Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fiesta, fiesta.

We have a lot of events at our house, lovingly referred to as, "La Casa de los Locos." Be they parties for birthdays, bon voyages, or welcome on in, we'll throw down 3 euros for mojitos and a potluck. This weekend, we had a Going Away and Welcome combination party for the "despedidas" of Hamza and Laura ("la Segunda" or "the second," as I call her). And we had a housewarming party for Majd (Palestinian by birth, Italian resident for the past many years), Manu (from France), and Charlotte (from the Netherlands).

Basically, the night consisted of Chelsea and my being obnoxious with her camera (taking pictures of everyone and thing) and showing off our signature dance move--the rodeo guns.

Here is Hamza and I and "Las Dos Lauras." I will definitely miss both of these very cool people.

So you have an idea of the gentlemen of the house (most of them anyway) since I feel like I mostly post pictures of the ladies. These handsome devils are as follows: Alex, Skip (Xanthe's brother, just visiting for the weekend), Manu, Hamza and Majd.

A nice photo of the upstairs residents all dolled up:

Viva fiesta!

Holy Toledo!

Yeah. We went there--Toledo in the autonomous community of Castilla de la Mancha (just south of Madrid). We had another group excursion two weekends ago and it was incredible. There is still a wall and river surrounding the medieval city in central Spain and the architecture is breath-taking.

On the way to Toledo, we stopped in Arranjuez--another medieval city. We walked around exploring palaces and gardens galore.

Then we arrived at Toledo past sunset, whilst it was pouring buckets. Brandon, Chelsea, Alex and I found some dinner and then scurried back to the hotel until our scheduled tour in the morning. We ended up playing cards with Jessica and Sao until late learning Cantonese and Hmong. "Npau npaim" means "butterfly" in Hmong, if you were wondering.

The next morning was hilarious. Chelsea and I, being the economical/cheap ladies we are, made ourselves breakfast from the free one offered at the hotel, and also used the buffet to make sandwiches and lunch things for ourselves to save money later. Boy, are we clever. Or thieves. I can't tell.

During our guided tour of Toledo, we lucked out and missed all of the rain scheduled for that day. Hallelujah. However, it was still a bit cloudy so please forgive the gray-ish but still incredible views of the entrance to the city.

Our guide then took us the famous Catedral de Toledo. They first began building it in 1226! It is yet another World Heritage Site (surprise!) and rightfully so. Petrus Petri did most of the designing.

The cloisters and patio of the cathedral:

After the tour, we had free time to walk around a bit more and find some lunch before getting on the bus again (for 4 1/2 hours!). We found the stairwell just past the bridge into the back entrance of the city that we dangerously climbed up during the downpour the night before. It was dry and beautiful out. So we plopped down on those stairs and dined on our (stolen?) food. View from the stairs:

Then I found a bakery and went to town on this bad boy. HOW COULD I NOT BUY THIS, I ASK YOU.

Once we were back on the road, we drove for an hour or so, then stopped in the province of Ciudad Real, and more specifically El Campo de Criptana. This place is famous for housing the "molinas" or windmills that Don Quixote fought in Cervantes' novel. Of course, he thought they were dragons, but he fought them valiantly! It was very cool to see literature that I have actually read staring me in the face in physical form, to put it as poorly as possible. I loved it.

Finally, a group picture of all of us (minus three). An excellent trip, indeed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who needs Coachella?

So around this time every year, people are plastering their Facebooks with the Coachella line-up. (For those of you who don't know, Coachella is an annual music festival in Indio, CA where the indie runs rampant. Usually, the three days of music consist of bands though not well known, are incredible. But then also larger nuggets of gold like Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and artists of the like.) I won't lie, it's usually incredible (though I think it was at its peak in, like, 2006.)

ANYWAY. This years' line-up is kind of amazing and of course, it decides to kick it up a notch when I am in Spain. But the heavens have smiled down on me this day!

Our landlord, Fernando, posted on the house's Facebook page this little doozy of a link:

May I present: SOS 4.8

So for 50 euro, there is a two day musical festival in Murcía, Spain and the set-up is a lot like Coachella; you can camp or stay at places near by and drive in. Well, one of the housemates is from Murcía and we're working on finding a cheap camping spot as we speak. Though not as epic as Coachella, this line-up keeps getting better and longer each day. So far, we have: The Kooks (so excited to see them), MGMT, Steve Aoki, The Bloody Beetroots, !!!, Yann Tiersen, The Editors, Arizona Baby and many more (just to name my favorites). There is also a slew of Spanish bands that I am excited to explore.

