Les Grottes

Les Grottes MapLes Grottes is an area of Geneva directly above the train station (Gare Cornavin) of interesting architecture known as Les Schtroumpes, or The Smurfs, as well as another set of buildings called The Caves (after a river that used to flow through here).  It’s also a bohemian neighborhood with tagged buildings, run-down areas, impromptu sculpture, which is a vast change from Geneva’s button-down, cleaned up general atmosphere.

GenevaSchtroumpes_1The Swiss architects — Christian Hunziger, Robert Frei and Georges Berthoud, built these between 1982 and 1984; the four Schtroumpf buildings contain 170 city-subsidized apartments for rent.  (I found most of the information in English from the Newly Swissed website.)GenevaSchtroumpes_2They said they were inspired by Gaudi, of Barcelona, with his use of natural forms and aversion to the traditional right angles.GenevaSchtroumpes_3 GenevaSchtroumpes_4 GenevaSchtroumpes_5 GenevaSchtroumpes_6But that’s not all Les Grottes is.  It has several small quirky shops, bike repair places (the “parking garage” for bicyclists using the trains is within Les Grottes, picture below), and eating places.  I enjoyed walking through it on one of the not-rainy days.

GenevaLes Grottes GenevaLes Grottes0

At one point, they were going to raze this area and put in skyscrapers, but the residents protested and blocked it.  Admittedly, it is kind of jarring to see Heidi’s cottage all tagged up, but the difference between what we usually see as tagged buildings (concrete housing projects) and this more humble, traditional building, make us think a bit.  I got a hugely negative reaction to this photo when I posted it up on Instagram, but given the neighborhood, I thought it kind of amusing.GenevaLes Grottes1 GenevaLes Grottes2 GenevaLes Grottes2a GenevaLes Grottes2b GenevaLes Grottes2c

Is this the Old Folks Home?  It’s pretty cool-looking, if it is.GenevaLes Grottes3 GenevaLes Grottes4

Ceiling of entryway into parking garage.GenevaLes Grottes5 GenevaLes Grottes6

In this neigborhood, there is the Smurf Buildings, the Caves, tagged and decorated traditional buildings and then this elegant doorway.GenevaLes Grottes7 GenevaLes Grottes8 GenevaLes Grottes9 GenevaLes Grottes10

Random Art atop a community center (? it’s hard to tell what things are when everything’s in a language you don’t understand or read).GenevaLes Grottes11Usually we are at breakneck speed, checking off things in our guidebooks to see, racing around neighborhoods.  But when you are in a place like Geneva — known as a two-sight town — you have to drill down through the usual to find the unique.  This qualifies, I think.

Subways in Lisbon

Lisbon and Spain • March 2016 / #6

Lisbon-metro-mapStart here, with the Lisbon Metro map.  Our hotel was on on the Saldanha stop, where the red and yellow lines intersect, and it was a giant station.  In our few days in Lisbon, I think we came out every one of their several different entrances, always trying to make our way back.  We could access it very easily, but always were confused on the exit.

But the decorative surfaces!  One article, that has a wide range of photographs of the subways, notes that we weren’t supposed to take photos of the subways, but luckily I read that one year later.  We started keying into the decorated subways almost immediately (how can you not?), but really figured out what we were missing after our visit to the tile museum, on our third and final day.  Then it became race to see how many we could visit before we had to leave Lisbon.

This post is picture-heavy, so you may want to use speed-scroll to get through everything.  Believe me when I say I edited down the pictures by two-thirds!

Here are some of the stations we visited:

São Sebastião

Apparently this is designed to represent trees.  All I could see was quilt designs.

Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-1 Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-2 Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-4 Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-5a Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-6 Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-7 Lisbon Metro_São Sebastião-8

Oriente–artists from five different countries contributed to these tiled murals.

