Spain 3/98

Spain, continued

3/1/98

El Museo Carralbo

El Museo Carralbo is a private collection in a mansion near the Plaza
de España, which is in the central part of Madrid.  The collection was
gathered largely by Don Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, el XVIII Marquis
de Carralbo (1845-1922).

I bet introducing him required years of spokesmodel training.

Don Enrique was a writer, a great fan of the arts and of political
dialogue.  He was the head of the Traditionalist Party of Spain for
many years, a member of the Royal Academy of the Language and Fine
Arts, Arts of S. Fernando, and more.  Enrique traveled extensively in
Europe and Asia visiting museums and making purchases.  He lived in
this mansion with his wife and two children.

It would be a privilege to awake in this building, even without any
art to feast upon.  The visitor is greeted at the main entrance by a
marble and tile studded foyer and the Grand Staircase.  The latter has
a carved wooden banister, while the balustrade is hand forged iron in
the style of Louis XV; the stairs are made of wood as well.  Paintings
include ‘The Defense of Coruña Contra Drake.’

La Galería Religiosa has an El Greco (El Éxtasis de San Francisco), a
Zurbaran and other religious paintings and decorative objects.  Among
the latter are some high relief wooden carvings.

Don Etc. collected magnificent clocks.  They all work and most of them
chimed on the hour, sending echoes throughout the three storey
structure.

Everything in this mansion is masterfully and opulently decorated.  I
have never heard of this collection.  The collection and the building
make all other private collections I have seen pale in comparison.
This is yet another jaw dropper.

Gary Bob says check it out.

Afterwards we had a small lunch at a nearby bar.  Peg had bacalao
(cod) in a tomato and onion sauce and I had some red peppers stuffed
with bacalao and a bechamel sauce.  The bartender gave us a sample of
their bocarones, which he said were raw but marinated.  Everything was
excellent.  With a glass of wine, a beer and some patatas ali oli, we
spent about $10, which was far from the cheapest but a very good
value.

3/4/98

Last night we went to Teatro Madrid and bought tickets for La Ballet
Español.  We are going tonight.  2100 ptas each ($13 or so).  Should
be flamencoish (what else can Spanish ballet be, since we know it
ain’t classic ballet).  While at the window, I told the clerk that I
wanted “Dos billetes para fila four.”  She and I got a good laugh at
that one.

Peg is hoping that there is not so much singing as one would normally
hear at a Flamenco presentation.  The one we saw in Granada was not
excessive, as I recall, so I am not sure what worries her so.  Maybe I
have been playing too much Radio Ole! and she is sick of hearing
flamenco singing.  There is a lot of moaning and groaning in Flamenco
singing.

3/5/98

Ballet Español

On the way to Ballet Español we stopped at Halcon Viajes (902-300
600), the travel agency that offers great outings at bargain basement
prices.  The other day we signed up to go to Santiago de Compostela.
The seven-day bus trip costs about $120 per person including all
meals, hotel and admissions, plus excursions to Vigo and other sites
in Spain and nearby Portugal.  We have to change our reservation.
Ourclerk found our reservation without difficulty even without my
receipt.  However, she did have to ask us who had helped us.  Our file
was not in the main drawer, it was still at the desk of our original
assistant.  The Spanish aren’t the hardest working people in the world
but most things go well anyway, sometimes despite their lack of
organization.

Maria Rosa’s production is in Teatro Madrid, which is a city-run
operation.  It is housed in a complex that includes an indoor swimming
pool and a library.  The latter was stuffed with teenagers quietly
working at tables.  There is a large reflection pool outside and the
whole complex is snuggled up against Al Campo, a shopping mall that I
have mentioned previously.  This is not a zoning choice we would often
see in the U.S. but I like not having these sorts of things isolated
from one another.

The theater is dug out of the ground so that the entrance is the
highest point of the structure.  There is not but two or three bad
seats in the house.  We are sitting in the front.  A few rows farther
back would have been better, to allow for a wide view of the stage.

Ballet Español turns out to be a fusion of ballet, flamenco and folk
dance.  The strongest influence is the flamenco.  Most of the dancers
wore boots but some wore soft ballet shoes (without hard points).
Costumes were folkloric and flamenco.

