Tag Archives: culture

Avila, Spain

7 Apr
Avila-City Walls

Avila-City Walls

Avila-City Walls

Avila-City Walls

Avila has roots to fifth century BC. No wonder we were astounded by the amazing antiquity of the city and enraptured by its beauty and simplicity. It has a long and storied history of Romans, Visigoths and others who have come and gone from its earliest origins, but in the late 11th century the current wall that stands was constructed to protect the city. It is the largest fully illuminated monument in the world; you are able to walk almost half of the wall, but many parts are inaccessible, as buildings and structures are an integral part of the fortress structure, such as the Cathedral of Avila.

Avila-View from the city wall

Avila-View from the city wall

Avila-View from the city wall

Avila-View from the city wall

Avila-Cathedral from the City Wall

Avila-Cathedral from the City Wall

Tammy and I paid the extra three euro for the audio guide while we walked along the wall. I don’t remember much from the audio guide except that Teresa of Avila felt she had an “untamed spirit” and the nuns at the convent would help her to calm it. Maybe they could tame my hair, too, because…well, let’s just say I was not having a good hair day!

Avila-Bad hair day, you say?

Avila-Bad hair day, you say?

But the views, and the thoughts rambling through my head. I cannot believe that I walked where Teresa of Avila had once walked and worshiped.

Avila-Santa Teresa

Avila-Santa Teresa

Avila - Sculpture

Avila – Sculpture

Avila-Cathedral, view of the gardens

Avila-Cathedral, view of the gardens

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

Avila-Cathedral

The Cathedral was marvelous as well. Its construction began in 1107 and ended in 1350. It has the most beautiful red and white granite stones for the ceilings in walls in parts of the building and in other parts, the walls and ceiling are pure white. Such an amazing and stark contrast. Because it was Holy Week, the pasos (the large wooden ‘stages’ with the stations of the cross and other scenes from the last hours of Christ’s life depicted in sculpture) were on display in the Cathedral as well. Unfortunately, due to the weather, Tammy and I never got to see any of them during an actual procession through the streets during Holy Week; each time we prepared for a procession, the rain began and the procession was cancelled.

Avila-Los Pasos de Semana Santa

Avila-Los Pasos de Semana Santa

Avila-los pasos de la Semana Santa

Avila-los pasos de la Semana Santa

Burgos, Spain

7 Apr
Close up of the gate entryway, Burgos

Close up of the gate entryway, Burgos

Cold and wind greeted us upon our arrival to Burgos, but we were not deterred. The beauty and charm of the city in northern Castilla-Leon was enough to keep us warm and attentive.

Burgos city wall

Burgos city wall

Walk of Santiago de Compostela

Walk of Santiago de Compostela

The Chu-chu, tourist train

The Chu-chu, tourist train

A Garden Archway, Burgos

A Garden Archway, Burgos

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The Cathedral de Burgos  was by far the best of all the cathedrals we visited in our nine days. Of course, construction began in 1221 and was not complete until 1567 (346 years for those of you trying to do the math in your heads!) Pictures do not do justice to the architecture, art and artistry of the work inside this fabulous work of craftsmanship dedicated to the worship of God. We had only one hour to visit because it was closing shortly after we arrived and we were very disappointed we had such little time to experience the awe of the Cathedral of Burgos. It was an endless walk of wonderment and breathtaking moments, as we continued to peer into each chamber dedicated to a different saint or period of Christ’s life, each with such gorgeous and detailed statues, paintings and artwork. And don’t forget to look up at the ceiling! The arches and ceilings are decorated and entrusted with art as well. El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the national hero of Spain) is buried here.

Cathedral of Burgos

Cathedral of Burgos

Cathedral of Burgos

Cathedral of Burgos

Tomb of the original architect of the Cathedral of Burgos

Tomb of the original architect of the Cathedral of Burgos

PapaMoscas clock

PapaMoscas clock

Consuegra, Spain

7 Apr
Los Molinos de Consuegra

Los Molinos de Consuegra

Best known for windmills (los molinos), Consuegra is a quaint little town, not too far from Ciudad Real and Toledo in Castilla-La Mancha. The windmills were built in the 1500s to grind wheat into flour. And let me tell you, it is windy up there! The wind howls and screams and just about knocks you over! There is also a 12th Century castle that is partially restored at the end of the line of windmills. It was a fascinating walk through the castle and walk up the tower. Again, the WIND! Amazingly strong and unceasing. My friend Laurie and I spent an afternoon wandering the castle ruins and walking the path along the windmills, imagining ourselves to be don Quixote and Sancho, fighting the windmills, jousting and… most likely losing!

