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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

El destino final...

Here we are for the third and last episode of the Spanish saga!

Dear my dearest ones, aren't you proud of me that this time I've made it with a new post just after a couple of weeks?
Well, before you just close down everything, I have to say that I'm asking you if you are proud of me because, deeply inside of me, I am myself!

Wait wait wait, this is not an explosion of self-confidence or snobism from me, but just the fact that even if I am working for an important fashion brand in Milan (I prefer not to reveal which one...) and I am going there everyday taking a two hours train and coming back at ridiculous times,
I've noticed that I'm still doing everything I would like to and writing in my baby blog is for sure one of these...

By the way, as I told you, today we move on with the Spanish saga which is coming to and end.
In fact after seeing the fascinations of Vizcaya, we left from Bilbao one early morning.
I had such a pain in my heart dear followers, and although it was due to various reasons, the biggest one was that I knew I was going to miss these places.
So that Chiara, my favourite travelling mate, and I went on to Madrid with not so much enthusiasm.

But do you know what they say...
If you expect too much, you are very likely to be deluded, while if you don't expect a lot you may get marvellous revelations.
Well, Madrid for me was the exact representation of this motto.

Maybe I've told you already about the sensations I've felt when I went to Dublin for the first time: I felt at home.
As Britney would say: Oops! I did it again...

Yes, totally!
In fact, since the very first moment we went out of the hotel (which was so nice and in the best position ever: Atocha), and we went to the amazing Park of Buen Retiro, where we got a little white boat and went paddling around the little lake in the middle of the park, I felt in heaven.

The sun was shining so brightly that for the first time I've seen another place but Italy where the light is actually able to disturb you for how bright it is.
The nature around us was glorious, accompanied by massive monuments.
People were walking, running, sitting in the grass or in the cafes inside of the park.
A guy with his guitar was playing beautiful songs under the shade of a tree.
It was just a miracle that place: a bubble of pleasure and tranquillity that made us forget about the city, even if it was still there, just outside the gates.

And close to these gates, a garden with small trees and paths which looked so much as an enchanted place and it reminded me a lot about the fantastic garden of Alice in Wonderland, or at least what I would have imagined it to be.

I'm telling you, I would love to just stay there for the rest of the holiday, but Madrid is absolutely not just about a park.
It's what could be defined as a cultural bomb ready to explore, or better, already exploded and which has spread pieces of it all over.
Because of that, everywhere you go in Madrid there is something to see, some museum to visit, an exposition to attend.
But also a concert, an event, a defile, a party and even more.
It's absolutely endless, and even if you would love to see everything, you are bound to make a choice.

What did I choose?
Well, let's say that I've made a WIDE choice, as I am an absolute freak of museums: I just love them! 
And even if all my friends mock me about that, trying to make me change my mind until they refuse to come inside a museum with me ever again, I just can't help it!

Because of that, we've been to the Prado, a classic,

but also to the Reina Sofia, where we've seen the amazing Guernica by Picasso (I swear to you, I've spent at least 15 minutes in front of it...) and where the air conditioning has almost frozen us.
And then to the Caixaforum, where I've felt so lucky because we've been there while they were exposing some paintings of Blake, the English Romantic poet and artist, and prints by Piranesi: my fellow citizen and famous architect who had the biggest love for ancient architecture.

This is not all! (I told you I am a freak...)
We've also visited the amazing Thyssen B., which I absolutely loved, with a great mixture of modern art and classical painters, the Museo Publico, such an interesting thing as it's an open air exposition of sculptures some of which are made by artist such as Miro' or the surrealists, in the middle of a square in the quarter of Salamanca, which is so beautiful as well and full of nice shops.

We've also been to the Palacio Real,

 and to the botanic gardens, but do you want to know what is the craziest things about all this?

Ok, let's recap first: we've visited four museums among the most important ones not only in Europe but in the entire world, an amazing and perfectly preserved Real Palace and huge botanic gardens which are hosting plants from all over the world.
At this point you all must be thinking: Carlotta, you are a real freak.
This is the point: the total expense for that have been the 5 euros to enter the real palace, which was also a reduced fare.

That's is?
Oh yes! That's it! 
How is it possible?
Am I joking?
No, c'mon, I am not so cruel!

And to demonstrate you how much I love you, I will share with you the secret which has allowed me to visit everything for free in Madrid.
First of all, there is a magical word you have to say, which is: STUDENT.
There is also a magical tool you should always bring with you.
Nope, it's not s sword I am very sorry, it's your STUDENT CARD.
If you have these two things, Madrid is open for you, and trust me when I tell you that it's so worth to use them.

