Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beauty vs. Devastation...

This assignment was hard for me, I have seen many beautiful places; but thankfully no devastation. I have been to places that have also seen much devastation, France; New York to name but a few.

One place that has certainly ticked the beauty box is Montserrat in Spain, also known as the Serrated Mountain. It is a working monastery carved into the mountainside, and somewhere I visited many moons ago. Many will know that I am not religious in the slightest, but do love the often stunning buildings; be they Church or Cathedral.

And while this particular monastery is no different, it is the outside that I was more interested in. The surrounding areas had many walks, roads and paths carved into the rocks of the mountains so travellers could explore and experience what many a local had. It was also my plan, bored of the fact that my folks wanted to sit around and go shopping.

So off I went along this path no clue of where it would lead or even how long it would take, but of course as was my way I never follow the crowd. About two minutes from the start of my walk I became curious, looking around me there was nothing but rocks and hillsides around me. As I climb a hill to my right I have no idea what I will find over the top, I was expecting to see a sheer drop. What I got was the most peaceful and tranquil scene I have ever known.

Sitting upon the hillside looking out over sprawling mountains and nothingness, I felt a calmness wash over me. There was no sounds, no noises from where I had just come from; nothing. No cars going by, no screaming kids; just peace. And time, time to think... much too much time for me to think, but somewhere I would highly recommend people going at least once in their lives!

France is another place I have spent many a happy holiday, from the first time with my parents camping to the school trip when I was at middle school; all have been memorable for one reason or another. Personally one of my favourite places is Normandy, here you can find both beauty and devastation.

The coastal towns are just as quaint as you can imagine, and just as breezy! The countryside as green and lush as anything we have over here, the wildlife seems to be richer though! Once you go off the beaten track you find yourself almost in the middle of nowhere at most turns, but even nowhere looks hospitable!

But then when you think you have missed it, you begin to see the signs of devastation around you; a few bullet holes here or a pillbox there. Once you get further away from the beauty of the rolling green fields and inland jewels, you start to see the scars of war; once you reach many costal towns and villages you see the with increasing regularity.

There are monuments, museums and many stories to be heard. Some scream at you to be heard, others need seeking out; all as important as each other... as is the lessons it teaches us.

Another place I enjoy going, (or places) are the Italian Lakes; a country that holds a special place in my hear for various reason. Of course they lakes are stunningly beautiful, they also have links to the war and Il’ Duce; but by far these lakes hold a place in my heart because of the links to my own family name... no matter what anyone says, my fathers side of the family came from Italy and that’s the end of it.

I think I have always had a love of the place and its culture before I became interested in where I came from and the history of my family, like I always say; you cannot know where you are going until you know where you have been! But in truth nothing could have prepared me for the feelings that hit me as I climbed in the boat that was to take me to Venice for the first time, I had heard the stories, but none of them mattered; I was about to see Venice in my line of vision...

And there before me was that most famous skyline ~ this would not be the last time I thought those words; but more on that later! The dome of St. Mark’s, the tower of the Campanile; the Doge’s Palace ~ all there in front of me. And as the trip we had planned continued, we travelled down the Grand Canal; passing under the famous Rialto Bridge... which should never be walked over in crocks or slippy-bottomed shoes!

The highlight for me was getting lost, which may surprise you; but totally something I would recommend. Usually getting lost would be trouble some and problematic, but then usually you would not get to see a hidden gem of Venice; even if only in my eyes! As we came across this tiny Church which was nothing like the splendour of St. Mark’s, but just as beautiful; for inside was a fresco of the Last Supper that captivated me... of course it helped that I had been reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown earlier!

But I think the one place that has captivated me the most is of course New York City, without doubt one of the most amazing Cities in the world; it is always going to be a place you will never forget once you go there... no matter how hard you try, it will always be in your soul.

A City of extremes, where you can see such devastation at the site of Ground Zero to the surprising tranquillity of the top of the Empire State Building; a place to forget and remember. To see the names and faces of many of the fallen gave me goose bumps, to know of the stories; to know that my Aunt had a building closer than anyone of us would like to Ground Zero will haunt me forever.

But then to know of the beauty that surrounds you as you watch the sun going down over the Manhattan skyline, one of the most famous ones in the world; is breathtaking. Nothing could have prepared me for the silence and bright twinkling lights around me, the words “wow!” leaving my lips many times that trip...

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