Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Trip #2- Salamanca, or Hogwarts?

This last weekend our group went on our first overnight trip, though this was our second weekend getaway. We traveled to the Northwest central part of Spain, covering the cities and towns of Avila, Salamanca, Toro, and Tordesillas. What was supposed to be a break from the cold that we've been experiencing in Madrid, turned out to be exactly the one thing I had hoped to avoid when coming here: SNOW. All I know is that I did NOT sign up for snow. Love it though I do, I don't love it when all of my proper footwear for said precipitation is a continent away. Luckily, though, I brought an extra pair of socks that I was able to change into once we got to our hotel room in Salamanca, so I regained feeling in my toes right before falling asleep.

This weekend has been the best weekend I've had here, hands down. Though I love Madrid and all it has to offer, I loved the feel of Salamanca. It's a university city that feels like a smaller town, and boasts a lot of single mingles within the ages of 18-30, which was nice to take a glance at. Prior to this, I could have sworn that there was no one older than 16 and younger than 65 that resided in Spain--cute though they are, I'm a little tired of seeing little old ladies and men perpetually walking the main streets. Definitely a big perk about the little city.

Since we were staying in Salamanca, our whole group had an agreement that we'd be going club hopping later Friday night for one of the girl's birthday. There was about 26 of us who went clubbing, which was a sight to behold; I have never had so many people clap and whistle at me in the 5 minutes it took to cross Plaza Mayor to get to the club. Though I didn't expect it to be as fun as it was, clubbing in a random Spanish university town turned out to be one of the best nights of my trip here--if you read my last post, you'll understand why.

For this trip, we left early Friday morning and stopped in Avila to see the old city walls, and then ventured to Salamanca, where we spent the night. After a night of only 5 or so hours of sleep, we left early Saturday morning to tour Toro and Tordesillas, and then left Tordesillas mid afternoon to return home Saturday night. Definitely a great weekend!


Misty morning in Avila. This town was actually known for its mysticism back in the day, so maybe that's the reason for the massive amounts of fog. I must say though, the fog made me a little homesick for the Bay Area.

Lion statues flanked the courtyard of the cathedral in Avila, so of course I with my lioness hair had to get a picture with one of them. Please notice that 1): there's snow on the ground, and 2): I'm not wearing boots. Through deductive reasoning I'm sure you could make the assumption that 1): my feet are cold, and 2): my outfit would look so much better with boots. (Mom, that would be your plug).

The glove of love statue! This is some random little hand cutout display on top of the city walls of Avila that we decided to document. Through our powers combined...WATER! EARTH! FIRE! HEART!

This is Michelle, my ghost photographer. She realized while we were on the bus that she left her camera at home, and since I brought 2 cameras she ended up using my smaller point and shoot to capture what we saw. I loved this plan though--when I felt too cold to pull out my Nikon, I'd tell her what I wanted photographed, and she'd do it, though most of the time she was already on top of it. Michelle and I have a lovely working relationship.

I have such amazing friends. Work those sweaters girls.


Plaza Mayor in Salamanca has to be my favorite place that I've visited as of late.

Random graffiti seen in transit.

The following couple of pictures are from the inside of the Catedral Vieja. Through my constant picture taking of arches, I've come to realize that I'm in love with them, so expect to see plenty of them on display!

If you look closely, you can see a crack along the wall that leads to the window. Michelle thought this was such a sad little crack, that she teared up a little whenever she saw it. Such a gentle soul.

Parents, this photo is for you. I had no idea, but apparently Spaniards love their West Highland White Terriers! I've seen at least a baker's dozen little Mochas running around Spain, which has only made my heart swell for the little guy.

This is the old facade of the University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in Spain, and one of the oldest in Europe. There's a tradition with this building that you're not allowed to graduate or pass your classes until you find the frog that's hidden somewhere on this old facade.

Well, I found him! If you look at the three skulls in the middle of the picture, the one on the left has the frog sitting on top of his head.

Harry Potter moment #1: so not only did Salamanca have a small town feel to it (even though it's a pretty big city), it felt more like it could be Hogwarts due to its old cathedral, university, and other historical pieces of architecture. To further prove my point, I happened to find a carving of the Deathly Hallows on one of the walls of the university. Conspiracy? I say yes.

Harry Potter moment #2: this is a purse that we found while out shopping. Although several attempts were made to try and open the beast, it could not be done. We realized, however, after many futile attempts, that it reminded us of this:

So to open it, we rubbed its spine...

...and voila! Jagged teeth and all! Thanks Harry Potter for making me street smart!

Lovely little wall painting Michelle found--she thought it was appropriate.

Not only is Plaza Mayor beautiful in daylight, but it sparkles at night. This is my favorite place we've visited, and if I could look at this sight every night, I'd be happy for the rest of my life. I just love how the lights cast a golden cover on the blank stone.

Most of the girls on the streets of Salamanca. We thought that going to a club at 11:30 pm was a perfect time to go clubbing, but apparently most clubs in Spain don´t open until 12:30 am or later. Silly us.

