Spain. If you’ve been, then you know. If you haven’t then you need to go. I love this country. I love almost everything about it. The convenience of travel, the sangria, the wine, the hot men, the beautiful weather, the wine, the sangria, the beaches, the history, the hot men, the sangria.
I had every intention of making this post a two parter: Part 1 being “Oh my shit, I’m going to survive my masters courses” and Part 2: “oh my shit, I never wanna leave”. But then I slacked and got too busy, so this two parter is now a two parter in one post. get over it. it’s a long one. But I had to organize it according to categories. Cause I’m a teacher and most of us are Type A.
This was my reason for going to Madrid. After hardly surviving my undergrad, I am now hardly surviving my masters. Just kidding. This is completely different. Cause my masters is about something I am so completely passionate about: teaching as opposed to that piece of crap class FINITE math that I had to take over three, yes 3(!) times, in order to pass my undergrad. I still don’t get Finite and nor have I used it since sitting in that massive lecture hall staring at an overhead projector full of mathematical bullshit thinking, “ya, I’m never gonna use this again”.
However, these classes were intense. Amazing, but intense. four courses, four weeks. 40 hr/weekly. I knew Madrid was out there, waiting for me to explore it, but unfortunately I was chained to my computer in my badass downtown apartment writing paper after paper about innovative practices and statistics. I busted ass though and managed 4 A’s. so hell yeah to that.
Toledo and Segovia
The train in Spain can pretty much take you anywhere. I took the train 30 minutes north one weekend and headed to Segovia, a small Spanish town that was taken over by the Romans many centuries ago… hence the still-standing aquaduct. I met my friend Noelia for an evening time exploration. She showed me around the cathedral and introduced me to some of the best tapas in Spain. We sat at the top of the aquaduct and watched the swifts swoop through the columns as the sun set over the mountains. Quite lovely. One of those moments where you had to say out loud, “damn… I’m glad I have this life.”
My good friend Lindsay and her fiance Simon flew over from Ireland to stay with me for a few days. We took a day trip to Toledo, 30 minutes south of madrid, which not until after my visit did I know that this city was known as the best sword and dagger making industry in all of Europe for many centuries. And that explains the millions of sword and knight armor shops that line the cobble stone streets. The city itself is mesmerizing. It’s like a cultural melting pot of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religions with the mosques, cathedrals, and synagogues everywhere you turn. (oh my god, does this mean that they all lived peacefully among one another at one point?!?) The three of us wondered the streets in awe. At one point I was so in awe I fell completely over a cement post in the middle of the sidewalk. Proud moment for me.
Hello obsession. Dali, Picasso, Velazquez, Gaudy… I went to so many art museums, exhibits, architectural monuments. I couldn’t get enough. In madrid: El Prado and the Reina Sofia. Barcelona: Picasso Museum, Gaudy Cathedral, Casa Batllo, Park Guell. I endlessly stared at these works of art in utter amazement trying to take all of this in. When you actually see the Velazquez imitations that Picasso did late in his career and then actually see the original Velazquez pieces that he imitated a few days later in El Prado, it’s quite memorable. And not to help the fact that I’m slightly infatuated with Picasso in general. And well, Gaudy, there are just no words. This man was an architectural genius and the way he basically OWNS Barcelona in the way that his work is EVERYWHERE is just so… lack of a better word… awesome. The Gaudy cathedral, I’ve never been to a place that left me in such a state of wonderment (man-made that is…). I couldn’t believe the time spent in the detail of the work both inside and outside of the cathedral. Everything Gaudy does, trying to tie nature and architecture and religion altogether to fit gracefully into one massive monument. It’s unbelievable. The pictures do no justice whatsoever, but I most certainly tried…
It’s exactly what you would expect it to be. As much as I really enjoyed this city, I found myself getting caught up in the mayhem of it all, which is totally easy to do… especially with my BFF Carrie, Marianne, and Courtney by my side. The food was insanely delicious. Courtney, carrie, and I got off the train, dropped our stuff of at our cat-smelly apartment in the Gothic area, and headed down La Rambla for some tapas almost immediately. We learned our lesson to stay away from the highly touristy areas when we spent over 75 euro on four plates of tapas and three glasses of sangria. But it was delicious.
Somehow we managed to get caught up playing beer pong in a bar for countless hours with a bunch of englishmen. I’m not really sure how beer pong + englishmen = Barcelona, but somehow it worked. After dealing with numerous assholes, and Courtney and I kicking ass (that’s why they were assholes… no man likes losing to women in beer pong, FYI.), we left walking through the streets of Gothic (which I love this area by the way…) Somehow ended up in some apartment bar in the Plaza Reial. And then we frolicked in the plaza come 5 am. Watching a big brawl (which I didn’t know about until the next morning), singing spanish drinking songs, and talking about Jack White. Well, mostly just the Seven Nation Army song. Cause these guys didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak much Spanish so our conversation mostly consisted of “duuuh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duuuuh, duuuuuuuh.” Then Marianne and I chased around a samosa guy and got harassed by men selling beer. “group sex?” oh yes… that’s a way to approach women. I’m sure that works every. time.
The next day consisted of the beach. Cause we weren’t worthy of anything else. Because I was in a haze trying to get out of the house, I decided 5 euro would be enough for me for the day. Awesome. That’s how smart I was feeling this particular day. The Barcelona beach is lovely, although PACKED. I don’t like crowds. However, it was here I realized that I am a lot more comfortable being topless than I thought I would be.
