Okay. I'm back from our spring break Eurotrip and I took over 3,500 photos. So, I'm sorting through these as quickly as possible and I'll put up (abbreviated) journal posts and photos ASAP. It's good to be home in comfy, cheap, pre-paid Granada :D
This week hasn't been anything notable except that it's back to school and life as normal in Granada, so I'll give you a rundown of our evenings and a little bit of the mornings.
Monday night, the flatmates (sans Youssef) went out for tapas with Penny and Jenny, who live together in an apt across the river and are in the same program as Teela. It was nice, since I've spent two weeks hearing stories about the girls but hadn't had the chance to meet them yet. We just hung out at the bar for a while, had some beers, enjoyed our tapas (except for the mini bagels with ham, they weren't so good), and came home.
The next night was Tetera Tuesday, or martes marroqu,, which was all the flatmates and some of Youssef's French friends at the Tetera de Bauelo up in the Albayzin. The proprieter, Abrahim, came over to hang out and enjoy himself with us as well. Oh, and Becky - the Egyptian tea is delicious!
Wednesday for merienda (tea-time), I called up Penny and met up with her, since she has a lot of random free tea time during the day. We got coffee (and churros with chocolate, though she doesn't like them so I ate most of it) and sat around for a couple hours trading bad jokes. Here's a Spanish joke Penny translated for me:
A boy was walking through a countryside village and stopped by at an old farmer's house. While he was there, he noticed that they had a pig with a prosthetic leg, so he asked the farmer, "Why does your pig have a false leg?" The farmer replied, "Because we don't have an icebox!"
If you didn't get it, don't fret -- Penny had to explain it to me (and translate it, too). The catch is that Spain eats a lot of pig meat. Regardless, a rather nice way to spend an afternoon. I walked with her back to her apartment in hopes of playing some pool, as she lives across from a billiards hall, but that bar wasn't open yet.
For the evening itself, I don't have any photos or anything, so I suspect we just stayed in and hung out in the apartment. Quotes from around the piso: "Akin, you're a man!" and "Get your face out of my face." I ♥ Teela.
For Teela's pre-birthday night, we went up to Dolce Vita for the open bar and then, after the clock struck twelve and we sang Happy Birthday, I peaced out to check out karaoke with the Delawareans at Hannigan's & Sons II, a pub very close to the CLM building. It was Real Good Times; I sang Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator" and people were fans, especially when I pulled Jill up on stage to dance. We got home around 3am, not too bad for a Thursday night (when we actually have Friday morning classes).
I probably ought to mention something scholarly, since that's technically my lot in life until I graduate. In culture class, we were talking about big Spanish festivals, one of which is the fera de abril or the April Fair in Sevilla. Families set up tents to sell food and goods, there's amusement park rides, and people dance sevillanas, which all good Spaniards know. We asked our professor, Mara Jose, if she knew how to dance it -- she did -- and if she would show us -- she would! She pulled another professor who was a trained dancer, got some music from the school library, and danced us a few minutes of sevillanas. I'll leave you with the video of it here. (P.S. She's always this chipper and smiling in class, it's pretty cute.)
Since I got ahold of a panorama stitcher program, I've been having a little too much fun with my nice shiny camera (thanks Grandma!). Because Facebook can't handle photos with an aspect ratio larger than 1x3, I'll make new posts/notes linking to my server over the course so everyone can see them. Click any picture to see the larger version (and when I say larger, I mean anywhere from 3mb to 20mb). Enjoy!
The Royal Palace of Madrid, in the courtyard facing the front
Along Principio Pio in Madrid, the road which passes along the back side of the Royal Palace
Plaza de los Reyes en el Monasterio Real de San Laurenzo (el Escorial) -- Plaza of the Kings in the Royal Monastery of Saint Laurence (Scholar's Place)
At the corner of the basilica in Valle de los Cados, Valley of the Fallen, Frederico Franco's tomb.
