Barcelona – Del Mar – Gothic Quarter

Back from my Barcelona research trip with heaps of information and photographs taken for my dissertation. I’m so glad that I took the extra two days to look around the city as the last time I was there was back in 2008, and things seem to have changed since then. I stayed in the Del Mar region “The Sea”, close to the church I am writing on Santa Maria del Mar. It is part of the Bairro Gotica of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, though slightly distanced from the general throngs of tourist (I do have my way of avoiding the masses).

First things first, Barcelona is packed full of tourists. When I say packed I mean PACKED. It’s not the biggest city in Europe yet somehow they manage to squeeze in visitors from around the world and you can really feel the strain when walking around the Gothic Quarter, which is the one place all tourists expect to tick off of their to do lists. Del Mar is slightly removed from the heart of the Gothic Quarter, which makes it a nice place to find a hotel/hostel, though it is equally as expensive as say La Rambla (argh tourist trap hell!).

Regardless of how expensive it can be, Del Mar is a stunning neighborhood, full of little bars, cafes and fashion boutiques. It is also closer to the beach, which can come in handy on a hot summer’s day, which was clearly not the case during my stay. Yet Del Mar is beautiful come rain or shine.

Del Mar "The Sea" Barcelona

Del Mar “The Sea” Barcelona

 

Catalan Pride

Catalan Pride

 

Well behaved tourists at the Picasso Museum

Well behaved tourists at the Picasso Museum

Things to do and see in Del Mar:

1. Get completely lost a la Venice style as you walk down little alley ways

2. Visit the Santa Maria del Mar church (I shall discuss this in my next post)

3. Picasso Museum – FREE for university students (imagine my surprise…) – Picasso’s collection is safely stored away in a magnificent Pallazzo style building

4. Boutiques – lots of boutiques selling all sorts of clothes and custom made goods

5. The beach – a five minute walk away

6. Ciutadella Park – it has a lake and you can hire a little boat to go round and round in

7. Montaditos – lunch time goodies – mini sandwiches filled with all sorts of good stuff, these reminded me of Venetian cicchetti, which was fitting considering the medieval backstreets. However they don’t come cheap at approx. 1.30E per pop. I’ll write a little more about these in another post

8. Best bar in Del Mar region – El Born on Passeig del Born, no. 26. It’s behind the church to the right. This is a quaint little alternative artsy bar with cheap wine and snacks including montaditos and empanadas. Go there. Go.

 

Warnings:

1. Be careful when choosing restaurants as many will rip you off

2. Don’t eat anywhere that has an English menu and laminated images of dishes

3. Breakfast – you can grab a coffee/cappuccino/tea and croissant for 1.80E – much more than this and it’s a rip off. There are a couple of good cafes in the Santa Maria del Mar church piazza that offer a cheap breakfast deal

 

Nearest transport links:

1. Jaume I (metro)

2. Barceloneta (metro)

3. Estacio de Franca – for trains to and from Barcelona El Prat airport and surrounding areas

Oh hi sun! Santa Maria del Mar as seen from heaven

Oh hi sun! Santa Maria del Mar as seen from heaven

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Spring is here!

Spring has definitely come to London and with the cherry blossom blooming, I decided to step away from the books and head out into the sunshine.

Of course my little walk had to include some architecture/educational element 😉

This is St. Mark’s in Primrose Hill. It looks like a little chapel on the outside but is quite spacious inside. The local community host regular classical music concerts here, and there is a beautiful eighteenth-century Italian organ inside. I like.

St Mark's Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark’s Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark's Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark’s Church, Primrose Hill

 

The Lion of St. Mark

The Lion of St. Mark

This picture takes me back to Venice, with its Lion of St. Mark symbolism scattered all over the city.

Lotta from Stockholm

Lotta from Stockholm

Sun’s out and so are the toes. Ripped jeans and Lotta from Stockholm’s Swedish clogs.