Consuegra

Consuegra

EL Castillo de Consuegra

EL Castillo de Consuegra

El Castillo de Consuegra

El Castillo de Consuegra

Me and my my pal Laurie!

Me and my my pal Laurie!

Vista de Molinos, Consuegra

Vista de Molinos, Consuegra

Castillo de Consuegra

Castillo de Consuegra

Heraldry Chambers, Castillo de Consuegra

Heraldry Chambers, Castillo de Consuegra

Consuegra Windmill, Spain

Consuegra Windmill, Spain

Traveling through Spain in a Rented Car

7 Apr
After 2000 km, She was a little tired!

After 2000 km, She was a little tired!

Three thousand one hundred seven kilometers (3107 km = 1864 miles) later, I am home. For 13 days, I rented a car in Spain and visited 12 different cities. I made it back to Bilbao in one piece despite the occasional horn-honking when I happened to get in the wrong lane in a rotonda or not progressing through the light fast enough when it turned green at an intersection. These Spaniards do like to honk their horns!

Yes, I put some miles on that car with my friend Tammy from Kentucky who visited nine of those thirteen days. I must say she was the most excellent navigator with the GPS on my phone. There were only a few occasions when I missed a turn or took a wrong one, but never did I go the wrong way on a one-way street or have an accident.

Mountains in Spain

Mountains in Spain

Tammy and I rented a small car for our trip because it was only the two of us. It was small, alright! Small engine with no pick-up-n-go. The first leg of our trip involved driving through many a mountain. I know very well how to drive a manual car, (drove one for three years in Germany), but this car was a real treat climbing mountains. Not knowing how the car would handle at first I didn´t downshift while going up the incline of the mountain. I stayed in fifth gear. Our speed decreased from 120 kph to 50 kph within seconds. I think we could have run faster! Then, I decided to downshift while climbing the mountains. This helped some, but in order to maintain a healthy speed (80-90 kph) I had to downshift to third gear. Who said we were in a hurry?!?

But let me tell you something. If you simply enter the name of a town into your GPS, it will take you straight to the city-center. And I mean directly in the city-center! When Tammy and I arrived to León, Castilla-León, we arrived to a huge rotonda and the GPS told us to take the first street off of the rotonda. But wait! There was a barrier there, yet a traffic signal. What was this? I missed it the first time around the rotonda and the second time I told Tammy I am NOT going there. She insisted, saying GPS says to go there. Against my better judgment, I waited at the traffic signal, and lo and behold, the barrier lowered into the ground like an elevator, and we could pass. BUT…we had crossed into the pedestrian zone! Sure cars could go there, but it should only be cars of residents and those doing legitimate business (like making deliveries). As we slowly crept up the hill, the pedestrians parted ways, just as the Red Sea did for Moses, I expect. I was panicked though, because I did not see ANY cars anywhere!

Zona Peatonal, Leon

Zona Peatonal, Leon

Then, to my surprise, I saw one and decided to follow it. Uh oh! He knew where he was going and disappeared as quickly as he appeared, leaving me stuck in an alleyway. I could not turn around nor go in reverse. I was afraid to go forward so I turned down the next alley to the left and…There was a café with tables and chairs set up! Now we were really stuck! I asked two women in Spanish how we could get out of this jam, and they assured me they thought I could pass between the wall of the building on the right and the tables/chairs of the café on the left. They chuckled and asked how we got into this mess in the first place. When I mentioned GPS, they gave the all-knowing nod. Just so you know, I got through the alley, with space on both sides of the car! When we arrived on the other side, it was a simple turn to the right and another turn to the right to find a parking space OUTSIDE of the pedestrian zone. Whew. That was nerve-racking to say the least.

El Escorial Later in the week, I was surprised again (why, I do not know–there should have bee no surprises by now on the GPS!) when I entered “El Escorial.” Call me stupid, but I didn’t know that the name of the town was “El Escorial” as well. I simply thought it was the name of the Monastery de San Lorenzo where all the kings and queens of the Bourbon and Hapsburg Dynasties are buried, among many other things. Anyway, I entered “El Escorial” into the GPS, expecting to end up at the monstrous building in the town of the same name. It was not so. I followed the directions on the GPS and had a picturesque meandering through the town and then…when the GPS said I arrived at my destination, I was facing the backside of a decrepit and crumbling building. A little disappointing, I should say! I found my way to the train station to ask where the tourist office was and they directed me to the top of the hill, next to the monastery. ‘Nuff said! Follow a road up a hill, and lo and behold, there it was, right in front of me!

