A Travellerspoint blog

País Vasco....

...THE most beautiful part of Spain!

all seasons in one day 15 °C

Autumn just smells different. The leaves, fresh rain, a fireplace burning somewhere or someone cooking, and more leaves all mesh together and its one of the few scents Illuminations hasn’t figured out how to put in a candle yet. Then there are the sounds. Leaves falling, being kicked around or raked, dogs on walks, kids all bundled up in parks, chitter-chatter when familiar faces pass each other on the streets, grandparents cooing at their grandkids in those old fashioned baby carriages, the clanking of bread pans as they take them out of the oven and one by one place the bread on the racks in the windows and behind the counter so you can pick yours out and take it home for that days meals. And best of all there are those innocent bystanders (aka tourists) who get to take it all in!

If that picture wasn’t the most clichéd description of fall, then I don’t know what is, but in all honesty, that is what País Vasco (Basque Country) of Spain looks like. This weekend I hopped a bus to Málaga, stayed for one night in the cute little coastal town in southern Andalucía before catching my plane bright and early the next morning (yeah, that’s right, I was up at 4am on the first day of my weekend). But, the nice thing about early morning flights is they give you the rest of the day at your final destination. So, I arrived in Bilbao, where I met Kiki (the same friend from home that I have gotten to see for the last 3 weekends...my life rocks!!), and her roommate Clancey, and we hopped on a bus to destination #1 in País Vasco: San Sebastian. The Basque call it Donostía, but during Franco´s Fascist regime, he refused to let the Basque differentiate themselves from the rest of Spain, and was called San Sebastian instead.

When you arrive in Donstía, you first drive through the beautiful green mountains and rolling hillsides, very Celtic. Then past some small herds of sheep and goats, very ‘Heidi’, before popping out into the small (170,000 people) town just south of the French border on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The population here quadruples in the summer months, but we thoroughly enjoyed missing the crowds and took the town at a leisurely pace. Our pension (different from a hostal in that hostals are usually entire buidings and are run by a company, pensions are people renting out rooms on a floor that they own…but not as sketchy as they sound) was great. It was located right in the heart of the old town, Parte Vieja, in the middle of all the shopping, tapas bars, old stone Baroque cathedral, Bahía de la Concha, and River Urumea. Prime locale!

We set our stuff down and headed out to explore, heading towards the famous beaches of the Bahía de la Concha (Bay of the Shell). ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS are the two words best describing San Sebastian. If you like the beach this is the place for you. If you like the mountains, likewise. If you have a hankering for the small town feel, get lost in old town, or cross the river and you can be in the ‘big city’ with the Kursaal Conference Center, or fit right into Basque life while picking up your groceries and flowers at the small market in the barrio Gros (Gros neighbourhood). Anyway, our walk took us around the horseshoe shaped bay to the Palacio Miramar, whose green lawns you can see from across the bay. As we are accustomed to the tradition of siesta here in Spain, we headed back for a little R&R when the shops closed up for siesta.

When dinner time rolls around in Basque Country, the chefs roll up their sleeves and go to town. In País Vasco, tapas is done differently, and I like it. It has all the appeal of a buffet, getting to see what your food looks like before eating it and only taking exactly what you want in the exact amount you want it. The camarero (bartender/waiter) hands you a large plate and you stroll down the bar where all the tapas are laid out. Montaditos and bocadillos (small sandwiches) with all sorts of seafood and veggies, Spanish tortilla, crab cakes on toast, pastry tarts filled with seafood salad, ham, of course, and more! We each grabbed a plate and took a few to try. I am a huge fan of artichoke hearts Spanish style…just finely chop up lots of onion and red and green pepper and with a little olive oil dump it all on top of skewered artichoke hearts..enjoy! We felt the need to walk off our dinner passing by plenty of other tapas bars laid out the same way. The people just spill into the streets, mostly standing and just talking, sipping, and munching on yummy foods.

We headed back towards the bay to see it all lit up and, oh wow, it was still gorgeous! I love this part of Spain, my motivation to leave just kept declining as the weekend went on too! After our small walk we had cleared out enough room in our tummies for some ice cream. We found the best ice cream place in all of Spain on the main road, and after many many many minutes of indecisiveness, I picked Avellana (hazelnut) and Leche Merengada (the ice cream version of leche canela limon) to finish off the night!

