Posts Tagged With: Spain

Doors of Madrid

I don’t know what it is about doors; but I like them.  These were taken in the oldest part of Madrid surrounding Plaza Mayor.

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Plaza Mayor – Madrid

One of my favorite places in Madrid that I wish we had had more time to hang out in is Plaza Mayor.  Surrouned by restaraunts, cafes, and street performers it captures what plazas in Spain are all about.


I enjoyed the entrances being a little askew.

According to our guide there is a new trend in Europe which involves putting padlocks on public features to mark significant events like a first date, proposal, whaterver.  Several of the light posts in Plaza Mayor had several locks.

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Things about Europe, and this trip, that confuse me.

1. Why are the toilets in each country different? More specifically, why do the flush differently?
2. Why does Italy have toilet paper dispensed like tissues and not a roll?
3. Who made the driving rules and why don’t they have more accidents? (Ok, that’s really two questions so…)
5. Why did Pisa smell like piss? (To be fair parts of San Francisco and other famous places do too; I’m just going for the cheap laugh).
6. Why don’t Americans adopt the European attitude and just go out and chill with the neighbors and friends every night? I mean just tonight one of the hotels here had a lobby full of elder people dancing.
7. Why is the McDonalds logo green?
8. Does the Disney store really need to be in Florence, and if so, do Americans need to buy stuff from it? Apparently


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Day 5

Today was another brutal travel day from Barcelona to Avignon. We were lucky enough to stop at Carcassone and Pont du Gard.

Both places were amazing though would have been better sans touristicas. Actually, carcassone was a little too touristy; but we do the same thing to awesome historical sites and they’re still awesome. I did think it was odd that some hipster goths walking around until I saw the flier for the Marilynn Manson show.

Having trouble with the WiFi at this new hotel again so hopefully some pictures tomorrow on the way to Nice.

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Day 4

Today was one long day beginning with a four hour bus tour of Barcelona, winding down with a bike tour of the city, and ending with a bland Spanish dinner. The tour wasn’t so bad we were able to get out a couple of times and explore stuff, the coolest of which were the Gaudi stops. The first was Park Guell. Though we went early in the day it was tough to get pictures sans people; still absolutely stunning.



Next was Sagrada Familia where I saw this guy:


Which reminds me, at Park Guell I saw this in a tree:


And a parrot:


The bike tour off the city had a rocky start because we were waiting in front of the shop that was running the tour but no one as there. Across the plaza we noticed there was some dude sitting on a bike with the shops logo on it chatting with some folk. One of us said, “Hey, let’s go ask that guy what’s up.”

He was the right guy to ask but we had been waiting in the wrong place. Th meeting place was in a different plaza a block away, and the bikes were down a side street another block away. Meh, that’s Spain. Once we got started and navigated Barcelona traffic, no small task especially with 25 cyclists of varying skill, the ride was awesome. We were already tired and hot form the day but the ride changed everything. Without it I wouldn’t have seen this


or this:


or this:


We met the rest of the group in front of the Hard Rock to walk to dinner which I was looking forward to after a long day. The dinners so far have been great, paella, baked chicken, mmmmm. So I was looking forward to something equally good. Instead we got fried fish and boiled potatoes, with a dollop of mayo. No es mmmmmmm.

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Day 2

Intro: finally able to access reliable WiFi; it’s been a challenge travelling with a tour group. Anyway….

I can’t believe how excited I am to be in Spain. Yesterday we went to the Prado and I made a B-line for “Las Meninas”. The last time I was in Spain over s decade ago I saw that painting fir the first time and was absolutely stunned so I was more than excited to see it again. So excited in fact I was on the verge of tears. Seeing it again was as awesome as I remember.
Exiting the Prado we were greeted by guitar music on the square. The combination of leaving the museum after seeing classic works of art and emerging into Spanish culture with the ambient music had an immediate serene effect, and again I was on the verge of tears; so grateful and appreciative to be here. The Spanish, and I’m sure other European cultures have such a better grasp of community and public space than I feel Americans do. For example our tour guide was sharing that the mayor of Madrid decided to reroute the highway through town underground so they could reclaim the banks of the rover through town. Now there is a 14km park with playgrounds, cafes, and of course plenty of trails and open space for the people to enjoy. A project of that size and scope I think would face stiff obstacles in the U.S. Granted we have a lot of well established public spaces but the creation of new spaces seems lacking. But I digress.
We also managed to squeeze in the Reina Sofia, saw some Dali and Picasso, had some free time in Sol, and Plaza Mayor, then finished the day with a Flamenco show. Not to denigrate the dance, but I has always wondered why so many cultures seem to have stomping dances. Flamenco, traditional Irish dancing, clogging, tap; I just don’t get it though an am fascinated that seemingly different cultures have traditions of stomping rhythmically to music.
Almost forgot, we also visited the Palicio Real. When I visit places of this vintage I am reminded if how young my country is. Not only that but I am also struck by the attention to detail. I I think about the time it took to construct these palaces, castles and cathedrals and wonder if structures of this type could be constructed today. The answer I think is no because of cost, but I also wonder if the answer would be no because we have a short attention span.

