Monday, July 27, 2009

This is my last week in Spain...

Link to the photobucket page:

http://s577.photobucket.com/albums/ss211/memoagomez/CMU%20in%20Spain/?albumview=grid

So right, y’all wanted an update. It’s hard for me to believe that this is my last week here in Spain, that this is my last Monday in Spain!

Street Art in Alicante, it says: “There is a need to paint graffiti”


Sampere gave us a quick tour of Alicante; they took us inside the Cathedral where they keep the idols and robes during Semana Santa (Holy Week). We then headed towards Castle Santa Barbara over on top of the mountain that overlooks the entire city. The section had an older feel the further up we went the mountain. People would sit outside and talk to neighbors, kids would be running through the streets, and no vehicle would be able to move whatsoever. If it were up to me, I would have headed straight to the castle; unfortunately the group was dead from the heat and the climbing so we went back. I made sure to go back sometime during my time here in Alicante.

La Rambla, the main street in Alicante


Our family has shrunk by one, but somehow has gained three. Christian has moved out, but in his place two people have moved in: Claudina from Poland, Irina from Russia, and her daughter Maria. I moved out of the big suite to the room with Severin… and I have the floor mattress, ah well. :P

Romanticist photo (do they exist?) of me at the beach

This Saturday I finally went to the beach to actually go to the beach instead of walking along it like last time. I hung out with Maria, Vanessa, and a few other friends. We swam a bit, worked on bronzing up a bit, and I managed to get severely burnt from all this. I got some nice sunburn from all this but it’s nothing severe, I sort of needed it. :D

Havana Café, a place we usually go to at night to dance.


Sunday was when I decided to take on the mountain with a few friends, Albert, Natasha, Stasha, and me. The lift to the mountain was broken so during the 5 pm heat, of the scorching Alicante heat, we climbed that mountain. We saw Castle Santa Barbara and we set our sights on it like it was some crazy goal like trying to reach the moon. The road curved left and right and every time we went higher, the view just got better and better. Eventually when we reached the top, the Castle was amazing, but the view was to die for. I could see the entire city much better than the mountain where I went to the park. The view allowed me to see not only Alicante, but neighboring cities in the distance, all hiding behind little clouds that seemed so close with the height of the Castle.

Video of us at the top of Castle Santa Barbara

video
That night I went out with a few friends, we hung out at the beach for a little while and then we all decided to hit the clubs. We ran into some locals with a mix of some other students studying Spanish in Alicante and hit the streets like crazy. The people who handed out fliers saw the size of our group and knew that we would help out the popularity of their clubs so they let us in for free, and often gave us free/cheap drinks. Anyways, I'll keep you guys updated as much as I can, I have an exam this Friday so it may not be as dynamic as usual. :/

A photo of everyone on Christian’s last night.

Talk to you all later!

-Guillermo :D



We were nameless,
We have a name
We were wordless,
The words came
-Rammstein “Los”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First few days in Alicante

Link to the photobucket page:

http://s577.photobucket.com/albums/ss211/memoagomez/CMU%20in%20Spain/?albumview=grid

Well let's see, Wednesday in Alicante, did quite a few things, still need to upload a handful more photos, and hopefully I got more tan from the Alicante sun.

Estudio Sampere Alicante


Monday: My first real day here in Alicante, Sunday I was getting used to the environment, getting to know everyone, and reading the map so I don't look like a tourist referring to it all the time. So Monday was pretty much and Severin (Swiss housemate who looks a lot like my cousin) finding Sampere, walking around Alicante during our lunch break and eventually we ended up at the port where there is a shopping mall on top of the dock.

Mall on the dock

After class that day Nicole showed us this little mountain not too far away from the house where we could get an amazing view of Alicante, right next to a little skate park with little activities for April to enjoy. And oh man was it amazing! I could see just about everything from there, from the little districts of Alicante to the ports in the distance. I chatted with Nicole and Severin a bit to get an idea of who they were, if they were crazy, if they were comedians, artists, philosophers or any of the beautiful underrated professions. Turns out they were high school students, and Nicole is also into photography :D!

