Tag Archives: expat

Salamanca, Spain

7 Apr
A most interesting sculpture, Salamanca

A most interesting sculpture, Salamanca

How old do you have to be to exist in Salamanca?

How old do you have to be to exist in Salamanca?

Of the twelve cities in thirteen days I visited this past month, Salamanca has to be my favorite. What an historical and beautiful city. Every corner I turned I was amazed by another architectural wonder and feat of this city that dates back to the times of BEFORE the Romans.

View from the Hotel Room, Salamanca. Monastery

View from the Hotel Room, Salamanca. Monastery

The University of Salamanca is the oldest in Spain, constructed in 1218, and is the most culturally diverse and largest. My friend Tammy and I had the most beautiful view outside of our hotel room (of a convent/monastery) anyone could ask for and convenient to all of the Old Town of Salamanca.

La Universidad Pontifica, Salamanca

La Universidad Pontifica, Salamanca

IMG_3903

Universidad Pontifica, View from the Tower

file#479

View from the tower of the Universidad de Pontifica

View from the tower of the Universidad de Pontifica

file#486

Casa de las Conchas

We visited the Universidad Pontifica, which, with its towers, had the most spectacular views of the city and the Casa de las Conchas. The University of Salamanca is gorgeous, with its ornate structures and carvings on the facade, one of which is the infamous frog of Salamanca.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

The Plaza Mayor of Salamanca was beyond words and rivals that of Madrid (actually, in this blogger’s opinion is BETTER than Madrid’s) and was abuzz with activity and numerous cafes and restaurants.

file#530

El Puente Romano, Salamanca

I believe the highlight of the trip was on our way out of town as we stopped at the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge), constructed in the first century. Despite the wind, the rain and the cold, Tammy and I walked the length of the bridge and imagined ourselves being a part of a Roman procession with Roman soldiers and chariots, two thousand years ago, stepping on the same stones, walking the same paths, and feeling the same smooth cobblestone beneath our feet as those Romans did, oh so long ago.

Salamanca…City you MUST see on a trip to Spain.

 

Advertisements

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

2

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

Pinxtos de País Vasco, the best kept secret of Spain

26 Jan
Bakalao

Bakalao

“Oh my gawd!” Before I could catch myself, the words escaped my mouth. I was in Spain afterall and should be expressing my delight in Spanish, right? But, here I was, in San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque), surprised and absolutely enthralled with the circus playing in my mouth. The tastes were exquisite and divine, the sights before me indescribable. A feast was set before me on the bar, all ready to tickle my taste buds and seduce me further into Spain’s culture, especially that of Basque country.

The Feast of Pinxtos

The Feast of Pinxtos

My companion and I

My companion and I

My companion laughed at my phrasing, as apparently many Basque and Spanish do when they hear an American say “Oh my god!” As a matter of fact, he made a video of my saying it, because I said it several more times that evening! And for the next few days, in his wonderful Spanish accent, he would mimic me, saying “Oh my gawd” and then break into laughter.

Pinxtos are NOT tapas that you find in other parts of Spain. They are generally not free with a paid drink. They cost anywhere from one to three euros and are worth every cent. They are absolute entertainment for the mouth – the variety of flavors and tastes that play on the taste buds. Many times I have no idea what I am eating. I simply look at the beauty set before me and choose one I haven’t eaten before and am delighted by the savory taste. Come to Basque country – you will not be disappointed by the Pinxtos.

Pinxtos del Cafe Aitziar en Casco Viejo, Bilbao

Pinxtos del Cafe Aitziar en Casco Viejo, Bilbao

Champiñones

Champiñones

Gambas Deliciosas

Gambas Deliciosas

Una Croqueta de jamon

Una Croqueta de jamon

La Cocina Vasca

23 Jan

meal

Yesterday was very spontaneous. After ten days of rain with no sunshine, the sun finally decided to make an appearance. As I walked from the bus stop to the academy, I had an idea: why not have my hour and a half class outside, walking around the different shops, and speaking in English? Anything had to be better than sitting inside a dingy classroom where it was colder inside than outside, and darker and more dreary than the beautiful weather that awaited us.

Lucky for me, I only have one student in this morning class on Tuesdays, and she happily agreed. What a glorious meeting we had for an hour and a half. We spoke in English as we walked around the neighborhood, and I explained the different shops that were missing in my hometown of Shelbyville, KY. She remarked about the similarities and differences during her trip to New York.

