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Like many people who never see things that are famous in the place where they live, until this year, I had never seen the Rose Parade live, nor gone to the Bradbury building. The first floor is open to the public, so next time you go the Grand Central market, walk across the street and take a look ūüôā

The elevators still work!

 

 Even on a cloudy day, the skylights brighten up the center courtyard.

 

So many places to eat in Grand Central Market, so I stopped by La Tostadaria for a light and filling snack; they only take cash unless you buy more than $10 worth of food, so my octopus tostada just put me over the barrier.

As octopus tostadas go, this was the best I’ve ever eaten, with tender marinated octopus and fresh crunchy vegetables on top of a beautifully fresh tortilla. It was marked with two peppers indicating it was spicy, and halfway through eating I started blowing my nose and thanking my stars that I did not add any more of the habernero sauce that was available at the counter! I would gladly order this again, but with a cool fire dousing drink to go along with it….I must remember that here in LA a warning for spicy means business!

Rome is a crazy loveable city; it is a city like your hot tempered uncle who would take a baseball bat to a car parked blocking his driveway, but who also volunteers as coach for the local Little League team and buys them all ice cream after every game, win or lose. Your ability to endure the volatility of emotions, transit, and weather will determine how much you enjoy this city. If you want everything to work logically, on time, based on efficiency or with people who are reserved, go somewhere else. Really. London perhaps, but not Rome.

This was one of the first things I saw as I landed at the airport, open at 9 AM, a wine bar:)

The baggage claim area had free tablet usage and signs in English, and of course only the youngsters (and I) took advantage of the technology. I would soon learn that there are pockets of Rome that are miraculously modern and there are many that have been left to the whims of chance.

After picking up my luggage, I found the ground transportation about half a mile away, and proceeded to wait in a growing horde of impatient people as one, then two buses, ran 30 minutes late, jammed to the aisles with arrivals and their luggage. Once I arrived at Termini Station, the central transportation hub of the city, the machines for metro and bus tickets were out of order and I had to pay cash at a newsstand to buy a pass (most newsstands sell bus, tram, and metro tickets and passes but they only take cash). I found my bus in the maze of over 12 stands (there is no map, and even the ones you buy do not list where the stops are since¬†many are decades old). I asked my driver to let me know when my stop was coming up. Twice. He only replied, “Not yet” as he listened to his music with his earphones. I peered out at every stop to see if I was at the one I wanted since the LED display panel in the bus did not work (only about 10% of them DO work). I highly recommend that you take the train instead of any bus into town, or if you don’t mind paying for being stuck in traffic, you may opt for a taxi, but make sure it’s an official white one with a flat rate of 48 Euros into the center of town from Fiumicino Airport.

Three and a half hours later I finally unloaded my luggage and headed out to the Victor Emmanuel Monument next to Piazza Venezia and The Roman Forum, which are all next to each other and a major transportation hub. This is the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and getting across the round about is a challenge for many tourists. If you are not used to New York City drivers, and staring down the oncoming buses, cars, and scooters as you walk across, just follow a large group as they cross, because 1) there are no traffic lights, as if that matters, and 2) no buses, cars, or scooters will stop for you and wave you across as they would in California, so you would be stranded on a curb all day and night.

The statue in the middle is as big as it looks, the moustache of the first King of Unified Italy is 5 feet long! Please note there are guards here, so no strollers, sitting, eating, drinking, or jumping at this monument or you will be sent outside the gates.

The staircase on the right side is a little less steep heading up to the Palazzo Senatorio.

If you want to save some climbing you can take these stairs for a “shortcut” to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument from this side, and if you follow the directions in the Rick Steve’s Rome book you can find the elevator in the back.

 Any way you go, there will be stairs,

and more stairs if you want to visit the adjacent Santa Maria Aracoeli.

Once you make it to the top, go through the preserved historical area to the left under this arch

or walk on the other side by this fountain,

for these views of the Roman and Caesar’s Forums.

The right side of the Victor Emmanuel Monument

abuts the Insula (apartment) Ruins and the Santa Maria Aracoeli church which you can see in the upper right side of this photo.

Finding your way around can be challenging, but there is ONE map I found at Palazzo Venezia at the terminus of the Tram stop, detailing where the buses stop so I took a photo for reference. Many times the opposite direction for the same line is a block or two behind or at a cross street, NOT across the street.

 This map was also there showing all the trams lines and stops, and it was the ONLY one I saw.

Many of the brand new buses don’t have working LED screens showing bus numbers or stops coming up, so the old fashioned paper and tape method is used to show the bus number on the windshield and occasionally on the side window. Hand written, of course.