Saturday morning we woke up to the hussle and bustle of small town mornings. From out our window we could see all the little old ladies pulling behind them their little carts, soon to be full of yummy things from the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker (well, not really, but people do buy their meat at one store, their veggies at another, and their bread at yet another…gotta love the Spanish inefficiency, especially in small towns). We headed out for the day to Monte Igueldo, peak on the far side of the bay from us. We walked along the ‘boardwalk’ again, and decided, after seeing a ridiculous amount of runners, that if you are under 45 and living in San Sebastian, you have to run!!! And I don’t mean brisk walk or light jog, you better run!

We got to Monte Igueldo and took the funicular (a train on tracks at 45ª) to the top to see the most gorgeous views of the city. From the bay to the mountains far beyond the city, and 300ª around, San Sebastian was, again, absolutely beautiful. We decided to walk back down and back towards the Parte Vieja for lunch. On the way we passed the 3 types of people that come/live in San Sebastian. Type 1: 65 and older adorable couples with matching outfits (including swimsuits and caps) that happily and leisurely enjoy life and everything in it (Although, Grandma and Grandpa, these guys dont have anything on you…you guys are way cuter, and much younger of course!) Type 2: Shout out to all the young families, this is where you should be in the first years of your child/children´s lives. As long as you dress them all in matching outfits and take them to the park for hours on end, you can pass for Basque. Type 3: the hopelessly romantic couples who are of course all over each other, but not in the gross, over-obsessive way they are in the rest of Spain, its much cuter because everyone looks like they stepped out of the pages of a J.CREW catalogue.

So, now that we have established that we couldn’t stand out anymore, we took shelter under an umbrella at a table in the plaza for some bocadillos. The day got more exciting from there. The table next to us had finished eating and paid the tab, leaving it on the table, as is customary here. As soon as they had walked away, this shady guy walks by and grabs the money and runs off, out of the plaza and around the corner. The waiter runs after him but came back empty handed. We witnessed a Spanish robbery! Not that Im proud of it, but definitely a new experience. When we finished we took our tab up to the bar to pay and headed out to walk around. After exhausting the streets in the Gros, and watching every last shop close up for siesta we went back to the pension, climbed up the 2 stories (in Spain that means anywhere from 2 to 5 flights of stairs) just in time to escape the rain. The rest of the night was a relaxing combination of more eating, relaxing, ice cream (more eating), and people watching.

The next day we headed back to Bilbao. We hopped the bus and arrived in Bilbao and headed to the Guggenheim museum (also in Italy and New York). The Architecture of the building is the real attraction. The exhibits are rotating but the building, made of limestone covered in titanium tiles is the real attraction. Designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997 the building looks like a silver version of the Sydney Opera House that sort of reorganized itself so that all the arches are pointing in different directions. Gehry said he was inspired by carp, a fish from his childhood memories, and the river and fountains that surround the museum support this theme. We walked around, taking it in from all aspects before doing the classic tourist move, skipped the museum exhibits and shot straight to the gift shop for postcards of this modern, 21st century, piece of art!

The rest of the day consisted of walking around the city including its old town, called Casca Vieja, but by 2pm the crowds had died out and the ‘Sunday’ thing set in. There was nothing to do. We spent the day wandering aimlessly and sitting in the park. People watching was the extent of our activity for the rest of the day until I walked Kiki and Clancey back to the bus station! After a great weekend it was time for them to head back to Salamanca. My flight didn’t leave until the next morning, so after sending them off I headed back towards my hostal. As it got dark, the crowds came out again. I passed by a gorgeous church and decided to stop inside to find mass just about to begin. The church itself was gorgeous, elaborately decorated in pinks, blues, and golds with a lively congregation and an amazing trio of singers. Even more surprising was how much I understood what was being said. Following the mass is simple, same mass I have been to for the last 20 years of my life, but knowing what the readings said, and what the homily was about was really rewarding, (a) because mass just makes you feel good, and (b) because my Spanish has come that far!!

