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HEAVEN ON EARTH

While planning my vacation to Barcelona, Spain, a friend recommended that I take a day trip to Montserrat, which is a mountain range about an hour drive from Barcelona. On top of the mountain is a Benedictine Abbey and a basilica (Santa Maria de Montserrat), which was founded in the 10th century and continue to operate to this day with less than a hundred monks. The place has become a major tourist attraction as well as a pilgimage site for young Barcelonians who hike overnight to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. On the day of my visit, it started raining in Barcelona and our tour guide warned us that it may get foggy in the mountains so visibility may not be good. I was feeling disappointed during the drive as I was looking forward to photographing the rock formations around the monastery and throughout the range. When we arrived at the abbey there was fog all over the place, however, I was still able to partially see the rock formations and realized that the fog made the whole place look like we were in heaven…it was a breathtakingly beautiful sight. As the day went by, the fog started lifting exposing more gorgeous rock formations driving me wild with my iPhone’s camera. My biggest regret that day was leaving behind my DSLR in the hotel and using my iPhone instead. Photos would have been more gorgeous had I used my DSLR. Anyway, here are a few photos I took during my trip to Montserrat, which in literal translation means “saw mountain” as it looks like a handsaw from a distance.

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CASA MILÀ

A trip to Barcelona, Spain isn’t complete without visiting Casa Mila, which was the last residential building designed by the legendary architect, Antoni Gaudí. This modernist architectural wonder was built between 1906 and 1912 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The building is also known as La Pedrera, which means “The Stone Quarry” due to its unique rough-hewn appearance. Fortunately, this famous landmark is just a block away from The Majestic Hotel where I was staying making the visit very convenient. The building’s design is very unconventional due to it’s undulating facade and spectacular rooftop covered with skylights, chimneys and staircases that look like sculptures using materials such as glass, broken marble and lime. The photos above and below were taken at the roof terrace of the building featuring the unique sculpture-like structures that are truly out of this world. I decided to zoom into the structures to emphasize the curves, angles, shapes and surfaces in order to make it look less familiar. Just so you know, people still live in this building to this day.

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ANCIENT REFLECTIONS

img_0663The highlight of my trip to Granada, Spain was a visit to an ancient palace called The Alhambra. This gigantic complex of walls, palaces, courtyards, gardens and pools was created in the mid-13th century around the end of the Muslim rule in Spain. Alhambra literally translates “The Red (Female)” in reference to the red clay used for the construction of the buildings.  The complex is also filled with jaw dropping Islamic art and architecture reminiscent of the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, both of which I visited in Istanbul, Turkey a few years ago. The photo above was taken at the Court of the Myrtles, named after the myrtle bushes surrounding the pool. At the center of the photo is the northern chamber, a portico with 6 beautifully decorated arches and a tower all magnificently reflected into the pool. The tower is actually part of the Comares Palace, which was the official residence of the king. I tried taking photos of the courtyard at various angles but I realized the best way to capture the courtyard was from the middle at the end of the pool. I used my iPhone 7 Plus to take this photo using the Pano Mode for a wider capture. A friend insisted that I visit the Alhambra while in Granada and I’m glad I listened to her.

SILENCE

img_0662I enjoy taking photographs of empty spaces because I love the stillness and silence it projects…It may also be a reflection of my pensive and introvert personality…I had such a moment when I visited this empty bullfight arena in Palma de Mallorca, Spain…I was on a photography high shooting different sections of the building minus the noisy crowds filling the hallways during fight days…I enjoyed capturing the arches, the chessboard-like floors, the shadows casted by the afternoon sun, the still palm trees outside and the empty hallways before me. I was very lucky to be there on the right day and the right time.

TORO LAND

One thing I dislike about guided tours is when they take you to these little factories for product demos followed by desperate sales pitches. In Kusadasi we were taken to a rug factory, in Pompeii to a trinket shop and in Tuscany to a winery. Oftentimes, you are trapped with no choice but to patiently listen to the entire demo. Fortunately, my tour in Palma de Mallorca, Spain turned out differently as across the street from the jewelry factory was the Plaza de Toros – a bullfight arena. About half of the tour group decided to head for the bullring, which was inexplicably open that day…no guards nor ticket staff in the property.  We all walked in and found ourselves inside the expansive property, which I later found out can accomodate more than 11,000 people . I took a number of photos but the wide expanse of the ring couldn’t be captured in its entirety so I used the panorama mode on my phone to capture the photo above…sans the crowd and a poor bull fighting for its life.

MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES DE GRANADA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Granada, Spain is housed inside the Carlos V Palace right beside the Alhambra, which was the main destination of my tour. The museum houses famous artworks such as The Allegory of Death by P. Toma and a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, which were both created during the 17th century. The photograph above was taken at the round courtyard of this Renaissance building using the pano mode of my iPhone 7 plus. I was initially planning to capture the entire courtyard and its columns but at the last minute decided to capture only a section and included the hallways for a better perspective.

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without visiting the world famous Sagrada Familia or Church of the Holy Family.  This architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi began construction in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. I have not been compelled to visit churches when travelling as they all usually look the same. However, the Sagrada Familia is not your typical church…from its ornate facade to its otherworldly interiors, visitors step out of the church with an overwhelming feeling of reverence for Gaudi. My photo above features the Nativity facade of the church, which serves as the main entrance for all visitors. I decided to take the photo at an angle to capture as much detail as possible as I was only using my iPhone.

ALHAMBRA PALACE

I visited the ALHAMBRA palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain during my recent trip to Europe. This palatial complex was constructed in AD 889 and then renovated and rebuilt by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada during the mid 13th century. Poets often refer to this palace as “a pearl set in emeralds” and UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site. The Alhambra reminds me of the great contributions by Muslims to education, healthcare, philosophy and science. In fact, between 8th and 15th century Andalusia was the world’s center for education and knowledge. The photo above was taken in one of the courtyards inside the palace.

CASTELL DE BELLVER

This Gothic style castle on top of a hill in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is one of the few circular castles in the world and was built for King James II of Majorca during the 14th century. From the 18th to mid-20th century, the castle was turned into a political prison before it was eventually turned into a museum in 1932.  The castle was my first stop on a tour of Palma de Mallorca a few days ago and I was having a hard time photographing the place as it was filled up with tourists. While on the roofdeck of the castle, I noticed that the last tour group was heading for the second floor so I immediately ran down to the ground floor to take advantage of the empty halls. I only had a 10-second window to capture this part of the castle as the first tour group came down just as I finished my panoramic shot using my iPhone 7 Plus. This was just a single attempt done hurriedly and I could not be any happier with the outcome.

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