Pastel Primrose Hill

Pastel Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill becomes a world of its own in the Spring with its paint pastel houses. Regent’s Park Road is probably one of my favorite streets in London. Often walk towards Regents Park daydreaming, in another world where I’m a millionaire, which one of these houses would I call my own?

Juliette Balcony

Juliette Balcony

Walking down Chalk Farm road, towards Camden Market from Chalk Farm, on my right was Harmood Road. What might appear to be just another street, in another town, happens to be a lovely little road with probably one of the best second hand bookshops I have seen in London. These guys have a phenomenal selection of second hand Philosophy books from Socrates, to Descartes, Aquinas and Kant. They also have impressive poetry, fiction and arts sections. I got myself a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy (seeing as my tutor has mentioned it on numerous occasions now). Don’t go anywhere else, come here!

Walden Books

Walden Books

 

 

Check out Walden Books here

Lotta from Stockholm here  (In serious need of a third pair…)

 

Countdown to Barcelona!

Assignments handed in, seminars (almost) over and a dissertation to think about… It’s two week’s away but I’m already preparing for my research trip to Barcelona! Here are a few places that I’d like to visit when in Spain.

Barcelona

Bairro Gotico

Bairro Gotico

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Architectural geek-fest! I think it goes without saying that I shall be visiting Barcelona Cathedral (again).

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar

And my study project: Santa Maria del Mar, a 14th Century Catalan church. I personally feel that it out does Barcelona Cathedral for its simplicity in its austere forms. I cannot wait to get all Gothic crazy on this baby.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. I’m not even sure if there is a technical term for those types of springing and vaulting.

Gerona

Gerona

If I haven’t completely overwhelmed myself by this point, I would like to visit Gerona, a small Catalan town north of Barcelona. Reason for visit: of course its beautiful architecture including the Gothic cathedral which boasts an aisle-less, single nave plan. I am yet to see exactly how that works.

 

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

No it’s not Aladdin’s palace, the Aljaferia was once a Moorish fort, prior to the re-conquest of Zaragosa by Christian kings. The exterior is typically Moorish, with its understated military-esque appearance, It reminds me of the beautiful Saladin citadel in Cairo, how I wish I could be back in that Oriental dreamland! I absolutely love the intersecting polylobed arches and the extravagant sebka motif, which is so typically Moorish. The whole complex looks like a giant fantasy palace. It’s close enough to Barcelona to pay a respectful day trip to Zaragosa.

 

Toledo

Toledo

I’ll probably be pushing it but if I can get myself down to Toledo… Though it was one of the first regions of Spain to be taken back from the Moors, there are still hints of Islamic architecture, hidden here and there, which for me makes Toledo one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.

 

Of course there is much more to Spain (and Barcelona in particular with this trip) than architecture so watch this space for my general ramblings, reflections and obsession with foreign food, all the way from sunny Spain!

Got British Gothic

Though I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past I’ve spent a lot more of my time looking at art and architecture and specially British Gothic churches over the past couple of months, more than I ever have before.

My recent studies have really opened up my eyes to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages and how universal it was. Previously I had thought of Gothic architecture as something dark occurring at some point after the Glory of Rome and before the the rebirth of classical ideals during the Renaissance.

Little did I know of the architectural complexities and technological achievement of the so called ‘Dark Ages’ which appear to have not been so dark at all…

My favourite British Gothic:

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Temple Church, one of the earliest examples of Gothic in England, it’s origins are still a mystery to me, much more of a mystery than the Knights Templar for whom the church was commissioned. Henry III originally chose to be buried here.

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Salisbury Cathedral, I finally understand what is meant by architectural ‘plasticity’. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sun reflecting on the brilliance of the white stone is stunning.