The first number was a modern dance with folkloric and flamenco themes
very delicately presented.  Following numbers were clearly folkloric
with themes from Galicia (which has a significant Celtic influence)
and Asturias; or flamenco infusion; or, as in the finale, straight (or
nearly so) flamenco complete with guitarists and singers.

The later the evening became, the more flamenco dancing there was.
There were far more group efforts than you would find in most flamenco
productions, which are small in numbers of presenters as well as in
physical space.  Here there were as many as twenty dancers.

Maria Rosa is probably well into her 50’s but she dances with great
elegance and style.  She did not display any of the haughty pride that
is so much a part of flamenco dancing.  The two primary male dancers
were half her age.  One was exclusively flamenco in style, the other
and the star of the show (other than Maria Rosa) combined his
traditional steps with leaps and spins from his classical ballet
training.

Peg’s hope that the singing would be limited was fulfilled.  Only the
last two numbers included any singing.  There were two men singing,
never together, accompanied by two excellent guitarists.  Their
singing was typical but within the context provided by the dancing and
the guitar playing, it was quite acceptable to Peg and I really liked
their offerings.

Quite a delightful evening.  My only complaint was that the music was
not live, except for the guitarists and the singers.

3/8/98

Bouttine Souriante: the after burners

There was snuggling room only to hear Bouttine Souriante, a French
Canadian musical group.  They play traditional Celtic music from
Brittany.  There are not just traditional instruments: violins,
accordions, penny whistles.  The ensemble also includes a bass fiddle,
trumpet, saxophone and clarinet.  They are  playing at the Colegio
Mayor San Juan Evangelista’s Club de Música y Jazz.  The locals call
the club ‘Johnny.’  I guess that they think that ‘Johnny,’ being an
American name, is appropriate as a nickname for Juan.  Johnny is proud
of his music, as we had to fork over 5000 ptas.

I met Peg at the club after my journey to the cabin with Emelia.
Unfortunately for Peg, she did not ask if she was in the right line.
She was in line for about 30 minutes.   I did ask, however, and lucky
thing I did.  Otherwise we might have had to sit separately or join
the intimate crowds in the aisles and on the balcony.

The evening was as fascinating for the marvelous, electric and
energized sounds of the group as it was for the marvelously energized,
participatory crowd.  After an opening harmony, the band normally
began a number with the traditional instruments, so that a gig sounded
like a gig, and a reel like it should.  But from then on, out came the
after burners and turbo chargers.

Trumpet, two trombones (one a bass), and the sax then piped in what I
can only describe as pure energy.  Wake up time.  Heart beating-
aerobic-stomping-move-the-dead-from-purgatory-to-heaven time.  I have
never heard anything like it, and although at the end I was ready to
leave, I would go hear them again.  This is coming from a person who
is not a great fan of live music.  I like it in the background, but to
have nothing to do but listen makes me antsy.  No problem here.

And if the group did not enthuse me, then the crowd would have.
Dancing in the aisles, or better yet, pulsating, as there was not room
to dance.  On its feet in front of their seats, the Spaniards moved to
the intense rhythms.  Then came the clapping.

The Spanish clap is unique.  It is flamenco.  I think that they are
born with the ability.  They not only know how, they know when and
when not to.  And when they did, they became part of the band and part
of the entertainment.

Two and a half hours later, the ovations were unending.  Not the
typical single encore, not two, but three.  Then the crown demanded
more.  After all, dawn was seven hours away, and why spend money to
get high on beer in the bars when this is better and cleaner?  But the
band had to give up.  After 23 years together, I cannot imagine how
they could put as much energy into a performance as they had.

3/14/98

Cáceres and Trujillo

For a mere 2950 ptas each we are off to Cáceres and Trujillo in
Extremadura via bus.  These weekly excursions, which get you to
selected places within one day’s drive from Madrid, are the best deal
in town.  There would be little other reason why we are here at Plaza
Castilla at 7 a.m.