That's what shocked me the most about this city: not only the fact that it has so much to offer, but the sensation you have as a tourist, as a student, as a young person, as an art lover, that everything is really there for you, and the most you see the better it is!
So if you go to Madrid, and you really should, be ready to a complete different reality from, for example, London, where life and everything are so expensive that sometimes you risk to feel like this:

(totally depressed Sponge Bob)

more than on holiday, which is a paradox, as you go on holiday to enjoy it and not to count every singe penny in your pocket money to make it until the end of the day.

In Madrid you can find everything: you can make a very expensive life, but also a moderate one, and still enjoy everything it has to offer, starting from the amazing shops to the lovely bars where the Madrilenos meet since the late evening until deep night to chat, smoke, drink, eat, and chat again, maybe listening to some good music or dancing salsa if it's a Cuban place, for example.

I've felt so great there, as the Mediterrean atmosphere is combined to the feeling of curiosity and excitement you usually have in a big city.
The food is great, the people are great, the weather is great, and most of the things you see around you are incredibly beautiful, thanks to that massive architecture which is not massive in the same way of a Nordic place.
Edinburgh for example is massive as well, but it also gives you that sense of melancholy, of solitude, of coldness which is so not Madrid as everything there is warm in the typical Mediterranean way.

Another thing that I've absolutely loved has been the day we've spent going around the Rastro, the very typical market which takes place every Sunday in the quarter of Atocha, and were you would find pretty much every kind of person and every kind of thing as well.
From musicians to painters, to leather workers, to jewels makers and more...

Also the streets around the market are full of very interesting shops, and even if I have to admit I was not very rapt by the one which was selling animal cages (with no animals inside at all...) at the same time, who knew that Chinese furnishings could be so beautiful and cool?

I used to love markets a lot, because I think that they are often able to portray the real soul of the place they take place in.
The Rastro was for sure one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, and it really represents the heart of Madrid: a place where you can't help but feel happy for everything you see, hear, smell, eat, feel...
A city whose strong personality is able to talk to you, like some other magical places in the world are able to, and to tell you something special, something like a secret about it, a spell that it's going to be your duty to keep.

Or maybe it is going to ask you to come back, to spend more time there.

I don't know if Madrid is going to be my next destination, but now that I've heard that secret, 
now that it has asked me to come again, I cannot avoid but listen to it.
And deeply inside of myself I know I am going to end up there, someday.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Donde el sangre tiene el color de la sangria...

Hola everybody!

Here I am, after a long week filled with work, friends and family who are claiming for a little bit of attention now that I am at home and many other business.

And here we go, with the second episode of the Spanish saga.
In fact, as I told you, Barcelona was just the first step of my pretty long trip, and after a week of craziness thanks to my wonderful friends, we had to say goodbye to two of them, but Chiara and I went on taking a flight to Vizcaya.

Never heard about it?
Well, despicable you!

Joking... :)
If you have no idea what Vizcaya is don't worry, you are absolute average.
In fact, the northern-east part of Spain is not only much less famous than Catalonia (where Barcelona is) or Andalusia (with its beautiful traditions and extremely hot weather),
but it's also much better known as BASQUE COUNTRY.

I guess that now a bell is ringing inside your head... isn't it?
Well, Basque Country is a marvellous and complicated State, divided between Spain and France, which carries its own culture, traditions and language.
That's why everything here is written both in Spanish and Euskadi, which sometimes can be confusing, but not if you come from Barcelona, where they also have another language: the so-called Catalan.

How many languages do they speak in that country?!
Well...many! But differently by Catalonia, it's very difficult in Vizcaya to hear someone speaking their traditional language, which is incredibly difficult.

By the way, there were hosted in Getxo, a beautiful village close to Bilbao, on the sea, by the lovely family of my great friend German,

and because of that we could take advantage of all the positive aspects that come from visiting a place with the people that usually live there.
especially in a place which is so incredibly full of culture as Vizcaya.
A culture that everybody claims to be free and recognised by the Spanish state.

How is that?
Ok, I will try to make you understand how I felt there.
First of all, take all the stereotypes you have toward Spain.
Perfect... now, trow them away.
ALL of them! Yes, even the corrida and the dried landscapes with reddish desert send and Mediterranean vegetation...
You sure?
Great! Now, think about a place where the houses are a middle way between a castle in Bretagne and a Norway little house.
Add some extremely green mountains, at the bottom of which the sea starts directly, with no interruption.
Put it all together with grey clouds, pretty a lot of rain, and a weather which seems to be more similar to the Irish one than to the one you would find in Barcelona or Madrid.
Here you go: this is Basque Country.
And believe me when I say: it's INCREDIBLY B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

As I said, living there with them gave us the possibility to appreciate better the place.
So that, after the "Fiesta de la paella", which we attended the very first day there, and which is a super rave party that lasts and entire day where people drink as sponges and cook paella non stop, we started to visit the place and go around.

