qatarperegrine: (travel)
I'm back in Doha, just in time for sandstorm season. Woo.

Pictures of my trip to Spain with my friend Ryan are now posted. Someday Ryan will post his pictures there too, but it may be a while since he's in the midst of moving and starting a job right now.

Since not everyone may want to peruse all 260 photos, I've posted one highlight picture for each city below. Click here to see my top 7 pictures! )

Or, if you totally can't be bothered, here's the extremely redacted version:
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Couldn't post this while I was there, so a brief recap of my last 36 hours in Spain, spent in Madrid.

We arrived in the late afternoon and met Ryan's friend Javi for dinner. Javi was a lot of fun, perhaps because he's a ROCK STAR, or at least has just recorded an album with his band Mamut. It's an indy pop band although his heart is really in heavy metal, which cracked me up because he's like the opposite of the plot of Detroit Metal City. After dinner Javi drove us around the city so we could see the non-touristy parts, which were surprisingly like Any City Anywhere, and then showed us the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple that somehow got relocated to Spain.

Tuesday was my last day in Spain, and I was fixated on viewing as much art as possible. We got to the Prado as it opened and spent 5.5 hours there, and then after lunch spent another hour and a half at the Thyssen-Bornemisza.

We saw many amazing things but I will recap my three favorites:

I'd hoped to make it to the Reina Sofia to see Guernica, but it's closed on Tuesdays. Ah well, that's the price of spending only one day in a city.

In the evening we headed up to the gay neighborhood, Chueca for dinner. In pursuit of an heladería on the way home we accidentally ended up in the red light district. Madrid's prostitutes are, um, assertive; as we left the ice cream shop with our cones we saw a prostitute physically grab a man and try to drag him with her. Whoa. Ryan complained that his ice cream tasted of fear and shame.

So that was it: Spain in 10 days! Take that, Frommer's!
qatarperegrine: (travel)
I haven't written a thing during our two days in Barcelona, since we've been too busy drooling at the amazing architecture. This city is absurdly beautiful, and the neighborhood we're in is particularly notable for its Modernist (the Catalan flavor of Art Nouveau) buildings.

Our first day in town visited La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, which Ryan aptly described as what a church designed by Tim Burton would look like. We then visited the Park Güell, with more quirky Gaudí works. Day two we did a walking tour of Modernist buildings and then visited the Picasso museum, where I particularly enjoyed the temporary exhibition on Kees van Dongen (the image gallery there has some of his coolest paintings; the last three were my favorites).

This morning we visited the most confectionary of Gaudí's buildings, the Myst-esque Casa Batlló. It was spectacular.

In a bit we're off to the train station to try to catch a train to Madrid. So excited to see the Prado!


Jun. 20th, 2009 01:02 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Every city we've been to in Spain feels like a new country, but the difference between Andalucia and Catalunia is vast. The crowd is very different, too. In Andalucia the other tourists were mostly Spanish, some French, some East Asian, and overwhelmingly young. Here in Montserrat there are tons of Americans, particularly older Americans on bus tours. It's funny how that happens. Once Justin and I passed a resort town in Turkey that was ALL Russian tourists.

Montserrat is a monastery set among a range of weird, Dali-looking rock pillars near Barcelona. (Though of course it's Dali that resembles Montserrat.) Montserrat is known for its black madonna, La Moreneta, who is the patron of Catalunia. We are gradually learning a little Catalan, which seems closer to French than Castillian Spanish; for example, "please" is "si us plau." Today we finally figured out (meaning that Ryan corralled our amused funicular driver into teaching us some Catalan) that x is sh (thus "coche" in Catalan is written "cotxe") but we still haven't totally worked out the dot between l's, as in our hotel, Cel.les Abat Marcel. I think it's to show it's not a double l pronounced y, but then why not write it Celes?

Oh, Montserrat is also known for its choir; it has, apparently, the oldest boys choir school in Europe. Last night we went to vespers, where the boys' choir sang Salwe Regina (the one I remember from Justin and Amanda's music history class, no less). Oh, and there's also a rather stunning museum.

We intended to do some hiking up here -- it was our consolation for not making it to the Picos de Europa as planned -- but since my ankles were alarmingly swollen we've just been taking it easy. Turns out that's also a good choice. We're all rested and ready to hit Barcelona tomorrow! Modernisme, here we come!
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The plan Thursday morning was to wake up at 5:45, head to the center of Granada and catch the 6:30 bus to the airport for our flight to Barcelona.

My first thought on waking was "Huh, it's pretty light outside for not being 5:45 yet." It turns out that's because it was 6:30, and we'd slept through my alarm. We managed to dress, pack, strip our beds, leave a note in Spanish explaining where we left our key, and head out the door by 6:45, all without waking our dormmates. Go us! We speed-walked down the hill to the main road, hailed a cab, and made it to the airport at the same time as the bus. Yay!