Standing out front of said basilica
Overlooking the woods surrounding said basilica
Segovia, Madrid: the famous Roman aqueduct and a view of the town
Toledo, Madrid: overlooking the town
Toledo, Madrid: overlooking the river running through it
Castilla de la Mancha: the molinos (windmills) of Don Quijote
Granada, Andaluca: along on a road in Sacromonte, overlooking the gypsy warren and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada
Wise timing, Jorge: morning call, 12am to check out of the rooms, 1pm for touristing. We all roused ourselves out of bed eventually, around 10 or 11ish, and got a measly breakfast next door: tostadas con tomate (toast with tomato pure) at the ham place, then kebabs once the Turkish place opened. Ashley went cheap and picked up a baguette and butter at the alimentacin two doors up (the one run by Japanese people with Pikachu and some other anime characters painted on the doorframe) and just buttered her bread at the Turkish place (since she'd buttered up the owner yesterday).
The only tourist trip (and last for the weekend) was the Royal Palace. It was quite palatial: tons of rooms with vaulted ceilings, probably a thousand different art pieces, walls covered in tapestries, walls covered in embroidered fabric (not wallpaper but thick embroidery), etc., etc. The place is pretty amazing, the most opulent palace I've ever seen -- and it's still in use, too, aside from being a national patrimonial site. The tour was a little different than normal: we were issued radio receivers to pick up a feed from the tour guide's belt pack, so he could just walk around wherever and keep talking and we'd hear him pretty well. Shame that I couldn't understand most of what he said, since he talked so fast and monotonously. Nice trench coat, though, and the palace itself was plenty to look at.
We had a few hours free after the palace before we had to report back to the hotel to load up the busses. A handful of us wandered across the street to the Parque Oriental, which was just a plaza with hedges and gardens and a little playground, and got into a discussion about what determines fluency and being religious. Interesting, though when it got to be three of the more outspoken and opinionated people discussing, the two more reserved and moderate people withdrew to form a side discussion about people in general. Interesting group dynamics. Also, I was hit up by a Bulgarian girl with gold caps on her teeth to contribute to a UNICEF campaign to build a deaf/blind school in Madrid. She was real sneaky about it, too - when she held out the petition for me to sign, she put her hand over the Donation column so that I couldn't see all the 20 entries ... or the empty ones. I gave her a 1 coin, which was literally all I had left in my wallet but for 17 cents.
There were a few cool things on the bus ride home: more windmill power generators and a huuuuuge rainbow. For about twenty minutes we could see the entire arch, from one landing point to the other. "Physics!" Also, we stopped off at a hotel/caf halfway back to Granada and ran into our flatmate, Youssef. Coming home was nice; Akin and I both remarked on how Granada feels like el hogar -- home.
We were standing outside, waiting for the bus when Ashley remarked, "I know exactly what Andy's blog is going to say: 'We were standing outside, waiting for the bus...'" Well, we were! It was back to our old bus and driver, the other Jorge (who has a cute little "MADRID: Jorge" mini-license plate, E.U. style, hung up above his head). It's a comfy little bus that holds probably forty people, so most of the twenty people and change get their own seat (or the five-seat bench in the back). Nonetheless, we loaded up and ended up in pretty much the same arrangement as we did from the Ronda trip. Most people do that in class, too, as usual.
The first stop, after about two hours of driving, was a typical roadside caf area with the standard tourist kitsch. Jorge bought us all a drink -- that is to say, a caf or bottle of water -- which we enjoyed nearly as much as the servicios higienicos, or the loo, if you will. This aperatif merely whetted our desire to get back on the road to our destination, but before we got to Toledo ..
... we had to tilt at windmills. Yep, along the way to Toledo are the molinos of fame from the story of Don Quijote de la Mancha. Now I can understand why they'd be mistaken for giants: standing at three stories tall, they dwarf any of the Delawareans who might take up battle with their arms. Fortunately, the worst we put our hand to was a jumping picture in front of the old things.
Next stop: Toledo! (That's toe-lay-dough or toe-lee-dough depending on how Spanish you're feeling at the moment.) We were released for a few hours to wander the city before our tour so that we might eat lunch, relieve ourselves of a few duties, etc. Jason chose to visit the American Embassy for the second part -- that is to say, the Golden Arches Consulate -- while I took care of the bocadillos Carmen had packed for Akin and me. Since I had forgotten mine last week, I looked forward to today's hearty meal of a Spanish tortilla (potato omelette) on a baguette and cured ham on bread with vinegar. Om nom nom! Also, a banana and an orange, except I dropped my orange on the bus. C'est la vie.
