Monday, October 17, 2011

Cantabria, My True Love

This weekend I fell in love with the northern coast of Spain.  Nobody really ever mentions the northern coast, but it is the loveliest place I've ever been.  Imagine Appalachia in springtime on the coast of a beautiful sea.  But you won't have to imagine because I am about to show you all the pictures you ever wanted to see!  (Maybe more!)

There is a P.E. teacher at our school who is so friendly and has invited us on trips with her.  She said, "Hey I'm going to Santander this guys want to ride with me?"  And we said, "YES!"  And ain't that the way it should be?!  So we hitched a ride with her and she dropped us off in the tiny village of Santillana del Mar.  The Spanish call this the town of the "tres mentiras" (three lies) because there is no saint there, it is not "llana" (flat) and it is not near the "mar" (sea).  Despite these lies, it is such a lovely town.  Farm animals grazing on the verdant countryside and quaint shops lining the 15th century cobblestone streets.  The people of this town like their cheese stinky and their cider STRONG!  Cabrales cheese is particular to this area of Spain and let me tell you, that is some stanky cheese.  It puts blue cheese to shame.  Annie and I saw everyone drinking the local cider called "sidra" made in this area and wondered why the waiters poured so little in the glass.  However, after we tried the sidra ourselves we had no more questions.  WHEW!  That stuff will put hair on your chest!  It is made from fermented apples and they can't get enough of it in Santillana del Mar.  Here are some pictures from our stay there.  I was actually depressed the whole time because it was so beautiful and I knew I could never ever capture the beauty on my camera to share with you all.  But I tried:

Didn't actually go inside the Torture Museum but it makes for a good picture!

Random beautiful courtyard.

A pretty church with the bones of a saint inside.  Who'da thunk it?

Typical charming buildings in Santillana.

Omg I'm going to puke it's SO CUTE!

I hate horses in America but I love this Spanish horse.

Cantabrian countryside.

Hate olives in America but these Spanish olives are so yummy! Can't beat the wine here either!

From Santillana del Mar we went to Santander which actually is on the sea.  It is a popular place for Spaniards to spend their summers and a lot of Brits come over on an overnight ferry to get their tan on.  Santander has a free bike rental system which is the best.  You put a deposit on your credit card to rent one but if you return it at the end of the day, it is free!!  So Annie and I cycled around the sidewalks of Santander and explored all of the lovely beaches.  It was a sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky.  I seriously wish I could have hired a person to ride behind me blasting "Walking on Sunshine" on a boombox throughout my day.  It was perfect.  We hit the beaches and then stopped for a chorizo bocadillo.  After lunch we returned our bikes, got some ice cream and then went for a boat tour around the harbor.  Here are some pictures from our comically great day in Santander:

My free bicycle!

Love these little statue boys!  Also, they don't believe in guard rails in Santander.

There is another one of those statues on top of this huge sea rock.

Eating ice cream by the sea.  This is pure joy on my face.

Way too pretty to actually exist.

Just chilling on this beautiful sea rock.  No biggie.



I was too cold on the boat tour to take pictures so I will just leave that to your imagination.  The next day we went to Comillas which is a little village on the sea.  The way the mountains jut into the sea is spectacular.  Google image this town because my camera died before I could take pictures of the coastline.  Antoni Gaudi (a super famous Spanish modernista architect) built a super whimsical house in this town.  It is called "El Capricho" and we took a tour.  After our tour of his house we went to an old cemetery that overlooks the sea.  The view is breathtaking and I want to know what a girl's gotta do to get buried in an awesome place like that.  After touring the cemetery (kind of weird, right?) we went to a cafe that overlooks the beach and got "rabas".  Rabas, delicious fried calamari, is a common dish in this area of the country.  Here are some pictures from Comillas that I was able to get before my camera died:

The sun was directly in the background, but this is "El Capricho" built by Gaudi in the late 1800s.

Hanging out with good old Gaudi.

