Alhambra – Early morning wake up, two hours in queue and we finally made it…

Granada was next on the list. Again purely for one reason and one reason only. The Alhambra.

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I didn’t research or knew much about Granada other than that was where Alhambra garden was and Alhambra was something that was so fairy tale like and almost mythical when I started Architecture and studied history.
But we had a problem. I forgot to buy tickets in advance!! I kept thinking I need to but also kept forgetting so by the time we got to Granada I was very much stressed and was about to break down and cry. (really!) So the first thing we did when we checked in was to ask where to buy tickets and was told online tickets are sold out and we will have to try our luck early morning because they do release some at site every day. The horror!!!!

So next morning, we woke up virtually in the middle of the night… Left the hotel in the dark… The streets of Granada were completely empty, except for a lonely street cleaner spraying the cobblestones with water under the dim light of beautiful antique streetlights… A long, lonely walk up a steep hill, and finally, way before daylight hits the beautiful red-clay walls, we arrive at the ALHAMBRA!!! All of this, so we could be the first at the entrance because online tickets were sold out…. Proud as hell, we turn a corner to the ticket office……. there is a line of about hundred people!

We waited for nearly two hours and managed to get a limited access pass which meant we couldn’t go in to the Nasrid palace, guess we have to come back ;), but everything else was still pretty amazing. I will let the photos do the talking.

The Gardens

Generalife

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Charles V Palace

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Alcazaba

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Towers and Higher Alhambra

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…The End…

 

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Architecture of Antonio Gaudi: aka Barcelona’s money making machine. It’s a love hate relationship…

Barcelona- Gaudi, Gaudi – Barcelona. It’s a thing. What is a visit to Barcelona without trailing all the works of Antonio Gaudi, the famous Catalan Architect? So when in Barcelona, do as the tourist do. So we did, a little bit. I was all excited about this. The crazy architecture, ideas and a pioneer in catalan modernism. His works are talked about all over the world for how quirky and weird it is and now I get to see it. So we dedicated a full day to see his work. His Art.

First was Palau Guell. This kind of work was exactly what he was known for. We didn’t get to go inside because we were short on time and I have a feeling we missed out on something important.

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Palau Guell

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Next was his ‘magnum opus’ The Sagrada Familia. We bought tickets online, a day before and still couldn’t get the ticket to go up to the towers as there were only a few a day and obviously there are much more organised and enthusiastic tourist in the business. So we get there a little earlier than the time slot printed on the ticket and had a look around. The whole area was covered with people. The streets, the park in front and the sagrada site. We could see people queued up a long way to get tickets. We saw the basilica and as usual there were a lot of construction going around it. It wasn’t a pretty site from a distance but we were still eager to go pass the gates. When we finally did, we found our selves in the middle of a sea of tourist groups holding flags, talking on to speakers and walking all around us. So getting a good look at this massive structure in front of us was hard. But when we finally managed, it was weird, wacky and wonderful. Religious stories and sculptures adored the facades. No two were alike. It was quite impressive. The towers stood so far from the ground (duh!)they were hardly visible. We were impressed. To think this up without the present computer softwares and technology was somewhat crazy! And then we went inside.

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La Sagrada Familia

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It felt like a totally different place. It was much smaller than I thought. It was just one huge room where as soon as I entered, I could see the exit. Yes it was awfully tall, yes the ceiling had another wacky design on it, yes the columns were not all the same. But it felt empty, totally a different feel to the craziness outside. The columns were smooth finished! (what?) And for me the best thing about it was the amazing stained glass windows that let the sunlight through and lit the whole place like a rainbow. And that was it, we walked out. I was somewhat disappointed. Felt ripped off to to pay a lot of money for this. I am sure the towers and the view from it must have been good but somehow I felt the inside of it didn’t justified the experience he promised from outside.

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However considering the out of this world design, the extremely long time it had taken (still taking) for construction, parts of the basilica, Gaudi’s models and workshops being destroyed by civil war and the painful process of restoring the burnt plans, reconstructing the models and getting a dedicated team of architects and researchers on board to see this nearly impossible project to an end is no easy task. Hats off to everyone involved.