I am not sure how to translate the name of this region of Spain that
sits on the Portuguese border.  It could be ‘extre madura’, which
could be extra mature, assuming ‘extre’ was or is a word. Or it could
be ‘extrema dura,’ which I would translate as ‘extremely hard.’
Either of these translations works, for Extremadura is a hard and dry
land (for which ‘extremely mature’ works also), even more desert-like
in some parts than around Madrid.  Our specific destinations, Cáceres
and Trujillo, require a three and one half ride each way, including a
thirty minute rest stop.  The round trip is about 600 km.

Cáceres was a Roman settlement.  The old town now is strictly medieval
and Renaissance in appearance.  Having no other building styles to
ruin the effect, the old part of town has been the site of many movie
productions.  It is on the highest spot; the new sections lie below
and around it.  Its many medieval and Renaissance palaces are in
magnificent condition as far as we could tell from the outside, either
from superb maintenance or restoration or both.  All the streets are
cobbled and make for awkward walking, but this adds to the authentic
feel.

We wound our way to the Casa de las Veletas, which is now an
archeology museum.  Here we saw some fine objects starting from the
Early Paleolithic era.  A display shows paintings from the Maltravieso
Cave, which is nearby in the flood plains.  There are also some
excellent examples from the Copper and Bronze Ages, and from the
visits of the early Phoenicians (who were from the area we now call
Lebanon).  Iron age objects from the pre-Roman area join those from
the Roman and Visigothic eras to round out this section of the museum.

What’s amazing is not just the fine condition of so many ancient
things, but also the fact that they are here, in this tiny town in the
middle of Extremadura.  We are not close to the sea here.  Anyone who
travels here must travel over hard, dry ground, probably along the
river so they could drink along the way.  In particular it is
interesting that there are Phoenician objects here, showing either
that they made the journey or, more likely, that they traded for
objects that were passed along in who knows how many subsequent trades
before arriving here.

Also, this is a tiny building in a tiny community.  In the U.S. I
would expect to see a collection of this quality only in large museums
as only the large ones could afford to buy this stuff.  Maybe this
museum did not have to make purchases.

There is more to this museum and this town, but let’s eat!  We have
made it to 1:30 p.m. and for once are not the first and only patrons
in the restaurant.  We choose one that was in the guide, which is rare
for us to do.  Its prices are reasonable, with the menu of the day for
1600 (about $10).  Its name is El Figón de Eustaquio that the book
said served mainly regional delicacies.  The menu of the day included
the pot of the day, ‘La Olla del día,’ which was bread soup.  It was
some sort of delicious broth with bread in it.  Peg also had a soup as
a first course, whose name I have forgotten.  With lunch we had the
wine of the region, Ribiera, which is a young wine (nouveau in French)
and it is quite a joy to drink.  The bottle was included in the price.

We hobbled around more of the village until we had to meet our bus in
the Plaza Mayor for the trip to Trujillo.

Trujillo, dating from Roman times, is the hometown of the Pizzaros,
those who conquered the Incas, as you might recall.  The town rests
upon a hill, although the view is less impressive than what Cáceres
offers.  This is a quiet town.  Stork nests abound and are occupied by
the graceful birds.  There are fewer people, fewer tourists, and no
buses today because of road work.

We trudged up the hill, landing in the Plaza Mayor (16th and 17th
centuries), which I think is more impressive than the one in Madrid.
It is larger, it has large and old buildings, and I think that the
structures are less uniform, making it appear somehow more natural.

In the middle is a huge statue of Francisco Pizarro, leader of the
expedition, on a horse.  He (and the horse, I think) are armored.  The
church behind it is early 16th c Gothic.  A toothless old man (or at
least he looked old) made sure that everyone ‘contributed’ the
required 25 or 50 pesetas to see the place.  Of more interest is the
Palacio de los Duques de San Carlos.  It is across the street.

Sister Bucky’s Touché

Meet Sister Bucky.  She is a nun of the Hieronymire order. I have
named her after a nun that does delightful 5-10 minute art lectures on
BBC television from time to time.  Our sister Bucky is a perky, 40ish
woman in traditional habit.  One member of the touring group
complained about something being unfair and she handled him quite
well.  No, she did not pull out her ruler (although I would have).
She told him he had to wait for some reason that I did not quite
catch.  She collected 200 pesetas and began the show.

