Monday, January 7, 2008

Exploring Spain... Explorando Espanya...


We arrived in Madrid at 4 am on Dec 20th, 2007... we slept until 8 am in the common area of the hostel so we would not have to pay an extra night... the hostel is a restored Arab home with beautifully intricate geometric designed walls in red and blue with a fountain in the middle of the courtyard... after getting our beds in the dorm, Daryl, Michelle and i headed to the Prado museum... Velazquez, Goya, and many more Spanish painters and sculptors from the 16th - 17th century, were represented in a display of baroque and religious art... the best thing about it is that i got in for free with my international teacher card :-) my friends had to pay 9 euros...

on the 21st we walked all around the center of Madrid... narrow streets, ample boulevards, people shopping, beautiful architecture, history and little plazas around every corner... first we stopped at puerta del sol... right after that we got separated when i was taking some pictures so i ended up spending the day by myself... without planning it i found the museum devoted to the history of Madrid... i loved it... the highlight was going to the palacio real, for free with my card too :-)... its incredibly portentous rooms covered from floor to ceiling with every conceivable type of art: paintings, sculptures, furniture, etc.

on the 22nd we stepped back in time visiting a medieval little town an hour away from Madrid called Chinchon... a day of wandering aimlessly in narrow streets where life seems to go a the same pace as it did 1000 years ago, taking away the tourists cameras and shopping bags of course... on our way back to the cats hostel we decided to go to the Reina Sofia museum, because not only it has an amazing modern art exhibit, but it was free from 2 to 9 pm... it was unbelievable to witness the originality of Picasso, the audacity of Dali, but most of all the simplicity of Miro...

on Sunday the 23rd, we went to El Rastro, the biggest open air market in Europe... very interesting... people selling and buying everything, from antiques to gas masks... in the afternoon i took two naps to recover from so much walking and exploring...

the 24th: Toledo... a walled city with Roman, Jewish, Muslim and Christian edifications... it is difficult to describe the sense of awe i felt as i walked around its ancient narrow streets where you have to step into a door to make room for a car to drive by, since there are no sidewalks... we spent 6 hours trying to figure out where everything was... i had a map and i am usually pretty good at finding my way, but not here, but at every turn there was a beautiful building or plaza or little street awaiting, so it was okay... as we were walking back to the train station at around 7 pm, the most loving moon was over the horizon bid us farewell: an amber perfect circle against a dark blue sky...the perfect ending to a magical day...


my last day in madrid, dec 25th, was a lovely sunny day... i went toparque el retiro with jena, john, and another girl who were staying atthe hostel... we walked to the park and on the way took pictures atthe puerta de alcala... once in the park we sat on the steps facing an artificial lake to chat, people watch and enjoy the warmth of the sun... michelle and daryl were to meet us there but the park was hugeand we never found each other...

on the 26th they took the train togranada on the way to morocco and i took the train to valencia... aswe walked to the train station michelle realized i had 10 minutes tocatch my train and told me to get ahead, i said bye and hurried up... i got to the train 3 minutes before departure, they close the entrance 2 minutes before the train leaves, so i almost lost my train...hahahah.. the trains are so punctual that the ticket says that if thetrain is 5 minutes late they reimburse your money... impressive huh?

i spent 2 nights in valencia... valencia´s city of the arts andsciences is a complex of futuristic modern buildings housing some ofthe best museums and the biggest aquarium in europe... the day i arrived i visited the oceanographic... a state of the art aquarium with every imaginable sea creature from sharks to walrures to beluga whales... the next day i spent 5 hours at the science museum... both visits were lots of fun and "educational" hahaha... i got many ideas for my science class back in cairo as when i go back we begin the oceans unit... hehe...

on the 28th i took a bus to reus, an hour and a half north ofbarcelona, where ingrid, the sister of a guatemalan lady i met incairo, was waiting for me and kindly let me stay at her flat for 5nights... thanks ingrid :-)... reus was my base to explore barcelona...

the 29th and 30th ingrid and i walked all over barcelona in search of iconic places such as the buildings designed by gaudi, weended our exploration at sagrada familia church, his marterpiece... ialso wanted to see the camp nou stadium, home of the FC Barcelona, my favorite team...! as we approached the stadium on sunday morning inoticed people going in the little stadium next to the camp nou,inmediately i realized the reason: the team was training!!! yeah!!! i got to see ronaldinho and company at practice!!! :-D