So the next on the list was Park Guell. Another one of Gaudi’s most talked about and most visited attractions in Barcelona. We walked for about 30mins up and down the hills and another up finally got us there. Then there was another line. So Park Guell is a garden with a few buildings and monuments within one big park. Entrance to the park is free but to enter the monumental area, which is the colourful and playful bits you have to pay good money and wait for a time slot. Since he next available one was a little too long a wait we just decided to walk in the garden and go see Gaudi’s house which was also in there. The park was nice, with few structures similar to what termites build scattered around. 😉

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Park Guell

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Short walk later we got to Gaudi’s house. We were quite excited about this. We go in, turned back because you need a separate ticket for this. So we go back, buy it and finally we re in. It was pink outside and relatively small, downstairs there were a few chairs designed by Gaudi on display and upstairs there is a small bathroom and a bedroom ‘supposedly’ the way Gaudi kept it and a prayer room. rest is just empty and in another room there is a video playing of his work. That was 8euros for that 5 minutes of a visit. Disappointed we came out and waked a little bit more, going up in to the park to get a view of Barcelona.

Casa Gaudi

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View of Barcelona from the top of Park Guell

And while walking I was thinking ‘they should have met Geofferey Bawa’ the Sri Lankan architect famous for his amazing work with landscapes. At the end we saw people lining up to go see the monuments. they looked colourful and fun but to me there were pretty much ‘gingerbread houses with icing’! After that we decided we had enough and after walking around the neighbourhood a little bit we headed back to the hotel.

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When we got out of the metro, to our surprise was another Gaudi masterpiece. Casa Batllo. Now this one was gorgeous. It’s street facade was one of the most beautiful faacades I have seen and the colours and shapes all just worked together. Again to go in it was something like 22euros pp so we didn’t even bother. I was happy looking at it from the outsde and didn’t want another disapointment. However worth mentioning is the building next to Casa Battlo, which is to date my most favourite building and the most beautiful one I have seen. It was chic, it had character and it wrapped up what Barcelona is all about.

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Casa Batllo

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And so the Gaudi day came to an end, and as I mentioned before without doubt he was one of the most talked about and brave architects of his time and definitely put Barcelona on the map with his wachy and quirky style. But it’s all a big business now where tourists pay so much money to get a chance of doing all the ‘touristy’ things. But good for Barcelona, you just have to be smart about what to see and what not to see.

Travel tip – If you are an absolute die hard fan of Gaudi by all means spend the money and go see his work. But if you are just reading a list online on what to see in Barcelona and all these buildings come up, know that every one of them cost a lot of money. Pick your favourites by doing research first so you know which ones you should pay and which ones you could enjoy from outside for free. Then buy your tickets online well in advance. The experience matters the most than ticking things off a list.

Bilbao: Hearts got warmer, smiles got wider…

It’s Bilbao time. Bilbao was put in the itinerary for one reason and one reason only. Guggenheim Museum. We thought it’s one of those things as architects we should do. And a trip to Spain will not be completed without visiting the museum. I didn’t know much about Bilbao and it was away from rest of the places in Spain we wanted to visit but we both agreed we’ll do a quick stop so we only had a day there. (one night and two half days)

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Bilbao is in the Basque country, on the Northeast side of Spain and is a 5 hour bus ride from Madrid. At first I had booked accommodation right in the centre of the city but later to cut down on spendings I booked a cheaper hostal (guest house) across the river in the ‘old city’. Nothing fancy, it’s only for one night. This was the least researched and the one with fewer facilities.
We got to Bilbao around 3pm with our backpacks, weather was nice and sunny, asked direction from the nice lady at information and was given a choice of taking the tram or walking for 40mins.(at this time we didn’t have a CIM so no internet or my best friend, google maps) By this time I was regretting my decision to find cheaper accommodation in the old city instead of a one in the centre. Nothing can be done now so we took the tram and my heart skipped a beat when it went past the museum of titanium! We went for a few more stops and then once we crossed the bridge to the ‘old city’ the difference was evident. The buildings were more dated yet more detailed, a beautiful cathedral present and narrow and dark alleyways stemming from the main road, wait a minute, this is not bad.

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We got off and the area was almost deserted. We only saw a few locals outside talking, a few old people sitting in public areas like they do here in Spain and we loved it. First time in days we are not amongst hundreds of tourists. We walked past a few of those lovely old buildings that has rooms with balconies facing each other, with narrow paved streets with medieval style lamp posts and almost gasping at how good it feels. Then we found our accommodation Pensione Serantes and surprise surprise it turned out to be in one of those amazing little streets. We enter and after about hundreds (I exaggerate) of wooden straight flight of steps later we are in our room, with a tiny balcony looking down at the beautiful scene from a movie. 🙂
Ah the joy!
We spent a good few minutes looking at each other in excitement as we couldn’t believe our luck. It was perfect. And we had the nicest host, Miguel, who didn’t speak a word of english which only added to this beautiful experience in Bilbao.

