Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Barcelona. Part 1.

We have to trust the author of a hilarious book Stuff Parisians Like. Olivier Magny is a Parisian after all, a witty word sharp shooter and an insider. Who would know better about the QUOI in Je ne Sais Quoi?

Barcelona, according to Magny, is the only city in the world Parisians don’t feel like look down. The one they love unconditionally, seeing much in common, and consider as equal: “ They can certainly recognize its impressive accomplishments, fantastic energy, and apparent wealth. This knowledge that the city is populated with overachievers makes the Parisian feel very much at ease there….
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. Its population vastly looks down on the rest of the country that in return generously dislikes them. The city is probably the country’s most appealing metropolis yet fails to charm other Spaniards, who see in it nothing but arrogance. Parisians can relate to that” *. Magny certainly has la raison.
View from Sagrada Familia tower.

This is probably the only place beyond Paris city walls, better to say Boulevard Peripherique,  where Parisians enjoy Fraternite and Egalite to the fullest and look up with respect and admiration.
Creative energy and vibe are alluring, architectural beauty is unimaginable, people are friendly, live with dignity and care about their beloved city proudly. 
Add to that lots of sun, a sea breeze and a mild weather – dream city, favorite week-end escape for Parisians.

So to feel like we belong to the tribe I’d like to take you to the series of escapes to Barcelona with which I fell in love instantly, once and for all.

While getting ready for the journey and searching for images I realized that though it’s a popular tourist destination there actually very few imagery available. Mostly are panoramic views, Sagrada Familia and other masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi, which are definitely better to see in person or in special books about this architect genius as his creations are so difficult to photograph. But what about city?

Catalonians, a multi talented nation of about 8 500 000, and Barcelonans in particular are very proud of who they are and what they’ve accomplished. They are not selfishly sporting their superiority. Cultural identity is a paramount but they are not imposing it on others just build it up patiently for centuries and persevere.

Barcelona and Madrid are long stand rivalries. Barcelonans invariably consider Madrid a parvenu and refer to it as Vila de Madrid, that means town. And they always address Barcelona as ciutad – city, with more than 4 000 000 population city it is.
And of course there are Placa Catalunya, prospects and avengudas named to the Glory Catalan.
And they don’t speak Spanish, which largely means Castilian. They speak their own language which was so much oppressed for ages especially during Franco regime, they proudly speak Catalan. And proudly display the legacy of prominent Catalonians like Dali, Picasso, Miro and Gaudi.
They turn every tiny piece of their legacy into souvenirs, inventively made with taste and style.

Friends appreciating their cultural identity are welcome to share company and the fruits of their labor. Dignity, self-respect and respect to others are a comer stone.

At any ticket desk they would mostly politely ask what country you are  from for statistics. And they will do whatever it takes to make guests feel welcome.

You won’t see many cheese smiles from locals, a hint of a friendly smile and willingness to help will do.
Once in a tiny supermarket across from our apart-hotel the sales clerk at cash asked me something.  I always learn language basics like I did before trip to Italy or this time to Spain. This is a survival kit I find sometimes very helpful. I probably would have a clue if the lady wouldn’t have spoken Catalan. My smile was helpless. She instantly asked ladies in a short line behind me who can translate Ingles. One of them kindly translated. It appears to be that clerk saw me looking at a huge watermelon in hesitation. It was too big for just two of us and very heavy. So she suggested to cut it in half for me. Also she didn’t mind if I buy a mid day baguette, but if I could wait another five minutes there will be  freshly baked right from the oven behind her. Wasn’t it nice of her?  She could just simply let it go.
Fruits were so the most delicious, by the way the watermelon was the juiciest and the sweetest we ever tried, it turned into our home saying, to describe or compare the taste we can just mention: it’s far from Barcelona peaches, or it’s great like that vine in Barcelona. I’d rather stop…

The small nice things kept happening and left us with very warm feelings towards Barcelonans and the city itself.

When little people are growing up on playgrounds like this one, they probably turn into quite special adults. What a backdrop!
 This cute Cupid aimed perfectly well and got the couple on images below.
 They kissed before putting on helmets. Then before taking off they kissed again clinking with plastic shields: zinnng, and off they rushed.

