Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
With 20 hours to kill before my next flight to JFK I wondered aimlessly around the airport a bit before locating the shower on the balcony of the South Terminal. I’ve never showered in an airport before, might as well give it a try since I got nothing better to do and a shower would be great. I dialed the assistant line and the lady promptly sent a janitor over to open the shower for me. The shower is free to use; 1 pound if you need to rent a towel. Once inside I was pleasantly surprised. It is much nicer than I thought with a private room similar size to average bathrooms you would find in people’s homes. It was clean and the water pressure was perfect. I felt a little surreal to be standing under a warm shower in the airport occasionally hearing the faint sounds of announcements over the speakers, almost like Tom Hanks in the Terminal. I can honestly say I’ve never felt this refreshed in an airport before! Later I stopped by Delta check-in to see if I could catch an earlier flight. Although there were seats available on the 2pm flight the lady insisted on charging me $200 for the alternative flight. I don’t think so. Just went to Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food to pick up a Salmon and Cucumber sandwich and some milk. Now I have all the time in the world to read and update my blogs.
2pm: Well, that salmon sandwich didn’t quite fill me up; what a surprise! I went back to Simply Food and got sweet chili chicken & butternut squash salad, a prawn layered salad and a container of mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes! It wasn’t until I got through half of the food did I realize that I went a little too over zealous with the salads! I just got enough food to feed a family of four! I don’t know if anyone is paying the slightest attention to me here. It’s quite a scene with me surrounded by my luggage and three big open containers of salads and milk. I’m rather amused myself.
Although I wish I had more time to live here in order to get a better understanding of the culture and people, not to mention the language, I have done a lot in a month. I feel pleasantly satisfied like as if I just had few light tapas. I have samples plenty of sights in less than month but it will take longer to digest them all. Now I must take a step back to reflect on my travels. Strip away from the photos and guidebooks,
I’m I love and it makes me happy.
Now my tommy is tapa-ed out and my bank account is tapped out it’s time to go home, rest, work and practice.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
While waiting for the restaurant to open at 1 I made a quick stop at the Conde shop and got a price list for their guitars. It looked like a typical menu…yes, I would like to have the spruce top with Brazilian Rosewood for the back and side please.
Our last paella together at La Paella Real Restaurante near Plaza de la Opera was wonderful. I got Dayna and me two matching necklaces from
I didn’t really care to see the royal palace as it looked rather plain on the outside. My sole intention was to have a peek at the music room which houses the only matching Stradivarius quartet: 2 violins, a viola and a cello. Unfortunately it was closed for the day so we didn’t bother to go in.
Monday, May 28, 2007
A visit to
The main part of the trip for me was to see the cathedral. I’ve been hearing and reading so much about it before I landed in
The cathedral’s sacristy is a mini Prado with 18 paintings by El Greco and few others from Goya, Titian and Velazquez.
I was very glad to have stopped by the
Surely many wars have been fought in the name of God, but where would El Greco be without god, or Bach, or Raphael, or Michelangelo. It’s almost impossible to stand in the massive cathedrals surrounded with paintings depicting stories from the bible and believe that god doesn’t exist.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I went to see Carmen this evening, not an opera but a Broadway flamenco version. I’m always leery of going to these shows since they’re often made for tourists, but the tickets were half off so I thought I’d give it a try. There were no live music and the recording they played was awful enough that I had to come back to listen to some Callas to erase them from my head. The dancing had nothing to do with flamenco. The opera didn’t have much to do with flamenco either. I don’t think Bizet had even set his foot in
Saturday, May 26, 2007
We headed back to the buffet for lunch even though this is the city to be in for some really amazing grilled fish. We stayed in most of the day and watched High Fidelity and 40-Year-Old Virgin with a nice guy from
Lisboa is so old, some people call it antique. I think it’s a bit too antique for my taste. Now we’re getting ready to leave for our over night bus to
Friday, May 25, 2007
Most of the excitement came in the evening when I found out about the on-going Lisboa Tango Festival and that my favorite band Colortango will be playing at the milonga tonight. From the map, the milonga couldn’t have been more than a 10-minute walk away, but after wondering around for 15 minutes in the dark I was completely hopeless. When I finally track down a young man for directions he insisted that I wait for the tram instead of walking by myself at night. Once boarded the tram, I looked around for people with shoe bags, luckily a nice German lady took me in with her group.
