January 2011

Photos of San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja

Thursday January 27th, 2011 10:58 AM

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso
One of the great things about being a photographer in La Rioja – well, anywhere for that matter – is that the unexpected can happen at any time. And, of course, it frequently does.

It was still dark when I set out for San Millán de la Cogolla on Tuesday morning. The two monasteries at San Millán (Yuso and Suso) played a key role in the history of La Rioja and the development of the Spanish language. But despite their World Heritage Site status and being located in the next valley but one from where I live, I’d never photographed the place.

I’d been hoping to get a picture with the early morning sunlight falling on the roof of Yuso, the larger of the two monasteries, with the magnificent snow-covered mountains of Sierra de la Demanda as a backdrop.

But while the distant peak of San Lorenzo was in sunlight, San Millán itself stayed under stubbornly cloudy skies, making the foreground light unpleasantly flat. After a couple of hours waiting in sub-zero temperatures to see if the clouds would lift, my frozen toes could take it no more. I wandered down the hill to the entrance looking for a Plan B only to be told that the monastery was closed for the day.

I asked why and that was when the unexpected happened. After a three-year €4.6m restoration project, the church at Yuso was to be officially reopened later in the day in the presence of the president of La Rioja’s government, Pedro Sanz, and other dignitaries. And so a couple of hours later I followed the rest of the press in for a guided tour, long opening speeches – see expression on the journalist below – and mass. The resultant pictures were far more interesting than I’d expected.

As for the scenic shot with the mountain backdrop, it could be better. And fortunately I live only a couple of valleys away.

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Iglesia de la Anuncion de Yuso

Independent shops in Barcelona, Catalonia

Friday January 7th, 2011 10:06 PM

tiendas de barcelona

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Spain in general but Barcelona in particular is the large number of independent shops that seem to thrive despite competition from large chain stores or out-of-town malls.

Barcelona’s Barrio Gótico  – or old centre – is full of such shops which, at the extreme, may specialise in only one product. Arlequí Màscares, in Plaza St Josep Oriol, sells only masques, many made in-house. Not far away, the hat shop Obach, was attracting a constant stream of customers through its doors when I passed by as was Subur, a shoe shop that sells only one style of shoe, albeit in a variety of colours.

In Calle de Pi is Drap, which sells dolls houses and miniature furniture and figures destined to live in them. And if you get peckish after all the walking required between shops, a few doors up is Pineda, a café which specialises cured meats.

All this is not to say that Barcelona is bereft of department stores and high-street names – in fact they were packed with people on the first day of the sales when I took these pictures – but the fact that the city is able to accommodate both is surely one of the factors Barcelona’s continued success.

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona