Lisbon is an imperial city. But its empire is long gone, and what remained was destroyed in a cataclysm in 1755. Now it is a rough and gritty place, but with a rugged charm. And it has vintage trams, and fado in the evenings to impart just the right amount of melancholy.
If the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking of Valencia is the oranges, well, rest assured that there is more to the city than citrus. Highlights include a gloriously tiled Station, the extravagant Ceramic Museum and the palace of commerce, the Old Silk Exchange. Add turreted town gates, narrow winding streets and paella and one has a magnificent melange indeed..
Santiago Calatrava, Valencia's favourite architect is responsible for the monumental structures of the ot the 'City of Arts and Sciences'. These structures are vast and impersonal, but are very beautiful, especially in the evening and under floodlights.
The architect may have gained spiritual succour through the building of his cathedral, but the bills still had to be paid. Gaudi had a string of wealthy clients who were brave enough to give the man his head.
Casa Mila (also known as 'La Pedrera'....)
....and Casa Batllo...
...speak for themselves.
And high on a hilltop....
...the sprires and serpentines of Park Guell await...
The Art Nouveau wards of Sant Pau hosted patients and medical staff only as recently as 2009. The beautiful spacious buildings and their surounding gardens must have been a balm for those stricken with disease.
Antoni Gaudi may not have been born in Barcelona, but he has left an indelible mark on the city. His works were underscored by genius, attention to detail and innovation. They were inspired by a deep love of nature, and a deeply held Roman Catholic faith. Gaudi's soaring or quirky buildings impress on the macro and minor scales, are both technical and and spiritual triumphs. None more so than the great cathedral of our age, the Sagrada Familia, whose construction contines 100 years after it's creator's death.
A morning walk along the iconic Las Ramblas should be the sovereign cure after 22 hours on an aeroplane. Not so. Whilst the trees are shady, the crowds are thick, and the park benches too few. Fortunately, half way along is the historic la Bocqueria Market, full of smells and sights and sounds. It is also bustling, but stools can be drawn up at a tapas bar, and a serve of grilled mussels wahed down with a glass of cava is a superior tonic!