Segovia in 2017

I’ve been to Segovia a few times over the years, and every time I’ve been, the provincial capital city of 56,000 residents impresses me as much as the first time. He visitado a Segovia varias veces a lo largo de los años, y cada vez que he estado, la capital de provincia (tiene 56.000 habitantes) me impresiona tanto como la primera vez.

One of my favourite professors from university was leading a study abroad program in Segovia this semester, and I went to visit him while I was passing through the area on my way to Lisboa. Uno de mis profesores preferidos de la universidad estaba en cargo de un programa de estudiar en extranjero en Segovia esta semestre, y fui a visitarle mientras estaba de paso en la zona por el camino a Lisboa. 

The original name of the city was “Segobriga” in the Celtiberian language. “Sego” means “victory” and “briga” means “city”, so now I wonder what the original people won at to get the city named “City of Victory”. El nombre original de la ciudad era “Segobriga” en el idioma celtibérico. “Sego” significa “victoria” y “briga” significa “ciudad”, entonces, ahora quiero saber que ganaba los colonizadores habían ganado para recibir el nombre “Ciudad de la Victoria”. 

The city is attractive to tourists due to its proximity to Madrid (it’s an hour bus ride) and due to its amazingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct and fortress Alcázar de Segovia, which supposedly inspired Walt Disney. The Alcázar was where Queen Isabella was crowned in 1474. Even the 1967 film Camelot used it as a stand-in for the French home of  Sir Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard. La ciudad se atrae turistas dado a su proximidad a Madrid (tarda una hora por autobús) y dado a su bien conversado acueducto romano y su alcázar bonito que se dice inspiró a Walt Disney. La Reina Católica Isabel fue coronada allí en 1474. Incluso la película de 1967 Camelot usó el alcázar como la casa francesa de Don Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard.

The city also has a spectacular cathedral and old city walls, giving the town a bit of everything. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 1985. La ciudad también tiene una catedral espectacular y murallas antiguas. La ciudad tiene un poco de todo. Ha sido Patrimonio de la Humanidad (UNESCO) DESDE 1985. 

This time around, I arrived around 10:30 and met up with my professor. He showed me where the students had classes and where they had called home for the past three months, and I reminisced on my own study abroad experience in Toledo in 2003. En este viaje, llegué sobre las 10.30 y quedé con mi profesor. Me enseñó donde los alumnos tenían clases y el sitio que sirvió como su casa durante los últimos tres meses. Me acordé de mi propia experiencia de estudiar en extranjero en Toledo en 2003. 

The first stop on the stroll through town was the aqueduct, which dates back to the first century AD. We walked through town, seeing the cathedral, alcázar and views of the surrounding countryside. It’s always better to see a place through the eyes of someone who has spent a lot of time there, and it gave me a better experience this time around. La primera parada en el paseo por la ciudad era el acueducto, que fue construido en Siglo I d.C. Paseamos por la ciudad, parando en la catedral, el alcázar y para ver vistas del paisaje próximo de la capital. Siempre es mejor ver un sitio por los ojos de alguien que ha vivido allí, y me daba una mejor experiencia esta vez. 

I don’t know when my next visit to Segovia will be, as I hadn’t been since 2013. It is a place worth visiting more than once as each visit has shown me something new. No sé cuando será la próxima visita a Segovia, como no he estado desde 2013. Es un sitio que merece la pena visitar más que una vez como cada visita me ha mostrado algo nuevo. 

El Alcázar.

Semana Santa 2017

Castelo do Lousã

It’s been a great week on the road, and I’m happy to report I am back from Portugal after a fantastic few days. Now it means I have to get busy writing about my adventures, which will appear in more detail over the next few weeks. This week, I have a tribute to the anniversary of the bombings in Gernika (Guernica) set to publish, but starting next Monday, the Semana Santa adventure of 2017 will be published with further detail! Lo he pasado bien viajando, y me alegro poder decir que he llegado bien a València después de unos días fantásticos en Portugal. Ahora me toca escribir sobre las aventuras con más detalle durante las semanas que viene. Este semana, tengo planificado un homenaje a Gernika como es el aniversario del bombardero trágico el 26. El lunes que viene ya empeceré publicar las aventuras de Semana Santa 2017 con más detalle.