 This little girl stayed behind her father who carried her younger brother. She definitely enjoyed Marilyn Monroe subway stunt.

People don’t look stressed out like most in big cities do. They aren't in a hurry and look happy and content.

And what says a lot about Catalan character is 130 year (!) ongoing construction of Antoni Gaudi’s majestic cathedral Sagrada Familia. There will be later a post dedicated to this out-of-worldly creation. The funding comes entirely from private donations and in last decades from millions of visitors and ticket sales.

Most European cities developed in circles, growing gradually bigger and wider. Barcelona wasn’t exactly growing, it exploded, sprang out from Barri Gothic- medieval part of the city, in 1890-s -1915-s. After World Exposition in Barcelona in 1888 the word modernisme defined the rapid change in architecture and design, crowned with Gaudi’s masterpieces. It was Barcelonian Renaissance and it never ended since.
The area called Eixample planned in a grid and built in unique and flamboyant Modernista style was blown like a beautiful  colorful hot air balloon, which caught the wind and set to flight. It’s been more than a hundred years but not only facades on Placa’s but side walls and backstreets look amazingly neat and meticulously maintained.
(a propos, in Bruxelle, a birth place of Art Nouveau where I had a long list of buildings I’d like to see it was a frustrating trip actually, as majority of them, if it wasn’t Victor Horta Museum or some diplomatic residences, were in very neglected condition, fading, peeling off, windows backed with paper, including Saint Cyr House’s tiny iconic façade hidden behind crumbled scaffolding. Sadly sad.) 

Restoration in progress.
In Paris, Bruxelle and elsewhere in Europe singled out Art Nouveau building are scattered and numbered. In Barcelona they mostly gathered in a particular part of the city and for Art Nouveau lovers it's a paradise.

Barcelona looks and feels fabulously fresh and not aging at all. Lively and invigorating city is well balanced and proportioned. It’s a metropolis but, thanks God, not  a mega polis. Walking wondering the streets is a pleasure, strolling Rambla or Passaig Gracia is a journey. Green, shady, spacious.

Love the reflection in the window.
Many elegant women in bright summer colors, many beautiful tan girls dressed in something unnoticeable. They probably were wearing only iPod headphones. Though I recall layered bracelets…Hm, what else? Perhaps sandals and bags.

It’s a moveable never ending feast. If I would have been asked to name instantly 3 cities to revisit that would be Paris-Barcelona-Florence (immediate follow Venice and London).

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See you soon.

* Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in Je ne Sais Quoi. Olivier Magny here

**All images copyright Natalie Rapoport

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Paris. Montmartre. I love Paris for many things and one of them that each and every its area- arrondissement – is distinctively different.  Every arrondissement has the history  and character of its own and Montmartre hill is literally above all.

Unmistakable rooftops and chimneys. Panoramic view from the very top of Montmartre.
And a true Parisian, a pigeon minding his own business, streamed into view. Very rear shot as if he was photoshopped, but he wasn't.

Beloved and commemorated by  numerous artists and poets, with its windmills – moulins, cabarets and dancing – bal musettes, steep hilly streets and stairs –escaliers. Daring, turbulent and picturesque, overlooking the rest of Paris below.

In 1880-es Montmartre from a village at Paris’s outskirts woke up and rapidly turned into cultural phenomenon and epicenter of entertainment.
Populated with hard working people, seamstresses and laundresses, aspiring models and poor, dashing artists, flower girls and coquettes, wine makers and craftsmen, poets and writers, chansoniers  and all sorts of radicals it was as free spirited and unruly and rebellious as the Paris could be. There was even a short lived Montmartre Republic once.

Many satire, pranks, anecdotes and Paris legends originated there. Montmartre always knew how to work endless hours and it surely knew how to laugh out loud mocking all those puffy and snobbish bourgeois, teasing and tempting with unheard of music and unseen of  cancan  moves of  all La Goulue and Jean Avril-esque girls, and Parisians flocked there for a healthy laugh, all night fun at café-bals, gunguettes – dancehall-restaurants, which sprang all over the hill, just watch or dance.

Toulouse –Lautrec  immortalized those circus daredevils, dancing girls in unbelievable up high jetes and flying skirts, as well as tired and worn out night butterflies of infamous brothels.

