Monday, April 29, 2013

Back to Barca

People come to Spain to visit. And I take them to Barcelona. I'm not exactly tired of the city yet, but I'm glad Zach and Matt got all the Gaudí stuff out of the way the first day before I joined them, and that we went and checked out a few places I hadn't been, like Barcelona's Plaça de Espanya and Montjuic Castle.





We also had the unique experience of stumbling upon a sardana dance, a traditional Catalonian dance that was going on in a square in Barrio Gotic. It was a simple circle dance accompanied by a small band of instruments. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing so we watched a bit, but had a chance to jump in before it all ended.


Barcelona seems to get more and more familiar each time a go, although I enjoy new things every time along with the old. I'll never however, get tired of La Champañería.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Toledo

One of medieval Spain's seats of power, Toledo is very impressive. A walled city on a hill, it requires some sturdy lungs to reach, but more than pays off in artistic treasure (those are Goyas, bro)...


... in history ...


... in gold ...



... in delicious food, beers and tinto de verano ...


... in great views ...


... and in not-so delicious food. Don't eat hamburgers out of vending machines.

 



Thursday, April 18, 2013

La Plaza de España

Built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition, la Plaza de España of Sevilla is grand, beautiful and impressive. It is now my favorite monument in Spain. I don't really have any more words, just pictures:

 







 WHAT IS THIS PLACE AND HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY EXIST

La Feria in Sevilla

Zach's parents, the American visit-crew and I all met up in Sevilla to take a tour and maybe catch a glimpse of la Feria - Sevilla's famous festival.

Our guide was super friendly and showed us around Sevilla's historic center. I was most impressed by Sevilla's Plaza de España, which deserves its own post. The tour guide got along with us so well that she ended up inviting us to come hang out at her family's caseta at la Feria!


We spent the afternoon in Sevilla's grand cathedral where Cristopher Columbus' remains are interred, as well as in the city's Alcázar, which is a big fat palace/garden that one could stroll around and explore for hours.



That evening we entered the Feria to encounter streets filled with men in suits and round, straw hats and women in Sevilla's famous polkadot dresses, all riding around in horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The fairgrounds were filled with tents called casetas, in which neighborhoods or families ate, danced, laughed and talked. Most were private casetas, so we made our way to one of the few public casetas where we drank rebujitos and watched as young Spaniards danced the regional dance, la Sevillana.

 

After saying farewell to Zach's parents, we met up with our guide Aldara, who introduced us to her cousins and let us hang out with her in her family's private caseta. THIS is definitely the way to do la Feria if you ever go.



As night descended, the Feria turned into a street party, although we still saw a fair amount of kids and old people around. We made a few pit stops, notably in the caseta of the Communist Party of Andalucia and some pretty dangerous-looking (and feeling) rides in the carnival area. The dancing and music in the casetas and the festivities in the streets didn't wind down until 4:00am or so.






Cadiz

Zach's parents have a house in Cadiz, a Spanish presence left over from the time that they lived there and Zach attended a year of Spanish school.



Not much to say about Cadiz except that it's great, it has delicious sea food, and that it provided me with the greatly needed beach R&R.



Friday, April 5, 2013

Road Trip!

Four years removed from the Great Road Trip of 2009, I rented a car in Madrid with the intention of going surfing in Cantabria. I happened to mention my trip to my friend Laura, who would be spending part of the week in Bordeaux, France. South France is right next door, why not turn it into a road trip along the coasts of France and Spain?


We bought a map, and with the addition of our French friend Julie, we set out on site-seeing adventure that took us from Madrid to Bordeaux, and then back to Madrid by way of the Great Dune of Pyla, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Irun, San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, Castro Urdiales, and Burgos.





Feel free to follow any of the links above for witty commentary, boring summary, beautiful photos, ugly photos and semi-thoughtful observation on the sights we saw. The trip also tickled my gastronomic, historical, and economic interests.


Bonne lecture, buena lectura, ona irakurketa!

Why Rush? (San Sebastian)

I think we tried to do too much. We stopped in San Sebastian after crossing into Spain and wandered the city and ate our first lunch of the day. 





A few hours is not enough to experience this city, which as far as I could tell, was awesome.

Gernika (Guernica)

The Spanish Civil War is often referred to as the dress rehearsal for World War II. Similar to Syria's civil war today, foreign arms and foreign soldiers poured in to fight a vicious war that destroyed cities, displaced families and irreparably damaged the nation.



A lasting byword of the terrible destruction caused by the Spanish Civil War is the Basque town of Gernika (Guernica in Spanish). The air forces of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany used the war as a testing ground for weapons later to be used in the Second World War. On 26 April 1937, Italian and German raided the town in what was one of history's first bombings of a defenseless civilian population center. This horrific tactic only accelerated through the 1940s, culminating in the firebombing of Dresden and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

The town in the subject of one of Pablo Picasso's most famous paintings, Guernica. The town by that name we saw on Saturday was a small, run-of-the-mill Spanish/Basque community with little boys playing soccer in the main square while some pre-adolescent girls ate sunflower seeds and giggled on a bench nearby.