Mallorca: a comedy

This past weekend I went to Mallorca.  One of the Spanish Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean sea.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. My life, or at least my travels, could be the inspiration for a comedy tv show, where my character will be played by Sofia Vergara. This weekend just reassured me the show would be a hit!  Here would be some of the sketches of the show.

Plane ride.
I understand the consequences of using budget airlines with delays and baggage sizes but I struggle to understand the audience. Everyone, whether you use budget airlines or more luxury airlines should have a certain knowledge of airplane etiquette. I got on board and then a group of 13-14 year olds got on with their coach/teacher. It was a 8:00am flight and I hoped to get a little nap-haha so hopeful. The kids were split up in front and behind me. And much to my surprise one of them brought a ping pong ball and decided to bounce it on the tray table for the entire 1 hour flight. You would think their supervisor would have said something. Deep Spanish sigh and American eye roll.

Weather.
I booked this trip to Mallorca for 2 reasons. 1. I wanted to go to the Balearic Islands. 2. I wanted to get some sun and enjoy the warm weather. Closer and closer to the trip the forecast got worse and worse. Comical to the point that Friday and Saturday were the only days in the forecast with rain. The islands get sunny weather 363 days a year. How was it possible that both days I was traveling it would be rainy?? In the end Friday was constant rain. I actually haven’t seen so much rain in Spain. It was a constant downpour for the entire day, from 10:00am when I arrived until I went to bed at 11:30pmSaturday I woke up to sunny skies  and spent the whole day at the beach.

Ensaimada.
My teacher friends told me I had to try this traditional pastry from Mallorca. I was excited because it didn’t have almonds! I barely eat any baked deserts from Spain because everything has almonds in it and I’m allergic.  So I went to the specific bakery they recommended and asked for this pastry with cream. The baker replied, “no cream today”. Then I asked for my second choice whipped cream. Same response, “no whipped cream”. I did an exaggerated Spanish sigh and settled for a plain pastry. Dude, take some milk and whip me up some cream!! It’s not that hard. Mama Ana did it for me last week when I wanted strawberries with whipped cream. 🙂

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Umbrella.
So there’s not a whole lot to do in the rain, but shop to escape the terrible weather. I walked into Zara and placed my umbrella by the door next to the pile of other wet umbrellas. One purchase later I return to the door to grab my umbrella. Not there. I go to the other door to double check.  Nope. Still not there. I was livid. Therefore in the umbrella karma world, I stole someone else’s umbrella. My deep apologies to the owner of a small pink travel umbrella. But there’s no way I was going to leave that store without an umbrella.

Just a snapshot of a weekend in my life. Needless to say I’m always laughing

Here are some sunny pics from Saturday.

Salamanca

My friend, April, said it best. Salamanca is the best authentic Spanish town for visitors. Meaning that it’s great for tourists to get a real look at typical Spanish life without things being too cheesy or specially tailored to tourists. The Plaza Mayor wasn’t flooded with men trying to shove selfie sticks in my face, there weren’t men throwing English menus at me as I walked past their restaurant, it was perfect-I felt Spanish.

A nice and cheap 3 hour bus ride from Madrid, Salamanca is towards the top of my list of favorite Spanish towns/cities. It’s charm, authenticity, and beauty made me feel right at home like I was a local.

The sights of Salamanca.

Plaza Mayor. This is my favorite town square in all of Spain. Like I said before, there aren’t men trying to sell selfie sticks or random men dressed up in costumes asking for money in exchange for a picture. It is a common meeting ground for friends and families to exchange stories. It’s lined with various cafes to grab a “cafe con leche” or a “cañita” without prices being marked up to take advantage of tourists. It was a sunny weekend so the outside tables were always occupied despite the 40* degree temperatures. Many restaurants will actually have blankets to cover up chilly legs.

Catedral Nueva y Vieja. The new cathedral is constructed together with the old cathedral from the early 12th century. The new cathedral was constructed between 1513-1733. The idea to construct a new cathedral came in the 15th century with the popularity of the university. It’s gothic style and plans were created by the same architects who planned the cathedrals in Toledo and Sevilla. It’s so big and the architecture is absolutely stunning.

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The astronaut. In the main facade of the cathedral within all the beautiful carvings is a small astronaut. It was added during the renovations in 1992. There is also a lynx eating ice cream. It’s like a real life Where’s Waldo?!

