There is considerably more opportunity for photographic indulgence on the roof of Casa Milà than any other part of the building, to the extent that it is almost impossible to take a picture there without inviting cliché or invidious comparisons with the efforts of better photographers.
You need only search for “Casa Mila” on Flickr to get a sense of how over-photographed the world’s more popular tourist attractions have become, and how high the standard you need to attain if you want to stand out from the crowd. It is almost enough to drive one to despair.
Nevertheless, here are some of my humble efforts:
Note these are not random sculptures. The various structures that adorn the roof of Casa Milà are stairways for roof access, chimneys and ventilator towers. The building would have needed these anyway so Gaudí included them within his creative scope. Why let an opportunity for dazzling creativity go to waste? Traditional chimneys and ventilators wreck the aesthetics of an edifice. Doing things Gaudí ‘s way turns them into an artistic asset.
To celebrate our respective birthdays, Naomi and I treated ourselves to a long weekend in Barcelona. Not only is it a beautiful city, it also gave me an opportunity to indulge my interest in Antoni Gaudí, Catalonia’s foremost Modernista architect, and take a few pictures.
Our hotel, the HCC Regente on Rambla de Catalunya, was a stone’s throw from one of Gaudí’s most famous buildings, Casa Milà on Passeig de Gràcia. The building, completed in 1910, is also known as La Pedrera (The Quarry).
Casa Milà is now the headquarters of the Fundació Caixa Catalunya, the cultural foundation which manages the building as a heritage site.
Gaudí was either a genius or crazy, maybe both, but his buildings broke all the rules. Why should walls be straight and boring, with just a few twiddly bits for decoration, when you can have a disturbingly curvy façade? Modernisme (the Spanish name for Art Nouveau and not to be confused with Modernism) takes its cue from the undulating shapes found in nature.
The Casa Milà pictures are collected here.
We spent our last evening in Kyoto wandering the characterful Ponto-Cho area and alongside the Kamogawa river. No shortage of enticing bars and restaurants, but extreme shortage of menus in English. Well, we could still ingest the atmosphere. And we did buy some ice cream and sat by the river to enjoy it.
Next morning it was taxi back to Kyoto station to pick up the Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo.
No slouch this one. The fastest Shinkansen, the Nozomi.
It still takes around 3 hours. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji along the way but somehow managed to miss it. Had I been paying attention at the right time, it might have looked like this. Or this. I guess it depends which Shinkansen line you’re on.
The train was fairly empty. I did like the way the guards on the train bowed on entering each carriage. On reaching the far end they would turn to face back into the carriage, bow again and then turn back to the door to exit. There is a brief example about 10 seconds into this clip. Formality and ritual is very important to the Japanese, or at least it has been and we still see the legacy.
Our trip to the Far East took in extremes of lavatorial experience, from China’s stinking holes in the ground to Japan’s hi-techiest loos.
Our hotel in Kyoto, the Hyatt Regency, gave us ample opportunity to sample the latter. The room itself was modern, smart and clean as you might imagine.
But the control panel on the wall by the loo reveals more about the hi-techery at ones fingertips.
The toilet itself, manufactured by Toto, features a spray device just below the rim at the back. At the touch of a button it sprays you intimately for deeply personal cleanliness with a variety of options for spray force and pattern.
There is a sensor to ensure the toilet is occupied before enabling the spray function, which makes perfect sense, but Naomi and I were curious to see the spray mechanism in operation and fooled the sensor by putting a hand in front of it. Pressing a button on the panel resulted in the emergence of a miniature canon, its sliding motion reminiscent of the Alien’s ominously dripping jaws, followed by the release of a thin powerful jet which, in the absence of any human anatomical structures to offer a target, left a small but very damp patch on the wall. Woops. Oh, well. It dried soon enough.
If you want one of these, Toto electronic loos are available outside Japan, but they are not cheap.
We had been worried about loo trips in Japan because the traditional design is the squat toilet, but western sit-down loos are gradually taking over. They do love their electronics though. In one restaurant we came across a loo that has a button for generating a flushing noise even when you are not flushing. I’m sure there is a really good reason for this but I’m not sure I’ve thought of one yet.