but was an unsuccessful venture way back in early 1900s. It was later taken over by city's municipal and converted into a public park in 1926. And it was declared a UNSECO world heritage site in 1984.

We took the hop on hop off touristic bus in Barcelona to cover the not so nearby places. And one of the must see attractions on the route is the Park Guell. I had so many other places marked out on the touristic map that I planned not to spend more than an hour at this park. But we spent a whole morning in this place.. simply wandering around. There are some beautiful views and artistic structures around filling your mind and camera's memory card ;) !!

Starting from the main entrance where there is stairs to hypostyle halls with tall columns, the pavilions, the snake like guell bench every aspect is infused so well with surrounding it does not like it has built but as if it were natural structures and a part of the landscape around.

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Main Entrance to the park

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Houses straight out of fairy tale books

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Gaudi's signature on every structure inspired from either nature or magical world!

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Long walkways along the pavilions with beautiful views of the park

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Little children on school trips... there were musicians playing and artists entertaining the crowd.. (is the heading missing or what!!?????!!)

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Antoni Gaudi residence - now used as a museum

Quick review:
- There were many tourists and residents even though it was regular working day.
- When we went in Nov 2010 all areas of the park were open and free. Now there is an entrance ticket to access all areas of the park.

Posted by deeptisubraya 01:13 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings people trees attractions Comments (0)

Casa Mila - the magical rooftop!

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One may ask what so different about the rooftop in Casa Mila. The average tourist may think it’s just another one of many Gaudi’s building in Barcelona with steep entrance ticket, priced at 20 Euros. But only if you have been there (rooftop) would you know that it’s an unusual world out there.
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Most tourists in Barcelona, Spain visit the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell to see the genius – Antoni Gaudi’s work. But Casa Mila is a building not to be missed when in Barcelona. Designed by Gaudi and also known as La Pedrera, it was built during the year 1906-1912 for a wealthy couple as their residential home. It was only later that the building became famous for its creative design and unique architecture and in 1984 was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO. The building is still in use and people live here. Part of the building (interiors and rooftop) is open to the public.

Gaudi’s signature can be seen in so many aspect of the building. The tourist brochure has a detailed literature on every aspect – exterior, facades, lofts, hallway, doors, furniture, stairway, lifts, rooms, ceiling, floors etc.

But the rooftop is a straight one-way ticket to the magic world of his creative mind and I was intrigued by it. There are various chimneys and ventilation towers designed differently as if taking shape and form of some beings and it feels like being somewhere in outer space.
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What could Gaudi have been thinking of, to design Chimneys (something that is not given much thought by anyone) in such a way. It demonstrates eye for detail, using structure to express creativity and his ability to create inspiring space (even on a rooftop).
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When you are up there you are amazed by the different possibilities. You are propelled to ask why should things be the way they are. You are inspired to create new things, to think beyond what is taught.

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On a beautiful evening in chilly November I was left speechless because it’s one rooftop with sky as the limit to your imagination!

Quick review
• There are long lines at the entrance of architectural students and Gaudi fans.
• There is an entrance ticket and the audio tour is additional (would recommend the audio tour, it gives the story behind every aspect of the building).
• If your using the hop on hop off bus - With the city map there are various discount coupons on admission tickets, do not forget to use them!

Posted by deeptisubraya 01:18 Archived in Spain Tagged art buildings attractions thoughts Comments (2)

La Sagrada Familia - Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece!

History 'Under Construction'

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If you Google for the 'new seven wonder of the world', your list will include:
Great wall of China in China, Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan, Colosseum in Italy, Chichen Izta in Mexico, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Macchu Pichu in Peru.

And if your anything like me, my guess is, that almost any one would like to visit these places. But why are these considered to be the wonders of the world. How would it be to be a part of the era when these extra-ordinary structures were being built? What would it be like to witness history 'under construction'? If you are thinking these questions then head down to Barcelona!

One such monument or legendary building which is being built and is being studied even by the current day architects is – the Temple of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. It is one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions and renowned architect Antonio Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.
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Paintings left by Gaudi on how the church should look like and present day Architects at work!


The structures that I listed above are wonders of world due to their brilliant architecture and engineering style. The world is in awe as to how these were built. Similarly, Temple Sagrada has great detail and complexity in its architecture and design. Its construction work began in 1882 and a year later Antonio Gaudi became the director, holding the post for nearly 40 years until his death in 1926. He transformed the temple with his distinctive style making it an exceptional piece of architecture. Though I am not an Architect and do not understand the architectural complexities, from a tourist point of view, Temple Sagrada is an interesting place to visit.