After lunch, all that was left to do was wander and shop. The girls got jewelry. The boys (a.k.a. Jason and I) hit up the sword shops: Toledo claims some certain fame for the sword factory on the edge of the city. Jason picked up two katana -- one for his bff slash roommate and one for his birthday self-present -- while I came out of the dungeons with a replica of el Cid's battle sword, la Colada, and Carlos V's dagger. El Cid, for those of you unfamiliar with Spanish history, was a well-esteemed Spanish swordsman from the ... I think 12th century; he was thought so highly of by the Moors that they called him El Cid, which translates to El Hombre or The Man. He was a Cool Guy; also, he had two swords, one for ceremonial purposes and one for battle (the main difference being the handguard on the hilt). Anyway, everyone was very impressed, and it wasn't too bad of a deal: 83.65 euros for a quality sword with the dagger (priced at 16 euros) thrown in gratis. They didn't come overly sharpened, but I could still run somebody through pretty easily if I were overcome by bandits in the streets of Madrid.
Our guide met us back at the plaza at 4pm to tourist around the city. She is a very petite and professorly lady (who knows an awful lot, but needs to speak up a little) and showed us an awful lot of neat-o things, like little cherubim making out or at the point of fisticuffs. Those showed up in the first tourist site we visited, the Cathedral of Santa Mara of Toledo. The place is huge; it's one of the greatest examples of baroque architecture in Spain. It was also built large enough to cover the entirety of the mosque which preceded it. Of note: three pipe organs, including two in opposition over the chorus, one Baroque-style and one Neoclassical; a very intricately decorated skylight allowing sunrays to illuminate a fancy sculpture in the back of the church; and a set of towers that defeated the wide angle lens on my camera.
While walking to the next part of the tour, our guide showed us one of the delicacies of Toledo: mazapan (marzipan). Specifically, she showed us the city gate done up in marzipan. I coulda eaten that entire town. Unfortunately, our guide doesn't speak too loudly (and my memory doesn't go back more than day or two), so I didn't get to hear too much detail on the marzipan. In addition to marzipan, we dropped by the Interment of Sr. de Orgaz (el Greco). Basically, it's a little chapel with his tomb and a lovely painting above it.
You'll remember that Spain used to be home (and is again) to Catholics, Jews, and Arabian Muslims. Toledo is the one place in Spain where the three religious groups could live side-by-side in harmony, at least until the Reconquista of Spain by the Catholics. There's a sculpture when you enter the city to that effect, something about peace and harmony written in all three languages. Anyway, we visited an old synagogue to prove the point, the Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue from the 12th century. (Seriously, that's what the sign said: Sa MARIA la BLANCA / MONUMENTO NACIONAL / ANTIGUO SINAGOGA DEL SIGLO XII / XIIth CENTURY OLD SYNAGOGUE.) Although it had been converted into a stables when the Catholics gave the Jews the boot a few centuries back, it still had that synagoguey feel to it. Today there was an art exhibition featuring some contemporary drawings, good stuff: the centerpiece melded the Torah, the city of Toledo, the city of Jerusalem, a Jewish couple, and the word "love" in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. Architecturally speaking, the place looked more like a mosque: the archways were done in a partially Arabic style, with funky curliques in the top of the arches instead of classical or baroque-style decoration. More on this later.
What comes after Judaism? Catholicism, of course! So we walked over to another Catholic site, the Claustros (Cloisters) of San Juan de los Reyes. In the chapel attached, we got to rest our feet for a moment and learn about how, since there was Spain royal lineage coming from Germany (and I really ought to have taken notes about this), some of the royal seals and shields included the double-headed shield from Germany. Seeing all these palaces and old-timey buildings is gonna get me real good on parsing all the symbolism in shields.
