Thursday, May 24, 2012

One year Spain-adversary!

Ok I had big plans for this post, but they have melted away because I am going to cover for a sick colleague today and I leave for the weekend early tomorrow. So I will make this short and sweet. :)

I had written yesterday that I had not been in the US for a year, and the more astute of you might have realized that that meant that today was my Spain-adversary. (Almost every flight that I have taken to Europe gets me there the next day, due to the time change and the duration of the flight.)

So here it goes. Here is the first picture I took in Spain, I took it on May 25th 2011. I was staying near by. In this view you can see the Plaza Castilla, and the "gates to Europe".

And here following in a long line of American tradition, a top ten list.

The top 10 things I love about Spain / Madrid (in no particular order):

1.The marvelous blue skies / weather. There is so much sun here, and I love it!

2. The roses. They bloom for a good part of the year and decorate the city with their beauty and their sweet sent.

3. People watching. The fashionable, the not so fashionable. The old people that are dressed up to go for a stroll looking so dapper. It took me a long time to get used to it, but it is OK to stare openly in Spain, and it does make it easier to people watch. ;)

4. Regular people on TV. You can look like a regular person and be a TV star here, you do not have to be a modal. for example, if your teeth aren't perfect, no one seems to care.

5. The laid back attitude. There is less stress here than in the US, and I mean in general in people's attitudes. Things just aren't such a big deal. This will be good for me, once I get used to it.

6. The history as far as the gardens and buildings. I love Europe for that. I love the old regal-ness of it.

7. The ability to walk to a lot of places. I miss my car, but I love the fact that I don't feel the need to use a car.

 8. Fresh local food. A lot of the food I can get is grown with in the country, which would satisfy most loca-vores in the US. Plus I can eat Bananas grown in Spain (in the Canaries).

9. Cheap, good wine. You buy wine in Spain for less then you pay for gas. But good wine can be as little as €3-5.

10. The strong sense of tradition in the different providences. I have seen many celebrations of the many different types of Spaniards. I love that the history is being passed down the generations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One year

Ok, so today marks the one year anniversary of when I left the US.
I was going to show the last picture I took in the US, but the last several are of our boxes we were shipping, or furniture we wanted to sell. I guess I had forgotten what a busy time it was, no time for pictures, no time for many goodbyes.

This was the last picture I took of an outside view of the US. That was the grass outside my Durham apartment as seen though a friend's wedding shawl that managed to finnish and send before I left.

I remember how frightened I was a year ago. I want to have been able to tell my past-self that it was all going to be ok, not right away, but OK. The trip was one I never want to repeat though. From having our flight canceled literally right after we threw out our mattress, to leaving on 10 minutes notice to the airport. (that was 10 minutes notice, including: medicating a cat, loading the luggage and the cats in the car, making sure we had everything, and calling a friend to beg her to come clean our mess and return the keys.) I did not have time to think about leaving my country. The rest of the trip was full of worry about my kitties and my future life.

I am so glad I never have to relive that day again.

A big hug to all of my Durham friends that made it possibile to get through those last couple of weeks. Wether it was emotional support, or helping me get rid off furniture and things. Especially to Durham Knits for cleaning up my mess as I fled the country. I miss everyone.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blog block

Maybe it is because we have explored other cities recently, but I find that I have bloggers block. More likely this is really do to the fact that as my one year Span-aversary approches (May 24th), I find myself over whelmed.

I think about all of the things I have had to learn over this past year, and I start comparing the year to the unrealistic goals I set for myself. For example, even though I have never admitted it out loud (although some of you who know me probably guess this) I wanted to be fluent in Spanish by the first year. I am not. It is true, that I can hold more than an hour conversation in my new language with out switching to English for even one word, but I am not pretending that I am graceful at it. Plus I am pretty sure that most "real speed Spanish" passes me by.

It is also true, that as a professor of English I can not force myself to practice Spanish for hours a day. I try when I drag myself in the door at 9:30pm from a day of classes, but some nights I just do not care enough too. Plus it is really hard to switch a household language. You just forget and start talking in the default language. It takes a constant effort to keep in the other language, for both of us.

I was also expecting to know Spain more when this year was up. I do not just mean knowing where all of the providences are, although that would be nice and I am almost there, but to know the country. The more I thought about this goal over the year, the more I knew that it was unobtainable. So, I thought, I'll know Madrid. That seems to be an unobtainable goal too. Sure, I know my neighborhood fairly well but I am learning you just can not know a big city/country in one year. There is too much to learn. For example I do not drive here in Madrid (good lord a year without driving), and I never noticed that the center double line in the street is white, and not yellow. That simple fact floored me for days. How could I not know something so simple? What other details have I missed out on?