My bed was one of the most wonderful sights I saw all day ūüôā

The Museum of Architecture has so many models of old and new that I couldn’t fit all the photos I took in one post, so here is part 2; this is the other half of the ground floor of the old as well as the upper floor of the modern. Enjoy!

A close up.

The other half of the ground floor (the photos in yesterday’s post) can be seen and entered through several openings.

This archway

had incredible details underneath, like this in the center,

and this on the sides underneath the arch.

The intricate work standing from a few feet away,

is even more amazing up close.

There is an elevator or stairs to the upper level of modern architecture.

The Radio France Building and

the Citroen Building, both exist in present day Paris.

Resorts built into the natural landscape, skyscrapers, and temporary structures built for exhibition from all over the world, fill the upper level. There are also many video presentations about how certain structures were designed and built; I saw many students with notebooks, taking notes.

The upper floor also has a smaller exhibition of frescoes and wall paintings.

The most impressive sight was seeing three of Paris’ great buildings through the windows of the Museum of Architecture. If the weather is nice, there is a ground floor cafe with a terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower where you can enjoy a bite or a drink outside; a priceless way to spend some time in Paris ūüôā

Trocad√©ro is a well known stop for pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and as many times as I’ve been, I had never gone inside the Museum of Architecture, known as the Cit√© de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, until yesterday. With so many wonderful museums here, it’s a challenge to see them all; like chateaux, each one is unique and depending on your interests and tastes, some will appeal more than others. For those who don’t have the time or desire to visit all the historical sights in France, this museum offers models of most of the most famous.

 A close up of archway.

 Even though the replicas are not life size, they are impressive.

 Scenes were sculpted into the architecture.

 A bit of the detail in close up.

 Imagine having to decide which designs you want!

¬†Clever look outs ūüôā

 A close up of the same piece.

 Models done in different formats with different materials.

 Look familiar? Notre Dame in Paris:)

¬†I’ve never been to¬†Chartres,¬†and had no desire to go until I saw the replica of the Cathedral.

¬†He looks like he’s holding his nose ūüôā

 Murals are also recreated showing what was inside some of the buildings.

 A staircase can be very elaborate.

More in my next post, including the upper floor modern section with views of the Eiffel Tower:)

The only time I go to a church on Sunday is when I’m visiting one as a tourist. Even though I’ve visited Paris too many times to count, and lived here now for over a year, I had never gone to¬†Sainte Chapelle¬†until one rainy gray cold morning last month. It is next to the Hall of Justice, so the side by side juxtaposition means entry is strictly controlled by the gendarmes; be prepared for TSA level screening because the entry allows access to both depending on the day of the week.

The Hall of Justice

The entry to Sainte Chapelle is under renovation and has only a small gift shop and this small section open to the public.

Even in the stained glass, the the proximity of “church” and “state” is a theme is played out in both the history of France and in the art in Sainte Chapelle. The stained glass comprises more of the structure than the stone in the building which was finished in a record breaking 6 years time in 1248.

The exterior does not convey the magical light the stained glass gives from within, especially on a gray rainy day.

The breathtaking 15 panels are one level above the entry, so after climbing the steps (the pic was taken looking down from the top),

you reach the main part of the church which looks like this on the outside

but the inside is magically different

with sculptures of each of the apostles in between the glass panels which depict various scenes from the bible.

Spending time inside this “colorful lantern” has a wonderful magical effect of making the gray skies outside disappear:)

Barcelona rivals Paris for the sheer beauty of its buildings.

This is a hotel near Diagonal and Casa Mila

that resembles a castle.

A post office in the Gothic Quarter

whose interior

is as mesmerizing as a museum.

The justice building is less ornate, but still stately.

Everywhere I walked, there were intriguing styles,

sometimes right next to famous landmarks like the Casa Batlló,

or along the Ramblas.

The street lights

and street tiles in the Eixample district, both had rich details.

Now apartments and offices, many buildings are meticulously maintained

and you never know what may be beyond an open door

or behind an ancient window.

Residents are proud of their culture and their language Catalan,

and their rights to use natural substances

even as ingredients in ice cream:)

Some signs are meant for the tourists, but that doesn’t make them any less true!

Two of the most famous buildings by Gaudí are literally a four blocks away from each other, Casa Milà also known as La Pedrera & Casa Batlló. Both are UNESCO Heritage sites so the regular entry price of a little over 21 Euros or $24 USD supports the maintenance and preservation of these landmarks.

Casa Milà (Metro: Diagonal) can be visited at night and you can even have dinner inside, which may be a very touristy thing to do, but it would also be a very unique experience.

Casa Batll√≥ (Metro:Passeig de Gr√†cia) is a place I’ve dreamed about, although in my dream I could see the sea rather than gray rainy skies….