Lisbon Metro_Oriente_1a Lisbon Metro_Oriente-1 Lisbon Metro_Oriente-1b Lisbon Metro_Oriente-1c Lisbon Metro_Oriente-2 Lisbon Metro_Oriente-3A blurry shot, but I wanted to show placement of the next two images:Lisbon Metro_Oriente-3a Lisbon Metro_Oriente-3b  Lisbon Metro_Oriente-4a Lisbon Metro_Oriente-4b Lisbon Metro_Oriente-4c Lisbon Metro_Oriente-5 Lisbon Metro_Oriente-5a Lisbon Metro_Oriente-7 Lisbon Metro_Oriente-7a Lisbon Metro_Oriente-7b Lisbon Metro_Oriente-8 Lisbon Metro_Oriente-9I imagined it would be a challenge to create artwork that would be seen mostly in dark, underground passages, but this station was especially dark.  Maybe it was supposed to be moody.

Alvalade--evidently based on a story that I could not locate; however, the illustrations are fanciful.

Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_1 Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_2 Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_3 Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_4 Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_5a Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_6 Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_6a Lisbon Metro_Alvalade_overviewThis last shot was taken as the subway train was taking off.  We saw many stations from the windows of the moving train, not having enough time to get off and on.

Martim Moniz–a station near a plaza dedicated to martyred Christian soldier.  Apparently some of this is plastic on top of tiles, but it felt like tiles to us.

Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_1 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_2 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_2aChad was with us this day; this gives you a sense of the scale of these figures.Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_3 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_4Loved the eye peeking out from under the helmet.Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_5 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_7 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_8 Lisbon Metro_Martim Moniz_8aRestauradores–We used this metro stop to go to dinner the second night, with Chad, near a street that had tons of restaurants, mostly tourist-catered, mostly B-grade.

Lisbon Metro_Restauradores_1They had a magnificent mural titled The Arrival, for when Portugal “discovered” Brazil.

Lisbon Metro_Restauradores_mural detail Lisbon Metro_Restauradores_2 Lisbon Metro_Restauradores_1Saldanha

The “artists Jorge Vieira and Luís Filipe de Abreu worked the theme “The Universal Human Characteristics” in individually distinct tile and stone sculptures,” or so the official webpage declares.  We just thought it was pretty funky.

Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_1 Lisbon Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_1a Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_1c Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_1d Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_2 Lisbon Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_2a Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_3 Lisbon Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_3a Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_4 Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_4b Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_5 Lisbon Metro_Saldanha_5aTwo random shots (I have no idea where they were from):

Lisbon Metro_random-1 Lisbon Metro_random-2And now, the final station, Campo Grande.  Again, from the official website: “Campo Grande station opened in 1993. Its walls are covered in painted tiles by Eduardo Nery, whose work  interprets the typical 18th century tile motifs known as figuras de convite or welcoming figures.”  They had an example of his work in the Tile Museum, and in an interview with him in the movie, he said he went over to supervise the installation of the tile in the Metro.  When one of the workers asked him if he was worried that they would install the tile wrong, he replied, “I’m worried that you will install it correctly.”

When you see the installation, you’ll know what he meant:

Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_4man Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3woman

Lisbon Metro_Campo Grande_1 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_2 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3a Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3b Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3c Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3d Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_3e Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_4 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_4a Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_4b Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_4c Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_5 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_6 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_7 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_8 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_8a Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_9 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_10 Lisbon Metro_CampoGrande_artist

IG Hands Collage Lisbon

While we loved all the subway tiles and decorations and pictures, and subways can get us places quickly, we missed traveling above ground in the trams, and by walking around.

Hotels in Spain and Lisbon

Lisbon and Spain • March 2016 / 4

How do you write one post and include all the hotels?  I’ll give it a try.  I already did toiletries in their bathrooms, so now it’s just how we slept while on the trip.  There’s more variation in this than one might imagine.