This week, though, an overview. Esta semana, un resumén. 

The trip started out on Thursday the 13th, which is neither a bad omen in Spain or the US (martes 13/Friday the 13th). I caught a BlaBlaCar to Madrid and stayed with a friend. Empecé el viaje jueves el 13, que no es un día maldito ni en España o los EEUU (es martes 13 o viernes 13). Cogí un BlaBlaCar a Madrid y me alojé con un amigo. 

Friday I went back to Segovia to visit one of my two favourite professors who was in charge of a study abroad program there this semester. It was a great visit to the historic city, even if there were tourists everywhere (being Semana Santa, I knew what I was getting myself into though). Viernes, fui a Segovia para visitar uno de mis profesores preferidos de la universidad. Está en cargo de un programa de estudiar en extranjero este semestre. Era una gran visita a la ciudad histórica, aunque estaba llena de turistas. Como era Semana Santa, estaba anticipándolo. 

Saturday I caught the bus from Madrid (Estación Sur) to Lisboa (Oriente). I have now arrived to Lisbon by plane, train and coach, and I’ve also travelled across two of the cities bridges over the Río Tajo (Tejo in Portuguese, translated to Tagus in Portugal but left as Tajo in Spain. My Spanish soul says Tajo.) Sábado, cogí el autobús de Madrid (Estación Sur) a Lisboa (Oriente). Ahora he llegado a Lisboa por avión, tren y autobús, y he cruzado dos de los puentes de la ciudad por el Río Tajo (Tejo en portugués). 

Lisbon was fantastic as always, and I was left wanting more as always. However, Sunday afternoon, after my BlaBlaCar cancelled on me, I went to the Sete Rios bus station to head to Coímbra. I saw Fátima from the bus, and I am glad I didn’t go there in the end as it appeared to be a huge tourist trap. Lisboa era fantástico como siempre, y me dejaba con ganas de más, como siempre. Sin embargo, después de una cancelación de BlaBlaCar, fui a la estación de Sete Rios para coger un autobús a Coímbra. Vi Fátima desde el autobus, y me alegré no lo haber visitado como parecía un gancho para turistas. 

Sunset over Coímbra

I stayed two nights in Coímbra, which is a university city filled with history and gorgeous views. On Monday, I went for a hike in the Serra de Lousã through the Aldeias do Xisto (villages made of slate) before discovering more of Coímbra’s magic. Me quedé dos noches en Coímbra, que es una ciudad universitaria llena de historia y vistas preciosas. Lunes, hice una ruta por la Serra de Lousã por los Aldeias do Xisto (Aldeas de Pizarra) antes de descubrir mejor la magia de Coímbra. 

(O) Porto

Tuesday was a return to Porto, where I had been in 2009 and is one of the most amazing cities the Greatest Peninsula in the World has to offer. It was my second visit, so I thought I’d be okay with only a night there. Turns out, I wanted more time for this beautiful river city. Martes era una vuelta a Oporto, donde fui en 2009 y es una de las ciudades más impresionantes de la Mejor Península del Mundo. Era mi segunda visita, y pensaba que estaría contento con solo una noche allí. Bueno…quería más tiempo por disfrutar de la ciudad por el río Douro. (el Duero en España). 

I obviously survived another on-time flight with Ryan Air, the one company grateful to United Airlines for making them look better! (Everyone in Europe has a love-hate relationship with the airline. OMG 20€ FLIGHTS oh wait Ryan Air how much can we fit in this hand luggage?) Sobreviví otro vuelo que llegó a tiempo con Ryan Air, la única compañía agradecido a United Airlines porque ahora Ryan Air parece mejor que alguien. Todos tenemos una relación de amor-odio con Ryan Air en Europa. Oooh, ¡Un vuelo por solo 20 Euros! Espera…es Ryan Air. Bueno, ¿cuánto cabe en este equipaje de mano? 

A great trip, and I look forward to reliving it here. Stay tuned! Un viaje genial, y me da ilusión vivirlo otra vez aquí. A continuación. 

All Good Things Come to an End: Gijón, Oviedo and León.