And of course Chat Noir, Au Lapin Agile, Aristid Bruant in his iconic red scarf.
The theatrical poster  and fun announcement became a graphic  Art forever linked to Paris.
It was from here that cabarets later spread out throughout the Europe, especially in Germany.
From the top of the hill to Moulin Rouge downhill and further to Champs-Elysees cafe-concerts 
colored the city of lights happy and sparkled the nightlife.

And though its heydays  fin de siecle in the end of 19th –early 20th century  is gone, vineries don’t produce and mills don’t catch the wind, it still catches the eyes of thousands of tourists, who make its cobblestone streets impossible to navigate in high season.
Its charm is irresistible. Moulin de la Galettes is still there though its purely decorative now.
How many times Sacre Coeur made it on to canvas or a photo? Probably millions. Little did Maurice Utrillo knew depicting those simple street scenes and corners that he would end up in postcards in souvenir shops along with Lautrec’s posters.

Take your apple tart and a coffee outside the cozy café and enjoy it while watching people and street scenes. Grab a delicious ice-cream and loose yourself in winding streets away from beaten paths and you might as well stumble upon the same view you’ve seen so many times in art books.

Thank you for coming.

* All images Copyright  Natalie Rapoport

PS. I'm very excited to invite you to my recently launched print store Click Away Photography on     Etsy. 
Please click at the right side.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

We met this charming duo in St. Paul de Vence, a beautiful medieval village in Provence.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lost and Found in Arles

Roman Amphitheatre in Arles 

This post is dedicated to  Heather Robinson  from Lost in Arles with huge and heartfelt thank you for the sweetest mentioning of my blog in her post.
I’m so happy I found this blog  by accident and follow it with pleasure as Heather is a very talented writer who lives in a slow pace and harmony with Slow Love Life, as  Dominique Browning an incredibly talented and openhearted writer, described it in her remarkable book and blog of the same name: Slow Love Life, appreciating the beauty of every moment.

I’ve been in Arles for a few hours only, hence to learn what this historical town is about one would better read Heather’s blog but I’m happy to have a few images to share.

Weathered doors have always stories to tell.

On the church's doorsteps with the laptop. 
Ancient and modern in the sun spot.

Thank you for coming and have a wonderful week.

* All images by Natalie Rapoport

Monday, February 6, 2012


My new blog friend  Catherine Robinson
has awarded me the
Liebster Blog Award... thank you.
Thank you Catherine, how very sweet!

I know you live in London and love this tremendously beautiful city.
As London is among my very favorites along with Paris, Barcelona, Florence and NY here are a few images to show my gratitude and to enjoy.

All images by Natalie Rapoport

Liebster in German means...
favourite, dearest, beloved
and it's for bloggers with under 200 followers.

The rules are:

Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog
Link back to the blogger who awarded you
Copy and paste the blog award on your blog
Reveal your 5 blog picks
Let them know you choose them by leaving a comment
on their blog

Heather Robinson
Francine Gardner

All lovely blogs to visit.

From the Most Beautiful Rooftop

If you conquer the steep spiral stairs to the very top picking out through the narrow wall slots on Parvis de Notre Dame down below, you’ll be not only rewarded with the breathtaking birds view of Parisian rooftops, but you also can actually see and touch  the carved stone lace of the legendary Cathedral, literally follow the footsteps of the Hunchback. 

How many brilliant actors made Victor Hugo’s story alive and played this tragic character starting with silent movies, later  Charles Laughton and Anthony Quinn with gorgeous Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda.

I still remember  a heartbreaking final scene choreographed on powerful music of Maurice Jarre in ballet by Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris  seen many years after it was premiered in 1965. It’s classics now and still sounds and looks so modern.
An audience gave a long standing ovation to that masterpiece of choreography and dance.

Now every kid knows the synopsis of a story thanks to Disney’s animation.

I’m never tired to climb to the very top of Notre Dame and always expect nothing less than Ah! Sheer admiration.
All this gargoyles, the grotesque creatures, out-of-worldly birds  did a great job protecting the cathedral from the evil for centuries.

Always happy to greet them with a friendly Hello guys, glad to see you! Keep going, keep looking after this beautiful city from above.

Thank you for coming.

* All images by Natalie Rapoport