The easiest to appreciate and understand is the façade – external design of the project. The temple has three grand facades.
First, the Nativity Façade, the construction began in 1894 and was completed in 1930 and it was the first façade to be completed and showcases Gaudi’s direct influence. The façade faces the rising sun towards east symbolizing the birth of Christ. It is highly ornamented and decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life.

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Nativity Facade

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Intricate carvings

Second, the Passion Façade, the construction began in 1954, based on the drawings and instructions left by Gaudi for future architects. The façade faces the setting sun indicative and symbolic of the death of the Christ. In contrast to the highly decorated naturalist style of nativity façade, it is dedicated to the passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucification, hence the façade is austere, plain and simple.

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Passion Façade

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Bold carvings

Third, the Glory Façade, the construction began in only 2002. It will be largest and most striking façade and will depict the Celestial Glory of the Jesus. Aware that he would not live long enough to see this façade completed, Gaudi has left general sketches of what the façade would look like.
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Many aspect such as the interiors, altar, pillar, ceiling, windows, glass panes, stairs, towers everything has a story and makes it very unique.
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Sagrada Familia’s construction started in 1882, a 130 years ago, it has progressed very slowly and was interrupted by Spanish Civil War. It was resumed in the 1950s and construction passed the mid point only in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges still remaining. The anticipated completion date is 2026 – the centennial of Gaudi’s death.

When Gaudi died in 1926 the temple’s construction wad only 25% completed. During those days when he was asked about the extremely long construction period, he replied, ‘my client is not in a hurry. God has all the time in the world’.

It is interesting to note that the construction of Sagrada has spanned over three eras and it is not supported by any government or official church sources. Initial stages were funded by private patrons. Currently, the money from tickets purchased by tourists is used for construction. Although the temple is incomplete it is a UNSECO World Heritage Site and in Nov 2010 the church was consecrated.

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Different elements designed uniquely - Gaudi's signature

I had read about the history and structure of the building like most tourists and was aware I would be seeing the Temple during my visit to Spain but only when I stepped off the taxi and was standing right in front of the temple that I was overwhelmed and realised that, it is a truly magnificent building, marvellous creation of Gaudi and an absolute must-see when you visit Barcelona.

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Barcelona city view from rooftop of Sagrada

Quick review:
• Expect long lines at the entrance and lot of crowd (because it is the most popular touristic attraction in Barcelona!!).
• The audio tour is worth paying the additional euros (other than the entrance ticket). It gives you the story behind every detail of the temple structure.
• The roof top has amazing views of Barcelona city - don't miss that!
• The place is like a construction site with cranes, dust etc in some parts of the temple (as it is yet to be completed!!) so be prepared and wear comfortable walking shoes.
• Plan a good few hours to see this place if you want to understand and appreciate Gaudi's insight. :)

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:06 Archived in Spain Tagged churches art buildings temples attractions philosophy review Comments (0)

Backpacking in Espana!

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My first trip to Europe, we decided to go to Spain – not my choice but my husband’s, who has been to Europe before and feels that Barcelona is the best city in Europe and he wanted me to see it, rather experience it. Did I mention that he is an Architect, of course that’s why Barcelona, is his favourite city. Now it’s mine too!! :) :) This city has so many things to do, so much to see and there is vibe here that just inspires you (maybe its Gaudi’s influence that leaves an impression. To know more about the genius architect Antoni Gaudi refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud).
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By the end of my trip I was clicking walls, tiles, floors .. there's a pattern, a story, an inspiration everywhere in Gaudi's city Barcelona!!!

We planned this trip to be a backpack trip, yes, because its cheaper to travel that way! And because I had seen in so many movies where young people just pack, roam around on metros, eurorail, live in hostels and explore the alleys of European cities. I always wanted to do something like that, and did just that! But beware in films its always easy and rosy. In real life there is no room service, no bell boy to carry your luggage, no pickup & drop off to/ from airport, no Indian veg food organized by tour operator and no tour guide to tell where you should go and what you should see. Add to that the language barrier. I didn’t know even ‘Hola’ (Spanish Hello) then. Ask any Dubai kid (expat) where we are spoiled with luxury at every step this can be daunting ;) but actually in a way it was liberating to travel on our own and explore a new city :) where all we had is the research done at home and big city maps.

We went in (early) November when the fall season just sets in and it was my first experience of cool chilly winter. Coming from Dubai it is definitely something new to experience. Seeing the green leaves turn yellow/red or waiting for the sun (hiding between the clouds) to come out, just added some magical touch to European winter experience. I suddenly had a greater appreciation for the simple things in life like a chap stick or that hot cup of coffee. I hail from South India where coffee is a common household drink and I don’t like coffee but in a place where the temperatures drops to less than 10 degrees, a hot cup of coffee is the best thing you can have. :)
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Coming from tropical/desert climate the first time I saw autumn leaves.. it was magical...