My Camino del Norte Adventure 2016 was coming to an end, and I had to get back to Valencia somehow. Mi aventura del Camino del Norte de 2016 estaba terminando, y ahora tenía que volver a Valencia.

Tuesday morning, I slept in to around 7:00, and most everyone had already left the albergue. The Riojano and I were going to go to Gijón together after having breakfast at the Peregrino Friendly Hotel. We saw a lot of peregrinos who were calling it quits that day, which is why I say La Isla is cursed. Martes, dormí hasta las 7.00, y casí todos ya se habían ido del albergue cuando me desperté. El Riojano y yo teníamos planes para ir a Gijón juntos después de desayunar en el hotel que era peregrino-friendly. Vimos muchos peregrinos que estaban dejando el Camino por el año, y por eso digo que La Isla tiene una maldición. 

The bus to Gijón didn’t take too long, and my friend and I walked through the streets, looking for my bank to finally get cash. Next stop was Old Town and the Eulogy to the Horizon monument designed by Eduardo Chillida. Gijón is a city 276, 473 residents located on the Cantabrian Sea. There is a nice church on the sea. El autobús a Gijón no tardó mucho tiempo, y mi amigo y yo paseamos por las calles, buscando mi banco para poder sacar dinero. Después era el Casco Viejo y la Elogio al Horizonte de Eduardo Chillida. Gijón es una ciudad de 276.473 habitantes situado en el Mar Cantábrico. Hay una iglesia bonita por la playa.

I had previously visited in 2011, and my opinion stayed the same. Gijón is okay, but I prefer Oviedo. After wandering around all morning, we caught the bus to the capital of Asturias, Oviedo, population 222, 917. I nearly moved to Oviedo last year, but in the end, the job went with someone else. Oviedo is, for me at least, somewhat similar to Bilbao. Ya había visitado Gijón en 2011, y mi opinión queda lo mismo. Gijón no está mal, pero prefiero Oviedo. Después de explorar toda la mañana, cogemos el autobús a la capital de Asturias, Oviedo, población 222.917. Casi me trasladé a Oviedo el año pasado, pero al final, el trabajo fue con otro candidato. Para mi, Oviedo es bastante parecido a Bilbao.

I had been to Oviedo in 2011 and 2012, so this time I rested up, recovering from my cold/heat stroke, drinking lots of water. I had a cheap lunch, went to my AirBNB, took a siesta, showered, explored trying to find my fave plaza (The Umbrella Square/Plaza del Paraguas). I had dinner with my friend, trying patatas al cabrales (the famous cheese from Cabrales, Asturias) and another pintxo and sidra, the famous Asturian cider. Había estado en Oviedo antes en 2011 y 2012, y por eso, esta vez descansé, recuperando de mi mezcla de resfriado/insolación, bebiendo mucho agua. Comí barato, fui a mi AirBNB, dormí una siesta, me duché y después fui explorando, buscando mi plaza favorita (la Plaza de Paraguas). Cené con mi amigo, probando patatas al cabrales (el queso de Cabrales, Asturias) y un pinxto y la famosa sidra asturiano. 

Wednesday morning, I woke up to a grey day. I explored a bit more, finally finding my plaza, playing with a German Shepherd, and in general just taking it easy. I had an early lunch (at 13.00!) before catching the 14:00 bus to León. The scenery between Oviedo and León is spectacular. El miércoles, me desperté a un día gris. Exploré un rato más, por fin encontré mi plaza, jugué con un pastor alemán, todo tranquilo. Comí pronto (a las 13.00!) antes de coger el autobús a las 14:00 a León. El paisaje entre Oviedo y León es espectacular. 

Upon arrival to León, I went to the same AirBNB where I had stayed last December. I went to the Cathedral and sat and wrote a while, watching the peregrinos from another Camino (the Camino Francés), although there wasn’t that many. It was a hot day so they were probably all resting. Después de llegar a León, fui al mismo AirBNB donde me alojé el diciembre pasado. Fui a la Catedral y me senté para escribir un rato, mirando los pocos peregrinos de otro Camino, el Camino Francés (no había muchos). Era un día caloroso, y entonces probablemente todos estaban descansando. 