another cool thing was that gaudi was born in reus, where i was staying, and they just opened a gaudi center with displays of his life, models and work... i got in free with my handy teacher card again, hehe...on the 1st i went to tarragona, 15 minutes from reus, where i took a lovely walk on the beach and thanked life for the year that had just ended and all its adventures... from patagonia in chile and argentina, where i began 2007, to bolivia, to guatemala, to egypt to spain...gratitude filled my heart as i watched the sunset in tarragona...on the 2nd i took a train to barcelona to catch a bus to andorra... onthe 30th i decided to not go to paris as i felt in my heart that paris was a place i wanted to visit with someone special... andorra, a tiny country tucked between the spain and france, is one of those uniqueplaces not many people know about... it was really cool, i loved it...the whole country is duty free!! so their economy depends on tourism and commerce... now is the ski season and many people were there for that... i ended up buying an external hard drive and a memory card formy camera for the same price i would have paid in the US, since in cairo they are double that... :-)

on the 3rd i took a bus to zaragoza with its impressive cathedral...the city was founded by ceasar augustus back in the year 14 AD... istayed in a little hotel a block from the roman theater... i wanderedthe streets and enjoyed a city visited mostly by pilgrims to the cathedral...

on the 5th i traveled to vitoria, an hour south of bilbao, vitoria wasanother lovely unplanned city in my itinerary... after walking foralmost an hour looking for the hostel with my heavy backpack i feltfor a moment i was going to have to pay 35 or more euros for a night since lonely planet does not list many budget hotels in this smallcity... i decided to stop by an internet cafe and luckily found a hostel with a lovely lady who welcomed me as if i were her grandson...she gave me a discount and i only had to pay 22 euros... the day i arrived was cloudy and rainy, but sunday was truly a sun day... it wasbeautiful to walk this medieval town where most streets in thehistoric center are for pedestrians only...

today, the 7th, a grey day typical of winter, i traveled an hour north to bilbao to go to the guggenheim tomorrow and a castle the nextday... the youth hostel here is impressive... spotless rooms, freeinternet, breakfast included for only 15 euros a night in a dorm with6 beds...spain, the first country i travel in europe, has been everything i expected and more... it was awesome exploring spain


ESPANIOL

Llegamos a Madrid en 20 de Dic del 2007 a las 4 am... dormimos hasta las 8 am en el area comun del hostal para no pagar una noche extra... el hostal es una casa Arabe restaurada con paredes bellamente decoradas con disenios geometricos y una fuente en el centro del patio... despues de recibir nuestras camas en el dormitorio, daryl, michelle y yo nos fuimos al museo del Prado... Velazquez, Goya, y muchos mas pintores Espanioles del siglo 16-17 estan representados en una exhibicion de arte barroco y religioso sin paralelo... lo mejor de la visita fue que entre gratis con mi tarjeta de maestro internacional :-) mis amigos tuvieron que pagar 9 euros...

el 21 caminamos por todo el centro madrid... calles estrechas, amplios bulevares, gente de compras, bella arquitectura, historia y pequenias plazas a la vuelta de cada esquina... primera parada fue la puerta del sol... justo ahi nos separamos mientras yo tomaba una fotos asi que continue el dia solo... sin planearlo encontre el museo sobre la historia de madrid... me encanto... pero lo mejor del dia fue ir al palacio real, gratis con mi tarjeta tambien :-)... sus increiblemente portentosos salones cubiertos del piso al techo con toda clase de arte: pinturas, esculturas, muebles, etc...

el 22 viajamos en el tiempo visitando un pequenio pueble medieval a una hora de Madrid llamado Chinchon... un dia deambulando sin rumbo en sus estrechas calles donde pareciera que el tiempo va a la misma velocidad que lo hizo hace 1000 anios, quitando los turistas con sus camaras y sus bolsas de compras claro... a nuestro retorno al hostal cats decidimos ir al museo de la Reina Sofia, no solo porque tiene una impresionante coleccion de arte moderno, sino porque era gratis de 2 a 9 pm... fue increible ser testigo de la originalidad de Picasso, la audacia de Dali, pero sobre todo de la simplicidad de Miro...

el domingo 23 fuimos a El Rastro, el mercado al aire libre mas grande de Europa... muy interesante... gente comprando y vendiendo de todo, desde antiguedades hasta mascaras de gas... en la tarde me tome dos siestas para recuperarme de tanto caminar y explorar...

el 24: Toledo... una ciudad amurallada con edificaciones Romanas, Judias, Musulmanas y Cristianas... es dificil describir el sentimiento de guau que senti al caminar sus estrechas y antiguas calles donde te tienes que subir a un portal para que pase un auto, ya que no hay aceras... pasamos 6 horas tratando de encontrar todo... yo tenia un mapa y usualmente soy bueno encontrando el camino, pero no aca, pero a cada vuelta de la esquina habia un bello edificio o plaza o callecita esperandonos... asi que todo bien... al caminar de vuelta a la estacion del tren a eso de las 7 pm, la luna mas amorosa estaba sobre el horizon nos dio la despedidad... un circulo perfecto color ambar sobre un cielo azul oscuro... el final perfecto a un dia magico...