Here are a few photos for you to enjoy:

Plaza Mayor


All roads in Spain begin here:


Apparently this is a new trend in Europe (at least a new to me trend):


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Day 1

Arrived yesterday after a total of a out 13 hours plane time, 10 from SF to Fankfurt, the. About 3 from there to Madrid. Needles to say the trip was exhausting, I was only able to sleep for about two hours total.

Though I was beat by the time we got to the hotel I had to go for a walk. On said walk I discovered this:


I had no idea.

The whole group took a short walking tour then went to dinner. Madrid is absolutely beautiful. The WiFi situation is a bit spotty so my posts may not be as frequent. But I’ll have lots of great photos to share. Today is the palace tour, the Prado Museum, the Museo de Reina Sofia, and a flamenco show after dinner. Gonna be a good day!

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T- Minus 1 and Some Change

As with anything else, the anticipation of my upcoming journey has been excruciating.  I’m pretty sure that this has been one of the longest weeks in history.  I’ve spent a good portion of the week, and a few days more, dithering over what clothes to pack, what things to bring on the plane, and making sure I had a power converter, the proper chargers, etc., etc.  All of it was really wasted dithering though, because all I really need to do is just throw some crap in a suitcase and just fuckin’ go!

I’m ready!

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T- Minus 7

In six days I depart for Europe with 3 other teachers and 22 students.  We’ll be venturing to Spain, France and Italy.  Upon arriving in Spain we’ll hook up with several other schools from around the US bringing our group to a total of 54.  Having lots of experience taking large groups of students on field trips I know that coralling a pack of teenagers away from home is both challenging, entertaining, and awesome. Our group is full of great kids and I don’t expect too many surprises beyond the one I had at our last meeting on Friday.  We were signing kids up for a bicycle tour of Barcelona and one student did not want to go, or rather could not, because they didn’t know how  to ride a bike.  Totally unexpected.  Doesn’t everyone at one time or another learn how to ride a bike?  Anyway, knock on wood, as long as the suprises are of that ilk we’ll have a great time.

Here is a map of our trip:

And here are some of the things we’ll be doing.  I’m not trying to create any jealousy here or anything 😉

Day 1: Fly overnight to Spain

Day 2: Madrid

o Arrive in Madrid

o Take a walking tour of Madrid

o Visit the Prado

Day 3

oTake a guided tour of Madrid
Puerto del Sol

oPlaza Mayor

oPlaza de Oriente

oVisit the Royal Palace

oMadrid Flamenco Evening

Day 4: Zaragoza • Barcelona

o Travel via Zaragoza to Barcelona

Day 5: Barcelona

o Take a guided tour of Barcelona

o Bike tour of Barcelona

Day 6: Carcassonne • Provence

o Take a tour of Carcassonne

o Travel to Provence

Day 7: Avignon • French Riviera

o Take a tour of Avignon

o Visit the Palais des Papes

o Visit the Pont du Gard

o Travel to the French Riviera

o Take a walking tour of Nice:

o Vieille Ville

o Promenade des Anglais

Day 8: Pisa • Florence

o Travel to Pisa

o See the Leaning Tower of Pisa

o Visit the Pisa Baptistery

o Visit Pisa Cathedral

o Continue on to the French Riviera

Day 9: Florence

o Take a guided tour of Florence

o Piazza della Signoria

o Ponte Vecchio

o Chiesa di Santa Croce

o Gates of Paradise

o Visit the Duomo

o See a leather-making demonstration

Day 10: Assisi • Rome

o Travel via Assisi to Rome

o Visit the Basilica of St. Francis

o Continue on to Rome

Day 11: Rome

o Take a guided tour of Vatican City

o Visit the Sistine Chapel

o Visit St. Peter’s Basilica

o Take a guided tour of Rome

o Visit the Colosseum

o Visit the Roman Forum

o Take a self-guided walking tour of Rome

o Trevi Fountain

o Pantheon

o Piazza Navona

o Spanish Steps

Day 12: Depart for home

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