Monday, September 12, 2011

Hello from Spain!!

Hello from Spain!!!
I am enjoying my travels!
Spain is a very friendly and personable place. Everyone is out enjoying the sights late in the evenings. I especially like the chocolate' con chirros. :) After arriving and getting a big education lesson from Staci about the language, safety, habits, and of course the metro, I settled into my temporary home. The first week I stayed in Sol (which is the center of Madrid)at a hostel for a week (which was an experience) and I met a lot of very nice adventurous young people. The young people staying at the hostels were up late socializing every night, it was an experience I am glad that I tried at least once in my life. (I may stay in a hostel again, the hostel was very clean and the showers and kitchen were very accommodating). In Madrid, there are people everywhere. The city is starting to come alive with Christmas decorations.
There are many parks in Spain and they are always filled with people walking arm-in-arm chatting about the days events.
Staci and I walked Parque del Retiro, which is the largest park in Madrid, late Saturday evening. We walked to the Palaci'o Real (which is the main Palace in Madrid, which I toured during my last visit). I made it back to the Prada (which is a famous art museum in Madrid) and walked past many of the familiar sights we saw when we toured in 2002. This time, though, I have been able to experience the culture a bit more, getting up later, eating at 2 in the after noon and not until 9 pm for dinner, then a nice walk in the evening air. Each day I walk along the river which has a park walkway along the water. It is a beautiful way to start the morning in Madrid.
I met Staci's friends one evening for Tapas. They say you must experience having Tapas at least once in Spain, everyone is crushed in a restaurant (standing room only), with no room to move (I could breathe though!! thank God). When you order wine or beer you receive a complementary large plate of Tapas which are Spanish hors 'dorves (that's the only English way I can explain it). One of our lunches we ate at Cien Bocodillos (which translates to 100 little sandwiches) this restaurant was a quaint place that had a menu of tiny sandwiches (100 or more selections). (you will see one of the pictures I took of Staci in front of our order). I had a cortado each morning, this is like a strong expresso shot in a tiny cup filled half full to allow room for milk or creme. This was my favorite drink of the day.
I spent a lot of my time in Madrid touring Staci's Francos Rodngu'ez campus and met her friends and house family. We went to the Rastro, which goes for miles. Staci stays in a home similar to a suburb of Milwaukee, it is a short 30 minute trip to the city and main restaurants and tourist sites. Although, the houses are much different, in fact, many people rent small apartments, there are not much home ownership in Madrid, the people spend their money on social and dress, they don't focus as much on owning things. Ava invited me for dinner one evening and made the famous Spanish dish Paella (picture attached). During the evening I learned about famous music talent, which includes Tarik Banzi, Al Andalus, Arrebenta, Fusion de Almas and Nilo Azul-Wafer. Ava is very close friends with some of these musicians; she has famous Bovarian artist friend, also, who is local in Spain.
During my stay, Staci and I mostly traveled the metro and bus system. On a quieter day, Staci and I took a bus north of the city to see where it would take us. We also saw many of the beautiful sights we would have missed otherwise. It was a fun day adventure.

This week I found a nice hotel at a very good rate, located right off of Principe' Pio Square which is one of the larger shopping centers and the main metro station. We had painting and drawing class at Dora's studio, she is a well-known artist and visible to presidents and prime ministers in Spain, Africa, England, etc.
Yesterday we went to Escoria, Spain which is a smaller town in the mountains, there is a 5 story very wide-spread monestary that we toured, the walls spanned almost three-quarters of the city, and the gardens were still beautiful with their hand-shaved shrubs. At the end of the day, we walked the city and it began to snow. The flakes were very light and dry (the flakes usually have little moisture because of the dryness in the mountains).
This past weekend, we traveled to the Greek islands and toured the historic Athens (learned about the Greek gods). Staci was able to read some of the Greek words on the signs because she knows the greek alphabet from her sorority. I really liked the Hydra Island. This is the island where they filmed the Sisterhood of the pants. (if you haven't seen it, go rent it and compare the pictures that I am sending you). Hydra does not have any cars and they only get around by walking or by donkey. It was a lovely town and very peaceful. The city of Athens was very busy, we stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and the cars and horns never stopped. I swore I heard a few cars crash in the middle of the night. When we crossed the pedestrian walkway, at a green signal, we would have to look carefully because cars would just drive over you if you didn't keep your eyes open. We saw some "very" interesting people in the city, I won't go into detail but when we saw these individuals, we were scared and laughed in the same breath. We saw the Olympic Zeus', Acropolys, Athena, Amelio (church) and the Poseiden. We learned how to say good morning in Greek, it is "Callymara!"
We will be heading to Dublin, Ireland tomorrow, for a short trip and will travel the northern coast to see the castles on the coast for a few days.

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