We first visited Gexto, with its beautiful and rich houses, which is considered to be the "Hollywood of Spain".

Something architecturally and historically interesting there is the "Ponte colgante", a huge bridge which used to separate the rich part of the town from the poor one, but also which was used to bring the servants who were working in the rich houses to their job.

Then we moved to Castro, a lovely sea town, which is famous as one of the stops for the ones who do the way of Santiago.
The roman bridge there is very nice, and very tall even if some young guys used to jump from it into the sea, as our friends told us.

After that, and after a very lucky (as it came out pretty well..) Italian dinner we set in Germa's family house in Castro, we then went to Bilbao with the expert guide of Monica and Marina.
First stop, and here we go with the most important topic I wanted to share with you in this post: the Guggenheim!

I must say: as a proud Venetian, even if I've been to the one in NY as well, I've always been thinking that the best one among the Guggenheims was the one in Venice, which used to be the house of Peggy Guggenheim as well.
But now...I have doubts, as the one in the beautiful city of Bilbao is really incredible.

Seeing it from afar is a real emotion, not only because of the Puppy, the famous flower sculpture by Jeff Koons which contribute to create a sort of surreal atmosphere around it, as it was the guard of this incredible art piece which is the museum itself.

It literally SHINES, thanks to the metal used for its structure, and being on a fake sort of lake it looks like a sea monster which is coming out of the waters in its magnificence but which could also be scary because of how massive it is.

What surprised me the most about this museum and the art pieces exposed was this sense of magnitude and almost impotence that I had never ever experienced before.
The art installation where confusing me, because of how big and emotionally engaging they were, becoming something which is very different from the classic art piece, even if modern or contemporary, because you are able to look at it and actually evaluate it.

But when you are in front of something which gives you uncontrolled emotions and also physical reactions which surprise you, it means that the artist created something which goes beyond the like or dislike: something almost alive, something which talks to you, in many different ways.

By the way, what I've appreciated the most was a temporary exposition of Hockney.
This artist who became famous because of his depictions of British country sides and then thanks to his marvellous photo collages, is also the pioneer of the paintings with the iPad.

Something which I thought was still very far from coming up in museums, especially famous ones as the Guggenheim, but which is absolutely artistically considered instead.
I have to say, some of the paintings were interesting, and I particularly liked the huge (but really...huge!) one he has made of a wood.
But most of them...mph!
Maybe they are art, yes, a new and revolutionary form if it, which privileges the immediate sensation of the artist, who is able to instantly portray it thanks to the technology.
But if you would ask me: is it a step forward?
I would say: NO!
It is not, and I wonder how relevant should this new form of painting be considered, if it is not something which brings the artist more far than he already was, but limit him and the result of its art.

But this is just my opinion, which I've been thinking about during some relax in the amazing beaches of San Sebastian,

 after going around the beautiful city of Bilbao to admire the Casco viejo, the oldest part of the city, but also the entrances of the metro made by Foster, which represent the contrasts of this place: industrial in origin, then art capital and still divided between the old nationalism and the modern tendencies to open itself to the world as a part of the Spanish community.

Have you ever been in a place that you felt like communicating something to you?
If you have, you'll understand how I felt in Basque Country.
All this culture and this conflicts make the air that you breathe feel the excitement all the time.
But at the same time, the air if fresh as you were in the mountains, and it smells good as the sea.
Everything around you is beautiful, but the factories are still present in the landscape, as a heredity of the commercial past of this area.
The people have blood as fire, but at the same time they are incredibly nice and they can't help but divide with you all the aspects of their singular culture, making you sing or dance or speak Euskadi, just because they love it and they are ready to defend with their own life if necessary.
All of this, and more.
A jump in a sea of emotions and engagements which, when is the moment to leave, makes you feel as you miss something.
Something that you would find just there.

And that's why you have to come back.
I'm telling you: I will.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

con ESPANA en el CORAZON...

Dear my dearest followers,

After what has maybe been the longest period without taking care of my baby blog... here I am again!
I know, this time I am fully guilty and not worthy of your forgiveness, but trying to redeem myself, I am bringing you A LOT of news, and many ideas that I've been collecting during my summer holidays, which are not yet finished... ;)

First of all, I'll answer what should be your main question: where tf have you been?

Well... A little bit of Tuscany, a lot of Northern Italy because of some lovely friends of mine who came to visit me and that I had to bring around my wonderful country...

...BUT what has brought me far away from you for so much time was the amazing and pretty long trip I've taken around another very beautiful, almost magical, country: SPAIN! 

