Monthly Archives: August 2010

MAD-JFK

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Driving through La Rioja.

I’m back where I started – writing my final post from this Spain journey at the airport.  Madrid Barajas, Terminal 4.

The time went by so quickly!  This was the trip of a lifetime though.  I am so grateful to have experienced and seen so many different sites and places that most people can only dream of.  I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to see the world as I did over the past two weeks.

This trip was just what I needed to clear some of my thoughts.  It allowed me time to assess what I’ve done, where I’m going, and what I need to do.

Of course, I’m sad to leave Spain – but I KNOW I will be back relatively soon.  It’s all a part of pursuing those hopes and dreams.

El último día…

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Time really flies.  I can’t believe that today is my last full day in Spain.  With this in mind, I tried to cram as much in today as I possibly could.  Looking at a map of Madrid, I can’t believe how far I walked today!  I’ve earned myself some turron gelato.  I hopped on the Metro at Puerto de Sol…

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The first item on the agenda was to head over to the Reina Sofia, which is basically a modern art museum (all 20th century works).  There are so many incredible works by Dalí and Picasso, who happen to be two of my favorite artists.  The Spanish Civil War gallery was the most emotionally moving.  Room after room of photographs and propaganda depict victims, combat scenes, and just this general sense of hopelessness in the faces of the individuals photographed.  It’s scary to think that this occured about 70 years ago – not long ago at all.

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When I saw Picasso’s “Guernica,” I welled up with tears.  Really corny, but true.  I was able to sense the despair, the emotion, and the suffering inflicted on the figures of the painting.  Winston Churchill’s quote came to mind: “There is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.”  Photos do not do ”Guernica” justice.  To be able to see the brushstrokes, lines, how the canvas is broken up…it is truly a masterpiece.

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For lunch, we headed to the Mercado de San Miguel.  I had my last serving of percebes that I will probably see for a while.  My last meal on earth will be Percebes and a glass of 2001 white Rioja.  That’s how much I love them.

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I walked towards the Jardines de Sabatini, where they were setting up for a concert that will be happening this weekend.  Madrid has so many parks and outdoor areas – it seems like a great city to catch outdoor performances.

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Then it was time to head over to Plaza de La Cibeles, which is basically Madrid’s version of the Financial District.  If you’ve seen a postcard of Madrid, it’s the fountain with Cybele and the two lions.  This is also where Real Madrid hosts its parties when they win major titles!  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of construction happening in the moment and most of my photos were obstructed with scaffolding and cranes.

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As for the “last supper” in Spain – it involved jamon, tripe, and lots of other goodies…mmm.  And yes, there was some turron gelato in the mix 🙂

Well, it wasn’t really the “last supper” – I know for a fact that I will be back in a year or so.  In what sort of capacity, is yet to be determined.  All a part of following my dreams.

In case you were wondering how Jen and I have been on “teh interwebs” the past couple of days:

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1337!

de Madrid al cielo…

…And we’re here on the final leg of our journey: in Madrid.  Of course, my impulsive side got the best of me and I ended up buying one of these:

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Hala Madrid!

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We got to Madrid around 11am, so we had a bit of time to explore.  My first stop: Parque de Buen Retiro.  The park is not far from the Prado (which I went to last year) and the Puerta de Alcala.  It’s essentially the Central Park of Madrid – tourists and locals alike go to the park to walk around, hang out, or go for a run.  The Paseo de la Argentina contains many statues from the Royal Palace.  There is also a beautiful memorial forest dedicated to the victims of the Madrid Metro terrorist attacks.

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I was wandering around and saw this street performer guy.  How cool is that?

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After a brisk walk, I headed towards the Mercado de San Miguel.  Although not nearly as impressive as the Mercado in Barcelona, there are so many neat places to shop and eat.  I’ll be back tomorrow for some percebes!

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I did drop by a local bar for a Mahou (not my first choice) and a pintxo – and it only set me back 3 euros.  The bartender was super-nice, he let me pick out all of the pintxos that I wanted!  Later on, I met his wife and his super-cute daughter.  Airfare aside, this trip has definitely fit within my budget constraints.

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Then it was off to Plaza Mayor, which is the central plaza in Madrid.  Although the buildings themselves are mostly for residential use, there are some cute shops and areas to people watch in the surrounding area.  I found this really cool Spanish version of an Army-Navy store and picked up some cool medallions and badges – can’t wait to embellish some jackets.

I’ll admit, I did a little bit of shopping.  A fantastic pair of PURPLE gladiator sandals set me back 10 euros and I brought a six pack of Estrella Galicia for the trip home.  Jen was not around to talk me out of any purchases. I also picked up a few gifts along the way, not to worry!