My friend Justin drove down from Andorra, gimp leg and all, and hung out with us ladies for a night. We used to kick it back in the day on the Navajo reservation when we were both teachers out there. Haven’t seen him in over five years. Say what?! Went to dinner and experienced eating a baby octopus for my first time. Thank you Carrie sue for being my support system and eating one with me. The flavor… not so bad. But the squishiness of the tentacles and ugh the head! the head of that little tiny octopus. no. I washed it down with some of the better sangria we had on this trip. And that’s one of those, I can now say I did it things…
Barcelona was good… the art, the beach, Gaudy, beer pong, really awesome streets and stores, but onto Sevilla. Oh sevilla.
Some places you just fall in love with. Sevilla was one of those places for me. We rented an apartment in the Alameda de Hercules area, a strip of small cafes and outdoor bars with hoppin’ nightlife. The moment we arrived, the three of us were awestruck. (Marianne had to go back to England and Justin had a dr. appt. in Barcelona). This city has soul, charm, history. It’s got it all. Small pockets of fun around EVERY corner. The locals here were nicer than any other city I’d been to in Spain. I just love it.
The cathedral and the Alcazar (alcatraz…) were pretty memorable. This is apparently the place where Christopher columbus’ tomb is. But he is also buried in the Dominican republic. hmmm. Anyway, lots of photo opportunities within these two places, especially the cathedral which is the largest gothic cathedral in all of the world (huge). And once again. the pictures do no justice.
The food was incomparable to any other place we’d been. Oh tapas, how I miss you so. Oh wine, how I miss you even more.
The first night spent there was a little unexpected. We went to a flamenco show (later…) and then had lots of drinks outside a scottish pub with the flamenco dancers. (of course. cause that’s how we roll.) After numerous beers slammed on the table cheering to obscenities… we somehow found ourselves at a castle night club until roughly 7 am. Yes. it was all outdoors everything was white. And there were clones of Spanish men in crisp white button down shirts every where you turned. Why? Individuality is not allowed in castle night clubs. I daaaaanced. That was the best night I’ve had in a really long time. oh Spanish air. I miss you.
Triana was right along the river. After the night before, we needed to er… slow down. Sangria, tapas, and the river watching the sunset. Couple of emotional moments throughout the night, knowing my time in Spain was coming to a quick close and going back to work was approaching all too fast. Triana was insanely beautiful with views of the Cathedral across the river and dozens of riverfront bars lining the streets.
Our last night was just as lovely as the rest of the time in Sevilla was. Talking with some of the locals about politics, drinking, dancing, just in general… celebrating life. We were spilled out into the street for most this night bouncing from small dive bar to small dive bar. Our new friends Alejandro and Joaquin directed us to a late night bar, and I swear I followed directions perfectly until there was literally nothing to be seen except closed doors and quiet streets. And then a man appears. sweeping the streets. “pub?” as the three of us look around aimlessly. “si!” he opens the wooden doors and bam! smoke and conversation pour out of this tiny side bar. People crammed into it with the blue neon light reading “Berlin” in the background. Yup… fell in love all over again. Well, this is exciting. Who would have every thought this was here? Good conversations with people from all over the world: spain, germany, mexico… oy.
And so it was time to leave sevilla. I left with a couple tears in my eyes, but most certainly will be back to this lovely town.
I saw two flamenco shows while in Spain. Once in Madrid when I was with Lindsay and Simon and another time in Sevilla. The first show was right around the corner from my apartment in Madrid. I didn’t know what to expect. Of course I’d heard the Spanish guitar (love) and had an idea of what these shows consisted of, but never in my life would I have expected to have had this much emotion brought forward during the shows.
When I watched the first show, you get caught up in the rhythms of the claps and the foot stomping. The singing is almost haunting in a way you wouldn’t expect it to be. But then the dancers… the women wear this facial expression that has so much angst and seriousness written across it. The second dancer made me cry. I know I’m emotional and I understand that anything that happens in my life on a scale of 1-5 out of 10, I’m usually crying, but damnit. This was just beautiful.
Now, Sevilla flamenco. We went to Tablao El Arenal and got our minds blown. There were three guitarists, 6 dancers and three singers. not all on stage at once, but they came down these stairs that led right out onto the stage and just did their thing. When I say I was completely stimulated, that is an understatement. This evening stimulated every sense of my body the entire time I sat there. The food mixed with the foot stomping and the hand clapping and the dancing and the music and the incredibly hot spanish men dancing. Oy. I just cannot explain the intensity of this show. there was a point that I almost had to excuse myself from the table and head to the ladies room. There was no talking between the three of us. When they stopped dancing, that’s when we took our breaths. Really. The music stomped, people applauded, and Carrie, Courtney and I literally went “oh my god” while exhaling for the first time since the dance started. Oh, if I could only describe the actual show to you in words… I’m trying, but I just don’t think I can. needless to say, when the dancers asked us to beers later on, we gladly accepted. Oh what a night.
So, Spain. there it is. I did attempt to summarize it. And I did my best. But there was so much to this place that’s it’s hard to wrap up into words. Carrie, Courtney, Lindsay, Simon, Marianne, and Justin… Thank you for making my time there even more special. Thank you Spain for making my summer even more amazing. You will see me again soon.
And tomorrow begins my eighth (say whaaa?!?! I’m THAT old?) year of teaching. Sad to say goodbye to summer, but always happy to say hello to a new bunch of chitlins.