The nun’s official place of residence is nearby but is in need of
restoration.  The Duke’s family permits them to stay here provided
they maintain the building.  The money they collect from us goes for
that purpose.  The part of the palace we see is the courtyard (open
roofed patio) and the second floor arcade (through glass only).  Bucky
shows us the beautiful stonework and the widely studied staircase.

The staircase is like one we saw in Montpelier.  It is hard to see how
it remains standing.  There are no vertical supports.  It is as if it
were cantilevered, meaning that the steps were inserted into the
walls; the steps do not fall down since when you step on them, the
part in the wall wants to rise (like a teeter totter) but cannot due
to the weight of the wall on top of the end.  I do not think that is
how it works but I have no other explanation.  It looks dangerous but
20 of us make it to the top.

Sister Bucky calls us down.  We are held up by the complaining man.
Bucky sees her chance and shouts to him, “It is not fair that you are
making everyone wait just for you!”  The perfect touché!

It is a lovely tour that ends with her showing us the Visigothic
capital found during renovations of the monastery.  Sister Bucky asks
me if I understood her.  I did, quite well, except for a few words I
did not know.

I like her and want to have a cup of coffee with her.  Me, who feared
nuns and their rulers almost as much as I came to dislike the religion
and superstition that they preached.  Would Bucky have told me that if
I touched the ‘host’ (what a name for a wafer!) my hand might get
stuck in my mouth?  No.  She’s too nice, too friendly.

As we leave, nuns in the chapel we pass through are singing, or
chanting, or is it praying.

Church of Santa María

The bright sun makes us glad we are not here in the middle of August.
We would be turned into dried up bricks in a moment, then used to
build a wall.  Up the cobble streets we walk.  At the top of the hill
is the Church of Santa María.  The door is locked so we look about the
outside.  The thick bell tower is Romanesque while the remainder is
Gothic.  I think it was built in the 1400’s.

As we were leaving, a young man climbed the steep twenty steps to the
door.  He has the keys and in we go.

The interior has been untouched since the 16th century, and thus is
one of the best examples of church decor of medieval Spain, perhaps of
all of Europe.

Ferdinand and Isabel worshipped here.

The altar is the main attraction.  It is adorned with dozens of 15th
century religious paintings that are in immaculate condition.

Peg puts in 100 pesetas and the whole place is illuminated.  Gold
gleams from every corner.  Only the best for El Niño.

Behind us as we face the altar is the choir, about 20 feet up on
balcony with an expertly carved balustrade, which I think was wooden
but it may have been stone.

We leave only because it is time to get back on the bus.  An hour and
a half in Trujillo is a bit short.

3/15/98

My first argument

We arrived back at Plaza Castilla last night around 10 p.m.  We lost
an hour on the way back sitting in Saturday night rush hour traffic.
Someone had been smoking.  Peg told me it was the same man who was
late for the bus this morning and we sitting in the back row. I
finally saw him and said that smoking was not permitted on the bus.

He told me to shut up and to turn around and face front.  That steamed
me up in a microsecond.  I sat for a moment and then turned and told
him that he was giving me a headache and the smoke was making it
harder for Peggy to breathe.  He repeated his shut up and turn around
response.

Well, he went to that well once too often.

Two men behind us joined in the argument against our smoking friend.
One said he had been smoking all day.  Don Smoker said that I had my
shoes off several times and the odor was killing him.  That made my
allies even angrier.  He then said that smoking was permitted in the
back row.  Everyone knew that was bull.  Smoking on buses has been
prohibited for years.  One of my allies called out for our guide.

“Sofia, we have a problem back here.”  By this time, everyone on the
bus was looking back at all of us arguing and no doubt knew what the
problem was all about.

Sofia sauntered down the aisle. She was probably worried about what
sort of mess she was about to get into.

“Is smoking permitted on the back seat in the bus?  This guy has been
smoking all day and now he is trying to tell us that it is permitted
in the back row.”

Sofia is looking at everyone trying to size things up.  She did not
know who was involved in this as she walked the aisle.  She said that
neither smoking nor eating was permitted.

There were no smoking signs on every window, but no ‘no eating’ signs
so perhaps they put that somewhere in the fine print.