The visit to the Cloisters concluded our tour of Toledo, but for one more treat: walking across the beautiful river to our busses. Hilarity ensues as Jorge tries to get us to hurry up to the busses while we see a lovely opportunity to spread out and take photos for twenty minutes. Twenty years in his position as program director and I don't think he's used to the digital age yet with all their newfangled gadgets, including cheap cameras. Japanese time for all...
After such a full day of touristing, we were glad to hear that nothing more was scheduled but to drive the few more hours to Madrid, check in to the Hotel Principio Pio, and do whatever we pleased (within legal limits). My roommate Akin was invited to join the triple of boys (since we have an odd number of boys and girls and UD study abroad policy prefers to keep them separate), so I roomed with Jason instead (which was more to our taste anyway). Best perk of hotel: UNLIMITED HOT SHOWERS OH MY GOD SO GOOD.
Incidentally, Jorge elected to give us a per diem on the bus this morning rather than even attempt to host group meal times; so we started the trip with 75 euros for lunch, dinner, and merienda which is basically tea-time, through Sunday afternoon. Since lunch finished off the sammiches from our seoras, dinner was on our per diem. Jason, the girls, and I walked up to Gran Va, the main avenue of Madrid, to find some food while it was still daylight (so. We decided to put The Wok, a mixed Asian chain restaurant, on the back-burner and, after looking at a few other restaurants, split up: the girls went back to just grab some kebabs next door to the hotel, while Jason and I walked a bit farther to see what there was to eat.
We found the Donkey Cafetera. We took one look at the place, decided it was a dive, then looked up at the sign and decided we had to eat somewhere called the DONKEY CAFETERIA. The place was pretty legit, too, just a bunch of Spanish people and a pugnacious little bartender who said there wasn't a menu, just the tapas in the heater in front of us. Alright, give us a little of everything: little hot dogs wrapped in bacon and fried, Spanish tortilla, all sorts of yummies.
In addition to enjoying dinner and a beer on Jorge, we definitely took advantage of the alimentaciones just up the street from the hotel to buy some food and beverage supplies for later on in the night. Evening plans for most of the group were to go out clubbing, but my smaller group (Jason, Laura, Ashley, Karen, Analecia, and me) chose to stay in the hotel, in anticipation of more hard-core touristing tomorrow, and play Kings, a "getting-to-know-you" card game. Our game got crashed around 1:30am, a not unreasonable hour, when the barhoppers came back from the bars and got in their jammies. See: photo.
Best part of life: making vague "let's go hang out at this place" plans with people, then checking back in with them an hour later to hear "oh, we're actually meeting these people here -- do you want to come with?" Pretty nice. That's how it pretty much rolls with this group of Americans, they're just genial "let's go hang out" folks, not exclusive. So, that's how we ended up sitting on the River Darra at a little sitting area they've built right next to the water, where there's plenty of river to see (instead of later down, where it's but a trickle, or farther up, where it's a lot of rocks and plants). That's all we did, just sit around on a blanket and chat and make plans for the evening. People are fun and not at all goofy. =)
Our evening plans were to go out dancing at this little salsa club called La Habana after meeting up at the Burger King on the corner of Recogidas and Calle Isabel Catlica. It's a great meet-up point because it's this big BK/Haagen Ds on a big plaza at a big intersection with a nice sitting area outside and fountains and people walking around and whatnot. Well, we met up there, first one or two people, then three or four, and then we ended up with over a dozen tipsy Americans hanging out at a big table in BK at half past eleven at night. There was also a nice Utahn Mormon family at the table next to us, which was probably unfortunate for their small sons.
We decided we'd caused enough ruckus around 11:30 to show up for the 11:00 salsa lesson at La Habana. Spanish Standard Time for the win, folks, for the win. Turns out most of the Americans don't know salsa, except for Marissa, who learned in Mexico (so she danced with some really tall Spanish guy she brought) and me, who used to help teach it at UD. Nonetheless, we had a good time trying to follow the dance instructor (some really short South American dude) and then just dancing around. Whee! The Latino dancers that were there were great -- it's like they had dancing in their blood or something, go figure. Lotta hip-shaking, sliding across the floor, all that shebang, just a bunch of hot dancers who knew what they were doing instinctually. Kinda jealous that I didn't grow up that way, but c'est la vie.