Afterward, feeling pretty good about myself, I strolled the lively streets of Bilbao before calling it a night. Monday morning was a different story. The place was all hustle and bustle with people off to work and wherever else Spaniards go during the day! I made my way through the crowds and caught my bus to the airport to head back to Córdoba. Not, that this whole experience isnt one big vacation, because for the most part it feels like that, but this weekend was especially relaxing, and i feel like i got a real vacation.

Posted by tuffchix 23:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Córdoba (again):

...but bass-ackwards and with an addition!

semi-overcast 18 °C

It was a weird week in Córdoba. We watched “Juana La Loca” in class on Monday which means we didn’t have our elective classes. Then Tuesday pretty much turned into a Friday because Wednesday was Día de la Hispanidad, a national holiday in Spain. National holidays in Spain are Sundays in the middle of the week. An excuse for people to close shops, post irregular hours at restaurants (open at the most inconvenient times), and do a whole lotta nuthin´ while celebrating independence/saints/cultural pride. That meant that Thursday felt like another Monday but kinda like a Friday too, because the next day was an excursion (a.k.a. no class). With two Mondays, Sunday in the middle of the week and a Friday and a half, I was pretty “off schedule” per-say, considering neither I, nor the rest of Spain, has any concept of a regular schedule. Lucky for me I had something to distract me from all this madness…

…KIKI! My friend Kirstin (who I saw a couple weeks ago in Madrid) is studying in Salamanca and came down for the weekend! Just when I thought my head was going to explode from trying to figure out what day it was, Kiki arrived…Perfect timing in more than one way too! The rain had just stopped AND the city has officially changed seasons. We are getting the wonderful fall weather that is just slightly windy, crisp cold air (a refreshing break from the hot mugginess that welcomed us to Córdoba initially) but still sunny and clear. Its gorgeous, and my favourite season during the school year!

Anyhoo…Kiki got here on Thursday and we headed back to my house cause Carmen said she could stay with us (my host family is totally cooler than everyone else´s, some of my friends can´t even have their friends over in the day, let alone stay with them for a weekend!). We cenar-ed (spanglish for ate dinner) with my family that night before heading out to the Intercambio party hosted for my program and our intercambios (Spanish speaking friends that we get paired up with to practice Spanish) at a bar called Blue near Gran Capítan and the center of town. While Kiki and I enjoyed being out with Chris, Cody and Marissa, we got real tired of the rest of the crowd of obnoxious Americans being obnoxiously loud and doing ridiculous things…as if a group of 70 Americans doesn´t stand out enough in Córdoba as is.

The next day we got up and headed (after a yummy breakfast that included a delicacy here in Spain: fat-free AND cold milk…we are talking serious rarity here folks!) to the parade (bus stop) where we were gonna catch the bus to the Castillo de Almodóvar, up on the top of a hill about 15 minutes outside of Córdoba city. The bus ride would have been enjoyable if I was deaf, but, with fairly decent hearing, I got to listen to the girl behind me talk (to her equally annoying friends) about all the stupid stuff she did at Blue, the night before…as if I hadn’t been there to witness it, and hadn’t been forced to leave out of sheer embarrassment of being associated with them. (SIDENOTE: let me just rant a little bit about the fact that Americans, and especially American girls, have a bad reputation for being loud, imposing, ignorant, and scandalous as is. Then you go to Spain, and to one of the more quiet and reserved areas at that, and perpetuate that exact persona that anyone who is not those things has to deal with. Its embarrassing, not that Im a saint, but I do my best to be as “Un-American” as I can when I go out). Enough said, but sometimes I feel that the title for this program should be: Spanish-for-Dummies-and-other-annoying-people. All in all, its not that bad and its really only a few of ‘them’ that are problems.

Lucky for me, I had Kiki right there next to me, and while the Castillo (forgive the lack of description but if you Google ‘Spanish Castle’ you will get the standard run down of the place) provided a great backdrop for our first outing in Córdoba, getting off the bus back in town was a relief. From there, we followed Spanish procedure of eating, sitting, talking, walking to the next place and eating and talking some more before heading home to (yep, you guessed it, eat again) and then head out. We passed on the Botellón Friday night and opted instead to check out the theatres…and the new movies that just came out here. We saw “Juegos de Mujer” (I don’t know if it translates literally back home but it would mean ‘Games of Women’) with Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz. I have almost stopped noticing the dubbing and now spend the energy trying not to miss anything important. Not my favourite movie, but watching movies in Spanish has become one of my favourite ways to learn!