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Downstairs there were bars and cafes and we wondered into one for lunch. They had pintxo. Pintxos are bite size little morsels, traditional in northern Spain and they are mostly with a crusty piece of bread topped with all sorts of fillings or fried goodness spiked with a toothpick. Bars keep them all on display so you pick which ever you like, order a drink (no sangria in this part of Spain) and eat to your hearts content. 🙂

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After that we were ready to see the master piece. We were there just before sunset and the whole area was just big and spacious and there was a strange calmness to it. We spent the rest of the evening wandering around, taking photos and having a drink listening to some amazing jazz at a bar right in front and watching the sun set behind the Guggenheim.
Bliss!

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Oh so beautiful!

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Dinner was at another bar we stumbled upon while wandering off the main street to admire some lamp posts and it ended up being a pretty good pintxos and wine night.

Early next morning when sunlight was just getting through the curtains I woke up quickly and went and had a peak outside. Heart melted. It was still slightly dark, street was almost empty, few locals getting ready to open their shop and the lamps are still lit. It was the most beautiful sight. We both woke up and just sat outside on our tiny balcony and watched the city wake up.

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Then it was time to visit the Guggenheim. This time inside. It didn’t disappoint. It turned out to be pretty amazing and if this wasn’t inspiration I don’t know what is.

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Geeks! 🙂

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Richard Serra’s Exhibit

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One of the coolest foot bridges.

When we came out of the museum it was pouring! We only had a couple of hours to get to the hotel, get our bags, have some lunch and catch the train. oh wait, we have umbrellas so no problem. Oh wait, I packed them with in our main bag that’s sitting nicely in the hotel. So no other way, we walked in the pouring rain and ran! We were drenched by the time we got to the hotel but boy it was fun!
We managed to get to the train and our next destination awaits.

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Bilbao Station Art

 

 

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Thank you Bilbao for an amazing experience. Barcelona, here we come!

Travel Tip – Always find accommodation in the ‘old city’ or ‘old town’. It is totally worth it. And steer away from the main road to find places to eat. In Bilbao it is pretty cheap and you can have about 3-4 pintxos and a wine for under 10euros.

Toledo: Once a walled city, now a tourists’ paradise…

An hour away from Madrid is Toledo, a UNESCO world heritage site that is an amazing example of cultural co-existence between the Christians, Muslims and Jewish. It is the most popular day trip from Madrid and the old city of Toledo is on a mountaintop surrounded by the Tagus river.  The photo below is not mine (http://madridenjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/toledo1.jpg) but I thought it will give you a better idea of the overall picture of why it is a beautiful place. We did try to get this photos but we didn’t have time as it is a fair bit of travelling away from the city.

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Old city of Toledo is relatively small and you can pretty much walk through the whole thing within the day if you are pretty fit. 🙂 It is a place full of beautiful old buildings and architecture from different cultures and tiny streets between buildings and surprise surprise there are cars and taxis that manoeuvre their way in those tiny (I mean tiny) streets. Of course the people who are walking has to either get out of the way by walking quickly to a bigger street or crawl into a doorway or something. There are lot of places of interest such as the Cathedral, Alcazar, Plaza Zocodover, El Greco Museum, etc.. I am not going to say much because there are lots of photos and they will hopefully speak for themselves. 🙂

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Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo
Cathedral of Toledo

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So many beautiful doors and details everywhere.

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Narrow alleyways
Narrow alleyways

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Some amazing entertainers
Some amazing entertainers

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View of the Tagus river
View of the Tagus river

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El Greco Museum
El Greco Museum

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From Toledo with Love
From Toledo with Love

Travel Tip – It is a beautiful place no doubt but because it is easy to reach and is on every online guide and tourist brochure it is full of tourists. So try avoid going on weekends. Also don’t try to go inside every attraction as pretty much all of them charge a fee to enter. Walking around and looking at somethings from outside is as nice. 🙂

Madrid: Where it all began…

When we were trying to decide where to go for our next big adventure, we were tossing up between a few countries and then I put my foot down and decided on Spain & Portugal. (ok maybe I exaggerated a little bit there ;))
And then after 4 months of planning and a 25 hour plane ride later we were in Madrid. After finding our hotel and leaving our backpacks we stepped out to the streets of Madrid.