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Coffee and City maps our Companions on a Cold day in a new City!

In Spain we stayed three days in Barcelona, two days in Madrid and two days in Granada. In Madrid I was left speechless at art museums which initially I thought was a boring idea. But it was first time I got to see works of genius artists like Picasso and Van Gogh (To know more refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh). While Granada transported me back in time as we walked around the old forts & palaces of Alhambra.
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Art & Museums could leave me speechless.. never thought so..

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old alleys of Granada... I wanted to stay here forever :)

We took Air France from Dubai to Paris then to Barcelona. We reached Barcelona mid morning and took the airport tram to reach the city and stayed in a hostel, which was run by a Spanish family. After refreshing and lunch, we head to most iconic attraction of Spain – the Temple of Sagrada Familia. And right from there I was on ride of awe, surprise and wonderment, and that’s how my Spain trip remains with me in my heart and memories.

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Gaudi's masterpiece - Temple of Sagrada Familia

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:18 Archived in Spain Tagged me thoughts Comments (0)

Egypt trip review

Please read the travel and tourism advise on the country you want to visit. Please research every city you plan to visit and the attractions there.

Attractions: We visited Egypt in April 2010 and took a package covering one day sightseeing in Alexandria, three days in Cairo which included city attractions and Giza pyramids, overnight train to Aswan, one day sightseeing in Aswan, two days Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor and one day sightseeing in Luxor.
Yet there were many things not covered in this package and we researched every place and asked our guide to take us to some places like Qaitbay fort in Alexandria, Memphis & Saqqara in Cairo, Feluca ride in Luxor.

Accommodation /Food: Egypt as a place is economical and we stayed in 5 star hotel in most places including the Nile cruse. The hotels are clean and comfortable however not to the standard of a 5 star. Vegetarian food was available in the hotels/nile cruise however Indian veg food was difficult to find.

Tourist traps / Shopping: Be wary of all kind of tourists trap, even though ours was a completely private booked trip with a car and guide with us at all times. It started with the the guide himself, he took us around to perfume shops, carpet factory and insisted we buy things. At every attraction, pyramids, temples, museums there are people pushing to sell you items - souvenirs, art work, postcards etc. When buying things even water - haggle on prices (though even haggling is not a straightforward deal).

General Caution: Would recommend women to dress appropriately and to travel with company. We were accompanied by guide at all times and still faced hassles at markets, attractions etc. Also be careful with your wallet/camera etc.

Tipping: It is very common and one of the most expensive items. Every person you encounter during the trip expects a tip - guide, driver, hotel staff, taxi, crew on board, beside the regular fare you pay for the services. We tipped the guide & cruise staff in USD currency, they would not take the local currency.

Season to visit: October to April is a good time to visit, Summer peaks in July-August. There is lot of walking around to do - recommend good pair of walking shoes, water and an umbrella/hat.

!! Get ready to be swamped with lots of history and be amazed ;) !!

Posted by deeptisubraya 04:10 Archived in Egypt Tagged review Comments (0)

The walls that tell an untold story

travel musings...

During my visit to Egypt I was intrigued with the temples and ancient sites than the grandeur of the great pyramids. The large walls of ancient temples tell you untold stories through its remarkably beautiful carvings of the various Gods and Goddess prevalent during the ancient Egyptian time. There are numerous stories for anyone who is patient enough to decipher from the walls (or listen to local Egyptian guide who is constantly giving away so much of history referring to the temple walls).

From Aswan to Luxor, there are numerous temple like the Kom Ombo Temple, Edfu Temple, Philae Temple, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and so many more. On the walls various things were sculpted like the rituals and festivals; stories of God & Goddess and significant symbols including measurement of days, months, seasons and medical instruments.
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Edfu Temple and Philae Temple

While walking through the many temples, I could not help but compare it to temples that I know of and have visited in South India. Some elements of the Egyptian temple were similar to that of ancient temples in India:
• Open courtyards in the front and halls leading to inner sanctum is common design feature of Egyptian and Indian temples.
• There were palanquins found in temple sites on which temple Idols were carried around, this is illustrated on the temple walls through the carvings showing rituals, similar practices are followed in Indian temples.
• Tall lean stone structures are found within the temple compound which are known as Obelisks in Egyptian temples while they are known as Stupas in Indian temples.
• Depiction of snakes (known as ‘Nagas’ in India) and lotus flowers (which is considered as an auspicious flower and used in rituals in India) around temple walls, similar carvings are found around Indian temple walls.
• ‘Horus’ (a significant God in Ancient Egypt) is represented as human with falcon head while ‘Garuda’ (a demi-God in Ancient India) is represented as human with eagle head.