I could not hear what Sofia said to the smoker.  He never smoked
again.  However, he was rude again, when I looked at him to make sure
he was not smoking.  I thought I smelled smoke again.  Turn around and
face front, he said.  I grumbled in English but otherwise I ignored
him.

Getting angry in a foreign language is not easy.  Remember how Ricky
Ricardo switched to Spanish whenever Lucy screwed up.  Well, I was
able to do it without descending to the level of Don Smoke.  I was the
only one who had the courage to say something, although I am sure
others were bothered.

The Spanish Got All the Good Stuff and its in El Museo de Las Americas

El Museo de Las Americas is near Ciudad Universitaria, the college
campus west of the old part of Madrid.  This museum contains:

the largest collection of pre-Colombian art in Spain, if not the
world.

Time lines of native South American as far back as 25000 BC.

a large collection of period maps

demographic charts showing changes in Native Indian, Caucasian
and African populations in Central, South and North America, and
the Caribbean, from about the 17th c. to today.  For example:

At the beginning of the 19th century in N. America, the
population was about 11.6 million, 78% Caucasian, 16%
African, 1% mestizos, 5% Native Americans.

South America at the same time: 16.9 million, 31% mestizos,
Africans 5%, Indians 44%, caucasians 20%.

videos projected onto three 10′ x 15′ screens, giving panoramic
views of various nature and live wildlife scenes

videos of Amazonian Indian dances, agricultural and gathering
techniques

large collection of maps from the Age of Exploration

full scale native South American and dwellings

samples of colonial clothing and paintings depicting colonial
life

pottery dating as far back as 700 B.C.

gold jewelry, including some very small and finely crafted beads,
gold helmets from 1000 B.C. to 200 A.D. The gold helmet and the
beads were displayed outstanding craftsmanship.

display about written language in South American, which dates as
far back as 4200 B.C. or 9200 B.C. (I cannot read my handwriting)
in Mexico, and actual samples.

There is much more that I did not even see.

Forget any of the displays of pre-Colombian art you have ever seen.
To think in terms of what I have seen in the U.S. and elsewhere would
have mislead me into not going to this museum.   I have heard that the
Spanish got all the good stuff.  Now that I have seen this place, I
know that this is true.

3/16/98

After our trip to the cultural heights offered in Andalucia last
December, I did not think I would ever be more energized by Spain.
The entertainment and field trips of the past two weeks have added
more than I would have thought possible.  Certainly the rest of March,
having come in like a lion, will go out like a lamb.

3/17-24/98

Once upon a time I wanted to be 1) an artist and 2)a poor and starving
one.  I am sure I would have been successful at the latter.  So I
became a mediator.  I promised myself that when I had time, and when
having to make a living as an artist would not be necessary, I would
take up the avocation again.  So I began to sketch a bit in
Montpelier, and continued here.  I bought a few more pencils with
Neal’s help, and he brought me a book on drawing.  Until now, I have
almost had to force myself to draw.  Now that I can see some progress,
I have had a glimpse of the old eagerness that once kept me up late at
night.

Santiago Rusiñol and other shows

The many exhibitions have helped my drawing.  Mostly I go alone as Peg
does not often like exhibits of just one artist.  But one day we went
together to an exhibition of the works of Santiago Rusiñol (1861-
1931), from Catalan.  His canvases are full of light, which
overshadows his form, so to speak, yet gives his forms life in an
impressionist sort of way.  As you entered the Mapfre Vida, a cultural
foundation of the insurer MAPFRE, a woman just finished dressing
studies her hands in a natural pose.  A beautiful painting that made
me just want to stand there for an hour.

I have the time to enjoy this painting.   I have the time to
enjoy this painting.  Walking slowly about.  Time.  I have time.

Fountains.  Flights of stairs.  Children in a courtyard.

Another day I went to an exhibit of photographs by a Portuguese woman.
Also there is an exhibit of drawings.  I make copies of some of the
works I like on my little pad that I carry now in my backpack; ‘la
muchila’ in Spanish, a word I have a hard time remembering.
Afterwards I ate lunch in the garden.  New growth is beginning to
appear on buses and trees.  I sat and watched.  Nothing in particular,
everything in general.

