Saturday, August 28, 2010
writing while waiting to leave the Madrid hostel
The way to describe our Madrid experience would be rushed. We aren't staying the night meaning we have lost even one more morning here. I think it's lead to the tenseness of the day. The official breaking point for David and I to every waking moment together is seven days. We had a minor fight that's no big deal but still one never the less. With Barcelona we will be refreshed.
I enjoyed today personally. We went to the park and just sat for a good 45 minutes or so. It was nice. I realized much of this joy is something I can acquire back home. It's odd how it takes an ocean and several thousand miles to realize that.
We checked out the royal palace and garden. Something that will probably stick in my memory for far to long is the tranny with breast implants running nude barely covered in wedding dress lace. Yes it was as messed up as it sounds. We ended up not going into the palace due to the 10 euro price tag. We did check out the cathedral which was ominous and peaceful. I'm not sure I will ever understand the grandeur of the Catholic Church.
After that we went tot he museum of modern art and left shortly thereafter. David couldn't get into it. They did have many of Picasso's preliminary sketches which I question their artistic value; though not more than I question my own artistic taste. We then headed over to museo de jamon for the third time. Still love that place.
My feet are really hurting. Not just the soles but the ankles and toes now too. I need a full day of rest off my feet. Today we arrived in Madrid. I've now realized that to truly experience a city you need 4 or more days. Otherwise you just rush through and lose the essence of it.
The only city that I feel we really got a strong flavor for is Sevilla. This is because it is very small and the feria is so culturally defining that we couldn't help but be immersed.
In arriving at Madrid I knew we wouldn't get a true experience for the city before we were back on the road. We hit the Museo del Prado to see all of the classic art stored there. It was free from 6-8 so we rushed through. Both of us agreed that the Italian art was the most interesting. After that we went to a large park. I really enjoyed just sitting there and taking in the scenery. People watching has become a new hobby.
There are a great deal of amazing fountains and sculptures throughout the city. Seeing them I couldn't help but compare them to the "masterpieces" in the museum. Like a zoo I think something is lost when you pull the art out of its natural habitat.
We ate at a place called Museo de Jamon. It's a butcher/restaurant. I loved the food. It was great; ham sandwiches of excellent quality. I could eat there everyday.
written while watching the sun disappear over the Granada cityscape
Last night we went out to have some beer. In Granada, if you order a drink you get a free tapas (appetizer). Surprisingly after a couple drinks you've had a meal for about 6 euro. Once we finished we walked around and landed in a hookah bar. We hoped to smoke hookah, but was 15 euro which was too much for us. We settled on some chai tea.
This morning we got up incredibly early to see the Alhambra which is an old Muslim palace. To be around such great craftsmanship that is over 600 years old is humbling. David took some great pictures, but I'm sure that a photo can't capture everything. Each room is individually detailed with such precision. The craftsmanship required is something I'm not sure exist anymore. The way things were built then will never be replicated. It's beauty for beauty's sake.
I lack the penmanship to adequately describe life here. People work just like anywhere, but there is an old town respect and reverence for their city. I'm sure in some cases families have lived here over 1000 years.
After our now daily siesta we went to the cathedral to see the tombs of kings. It was breath taking. The art and the altars are magnificent and command both time and thought into the majesty of the Christian Experience. Several of the statues are so lifelike that you feel at any moment they will come alive. The stillness speaks to both death and peace; regardless of your faith you leave feeling holier for having been there.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
We went again to the feria last night. This time our hostel mates Juan and David from Canada knew a group making the trip from another hostel. We bar hopped a few few places and then went to a large caseta. Sebastian an Aussie has been in Sevilla for two years to study Flamenco dancing and shows up with several women. We bought jarra de cerveza for 6 each. Not cheap, but not terrible either. Travelers are a fun bunch because they just love the road. And you get the feeling with each person you meet that they don't quite fit in with their home culture and therefore set out on the road searching for kindred spirits. Perhaps they travel because of this or the other way around.
