Thursday, May 01, 2003

I'm back! I'm alive! Okay, yes, it's been four days since my plane landed, but they've been busy days.

Spain was FANTASTIC. I loved the country, even when people were giving me the fishy eyeball because I couldn't halfway speak their language. (My great-grandmother is rolling in her grave. Twirling, actually.) It was warm, if overcast most days, and just lovely. Unlike my last trip, I didn't go haring all over the country. A little bit of haring, but much more relaxing.

Our base of operations was Madrid. We stayed in a lovely little hostel called Hostal la Luz, on Calle Fuentes. Just a recommendation for y'all. I don't know if they have a website, but they're listed in the Let's Go guidebooks for Spain and Madrid. It was nice and clean, and for the money, the room was great. A quick word of warning: the hostel owner spoke no English, so make sure you have a Spanish-speaker in your group if you ever end up there.

We saw lots of things around the city, like the Prado, the Palacio Real, and lots of resturants. Mmmm. Tapas (a light dinner consisting of nibblies and alcohol), chocolate y churros (a dessert that is beyond description and really just has to be experienced), paella (puh-leez tell me you know what this is), and, to my shame, McDonald's. Hey! I was hungry!

On Thursday we went to Toledo, which is between an hour and two hours south of Madrid by bus, so you can do it as a day trip. It's an incredible city, just unspeakably gorgeous. It looks very very old, and that's because it is. (Huh. Who would'a thought.) Ancient Moorish architecture is side-by-side very modern buses and cars, and strangely enough it all seems to work. I took over forty pictures on my camera because it is just that gorgeous. It's on a hill, and in the middle of the hills, and it all just keeps rising and rising until it starts falling. I can tell you, it's great for your eyes but not so hot for your legs. Ouch. We visited the el Greco Museum. He was an interesting painter--painting in the early Renaissance, but his paintings actually look almost Impressionistic, because the brushstrokes are very loose and soft. The el Greco "look" is very famous, that pale, bony face that evokes an impression of holiness, but nobody ever talks about how strange he is for a Renaissance painter. At least not that I've heard, but then again, I'm an English major.

On Saturday, we hopped an extremely early bus and went to Sevilla. Since I didn't get very much time in the city, I don't have a very strong impression of it. We got to see a cathedral, not terribly different from the one in Toledo (aside from the Moorish tower that the Christians just kept around because it was useful), and then the Palacio Real in Sevilla. Apparently, a long time ago, kings didn't have capital cities, but traveled around to all the major ones throughout the year. In each city, naturally, there was a royal palace for them. The one in Sevilla is modeled on the Alhambra--very Moorish in design, even though it was built by a Christian king. I liked it a lot better than the Palacio Real in Madrid, which was coldly grand and very intimidating. The Sevilla one was cosier, warmer, and to my eyes, more beautiful. Eventually, you'll see the pictures.

Update on the photos: I am in the process of uploading them now. But I've got a LOT of pictures, so it's a long project, and it'll be spread out over some days. I also have a limited amount of space on my yahoo account, so if you see a picture there one day and it's not there the next, that's because I'm in a constant state of culling them down. Sorry . . . blame Yahoo. Yes, blame Yahoo for all your troubles, including the ones that are totally unrelated to me. You may also notice that there are no pictures of actual people, not even me. This is because I'm not comfortable with having my picture up for all to see, and for all I know, my friends might be the same way. So just shut up and enjoy the scenery, at this link. I've reorganized them into photo albums of where I've gone, so if you have no interest in, say, Greenwich, you don't have to click. I can't put up a little blurb about each one, though--there's just too many, and we'd all get bored.

That's enough for this blog entry, I think. I won't spoil it by ranting about rude Americans, although I've got a doozy of a story to tell. Next time.

Books for today: Two For the Lions by Lindsay Davis. This is one of that quietly huge subgenres, Roman murder mysteries. Ancient Rome, which is you know me, is right up my alley. Wooohoo! I have to say, the best part is the detective, a middle-class Roman called Marcus Didius Falco. He's been described as Columbo in a toga, and I can definitely trace a resemblence. He's definitely in this business for the money, although there's not much of it, and he has an unexpected chivalrous streak. Watch out for his gal, Helena Justina, who's as sharp as a javelin and definitely no clinging Roman maiden. The mystery is kind of hard to follow, and the ending is . . . strange. But if you're a fan of Ancient Rome and great characters, pick this or any of the other ones up.

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