First of all, I've spent a week in Barcelona, with three very good friends of mine.
We had a lot of fun, but it was not just partying or taking the sun in the beach, because we were able to visit everything which was worth to be seen.
Thanks to our great trained legs (thank God!), we almost always walked, which I've discovered to be the absolute best way to visit a place, especially a city.

Getting lost in the streets around Barceloneta, where we had our little condo next to the sea, or going around the city centre with a small map and a lot of sense of orientation, we had an amazing view of Barcelona, and we also took some chances that we wouldn't had if we had chosen some already-made tours or the most usual paths.

For example, the very first day in the city, after a refreshing bath in the sea, we went from Barceloneta until the port and then through the city centre.
But before the beginning of the Rambla, the most important road in Barcelona, something cough our attention:

This was the very hidden signboard of a very hidden exhibition.
We decided to follow it, mostly because Chiara and I are crazy about Dali', and we thought it could have been something interesting...

...well, it so was!
But not because of the paintings themselves.
The exhibit was set in a little flat at the end of three ramps of stairs (no elevator...), and it was composed of some huge and extremely coloured paintings, where female and male figures were inert wined in poses which were unusual, sometimes hard to define and, most of all, very erotic.

Whips, loops and other materials like these were always present, sometimes accompanied by masks and sado-maso costumes of shining leather etc...

Sounds scary?
Yeah, I know, but even if you would never imagine that, it was not at all!
Maybe because of the brilliant and happy colours, maybe because of the face of Dali', which was appearing as some kind of a joke or maybe as a very singular "homage" in everyone of the paintings, they were almost funny.

I also spent a word with the painter.
In fact, that day I was caring with me my Nikon, a manual reflex camera which had a black and white film inside, and I decided to take a picture of him, as he was so spanish looking, sitting down on a little chair in the balcony, with the amazing view of Barcelona behind him.

Apparently, he felt very flattered by my interest, and suddenly he was giving me advices about how and where should I pictured him...
It was very funny, and I really can't wait to develop these pictures, I'll show them to you as soon as I will have the time to pop in the dark room.

Anyway, apart from this unexpected extra, our tours around the city could not miss the most important examples of an art we have never been talking about: Architecture.
In fact, as some of you may know, Barcelona is the city of Gaudi', the amazing modernist Architect who signed all this place with his unique operas.

We've been listening to a jazz concert on the top terrace of Casa Pedrera, which was something we will always remember, despite the lovely white wine they've offered us, because of the magic of seeing Barcelona at night from such a view point...
We've also been walking through the Paseo Gaudi', after taking a look at the extremely famous Sagrada Familia, ending up (ALL OF THIS WALKING!) in the wonderful Park Guel,

 which offered us another amazing view of the city, at the sunset.

All of this was absolutely great, but if I had to choose just one among all his creations that got my attention the most, I would have no doubt.
I L-O-V-E-D the so-called Casa Batillo.
It's a very posh house, that Dali' build for the Batillo family, one of the most relevant and rich ones during the after-war period, which characterised the economic boom and prosperity of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain in general.

That;s why the house is set in one of the most elegant and commercial parts of the city, so different from our little Barceloneta, with its small streets and people talking from balcony to balcony day and night!
Going inside, what immediately cough my attention was the chromatic choice that Gaudi' has made for this house.
All the central part of it, which is build as a sort of huge hole around which the house develops itself, is made out of tiles of the colours of the sea: light blue, blue, deep blue, darker and darker by coming closer to the top floor.

All the house appears to be the representation of the lines of the sea, by giving to every room, corridor and stair not the usual straight lines but undulate ones, as everything was following the flowing of a perpetual ocean.
That's the feeling that you have inside of this house: flowing and following as you were inside of a huge aquarium.
But at the same time the cold stone, the warm wood, the colours of the windows and the trencadis, typical technique used everywhere by Gaudi', also confuse you and bringing you back to reality.

It's a sort of magical place, from the bottom to the top.
A kind of surreal environment where the columns are bones, the chimney has the shape of a mushroom and the upper terrace is habited by a dragon as the ones you would read about in a fairy tale.
It's a place that really enchants you, and make you desire to stay there forever, admiring the surroundings and trying to interpret the meaning that everything should have been for Gaudi', who hasn't ever left anything to the case.

That's why, me myself I've been wondering HOW WOULD IT BE TO ACTUALLY LIVE HERE?
Maybe magical, maybe surreal, for sure a little bit excessive.
But that's the only feeling you could get from living in which is not only a house, but a unique and beautiful art piece.

I am going to leave you with this reflection, but don't worry, this is just the first episode of the Spanish saga! 
Stay connected... :)