HOLY TOLEDO- What a journey!! (and coincidentally I am currently blogging from Toledo). It's now been over a week since I said good-bye to Leo in Malaga (tear!!) and hello to Jessica in Barcelona (woo-hoo!!)... we've been jet setting ever since! After a quick overnight stay in BCN (nothing touristy- yet) we flew over to the small island of Menorca (about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide). Jess, having just come up from futbol & safari festivities in South Africa, was ready for some beach time and some R&R in the sun (for those of you who know Jess well... she's kind of always ready for this... yes, her name is Jessica, and she is a tanerexic!!). She was a tad jealous that I had a 3-week old tan (and for once, was darker than her) but that quickly changed within a matter of about 45 minutes (damn that girl can tan!!). We bought some inflatable rafts for under 3Euros and headed on a beach trek.
Along the way (but not pictured here), we learned that the Menorcan definition of "viewpoint" (noted on the map) may be a little different from out own definition... while the picture below matches my definition, you might see other pictures on Jessica's blog. We stumbled upon what we have affectionately referred to as "full moons, roosters, and clams without the night sky, feathers, or pearls"... that's right, we stumbled up on a nude beach... don't get too excited- the average age was about 65 years old (don't mean to hate on my friends and fans who are card holding AARP members... just don't need to see your bits and pieces and twigs and berries!!). For those of you Seinfeld fans, you may recall the episode about Jerry's new girlfriend who lies around the house naked. Jerry is excited until he discovers "bad naked". He could add these activities to the list: setting up or taking down your beach umbrella; sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce (although it feels so wrong to refer to it that way) reading your book; squatting down to take a picture of your young children; observing the tide pools... need I go on? I think not.
Azul, azul, azul... Menorca
After our beach excurison, we headed to an area called Santa Rita for my belated birthday gift to Jessica- horseback riding. We found out last minute that we would not in fact be riding along the beach but instead, took a lovely ride throughout "their farm" which is really in fact acres and acres of country-side and hills. Jessica is a much more experienced rider who did some extra trotting and running where I was quite comfortable on my bigger, lazier horse (it was meant to be!).
Horseback riding around the countryside and up the hills of Santa Rita (including along the oldest road- about 300 years old) on Menorca. Erin y Lero (no lie- that was his name) con Jess y Mimosa (a true Menorcan horse- all black with no white).
After two nights in Menorca (and some extra shoe shopping for some Menorcan sandals and Moroccan-styled billowy pants... yeah, you'll see me rockin' those by the time I return!!) we headed back over to Barcelona for three nights. Barcelona is quite incredible! I had heard that it was "quite touristy" and while that may be true, there are really too many sights to see within the short time that we were there. We hopped on double-decker bus and were able to 'hop on and off' through out the city. Not pictured here (because they are so massive that my pictures don't quite capture it), but some of my favorite sights were Gaudi's works of Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila- such amazing architecture inside and out! We also made a quick trip to the FC Barcelona Futbol Stadium so that I could add another scarf to my love's new European futbol scarf collection (don't ask what he is going to do with all of those scarves!! but the fact is, I know he wanted one so I was happy to get it).
The following day, we took the train (an adventure all on it's own... it is alway an experience navigating foreign transit) to nearby Montserrat for a peaceful and spiritual experience. It was peaceful, but also HOT! We were sweaty hot messes as we toured the basilica, hiked down to the Sacred Cave where the original La Moreneta (small wood statue of "the black virgin") was found, and waited for an hour or two to see and touch the original La Moreneta. While I am not religious, I was still able to enjoy the experience and the surroundings and even participated with other fellow tourists as I left a personal belonging in the Sacred Cave. Many do this as "a prayer request or as a thanks for divine intercession" and leave items such as baby's Baptism dresses, wedding dresses, wax replicas of body parts in need of healing (I should have left a replica of my neck as I've had a knot in it for several days now... but after an exciting journey to farmacia tonight, let's hope it gets better!). It was a really lovely experience (you may see that I use the word "lovely" quite often now. I think it is a lovely word and hope to take it back to the states with me :)
View of the Basilica at Montserrat- about and hour outside of Barcelona
After our three nights in Barcelona (like I said, we needed much longer!), we head over to Madrid with 3 things on our mind: bull fights, flamenco, and futbol (by this point, Spain was in the finals and we were excited to add "watching the game at the fan sight" to our agenda). After only being in town for about 30 minutes, we discovered that there was a bull fight nearby within the next couple of hours(bull ring within walking distance? DONE!). We were both excited to see a bull fight... but I will be honest... I didn't really THINK about what a bull fight is all about. Sooooo... there was quite a bit of blood and 7 bulls died. Maybe there wouldn't have been as much blood if more skilled bull fighters were "matadoring" but it may have been open-mic night at the bull ring. One of the matadors was 17 years old- 17!!!!! And even though he performed quite well, he did get knocked around a bit by said bull... a 485lb. bull! Another lost his shoes as he tried to stab the bull with what I said looked like spirit sticks (c'mon- you know that you know what spirit sticks are... even if you weren't a cheerleader or a danz-er, you know you've seen Bring it On more than once) and even another got knocked around so much that he didn't come back for the night.
I would have liked more cape and less stabbing of the bulls...
The matadors were quite 'cartoonish' and had VERY serious looks on their faces, with furrowed brows and jutted jaws (or maloclussions... couldn't tell) and they did quite a lot of crotch thrusting towards the bull (no wonder the bulls charge at them!). The performances with the capes is actually quite exciting... but I could do without they stabbing, dying, and dragging of the bulls. Let's just say I won't be a season ticket holder (that AND the stone seats make your butt sweat... yes, there is a lot of sweating in Spain!!).
"Rushed the ring" after the bull fight. Until this moment, I didn't realize you could see the path where the bulls where drug (dragged??) out of the ring...
We toured the Royal Palace and some other sights on Saturday before seeing a flamenco show and feasting on more paella and sangria (maybe a wee too much of Sangria so in true WT style we filled out empty water bottles so that we could have Sangria 'to go'... don't judge).
[Insert monster truck rally announcer voice] Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: It was time for the big game! We spent some time siesting at Retiro Park (I LOVE that park!) and then took the metro up to the Real Madrid/Bernabeu Stadium to watch the game with thousands and thousands of fans... only to discover that no one was there!! The fan sight had been moved so we set off on foot and found those thousands, thousands, and THOUSANDS of fan- it was incredibly packed with fans in red and yellow, waving flags, and cheering "E-span-a!!" After a quick trip to the market, we were armed with two liters of water, a bag of jamon flavored chips, two bags of corn-nuts, a package of havarti cheese, and two 40's of lukewarm Mahou beer... dinner of campeones!! As you have likely heard, SPAIN WON THE WORLD CUP!! Never could we have imagined they would have made it that far, much less win, when we had planned this trip. Thank you universe for working out that way!
Fans, forties, and futbol.
Today we took the AVE train to Toledo and spent the day touring this beautiful city (the original capital), siesting, and feasting on a local specialty- alubias con codorniz (white bean stew with quail).
Train station in Toledo
Holy Toledo! What a beautiful city!
Tomorrow, we have another full day in Toledo but will spend the night back in Madrid before my Wednesday flight back home and Jessica's trip to Grenada- one of the many stops she has on her 'tour around the world' (I think I'm finally "ready to talk about it"... but am still sad and will miss her!!). This month in Spain has been full of incredible experiences and I can't wait to share the many other stories and photos that didn't appear on this blog!! See you soon!!