That main road is called Gran Via de Colon, by the way. I don't think I've mentioned how very much they like Columbus around here. We visited his rather epic grave in Seville, and the graves of Ferdinand and Isabella in Granada. I never understood why they're called the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Catolicos) since being Catholic doesn't seem remarkable in the Spanish context, but that's obviously because I didn't understand how long the reconquista took. They were the monarchs who conquered the emirate of Granada and expelled all Jews from Spain. Oh, and started the Inquisition, of course. Catholic, huh?

Slow food

Jun. 17th, 2009 05:01 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I am writing this from a cafe in Albayzin, the aforementioned cool bohemian part of Granada, where Ryan and I have been sitting in a cafe attempting to eat lunch for OVER TWO HOURS. I just got and ate my dish (fried potatoes) but Ryan is still waiting for his fish. The owner just came out to apologize and explain that the fish is "bastante gordo" (quite fat) and thus taking a while to cook, which might be a better excuse if we hadn't seen the waitress go off to BUY the fish 5 minutes before. Ugh.

We spend an extraordinary percentage of every day trying to acquire food. The guidebooks say service is laid back in Spain and you won't get your check immediately, which is fine; lots of countries are like that. But we are consistently having difficulty even getting waiters to bring us menus. They bring other people menus, but not us, even when we ask politely in Spanish. What's this about? Yesterday we had to skip lunch entirely because we had to leave for the train in 45 minutes and that's not enough time to get even a sandwich or crepe.

We made it to Alhambra this morning, which was pretty cool but we both feel not quite as awesome as the Alcazar in Seville. It didn't help that the audioguide was narrated by a fake Washington Irving. Still, Granada is just a fun, hip town. It's funny because I came here specifically for the castle and went to Seville for general ambiance, but that was backwards.

Ah, the salmon is here. Whew!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I've toured a ridiculous number of castles in my life, but I was still blown away by the Alcazar in Seville. You should check out some pictures online.

Favorite part: the doors of the king's chapel are carved with "Only Allah can conquer" in Arabic. I knew Christianity and Islam coexisted in Andalucia, but not that they borrowed so freely from each other.

Now we're in Granada. We've only been here two hours and I love it. LOVE it. And I don't think that's just the one-Euro wine talking. :-) Even if we don't make it into Alhambra tomorrow (apparently they sell only 6200 tickets a day and that's not enough?) it was worth it to come here just to walk the meandering streets, take in the laid-back hippy culture, and enjoy the food and shisha. Granada is precisely what you'd hope a Middle Eastern city would be! Except in Spain. :-)


Jun. 16th, 2009 01:07 am
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Also, bonus points to anyone who can explain to me what being "relegated" means (context: football/soccer), why it recently happened to Betis, and why precisely that means Seville is full of rowdy protesters wearing green.


Jun. 15th, 2009 08:06 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Seville is beautiful! A lot like Florence in some ways. We spent the morning walking around the cathedral area, especially the network of alleys in the old juderia. Gorgeous. Another highlight was the Archivo de los Indios, a National-Archives-like building housing documents related to the New World, from 1492 onwards. The current exhibit is on Spain's role in US history, which was both educational (I knew nothing of Spains involvement in the revolutionary war) and fun (translating the signs for Ryan). A highlight for me was seeing a very early map of NorCal, including Capes Trinidad.

Unforch, Everything else was closed today (Monday! Grr) so we finished up with a trip to a park with extravagant buildings built for a 1929 expo.
The rest of the day has been devoted to eating things. Said things have been both plentiful and delicious.
qatarperegrine: (travel)
My travel buddy Ryan and I spent the afternoon in Córdoba, former capital of Al Andalus and once the largest city in Western Europe. Its main claim to fame is the Mezquita, which is the opposite of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul: an enormous, beautiful medieval mosque that was later turned into a church.

Al Andalus, Moorish Spain, is often held up as a high point on religious tolerance between the three Abrahamic faiths. Churches, mosques and synagogues coexisted, and Maimonedes and Averroes both called this city home. But Al Andalus also had its share of low points in interreligious dialogue, too. I'll be interested to learn more during our remaining two days in Andalucia, before we head up to Cataluña, where I am longingly anticipating sub-100-degree weather. (At 6:20 this evening we passed a thermometer reading 42. That's 107 Fahrenheit. At 6:20 pm.)

My high school/college Spanish is gradually returning, but not without some hiccups. Today at an ice cream store I asked for a scoop of mente chocolate, which actually means "chocolate mind." I'm pretty sure I already have one of those...


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