Most people left arond 1am, though they plan to come back sometime; and the few of us who were left (Megan Spilatro, Kristen Kenedy, Andrew, and I) peaced out eventually to get a few drinks at Babylon and packed it in around 2:30, when we headed back down to hang out and chat for a bit, then sleep. Mmm, sleep.
Manuel Mayor shared with us a fun story about Carnavale traditions after class today, when we were chatting about our weekends. (Akin wasn't the only one to go to Granada from the Delaware group; Andrew - the first one in the alphabet - and Hilary also visited.) It used to be the way that, during Santa Semana (Holy Week), all the prostitutes in town would be rounded up and taken to live on an island so that the good men of the pueblo wouldn't be tempted by their wily ways. After Carneval, though, any meat that was left had to be disposed of somehow, so it would be gathered and the men of the town would pass through the waters and *ahem* throw their meat at the prostitutes. Oh my.
Lunch was a new meal: una cazuela habichuelas blancas, una patata, tajadas de churrizo (white beans, a hunk of potato, and slices of sausage). Num num num.
Since April isn't too far away, it's about time to plan for spring break; so, for siesta, we met up at the Caf y T on the corner to enjoy their coffee and their wifi. (Incidentally, I feel as though I've seen that mark before, the Caf y T logo, like in Costa Rica or Peru. I'll post pictures and see what you guys think.) Unfortunately, the wifi router was broken, but the coffee and the pound cake I ordered were yummy (if a bit dry -- the pound cake, that is). The people who actually wanted to research trips walked up to the CLM school building, where I joined them later, to take advantage of wifi without too many people in the building. General conclusion of the afternoon: Laura, Karen, and I will probably take a little tour around Brussels, Stockholm, and ... um ... some other country up that away.
Dinner brought a new delight: a hamburger. A straight-up ham-burger, like a ham pattie grilled on the stove. None of this ground beef and lettuce & tomato business for Carmen, nope, just a ham pattie. It was actually okay, just a little .. um .. pink. Of course, we also had boquerones fritos, fried anchovies, which I'm getting better at eating: I've learned to take off the head first, split open the fish, and peel out the spine (which takes off the tail, too). S'ok, just a little messy. They go nicely with the tomato chunks Carmen serves alongside them, too.
Since I feel like it's the thing to do here after dinner on an off-night, I went out for tapas with Kristen Cadillac, one of the girls from the trip. Since we were both feeling pretty relaxed, I found us this little tapas bar / cafetera which looked genial, not too busy, just a few tables; so we sat there for a while, chatted, had a few beers (Cruzcampo) and tapas. The camarero brought us out first little sammiches of what looked like chicken breast with cheese, along with a bunch of potato chips, for the first round; and on the second round, a long slice of cured ham on bread. Quite a genial evening, we went home when the bar closed around 12:30 or 1am.
Instead of going out to the bars last night, everyone crashed last night -- that is, except for Akin, Teela, and Youssef, who didn't return from Carneval festivities in Cadz until noon-ish, after I'd already been awake for an hour. While I finished up writing these blog entries from last week, they all passed out (after imparting some choice stories about how Akin managed to get his pockets full of sand). From what the told me, Cadz was pretty crazy: people running around in crazy costumes, some people running around without any costume at all, people drunk before 9pm, people relieving themselves everywhere including on the cathedral, people passing out and getting carried out on stretchers, not to mention the trash piled up to three feet deep in the morning. They had some loco party stories all their own, too, but those ones aren't fit for print. Dang, man, dang.
The day passed peacefully enough, good for them to recuperate and me to slog through all the journal entries I'd been neglecting. Lunch was a filling casuela de los fideos, or beef and potato stew with noodles. (Los fideos are the noodles; they're just a type of cylindrical, medium-sized pasta noodle.) Good and hearty, accompanied by the typical salad (plus avocados and carrots) and fried calamari. Incidentally, casuela translates literally to casserole, but it's more of a soup pot than the casserole dish you see in the South.