I didn’t have a lot of time in León (population 127,817 and metropolitan population of 202,793) this time around, but it’s always a nice city to see. Especially the Cathedral. No tenía mucho tiempo en León (población 127.817, población metropolitana de 202.793), pero siempre es una ciudad bonita, especialmente la Catedral. 

The next morning I caught an uneventful, long BlaBlaCar back to Valencia that dropped me off close to my new house in Valencia. La próxima mañana, cogí un BlaBlaCar a Valencia que me dejó cerca a mi casa nueva en Valencia. 

The Camino adventure was over for 2016, but I had a new adventure awaiting me in my new home, Valencia. I was more than ready to start building my life in Valencia. La aventura del Camino había terminado por 2016, pero tenía una aventura nueva esperandome en mi nuevo hogar, Valencia. Estaba muy listo para construir mi vida nueva valenciana. Visca València!

A continuación.

 

Spanish Road Trip II. Electric Boogaloo.

road trip 3

It was another grey Monday morning in Bilbao. I awoke with nerves. Today was the day. I was leaving my home for the past three years for good. I caught the tram, using up the last of the money on my Barrik (Bilbao/Vizcaya’s transport card) to head to the car rental place. Era otro lunes gris bilbaíno, como tantos que he vivido en el pasado. Me despertaba con nervios. Hoy era el día. Iba a despedirme de mi hogar durante tres años para siempre. Cogí el tranvía, usando el último dinero que quedaba en mi Barrik (la tarjeta de transporte de Bilbao y Vizcaya) para ir a alquiler un coche. 

The car they gave me was a Mini Cooper. I was going to drive to Valencia in style! Wait, I had to return to ask the desk agent how the car started. It was complicated. Me dio un Mini Cooper. ¡Iba a conducir a Valencia con estilo! Espera…tenía que volver a preguntar como arrancar el coche. Oye, fue complicado. 

road trip 8

It took me about an hour to pack up the rest of my stuff. Three years without moving meant three years of accumulating stuff. I said my “agur” to Tango, the growling German Shepherd Dog, and set off on my way. Me tardó una hora para poner el resto de mis cosas en el coche. Tres años sin mudarme de casa significa tres años de acumular cosas. Dije agur al Tango, el pastor aleman gruñón, y me marché. 

road trip 7

I drove through the back roads of Vizcaya and Álava, once being ushered aside so a bike parade could go through (Euskadi is different) , and I stopped by a reservoir to take a few photos. Fui por las carreteras de Vizcaya y Álava. En un pueblo, tenía que parar un rato mientras pasaba un desfile de bicicletas (Euskadi is different). Me paré a lado de un embalse para hacer fotos. 

road trip 6

My first stop was a village I had admired from afar for a long time, Pancorbo (Burgos). The village of 453 habitants (2015) is located 95 kilometres (59 miles) south of Bilbao and is located in some interestingly cut mountains and rock formations. The village itself is beautiful, and I had a relaxing café con leche in their plaza mayor before buying some water and continuing on my way. La primera parada era un pueblo que había admirado desde lejos durante mucho tiempo, Pancorbo (Burgos). El pueblo de 453 habitantes (2015) está ubicado a 95 kilometros de Bilbao en unos montes y formaciónes de roca intersantes. El pueblo en sí también es bonito, y me tomé un relaxing café con leche en su plaza mayor antes de comprarme una botella de agua y seguir por el camino. 

road trip 5

My next stop was a village I had been dying to see for some time: Laguardia. Located in the heart of La Rioja Alavesa (the Basque part of the Rioja wine region), Laguardia is a beautiful medieval village of 1520 residents located 64 km (39 miles) from the Álava capital Vitoria and 17 km (10 miles) from Logroño, the capital of La Rioja. It’s famous for its Bodegas Ysios, designed by Santiago Calatrava. It also is home of Bodegas Campillo. La próxima parada era un pueblo que había querido visitar durante mucho tiempo: Laguardia. Situado en el corazón de La Rioja Alavesa (la parte vasca de la región del vino de La Rioja), Laguardia es un pueblo precioso medieval que cuenta con 1520 habitantes. Está a 64 kilometros de Vitoria-Gasteiz y 17 kilometros de Logroño, Es famoso por sus Bodegas Ysios, diseñado por Santiago Calatrava. También es el hogar de Bodegas Campillo.