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Westminster Abbey (not to be confused with the cathedral) is the final resting place of Edward the Confessor, Henry III and a long list of British monarchs including Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside I will never have my experience erased from my memory. The Gothic construction was commissioned by good old Henry III (I really like this guy) as a giant reliquary for Edward the Confessor, the saintly king of England. Some say it was a rip off of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, others say it is quintessentially British, I am yet to decide for myself…

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South of the River – the 6eme

I have never been a south of the river kind of girl. I grew up in north London, I have family in north-eastern Italy and I dream of planning a road trip around Scandinavia. For a girl who regularly visits Paris, I have hardly spent time further south than the Ile de la Cité. Last week I decided to give a little TLC to that which is south of the Seine. I always knew that the south of Paris, the 6eme and surrounding areas, were ‘a little bit posh’ and maybe this is why I prefer to spend my time in areas such as Montmartre, Le Marais and Oberkampf.

The beautiful thing about Paris for me is its subtlety in architecture, uniform white lines and blocks which seem to run for miles. Walls appear clean and light reflects givings the impression of sheer scale even on the most overcast of days.

Pretty Streets of Saint Germain des-Prés

Pretty Streets of Saint Germain des-Prés

So I began my south of the river adventure in at St. Michel, from the metro stop I followed east towards Saint Germain des-Prés where I encountered pretty backstreets with even prettier boutiques, including the regulars: Petit Bateau and Louis Vuitton and, some independents too. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux’s beautiful display windows caught my eye. The boutique can be found at 147 Boulevard St. Germain

All the Pretty Things. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux.

All the Pretty Things. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux.

And I got a little church action when accidentally bumping into the absolutely beautiful Church of Saint Sulpice in the Luxembourg Quarter.

Saint-Sulpice

Saint-Sulpice

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And of course the beautiful Jardin Luxembourg which astonishes me whatever the weather. I shall definitely be crossing that river again soon…

Jardin Luxembourg

Jardin Luxembourg

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Visiting the Sun King at Versailles

Versailles, beautiful yet tragic. A spectacular achievement in French architecture that would only see three generations of the French royal family inhabiting its walls. The Chateau  de Versailles was begun by eccentric Louis XIV, who moved the court from Paris to Versailles in the seventeenth century. The site of the palace was originally a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII, over the next century Versailles would be expanded upon and transformed into an exquisite pleasure palace from which the descendants of Louis XIV would continue to act out the sacred royal rights initiated by the Sun King.

The Sun King

The Sun King

I have been reading about Louis XIV and his descendants over the past couple of years. From the Sun King and his mistresses, to the boy king Louis the Beloved and the unfortunate Louis Capet, I have slowly traced the lives of the family at their royal residence. My particular interest is in Marie Antoinette’s life at court and her constant battle to legitimize herself as a Bourbon queen (she was a direct descendant of Louis XIV’s brother Phillipe Duc d’Orleans).

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In visiting Versailles, I feel that I was able to retrace her steps by physically walking the grounds that she inhabited. From the tight routines and restrictions of the palace to the seclusion in her later days at the Petit Trianon and Queen’s Hamlet. Versailles is full of tourists all year round. Upon entering the main palace, along with hundreds of tourists, I felt what is probably a similar claustrophobia to Marie Antoinette’s whilst at court. Louis XIV had turned Versailles into an open air royal museum, members of the court would observe and participate in the French royal family’s daily routines including the waking up to the preparation of the evening coucher of the king and queen. There would have been little time for Marie Antoinette to spend on her own or with her close friends due to etiquette. My own walk through the palace was led by a populous group of tourists, mostly Asian with expensive cameras and heavy duty lenses. The blinding flash and constant sound of the camera shutters distorted the elaborate Baroque wallpaper and mouldings. Here I was taking part in an age old royal routine.

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

By the time we’d passed the King’s chambers and the hall of mirrors I felt completely exhausted and lacked inspiration to record my experience (plus the constant flash of cameras had given me a migraine by this point).

Portrait of the Artist (and friend)

Portrait of the Artist (and friend)

Eventually I was pushed along to the queen’s chambers, the last queen to have used the apartments being Marie Antoinette. It was as I had imagined. Across the walls I could see the stylistic evolution and contribution of the queens who had inhabited the space. Having been packed into the room with slightly aggressive tourists, I could imagine the suffocation Marie Antoinette felt when she gave birth to her first child Marie Therese, the queen had fainted soon after. Such an experience must have further encouraged her to step away from court life.