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Universidad. The University of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in the world. It was founded in 1134, officially recognized by King Alfonso IX in 1218, and given the official university title by King Alfonso X “El Sabio” (the wise) in 1254. In another life, I would study Spanish literature here, have afternoon beers with friends in the plaza mayor and get married in the cathedral. (I don’t even know if you can get married there)

La rana. The frog is another hidden carving in the facade of the university building. Much to my disappointment the entire wall was covered because it’s under restoration or construction. There was a small picture of the original wall and some jerk scratched off where the frog would be. I had to settle for seeing it on a postcard or google images. The legend of the frog is a bit controversial. I’ll share what I’ve found but I’ll have to ask the expert, my old UD professor, who’s from Salamanca for the real story.

#1: If students could find the frog upon the skull, it would bring them good luck and they would pass their exams.
#2: A little saucier story depicts the frog representing sexual temptation and the skull a sign of failure or death. Spanish history uses toads to symbolize sexual tension and perhaps it’s a toad instead of a frog. It was a warning for students to beware of women who could distract them from their studies.
#3: The final local legend says that the skull represents Prince Juan, a son of the catholic kings who died in his teenage years. The frog is supposed to represent Doctor Parra who cared for the prince and tried to save him with no success. The frog had been nick-named “Parrita” as a remembrance of the Doctor.

I think it might be a combination of all the stories. Votes in the comment section below! One lucky winner will receive a lucky frog keychain!

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Not happy that it was all covered up and under construction

Casa de las Conchas. The Shell House is currently a public library. It was constructed by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a knight of the Order of Santiago de Compostela and a professor in the University of Salamanca. The shell is a common symbol for the Order of Santiago as well as a symbol for the pilgrims who complete El Camino De Santiago (The Way of St. James).

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There are many more things that Salamanca has to offer so you might just have to go experience it for yourself!

Also I totally have to recommend Hotel El Toboso right next to the Plaza Mayor. I hope you get the pleasure to interact with Marian the receptionist who is a pure delight. Trip advisor 5 stars!!! PS.) this is post is not sponsored, I just loved this hotel so much!

Asturias, patria querida

An accidental bucket list item of mine is to visit all the Comunidades Autónomas of Spain. Comunidades Autónomas are the 17 different provinces of Spain. So far, I have visited 10.  I didn’t make it a goal for my time in Spain because if I planned it, I had the feeling I would let myself down if it didn’t come through. I still would like to visit them all, but we will just see where the year takes me.

This weekend’s adventure took me and a friend of mine to Asturias in the north of Spain. I spent one day in Oviedo and two days in Gijón. We planned it on a whim and prayed for good weather. The North is notorious for rain, and lots of rain. So we crossed our fingers and packed our rain gear. I took a 5.5 hour bus from Madrid to Oviedo on Friday. I guess the good thing about rain is the green landscapes. We drove through some mountains and it instantly reminded me of the mountains in Costa Rica. I arrived to the city and just started walking to take advantage of the beautiful, sunny day. It’s a bigger city and had incredibly beautiful and charming architecture.  It was all very colorful and ornate. When I arrived, it was lunch time so I walked into the main plaza and found a nice little restaurant. I had multiple suggestions from teachers at school to drink sidra (cider) and eat “cachopo”. See pictures below for references. Cachopo is not for those with a small stomach. It’s two thin veal cutlets and in between is ham and melted cheese. Then it’s fried. WOAH. Good thing I did lots of waking to burn off those calories. I saw the cathedral, walked through the park, and did some shopping. Then I hopped on a local bus to Gijón. A short 30minute bus ride to the coast.


I met up with April in Gijón and we got dinner at a Sidraría. We had lots to catch up about as we haven’t seen each other since May. We decided around 3am that we have another full day to chat. Saturday was another beautiful day with no rain. We joked that we had to go back to the room so we could put our summer shirts on instead of our winter sweaters. We headed straight to the water and were very surprised when there we saw a ton of people swimming and tanning. It was in the high 60’s but they were taking advantage of the nice day. We stayed dry and kept walking. We walked to this funky sculpture thing on top of a hill. It’s called Cerro de Santa Catalina. It was a nice little hike and pretty views of the beach and the ports. We headed to a little bar restaurant for lunch, per recommendation of April’s teacher friend. We got there at a perfect time right before the rush. We ordered some sidra but were very confused when they didn’t pour it for us. Sidra has to be poured a special way for optimal taste and experience. We played the tourist card and asked for help and they poured it for us at the table. We split the cachopo and it was much more doable between two people.

Some more walking around the town, some shopping and a walk to another beach to watch the sunset.  A perfect weekend escape for a nice dose of vitamin “sea”.