Video of the view of Alicante (epic)

video


After this we walked back to the house where we relaxed the rest of the day, I uploaded a chunk of photos to photobucket, and I slept and had very strange dreams... I think it was the change in climate that did that. Alicante is warmer and more humid than Madrid so I still have to get used to it.

Diego and April

Tuesday: Here is where I felt more like a local and less like a tourist, I would talk to people on the street with no problem whatsoever and all my other friends who are learning Spanish would see me as the interpreter. At times I confuse them (I do speak Mexican Spanish, and I am a little strange no?) but at the same time I help them get around and talk to the non-English speaking tour guides.

Street in Alicante

Today we went to the beach, and here indecent exposure isn't a class 2 felony... on the beach anyways. Every now and then there'll be a kid who's streaking across the beach while his mother is trying to catch him, or someone sunbathing topless, but I told Severin how you can't do that in the US and he gave me this strange look that said "No way!". Apparently nudity is a 100 Swiss Frank fine, it somehow makes the USA seem somewhat conservative... ah well.

Nicole with the view of Alicante in the background


After going back home after the beach we had dinner made by Diego (who used to work in a restaurant) and then we got to know the rest of our housemates. There was Christian from Italy, Matias from Austria, Severin from Switzerland, and Natalia (also came by late) from Poland. I got to know each one over dinner a lot better, and surprisingly I'm around the same age as the people here in Alicante... in Madrid they were a good 3+ years older than me, here there's a difference of no more of a year (older and younger) between me and the rest of the group.

Edman, err I mean Severin

Apparently, Estudio Sampere isn't the only study abroad program using Alicante as a place to study, in fact the only Sampere students were me and Severin. I went out with the house to meet up with more people from other programs all from different countries (Denmark, France, Germany), it was like a model UN! We went out to different pubs, clubs, to hang out, get to know each other, and dance a bit. After the night was through (I can't get poetic today for some reason :P) we all sat outside of a club, smiles on our faces, the warm night being no different than inside the club, we started to head home and I slept like a baby last night.

Silhouette shot of a statue in the mountain park of Alicante

Well there's not much more to say, I still need to explore, shoot more photos, and have more fun! I'll update as soon as I can and upload photos as soon as I can. :D

-Guillermo :D

I was thinking to myself out there — well, you wouldn't think you're anybody else, would you? Cut out the middleman I always say!
-Lee Evans

Monday, July 20, 2009

EPIC UPDATE!

Link to the Photobucket page:
http://s577.photobucket.com/albums/ss211/memoagomez/CMU%20in%20Spain/?albumview=grid

This is by far the craziest weekend I’ve had so far… There is so much stuff to put in here and I hope that blogspot has no limit on words, photos, and videos because this is my biggest update yet! Oh, and I broke out of that photographic dry spell by taking a ton of photos (more info to come!).

Thomas, who the director jokes about how he looks like Fran Perea so much that she…

Friday: seeing as I saw this as the beginning of the end (the last weekend in Madrid), I decided to go out to the clubs with other Sampere students and not sleep until the Metro started up 6:00 am Saturday morning (Alcala all over again!). It was 10:30 pm when I met Sibyl and Raquel at the bear with the tree, the rest of the group forgot where to meet up so they went to a restaurant (Museo de Jamon, great place!). There we met up with the group of Americans from Texas, a group from Taylor University (or are they the same group?), and a few scattered Europeans in the English-speaking crowd. After talking, getting some bocadillos, and watching the Americans shotgun their drinks, we took to the streets around 11 or so.

Museo de Jamon (Museum of Ham), for two euros, you get a delicious bocadillo, along with a drink, and a piece of fruit.