The Queen's Chambers

The Queen’s Chambers

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I wish I had been more patient to really explore the palace but I just didn’t feel like myself whilst I was there. As we slowly moved towards the exit I began to relax. And so a feeling of tranquility took over the anxiety as I walked through the gardens. The labyrinth of green muffled the sounds of visitors and kept them away from sight. Instead I was greeted with Classical Baroque music pumping out from speakers hidden in the bushes. This gave a rather grand effect to the feel of the space though I would much rather have experienced it as it was, without the aid of modern technology (the speakers).

The Gardens

The Gardens

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I can see why Marie Antoinette chose the Petit Trianon as her get away from court life. The little chateau is a 20 minute walk away from the main palace, it is hidden away in a green corner surrounded by beautiful landscapes. Louis VXI gave the chateau to Marie Antoinette on her 19th birthday. It had originally belonged to Louis XV mistress Madame Pompadour and after her death it was given to his final mistress Madame Du Barry. In this way Marie Antoinette appears to have taken the role not of Louis XVI’s consort but of his mistress, they were yet to produce an heir to the throne. The lack of a Dauphin and the decision to seclude herself from court would eventually lead to rumors and the negative perception of the queen of France by the public.

It appears that the Petit Trianon is somewhat unheard of or less popular with the tourists. I was delighted to find peace and tranquility at the chateau Marie Antoinette called her own.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

My most memorable experience at Versailles would have to be discovering the Temple of Love. This to me was the epitome of Marie Antoinette’s shift to embracing nature through the creation of an English garden and the temple at Versailles. Louis XVI is known to have heavily invested in improving the gardens. The carefully planned out landscape appears to imitate nature. The temple was created by the queen’s architect Richard Mique. An exquisite example of the Neo-Classical style that was slowly replacing Baroque architecture at Versailles.

Temple of Love

Temple of Love

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 Next we made our way to the Hameau de la Reine, Marie Antoinette’s rustic hideaway, a place that she would increasingly spend more time in, especially with her children. Here the queen commissioned rustic buildings in the guise of Norman and Flemish country houses. She would take her friends and family to relax in the gardens, visit the dairy, the mill and even to a little farm with goats, pigs and chickens. This was at a time when Marie Antoinette became interested in the ‘back to nature’ philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his is also the philosophy that would greatly influence the French revolution.

Hameau de la Reine

Hameau de la Reine

fresh vegetables - tomatoes being grown to this day

fresh vegetables – tomatoes being grown to this day

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Lastly we walked around the grounds of the Grand Trianon, the family’s retreat. Just as the Petit Trianon, this palace was a place in which the king and queen (or mistress) could relax away from court etiquette. Royal guests residing temporarily at the Grand Trianon included the Grand Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, the Duchess de Burgundy, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, her son Philippe d’Orleans, Peter the Great of Russia and Napoleon.

The Grand Trianon

The Grand Trianon

stairs that lead to...

stairs that lead to…

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As I waved goodbye to Versailles, vowing to return again soon, I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing that at one point Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette also waved goodbye to the only home they had ever known. I reflected on the hectic claustrophobia I felt at the main palace and how this was washed away at the peaceful Trianons, as it would have been when the grounds were inhabited by the royal family. The  main palace is worth seeing the first time round though I shall definitely be avoiding it like the plague on my next visit. I would like to see the changing faces of Versailles from  Autumn through to Spring, Summer and Winter.

The palace is easily reached from Paris if you would care to take a visit. I took the Line C from St. Michel in the direction of Versailles-Chateau. You can also take the Line C from Musee d’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de l’Alma and Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel. I would suggest arriving at the palace early in the morning, half an hour prior to opening times as I can guarantee queues will already be forming. If you do arrive later, be prepared for a one hour to one hour and a half waiting time. Once you are in the ticketing building, speed up the ticket purchase time by buying your tickets from one of the machines instead of waiting to be served at the desk.  Free admission for under 25’s and History of Art and Architecture students. Enjoy!