Olissippo hotel_1Hotel Olissippo Saldanha

Av. Praia da Vitória 30, Lisboa, Portugal

The Olissippo, in Lisbon, is normally a $200/night hotel, but since we were off-season, it cost it about half of that (I can’t help but compare our bare-bones hotel in Geneva for that same $200/night to the relative luxury of the Lisbon digs, and the two stays were only one month apart).  This room was spacious, the bed was a perfect mattress with no “roll-you-together” mattress, and the pillows were nice.Olissippo hotel_2We had places for both our suitcases–one up here on the left of the desk and one on shelf in the closet.  And look!  Two chairs!  A true luxury, along with plenty of electrical outlets for the five “devices” that we were carrying: 2 mobile phones, 2 iPads, 1 computer.Olissippo hotel_7View out the window.Olissippo hotel_8 Olissippo hotel_9Cool hallway that lit up when you progressed.Olissippo hotel_10Interesting decor in the lobby, delineating the reception area from the bar area (we never saw anyone sitting in the bar).Olissippo hotel_11Elevator sign.  It reminded us to get used to the 0-floor being our American 1st floor.

LIsSpainSevilla_1Here’s the front of the hotel on that last morning, as we left to fly to Sevilla.  The location was great–right off a Metro stop, and there were good restaurants all around us.Sevilla Amadeus StreetHotel Amadeus

Calle Farnesio 6 y calle San Jose, 10

Barrio de Santa Cruz, 41004 Seville, Spain

We’d sat down before we left home with an internet site and figured out which hotels we would use mass public transit to get to, and which we would use a taxi.  This one was taxi, but he could only get so far, as the entrance was up a side street and no vehicles could get there.  (I later saw carts of goods arriving to our hotel; it reminded us of Venice, with all the goods arriving by sea. . . and then by cart.)

LIsSpainSevilla_2So he pointed when we arrived, and we schlepped our luggage up to find this lovely welcoming entrance. We stayed in The Amadeus Hotel in the old Jewish ghetto (Santa Cruz) of Sevilla.  There were restaurants everywhere, and the cathedral was only a five-minute walk away.  Great location.

Sevilla Dave waiting in HotelThe room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived.  This is the check-in area.  I waited in the lobby, which was quite ornate, with lots of tiles, which I was completely thrilled about:

Sevilla Amadeus Tile1 Sevilla Amadeus Tile2 Sevilla Amadeus Tile3 Sevilla Amadeus Tile4 Sevilla Amadeus steps Sevilla Amadeus detailSevilla Amadeus lobby Sevilla Amadeus Lobby2Sevilla Amadeus hotel doorOur room was that door up there, but luckily they had an elevator in the corner, so we could get our luggage upstairs.  Yes, it’s a music-themed hotel.  Our room was “Mozart.”Sevilla Amadeus lobby_aboveLooking down from our room (you can see the elevator).

Sevilla Amadeus FloorTile in our room.Sevilla Amadeus Roof ViewAnd…the view from above.  On the top floor was a small eating area for breakfast.  We decided to try it the last day and after waiting for 20 minutes, just to get a place to sit down, we skipped it.

LIsSpainSevilla_13The bed was good, the room was small, there was no place for luggage.  Dave used the bottom shelf of the rounded cupboard in the corner, and I used a small bench.  The room was full of stuff: bench, portable air conditioner, two bedside tables, corner hutch, console on one wall, but it all looked nice even though there was no space.  Plugs: a decent amount, as long as you used the one in the bathroom and the one behind the bedside table.LIsSpainSevilla_9View down and outside our window.LIsSpainSevilla_8View across the way.  The first afternoon, we crashed for a while, but the little boys from the apartments across the way were loud and wild in their game of soccer, so we gave up.  We thought they were probably school-aged, but were surprised to see there were three boys, aged about 5 and 6.   Future opera stars with the way they projected their voices.LIsSpainSevilla_7 Sevilla Amadeus BalconyA/C unit to the right, two wooden doors that folded back, and a tiny 1-foot wide balcony, with windows that folded inward.  All charming.