Málaga

Once upon a time four years ago in my Spanish class I did a project on the Spanish autonomous community of Andalucia.  I vividly remember talking about Malaga and the Costa del Sol where it’s sunny approximately 364 days a year.  So when Mia and I had a free weekend, we headed to see if it’s what I remember from my presentation.  This weekend was also a super budget friendly beach trip, under 100€ for transportation, accommodation, and food.

So we took the budget friendly bus option for a leisurely 6 hour bus ride through Spain.  It went by pretty quickly and we woke up from our naps with a view of the sea.  Malaga is on the Mediterranean Sea for those of you who are geographically challenged (cough cough mom).  We checked in to our air b&b and our host gave us some recommendations about things to see in town.  Our only question was “where is the beach? and how do we get there?” Malaga has great things to see in the historic center of the city because it’s the home of Pablo Picasso but our main priority was the beach.  We headed to a little restaurant where they sell homemade food but packaged perfectly for taking it to the beach.  Our host kinda laughed when we asked about the beach because he said it was a little cloudy and chilly.  I think we saw 4 clouds in the sky and it was roughly 75-80 degrees.  Clearly his view of perfect beach weather is a bit biased from living in paradise.

Friday night we headed into town to get some dinner and drinks.  Lots of fried fish and very very cheap!

I wish I could say we did something special on Saturday but we spent the entire day laying on the beach.  We tried going in the water a few times but that was literally freezing.  It was a perfect beach day.  Saturday night we headed back into town for dinner.  We called it an early night because our bus left early the next morning.

There’s really nothing more annoying than waiting to get home after a trip.  It’s always a long day of buses or trains and then more buses and trains to get back home.  But this bus ride was an all time new low for Spain.  Here are the highlights:  a man sleeping and snoring loudly for the entire six hour trip.  NOT JOKING.  Like the kind of snoring where it sounds like he forgets to breathe and then snores super loudly.  The movie they played froze halfway through.  So if anyone knows what happens in the second part of the movie Hercules with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, let me know.  And the most baffling thing was when I heard a “clip…clip” sound.  I look to Mia and I’m glad she hears the same thing.  We turn towards the back of the bus and kiddy corner to us is a man clipping his fingernails.  !!!!! Spain you never fail to surprise me.

Thanks Malaga for a great beach weekend and a start for my summer tan.

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Cadiz

School has ended and that calls for vacation.  Naturally I picked one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain to visit.  White sand beaches, turquoise water, and cloudless skies–Cadiz, Spain is perfect.  A little bit about Cadiz.  It’s in the community of Andalucia in the south of Spain on the Atlantic ocean.  It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has been through it’s fair share of attacks and changes that date back to Roman times.  Cadiz is an important port city in Spain and it’s where Christopher Columbus started his journey to the Americas.

I took the 4 hour train Friday morning with my friend Mia to the beach.  Train is one of my favorite forms of transportation, it’s relatively fast, more spacious than a bus, and cheaper than a plane.  We arrived in flip flops, shorts, t-shirts and backpacks ready to be dropped off at the hostel.  Within 10 minutes we had our swim suits on and were ready for lunch and then some beach time.

We went to a small beach near the old historic city center of Cadiz.  Here’s an observation from a foreigner: any beach in Spain is a topless beach if you want it to be.  Mia and I were a bit shocked the first time we went to Malaga and saw so many boobs.  (I’m trying to keep it PG-13).  We met some Spaniards and they actually told us that this was the smallest and ugliest beach in Cadiz.  HAH, I don’t think I’ve ever been to an ugly beach.  So after a full day of sun, we headed back to shower, apply aloe vera and get ready for dinner.  We picked a restaurant with some fresh fried fish and a television to watch Spain win their game in the Eurocopa soccer tournament.  We finished the night with some dancing and a few beers.

Saturday morning we grabbed some to-go food for lunch at the beach.  It was about a 45 minute walk from the hostel but worth the blisters on my feet.  It was something that they put on a travel brochure–beautiful.  Mia and I were too excited to jump into the water to cool off, but we were shocked when the water was ice cold.  Not just a refreshing cool water, but like I couldn’t stand in the water for more than 5 minutes because my toes were turning blue.  I guess I’ll have to come back in September when it’s had more time to warm up.  We had another full beach day, went back to the hostel, applied more aloe vera and headed out for dinner.  We found a great place right next to the cathedral for dinner and ice cream.  Mia and I finished the night with more dancing and drinks.  We called it an early night because we were back at the hostel by 6:00.

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Sunday’s train ride was quiet and sleepy.  We arrived in Madrid for lunch at our favorite sandwich shop and parted our separate ways home.  It was a perfect beach weekend that I didn’t want to end.