Reasonably well-rested, I met up with Karen to go get some churros con chocolate, which is pretty popular around here. There's a churrerra cafetera over in the Plaza Bib-Arrambla, below the church, that Georges from Belgium recommended to me, so I took us over there. A plate of churros was a heaping pile of fried dough sticks, pretty amazing; and the chocolate was a mug of thick hot chocolate in which we could dip our churros. We got there around 4pm, not too soon after lunch but before the post-siesta rush, and we sat around and chatted (in mostly Spanish, too). This was all in preparation, of course, for us to go to the theatre...
Bodas de Sangre, by F. Garcia Lorca! A story of jealousy between lovers, a worried mother, etc. etc. The play is typically performed as a flamenco, which was good, since I couldn't really follow the text (which I probably should have studied last week in preparation to watch this). The theatre itself, el Teatro Isabel Catlica, was pretty fab: a pretty typical proscenium theatre with two or three balconies, the seats were wood upholstered in velvet and actually pretty comfortable to sit in. I managed to get us tickets on the floor, but they were also way far in the back (a few seats over from the sound guy, actually). Interesting staging notes: the entire company started out on-stage, dead on the floor and all laying upon each other, and the son and mother dragged them out to the edge of the stage; then, as each member of the chorus spoke, they rose up from the dead and then collapsed when they were done. A coupla times, two members of the chorus would attach to each other, one standing directly behind the other with her arms around the other and moving/speaking in unison; and some other times, the entire chorus would speak in unison, kinda reminded me of reconstructionist Greek theatre. For the last act, they dropped two white scrims (see-through sheets) down and the dancers interacted with the scrim, batting at it to make ripples or waving their hands around in it. Pretty cool effect, though it's horrible for the scrim since it stretches it out and gets it dirty, which we noticed when they brought all the lights up. So, cool show, I got the gist of the emotional content if not the text of it, we enjoyed ourselves.
Day trip time! Today is our first group excursion, to Rondas, a small traditional (tourist) town in Mlga, with a stop off at Menca en route.
Menca, about an hour and a half away from Granada, is the site of a small Iberian megalith which looks upon La Pea, a rock outcropping. The megalith, which basically means "something made of big rocks" (a la Stonehenge) is a small temple housing a deep hueco, a well, and thus was surmised to be a water temple. It is composed of a dozen huge stones for walls, four feet wide each and taller than a man, along with two central columns supporting several more huge stones serving for a roof; the entire complex is then sealed with dirt except for the front door.
As an introduction to the temple, we watched an informative 10-minute computer animation showing what the Iberian civilization was like and how they probably constructed the edifice. The archeologists surmised that the Iberians were a hunter/fisher-gatherer society that used some fancy civil engineering feets to cut out the rocks, move them to the site, and place them. To cut out the rocks, they could pour water into cracks in the rock face and wait for them to freeze and widen the cracks in order to break loose large rocks, then chip them down to size. To move the liths, many men and women all hauling on ropes tied to the rock would move them on top of log rollers across the plain. To place them in pre-dug ruts, pretty much the same thing happened, then the ropes were used to adjust the tilt of the rocks. Pretty snazzy, Iberian Celts, good engineering techniques there.
After the video, we visited the building itself and a tomb next to it and looked out at La Pea, which is a rock outcropping resembling the face of a woman laying down, looking up at the sky. It panned out pretty well, actually, especially if you were standing in the temple's doorway looking out towards her. Soon after, we loaded back up on the busses to strike towards Rondas. We finished off the hand of the card game we were playing earlier and napped.
The bus dropped us off at a gas station at the lower edge of Rondas so that we might *cough* enjoy the uphill walk into the town. Well, it was rather pretty, and at the entrance to the city proper was a fine, well-built defensive wall with a huge gate. We entered it to look upon the city's central plaza, quite pretty, though we didn't stay long, as Jorge soon took us into the town's church.
To look at the outside of the town church, it just looked like another symbol of Catholicism, perhaps even a little on the smallish side; but once we entered (for a speed touristing), we realized the magnificence and opulence that is a three story-tall Catholic church. Huge vaulted ceilings, displays of massive gilt Spanish Catholic works, murals upon the walls, stained-glass windows, and all the standard accoutrements of a Catholic church. Oh my. In a hallway off the main chapel were some pieces of art under glass, including the head of crucified Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, an awful lot of blood, and a horrified expression on his face (perhaps for lacking his body). Oh, Spain.
