Tag Archives: UNESCO World Heritage sites

I am loving you so hard, Santa María del Naranco

Hey everyone–meet my new girlfriend: This is Santa María del Naranco, also known as my girlfriend. (In case you were wondering, I also have a wife and a husband.)    Santa María del Naranco was a summer palace built in the mid-9th century in the kingdom of Asturias, present day Oviedo.  At the time, Asturias […]

Faux-Pilgrim’s Progress: how we faked a pilgrimage

Last week as we were walking about in the rain in Santiago de Compostela looking for a post office, we were stopped by the leader of a tour group.  “Excuse me” he said politely “I see that you are pilgrims.  My group would like to see your pilgrim’s passport stamps.  Could you please show them […]

Hilariously terrible art in the Cathedral of Burgos

Burgos is a matriarchy.  The city is dominated by old ladies with their brown coats and boxy purses, walking arm in arm, playing cards and drinking cocoa in cafes, and just generally owning the place.  (Note to self, consider retiring in Burgos).  We were charmed by the old city at night and the few Camino […]

The glowing streets of Santiago de Compostela

It always rains in Santiago de Compostela so the buildings and cobblestones are covered in moss.  The town glows and the twisting arcaded streets are magically inviting. What do you mean we don’t have to go West anymore? The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is confusing–sprawling with multiple entrances, partly covered with scaffolding.  The famous Portico of […]

An outbreak of snowball fights in León

When it snowed in León snowball fights broke out everywhere. These naughty boys lobbed snowballs at all the passersby, including us.  I returned fire. HOB eating mantecadas, the specialty almond cookie of León. I felt chilled and bought the same scarf all the teen girls are wearing. Casa de Botines by Antoni Gaudi. Painting in our Hostal […]

Pienza: all Renaissance towns should have a bird that talks like a refrigerator

During a fascinating period of the Italian Renaissance, humanist scholars and architects set out to create the ideal city.  Surprisingly, one of these urban planners was a pope–Pope Pious II.  Pius II (formerly known as Enea Silvio Piccolomini) transformed his home town, Cosignano, into a miniature urban Renaissance Utopia.  He hired the architect Rossellino to […]

The next time you’re in Vézelay tell the people with the elephant ears I said hi

We were all alone in Vézelay’s Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Abbey, the light was fading, darker, darker…and then we climbed down into the crypt.  No, not actually a horror story ending, but in fact the ending to a perfect day, a day we spent from sunup to sundown in and around one of the world’s greatest Romanesque churches. Vézelay […]

On almost missing Charlemagne’s throne in the Palatine Chapel of Aachen, a mosaic mouse and cookie king

The Palatine Chapel and throne of Charlemagne had been burning hot near the top of our travel list for years, so “Charlemagne’s throne room is closed today” was definitely not what we wanted to hear on arriving in the tourist office of Aachen after a journey of two flights and three train rides.  I had […]

The Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay: thumbs up from Bernard of Clairvaux

You know those fantastical hybrid animal monsters abounding in Romanesque church art?  They really pissed off Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.  I love to read and re-read his attack on Romanesque art extravagances in his Apologia c. 1124: But these are small things; I will pass on to matters greater in themselves, yet seeming smaller because they […]

I hope that you, my friends, might also one day find yourselves at the door to Villa La Rotonda in Vicenza while a security guard sings you the theme to Married… with Children.

“Where are you from?” asked the gregarious guard at the entry to Palladio’s Villa La Rotonda.  After replying, “Chicago, USA” we braced ourselves for the usual “Al Capone, bang bang bang!” only to be surprised by the guard’s delighted smile and cheery rendition of the theme song to Married… with Children. While Chicago may be […]