Mission San Xavier Del Bac

by Bob Hoelscher 2. March 2012 20:45

Although I am not a religious person myself, I always enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to explore all manner of cathedrals, churches, missions, synagogues, mosques, temples and shrines of various faiths, since the architecture, art and history represented therein tell fascinating and important stories about the existence and progression of humanity worldwide. As such, there are three Roman Catholic Missions, all still active, that are my favorites in the American West.

The Mission San Xavier del Bac, on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation is just south of Tucson. Founded by the famed Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino in 1692, the present church was constructed between 1783 and 1797 by Franciscan missionaries. Although the Franciscans were forced to depart the reservation in 1828, they returned in 1911 and have continued to maintain the facility as the principal church and school of the Tohono O’odham people now for over a century. 

As one of the finest examples of Spanish mission architecture, its particularly beautiful carvings, murals, arches, domes and flying buttresses make it one of the most unique and impressive in the Southwest. Surely a Tucson “must,” the complete visit to San Xavier includes a museum, video presentation and self-guided tour.

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Traveling through Tucson

Exploring Barcelona

by Bob Hoelscher 16. November 2011 19:30

In my humble opinion, Barcelona is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities in Europe. Many Mediterranean sailings depart from or conclude at its excellent, state-of-the-art cruise ship complex, so visitors frequently have the opportunity to spend a few days visiting this incredible destination before or after their shipboard adventures. 

There is literally so much to see here that one day. As the capitol of Spain’s autonomous (since 1975) region of Catalonia (Catalunya), the city’s residents proudly consider themselves to be Catalonians rather than Spaniards. 

Barcelona has done an outstanding job of successfully combining its historic and modern elements. On one hand, the ancient cobbled streets and narrow alleyways of its Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) lead to such incredible architectural riches as the massive Gothic-style Cathedral, the adjacent Royal Palace, and picturesque squares. On the other hand, there is the bizarre but fascinating and chronically unfinished La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church), the renowned creation of the city’s great architect and native son, Antoni Gaudi, as well as his equally strange Casa Milà and Parc Güell. 

The city’s historic and fascinating downtown pedestrian and shopping street, Las Ramblas, leads from the Columbus Monument to the Plaza de Catalunya, where one can find the massive and traditionally European El Corte Inglés department store. And yet, not that far away is the ultra-modern, harbor front Maremagnum shopping and adjacent aquarium complex.                   

Also among the city’s top sights are its great Picasso Museum, the incredibly ornate Liceu Opera House, and Montjuïc, the mountain park west of the downtown area, which overlooks the city.  All together, the city boasts more than 50 significant museums.

Dining (especially late dining) is also a passion here, so finding your fill of authentic tapas will pose no problem. Getting around is easy, either by taxicabs or the excellent public transportation system.  Or, if you prefer, the on/off, double-decked and brightly colored Bus Turistic provides a convenient way to see all the important sights with a minimum of hassle. Regardless, Barcelona is a city that you’re sure to enjoy exploring!

Antoni Gaudi's Holy Family Church

Antoni Gaudi's Parc Guell

Las Ramblas

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Three Great Spanish Ports

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