This is the first real milonga I’ve been to since BA, they even operated on an Argentine schedule by starting the milonga a hour late. As I talked to the German lady she informed me that people didn’t switch partners and her group had to rotate amongst themselves. What a great way to prep me up. We finally got into the place around midnight and after waiting around for few songs people started to slowly fill up the dance floor. There was also a very old Argentine DJ who played from tapes and talked during and between songs! It didn’t take long before a nice gentleman walked over to invite me to dance. Two tandas later I found out that he’s actually from
Later I was really proud of myself for walking home without even opening my map. After a good 20-minute walk 5 in the morning I thought I was safe back in the hostel until the front desk guy tried to kiss me. Yuck, what is wrong with people!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Since we were there already, I had to poke my head into the cathedral and found Vasco de Gama's tomb inside.
The afternoon was spent with more naps on a smaller red tram tour but the rough ride going up and down the slops startled me every now and then. At one point near the end of the tour I looked around and noticed that a good half of the people were dosing off as well. There was a stunning Italian lady with Audrey Hepburn eyes who I probably spent more time looking at then the whole Lisboa. She humored us by tickling her husband in his sleep. After going back to the hostel I took a shower and completely passed out by 8pm. Making it the second 12-hour sleep I’ve got on this trip.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
For centuries Sevilla has been the capital of Andalucia and the artistic, cultural, financial center of southern
I started my morning with the 10am service at the Cathedral. Although tourists were only allowed to hangout around the back entrance I was still glad to be there. The organ, complete with 7,000 pipes, was played very briefly during the service. Since the voice was being amplified with speakers throughout the Cathedral when the organ started the sound wasn’t as big as I had expected. Of course, it wasn’t been played at full blast with trumpet stops and all (that would have been a treat). Still, I could feel the vibration of the low pedals and hear the resonance in the Cathedral. It was rather difficult to make out what the priests where singing standing behind the choir. Whatever it was, they’re no Vienna Boys Choir.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The day started with endless waiting at the bus stop. First hour was spent waiting for the bus to Chiclana central, and then another hour of waiting for the bus to Sevilla. When it finally came in the rain it had already reached its capacity. The next bus from Chiclana was 5 in the afternoon, that’s 5 more hours at the bus stop! With very little patience left I re-routed our connection to
We finally checked into our hostel by 4 in the afternoon and went straight to the Cathedral thinking that it was free on Sunday. It wasn’t until we got to the ticket office to find out the good lord is making money even on Sundays now. Luckily we got in for only 2 euros with our student discount. The interior is very similar to the cathedral in
No trip to Spain is complete without seeing the Corrida del Toro. Sevilla, being one of the more traditional cities, still hold bullfights on most Sundays and holidays. The event took place in Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, which is said to be one of the most handsome and important bullrings in Spain and probably the oldest beginning building in 1758. We got to the ring just in time to get our tickets and find our seats, which happened to by right next to a guy we met in
“The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct parts or tercios,start of each announced by a trumpet sound. The participants first enter the arena in a parade to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 18th century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by their spectacular "suit of lights" (traje de luces).
Next, the bull enters the ring to be tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote, or dress cape.
In the first stage, the tercio de varas ("lances third"), the matador first confronts the bull and observes his behavior in an initial section called suerte de capote. Next, two picadores enter the arena on horseback, each armed with a lance or varas. The picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull's neck, which lowers its blood pressure, so that the enraged bull does not have a heart attack. The bull's charging and trying to lift the picador's horse with its neck muscles also weakens its massive neck and muscles.
In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("banderillas third"), the three banderilleros each attempt to plant two barbed sticks on the bull's flanks. These further weaken the enormous ridges of neck and shoulder muscle through loss of blood, while also frequently spurring the bull into making more ferocious charges.
In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("death third"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape (muleta) and a sword. He uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, both demonstrating his control over it and risking his life by getting especially close to it. The faena ("work") is the entire performance with the muleta, which is usually broken down into a series of "tandas" or "series". The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a muleta attempts to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada. The bull's body is dragged out by a set of galloping mules.”
I guess in a way the whole thing was a little less extravagant and gory than I had imagined. Everything from the bullfighters’ colorful and shinny costumes to the carefully choreographed steps and gestures making the event seem more like a ceremonial play. It is truly a form of art rather than merely few macho men killing bulls. I’m very glad to have taken a friend’s suggest to witness such special event.