Saturday, the most beautiful day Córdoba has seen in my stay (that perfect autumn weather) we put on our best tourist hat and explored the Judería and plazas before heading over to the Mezquita. If it wasn’t so expensive, im pretty sure I could go there everyday, its so strange and different and gorgeous all at the same time! After a day of walking around it only seemed right to relax in front of a bar TV, with a beer, and the free tapas that came with it, to catch a couple fútbol games. Word of advice for tapas: learn all the possible names for blood sausage before ordering. Afterward we did the typical Spanish thing (again). Grabbed something at one bar, relocated to the next, and the next adding people here, losing some there, playing darts, eating Kebab (the late-nite Mexican food of Spain) before heading back home.

The fun always has to end, so Sunday morning it was up-an-adam to walk Kiki back to the train station. Its so nice to have someone come visit that knows you and knows about “normal” life for you. The friends I have here are amazing people and wonderful friends. There is just something comforting, I think, in having a good friend from home bring some of that absent, and missed, familiarity into life here. I miss being able to say that ‘that dude remindes me of so-and-so’, and have them know who you are talking about without further explanation. So if I ever move halfway around the world again, you guys will have to all be sure to rearrange your lives, and come with me!

So, yet again, another weekend in Córdoba was a success. Today I woke up feeling a cold coming on, something I will be getting rid of pronto. Next weekend is a 4 day weekend and Basque Country is looking really appealing right now! And a week after that: MOROCCO!!!! I finally get to go to Africa…im so stoked! We will be flying farther south as not to encounter any of the long and arduous land/sea crossing and avoid the whole “TJ” experience that you get in border towns. Casablanca is where we fly into and from there down to Marrakech. Its going to be so wonderful, as long as I don’t drink any tap water or eat anything raw!

Posted by tuffchix 23:57 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

My own version of "Sex and the City"...

...and, headline news: Córdoba Sees First Rains of the Year!

rain 15 °C

Extra, Extra read all about it! The city of Córdoba has relinquished its swealtering hold on weary and homesick foreigners, and officially fallen into, well, Fall. I woke up this morning to the first real rains in Córdoba. A.K.A. the air is clear, i wasnt sweating when I got to school, I am actually wearing shoes, not flip-flops (*tear*), AND the place smells nice for once. But the real reason Im writing is because I had a near ´Sex and the City´ experience this morning (or as they call it here ´Sexo en Nueva York´). I was walking to la parada (bus stop) in en la marea (drizzle), when this extremely thoughtful driver, sped through the large puddle that gathers at the bus stop. Me in my little winter outfit and new (although not $400 Manolo Blahnik) shoes, was splashed by the tidal wave of Córdoba´s street/sidewalk run off and rain. Lucky for me, I, unlike miss SJP, got out of the way and only the hem of my pants (well, up to about my calf) would indicate that I had been in the rain. Ahhh Córdoba, the city of a thousand and one experiences!

Posted by tuffchix 00:13 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Granada

...(literally) Spain´s pommegranate!

semi-overcast 18 °C

Ok, first thing first, me being half lazy and then half forgetful, forgot to finish writing the ´Back to Madrid´entry...so if you care about the details of Goya, take a look, if not, read on my friend........

When I first heard about Granada, I knew little of the city and its fame! In Granada, as anyone there will proudly brag/tell you about “it has the second most visited tourist site in all of Europe, second only to the Eiffle Tower.” So, what is this magnificent site that they speak of, well, let me build up the suspense a little more (and no scrolling down to see what it is, cheater!). It was the last Moorish (Muslim) stronghold in Europe and taken over by the Christians during the Reconquista in 1492, and used as their palace…blah blah blah…more boring history….if you care that much check out the pictures (and order your tickets ahead of time…yes, its that popular at www.alhambratickets.com). This famous place is called the Alhambra. Same name as the water company with obnoxious green trucks and cool blue sparkly sequins on the back. Same name as the (not absolutely horrible) light beer served proudly in Granada and the rest of Andalucia. But, unlike either of those, this place is something to write home about (or at least online).