For dinner, we headed to one of my favorite places in the world for traditional Basque cuisine.  Goizeko Kabi is so good, that it’s been written up by the New York Times.  But the truth that the recession has hit Spain: we noticed the “for rent” sign in the window when we arrived.  So sad.  We did head to another tapas joint at the recommendation of a friend, but it just wasn’t the same…

Random Thoughts on Renfe – III

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Alas, this is my last installment of Random Thoughts on Renfe.  I am in transit from Logroño to Madrid – the last leg of my journey through Spain.

I’ll keep this one short because it’s before 8am and my thoughts are not very lucid.  There is no cafe solo (aka espresso) in my system yet!

One thing I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately is following my dreams and goals versus following the “norm,” and what is conventionally expected from me.

If it’s not apparent from my blog, there’s this artistic, creative, more spontaneous side to me that I do feel as though I have to stifle at times.  There are so many ideas of things that I would like to do while I’m still young: become completely fluent in another language, live in another country for a little bit, take up new hobbies… but I feel like when I do bring these things up, that sometimes the response I get is less than enthusiastic (“Are you crazy, Dana?!”).

I was talking to my dad not too long ago, and he said if not for getting married so young and having to deal with children at such a young age (early to mid 20s), that he would have done something similar to my plan.  This was pretty surprising, because if you know anything about my dad, he’s a very conservative, “by the books” kind of guy.  And here he was, telling me that I should pursue my goals, and not worry about the naysayers because I’d end up regretting it later in life.

Of course, my goals are not going to accomplish themselves; it’s going to take a lot of hard work.  I’m ready for it though…

So let’s start, shall we?

que desastre…

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You can basically say that we went to La Rioja for no reason.  No one followed through on the wine tours that I suggested and a majority of things are closed in Spain on Mondays.  So, we had this rental car and we made the most of it…by exploring and taking lots of back roads, finding neat things along the way.

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Number of times we stalled with our manual transmission: 6.  Cut us some slack!

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We drove around the small towns of Fuenmayor, Cenicero, Briones, and San Vicente de la Sonsierra.  We also drove around Basque Country, which was beautiful.  For the entire day, we were surrounded by mountains, vineyards, large blooming trees, and the river Ebro.

Although we did not get to participate on any wine tours, we did visit some of the bodegas and bought numerous bottles of Rioja.  What’s interesting about wine country in Spain is that the bottles are sold pretty much at cost – we got some very good bottles of Rioja for only 5 Euros.  The reason for this is most likely due to cutting out numerous distributors and importers.  This pricing model is in stark contrast to Napa and Sonoma.  In California, the vineyards will charge the same price as one would normally pay if purchasing wine from a distributor – and because there is NO distributor, the vineyard’s margins are astronomical.  Capitalism at its finest.

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Although La Rioja (as the surrounding area is known) is internationally and highly regarded as one of the best wine producing regions around the world, one could not help but feel how the recession has affected this area.  Stores, apartments, entire buildings were boarded up, vacated, and had “For Rent” or “For Sale” signs in the windows.  You knew what 20% employment meant just by looking around and scanning the streets.  The remaining businesses – restaurants, bakeries, bars, pharmacies – showed very little signs of life, as shopkeepers were standing around, reading the newspaper, idling.  It’s a shame.
Bar Tempranillo in San Vicente, one of our stops along the way, was run by such a nice gentleman.  Bars with such personality, friendliness, and local charm are hard to come by in New York where everything is a “concept” or a “trend.”  Let’s hope that the economy picks up in La Rioja (and the rest of Spain) soon.

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While we were driving through Mendavia, we stumbled upon the first day of the local fiesta.  Each town has fiestas, some have the festivals multiple times a year. It is so interesting to be exposed to other culture’s traditions – in the United States, we have NOTHING like this. We had to stop and check it out as everyone in the streets was dressed head to toe in white, wearing a red neckerchief scarf and a sash with Mendavia’s coat of arms.  (I felt very out of place!)  It was so much fun to see the entire town singing and dancing in the streets.  Young people, old people, parents, children…everyone was out.  Festivities during the week include a running of the bulls, fireworks, concerts, and parades.

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We had a very nice Basque dinner – complete with leche frita for dessert!  Last night, we made friends with this practical jokester type guy at a wine bar – his demeanor reminded me so much of Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean…he even threw in some very strong shots here and there, so it wasn’t too far off…

Not too many photos this time around – we have an early start tomorrow for the final leg of our journey: Madrid.