After just two minutes of walking we found plenty of cobble stone streets, cute restaurants with chairs and tables out on the street and jamon hanging off the ceilings and people chatting and getting ready for the lunch rush. We decided to first get some food so wandered in to a restaurant which had ‘Paella Marisco’ on their chalk board menu but it was empty. We knew before coming here that in Spain people don’t have lunch until well past 1pm. And we were a little bit early. The guy behind the bar was nice and asked us to have a seat but food won’t be ready till 1. We were fine with that and I ordered the paella and a sangria while A ordered jamon tostadas with a beer. We saw tostadas in every lunch menu and they were pretty much slices of toasted bread with thinly sliced cured meat.

Then we excitedly waited for our first taste of Spain.

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"Paella Marisco"
“Paella Marisco” 
"Pimientos & Sangria"
“Pimientos & Sangria”
"Churros of a different kind"
“Churros of a different kind”
"Cute shops everywhere"
“Cute shops everywhere”

Then we headed back for a nap to get rid of jet-lag (unsuccessfully) and started wandering again at night. It was a different sight. The streets were completely taken over by people. We walked to Puerta de sol (Gate of the sun) one of the most known and busiest squares in Madrid. People were everywhere. There were dancers, footballers, magicians and sellers. It was somewhat overwhelming but exciting at the same time. Next stop Gran via, the street known as the Spanish Broadway. It was big. Architecture, lights, shopping, food, people, cars, all in one place. It was a shoppers paradise. From there we moved onto Plaza Mayor, where grand buildings stood on all four sides making this one of the biggest squares I’ve seen, Yet it was much calmer than Sol, maybe it was late at night. Still it had a very real european feeling with restaurants on all sides and seating out in the open.

Puerta del sol
Puerta del sol

Gran via madrid

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Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor

Day 2 in Madrid started with a walking tour. We decided to do a free walking tour just to get a glimpse of the city, to know the places we might not go otherwise. This turned out to be a good idea. We started from Plaza Mayor and went to the ‘square of the closed gate’, the oldest restaurant, Plaza de La villa, Catedral de La Almudena, Palacio Real de Madrid, Plaza Oriente and finished off at Plaza de Isabel II or the Opera Square.

walking tour

"colours of Spain"
“colours of Spain”
colours of Spain
colours of Spain
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Royal Palace of Madrid"
“Royal Palace of Madrid”
"Royal Palace of Madrid"
“Royal Palace of Madrid”

After the walk we decided to venture on our own towards the Art district which turned out to be quite different from the Madrid we have seen so far. It was big and clean with less tourists and felt more like a CBD in a western country of course except for the amazing architecture that are centuries old. First we headed towards Reina Sofia Museum, after being inspired by the works of Picasso, Salvador Dali and many alike we headed to the Prada Museum. It is Spain’s main National Museum and home to some of the finest collections. And not surprisingly there was a massive line. It was too long to wait to get in for us so we decided to take a photo of the line, say hello to the museum and move on.thumb_IMG_3942_1024

"Reina Sofia"
“Reina Sofia”
"Caixa Forum"
“Caixa Forum”
"Prada Museum"
“Prada Museum”

And move on we did. We spent an amazing Autumn evening in Retiro Park.The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards. The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards.

"Retiro park"
“Retiro park”

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"Crystal Palace"
“Crystal Palace”

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"Postcards from Madrid"
“Postcards from Madrid”

On our way back we came across the Puerta de Alcala. The light was perfect for some amazing shots. Dinner was at Mercado San Miguel. I have no photos for proof. But it’s something you have to do. There are lot of options. Buy some tapas with all sorts of fillings, a nice big glass of sangria and… The End. 🙂

"Puerta de Alcala"
“Puerta de Alcala”

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"Puerta de Alcala"
“Puerta de Alcala”

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Travel tip – Madrid is full of tourists and even more tourist traps when it comes to eating and drinking. Have meals at their times. Lunch after 1pm and dinner after 8pm. Always stay away from restaurants and bars near major sights and wander into the little streets. A tip we got from a local, if there are english menu’s, if there are signs saying’ we speak english’ or if there are photos of the dishes in the menu, especially paella, run! 🙂

Do you have the travel bug in you?