The Alhambra is divided into 4 parts, all gorgeous in their own way

Part I: Carlos I/V Palace: The conquering king who took hold of the Alhambra from the Muslims (ooopppps sorry, some more history slipped in…enjoy Daddy!) had to build his own palace (of course!) And so, built by Pedro Machucha, “devotee of Michaelangelo and Rafael” (courtesy of Rick Steve´s: Spain) this Spanish palace was entirely Roman in design. A circle in a square, this palace was entirely financed by the defeated Muslims (who were stoked about the idea), and was never finished because the next king wanted his own palace elsewhere…can we say ´Greedy??´ Anyway, its pretty cool to see a miniature collosium in a Spanish castle.

Part II: Alcazaba Fort, the actual “Alhambra” or “Red Castle” is the oldest part and also most ruined, where the Moorish King, Boabdil´s army resided. The tower at one end is climb-able and has the most gorgeous view of the city of Granada and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range (one of the few places to ski in Spanish winters).

Part III: Palacios Nazarios. The “Jewel of the Alhambra” (thank you Rick) is the Moorish royal palace. This part of the Alhambra shares the same intricate carved walls as the Mezquita and Medina Azahara. Also housing what they call “stalactite” ceilings which are stucco 3D tessellations sculpted into the arched techos (ceilings), ceramic tile walls, and tons of windows to let in light. The place used to be lavishly painted in bright colors signifying different things according to the Koran, red (blood), blue (heaven), green (oasis), and gold (wealth), and has the same Arabic carving around all of the walls with the translation saying something like “Allah is the winner.” Also in this section is the Court of Lions named for the circular fountain supported by 12 lions. The fountain Christians took it apart to see how it worked, and it hasn’t worked since. Also in here is the Washington Irving room. Named after the US embassador to Spain in 1829 who lived in the Alhambra and wrote “Tales of the Alhambra.”

Part IV: Generalife (Henn-err-all-ee-fey) Gardens. Mom, this part is for you! It is supposedly the closest thing (or was) on earth to the Koran´s description of Heaven. Ponds, hedges, flowers, paths, trees, views of the Alhambra and city…you could stay all day and not get tired of looking at the place.

Ok…sorry for the history lesson, but Granada was basically the visual for all the history I have been learning in class here.

Next we went to lunch where I had the best Paella I have had so far here. Lots of saffron (and the bright orange powder they use to actually make it that bright), plenty of veggies and meat (pork and seafood) to really just finish the morning and afternoon off right!

No one in the program went back on the bus to Córdoba, we all decide to stay and make a weekend trip out of Granada, so we headed to our hostal up in the hillside neighbourhood across from the hill the Alhambra caps. After winding our way through yet more cobblestobe (the worst I have seen yet: heels that night were a definite NO!) and carefully navigating between dog dropping we arrived at our completely “chill” hostal. Lots of hammocks, a “chill out room” (actual name listed on brochure) and good location to the other things to see. We didn’t stay long and headed back out, through the Alcaiceria, originally the Arab silk market, still a seda (silk) and jewellery market punctuted by tetarías (Arabian tea houses), and very much a tourist hot spot. It was still pretty, very colourful, and made me want to go to Morocco that much more!

We popped out into the Bib-Rambla square filled with coffee shops, florist kiosks, formerly a place of public executions.

After that we had had enough sight seeing for the day and headed out for some tapas for dinner. Granada is an extra special place for tapas because EVERY tapas bar serves free tapas with every drink you order. Finding good food is not a problem, but finding a table is! We (Marissa, Cody, Chris, Jessica, Jen and I) sat down and didn’t leave until we had had enough (cigarette smoke that is, you can almost never have too many tapas). Then, because its kinda what you do in Spain, we moved to the next relaxing place to eat and/or drink something. This time it was desert, then out on the town.

Granda is a city of more than 60,000 students (the city is only 300,000 people), and thus the going out scene leaves little to be desired. We strolled the streets, stopped in a few bars including one called the “Rock bar” (which played an unimpressive selection of rock music). Not in the mood for the crazy party scene, we instead decide to take a look at the Alhambra lit up at night, which looks entirely different.