By 9:30 we have not eaten anything all day other than a scope of ice cream. I’m usually crazy about food but not when it comes in conflict exploring new cities. I don’t want Dayna to think that she’s traveling with the food nazi so we walked quickly to a nearby restaurant for a much needed dinner. I finally broke my fish and calamari diet with some spicy sausages and potato pancakes. They were very overpriced but tasty. It’s hard to believe that I haven’t eaten any meat since I started my trip with the exception of a small bit of chicken occasionally mixed in with the paellas. This is turning out to be a very healthy trip with good diet and lots of walking.
After coming back to the hostel and reading about how Rose have been frequenting the milonga until 6 in the morning still I felt the need to go tango! To make the day more productive I got dressed and took my tango shoes for a walk. I only stayed for 20 minutes since it wasn’t very busy. A nice gentleman came to ask for a dance as soon as I putted my shoes on, which rarely happens at a new milonga. After we danced a tanda, he led me to his friend, who turned out to be a very good dancer, for some more dancing. As I sat down for a break and friendly woman came over to talk to me about the milongas in Sevilla and invited me to come back on Wednesday night. Tango people are usually pretty nice but I’ve never met so many friendly people at the milonga in such short period of time! It was well worth the 30 minutes of walking just to be able to meet the nice people and say that I have tangoed in Sevilla.
Now time for bed. More exploring tomorrow.
Friday, May 18, 2007
This is a perfect stop during the middle of the trip to rest, relax and recharge our batteries before heading out to Sevilla, Lisboa and
Ok, I’m going to study for a bit and then go out for dinner. Yes, studying…history of Spanish music. I brought two books with me from the Sibley library. It’s nice to have them especially now that I have no ipod to entertain me on the buses. I also like the fact that I’m carrying a tiny piece of Eastman with me everywhere I go.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
We started the tour with a drive through the Beverly Hills of Tangier where all the rich diplomats live, nice houses with even nicer views. The camel ride was followed by walk through the markets and streets of Tangier. We had couscous for lunch accompanied by some local musicians on the Arabian lute and violin played like the cello (very much like the Chinese Arhu). The afternoon was mostly spent going to stores. We had a rug show and a pharmacy presentation, which turned out to be very entertaining.
On the lesser exciting side, I did my laundry today for 5euros. Whenever on the road, free wifi and clean laundry are always luxuries!
Ironically, the ferry from
“A short-lived, high-speed passenger/vehicle ferry across
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
After arrival, we booked a tour to Tanger for tomorrow and grab a quick meal nearby. The restaurant had a good description for Tarifa on the menu:
“Most of the cultures that formed the history of the Western world have passed through these lands and waters: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Goths, Moors – they have all left their marks. Some settled for centuries, and others made brief attempts to do so. Nowadays, the southern tip of Continental Europe plays host to a very different array of travelers who come to experience its winds, beaches and local culture. Here lies Tarifa, the southern-most point in
I had no idea this place was so WINDY! We were very excited to see the gorgeous beaches but as soon as we got off the bus we knew that’s out of the questions. The wind was so strong we could barely walk down the street with our luggage. The beach will have to wait until we get to
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Guitarists are by far the best people ever! It was tempting to get a guitar here with so many good makers right around the corner from where I am staying. Visited Ferrer and Raya's shops this afternoon. Unfortunately, Raya didn't have any finished Torres models for sale. Actually, he didn't have any finished guitars in the shop!
The Torres model was first built by Antonio de Torres Jurado, who made guitars for many famous players in his days including Francisco Tarrega. During some point of the mid 1800s, Torres lived in
Raya seem to be a very warm person. Somehow we carried on a conversation for quite a while even though he didn't speak English and my Spanish is strictly limited to ordering at the restaurant and asking for directions. He told me about his trips to
Thank Allah it didn't happen to me!
I think Trend articulates this idea very well in his book Picture of Modern Spain:
Later in the afternoon we visited the Royal Chapel where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, the founders of
Monday, May 14, 2007
According to the Rick Steve's Guide: "the
Sunday, May 13, 2007
The afternoon was very hot so we wandered into the fine art museum to take advantage of the air condition and free Sunday admission. Although much smaller, it’s very similar to the