This is the cemetery with the beaaauuutiful views in the background.

So, that concludes my weekend in Cantabria.  I miss Appalachia this time of year the most but Cantabria filled that void a tiny bit.  You all need to go to these places immediately.  It is a thing you need to put on your bucket list.  Maybe you can skip the eating of the stinky cheese.  But the rest is a must!  Not sure where my next trip will take me but I'll be sure to fill you in on all the lovely details.

Adios, y'all!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day Trip to Segovia

Hello again so soon!

I have finally started doing some traveling so I have pictures to show you!  Today we took a day trip to Segovia.  When I found out I would be working in Castilla y Leon and not the south of Spain I was kind of bummed--but now I wouldn't change it for the world.  Castilla y Leon is where Spain began and if you envision Spain in your head then you are envisioning my region.  Basically every town is a world heritage site and there are so many beautiful little ancient towns with centuries of history behind them!  Today we made a day trip to one of those little towns called Segovia.

Situated about an hour north of Madrid, Segovia was once a military and religious powerhouse in Spain.  The city's power waned in 1520 after the Castilian revolt against the crown failed. (Geeze, that's old!)  The main tourist attractions now are the ancient Roman aqueduct, the cathedral and the old fortress.  From Arevalo, Segovia is about an hour and a half by bus.  Unfortunately, the only bus that goes there leaves at 7:15am on Saturdays.  What a pity!  But, being the determined tourists that we are, we woke up bright and early to be on that bus!  When we boarded the bus we were the only people on it so my first thought was, "Yay I can fall back asleep!"  Little did I know the driver had quite the penchant for blasting American Top 40 hits before the sun rose.  Dios mio!

We arrived in Segovia around 9am and promptly searched for the nearest place serving coffee!  Afterward, we wandered around the town and stumbled upon the extremely impressive Roman aqueducts!

Built 2,100 years ago, the aqueduct remained Segovia's main water source until the 19th century!

I'm bringing the sorority girl pose to Spain! It is about time they knew!

The sidekicks!

This is Ben our British friend we discovered is also teaching in our town!

Next on the Frommer's list of things to do in Segovia was to see the Catedral.  It is pretty hard to miss and quite impressive.  Now, this is the first European cathedral I have ever been to and I was pretty overwhelmed.  When I first walked in I experienced a range of emotions.  Initially I almost started crying because it was so beautiful and then I was promptly TERRIFIED!  The gigantic organ was playing the most intense dirge I've ever heard and combined with the huge scale of graphic crucifixion scenes, it was pretty scary.  I suddenly understood the power that Catholicism had over Europe back in the day...I would have been too scared to not be Catholic if I were them!  Here are some pictures from the beautifully scary cathedral!

How beautiful!


That is one trippy triptych!

There were several other churches that I took pictures of just because they are so stinkin' ancient and I felt like they deserved a spot on my blog for the sheer fact that they still exist.

This Iglesia de San Millan dates back to the 11th-13th century!

This Iglesia de San Andres dates back to the 12th century!

Finally, the last tourist spot we hit was the Alcazar.  This was the old military fortress of Segovia.  The original 13th century fortress burned down in 1862 (I'd say it had a pretty good run).  The burning of the old fortress gave the crown a good excuse to rebuild a more idealized structure of what people envision a medieval fortress to look like.  I have to admit, they convinced me!

Certainly looks like a medieval fortress to me!

Just take a look at that beautiful Spanish countryside!

This is a mural of what invading armies must have seen upon approaching Segovia.  Pretty cool!

All those pictures were taken within a 4 hour time period and we were back on a bus to Arevalo by 1pm!  A successful day trip, I'd say.  The south of Spain can keep its touristy beaches.  I'll keep my castles where the Knights of the Templar held initiation big deal. (JK that is SO cool!)  We were back in time to eat a big old Spanish lunch.  I got gazpacho and Spanish tortilla.  Yummo!

I'll keep postin' if you keep readin'!  Adios!