While some other elements were in contrast:
• In ancient Egypt there was the concept of Sphinx (sculpted as a lion body with human face) whereas in Ancient India there was God Narashima (sculpted as a human body with lion face).
• There are various Gods with human body and face of an animal - in Egyptian Lord Sobek is Crocodile faced, Lord Horus is Falcon faced while in Ancient India Lord Ganesh is Elephant faced, Lord Hanuman is Monkey faced. Makes you think the Gods where inspired from the creatures found in the local region.
• Outside some Egyptian temple entrances there are many goats or bulls sculpted in stone lined up on either side while in some Indian temple entrances there is a single cow (known as Nandi) sculpted in stone.

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Carving on the temple walls

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Palanquin used in rituals of temple and Entrance of temple lined up with stone sculpted goats

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Inner sanctum of a temple and Obelisk within temple compound

The list is quite long about the similarities and striking contrasts. To a trained eye of an expert in Ancient Indian & Egyptian history there is definitely lots to see and study. To a tourist’s eye it’s almost impossible to capture everything (even with a camera) but it has left me convinced of culture and heritage, which at its epitome, must have been rich, vibrant and resilient. And it’s almost difficult to believe that no part of it exists today.

In the present day Egypt there is no one who follows the ancient Egyptian way of life yet it was there, it can be seen, almost felt. It did not let itself get wiped off from the sands of time. They left a mark so strong that it stood the test of time to tell of their existence. It was as if they knew they would not be around to tell and so they left so many stories for us to find.

Posted by deeptisubraya 03:44 Archived in Egypt Tagged philosophy thoughts ancient_sites ancient_traditions Comments (0)

Sightseeing in Luxor

Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple

sunny

We were docked in Luxor and went to explore the temples in the east side of the Luxor city - Karnak temple and Luxor temple.

Temple of Karnak is also known as the temple for Amon Ra. It’s a huge temple complex and has a many ruined temples, chapels, pylons, columns, obelisks and other buildings. More than thirty pharaohs have contributed to building different kind of structures. And it has been developed since the Middle Kingdom period (around 2055 BC) period all the way through Ptolemaic period (around 30 BC), hence it is such a huge temple complex. The deities represented range from some of the earliest worshiped to those worshiped much later in the history of the Ancient Egyptian culture. Many of the features of Karnak are unique, but sheer size of the complex is overwhelming and takes more than a day to really understand and appreciate. We had a half day tour of the temple complex.

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Photograph of aerial view of the Karnak Temple - the scale and size is huge.

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Karnak Temple in Luxor

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Grand entrance of the temple with 20 ram-headed avenue of Sphinxes on each side

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Forecourts and open courts inside the temple complex

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Pharaoh statues all over the temple complex and ruins of interiors of a temple

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One famous aspect of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall, which has 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters.

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Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak temple

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Obelisk erected in the temple complex and the sacred lake of the temple

Next we went to visit the Luxor Temple,, which is another massive temple, located about 3 kms away from the Karnak temple. It was dedicated to the cult of Amun and was built by Amenhotep III (around 2055 BC) and there on many additions were made by various Pharaohs to the temple complex. During the Christian era, Alexander the Great rebuilt the Sanctuary and the inner section was converted to a church. And around 10th century the Mosque of Abou El-Hagag was built over the runis of the temple complex.
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Luxor Temple
At the entrance of the first pylon, there are two seated colossi representing King Ramses II, seated on his throne.

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Open court with rows of papyrus bud columns

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This is one of few temples which probably has had three different religions worshipped in the same place – the ruined Egyptian temple, Christian chapel and Muslim mosque.

We were docked in Luxor and it was to be our last day in Egypt with visits to the temples on the east side of the Luxor city. However after a whole of day of sightseeing we got to know that our flight from Luxor to Dubai was cancelled and so we ended up staying for another day in Luxor city. we chose to relax during the day and sailed on the feluca (wooden boats) to watch a beautiful sunset by the nile.

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Sailing by the Nile River during sunset!

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Feluca ride... I was lost in the history and mystery of Egypt.. an evening .. perhaps a trip to remember!

Quick Review:
• Please read the travel and tourism advise on any country you plan to visit and research every city you plan to visit.
• The two days we were in Luxor we stayed on cruise, as per our itinerary we were supposed to fly out on the third day but our flight was cancelled and so on the third night we stayed at a hotel close by the Nile.
• The stay on cruise was comfortable with variety of food and entertainment every evening. It is customary to tip the crew on board.
• The temples in Luxor are not to be missed and I think are integral part of understanding ancient Egyptian history. The size and architecture of these temples take you to a different world.

Posted by deeptisubraya 22:42 Archived in Egypt Tagged landscapes art temples attractions ancient_sites Comments (0)

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