Parking on the other hand was a little different. I found a parking garage with no problem and it happened to be a refreshing relief that for three hours it only cost three euros. (After the exorbitant prices I paid in Madrid, I breathed a huge sigh of relief!). The problem was, there were two entrances to the parking garage. I parked at the “inconvenient end.” You see, here in Spain, everything is automated at the parking garage. You need to carry your parking garage ticket with you and pay for your parking at a cajero (cash machine, usually near the pedestrian exits) before you leave. There are no “live” people to take your money as you leave the garage as is still so common in the US. But at this particular garage, I parked at the east end of the garage on the lower level. The cajero was on the west end (.2 km away) and on the upper level. The doors were not marked and half the lights on the upper level were burned out. It was quite a scary walk, not knowing where I was going to pay for my parking. Did I tell you it took me thirty minutes just to find the cajero?!

Parking in Madrid is ridiculously expensive. For one 24 hour period, it cost twenty-seven euro in one garage and in another, thirty-seven euro! And 24 hours starts after twelve hours, with no discount. So be prepared if driving into Madrid.

Castle on the mountainside

Castle on the mountainside

Overall, a most excellent experience. The paisaje of Spain is spectacular, just as it is in the US. Each region has its own particular beauty. Driving in Castilla-Leon and Castilla La Mancha and seeing ruins and skeletons of buildings from hundreds of years of ago, just amazes me. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime and worth every horn honked at me and every alley I turned down.

Some ruins

Some ruins

Siempre aprendiendo y probando

28 Oct

Last evening I went to a quedada, a get-together, with a couple people I knew and met some other fantastic people. There were twelve of us total. The wine was great, the food was good and the company best of all. But, as I continue to discover, I am learning something new every day besides words to add to my castellano vocabulary. Perhaps I am giving away my uncultured background here, but eso es; I hereby divulge my ignorance. Then again, if no one tells me, how do learn? I have one advantage to being here in Spain: they believe it is just different in the States! And in many ways, yes it is. But I was just doing some research and discovered that I have been doing it wrong all these years.

The correct way to hold a glass of red wineLesson Number One: Drinking wine. Hold the copa by the stem, not the bottom of the goblet, so as not to warm the wine with the temperature of the hand. Well, I knew that for champagne and white wine, but for red wine does it make a difference? I mean, red wine is already room temperature. But apparently it does, so I now will hold my wine glass by the stem. (In my defense, one of the glasses of red wine was served chilled and I wanted to warm it up!)

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Number Two: Finishing a meal. Place your fork and knife together across the plate, with the handles at five o´clock and the tines and blade at ten o´clock. This demonstrates that you are done with your meal and that you are pleased with it. I knew all about placing the silverware on the plate, but had been crossing my fork and knife on the plate. Apparently that is an insult, indicating that you are displeased or dissatisfied with the meal. Before the server took my plate, my companion beside was sure to explain this to me, so I quickly corrected myself so as not to offend anyone.

 

 

Disfrutando un café con lecheFirst new experience: Café con leche (and a lot of azúcar). My friends and family know that I do not drink coffee. My feeling is that if you have to learn how to drink it, it is not worth drinking, so I never learned how to drink coffee. But here I was, at the quedada, and everyone was having coffee after the meal. And here in Spain, they serve the very fuerte coffee in the cutest little tazas! I just had to try some. My first taste of café con leche (coffee with creme) was like drinking dirt…seriously people, how do you do it? So I added a packet of sugar. Yes, a little better. The gal across the table offered her half packet of sugar and, Voila! perfect cup of coffee. So now I can add that to my list of new adventures. Who would have thought I would have to travel across the Atlantic to try coffee?!

 

Second new experience: Karaoke, Spanish style. When the ¨gang¨ suggested we go to a Karaoke bar, I quickly agreed. What better way to experience some Spanish culture than to watch and listen to people singing their hearts out. Of course, I thought I would get a good laugh, too, as many people singing Karaoke usually aren´t the best singers in the world, myself included. I also wanted to see if there were any differences between the US and Spanish versions. It´s official folks; Karaoke is Karaoke, no matter where you are. Some great singers, some mediocre singers, and some who can´t carry a tune in a bucket if their life depended on it, yet continue to sing song after song, much to the dismay of all the other patrons.

Overall, last night was a great learning experience and an absolute joy to meet more new people here in Bilbao. If I didn´t have so much to learn, life would be dull and lifeless, which is perhaps why I am loving this place so much.

 

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