The group of 20 or so broke up at different parts of the night. David (brother) and I head off with Sebastian, Serena (England), Christi (Cal) and Natalia (Cal). In chatting with them we find out that Natalia lives in Paris. She offers her place for our last night two nights there. How can we say no? Paris has the most expensive hostels out of any of the cities we will visit. I've learned mistakingly and to my detriment I am too weary and unaccommodating of strangers. It's a mistake and one I need to correct. The few people that will do you harm are such a small faction that to change for them will do you a great disservice.
I'm supposed to be on a train right now, but I'm not. Due again to another traveler's advice the bus is almost half price and the ride only slightly longer. The view is well worth the added time. As I write we are driving through mountainous countryside through an orchard of olive tress. It's beautiful. Looking outside in this moment I'm happy.
written while laying in bed after a siesta
The fair or "feria" as it is called here is something I can't do justice to describe. Upon turning down the street you are greeted by a four story sculpture featuring the symbol of the city. A knotted rope representing the slogan of the city "No me ha dejado" which translates to "You have not abandoned me". A quick recap from a fellow blogger:
The Saint-King Fernando III (super beloved king turned saint) had a son, Alfonso X, also known as Alfonso the Wise or The Scholar King. He was a scholar, poet, composer and astronomer. He was a patron of the arts and of learning and champion of Christians, Jews and Moors living together in Spain (Jews and Moors paid higher taxes but they didn't have to suffer through an inquisition). Because of all of this (plus from family bickering), he was considered politically weak. When a civil war broke out to determine who would rule Spain (Alfonso or his son, Sancho IV), Seville chose to remain loyal to Alfonso. Supposedly Alfonso paid tribute to the fidelity of the Sevillanos by saying, "No me ha dejado."
Once inside white Christmas type lights string across the walkways making luminous archways throughout the feria. Lining the streets are hundreds of tents or casetas. Inside people dance Flamenco to either recorded or live music. Casetas range in size to 20x20 yards or the size of a football field in a few instances. North of the casetas is a carnival complete with rides. It's about two or three times as large as the one at the rodeo. People walk around the feria eating Gosetas or chocolate covered waffles.
Today we went on a tour of the Alcazar which is a palace and the highlight of Seville. It features Muslim-Spanish and Christian architecture. Pieces of the palace date anywhere from the 1400's to the 1700's. Truly a great masterpiece. We took a tour around the city with a tour guide from Australia. He showed us much of the architecture and buildings remaining from the three dynasties: the Romans, Muslims, and the Christians. As with most ancient cities the new was simply built on top of the old and therefore most of the past is buried far below the city. The cathedral which is an amazing gothic design and the third largest in the world is built with many stones from the Roman and Muslim eras. We also visited the first home of Washington Irving the American Consulate to Spain. The entry way was spectacular.
For lunch we had Tapas at a popular place called La Columbas. Inside the man behind the counter points at an individual and gets their order. I found what I wanted calamari fritatas 1.90 and David pointed to a pile of sandwiches. I grew nervous as I didn't know the Spanish word for sandwich (FYI it's bocas or bocadillo). At my turn I said "calamaris fritatas y dos sandwiches," while pointing to them, he laughed and grabbed my finger, "y two cervezas," 8 total. Not bad for a nice lunch. Tonight the hostel is serving Moroccan chicken and then perhaps to the bars on the north side of town.
Written while watching Paella being made
I can't sleep on planes. Turbulence over the Atlantic mixed with sleeping upright just doesn't do it for me. I waned in and out of lucidity for most of the night and woke up exhausted. A short trip through Barcelona and we are on our way to Sevilla. The interesting thing about my first foreign experience is that interactions between people are the same. And though you don't know the language, in your mind you try and piece together the conversation. And you see the same personality types and body language you would see back home.
Once in town, we made our way through the honeycomb of streets to the Oasis hostel. The rooms are very nice and exceed my expectations. I demand to take a nap so that I can function. Once we venture out we make our way through various landmarks, statues, and cafes. The fair which is the highlight of the year for Sevilla. We spoke to an American and apparently the best bull fighters in the world are here this weekend. It's not cheap at 70euro but how often does one get the opportunity? The buildings here are amazing. The lavishness of old architecture and craftsmanship is something you don't really see today. Things were done with patience. We are headed to the fair tonight just to check it out. I will recap tomorrow.
First weird experience: Seeing a twelve year old drinking a handle of beefeater