LIsSpainSevilla_3 We tucked the bathrobes away on the console table just inside the door, as we never used them, but they were a nice touch.

LisSpainCordoba_22Las Casas de la Juderia

C/Tomás Conde, 10, Cordoba, 14004 Spain

Moving on to our next town: Cordoba, and Las Casas de la Juderia.  We took a taxi from the train station to this place, and the driver turned in on the cobblestone streets, as we were in the old town section, not too far from the Mezquita.  The check in went smoothly, with uniformed staff and there was a picture of the King and Queen of Spain on the wall, letting us know we were in a Swanky Place.  No kidding.LisSpainCordoba_21We didn’t get driven around in this, but this hotel did have some excavations going in one part of the hotel, showing its historic importance.  Okay, that’s two things to check off the hotel list: (1) King stayed here and (2) Important Historical Site.LisSpainCordoba_2Oh, but it’s so pretty!

LisSpainCordoba_29 LisSpainCordoba_30There were two courtyards, and our room was off the left one, complete with water feature, fountains, sculpted shrubbery in the gardens and little tables: shades of Southern Spain.LisSpainCordoba_17LisSpainCordoba_27The door to our room.

LisSpainCordoba_10Large bank of closets, with lights that turn on when you open the doors.  It also had a room safe (we’ve come to really depend on these), real glass glasses, art on the walls, and decent lighting.LisSpainCordoba_11LisSpainCordoba_8LisSpainCordoba_16I’ve come to really like room maps, as I get to see what other rooms are like and the layout of the hotel.  It’s true, our window looked out onto a stairwell, so it’s obvious that the room rate we were paying was discount, but this hotel’s priciest room was going for four times what we paid.  But then, we’re not the King and Queen of Spain.LisSpainCordoba_20LisSpainCordoba_19The public rooms were like well-equipped libraries.  With rugs.LisSpainCordoba_18LisSpainCordoba_31LisSpainCordoba_32When we came back to our rooms after dinner, the lighting made the place magical.

Leo Hotel_DoorwayRoom Mate Leo

C/ Mesones, 15 18001 – Granada, Spain

If Cordoba’s hotel was where the King and Queen stayed, Granada’s hotel was were their footmen would have stayed.  We’d put on our request that we get a quiet room with a double bed.  So right off the bat, the guy behind the desk asks us if we’d like to “upgrade” to a quieter room on the interior of the hotel with a double bed.  Eye roll.  It’s like they use you, against you.  So we got keys to both rooms, went and looked and decided that for the extra money we’d put up with it.  Leo Hotel7_streetview

This was the view out the window in the bathroom, down onto the pedestrian street below.  The bathroom had a set of glass doors that opened up onto a wee balcony.  The bedroom’s windows were hard to get to, as they were behind a chair and the curtains didn’t open easily.Leo Hotel6_shampooI have to mention the clever writing on the toiletries in the bathroom.  Check out the hairdryer post for more. Leo Hotel5_viewLooking straight ahead out the bathroom window.  I liked the view.

Leo Hotel3_desk Leo Hotel2_bedsThe two beds were pushed together, so we made do.  They were pretty good mattresses, good pillows, really good towels in the bathroom (interestingly, they got some things absolutely right) and it was clean.  We also had two chairs, a desk, the ubiqitous TV (that we never use) and an array of snacks to purchase.Leo Hotel1_signSign on the front door.