I had no idea where we were really headed, I knew a few places but I’m not much of a clubber, so Sibyl picked out a place called BIA Bar, (or something like that, the card they gave me is a bit funky…). At the entrance the bouncers looked at the group, we showed him our ID’s and they let us in without paying. Word of advice: if you want to go out in Madrid, travel with at least three (five preferably) girls in your group; chances are, you get discounted or free admittance. I squeezed my way past the crowd to a place where we all were able to dance. Almost immediately I saw the group rush for the bar and wondered why they can’t just buy their drinks outside … it’s 10 € for a drink at the club! I started talking to the people who were with Raquel and Sibyl (I did not know anyone in the group whatsoever) and they gave me this bug eyed look as I told them I was only 18. The bulk of the students at Estudio Sampere are usually 20, 21, around that range, and since my birthday is late in the year I stay young for a while.

The poor guy doesn’t look too happy; he looked so tense, I had to make his face…

After leaving that bar it was around 12:30 am or so, and the group demanded that we go to another bar. After discussing and not wanting to go to Capitol or Penthouse (HUGE entrance fees), we headed to Sol y Sombra: a place where if you have the right group, you can get in for free (they even gave us free shots last time we went), We waded through the crowd and I see a bunch of crazy hair that could only belong to Maike, a friend of mine from Sampere. I then see Thomas and both of them were leaving so I say my goodbyes and then I noticed some of the other CMU students were here in Madrid! I greeted Michelle, Tema, Lauren, and Beth (a friend from Sampere who is studying in Salamanca) and I felt time slip away through the flashing lights and the boom of the bass, as we all shared that one last night in Madrid together.

Km 0 at sundown


I looked at my watch as the green backlight gleamed to life and the hands told me 2:00 am. The new group of CMU students, Europeans, and a handful of the other Estuido Sampere students all headed out to club Joy. Club Joy is one of the well-known clubs in Madrid, and we couldn’t wait to get in. The admittance fee was a bit pricey but it was well worth it, we managed to get a flyer to get a free drink and a discount for each of us so we got a great deal. We headed to the sea of people and swam our way through its thick waters. The air was a mix of shots, smoke, and sweat: made cool by the air conditioning to give you the feeling of being truly alive. Bass was rocking people to the core, grabbing their arms and flailing them up in the air. Reds and Blues screamed to the lyrics, Whites scatted to the drums of the song, and the rest of the rainbow was demanding that you had to dance, scream, and jump.


Entrance to Joy at daytime, I don’t take my camera to clubs because it might have gotten stolen…

I shivered as the brisk morning air hit me dead on. It was a nice wake up call seeing as how the 6:00 metro was going to start in only five minutes. Beth and Lauren (everyone else had gone their own ways) were with me as the sky started to churn from black to the purplish blue of sunrise and we headed down the Metro stairs. I said my goodbyes to Beth as she was going to Alicante in a few hours, and to Lauren who was heading back to the states. After climbing out of the stairs of Alfonso XIII onto my home street of Clara del Rey, there was a new energy that came about me. I don’t know if it was something in the soft blue morning, the party people stumbling back to their homes, or the early birds getting up to seize the day, but something just felt alive. Quietly I entered my host’s place, not wanting to wake Pilar, and whatever energy I had that morning evaporated as I laid my head on the pillow and started to dream.



Plaza de Alonso Martinez

Saturday: I woke up at around 11 am or so, I looked at my empty suitcase and thought for a little while… “What do I still need to do? What do I want to do one last time?” Immediately an explosion of greenery came to my head and I knew I had to see the Retiro one last time, and make sure I had seen every major sculpture, building, and garden. There was still the Reina Sofia I had to see, Dali’s surrealistic works, modern art that I will criticize and critique for no one to hear, and more importantly, Picasso’s Guernica. I took my backpack, filled it with my lunch, my camera, and planned out the rest of my day: Retiro in the afternoon, Reina Sofia during the evening, packing at night.

Here in Madrid they call it Dunkin’ Coffee…

I got out at the Goya metro station and took a long walk to the Retiro. The main entrance greeted me like a new friend that I would never forget: familiar scenery, warm atmosphere, and that familiar sense that there was no city behind me, nothing but pure, fresh, and newborn green land.

Statue in the Retiro, from the front he looks like he’s falling back, but from the back, he’s running forward



As I delved deeper into the Retiro, the white noise of the city was gone, save for a siren that blared up every now and then. The trees arched into each other over the dirt path, sunlight seeping from behind the branches that seem to make the park go for an eternity. I headed west into the park, found these playgrounds with all these sets that look like something Picasso made specifically for the Retiro. Curves on swivels that bent in such strange patterns that the kids loved and that parents in the USA wouldn’t even dare let their kids get on.

