Saturday, October 18, 2008

Goodbye to La Alberca

It's been a while since I've had a chance to post, but teaching English in La Alberca has pretty much been a full time endeavor. The expectation is that you are always on task; either speaking English one on one to a Spaniard, having two on two conversations (two English speakers + two Spaniards), working on skits together, doing group activities, sharing meals, and even dancing together for the nightly parties that go on and on and on. It's exhausting but so much fun. The Spaniards don't even start dinner until after 9pm and they still get up early! Fortunately, there is a "siesta" during the afternoon. I never managed to actually sleep, but instead used the down time to walk into the nearby village to explore, or get to know some of the other Anglos who had come from as far away as Australia!

I met so many wonderful people and made a few friendships that I think will last for some time to come. I'm pretty sure I'd like to do this again, and perhaps next time I'll have a bit more Spanish under my belt and will tack on a bit more Spanish travel either before or after the week of teaching.

Right now I'm feeling exceedingly lazy in Leon, and am not even sure if I'll make it out for dinner! I'll have a few hours in the morning to putter about here and hopefully catch the cathedral which I understand is fabulous. Later. Sheryl

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Who knew Madrid had TWO TRAIN STATIONS

Not much more to report. More touring, more sightseeing, more tapas eating and wine drinking. I did spend a pleasant hour in Plaza Mayor, reading my book, watching the human statues who were still the entire time, and listening to some wonderful music. It was exquisite, especially after having spent an hour & a half in line at Atocha train station to buy my ticket to Leon (with an accent) only to find that I want the OTHER train station! Who knew Madrid had two train stations! Of course I would have had I read the guide book which I did after the fact!

One of the things I have really liked about Spain was the high value put on art & architecture. There is art everywhere (old & recent) and even modern buildings are interesting.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Prado

Ok, the whole getting lost thing is starting to get to me. Half the problem is that I can't actually see any of the little streets on my map; hence a lot of guess work that is not working out so well for me! Thus, the minute I'm back home, I'm making an appointment to get new reading glasses. On a positive note, while lost, I discovered the shopping area with stores like H&M. Mind you, everywhere seems to be the shopping area here, but this area was slightly less intimidating for those of us who are more casual in our appoach to dressing. Did I mention that Madridians ar very very very fashionable, even the guys! Really, I only went in the store for an umbrella because it was raining guessed, I came out with two gorgeous tops, and a burning desire to buy a bigger suitcase. Having resisted the temptation (at least for the larger suitcase), I did get directions and proceeded to the Prado(see above picture which is not as good as it could be I admit). I managed to spend the better part of the rest of the day in there. I think my favourite painting of the entire day was Caravaggio's "David Victorius over Goliath" although there were some stunning Raphael's, Rubens', Goya's and Rembrant's. I also very much enjoyed seeing Velazquez's paintings (I know there should be an accent, but I'm not sure where to find it on my keyboard). Although I didn't really know him previously, I found I quite liked his work. There was a quality in the light which I really admired, especially given some of the more sombre Flemish and Italian pieces. I suppose that just shows my ignorance...sigh. Here I am, well past 50 and so much to learn.
On the way home I took a bus as I was rather beat and passed this very cool building with a living wall of green on the side. I took a quick picture, but didn't do it justice. It was absolutely spectacular, and was next to a modern building that was also quite interesting in that it had an elaborate rust coloured iron upper half that blended in with the roof

Not much more to report tonight, except for hearing that Ursula LeGuin will be in Vancouver for the Vancouver Writer's Festival while I'm away makes me homesick. I'm so sad that I WON'T GET TO SEE HER. Boo hoo. I love her books and if you haven't read her A Wizard of Earth Sea which was originally published in 1968 and is as good today as it was then, you have to do it immediately! In fact, read all of her books. You'll love her. She is beyond awesome. If you are in Vancouver, go and see her and then write me about it.

All for now. S.

Monday, October 06, 2008

More Madrid

Recuperating after wandering around old Madrid for the better part of the day. I did a bit of a walk about first thing just to locate things, which was good because of course I immediately got lost. Fortunately, there are plenty of plazas and open air cafes to sip a cup of cafe con leche while you reconnoiter! I located the Prado, and will go back tomorrow as it's closed on Mondays. Then I headed the opposite direction to the Palace which is quite stunning. The guide book insists it rivals the Place of Versailles in France, and I can't say that I'd argue.

The nearby gardens are gorgeous as is the little plaza just in front with it's walkways lined with statues of people whom I'm sure I should know but don't. Sigh...makes me wish I had a friend along who knew Spanish history as well as my friend Richard knows British history. Despite my ignorance though, it is a gorgeous and vivacious city.

Once I've recouped, I'll head out again for a bite, a glass of vino, a bit of people watching, especially the women who dress most elegantly, unlike me as you can see below.
But, best of all it was 24 degrees Celsius today. I wish I would have checked out the temperature before I left! Tomorrow I'll know better; tank top and sandals.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunny Spain

So here I am in sunny Spain. I can't believe how much I lucked out weather wise when in England, but the afternoon before I left, the skies opened up and it seriously poured with rain bouncing off the pavement and puddles everywhere. I had a great time, and especially appreciated my friend Richard driving here there and everywhere, including the airport which was an hour and a quarter away! After various flight delays, we finally took off, and a few hours later, here I am in Madrid. I treated myself to a cab into town despite the expense as I was pretty beat and still have the sniffles, but it will be walking and metro from here on in. I have a cute hotel on the forth floor of a bustling street, but sadly don't have a room that faces the street. I suppose it will be quieter though as I hear the Spanish are real night owls. All for now, time to unpack and find myself a bit of dinner.

Today is my last day in England and I am lucky enough to be having a lovely cup of tea in bed at the B&B I'm staying at. Looking out the window at the rain, I'm glad I'm cozy and warm and equally glad that I'll be in Spain later today. Mind you, I've had an absolutely wonderful time here in England, including mostly sunny weather. Yesterday, before the rain set in, Richard took me to Jane Austen's house which was quite a sweet place, although it now mainly has replicas with the real stuff being moved down the road to a manor house that unfortunately wasn't open. I did take a picture of her writing desk though. Here it is below.

Well, I'd better move along or I'll miss my plane. Next post from Spain. S.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Stonehenge & chalk horses

Another exhausting day of touring. Went to the two most famous stonecircles in these parts, Stonehenge & Avbury. Stonehenge was awesome, but I love Avbury because you can walk around the stones which are right in the middle of a village whereas Stonehenge is cordoned off with herds of tourists walkiing along a roped off walkway. I also love that there is a stone avenue leading up to Avebury. It's otherworldly, and you can't help wondering about the people who managed such incredible feats of engineering. I will put up pictures, but sadly, not until I get home as I seem to have lost the cord between my camera and my computer.

The area is also full of chalk downs, and there are a herd (not quite but still) of huge chalk horses carved into the hills, the oldest being the famous Uffington horse which has been considered one of Britian's greatest archeological treasures and is thought to have been created about 3000 years ago. We saw about 7 horses, and will be off to see one more today, plus Maidencastle and the Cerene Abis Giant, another chalk figure thought to be associated with fertility.

I am loving all the history, but the country is incredibly beautiful, and it is so wonderful to have a friend like Richard who has taken the time to tour me around. More later. Sheryl