Hotel Victoria_map1Hotel Victoria 4

Calle de la Victoria 4

Puerta del Sol, 28012 Madrid, Spain

And. . . if the hotel in Granada was where the King’s footmen might have stayed, Hotel Victoria was where the people that clean up after the horses might have stayed.  You can see by the map above what I thought about our hotel: useful only for a reference to the fabric shops in Madrid’s center. We arrived at night, but I’d done my homework and navigated us via the Metro system to the hotel.  We had made our reservations over 3 months ago, but when we asked for our double bed, the 20 year-old chick behind the desk looked like we’d shot her.  “I’m so sorry,” she began, but we were insistent.  So she gave us our room key, and it was on the first floor–not the quietest room in Madrid.  We pointed that out to her, and she said, “Oh it will be quieter on Monday.  The weekends are always noisy.”  This did not inspire confidence.  We schlepped our stuff up to the room, and couldn’t get the key to work.  A passing guest — a college-aged student with his girlfriend (this should have been our first clue) gave us tips on how to open the door.  We pushed it open and couldn’t really get our luggage in more than three feet.  The bathroom was off to the left, and in front of us were two twin beds and a double bed.  Right.  We went back down to ask for a better room.

“There are no other rooms,” she said. “We are fully booked.”  Hackles are raised.  We persist.  At that point of her basically telling us to take it or shove leave it, the manager from the restaurant attached to the hotel shows up.  He intervenes, taking two keys with us and showing us two other rooms.  They are basically dorm rooms.  Everyone we see is college-aged.  Tired tourists that we are, we finally put two+two together, realizing that we’ve booked ourselves into a crash pad for traveling students.  It’s two nights.  It’s late.  We’re tired.  We will survive.  The hotel manager helps us rearrange the furniture to get the two twin beds together, and we take the room.

The chick at the front desk will not even look at us after that.

Hotel Victoria1_viewView from our window onto the small street behind the hotel.HotelVictoria_roomWe’re above the Paella sign.

Hotel Victoria_laundryThis is the only picture I have of our room, with the bags from the laundry slung onto the bed. Round-up: minimal plugs (we were able to get a three-plug adapter from the front desk), okay beds (my head slanted slightly downward), feeble pillows, one chair, one skinny desk, a round table that floated somewhere near the door, and because we’d moved the beds (I need to be able to roll over my snoring husband in the night), I turned off the lights every time I put my pillow up to sit up in bed.  Luckily we weren’t there much.  In the middle of the night, I heard a party going up the hall, then down the hall, and we could see hordes of youth throughout the hotel’s public areas.  The good?  It’s very clean and the location is great.

Hotel Praktik Bakery_16Hotel Praktik Bakery

Provenca, 279, 08037 Barcelona, Spain

Dave, a major lover of breads if there ever was one (having to go gluten-free is his nightmare), found us this last hotel: a charming little hotel over the top of Baluard Bakery in the L’Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.  It was a perfect place to wrap our our trip to Lisbon and Spain.Hotel Praktik Bakery_2I keep saying little, because it was snug quarters all around, but the fact that it exuded charm made up for its small space.  The door you see above is the entrance to the room.  Hotel Praktik Bakery_5We go through the bathroom to get to the bed, but what fabulous tile, right?  Lots of shelf space for our toiletries, not so much for our suitcases.  Dave put his on the shoe rack in the bathroom, and I used my end table (switched with the ceramic round corner table) for mine. Hotel Praktik Bakery_1 Hotel Praktik Bakery_6Since we arrived at night, I opened the window beyond the bed to see this street scene.  We are down the block from La Pedrerara and not too far from La Sagrada Familia.Hotel Praktik Bakery_26The view out the window in the morning.  Wrap-up: good bed, good towels and pillows, cramped space (but who cares, here?), decent amount of plugs, very clean, double bed (double happinesses), new construction (built in 2104) so everything was in good repair.Hotel Praktik Bakery_22

Since we are over a bakery, the bread theme is throughout the hotel, in the signs for the rooms (above) by the elevator, and in sayings written in the hallway when we step out onto our floor.  Hotel Praktik Bakery_24

I don’t really know what it says, but my impression is that it’s giving a giant rah-rah! for bread.

It is interesting to think about our trip in terms of where we stayed and how each place reflected part of the character of that city in some way. But as always, there’s no place like home, where we can stow our suitcases in the closet until the next trip.