Soon enough we were corralled by Jorge and brought to the next part of town, more spreading vistas of the town and countryside. Running through the town is a river -- and by river, I mean a 100-foot chasm -- so we got to look straight down the cliff face. Boo-tee-ful! A few people were talking about retiring here, maybe buying a hotel or something; and if you looked down into the valley, there were several large, private houses (with their own pools, too, all painted cyan on the inside). Nice place to end up, sure, but the town is still a bit tourist-trappy, with plenty of nice signs directing you to hotels and various parts of town. Jorge told us about a policy established by the Spanish government, from when the tourist trade started picking up, of installing in each tourist town a parador, a nice, overpriced hotel for all the rich Europeans wandering through on their exotic world tours. The parador in this town did indeed look very nice, with several expensive restaurants attached to it (and the McDonald's right next door).
The last stop on our walking tour was the Plaza de Toros, the first bull-fighting arena in all Spain (I think). The place was a huge arena, practically a hippodrome in scope. The seating reminded me of the Globe Theatre in London, though, with lots of stadium seating and one upper balcony, held up by Corinthian columns and arches. Also see: picture. In the same building were the corrals for the bulls and some other associated stuff, including a mini-museum in the inner hallway of the arena which we didn't visit.
Jorge released us at 3pm, after visiting the arena, with a reminder to meet back there in an hour and a half to walk up the hill to the bus station -- and a stern admonition that if we were late, we'd have to find the bus station ourselves. While the gregarious gaggle of girls took votes on what to do, I decided to wander off and explore the city on my own. Jason caught up with me, so we took to the plaza to find me some food (since I'd forgotten to grab my lunch). Our travels (a short walk in between two hotels) took us into a plaza with a raised dais built into the middle, where they might hold performances for the public. Around the edge of the plaza were various cafes and restaurants, which we noticed went from more expensive to cheaper as you went around the circle. (We later noticed that the cheaper cafe, where we were eating, also ended up a little chilly as it was in the shadow of the building.) To fill my stomach, I ordered chorrizos con papas fritas en vino blanco, little sausages on french fries in a white wine. This little plate of tapas was served with slices of bread and was quite yummy! For the postre, dessert, we took churros con chocolate, which Jason found insufficiently thick (the chocolate, that was) but still decent.
While I did enjoy the company and felt quite debonaire sitting out in a European cafe with a travelling partner, the chorrizos didn't quite fill me up, so Jason and I tried out the McDonald's down by the parador. It was, um, a McDonald's. The food seemed about as good, maybe a titch better, than in the U.S., but for all intents and purposes we might as well have been at home. Nonetheless, it was food, and worth trying just for the experience. (That's what they all say...)
The rest of the day was quite uneventful: we collected at the designated meeting point, walked uphill to the bus station, loaded up, and went home. Jorge gave us the itinerary for next weekend's trip, when we'll be going to Toledo en route to Madrid. He prattled an awful lot after that, a tendency we students have noticed in him, something about how UD and UGR (the University of Granada) have had a twenty year-long relationship with trading professors and students and that a diplomat is necessary to manage that -- namely, him. It seemed to be the same speech he gave last week, so while it was nice to hear that he was the go-to guy, I may have missed the point. It doesn't help that he was standing a few rows behind me, so I couldn't hear; but either way, I got the opportunity to work on some macrame bracelets and watch out the window at the lovely rolling hills of the Spanish countryside before I passed out. Of note: windmill farms for generating electricity were atop some of the hills! Also of note: Spanish charter busses, while they typically lack built-in toilets, are still pretty comfortable to sleep in.
Summary of day: I'm glad we spent a tranquil day wandering around a traditional countryside town, as the weather was beautiful -- barely a cloud in the sky -- and it was an opportunity to socialize with my travelling companions in a low-pressure setting where we could actually hear each other (instead of at the bars). This is the stuff study abroads are made of.