Ansel Adams would be proud… I think.

I eventually reached an enormous road where there were no cars, no mopeds, no motorcycles, but bicyclists, walkers, and rollerbladers (I have not seen people rollerblading in public since 2000). I thought it couldn’t get any more unique and then a man on a unicycle playing the accordion zoom by and I barely got a photo of him.

Did you think I was kidding?

Eventually I met up with a couple on this road who were doing something like an ice-skating routine, with rollerblades and asphalt. I managed to get a video but I didn’t want them to see me so I kept my distance. They eventually saw me and to my surprise they asked to see the video to look at their routine (they didn’t have a camera) and let me keep the file.

The video of the roller skaters


video

After taking photos of some statues I just found I came across an amazing glass house that was in the heart of all the trees. It was a magnificent building, glass and stone elegantly crafted in front of a lake filled with ducks. I went inside and they had a little art exhibit where some animal suits were hanging from the ceiling. I did not know too much about the piece, nor did I care too much, I was in awe of the building.

View of this glass house from the outside


As I explored more of the Retiro I noticed that a lot of the sights were familiar, and that I had pretty much explored the entire park. There were a few statues and gardens I did not see, but other than that I had covered everything. I headed up to the Mausoleum of Alfonso XII and I heard a loud drumming coming from the side of the memorial. There was a man beating away at a small hand drum, jingling from the coins he had in his pocket as he rocked his body to a metronomic rhythm. He put a lot of soul into his work but what really stunned me was not just that he played well, but rather he wasn’t playing for money. When I tried to give him half a euro, I noticed that there was not box, bag, or hat of any kind to drop money in. He was playing to practice in a place where he felt he could concentrate and hone his drumming skills like an old school artist.

Video of the drummer (sound is a bit wonky but it’s audible)


video

It was a nice feeling to see the Retiro one last time; I guess the beatnik in me loves this place and if I do come back to Spain I have to make sure I come back here. Before heading to Reina Sofia I wanted to grab some Spanish lunch so I headed to Sol and got a bocadillo (1 €!). It’s basically a sandwich but with rich Spanish meats and a really filling bread.

Om nom nom nom… Bocadillo


It took me a bit of a while to get to the Reina Sofia (the directions I wrote down were wrong) and as soon as I got off the Metro the darndest thing happened. I saw Michelle from CMU and Weston (Sampere) at the station and they were also heading to the Reina Sofia. O_o

The Reina Sofia Museum


We met up with Tema eventually and then from there we all entered between the two glass elevators. Our things came out of the x-ray machine, the lady at the ticket booth glanced as we walked by (free on Saturdays and Sundays!) and we all explored the exhibits. We entered at around 6:00 pm and they had to kick me out of the Museum because of all the fun I was having. It was 9:00 pm when I walked out the door of the Reina Sofia and swore to finish up before I left for Alicante on Sunday. Amazing pieces from cubism, pop art (I'm not too big of a fan), expressionism, and other works grabbed me and made me into a madman. I finally saw Guernica, and all the photos online, all the pictures in the textbooks; do no justice to the real deal. It was gigantic! I could literally feel every ounce of work Picasso put in there without even getting a good look at the canvas. Picasso really captured the tragedy that occurred through his work and was filled with so much raw emotion and power.

Guernica, with its bouncers


As for the rest of the Reina Sofia, it has now become my favorite museum. I love 20th century art and the divergence from art being portraits, murals, and events to works where expression was key. Propaganda posters, dynamic portraits, pieces where the artist’s purpose is debatable, and other works that scream creativity were all over the museum. The best part was, they let me take photos! I had to keep the flash off but I still had photos nonetheless.