Everyone these days talk about the travel bug. Or maybe I hear it more because it’s in my head. I didn’t know about this bug until a few years ago. Or at least wasn’t conscious about it. I have always wanted to travel. Ever since I remember.  See the world, talk in different languages, eat all types of food, meet people from other countries. I think i got that from my father. And was lucky to go a few places when I was a kid. But growing up in Sri Lanka, backpacking around Europe was not a thing. I never have heard about it in my late teens. Internet wasn’t that big 10 years ago in Sri Lanka.

The biggest exposure and influence I had was discovery channel and its three travel shows. Lonely Planet, Travellers and Intimate Escapes. I was addicted.I dreamt about doing what they do. Grown up, and travelling the world for a living. A new place every time. Fancy hotels, or not. Fancy meals, or not. But I didn’t know how to make it happen.

Then life got in the way.

As a student in Sri Lanka you will never be able to make enough money to travel. (ok maybe never say never) We didn’t have part time jobs, if we did have any job at all that would have been barely enough to travel from home to school let alone to a different country. So there goes the early 20s as well. Moving to a western country, even though was a big step in itself, definitely opened up a lot of possibilities. Everyone you worked with from school kids to proper adults have been to Europe, going to Europe or planning their future trip to Europe. It was a thing. Backpacking around the world was a thing. They have around the world tickets!

This brought back the bug in me. I can actually do this now. But then came the phase of ‘oh I don’t have the money’, ‘oh but I need to save for next years semester fees’ and so on.

It took loosing a job, a declining savings account and a best friend who was ready to do anything to jump into action. And so finally I went to Europe. It was one of the best decisions I made in my very confused life time.

Getting back home I hardly had any money. As a graduate it took the next few years to build things back.Now with my husband we have done our second trip to Europe. We may have started late, but like the wise man once said, its never too late. 🙂

The world is waiting for us to come see it.

The world is waiting...
The world is waiting…

p.s – I have about 2,000 photos in my library waiting to be sorted out so I apologise for the next few weeks when I start the photo overload. Or maybe not! 😉

Sigiriya : the rock fortress and Sri Lankans’ 8th wonder of the world…

Sigiriya is one of those places we Sri Lankans are so proud of. It’s like the Taj Mahal to the Indians, Leaning Tower of Pisa to the Italians or the Eifel Tower to the French.

So on the second day of our road trip we paid a little visit there. I have been to Sigiriya once when I was a kid but never climbed all the way to the top. Sadly this time we only had couple of hours so missed out on that opportunity again. Next time, I am going to climb all those stairs, and going to be on top of that rock smiling down and taking lots of pictures. 🙂

Basically Sigiriya is the site of a massive rock that was turned into a fortress by King Kashyapa. He built his castle on the rock itself with elaborated construction on the rock summit including defensive structures, palaces, gardens and ponds.

For me it is unimaginable to think people without any sort of technological assistant managed to build such architecture 200m above ground. I really feel sorry for the people who had to carry materials up to the top!

However after the death of the King, the fortress was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Today Sigiriya is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning and is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya, the rock fortress

The entrance to the site is through a thick forest and beyond the historic site is protected by a moat and sorrounded by gardens. These gardens are among some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.

Entrance to the historic site

Sigiriya water gardens

Sigiriya water gardens

Sigiriya terraced gardens

Archaeological remains

Sigiriya Archaeological remains

Sigiriya, the rock fortress

These next few photos are just to give an idea how big the fortress is. If you can find people and compare the size of them to the rock you will see what I meant by unimaginable construction.

Sigiriya rock

climbing sigiriya

climbing sigiriya

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With the thick vegetation on either side of the walkway comes monkeys. 🙂 They are as part of sigiriya as the archaelogical sites and mostly harmless. When we were there, we saw a couple of tourists walking with a small bag in hand. All of a sudden one monkey charged in and grabbed the bag from the lady’s hand and went to his tree. To see the bag had bananas in it. I am sure it was scary for the lady but hilarious to watch as the monkey sat on his tree peeling and eating bananas while trying to protect it from the rest of the gang.

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Ok so I wanted to give an idea on what’s on top and why I am excited about this place. Thanks to google and some other great photographers I found a few photos to show how amazing the art and architecture is. 🙂

Catching the last glimpse of summer….