mi ultimo dia en madrid fue 25 de Dic, fue un bello dia soleado... fui al parque retiro con jena, john y otra chica que se estaban quedando enel hostal... caminamos al parque y en el camino tomamos fotos en lapuerta de alcala... al llegar al parque nos sentamos en las gradas enfrente de un lago artificial a charlar, mirar gente y disfrutar elcalor del sol... michelle y daryl quedaron de reunirse con nosotros pero el parque es inmenso y no nos encontramos...

el 26 ellos tomaronel tren a granada camino a marruecos y yo tome el tren a valencia...de camino a la estacion del tren michelle se dio cuenta que yo tenia10 minutos para tomar el tren y me dijo que me adelantara, les dijoadios y me apure... llegue al tren 3 minutos antes de la salida, lostrenes cierran la entrada 2 minutos antes que salga el tren, asi quecasi perdio mi tren... jajajajaj... los trenes son tan puntuales queel boleto dice que si llega 5 minutos tarde te devuelven tu dinero...impresionante no?

pase 2 noches en valencia... la ciudad de las artes y las ciencias envalencia es un complejo de modernos y futuristicos edificios que albergan algunos de los mejores museos y el acuario mas grande deeuropa... el dia que llegue visite el oceanographic... un aquariomodernisimo con toda clase de criaturas marinas desde tiburones amorsas a ballenas beluga... el dia siguiente pase 5 horas en el museode ciencias... ambas visitas fueron super divertidas y "educacionales" jajajaja... agarre muchas ideas para mi clase de ciencias en el cairoporque cuando regrese iniciamos la unidad de los oceanos... jeje...

el 28 tome el bus a reus, una hora y media al norte de barcelona, donde ingrid, la hermana de una seniora guatemalteca que conoci en el cairo, estaba esperando por mi y generosamente me dio posada por 5 noches... gracias ingrid :-)... reus fue mi base para explorar barcelona... el 29 y 30 ingrid y yo caminamos por todo barcelona enbusca de lugares iconicos como los edificios diseniados por gaudi, terminamos nuestra exploracion el la iglesia de la sagrada familia, suobra maestra... yo tambien queria ver el estadio camp nou, hogar delFC Barcelona, mi equipo favorito...! al aproximarnos al estadio lamaniana del domingo note gente que entraba en el pequenio estadio a la par del camp nou, inmediatamente conclui la razon: el equipo estaba entrenando!!! si!!! logre ver a ronaldinho y compania entrenando!!!:-D

otra cosa cool fue que gaudi nacio en reur, donde me estaba quedando,y recientemente abriero el centro gaudi con exhibiciones de su vida,maquetas y trabajo... entre gratis otra vez con mi conveniente tarjetade maestro, jeje...el 1o fui a tarragona, a 15 minutos de reus, donde camine por la playa y agradeci a la vida por el anio recien terminado y todas susaventuras... desde la patagonia en chile y argentina, donde inicie el2007, hasta guatemala, hasta egipto y espanya... gratitud lleno mi corazon mientras veia el atardecer en tarragona...

el 2 tome un tren a barcelona donde tome un bus a andorra... el 30 decidi no ir a paris porque senti en mi corazon que paris es un lugarque quiero visitar con alguien especial... andorra, un pais pequenitoentre espanya y francia, es uno de esos lugares unicos que no muchagente conoce... fue realmente cool, me encanto... todo el pais eslibre de impuestos!! asi que su economia depende del turismo y el comercio... ahora es la epoca de esqui asi que mucha gente estaba ahipara esquiar... al final me compre un disco duro externo y una tarjeta de memoria para mi camara por el mismo precio que hubiera pagado enlos estados unidos, porque en el cairo cuestan el doble...:-)

el 3 tome un bus a zaragoza con su impresionante catedral... la ciudadfue fundada por cesar augusto en el anio 14 DC... me quede en unhotelito a una cuadra del teatro romano... camine sin rumbo por suscalles en esta ciudad visitada mayormente por peregrinos a sucatedral...

el 5 viaje a vitoria, una hora al sur de bilbao, vitoria fue otralinda ciudad que no planeaba visitar en mi itinerario... despues decaminar por casi una hora buscando un hostal con mi pesada mochilasenti que iba a tener que pagar 35 o mas euros por una noche ya quelonely planet no menciona muchos hoteles economicos en esta pequeniaciudad... decidi entrar a un cafe internet y afortunadamente encontreun hostal con una seniora bien linda que me dio la bienvenida como sufuera su nieto... me dio un descuento y tuve que pagar solo 22 euros... el dia que llegue estaba nublado y lluvioso, pero el domingo fue soleado... fue bello caminar por esta ciudad medieval donde lamayoria de sus calles del centro historico es solo para peatones...

espanya, el primer pais de europa en el que viajo, ha sido todo lo que esperaba y mas... fue toda una aventura explorar espanya...

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