A few of my favorite works from Reina Sofia














After checking out the third floor, the security guards came over and said that they were closing and I had to leave. I still had to see Dali’s surrealistic works, and finish up the fourth floor. So I planned it out: my train leaves at two, the Reina Sofia opens up at 10 so if I get there early, I can get enough time to at least see Dali’s work. I went home and had my last dinner with Pilar, packed up my stuff, and slept.

View from a glass elevator in the Reina Sofia






Sunday: “Crap, crap, crap!!!” was all I was thinking and saying when I saw the face of the alarm clock: 9:57 am. I showered, put away my towel and my last bit of dirty laundry, and looked at my train ticket. “Oh wait, 4:00, my train leaves at 4:00?” I had plenty of time to go see Dali’s work and maybe even make one last stop to the Rastro. I got off the Atotcha metro station and jetted it towards the Reina Sofia.

They have these here too? (and they spell “Scientology” in English?)


I was actually disappointed; I was downhearted, disenchanted, and just let down. The room where they kept the surrealist works was tiny and the selection was very limited, compared to Picasso (who had an entire hallway of his works), Dali had no more than ten of his works put up in that room. Despite the fact that I didn't see much I loved his work; Dali’s surrealism is always one that makes sense just by the feel of the piece. I never have to make wild guesses to understand his pieces, and the further I examine the piece, the clearer the feeling gets, and the stronger the emotions become. I wanted to see more of his works but the museum wasn’t showing any more of his works at the moment. :( I wanted to see more of his works with the spheres, his landscapes, and melting clocks. Along with Dali’s pieces were some by Joan Miró, whose style is like a child doodling on a piece of paper. His works had a childlike style that had the innocence and creativity of my cousin’s doodles on the fridge. They were not the highest quality pieces (as in detail), but I believe art it about getting a message out however you wish to.

Dali’s works









Miró’s works


After all this I bought a pair of Aviators that I have been itching to buy at the Rastro. I headed home and made sure everything was packed, passport, souvenirs, laptop, laptop charger, phone, camera, phone charger, all was in place (all the major ones anyways, If I do end up missing something, it shouldn’t be too important). I grabbed everything, said my goodbye to Pilar, and headed towards the Alfonso XIII station for the last time. Fate has a tricky way of messing with me; it loves to send my friends and me in the same directions without us knowing. I ran into Michelle and Alejandro (a friend of ours here in Spain) looking for a taxi to get to the airport. Michelle and I made the same "WTF" face at each other, and we chatted for a minute (she was late, I didn’t want to be), and we said our last goodbyes and we would see each other in the States. :D

Intense eagle statue on the Monument to Alfonso XII


I entered the Renfe station at the Chamartin Metro stop (it was a really good thing that I left early) and was a bit worried when I got there. I was about 40 minutes early and I couldn’t find the gate to my train. I found the timetables with my trip number, destination, and departure time all lined up, but there was no gate! I asked the man at the information desk and he told me that they don’t put up the gate numbers until 15 minutes or so before they leave. It struck me as odd, but when in Rome…

My Aviators, while I’m on the train


When I stepped out into the bright sunlight of the Renfe train, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home. (a cookie if you know that quote…)I hailed a taxi and somehow I felt that he took the long route to get that extra euro out of me, ah well. I rang the doorbell and just said my name and I was let in. They’re a lovely family: (photos will come once I get the chance), Argentineans with the accent that puts little ‘sh’ noises inside their j’s and y’s. Emilce and April (Emilce’s five year old daughter) were the first ones I met, both tanned an earthly brown from the Alicante sun and sand. Nicole (Emilce’s fourteen year old daughter) I met next; also bronzed from the sun and sea. Then I met my housemates, Matthias from Austria, and Christian from Italy (another Cristian?) and apparently I’ll be getting more in the future. I showed Emy (Emilce) my map and from there she started to go over how to get to certain areas, which parts of town were the party parts, the older parts, the castle, and other landmarks while I was showing off my fedora to April and letting her play with it. Later I met Diego (Emilce’s husband) and then eventually Julia (Emy’s mother) and then I was shown my room where I unpacked and then had dinner with them.

A guy asked me if he could dance with my sister... although that wasn't my sister... that was my friend Beth.





