Not only is the Pantheon a fabulous attraction to see, but hunting it down is a glorious adventure in and of itself. To find it, I made my way through winding alleyways, through the Piazza Novana and past the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. All of which a beautiful destinations on their own.
After my visit, walking alongside the building I looked down and noticed how far below the current ground level the actual foundations were, which really added to my sense of awe over the age of many of the buildings in the surrounding areas.
There were tonnes of them, but being a little more understated and demure, in my opinion Triton was the best.
A marvelous way to turn the ordinary (dispensing water to the citizens) into something quite spectacular! There were loads of more functional looking taps on the sides of the road, looking as though they were still straight from the aquaducts, but they were quite old and rusty looking, often smelling a bit funny and giving the impression that by 2012 standards the water quality was fairly dubious.
In some ways the Colusseum was completely what I expected, in others it was really the opposite. Overall, I think it was less exciting than I imagined, largely because it had the Paris factor – you’ve seen so many pictures of it everywhere that it doesn’t feel particularly new, different, magnificent or surprisng. It was once again like looking at a giant postcard. The thing that did surprise me, though, was that it was smack bang in the centre of the city. You literally turn a corner and there it is, right in front of you. It was like any other building in an inner city block, without any kind of entrance or parking and barely space around it like you’d expect with an enormous landmark like that. It felt all very “Get in, get out, you’ve seen what you came here for.”
Although from another perspective, that is part of what makes the Colosseum so special – ever since the times when it was actually in use it has been there in the centre of the city, with Roman life going on around it. At various points, it was so normal that it practically became a quarry, as people begun to tear it down so as to use the materials it was made of. However, it is nice to know that from when it was completed in 80AD to today it has always been seen as a magnificent building and worth keeping around.
When I showed up I had already read online that a ticket for the Colosseum is also a ticket for the Palatine and Forum, and you can buy them at either entrance. So I headed to the Palatine and Forum entrance where there was no line, and then shot back over to the Colosseum where it seemed like there were thousands of people lining up in sweltering heat. It felt very good to breeze past all the suckers straight to the entrance!
The Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous Cathedlrals in Europe, and certainly one of the highlights of Barcelona. This fact makes it all the more fascinating that it remains unfinished! Essentially, Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece was such an impressive feat, requiring so much funding that not only was it not finished before he died, but the mission to attract enough donations to complete it is still as going on.
This minor detail, however, does not detract from the magnificence of it, particularly was as the interior has mostly been completed. Gaudi was famous for revolutionising architecture by instead focusing on organic forms inspired particularly by plants but also by animals. This is reflected all throughout the Sagrada Familia, from tree trunk like pillars at the main entrance to the lizards climbing around the outside. This was another tourist attraction where the audio guide really made the entire thing that much more fascinating, as well as the museum exhibit detailing his inspriation. Below the church, there were examples of his models. I particularly liked how although the overall structure is based on completely symmetrical shapes (namely weighted, hanging chains and viewing them in a mirror in order to get perfectly symmetrical arches), the details of the cathedral are not at all symmetrical. Looking up to your left will give a very different view to your right, not to mention each facade of the exterior is totally different.
Gaudi absolutely won at stained glass windows too, with the sunlight making the most amazing light show inside.
Parc Guell was absolutely my favourite place in Barcelona. Designed by my now favourite architect (not that I had one before, but that’s unimportant) Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was fairly outrageous in his day for abandoning all the rules and creating structures inspired by organic forms, but eventually the craze caught on and was copied all over Barcelona. Although his pièce de résistance was the Sagrada Familia, the Parc Guell is a really fun, quirky and different place to explore, not to mention its fabulous views. I particularly enjoyed not only wandering through and taking it all in, but being able to round a corner and see an entirely new and different creation. Continual amazement!
Right in the centre of Dunirk (or Dunkirque, in French) is the Église Saint-Éloi. It is over the road from the information centre/war memorial, so pretty hard to miss. I thought it was a really lovely church, particularly as all around the centre alter were a bunch of smaller, very nicely set up alters for different saints etc, and at the time of my visit the sun was beaming through the stained glass windows quite brilliantly.
Before I left New Zealand, a family friend of mine showed me a book she had made of photos she had collected of “Doors and Windows of Europe.” I guess it must have made quite the impact as it really made me notice and appreciate the charm and individuality found in shuttered windows with peeling paint, or elaborately decorated medieval doors, as spotted all over the continent.
I think there’s a few reasons I find them so charming. First, I find the old buildings that characterise each location beautiful, and a real novelty when you come from a very young country. Second, every window or doorway offers a hint of who might be behind it – from pot plants on a balcony to clothes lines between buildings – and each has its own individual character.
In Amsterdam, I really loved walking through the centre of town, along the canals and admiring all the buildings – especially as, unlike much of Europe, the adjoining buildings all had their own individual style as opposed to being one giant Coronation Street block. The same was true for the details of the buildings. So here’s a collection of photos of spots I found interesting, beautiful or unique, including Rembrandt’s house (below) and some really great, well designed shop fronts.