We stopped for her coffee and my hot chocolate. She commented pescado frescothat Tuesdays she always goes to the pescadería after class to buy fish. I told her I had always been afraid to go because I didn´t know what to do. So the best part of my day arrived; Carmen invited me to her house for lunch! We decided that she would show me how to get to Casco Viejo (Siete Calles), a quaint part of the city where all the streets run at angles to each other and I get lost every time I go there. When we arrived though, the pescadería was very crowded, and we couldn´t wait in the long line (I had a class to teach at 1530). So we walked back towards Carmen´s house and bought fish at a different one. I learned how to order fresh fish, Basque style, and now have the confidence to do it myself. I can hardly wait! We stopped at a panadería and bought a fresh loaf of bread and at a pastelería and bought some delicious cookies.

Then to Carmen´s house to make the meal. She made it seem so easy. limpiando el pescadoWhy do I complicate matters? She cleaned the fish, placed it in a pan, cut some onions, garlic and tomatos and placed around the fish and then baked it in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. While the fish was cooking, she made the most delicious salad I have had since my arrival in Spain. All with the touch of olive oil. (Have I mentioned that olive oil here in Spain is the absolute best! I don´t know what changes between here and the US but it is somehow infinitely better here.) When the fish finished cooking, Carmen fried some garlic in olive oil and then crushed it in the molinillero. She then poured the hot olive oil into the crushed garlic, added some salt and white vinegar and poured it over the freshly baked fish. I must say, it was delectably delicious.

antes de asar la ensalada

As if salad and fish weren´t enough, she also made albóndigas, Spanish meatballs, in tomato sauce. Heavens gracious, they were tasty. The simple meal was topped off with the scrumptious cookies from the pastelería we had purchased on our way to Carmen´s house.

I could not have asked for a better morning or way to spend my afternoon. I learned a new way to arrive to Casco Viejo, how to order fresh fish in Spanish and enjoyed a wonderful meal with a new friend.

Stress-less or simply less stress?

22 Nov

That is the question of the day. But either way, I have come to the conclusion that whether my life here in Spain is stress-less or simply just has less of it has an awful lot to do with leaving the driving up to the public transportation workers. Today is Thanksgiving in the US and I am thankful for Spain’s wonderfully reliable public transport system!

I was talking with my adult students at the Academy this evening and decided that one of the biggest reasons my life is defintely less stressful is that I no longer have the worries and frustration of a car and being a driver. No more idiots cutting me off. No more interminable red lights. No more racing through yellow lights to gain 2.3 seconds to get to work on time. I leave all that up to the bus drivers now. All I have to do is make sure I pay attention and get off at the right stop! (I almost missed my stop today because I was so focused on reading what everyone was thankful for on Facebook on my mobile phone.)

During our conversation, I explained to them that in the part of Kentucky where I come from that yes, there is a public bus system, but that it is certainly not as reliable and efficient as it is here in Bilbao. And that actually, Louisville CUT bus services because not enough people used it. Here, there are thirty-five (yes, 35!) bus lines just inside the city limits (Bilbao is about 400,000 people.) Each line runs every fifteen to thirty minutes daily, in a constant swarm throughout the city. There is also the regional busline which has close to one hundred routes that service the whole province (that would be like the whole state of Kentucky) on a daily basis, transporting people back and forth between cities. Bilbao also has the metro (subway) with two lines and a third one under construction. I never have to worry about getting somewhere because a bus or the metro will get me there.

I also live bien comunicado. Well-situated. There is a bus stop across the street from house and another one block away. The metro is a ten minute walk. That definitely helps. But even if I didn’t, I would enjoy every minute of my walk because I am no longer the one fighting the traffic!

Granted, I will admit, I have to walk. Sometimes a little farther than I would like. And I have to carry things. Not always convenient. But guess what….You walk when you go to Wal-Mart or Meijer. Look at how far you walk when you park your car. That’s about the distance I walk to get to the bus stop from my house. A nice walk outside is refreshing and the exercise is good for the soul. I have learned not to shop impulsively and not to buy things I do not need which helps a lot when it comes to carrying things home.

I sometimes miss the convenience of a car, especially when I am tired and don’t feel like walking the last block uphill home (yes, I live at the top of a very steep hill and no matter where I go, it is ALWAYS uphill home.) But overall, public transport has definitely alleviated my stress level and for that I am thankful!

%d bloggers like this: