Thursday, October 27, 2005

Spanish Stream of Consciousness

Bonus Blogs as we have an extra couple hours in Padua hiding from the cold dampness before our train to Milan to meet up with the parents.

Random thoughts on our Spain travels (minus Barcelona which received already has its own entry) from both of our brains (in no particular order)

  • The area around Madrid is dry and desolate. Reminds me a lot of the US Southwest
  • Toledo is nice though pretty much built around people visiting the cathedral. Not a bad thing but the cathedral itself didn't hold up for me as well as some of the others we've visited. (Becca has a different reaction....lots of neat small medieval streets to wander and a lot of history in the cathedrals, old synagogues, and other buildings. Unfortunately, like other picturesque walled cities, it can be overwhelmed with tourists (though many were Spanish in Toledo) and it was really hot, even in late September.)
  • The Santa Cruz neighborhood of Seville is just a magical place to wander at twilight. It's a maze of tiny streets, hidden courtyards with lime trees, moorish gardens, and fragrant vines spilling over walled gardens surrounded by Moorish architecture giving you the feel of being a character in a tale of Arabian Nights.
  • The medieval area of Granada is less nice, being filled with grubby hippies with big dogs. If you got to visit the Alhambra, you can make it a quick in and out.
  • The Alhambra is beautiful and impressive, but we didn't find it to be as amazingly life changingly beautiful as you might be led to believe by the hype. Definitely very worth seeing if you are anywhere near there, but not necessarily worth planning a trip especially to go there.
  • Becca really likes the old doors in Toledo. Don't believe me? Check these and tell me what you think.
  • Roast suckling pig is a Spanish specialty and can be quite good. However eating the tail isn't.
  • The Prado is just the right size. Big enough to feel properly cultured upon leaving but not big enough to need a GPS system or multiple trips.
  • Don't buy an old translation of Don Quixote. Just don't. Great book but I think I might have had better luck reading it in Spanish than in Old English.
  • It's probably just me but I find it highly humorous that Madrid's city seal is a bear trying to do something to a strawberry tree. They also have a statue of it right next to the hotel we stayed at.
  • We definitely noticed an increase in the amount of smoking we had to endure around us, especially as Spain has no limitations on smoking indoors in cafes, restaurants, businesses, etc like many other countries are starting to do. That got a little old...
  • We inadvertently stumbled upon a total solar eclipse during our stay in Madrid. Not sure how we missed it as many had traveled there especially for the event. All three of us successfully survived with eyesight intact.
  • Brian decided that calamari sandwiches are a pretty good lunch. Becca and Molly were less sold on their cold greasiness, but everyone agreed that the tortilla (egg and potato omelet) sandwiches were pretty tasty
  • Tapas come in all shapes and sizes, from frou frou to down home, little portions to big, cheap to expensive, and we enjoyed sampling our way through them. (Though we never made it to one of the places where you serve yourself from the bar and get charged by the number of toothpicks left on your plate)
  • We couldn't get over the sight of legs of ham hanging in every restaurant, cafe, bar, and meat shop (best seen in the Museum of Ham), but after tasting it, we have to admit that Iberican ham lives up to its hype.

We were really glad that we made the trip down to Spain and that we were able to spend almost 4 weeks across 7 cities and 3 regions to get more of a flavor of the place. It's definitely a different world traveling there compared to the rest of Europe. We struggled a little to get used to the different rhythms (I'm not sure I ever got used to dinner at 10, though Brian seemed to do okay with it), but we really appreciated the richness of the culture (or rather, various cultures) that we experienced.


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