Another journey takes just me to the Residencia de los Estudiantes.
The exhibit building is part of in-use student residences tucked some
400 meters from Recoleta, the large boulevard that leads to the Prado.
Here there is another free exhibition, this one about Garcia Lorca.
Someone has collected photographs, drawings and other items sent or
given to him by friends when Lorca was alive.

There is a photo of Andrés Segovia playing outdoors for a few friends.
And one of Lorca and Dali sitting on the beach.  There are two nudes
by Dalí, beautifully and realistically painted.  I draw each of them.
In one, the woman is standing in water with her back facing us.  There
is another nude, this one a Picasso, also realistically and expertly
painted.

A video shows scenes from the times of Lorca’s creative period, from
around 1913 to about 1936.  Lorca was killed in or just after the
Civil War.  Standing there, I do not remember if he was killed in
battle or executed by Franco.  A young woman, a student employed to
monitor the exhibit, told me that he was executed not only because of
his Republican position, but because of his homosexuality.

The Spain of 1898

There are many exhibits about the Spain of 1898.  The Spanish-American
War marked the end of the Spanish empire and most of the shows mention
this war.  At the Plaza de Colón, the city’s exhibition space is
crammed full of memorabilia.  Newspapers with headlines and stories
about the negotiations and the war.  One talked about how the
President was not going to declare war, wanting to give negotiations a
chance to work.

In another 1898 exhibit, the army commander reports that the Spanish
soldier is loyal, hard working, organized and willing to lay his life
down for his country at a moment’s notice.  The commander lamented the
severe food shortages by concluding his homage, “I only wish I had
enough for them to eat.”

Each exhibit I have seen has been exceptionally well organized and the
displays are of the highest quality.

Patones and other mountainous sites

On the 19-20th, we planned to go to Valencia to see the biggest
fireworks in Europe.  It was a national holiday of something or some
such. Although Emilia had the day off work, she had to do chores on
Friday and she could not go to Valencia.  Too bad, not only because of
the fireworks, but because we were going to camp out.  I miss camping.

Instead, on Thursday the 19th she took us to a mountain village about
60 kms. north of Madrid.  The village is called Patones and entry
requires passage over a narrow bridge with room for only one car at a
time.   There is no parking inside the village and not many spaces at
all anywhere nearby. But we arrived early, abut 9:30, and by beating
the crowds, have easily found a place to park.

Patones sits nested in the mountains but the plains are clearly
visible and close by.  All lanes and streets are steep, even those
that cut across the hillside.  Each building is made of stone and many
are restored.  Most restaurants have outdoor seating.

This would be a nice place to draw.  I cannot take the time today.
Again I wish I had a car (no bus service comes here).  I could take my
time when I wanted to and not have to bother anyone.

Saturday March 21 she took us to various place in the mountains north
of El Escorial.  On the way we stopped in El Escorial for coffee.
Emilia cannot pass up a cafe.  We walked through the free parts of the
monastery (El Escorial), which include the cathedral.  Peggy and I
marvel at the Cathedral.  Emilia seems not to care.  I think she
dislikes the Church and that gives the visit an entirely different
meaning for her.  Peg and I are looking at art and architecture.
Maybe Emilia sees the one-time pro-Franco institution, and the
institution that gave us the Inquisition.

El Escorial looked quite different this time compared to our visits in
December.  Today we can see the building clearly.  In December we
could not even see the roof for the clouds and rain.

Peguerinos is small village with a stream running through it, but
otherwise is not of particular interest.  We walked along the stream
and the small lake that it feeds.  We pass another village where
Emilia once rented a place for weekend escapes from the hot summer in
Madrid.  She decided to spend that money on learning English so can
not afford the rent.

We drive through the highest points in the mountains.  We see many
families, friends and lovers picnicking along the side of the very
rough track.  Emilia says she once came here alone during the winter
and found herself in a snow tunnel with 8’9′ drifts on both sides of
the rode.

What to do, what to do

Plans are afoot.  We have decided to leave Spain.  Eastern Europe is
our general destination.  Poland seems like the most interesting of
the countries.  Gadansk and Krakaw  are the best cities to see.  Still
some history left.  Warsaw was bombed to death by the Germans and then
rebuilt in Ugly by the Soviets.  We have picked some other spots in
Poland’s countryside that the books recommend.