Alyssa in the club at midnight on her birthday. Happy 21st!


Don't let the sun deceive you--it was so cold that I was starting to lose feeling in my toes (again), though it´s a beautiful little town.

Cathedral in Toro

So this is the pregnant Mary statue that I was talking about. The cathedral in Toro has one of the only statues of the pregnant virgin that was made, making her pretty special and worth viewing. Sorry the pic is a little blurry--I was crossing enemy lines by taking this, so had to be super quick about it.

Obviously I have some real mitten love. Not only was it FREEZING (literally) everywhere we traveled, as you saw, there was snow in Avila. The great thing about these little mittens is that Santa's elves knitted them for me, and they were the best last minute packing choice ever. I wasn't planning on bringing them to Spain, but at the last minute I threw them into my bag--thank you common sense for choosing that moment to kick in. Without them, I'm not sure if I'd have fingers today after this weekend.

There are hardly words to describe this picture. I can't even recall what was happening here, except that I remember I made Michelle take it.


Plaza Mayor

The Real Monasterio de Santa Clara de Tordesillas--the cool thing about this cathedral/monastery is that you can see the fusion of European, Spanish, and Arabic influences in the design on the outside, and especially on the inside. I would have taken pictures of the inside, but alas, a little bit less than a firing squad would have taken me out. And unfortunately, Michelle my ghost photographer wouldn't go for the "Real friends commit illegal acts and take forbidden pictures of holy churches for their friends. Real friends would get sneak tackled by GI Joe staring us down from the corner over there for committing said illegal acts for their friends." Unfortunately, no dice. But at least I now know the level of our friendship, though I'm just sad it had to be proven in such stressful circumstances ;)

Beautiful ivy "s" curve along one of the walls in the courtyard of the monastery.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week 4, OR, How I Among 26 Other BYU Girls Get Mistaken for "Lezbatrons"

January 23
Pilar's paella that we had Sunday is the best thing I've eaten in Spain thus far, and every time I see this picture my mouth starts watering.

January 24
Why is Luisa covered in Bueno bars and other packages of candy, you ask? Bueno bars have become the food of our program--chocolate covered wafers filled with hazelnut cream=HEAVEN! Our whole group is so addicted to these bars that when Luisa and I went to buy them at Carrefour (Spain's Walmart) they were all sold out. The ENTIRE section. Desperate for Bueno bars, we ran from tienda to tienda in search of our chocolate fix, and finely found them in a little mercado and bought a bundle of them along with other candy. Forget the pastries here, it's all about the Bueno bars.

January 25
Becca and Katy modeling their matching sweaters. What I thought was a joke when they tried them on, actually turned out to be a 6 euro purchase on each of their parts. Not only are these sweaters 80's-tastic with the giant pic of a girl's face on the front, they also have bat wings that might possibly allow for flight.

January 26
Roccio, our flamenco teacher, and Luisa. Our university has free flamenco lessons every Wednesday nights, which Luisa and I plan on attending each week. This was the best spent hour of my day and probably my week.

January 27
Museo Panteón de Goya, or Goya's grave. This is a lovely little cathedral that houses Goya's final resting place. During his lifetime, Goya was actually commissioned to fill the ceiling and walls of the cathedral with his paintings, but once the benefactors realized that the art filling the cathedral was too important to be used as a cathedral, they moved the church services and buried Goya here after his death. The picture makes things seem a little gloomy and ominous, no?

January 28a
The city walls of Ávila, one of the thriving cities in Castille y León. I thought the Great Wall was in China, not rural Spain.

January 28b
Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. Not only is this my favorite city in Spain thus far, this is my favorite place to visit because of the beautiful architecture. I'm in love with the lights on each terrace that flood the plaza with light, and casts a golden hue on the white stone making it appear like it's made out of gold--when the plaza was actually being built, the white stone was chosen specifically for this desired effect.

January 28c
Just a fraction of us who went clubbing in Salamanca. It was Alyssa's 21st birthday at midnight that night, so of course we had to party in style! While we were in the first club though, the locals actually thought that we were lesbians because we arrived together and were dancing with one another. We actually thought the club we went to was a gay club (some of the people there probably were), but it turned out they just thought we were gay, which proved for a VERY interesting night.

January 29a
A cathedral in Toro, which is famous for 2 reasons. First, the architecture of the cathedral is intriguing because it was started by the Romans and then finished by the Gothics. Second, they have one of the only statues of a pregnant Mary, which is highly uncommon. Although fact #1 is cool, I find fact #2 to be thrilling.

January 29b
Me in front of the cathedral in Tordesillas. This cathedral was phenomenal--this was our first little taste of the fusion of Spanish/European architecture mixed with Arabic influences. I would have taken some pictures of the fantastic arches and ceiling art, however, though every cathedral has a "no picture" policy that I can usually skirt around, this cathedral actually enforces it--there was a security unit that followed our tour guide group, and would have taken any one of us out if we even thought of raising our camera. Usually I'm fine with crossing the lines into the illegal or "gray" area, but not when there's a GI Joe lookalike staring me down.