One good thing about Melbourne is that you have a few good beaches and waterfronts available during summer or whenever you want a change of scenery or a mini road trip.
This summer I was busy doing ‘nothing’ and didn’t go anywhere. So to change that I decided to go see Brighton Beach before it hits winter. Luckily for me we still have a few sunny days left. Brighton and Brighton beach is some of the nicer parts of Melbourne and when we got there it felt like California. (Never been to California but felt like it) 🙂 narrow straight road, on one side the beach and on the other holiday houses. Ah the life of the riches!
What’s special about here for me is the colourful little huts lining the beach. They are tiny but create great attraction and are so cute. You can apparently rent them if you want to spend a day at the beach. What was more interesting was, it turns out Brighton beach is the place for photo shoots for newlyweds and models. 🙂

sea shellsshadowsbrighton beachcloudscolours colours colourshuts in linecracksbackstagesunset photo credit – Ashan Dias

Venice: my ‘WALK’ through the city of water…

This is a sad day. After so many posts I have come to the end of my amazing Italian journey and Venice is the last stop.

From Florence we took a train to Venice. Venice! I am finally going to see Venice. Excitement was building up, hopes high, eager to explore; we finally got to the ethereal ‘city of water’. I was instantly disappointed! Why? How? I actually don’t know. It just didn’t feel welcoming enough. So I took a deep breath and watched hundreds of people move around me, busier and faster than anywhere else in Italy, water buses taking in as many tourists as they can, people getting lost with their luggage and decided it’s time to move on.

The best way to travel in Venice is by water taxies, which make sense since the whole city is on water and you would think it’s cheap. No, it was expensive! We are just a couple of graduates on a budget, so what did we do? We decided to ‘hike’! I say hike because we literally walked from one end of the island to the other and crossed so many bridges, climbed so many steps up and so many steps down with our back packs, at the end of it we felt like we have climbed a decent size mountain.

venice (8) venice (6) venice (20) venice (12) venice (4) venice (3) venice (10) Yes we were tired but we saw Venice in a total different way. The tiny alley ways that takes the whole of Italy to another level is still prominent in Venice maybe more so than anywhere else. It’s pretty much like walking through a maze. You don’t know where you are going but every corner, every turn there is something wonderful.

It was more ‘touristy’ and expensive than anywhere else I have been to and that put me off a bit but the more you go inside the island away from those crowded areas, Venice had a nice charm, nice homely feeling about it that one can’t but feel good about.

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venice (45) venice (46) venice (51) venice (78) venice (52) venice (79) venice (86)So this was my ‘walk’ through the city of water. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and from now on I have to start going around Melbourne to come up with some decent photographs. 🙂

Pisa: words not needed….

This is another one of my favourite places and i still can’t believe I was there. The architecture mind-blowing, the weather wonderful, the place mesmerizing and the experience unforgettable. I don’t think any more words are necessary to describe how amazing Pisa was/is. So here are some photos, hope you will enjoy them as much as I did. 🙂

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Florence: If there is a heaven, this is it…..

I found my favourite city in the WORLD! Ok so I haven’t seen most of the cities in the world so let me be fair to all other cities that are frowning at me, Florence is my favourite city SO FAR. I fell in love and I still can recall the feeling when I woke up in the hotel room and looked out on to the beautifully calm streets, when I walked the narrow streets filled with gorgeous people, taking in the fresh morning air after climbing hundreds of steps to get to Piazzale michelangelo, the smell of coffee when I passed a tiny cafe or the taste of freshly baked pastries on the side of the road. If that is not love, I don’t know what is. 🙂

I think that is enough explaining, here are some photos. Hope you see what I saw….

Ponte Veccio (old bridge)

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Piazzale Michelangelo – you will never forget the view you get of all of Florence from this place and you would not want to leave. The bus drive back down from top of piazzale michelangelo was one of the most scenic and best drives I have ever had in my life. That’s when I knew I was in love. 😉 If you are in florence don’t forget to climb about 200 stept up to this place and then take a bus ride back down. Trust me you will LOVE it. Oh and do it in the morning too. 🙂

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Through the winding roads of Southern Italy…..

We are on our way covering southern Italy. After visiting Pompeii we are off to the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The little car (there are ONLY little cars everywhere you look) was expertly manoeuvred through tiny streets, sometimes taking almost 360o turns, passing busy locals, wandering tourists and little shops of all things Italian.