We hike our way up through the hillside neighbourhood until we found a great little ledge and vista of the fairy tale castle all lit up! Marissa, Cody, Phillip (who we met up with) and myself talked until we couldn’t feel our toes (apparently cities near the mountains get cold at night, go figure!). We headed back to the hostel and called it a night (or a morning) because even our less-than-crazy night didn’t get us back until 2:30am.

Saturday morning we got up to the sweet smell of Churros which the owner of the hostel had bought for us…(he was fun to talk to cause his Madrileño accent allowed us to actually understand what he was saying, Andalucians speak horrible Spanish, ´S´s don’t actually exist in Andalucían Spanish). We headed off to the only other site I felt I could not leave Granada without seeing, La Capilla Real (the Royal Chapel). Built in only 15 year (ridiculously short for that era) it used up ¼ of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel´s wealth to build. Lucky for them,they got their money´s worth because this chapel, is where they, their daughter Jauna “La Loca” and son-in-law Felipe “El Hermoso” are all entombed under a marble Renaissance style carved sculpture of themselves. The chapel itself isn’t anything fabulous, but these are the Reyes Catolicos, and the reason that the Spanish empire was so big (and a huge part of my history class) and so it was pretty cool to see.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sampling tea at the As-Sinat tea house. My favourite is the Almendra (almond) tea with a little bit of milk and sugar, but the tea called “El Pais que no Existen” (the country that doesn’t exist) gave it a run for its money. After that Marissa and I were off, back to Córdoba to spend at least one weekend day at ´home´. It seems like I am never here, although I am not really complaining, its not like im doing nothing on my weekends.

Kiki is coming this week!!!!! And I have to open up my books/notes cause I have some tests coming up, but other than that there is just more travelling and Spanish-learning on the agenda for me. Hope things are going well at home(s). Miss you all and talk to you soon!

(P.S. sorry about the British spelling of everything, I kinda like it,but autocorrect on computers is to British English, so your favourite colour is that of your travelling neighbour´s jewellery was typed with normal letters and turned out like that!)

Posted by tuffchix 00:12 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Back to Madrid......

....and lovin´it!

sunny 18 °C

Sunday morning i woke up much too early to the sound of my ever-so.obnoxious alarm clock (who decided that a sequnece of 3 screaming beeps, much like the fire drills at school, was an acceptable wake up call anyway??? They and I need to have a little heart to heart). Despite my reluctance wake up, as soon as I realized why the alarm was going off, I jumped my tired little tush outta bed and got ready. Not only was I going to go to Madrid to see a Real Madrid fútbol (soccer) game, but I was going to get to see Kiki, one of my future roommates, teammates, and friend!!! After a solid week of homesickness, I was ready to see a friend!

Sunday morning i woke up much too early to the sound of my ever-so.obnoxious alarm clock (who decided that a sequnece of 3 screaming beeps, much like the fire drills at school, was an acceptable wake up call anyway??? They and I need to have a little heart to heart). Despite my reluctance wake up, as soon as I realized why the alarm was going off, I jumped my tired little tush outta bed and got ready. Not only was I going to go to Madrid to see a Real Madrid fútbol (soccer) game, but I was going to get to see Kiki, one of my future roommates, teammates, and friend!!! After a solid week of homesickness, I was ready to see a friend!

So, onto the train I went at 8am on sunday morning and 2 hours later I was standing in the Madrid station and staring at the old station, bombed in March of 2003 by terroriest, and since then made into a sort of tropical garden and cafe as a memorial. While gazing, half in wonder at what exactly I was looking at, and half ridiculously excited to see Kiks, she popped up right in front of me. And like giddy school girls who just got a note from the cute guy in the back row we screamed with excitement and hugged....yeah, i kno, really mature...but hey, i miss my fam and friends!

From there, it was off to the stadium to knab some tickets for that nights game against Mallorca. Before heading to the Museo del Prado, one of Spain`s most famous art museums, and home to the works of Goya, Velasquez, a Rembrant, Rubens, Vecellio, and various other Italian, French and Spanish artists.