So now I finished this post and the word count says over 3000 words and about 6 or 7 pages on the word document. I’ll shoot as much as I can here in Alicante and hope the internet here stays stable enough to where I can upload without interruptions. They have internet here but it goes on and off so it’s not too good for doing big tasks like uploading photos. I just hope that I don’t end up as a computer hog at Sampere… I’ll keep you updated as much as I can.

Until later!

Guillermo :D

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our December sun is setting...

Link to the Photobucket page: http://s577.photobucket.com/albums/ss211/memoagomez/CMU%20in%20Spain/?albumview=grid

As my time in Madrid is coming to an end I've seen the city take it's effects on me. I've picked up on the slang and I say words such as "vale", call people "tio/a", and refer to groups as "vosotros"; all different from the Mexican Spanish I grew up with. I walk on the streets without people giving me strange looks. Tourists, new people to Sampere, and even some Spaniards ask me for directions on the streets, how to get from point A to B on the metro, and other little things like that. Even this morning, I helped a family from Denmark get to Sol. As I started talking to them (in English they didn't know Spanish) they were surprised to know that I was from the United States. Well here's a bit on my last week in Madrid (I still have the weekend!!!).

Street in Sol (the flash didn't go off), it's a bit funky but I like the effect


Wednesday: Sampere took a trip to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to see the works from all over Europe. Unlike El Prado, which contains more classical pieces such as Goya's and Velazquez's, and Reina Sofia (I still need to go...), which has 20th century works like Dali and Picasso, the Thyssen Musuem has art pieces from different eras, different countries, and different styles. As usual with the museums here in Madrid, no photography was allowed, but I was allowed more time to explore the museum and really take in different styles, techniques, and painters. Portraits, still life, abstract pieces; painters from the United States, Italy, Spain; and everything from Romanticism to Expressionism.

Bust of the founder: Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza


That night I heard that Cristian was leaving for Paris Thursday afternoon. So we and a couple of friends got together and we went out to see the streets of Sol and to get some churros with chocolate (Spanish churros aren't that sweet compared to the Mexican ones which usually have cinnamon on them, but I guess that's what the chocolate is for). The metro closed so we had to take a taxi, and the taxis in Madrid are crazy! We told him the street and he popped it into the GPS, blasted the techno, started mumbling to it, and we dashed 60 km/hr in a 30 km/hr zone. Normally I just take the metro (I have a pass) but the fare came down to about 5€ from each of us and seeing how we live a bit of a distance away it was a pretty good deal.

¡Churros con Chocolate!

Thursday: I owed Liubov (the Russian girl) a dinner for buying me those goggles so I took her out to a place in Sol. It was a small place called El Bascon not too far away from the metro station in Sol; great tapas, sweet sangria, and it's all at an amazing price. We then walked around Sol a bit and I showed her all the little places that people seem to miss or to know nothing about: Madrid's emblem, km 0, the place that had the churros and chocolate until seven in the morning, all that fun stuff.

Communications Palace, Salamanca district, Madrid


So now it's Friday at around 3 pm here in Madrid, the weekend is looking up, I'll probably go out tonight with some friends to Sol, see what's up. Saturday will be my last full day in Madrid, so the morning I will fully explore El Retiro, (I'm still not done yet!?) then visit The Reina Sofia Musuem. Sunday I will make sure I'm fully packed, got everything and leave to Alicante at 2pm at the Renfe Train at the Chamartin Metro station.

The place we went to Wednesday night had some amazing photographs all over the wall...


Oh and I'm having a bit of a photographer's block... I don't shoot things twice and I need a new change of atmosphere. I'll snap out of it as soon as I explore the Retiro and let myself get a bit lost. I'll update on Monday about the weekend with photos.

-Guillermo :D

Nothing lasts.
-Ken Kesey

Monday, July 13, 2009

My date with a Russian girl

Link to photobucket display:

My spine started to tingle a little like it always does when people play with my hair. She moved her fingers around my forehead a little and then behind the ears, tickling me a little as she treated my head like some sort of crystal ball that she could scry into. The sun was caged behind the leaves of the tree, giving them a silhouette look, and a soft light to the Retiro. In the background if you listened closely you could hear the bustling of cars, construction, and crying like white noise you just want to ignore. I tilted my head to the right and I looked at her: long black hair, a ring on every finger, and two little dimples that can only be described as ¨adorable¨.