The entrance gives an enchanting glimpse of the whimsical lines in every room.

There are thoughtful surprises like a small skylight to add natural light to a dark corner

and doors designed with vents to naturally control room temperatures.

Even the ceiling has texture, and the glass designs above the doors and entries are different colors depending on which side you are facing.

Windows

and doors are unlike any you may have seen before

with views and shapes that invite you to smile:)

There’s a large terrace

with a view of the back of the house

and the interior has a skylight and smaller windows on top to regulate lighting on each floor.

Tiles don’t curve, so the corners are actually made of pieces made to look like they bend.

Some of the structures actually do bend, like the stairs to the roof

and the air vents on the top floor.

Mosaics made the chimneys works of art

and some portions are references to the story of St. George and the Dragon

with small look out “windows” that face Sagrada Fam√≠lia (obstructed now by an apartment building).

Ecology was important not only in regulating the light and heat of the house, but also water. The roof has a room which collects rainwater!

It’s great to have good dreams come true ūüôā

Winter is cold and rainy in Paris, but Barcelona is only a 2 hour flight away and about 10 F warmer, so I decided to finally go see all the Gaudi buildings and try the food I’ve heard so much about in person:) I have friends who go to Barcelona as often as Los Angelenos go to Las Vegas, so they suggested I stay in the Gothic area or Barri G√≤tic, which is the old town and literally a few blocks from Port Vell, the Ramblas, and the beach. I found a great place on Air BnB with a marvelous host, but whether you prefer a five star hotel or a youth hostel, there are plenty of options in all price ranges.

This statue of Columbus marks the waterfront at one end of Port Vell and one end of the Las Ramblas, the famous walking promenade similar to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.

Since I arrived around midnight, I asked my host where to go for coffee and croissant the next morning (you can take me out of Paris, but I still need my French breakfast)! He couldn’t remember which corner caf√© of two nearby was the best so I tried the closest one on Carrer Ample.

Caf√© au lait with a perfect flakey sugar topped croissant on the terrace was only 2.50¬†‚ā¨¬†or $3 USD, which would not even buy an espresso in Paris, and if you add a friendly smiling waitress, you have a priceless breakfast:)

I was the lone person on the terrace at 9 AM, but I walked by later and saw it filled around 11 AM.

The café sits on the square with the Basilica de la Mercè

Carrer de la Mercè borders the other side of the church and has some of the best tapas bars.

Having had breakfast, my first stop was¬†Park G√ľell.¬†I knew it was a huge place so I wore flats, but if you are going, I recommend you wear hiking shoes or boots because the trails are steep, rocky and uneven. I saw several people with canes and admired their sheer perseverance. You could easily spend all day here.

The lines at the ticket offices at the site were long, so if you are coming by metro, buy your tickets at the station or better yet buy them online. If you are coming by metro, keep in mind it is at least a 10 minute climb uphill to the park, even if you use the escalators on the streets.

This is just part of the walk uphill from the metro, yes you must go to the top of the picture to get to the park entrance!

These are some of the groomed stairs in the park, but the steps are uneven stones, so use the handrails!

Once you make the trek up, you are rewarded with views like this of the Sagrada Familia

and Tibidabo on the other side.

The natural landscaping is functional as toilets are now built into the rock formation:)

The lookout point

with mosaics of different colors and shapes

at every curve is one of the most popular spots.

There are several other attractions at Park G√ľell and you can buy a ticket for the Gaudi House Museum separately or with the entry into the Monumental Zone. The rest of the park is free:)

Some people have left locks on fences here like they do in Paris, hopefully the weight will not cause the same problems it does in Paris….

Palau G√ľell is the first house Gaudi designed and you can see how he created coach entries in his soon to be famous curved stye

although the straighter top portion belies the hold of conventional form on him ūüôā

Where am I?

La Défense is the modern business center of Paris and on a clear day, it can be seen from nearly any arrondissement as the cluster of skyscrapers to the northwest of the city. The most well known structure is the Grande Arche, or the Big Arch which is a huge office building and outdoor art object, providing shade and sitting areas (steps) for the thousands  of people who work nearby.

Walkways lined with green plants extend the visual space to the other arch, the one at the end of the Champs-Elysées about three and a half miles away.

The huge open spaces give a feeling of expansiveness, not usually found in dense business city centers.

One classic sculpture in the center accented the fact that this is indeed Paris.

 

 

Being in Paris, public parks and sitting areas abound,

along with water

and modern art.

 

There are huge stores, restaurants, and almost everyone was speaking English (with a French accent). Not many tourists ever come here, but since I’m no longer a tourist, I thought it was time to see what most Parisians consider their office:)

 

 

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