 

Forward Thinking Copenhagen

Nyhavn - Copenhagen Waterfront

Nyhavn – Copenhagen Waterfront

Considering that I am a big fan of the ‘old’, Copenhagen would not have seemed the obvious travel destination for me. My newly found interest in clean lines and minimalist design has led to a fascination with Scandinavian countries. I thought to start my discovery of all things Scandinavian at the very bottom of the map with Denmark, I hope to work my way up through Sweden and Norway very soon.

The first thing I noticed about Copenhagen is the attention to detail. Design appears to be of importance to the Danish, everything seems to have its place. Design is efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Street Life

Street Life

This is the first picture I took in Copenhagen. It might not look like much but these are typical street lights in the city. I absolutely love the simplicity of the design.

Copenhagen is perfectly balanced between the new and the old. The Latin Quarter at the centre of town is densely populated with tourists.  Historical red brick architecture is finely preserved. Making my way out of the centre to the surrounding districts such as Norreport and Norrebro, I found a very natural transition to 19th and 20th century buildings, very much influenced by those being built in Europe at the same time, such as in Paris and Rome.

 

Streets are perfectly marked with pedestrian walkways, cycle paths and a mostly one way driving system. I was amazed at the dedication of the Danes to cycling around town. Everyone cycles, whether young, old, woman or man, adult or child. It was heartwarming to see parents pushing their children along in carts attached to the front of their bicycles. Everywhere I turned there were bikes parked along the sidewalk, surprisingly most bikes weren’t locked. I felt safe in this city.

On Yer Bike!

On Yer Bike!

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It is extremely easy to walk around Copenhagen. I wouldn’t suggest doing it all in a day though two to three days is more than enough time to enjoy the city. Official, free tourist maps can be picked up anywhere in the city, from train and metro stations to hotels and shops. The map definitely helped me navigate my way around the city.

Norrebro

My favorite part of Copenhagen would have to be Norrebro. Norrebro is to the north of the historical centre, a 10 to 15 minute walk from Norreport metro station. This part of the city is much quieter and residential. Here you can spend some time in the beautiful Assistens Cemetery (Assistens Kirkegaard). It might sound like a bit of a crazy thing to do whilst traveling but this is one of Copenhagen’s largest green spaces and is a popular place for locals to relax and spend time with family and friends. I spotted early birds going for their morning run, fathers pushing their babies along in prams and hip art students sitting on the grass enjoying a glass of wine and a laugh. Famous individuals to have been buried at Assistens Cemetery include Hans Christian Andersen (for all you Little Mermaid fans) and Soren Kierkegaard.

Walking back down to the centre from the cemetery I spotted plenty of fashion boutiques, all of which were very expensive though I vowed that one day I would return in order to pursue my taste for Scandinavian fashion.

One thing that bugged me slightly was the lack of cafes and coffee shops, or just quiet places to enjoy a warm drink in the centre (the Danes seem to have a thing for Joe and the Juice (a terrible chain of cafes that appears to be their equivalent of a ‘hip’ Starbucks if ever there were such a thing…). Norrebro however boasts fine cafes and good coffee.

The best spots to browse through fashion boutiques, vintage shops and to take a coffee pit stop are on super stylish Jaegersborggade (at the very tip of the cemetery), Elmegade (as you walk down from the cemetery on the right) and Blagardsgede (two blocks down from Elmegade on the right).

Coffee at the Laundromat Cafe, Norrebro

Coffee at the Laundromat Cafe, Norrebro

My favorite cafe would have to be the Laundromat Cafe on Elmegade in Norrebro. The coffee is good as was my simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes. The staff are super friendly and they have outdoor seating with blankets included, Copenhagen is following on in the style of European outdoor seating.

