Bits of Berlin

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Valencia

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Gritty port city and street artists’ dream, Valencia offers up her tantalising urban street walls like freshly primed canvases. Patinas in unthinkable hues – the likes of which Pantone could never replicate – escape the camera lens and computer screen, revealing themselves only to the naked eye like demure hidden beauties.

The quietly subversive art of ESCIF lives within this world of patterned tile and decaying brick wall like it grew there. Simple and bright, the sweet motifs – ponies, people, apples – have a stinging political tail. Austeridad, sostenibilidad and flexibilidad laboral are themes that dirty what would otherwise be visual ditties.

These biting tableaux, along with works by other street artists exist against a backdrop of Valencia’s lost modernist dream – the ciudad de artes y ciencias – it’s mottled architectural city scape and it’s grey, littered beaches.

PINK DOT: Street art by ESCIF.
AQUA DOT: Street art by ESCIF image courtesy of the artist.
PURPLE DOT: Street art by Blastus, Valencia.

Barcelona

Barcelona is probably the most lisp friendly city in the world. What’s more, with it’s dark narrow streets bursting with life (so long as you head there at a civilised hour, like after 5) crazy Disney Land architecture and fiercely proud, seriously arty and cosmopolitan people it’s pretty visitor friendly too. The unhealthy rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona plays itself out in more places than the fútbol field. Unless you want to endure at least an hour of one-sided conversation in which you are permitted no input or respite, never ask a Madrileño what they think of Barcelona, and vice versa.

What I will say about Barcelona is this: there seems to be an actual commitment to contemporary art and design with an actual centre dedicated to the stuff – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona – right in the guts of the old town where I spent a tidy afternoon.

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San Sebastian

…I’m talking about a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called San Sebaaaaaastian. Dumb and dumber jokes aside, San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful places on earth to eat, explore and party. The salty humid air, the distinctly Spanish, um I mean Basque pinchos and more starred and hatted restaurants than you can shake a deconstructed, white asparagus spear at, makes the vibrant, tightly packed seaside town the destination that it is.

1./ A snapshot of some of the piles of delicious food  2./ This amazing plaza in the middle of the old town was once a bull-fighting ring, the numbers on the stalls in the balcony remain from those days  3./ Pinchos crawling down this little street late at night is everyone’s favourite thing to do  4./ This is a sneaky photo I took of one of the very mysterious men’s only cooking clubs  5./ Weddingssss!  6./ Looking out over the mountains into France  7./ Beachfront in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France  8./ Beautiful fresh oysters in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

El Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James

Since the early Middle Ages, eager young Christians have trekked hundreds of kilometers over French mountains, through thick forests and across arid Spanish fields to Santiago de Compostela, so that they might be allowed to shake their pilgrim sticks festooned with scallop shells over the grave of old Saint James the Greater (not to be confused with Saint James the Less who was only a minor celebrity in the life and times of Jesus). For those of you (ahem) who didn’t pay attention during Religious Education, Saint James the Greater, ultimately tortured and beheaded by Herod, was one of Jesus’ first Apostles and is the Patron Saint of Spain.

So anyway, The Way of Saint James or El Camino de Santiago if you’re Spanish, can be made following any track from your own front door to Santiago, but a series of walking tracks dribble like Jesus’ blood across the face of Spain. One of the most famous of these is known as The French Way or in Spanish, Camino Francés: from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side before making its way through to Santiago de Compostela through the major cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León.

Here are some of the best photos from the three rolls of film I tore through when we completed a little section of the Camino, peppered with sun bleached towns, against the flow of pilgrims from Hontanas to Burgos – home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals on earth and believe it or not, a statue of Jesus made of real human skin and hair… ew.

And just a little note to my rural, green-thumbed parents – I am aware that the beautiful sun-drenched flowers in many of these photos are weeds – I know you won’t be impressed!