Back at home with Carmen and Conchi, we had what looked like a potato omelette (although they call it a tortilla, as opposed to just huevos fritos or fried eggs) along with slices of various types of sausage and maybe a salami with olives. Quite filling, if plain. Afterwards, although we had initially planned to go out to the bars, we decided we were just too wiped out from last night and all of today and crashed early.
God knows what we did in class. I've certainly forgotten what exactly we talked about. The rest of the day is a little hazy, too, and not very eventful, so I'll just fill you in on a few stories.
Laura invited me to come up with her, Karen, and Jessica to walk up Sacromonte, the hill above Granada that overlooks the Alhambra. There's some great views of both the Alhambra and the city below you. There's also an awful lot of gypsies and flamenco caves.
Early on in our walk, as soon as we got up to the gypsy area, a woman invited us to come into her cueva de flamenco -- a bit of a small dance hall, inset into the hill, for flamenco performances -- to take pictures (gratis!). Um ... sure! But as soon as we walked in, she cracked open a beer bottle and offered it to us -- in fact, she offered it first to Karen, who doesn't drink at all. No, no, we told her, Karen doesn't drink beer. So, what about me, I should drink it; after all, the bottle is already opened. No thanks, lady; I don't want to be under obligation to a gypsy. Good try, though.
We made our way a bit further up the hill, around all the other flamenco caves. We hope to come back to watch a show sometime. Camborio is also up there in the hills and seems like a pretty hopping place -- it's a dance club that Akin and Teela have been going to, as they have an alliance with Dolce Vita (the bar popular with North Americans) to advertise together and pay for free taxis from the bar to the club some nights.
A little further up the hill, we met an older hippy hanging out on a bench making leather goods: bracelets of various types, some books, wallets, etc. We chatted with him for a bit while I dickered over what kind of bracelet to buy, since he had various types that attracted me. I settled eventually on a bracer about an inch wide with leather cords to tie it closed and a criss-cross pattern on top. Funny enough, it turned out that the guy, whose name was Francisco Javier, originally came from Chile and his father was from Arica, the city at the north of Chile where I lived on my Chile/Peru study abroad last winter. Perhaps I'll meet him again, some other time I hike up through the hills.
Higher up from Fran's perch, we discovered a great camp site with some caves (mostly for dumping). One trekker had already staked out the spot, with his gold foil bedroll lashed to a cross-country backpack and a chair to sit in and look out over the city. He didn't talk much when we said hi, so I suspect he might have been enjoying a his trip.
A funny thing happened when we came over the hill: on one side, you could look down and see all the gypsy homes; on the peak, a school, church, and cell phone tower; and on the other side, lots of well-built, posh neighborhoods; and along the crest of the hill between them, a high wall. Cute. We hiked back down the hill, against the advice of one little girl who told us to go straight down the road and catch the bus, and eventually found our way back downtown.
Everyone was home for dinner, since Youssef, Teela, and Akin planned to go to Carnaval in Cadz on Saturday and were thus staying in for the night to prepare (that is to say, sleep). After dinner, I met up with the crew -- Karen, Jess, Laura, and Ashley -- with Jason so we could get some tapas at Taberno Quinto Piso up Alhamar, which we like because it's small, not crowded, and the impresario is a nice guy with a cool mustache. For our tapas, we tried lomo con queso, which turned out to be a little bocadillo (a small sandwich) with cheese and what was either lamb or pork, we couldn't tell.
After tapas, it was time to go over to the Pub Habana for the show! We ran into Miriam, the bar's shill, on the corner again and she gave us the scoop on the cover charge and drink specials. She also said the show wouldn't start for a while, so we wandered around for a bit and made our way to the river before we went in to the Pub Habana, which had mostly twenty-something guys. We milled about for a while and, y'know, drank drinks waiting for the show. It was real good times and they even pulled up Ashley on stage! You'll have to find the pictures and videos on Facebook, if you can, since I didn't bring my camera.
So, the show was fun, worth the 10 euro cover charge (which included a mixed drink and a 4 euro price-tag on the second drink plus a free shot of honeyed whiskey). The only downside? We got home at 3:30am, the night before a day excursion. Three cups of water before bed, that's my due!