Looks like we have an awesome group going as well. Fernando, Miguel, Alberto, Chelsea, Alex, Brandon and I.

Yeah. A bunch of spazzes. Camping. 48 hours of some of the best music of my life. In Spain.

Have fun at Coachella, folks! I'll be SOS 4.8.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sevilla, NOT Seville.

Ugh. Hate it when English speakers have to rename everything. Anyway! Here is our fancy-ish hostel in Sevilla:

Sevilla was lovely. Much slower paced than Barcelona, but also very cool. The selling point for me was the river that it sits upon. Minutes after getting there, we made our way over to the grassy banks of Río Guadalquivir and watched the rowing teams, kayakers and paddle boats go by. We were inspired by the paddle boaters, as you will see later.

We only had just over a full day in Sevilla, so we made it count. We covered a lot of ground in those 24 hours, and we kind of had to, considering the city does not have a metro or bus system. It had windy streets a lot like the Albaizín and Realejo neighborhoods in Granada.

El Torre del Oro:

Yet another monument to that dude Cristobol Colón:

The Catedral y Giralda (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede) is a massive church standing near the middle of Sevilla. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world.

Finally, for my favorite part of Sevilla: the paddle boating excursion. Chelsea and I decided that we should rent a 4 seater paddle boat and have the boys peddle whilst we ate pipas and drank cerveza. Good idea, ladies!

And we finished the trip with a stop by the river at night to relax until our 8:00 p.m., 3-hour bus ride home.


So far, out of all the cities I've been to in Spain (Madrid, Granada, Salobreña, Jaen, Úbeda, Carzola, Málaga, Marbella, Tarifa, Nerja, Córdoba, Sevilla) BARCELONA is my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I love Granada so much; the history, the Arabic culture, the tapas! But Barcelona was perfect. I had been jonesing for a beach trip for a while and this place was just like home. The docks reminded me so much of Shoreline Village in Long Beach. I coudn't stop smiling. All of the Gaudí architecture blew my mind! Let's just get started, shall we?

The day after our €6 flight to BCN, we went straight to Parc Güell for the famous view and Gaudí houses. For those of you who don't know, Antoni Gaudí was commissioned by the king to design dozens of houses, apartments, cathedrals and other aesthetic structures in Barcelona in the late 1800s. He was part of the Art Nouveau movement and has this incredibly different style that I am in love with.

View from Mirador in Parc Güell:

In Parc Güell, there is another mosaic bench-lined mirador which looks at houses designed by Gaudí, that lead down to the entrance to the park with the famous mosaic lizard.

We also saw the cave-like corridor that they used in America's Next Top Model Cycle 7 final runway show!

After the park, we hopped on the metro and went over to La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí was a devout Catholic and began this incredible, awe-inspiring church during his various designs in Barcelona. He died before it was completed and his son took over. Since 1882, it has been under construction. Any photos you see without cranes in it were digitally altered to remove them. Mine, of course, still have them in it. One half of this HUGE church represents good and the other, evil. I preferred the darker side, as the detail was so impressive. This cathedral is mind-blowing and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This next portion pretty much exists just for my mom. We had some delicious tapas at a long bar of both lunch and dessert tapas. I found the place in a Barcelona tourist book that our roommate, Yuri, lent me. We stumbled upon the actual building by chance though! Later, we stopped for a delicious snack of cafe con leche and a pastry from yet another famous place I found in a tour book from Yuri. The last photo is of our last dinner in Barca--Persian food! The owner was so nice to us and gave us free ice cream and tea because I told him how Chelsea had worked at a Persian restaurant in the States. :]

We did some more exploring and saw some awesome statues, monuments, and buildings in our treks, including one of what seems like A DOZEN Cristobol Colón monuments (Christopher Columbus), just below:

We walked through the La Boquería or Mercat de Saint Joseph. There were fresh fruit and vegetable stands galore, spice stands with homemade paella seasoning mixtures, fresh smoothies, sausage and fish shops, bread stands--the works! We ate lunch there on our second day. It was delish.

My favorite part of the whole sha-bang was the harbor. We sat on the docks of the Barelona Harbor and soaked up some sun. The ocean was so blue and the old, tan architecture accented it just right. The wooden docks and sailboats made me miss those summers in Long Beach so much. But the whole scene was just perfect.

And finally, we HAD to visit Camp Nou--stadium of the famous FB Barcelona futbol team! These guys really are superstars. It's ridiculous. But makes for rad games.

And then we were off to Sevilla...