Valencia

Spontaneous Spain Trip number #5…I’ve actually lost count of the amount of times on a Tuesday night, I booked a train or bus ticket to a random city in Spain.

It just so happened that one of my friends from UD was traveling to Valencia for the weekend, so naturally I joined her and her friend.  The big deal was closed when I said I would call the hotel and ask for a Spanish roll away bed.  Done.

I took the AVE high speed train Friday morning and after a two hour nap, I woke up on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s been pretty grey the past two weeks in Torrijos, so I knew the weather wasn’t be warm enough to swim in my bikini, but I’d be happy without having to wear my rain coat.  The other girls weren’t arriving till late afternoon, so I did a mini preview of the city to gather my bearings.  I saw La Ciudad de Bellas Artes; which is a trilogy of museums and modern architecture.  One building is an Arts and Sciences Museum filled with lots of interactive exhibits.  The second building is called Hemispheric; it’s a imax theater built into the ground with a semicircle screen.  The third complex is called Oceanografic; the aquarium.

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After walking around the outside of the buildings, I headed towards the old historic district of the town.  I took the bus and got off when I was within eyeshot of the cathedral.  That’s my basic strategy for traveling by public bus, either get off when the majority of the people get off or wait to pass the monument and then ring the buzzer to get off.  The Cathedral was pretty but not nearly as large as some of the cathedrals I’ve seen in Spain so far. After some Paella Valenciana (rice dish with chicken and green beans), I hopped on the bus to the beach. It was around 70degrees outside so there was a token tourist in their bikini but it was pretty empty. I was just happy to walk along the sand in a tshirt and capris.

I met the girls at the hotel and headed out to eat. We went back to the historic district because that’s where most of the good restaurants are. After walking around a bit and climbing up these tower things: Torres de Serranos, we found a little tapas restaurant for dinner. We went to bed early so we could wake up early the next day for the museums.

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Day 2: Museum Day.

First stop Aquarium. This is a total family attraction in Spain. To be honest, I think I was the oldest person there who wasn’t pushing a stroller or carrying a toddler. I still really thought it was cool and interesting. We even watched the dolphin show which was short but very fun! Next stop was the Arts and Science Museum, we walked around a bit and did some of the interactive expositions but we were conscious of the children behind us and we kindly let them go first. We had some more traditional Paella Valenciana, and this was much better than the other day. It was made especially for us. YUM. We ended the day by watching a documentary at the Hemispheric Theater and might have caught a few zzz because we weren’t really all that interested about stars and the universe.

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Sunday morning we headed to the beach to catch some rays before an early afternoon train back home after a jam packed weekend where our fitbits almost exploded because we averaged 28,000 steps each day.

 

Cultural Córdoba

History. Architecture. Weather. Córdoba is a triple threat.

Weather:

It’s located in the autonomous community of Andalucía in the south of Spain. It’s got the Mediterranean climate with lots of sun and good temperatures year round. I visited in January and it was around 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect.

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Architecture:

Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba

The site was originally a small Christian Visigoth temple. After Muslim conquest in 711, the church was divided into Muslim and Christian halves. In 784 Emir Abd al-Rahman I bought the Christian half, demolished it, and built the grand mosque. Córdoba returned to Christian rule in 1236 during the Reconquista and it was converted to a Roman Catholic church by inserting a cathedral nave in the 16th century.

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Alcazar de los reyes cristianos of Córdoba

Alcazar has Arabic origins and means Palace.

During Muslim rule this was the Palace for the Caliphate of Córdoba. It’s a palace complete with horse stables, gardens, baths, and of course, plenty of bedrooms.

After the Reconquista fast-forward a few couple hundred years, this fortress served as one of the primary homes for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. (Yes, the same king and queen that sent Christopher Columbus to America)

In 1821, the Alcázar became a prison, before becoming a tourist attraction in the 1950’s.

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History:

A brief history, summarized from Wikipedia. 😉

Romans were one of the first civilizations that occupied Cordoba. Thus the roman aqueduct bridge. Then the Moors took it over in 711. It was the capital of al-aldalus. (Hence how the Spanish get the word Andalucía-it’s a derivation from Arabic). Finally during the Reconquista, King Ferdinand III of Castile captured Cordoba in June 1236.

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ancient Roman ruins

Other things:

Calleja de las Flores is a famous alleyway because of the great view of a classic Spanish street and a beautiful view of the cathedral. Also in the May, there is a festival called Festival de los Patios. This is where Spanish residents take great care to their balcony and plant lots of flowers. There is a contest to see who has the most beautifully decorated patio.

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