I am not a musuem person (if you can typify people as museum or non-museum people), let alone an art museum person, but considering I am in a country with a history in art almost as rich as Italy, it wouldnt be right to pass up the opportunity to see (what is essentially) culture on canvas. The work in the Prado are very representative of the significant events in Spain´s history, and the moments of pride in thier culture. Since it would take hours to describe (and most likely 16 cups of coffee for both of us) I will save you the play by play and run through my fav artist at the Prado: Fransico de Goya. Goya´s specialty is eyes and faces. He has painted many portraits, all of which share the same intense, clear, large and staring eyes. The eyes of all his subjects have this sort of piercing, almost enchanting feel, and you really do just have to (excuse the cliché) stare into their eyes. While his eyes are not so realistic, almost a little fairy tale or something, the way he captures bodies is much more realistic. He uses color very well to accentuate every part of the body he paints. Even the series of works known as the “Pintas Negras” (dark, grotesque, and graphic paintings), uses paint to almost illumintate the bodies. As a souvenir of my positive experience at the Prado (and yes, I would probably go back), I bought a slide of my favorite work by Goya, Cristo Crucificado, also the work that best exemplifies Goya´s almost romantic interpretation Christ on the Cross. Jesus´ body is posed, almost femininely, and it is the most innocent and peaceful depiction of Jesus. Its the most beautiful of all the crucifictions I have seen, and being in Spain, that’s saying a lot.
After the Prado we walked up to Retiro Park, famous for all the staues and sculptures littering the Central Park-like atmosphere. You can rent row boats on the pond, walk your dog, sit on the edge of a fountain, munch on some frutos secos (snacks), chat with your friends, take pictures, or just people watch (my visit was a combination of the later 5). Kiki, her friend Will, and I soaked up a beautiful day in Madrid on that bench. As much as I hate to let summer go, all the great weather, days on the beach, relaxation, friends with similarly vacant agendas, its days like Sunday that make me welcome the fall. A little brisk, slightly windy, trees rustling, people dog walking, colors changing...i love summer for all it means but autumn really is the most beautiful. Sitting in the park made me change my mind about Madrid. After my first visit to Madrid, I didnt really like the city. It is huge, dirty in parts (like most big cities), a little too crowded at times and slightly overwhelming. But on Sunday, when we leisurly made our way around, I absolutley loved it. Maybe it was that I loved the weather, seeing a friend, and learning to appreciate art and a new artist´s work, or maybe the city really was different. Who knows, but it was a day well spent.

THE GAME: As if the day wasnt good enough, we still had more things to do....the Real Madrid game. Real Madrid (the most famous of the regional teams in Spain, notorious for their star mid-fielder David Beckham, thier flashy all white home uniforms, and thier crazy fans), was not to be missed. Although their opponent, Mallorca, was no major competition (Real won 4-0) we got into the spirit purchasing the notorious “fútbol scarves” (you will know what Im talking about when you see it) uncapped our water bottles (mandatory as you walk in so that if the fans get rowdy and start to throw them they will be empty, or nearly empty that is), pulled out the digital cameras and climbed up, up, up to our nose-bleed, but still great seats. Having never been to a pro football game in the states (i know, real american of me, huh?) i cant actually compare the feel of it. But the sheer mass of people, crazy and loyal fans sporting thier teams´ colors and going crazy for goals, or for fouls was fabulous!!!!!!!!! Unfortunatly, 90 minutes later, the game was over (that was pretty much the only time i wished for ´football´ minutes) and we were hurded out of the stadium.

NIGHT LIFE...even on sunday. Our sunday night out on the town left nothing to be desired out of our trip to Madrid (except maybe some sleep). Our hostel that night was hosting a night out on the town for all the guests and we headed out with an obnoxious group of Austrian soccer players (too old to be staying in the hostel) and some other travellers from all over. 7 hours, 5 versions of “Tengo mi Camisa Negra”, two salsa dancing partners, and almost too much fun later, i was back at the hostel, showering, packing and heading back to the train station (note that its now 6am on monday morning) to catch my train to Córdoba. I got on and slept for the first time in 24 hours, setting my alarm to be sure I woke up at my stop. At 9:15am I rushed off the train, hailed a cab to school and at 9:30am was in my seat, with the rest of the (not so tired) students in my program. Needless to say, a siesta that day was nothing less than mandatory!

Madrid was exactly what I needed. I miss you guys so much...I think Kiki might be coming to Córdoba soon, which will, im sure bring more good times, but until then, i pretty sure i still have some sleep to catch up on.

Posted by tuffchix 00:19 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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