Oh wait I'm sorry, you want to hear about Madrid and Toledo :D
And to all of you who were getting into that... is it good enough to be a part time writer? XD

Vips... it's like the Denny's of Madrid really



Thursday: It was sort of a goodbye party for some of the students that Sampere holds every week or so. It was a Karaoke bar called La Chocita Sueca (The little Swedish house) and I found out that I have a weird singing face. I said goodbye to all the friends who are leaving and I watched my German friends try to dance to Slim Shady.
Nadya and me... with my intense singing face.


Friday was pretty much a nothing day... I didn't want to miss out on Toledo so I made sure I slept that day.

Madrid checkerboard police car


Saturday: Toledo! All I have to say is: THE VIEW OF THE CITY IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! It looks a bit like an island due to the river flowing around the city and it has that old village feel that I know and love. We actually stopped the bus before we entered the city to take a ton of photos of just the city as a whole. It's times like these when I wish I had a professional photographer's equipment to capture all that epic land in one shot.

Toledo!


So we entered and Josune (professor and guide) started the tour off in the central plaza and explains the history of Toledo. How it was once the capital of Spain but eventually Madrid started booming and then gained the role of Spain's capital. Toledo also served as a sort of haven for all three major religions, a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived amongst one another and each one's history can be felt all over the city. Toledo is full of alleys, twists, turns, and all sorts of fun things that make owning a car here seem a bit odd.

Swords are VERY popular in Toledo (SPARTA!!!!)



Our first stop was the Cathedral and I have a theory... everything in Toledo has to be huge. The cathedral was enormous, I had to take a video of it to get the whole thing into perspective (also available on photobucket). Inside the cathedral (no photography allowed :( ) was the most elegant and beautiful work I have ever seen inside a cathedral. A sense of comfort floated around the room and the main hall packed with gold decor, amazing paintings,a skylight, and a crypt (I forgot why it was there but it was beautiful). In the back you could find a sort of museum covering the history of the Cathedral and artifacts behind glass.

Video of the front of the Cathedral

video
We stopped at another place to catch our breaths and take a look at the view of Toledo. No history, just the gentle breeze and the awesome view.

The Towel at Toledo

Afterwards we went to go look at an old Synagogue and although it wasn't as big as the Cathedral, it was huge in its essence. It had a courtyard to relax in, a grave site through another door, and a little museum about Jewish culture, history, and the religion.
The Synagogue from the outside


We got two hours to go and eat somewhere and then I finally had my first foreign McDonald's... for 3,40 € (That's maybe around $4.50 American) I got a Spanish Big Mac. I was actually disappointed really, it tasted the same really, but the flavor was actually a bit stronger in Spain. Ah well...
It even looks the same... :(




After lunch we all met at the St. Tomé church where we saw The Burial of the Count of Orgaz a classic piece by ¨El Greco¨ over the grave of Don Gonzolo Ruiz. The piece depicted his death as a tragedy, and included ethereal beings looking down on him with "El Greco's" signature style of deformed people and strange color choice. The group then started to complain about the heat, the long walks, and all other little things here and there that Josune got everyone on the bus early. Eventually we got back in Madrid and I planned out tomorrow as it would be my last sunday in Madrid.
Street in Toledo
Sunday I went to El Rastro for one last time, and the Retiro with a Russian girl I met on the trip to Toledo. She's only been here a week so she didn't know too much about the city and I gave her a tour of the two places for about seven hours. And I finally bought all the souvenirs for everyone back here in the states.
Another common thing in Madrid: smoking, these stands are everywhere!




It's now my last week in Madrid, I have to enjoy it as much as I can now. I still have to go see Guernica and make a trip to The Reina Sofia :D! I'll keep you all updated as much as I can.
The greatest souvenir in the world...


-Guillermo
If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go.
-Mark Twain