Monday, February 6, 2012

Madrid, etc. :)

Holy Toledo!
Jan 31
Our first stop of the trip was in Toledo.  Toledo is known for its swords because they have a lot of  iron, delicious marzapan candies, and the enormous cathedral in the center of everything. The cathedral was amazing, it was all marble and had really high ceilings and arches throughout the whole thing.  Spanish cathedrals are different than other cathedrals because instead of going to France or Italy when you walk in a church you see the whole thing, but in Spain you walk in and there's a big monument in the middle that blocks the view of everything else.  There were so many different parts to the cathedral it took us almost 2 hours to walk around the whole thing and it was very cold.  After touring the city we were waiting for our bus which did not show up earlier that day for our driving tour so we just walked the whole day instead.  Basically the bus that had all of our luggage and valuables on it disappeared all day.  We waited two hours that night for him to show up because our tour guide went off on her own and found him.  So we sat around and ate marzapan while we waited.  :)

Jan 31- Feb 2
Drove another two hours that night til we made it to our hotel in Madrid.  We went out to a buffet salad place but because we weren't very hungry we got a take out dish, which apparently meant we couldn't stay there to eat it so we ended up eating our salads on a street corner in Madrid (really classy I know).  We stayed in and hung out with all of the people in our group before going to bed.  We got up early to go take a tour of Madrid on bus and stopping at a bunch of important buildings.  Our first stop was at the train station because inside there was a giant botanical garden! It was so cool and they had turtles all over the place!  We had a two hour lunch break so we wondered around Plaza Mayor where all of the street performers are (Elvis impersonators, Jack Sparrow, Mickey mouse, living statues made of gold, mud or newspaper, some guy dressed as a tree, etc.) and then we went to the next plaza over Plaza del Sol and had lunch.  I had a calamari sandwich because apparently that's what they are known for and it was really good, then we stopped and had gelatto (italian ice cream) which was soooo delicious.  We met up with our group again and went to the Prado.  It was absolutely incredible.  All of the paintings and statues were all sooo old and they were in incredible condition.  There were paintings by Greco, Goya, Velasquez and a lot of other famous painters but most of them were portraits or religious pictures.  We had a free night to ourselves so Casey and I went to meet up with a friend she knew from high school studying in Madrid.  We made poached eggs in tomato sauce with all sorts of delicious spices and it was amazing! We hung out for a while and then went to a discoteca that she worked at and brought almost all of our UNH friends along.  The next day we had more free time so a bunch of us went to El Museo de Reina Sofia which was more contemporary and modern art.  There were whole sections on Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali and it was so amazing.  Some of them were so life like it was hard not to just walk up and touch them, but they definitely make sure you're doing no such thing.  Afterwards we figured out the metro and took it to Plaza de torros which is the giant bull fighting ring in Madrid.  They only do bull fights in September and I really don't want to see one anyways (not sure I could handle that) but we wanted to tour the inside.  Turned out though after going all the way across the city  that the only two days of the year that it was closed were the two days we would be in Madrid, really awesome timing hahaha It was pretty windy and cold so we went back to our room and took a nap til we had to leave for our play that night.  It was very confusing because they talked very fast and the plot was a little strange.  It was called "En la vida todo es verdad y todo mentira" by Calderon de la Barca.

Segovia, Avila, Salamanca
February 3rd, The Coldest Day of My Life.
We left Madrid really early in the morning and the bus didn't have any heat so we started the day off being cold.  When we made it to Segovia it started snowing and the wind was absolutely unbelievable.  Segovia is known for the ancient stone aqueducts and more cathedrals of course.  The cathedral was really pretty especially on the outside it looked really impressive.  A lot of what our guide was saying though went straight over our heads because we were huddling together all day trying to stay warm and out of the freezing wind.  After walking around for almost two hours in the cold, all of us hurt from the cold and from shivering too much but we made it to the Castle of Segovia, also known as Alcazar.  It was breathtaking but sadly most of the castle was open on the inside and there still was no heat so we had to cut our tour short because it was so ridiculous.  However before leaving we climbed a thin tower full of spiral stairs and open windows because we were told the top was an unbelievable view.  So we ran up the stairs to try and fight the cold but instead just got really dizzy and claustrophobic but when we made it to the top the view was outstanding.  The wind was pretty unbelievable too though which made it a little hard to enjoy.  From there we walked to the restaurant where we would be served Cochinillo... or in English a baby suckling pig!  Basically I was handed a  little rib cage to eat, but it was actually very good, and really tender, not just like chicken as everyone seems to keep saying.  Then we took the bus to a town called Avila.  The last place with a remaining wall around the city.  Still incredibly windy and unbearable so we kind of just blew through the tour and enjoyed the sites from our penguin huddle.  Saw more cathedrals and churches of course, which all started to blend together.  From Avila we drove to Salamanca, where we would be staying for the night.  We arrived late and couldnt find our hotel so again we had to stand in the cold.  Finally we found it and realized we needed to keep our keys in the room in order to turn the heat on so we left for dinner while it warmed up.  We went with a group and split a bunch of different pizzas which were all very good.  Back in the room it was finally nice and warm and we slept so well.

Feb 4th
We walked around and went to a beautiful plaza which Casey and I had visited all lit up the night before. We went to the cathedral of Salamanca and again it was just so impressive.  Salamanca is a very small town and it took us like 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other by ourselves.  But by far I think it was my favorite because it was just so little and quaint like you think Spain should look like.  We also visited the University there and on the outside theres a small little frog on a skull that's engraved in the wall, kind of hard to find, but its a legend that says whoever can find the frog will have good luck with their studies and pass college successfully, good news for me :)  In our free time we went and walked across this  really pretty Roman bridge and back across to find these little caves.  we walked through them and it brought us to a little tower that overlooked the city.  I also found this garden that overlooked the rest of the city right behind the Cathedral and there was this well in a small part of the garden covered in padlocks.  Each padlock had two names and a date, and sometimes a little heart or "para siempre" and we figured out that they were wedding dates! It was the cutest thing ever.  That night we just hung out again with a lot of people from the group which is good because now we're actually friends with most of them!

San Lorenzo and coming home!
Feb 5th
Left early and drove two hours to San Lorenzo, the home of El Escorial, which is the palace where Felipe II and Carlos V had lived.  we couldn't take pictures but the library we went into was amazing. There was a giant painting on the ceiling that on one end was about philosophy with Socrates, Plato, and other famous people and as it stretched on to the other side of the room it became theology, with the Virgin and Jesus.  It was incredible. All of the books had gold pages, and they were so beautifully written, some of them in araibic, spanish, or hebrew, like the Koran.  There was also a book written by Saint Teresa, its amazing that I've been able to witness things that are so old and historic.  The other really cool part of El Escorial was the pantheon, where all the kings and queens are buried.  It was down a very long marble hallway that led downstairs to the burial chamber.  The room was dark green marble and so were the boxes that they kings and queens were in, and they were 4 or 5 high, with gold lace and giant golden paws at the bottom of each one.  When we were done in San Lorenzo we drove another 2 hours until we stopped for a really late lunch.  We had Paella, which is usually very good, but this one was awful! There were whole shrimps, calamari, some type of meat, and mine had a legit vertebrae in it, like picture a spinal cord, and that was just sitting in the middle of my plate.  Not so good.  The worst part though was that you couldn't take a bite without having pieces of shrimp in it, like inedible pieces: shells, antennae, legs, really hard and just gross.  Luckily I had eaten a sandwich before we left and wasn't very hungry anyways.  Another 5 hours home on the bus and we finally made it back to Granada!!

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