There does not seem to be much of interest in the Baltic Republics
(Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia) but the Czech Republic and Slovakia have
a fair amount to offer.  Likewise with Hungary.  I doubt we’ll go to
Romania.  The travel guides have nothing good to say, nothing good to
see, despite the Roman occupation (thus the name ‘Romania.’).
Bulgaria has a bit more to offer than Romania.  Both, however, are
very poor countries just beginning to awaken from the oppression of
the Soviets and countless backward centuries.  Turks were there until
the end of WWI, I think.  Bulgaria borders Turkey, Greece, and the
former Yugoslavia.  Nice, stable place to visit, no?

We have reserved a spot on the tour to Santiago (St. James) de
Compostela, the famed pilgrimage destination from around 1000 A.D. or
so.  We will be there May 3-9 for a total cost of $140 each!  This
includes all transportation, lodging, meals and excursions.

Our friend David is joining us, arriving on May 1 from Dallas.  He’ll
be here for two weeks.  Peg’s cousin and her husband are arriving on
April 26th.  Dani and Arlette are French speaking Belgians.  They have
never been to Spain.  They are in their early 40’s and seldom leave
their local area, let alone go to another country.

3/28/98

Cuenca and Cuidad Encantada with Emilia

Yesterday, Emilia drove us to Cuenca.  It is a medieval town in the
mountains, about 100 miles to the southeast toward Valencia.  It is
about 150′ above the Rio Huécat.  This affords breathtaking views.  At
some points, the old town is only one street wide; that street is
named Calle Alfonso VIII.  The Plaza Mayor is reached by passing
through an ancient and rounded arch.  Some buildings in the town hang
onto the side of cliff, jutting dangerously over the edge.

The castle is at the far end of town, where it sits upon the narrow
triangle of land.  Great views, perhaps the best.

The Casas Colgadas has cantilevered balconies that jut over the gorge.
Nearby a small arch allows passage into residential areas and the
Bishops Palace.

We walked over the gorge on an iron footbridge.  On each end of the
bridge men started talking to us, explaining the sites.  Both wanted
to be paid.  We did not pay them as they had not given us a chance to
decline.  We politely pretended not to have heard and simply repeated
our ‘no thank you’s.’  We entered the Parador, a beautifully restored
16th century monastery.

Emilia asked where we would like to stay.  We did not know we were
going to stay the night.  Apparently at some point we talked about it
and she thought that was the plan.  For her, a 200-mile round trip
journey means an overnight stay.  She drives slowly and often
overcautiously, so it is understandable why she expected to stay.  We
have brought no clothing or toiletries.  She is gracious as usual.

We had lunch at a place offering regional specialties.  Peg and Emilia
had delicious but greasy baby goat cut into small pieces.  The local
wine was delicious, a 1990 red, and only $5.00!.  Afterwards and
despite the growing lateness, she is willing to drive to Enchanted
City with us.  Figuring we would get there faster, she asks me to
drive.  The little diesel carries us up the beautiful and steep
mountainsides, affording delights at most every turn.

Enchanted City is about 45 minutes by car from Cuenca and it is not a
city at all.  It is a national park.  For 200 pts. you see some
delightful rock formations, often huge and shaped recognizably.  Peggy
says that the rocks were formed from lava.  The wind and perhaps an
ancient ocean have shaped some rocks into the forms of turtles and
large ships, and a variety of other shapes that dwarf the gawker.
There is a large, flat field that is obviously a lava flow.  There are
narrow passages and arches blown into the rock.  This would make a
great place to camp.  There is a hotel on the site charging 5000 pts.
per double room.

3/31/98

The weather this month has been fantastic, getting as warm as 25C.
The Paseo de la Castellana and some other major roads and even many
back streets are lined with trees and shrubs now greening in the warm
sun.   We have seen the white blooms of the almond trees and
wisterias’ red ones.  Sidewalk cafes open now and you can sit in the
sun.   We have even had to choose the shade at times.  My sweater sits
unused, waiting for duty in the cool Junes of Central Europe.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s