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From Where I Sit: A Gallery of Benches


In a recent Gumbo blog, Jonathan L. pointed out that travelers (and locals) need a place to rest from time to time while visiting or going about daily life...and part of the need is what's called—logically—street furniture.

(Above, a Cuban couple eye each other shyly on a park bench;
below, this bench is in Mexico City's Alameda Park)


Often it goes pretty much unnoticed, and often it's not anything to write home about (literally) but if you keep your eyes open, quite a few places have put a real effort into benches that are sometimes comfortable, sometimes artistic, sometimes strange, and sometimes...a bit of all of these.

DSC00157 Wrought iron bench in Jeres, typical of a number of Andalucian cities

When I began to travel as an adult, I didn't use these public benches that much—too busy rushing around to stop and sit. My wife, then an even-less-experienced traveler than I, put an end to that. We were walking across the Tuileries gardens in Paris, on a hot August day, and she spotted chairs and benches in a shaded grove and headed for them. I argued, she won, by pointing out that if I really wanted to experience Paris I should try what every Parisian in sight was doing: sitting, letting a little of the world go by, and observing each other. As so often, her insight has become a pattern of our travel.


DSC00342 In the Alcazar of Seville

Most of these pictures are from my own wanderings, supplemented with pictures by others. My travels are mostly Euro-focused...I'd love to see more benches from other parts of the world. When looked at side-by-side, the mundane can become special.


Rustic benches in Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Maine



Surrounding a tree in a Budapest park, just off Deak Ter


Stone and iron in Seville's Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes



No dinosaurs in sight in Middlefield CT; it might be a long wait on the bench


A brick bench offers a rest on the climb to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain


Not actually a bench, but the Lutheran church offers a rest with the slogan
"Thank God it's Sunday!

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mexico 033

These two benches in Mexico (above in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and below at Cuernavaca's cathedral) offer a chance to contemplate art.

Sometimes, of course, the benches themselves can be art. The first two below are in Barcelona's Parc Guell, designed by Antonio Gaudi; the other is on the Via Laetana in downtown Barcelona, where many moderniste touches can be found.




Speaking of art, here are a few benches where you'll have to share your seat with a companion who may seem a bit brassy (sorry!)


Near Oslo's main government buildings


"The Secret," by Lea Vivot, near Montreal's McGill University campus


In Kiev, you'll have to squeeze in with the late comic actor Nikolas Yakovchenko

and his faithful dachshund

Memorials for comedians are not the only place for humor from the bench:
Wonder what that company does? The stone seating below is in Nashville's
Centennial Park, in company with others commending Accounting, Railroad
and more early 20th-century virtues.





Here are some more benches that have attempted to "break the mold."


In a shopping area of Darmstadt, Germany

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In Albstadt, Germany


and a possibly not-too-comfortable but stylish effort in Berlin


And an ornate, but more traditional design from Paris.

Not only humans need a place to rest for a while; here is a flock of pigeons
"en banc" in the garden of the Musee Rodin in Paris.



And Italian journalist Indro Montanelli taking a break on a stack of bronze newspapers in a park named for him in Milan. Or no break: note the typewriter

Two resting places in the National Garden in Athens, just below Syntagma Square,
the Parliament and old Royal Residence




Sometimes an indoor stop is just the thing in heat or rain, and churches are usually easy to find. These pews are in the choir area of the Cathedral of Cordoba

And sometimes the view alone is a good argument for a bench. These below are in the
old fortress of Aqaba in Jordan, on the waterfront in Montevideo, Uruguay,
and in Ljubljana, Slovenia





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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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