Sunday, September 15, 2013

Working in the garden

Block wall fully removed

And rebuilt down below

Renga Renga lilies taking over more of the slope

Sunset behind the wind turbine

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Short weekend in Barcelona

Having come all this way I had to spend a couple of days in Barcelona checking out the famous architecture and art from this vibrant and fun city. The highlights were definitely the Sagrada Familia, the half finished basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi, who only lived to see the first part of it finished. Also the Park Guell designed and landscaped by Gaudi as well. There are also lots of other buildings around the city that were designed by Gaudi - getting more and more curvy and alternative as he got older.
The unfinished building site - the construction of the basilica is being funded by the tourists paying to visit

What the final Sagrada Familia should look like - the brown is what is completed and the white is still to be built - it will be a lot taller than it currently is and it already dominates the skyline of Barcelona

The stark crucifixion on one side of the basilica

Inside there is lots of light and it is supposed to represent a forest

The ornate nativity scene on the other side of the basilica from the crucifixion with the tree of life above

The colourful modern stain glass windows

The gate houses at the entrance to Park Guell - they look like gingerbread houses

The plaza with its colourful mozaic covered benches that were surprisingly colourful - lots of musicians and people hanging out on a Saturday afternoon - until it started to pour with rain...

I also visited the Picasso Museum and the Miro Foundation... and there are lots of other famous artists from Barcelona and lots of modern art on display around the city. It was great to just walk around and visit sights like Miramar (I assume the suburb where we live is so named for the same reason).

I'm sure I will be back - to explore Barcelona more some day... have to come back when the Sagrada Familia is finished - if that is in my lifetime...

Field trip to Montserrat

As part of the conference I went on one of the field trips to the famous jagged and "mystical" mountain of Montserrat, just north of Barcelona. It was great to get out in to the countryside and see a bit of the local area other than the towns and cities.The area is also well known for rock climbing and more recently for base jumping.... there is a very recent youtube video of a guy in a flying suit going through the small hole on the left of Montserrat - check it out and see if you believe it is real...

The field trip participants looking for coral and foram fossils

Mighty Montserrat - can you spot the small hole on the left (<5m p="" wide="">

Montserrat is famous for its monastery, perched precariously on the side of the steep mountain, but we were there to look at the rocks and learn about the geological history of the area. Montserrat is an old, eroded delta conglomerate and soil sequence, with the spectacular spires formed due to perpendicular faults and weathering.

Our geology guides - Mark and Alberto and their handy white board

the conglomerate overlying the red soil layers... washed smooth by water

We also had a traditional late, long, spanish lunch - so I had to keep snacking on the wild blackberries and figs that I found at some of the sites to keep me going until 2pm...

In the afternoon we walked a little way up Montserrat and went into the caves - formed because the rock is cemented by calcite.. but the clay in the rock makes all the speleothems (stalagmites and stalagtites) red, rather than their normal white. 
Red speleothems

Hopefully I will get back here some day and climb and explore some more... it is a spectacular place.

Conference in Sitges, Spain

My second conference was in Sitges, a small beach resort just outside of Barcelona. A very nice little informal place - evidently the local nudist and gay resort!
The old church that sits in the middle of Sitges

The beach and promenade

Although it was hotter than Florence at least you could cool off in the sea and I managed to go for a swim every day - very pleasant to swim in the sea without a wetsuit - unheard of in Wellington, even in the middle of summer.

The conference was much smaller than Goldschmidt (only 600 people) - a much more manageable size. Although I still didn't manage to catch up with everyone that I wanted to over the week. It was held in a large hotel and was a great venue with excellent food and the organisers did a great job of providing some local entertainment - including human towers and catalan drummers.
The human towers - only the little kids that climb to the very top where helmets! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spring in the garden

While Helen has been traipsing around Europe, I have been holding down the fort back in Wellington. Apart from a couple nasty southerly storms it has even been pretty nice. I have been working in the garden all the weekends Helen has been away.

Late afternoon sun on the extension

Not sure what this plant is

Marlborough Daisies getting ready to bloom

A block wall growing on the bottom terrace

A retaining wall post sprouting near a shrinking block wall

An infestation of retaining wall posts

Even more - they're everywhere!

Spring in Wellington

Spring officially began last Sunday, but today felt more like summer. 

Ferry on its way to Picton

Maitu-Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour

Pencarrow Head - the entrance to the harbour

The Brooklyn wind turbine just after sunset