Never mind that fact that my husband lived in the States for 10 years and was still shocked by the little things, I had set higher goals for myself. HAHA So now that I have set myself up for disappointment I find that I have blogger's block.

And we will not even talk about the fact that I already feel like I need to do something big for Thursdays blog post, sigh.

Random pictures, because bloggers block extends to photos too:

The roses are blooming wilding in Madrid. They are huge!

Jamon flavored Pringles, complete with the picture of the carved pig leg.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

National library / weird fashions of Madrid

So I went on a field trip to the Biblioteca National yesterday, and on the way I saw some disturbing fashion trends I would like to point out. I found these in the most "posh" area of town.

First we have machine knitted cotton sweaters (that part fine, I like sweaters), that have been painted with metallic colors. Yes I said painted, and it is just as soft to the touch as it sounds. In fact I saw these back in January in H&M and I was kind of hoping that I was hallucinating at the time, but I guess I was not.

Second, apparently snake skien is apparently all the rage. I think all of it is fake, at least I hope so. Here you see a snake skin sun hat.....yeah, that is just wrong. I also saw a lot of other snake skin objects including... paper napkins! I just can not think of a theme for a party where your guest would want to pretend to wipe their mouths on snake skin. Shudder.

This sweater was in one of the most expensive stores in Madrid. There are so many reasons I do not like it. When did drop shoulders come back?

DH and I walked around Colon for the first time, and it is a pretty area. The building with the green roof reminds me of an old fashioned battery.

Colon is home to possibly the worlds largest spanish Flag, please look at the people walking in the plaza for scale.

The statue of Columbus himself.

There are a lot of buildings in Madrid that have angels of top of them, in this picture I just managed to capture two of them at the same time. (Click to enlarge.)

I have seen the "Super Dink", a motorcycle whose name caused great hilarity, but never the "Grand Dink". That is just awesome.

So, we went to the Notional library, a very grand and picturesque place. If you go please be aware that they with not let you into the actual library (where they house all of the really old books) unless you have a valid research pass. Don't worry, I have a researcher for a husband and a plan. ;)
You can, however, go to the free exhibition on the grond floor. They also have, until the 13th of May, a special exhibit of old, mostly hebrew bibles, that are quite lovely.

Click to enlarge and look at the lamps, their shades are enlarged images of old texts! Super cool!

Afterwards, we had a reservation at an Argentinean restaurant and to get there we walked through Retiro Park. 

It was a part I have never visited before (next to Calle O'Donnell), that park is huge! There is a part with a man made mountain with waterfalls coming down (sorry no picture). It is right across from these ruins from a  church (11th century) moved here from up North.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A taste of Aranjuez

May1st is the labor day for almost everywhere in the world, a notable exception being the US, but it was periodically pouring (much like today). It has been raining on every day that I had off of work for a while, with the exception of Wednesday (May 2nd is one of Madrid many municipal holidays). So DH and I finally got to visit Aranjuez. I have been told that you can see everything in an afternoon. I have no idea where these people got their information, or what they thought was the only important thing to see because I was there an afternoon, and we only got a taste of what Aranjuez had to offer.

Aranjuez is the last stop on one of the cercanías, the local train system of Madrid. When we got to town it was the early side of lunch time, 2pm so we decided to have a Spanish lunch (lots of food and takes about an hour or more) before we started exploring. A nice thing about May 2nd is that it is only a holiday for Madrid, no other providence has it, and Aranjuez is in Castle y la Mancha so there was no crowds.

The Palace at Aranjuez. We did not go in because it was such a nice day.

Look at the color of the river. I thought that color did not exist in nature, only in Disney. 

The plaza in front of the place, was a peaceful place.

The first part of the garden look almost to perfect to be real. It really felt like we were in a theme park. Maybe that feeling was due to be cooped up inside a city for too long? Just look at the palm tree!

Most of the "garden of the island" was very French with the boxwoods in geometrical shapes and the occasional fountain.

DH saw his first Spanish squirrel (a red squirrel) in a long time. They are hard to spot in Madrid.

We got some very expensive, but fresh and ripe berries from a stall outside on of the parks. There is more than one park in Aranjuez, and we saw most of just the small one.

Everywhere there were sign about asparagus and strawberries. It was the oddest combination. The stall where we bought the berries was selling both fresh, and I picture people walking down the street and into the park eating uncooked green asparagus.