 

I have found my little hub of pleasure to the north of the busy tourist spots. I shall definitely come back to Copenhagen to dig deeper into the more native spots where locals roam such as Norrebro and Osterbro.

Neo-Classical Glory, The Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen

The church of Our Lady, is the cathedral of Copenhagen and the Denmark national cathedral. It is situated at the centre of the city, next to the university of Copenhagen on Vor Frue Plads. The building that stands today replaces a previous Baroque church which in turn was build in place of a medieval church.

The easiest way to reach the cathedral is by taking the Norregade from Norreport metro station.

Copenhagen Cathedral

Copenhagen Cathedral

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Red Brick Copenhagen

As an art historian, I have developed a passion for European Renaissance and Baroque architecture. The Classical balance, light reflecting, clean facades and Baroque pomp attract me to cities around Italy, Spain and France and even Brazil (Minas Gerais and Bahia). Never before had I experienced Germanic or Scandinavian red brick architecture as I was about to in Copenhagen.

I had done my research prior to visiting the city and the first thing that I noticed was the conservative nature to the architecture in the Latin Quarter (historical centre) of Copenhagen. Red brick combined itself with Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism and Neo Gothic (Grundtvig’s Church in Bispebjerg).

Church of the Holy Ghost

Church of the Holy Ghost, Latin Quarter

Church of the Holy Ghost, Latin Quarter

Hidden amongst the throngs of tourists in the Latin Quarter, sits the beautiful Church of the Holy Ghost (Helligaandskirken).

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The Organ

The Organ

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The Altar

The Altar

Sunshine and Stained Glass

Sunshine and Stained Glass

Saint Peter’s Church

Behind the Copenhagen Cathedral (which I shall mention in another post) on Skt. Peders Straede stands St. Peter’s Church (St. Petri Kirke). This church has seen a number of transformations from its original single nave plan of the 12th century through to the current 15th century plan and its stunning Baroque copper spire. The church is dedicated to the German speaking community in Copenhagen.

Saint Peter's Church

Saint Peter’s Church

 

The organ, clean white lines

The organ, clean white lines

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Copenhagen City Hall

I accidentally bumped into the Copenhagen City Hall whilst on my way to Christianshavn. The magnificent red brick building, built in the National Romantic style made such a sharp contrast to the blue of the sky that I thought it would pierce the depth above me.

Copenhagen City Hall

Copenhagen City Hall

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Borsen

Everyone kept telling me to to go to Christianshavn to see the hippie commune, to hang out surrounded by artists, students and bohemians alike. Though I appreciated Christianshavn, nothing could have hit me quite as hard as the Old Stock Exchange building as I crossed back over Knippelsbro. The Old Stock Exchange (Borsen) looks like something out of an old Fairy Tale. The copper dragon spire is like nothing I have ever seen in my life!

The Old Stock Exchange, Borsen

The Old Stock Exchange, Borsen

Of course there is far more red brick to be discovered in Copenhagen but I hope I’ve stirred your curiosity enough to pick up a map and take a walk in search of some of Copenhagen’s finest historical buildings.

 

A Day Trip to Bath

So I was one week away from my trip to Denmark when I began to get impatient, so I booked a coach ticket and spent a day in Bath.

Bath is a city in southwest Somerset, a three hour coach trip from London. The city of Bath has ancient origins, it was originally founded as a spa by the Romans in the first century AD. Due to the presence of hot springs, the Romans built baths and a temple in the area, a tradition they had brought with them from their homelands.

Bath is also famous for its medieval heritage and especially Bath Abbey. We owe a lot to the Georgians for their expansion of Bath through the construction of Georgian period architecture, which gives the impression of a classical style and uniform palatial beauty.  The Victorians further expanded the city with fine architecture such as the Theatre Royal with the Grand Pump Room which are both connected to the Roman baths.

As we entered the main high street, which is a 5 minute walk from the bus station, I felt as if I was walking back in time. As you walk up the main high street, you eventually hit a beautiful courtyard on your right, which leads to Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

I was absolutely impressed by the Abbey, though small it boasts one of the largest examples of Gothic Perpendicular style in the West Country. Prior to entering the Abbey (it wasn’t yet open) we paid a visit to the Roman baths.

