Friday, June 18, 2010
After eleven days of travel and touring through Spain, I returned to the good ol' USA last night. Although I'm always happy to get back and sleep in my own bed, I can honestly say that I could have stayed a while longer in beautiful ESPAÑA. I don't think I can fully describe all that I saw on this adventure, but I am going to try to tell you a little about what I experienced while visiting Madrid, Segovia,Toledo, Seville, Granada, and Barcelona.
I went with a group of 25 students and 3 adults to visit Spain for 10 days. It was absolutely spectacular. The architecture, the people, the landscape, and the culture were simply amazing. I don't want to try to describe the trip with a bunch of blah, blah, blah, so I'll try to be succinct and show some of the beauty and adventure with some photographs. Let the pictures do the talking I guess.
First stop: Madrid. It's a very nice city with sweet attractions like the Royal Palace and the Prado Museum, which houses the great works of artists like Diego Velazquez (his painting Las Meninas is known as one of the greatest masterpieces in the world) and Francisco Goya. Here are just a few pics from our 3 day stay in Madrid. Here I am in front of the statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at the Plaza de España in Madrid. Miguel Cervantes published the story in the early 1600's and it has become one of the most influential pieces of literature in history. We referenced these two characters often throughout our week.
Here is a picture of my friends Annie, Mary, and Pam (with me of course) at the oldest restaurant in the world. Don't believe me? Here's a condensed description from Wikipedia: "Sobrino de Botín is a restaurant established in 1725. It is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest eatery currently in Madrid and the rest of the world. Part of the restaurant's folklore has it that a young Francisco Goya worked there as a waiter whilst he was waiting to get a place at Madrid's "Royal Academy of Fine Art". The restaurant is also mentioned in the book Fortunata y Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós (published 1886-1887). The Sobrino and its speciality of cochinillo asado ("roast suckling pig") are mentioned in the closing pages of Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises." We had amazing salads and the dish just mentioned. Below is the picture of the oven in the kitchen. It is the oldest oven in the world that is still in working order.
On the day we ate at Botin, we also visited a Chocolateria and had churros with chocolate. Delicious.
And here is Madrid at night with the Royal Palace in lights on the left. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the Royal Palace which is still used on occasion for state dinners and royal weddings etc.
On one of the day trips away from Madrid, we visited Segovia where there is an aqueduct built by the Romans. Here's a picture of the structure along with a photo of the Segovia Cathedral. (We saw a lot of Cathedrals throughout our stay. . . but they were all beautiful and regal.)
After Madrid/Segovia we traveled to Toledo. . . a nice little city in central Spain--in fact, it might be my favorite of the cities we visited because of it's beauty, history, and ambiance. Seriously, it's cool.
It is in Toledo where we saw El Greco's masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, which truly is magnificent. And the story behind the painting is awe-inspiring as well. To be brief, the painting was commissioned for the side-chapel of the Virgin of the Church of Santo Tomé, and was painted by El Greco between 1586–1588. However, the date El Greco placed on the painting was 1578. When asked why he painted that date which was eight years prior to his actual commissioning, El Greco remarked that, although people believed the painting to be his masterpiece, his true masterpiece was actually the creation of his son who was born in 1578. (He painted his son as the boy holding the torch in the lower left side of the painting.) I just think that's a fabulous story.
Anyway, here are some of the pictures of/from Toledo:
Obviously, the picture above is the hotel where we stayed, named for the famous painter.
Toledo is also known for it's artisans, specifically in gold work and sword-making.
That's right. . . you better watch yourself. I believe the sword I was wielding in this picture was called Excalibur.
After Toledo, it was on to Cordoba, a beautiful little town where we toured a Mezquita--a former mosque built around the 8th century and converted into a Catholic church around 400 years later.
In this picture you can see the bell tower of the mezquita in between the flower-lined streets of the city.
Next on our journey was Sevilla where we visited the third largest cathedral in the world (behind St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London.) We also did a walking tour of the city's cultural and historical landmarks and took a carriage ride through the streets and saw a flamenco show. If you visit Spain, you must see Sevilla. It's too full of excellent cultural experiences to miss.
This is the bell tower of the cathedral. If you're ever lost in Seville, just find this landmark and you'll be fine. . . or so we were told. :)
I loved this picture with the sky and part of the cathedral. Sort of postcard-esque if I do say so myself.
And you can't go to Spain without seeing a Flamenco show. Another enjoyable cultural moment.
Well, I basically have two more cities to cover. . . but I'll leave Granada and Barcelona for my next post. . . coming soon I hope. "Hasta la vista" readers.
(This is Mary, myself, and Annie at the Alcazar (a castle) in Sevilla. Mary and Annie are sisters, both fluent in Spanish and excellent friends of mine. No, I don't know why I'm the only one with my sunglasses on. . .goofy. And every time we visited an Alcazar in Spain (which was a number of times) I thought of the former villain who bore that name on the soap opera, General Hospital. . . Anyway, I apologize, I'm rambling. . . I'll have another post up as soon as possible.)