A little after the sun has set, we arrived in the beautiful town of Amalfi where on one side the glowing blue Mediterranean Sea and on the other, steep mountains covered with Mediterranean style houses. A sight like no other.amalfi and coast (7)

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The breathtaking views were only second to the experience of walking through the town of tiny cobble stone paths and alley ways peering in to little shops and admiring and tasting the local speciality, limoncello. It’s a liqueur made with lemons, as the area is a known cultivator of lemons, and there are cute little shops with bottles of all shapes and sizes. It was a typical Italian tourist town as it was filled even at night with people, chatting, sipping coffee and eating oversized pizzas. With much hesitation we drove out of Amalfi through Positano and few other breathtaking and daring coastal towns to Sorrento, our stop for the night.

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Next day we drove around Sorrento absorbing the chilled morning air and amazing views all around us while heading towards Naples, the food capital of Italy. Naples was different. The city was literally made out of houses, horizontally and vertically. But it was impressive, regardless of what the Romans have to say about Naples. 😉

Our first stop was Piazza del Municipio, the massive building with high glass roof and delicate architectural details really fascinated me. Also it was a popular spot for newly wedded couple to take photos as we saw more than a few of white gown and tuxedos posing to photographers instructions. 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t see the typical Naples way of drying clothes above the streets as it was a cloudy day but, the experience of walking on the main street with braches of streets with similar style multi-story apartments looking in to each other was nothing unusual.

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Our final stop at Naples was San Gregorio Armeno. It’s supposed to be world famous (forgive me for not knowing) for cribs and other ornaments. Locals said during Christmas time it is impossible to walk in that area as everyone comes here to buy Christmas ornament. They weren’t exaggerating; there were shops after shops filled with different ornaments and bigger statues of pretty much everything. It was quite a colourful end to our southern Italy round up in two days. 🙂

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Pompeii: Ruins from a previous life….

This post comes out of one of my most memorable moments of visiting the once lost ancient city of Pompeii.

I couldn’t wait to put this post up to show you guys simply because it is POMPEII. Yes yes I get this excited about Pompeii and you will see why. Pompeii is something I have had on the itinerary from the very beginning because it has always intrigued me.

According to history Pompeii was lost for nearly 1700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana.

Weather forecast was not the best that day and the whole sky was cloudy and gloomy. Unlucky? Not so much because it provided the most dramatic backdrop for our journey through the ancient ruins of a city.

From the moment you enter into the historical site, it totally transforms in to a different world. Ruin after ruin after ruin of rubbles, bricks and roofless structures leaves you amazed at how it is still standing and make you feel nostalgic. It has the vibe of a sacred place and I felt like I need to keep my voice low and show some respect. When you walk through the once upon houses, basilicas and theatres and  see plaster casts of people sleeping or sitting like they did moments before they were covered in steaming hot lava, it sends chills through your body. Absolute devastation.

I hope I did justice through the pictures, because it truly was an amazing experience. 

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oh little town, why you so lonely?

It’s been awhile, but what to do? sometimes technology fails a little bit more than I would like! Now to continue with my italian journey…

We went medieval town hopping!

I always wanted to and I was told this is the best way to get a feel of the true Italian country side. Who wants to say no? We started off at a little town called Posticciola near Lake Turano. I don’t think I have the right words to describe the architecture of exposed bricks, rubble and masonry and decades or maybe centuries old timber works of the place. It really was like walking through a history lesson. But at the same time you can’t help that feeling of absolute loneliness standing in the middle of empty streets and narrow pathways. I didn’t see anybody the whole time I was there. Later I got to know that most owners abandon their houses in most of these tiny medieval towns because it’s just too hard living there. It’s too far from the city centre and when tourism is at a low they have no income. Such a pity. But of course that didn’t stop us from wandering through the town on its’ tiny (when I say tiny I really mean tiny) pathways in awe. Sometimes I felt like I was trespassing, but of course I wasn’t. 🙂

  

Next big stop was Casperia. This is located in the town of Poggio Mirtetto and the historic centre of Casperia is walled and traffic free and has spectacular views of the local town on one side and the surrounding hills and mountains on the other. This of course was different to Postcciola mainly because it was part of a town and was more alive with people, charming little shops, bars and restaurants. Again the historic walled city was a delight to walk through climbing several steps up and several steps down. Good exercise i must say. 🙂 We ended the day on a lovely open terrace overlooking the local town, watching the beautiful sunset.