Roman Baths with a view of Bath Abbey

Roman Baths with a view of Bath Abbey

Though pricey (some £13.o0 for a ticket), the baths are definitely worth a visit. The team of historians and archaeologists at the baths have come together to put on an excellent show of the Roman baths. The tourist is guided (with a complimentary audio guide) through the baths, into the main building where we had a the chance to experience the mouth of the hot springs and the Temple of the Goddess Sulis Minerva. The tourist is taken back in time to ancient Roman Britain, we were exposed to daily and religious life in Britain under Rome.

One of the 19th century carvings of Roman Emperors

One of the 19th century carvings of Roman Emperors

The Great  Bath

The Great Bath

The best of Rome

The best of Rome

I was glad to have been able to recap on my Roman bath knowledge, frigidarium, tepiderium, calderium…

Our next stop was the beautiful Bath Abbey. The abbey was founded in the 7th century though the building that stands today is predominately in the Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th and 16th centuries (which led onto the development of a Tudor style).

The first thing that I was absolutely amazed by is the sense of vertical lines through the impressively carved fan vaulting.

Fanned Vaulting Bath Abbey

Fanned Vaulting Bath Abbey

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Though small in comparison to a cathedral and with only the main vessel and single aisle on each side, the architects have managed to create the illusion of great space and light through the magnificent stained glass windows.

19th Century Stained Glass Windows

19th Century Stained Glass Windows

Perpendicular

Perpendicular

The Main Vessel of Bath Abbey

The Main Vessel of Bath Abbey

The facade is interesting in that on either side of the western entrance, there are carved ladders on which angels ascend and descend the heavens.

Angels on Ladders

Angels on Ladders

Flying Buttresses

Flying Buttresses

My absolute favorite architectural touch would have to be the external flying buttresses with their beautifully carved pinnacles, which were first introduced in French High Gothic architecture.

There is no entry fee to enter the abbey though donations are welcome. I would definitely suggest paying a visit to Bath Abbey.

Other things to do and see in Bath:

If you like Georgian architecture I would suggest visiting the Royal Crescent, Lansdown Crescent and The Circus which look like the beautiful Georgian houses lined up outside Regent’s Park in London.

The 18th century Pulteney is said to have been designed to resemble the Rialto Bridge in Venice and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It is one of the only bridges to have the double purpose of having a crossing and shops built into it. The design was apparently based on Palladio’s rejected plan for the Rialto in Venice.

Museums: Bath has plenty of museums from the Fashion Museum to the Museum of East Asian Art, both of which are behind the center close to The Circus (for those Georgian architecture fans). There is also the Victoria Art Gallery which is at the end of the Pulteney Bridge.

Have amazing tea/coffee/hot chocolate (or as I did, have them all!) at Jacob’s coffee house! They even do gluten free sweet treats.

Jacob's Coffee House

Jacob’s Coffee House

 

The downside:

Being a center for tourism, Bath has been overtaken with high street brands and restaurant chains. It became a bit suffocating after passing TOPSHOP, New Look, H&M and not one but three EE phone shops. After a couple of hours of seeing the same chain shops and restaurants I began a desperate search for something a little bit different and more independent. Step away from consumerist nightmare to Walcot Street, which runs off of London Street and is a 5 minute walk from the center. Here you will find independent cafes and restaurants, charity and vintage shops and boutique furniture stores. It’s also peaceful and hidden from the throng of tourists in the city center. We even found a little chapel that was hosting a contemporary art exhibition.

Walcot Street, the place to be

Walcot Street, the place to be

So if you’re in London and fancy a quiet day away from the Big Smoke, take a National Express bus to Bath Spa. Tickets can be bought online via the National Express website. Coaches leave hourly from Victoria Coach Station to Bath City Center.

Enjoy! Next stop… Copenhagen!