road trip 1

I had lunch (too expensive, but it was the day of Santiago and a holiday for much of Spain) and walked around the village for a bit before getting back in the car. Comí (como era Euskadi en el día de Santiago, era demasiado caro) y paseé por el pueblo antes de volver al coche. 

road trip 2

There were more villages I had wanted to see, but time was escaping me. I made the plan to stop after Zaragoza to fuel up, but the gas/petrol stations were few and far between. I finally stopped, dying to use the toilet (all that water and café con leche), fueled up and rested a bit at the restaurant somewhere close to Teruel. Había más pueblos que quería ver, pero el tiempo estaba escapándome. Decidí parar por gasolina después de Zaragoza, pero no había muchas gasolineras. Por fin paré, a punto de orinarme, di gasolina al pobre coche y descansé un rato en un restaurante cerca de Teruel. 

The territory is desolate between Zaragoza and Valencia, but beautiful. I enjoyed the scenery and arrived to Valencia City about 21:15 (9:15 pm) and went to unload the car in the storage unit I rented until I found a place.  El paisaje es desolado entre Zaragoza y Valencia, pero bonito. Disfruté del paisaje y llegué a Valencia Capital sobre 21.15 y fui a descargar el coche al trastero que aquilé hasta encontraba una habitación para vivir. 

I returned the car the next morning with no problems…or so I thought. A week later, I received an email. Apparently in that desolate stretch between Zaragoza and Valencia, I forgot to pay attention to the speedometer. I got my first Spanish speeding ticket. I paid it right away so I would only have to pay 50€ instead of 100€. I own it. I just curse the radar! Devolví el coche la próxima mañana sin problemas…o pensaba. Una semana después, recibí un email. En esta etapa desolada entre Zaragoza y Valencia, no hice caso al velocímetro. Recibí mi primera multa de correr española. La pagué enseguida para solo pagar 50€ en lugar de 100€. Sí, corrí. Solo maldigo el radar. (Viví en Euskadi. Sé muchas maldiciones.) 

It was a great road trip, and I would love to go on even more road trips through Spain, exploring the beautiful small villages and countryside that are the heart of the country. Era un viaje chulo, y me encantaría viajar más por coche por España, explorando los pueblos bonitos y paisajes preciosos que están al corazón del país. 

Until then…there is the Camino…Hasta entonces…hay el Camino. 

road trip 4

 

My Spanish Road Trip

    Spanish Road Trip! 041

While I am working at a summer camp for most of the summer before my final move from Bilbao to Valencia, I’ll be taking some time to write about past holidays or experiences that haven’t been written about here. Mientras estoy trabajando en un campus de inglés durante el verano antes de la mudanza final de Bilbao a Valencia, voy a escribir sobre vacaciones y experiencias de que no he escrito antes aquí.  

In 2013, when I moved from Madrid to Bilbao, I did something I hadn’t done before. I rented a car and drove from Madrid to Bilbao (as I will be driving from Bilbao to Valencia soon.) En 2013, cuando me trasladé desde Madrid a Bilbao, hice algo que nunca había hecho antes. Aquilé un coche y conducí desde Madrid a Bilbao (como voy a conducir desde Bilbao a Valencia pronto.)

Spanish Road Trip! 020

After fighting with the rental car agency all morning, I finally was given the car I reserved and packed it up, leaving three hours later than I had intended. I nearly died merging on the Madrid motorways, which is thankfully one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had. Después de discutir con la compañía de coches toda la mañana, por fin me dieron el coche que tenía reservado y puse todas mis cosas dentro de ello. Me marché tres horas después que tenía pensando. Casí me morí intentando entrar la autovía de Madrid, una de las experiencias de más miedo que he tenido en la vida.

Spanish Road Trip! 034

The advantage to driving was I could make my own itinerary, which I did. My first stop was the lovely but small Pedraza in the province of Segovia. I was looking for a place to eat, but there was nothing open in my budget. I walked through the small town and had a relaxing café con leche in their plaza mayor. It was a great visit with great views, but it was short. Lo mejor de conducir es poder parar donde quisiera, que lo hice. Mi primera parada era el pueblo encantador pero pequeño Pedraza en la provincia de Segovia. Estaba buscando un sitio para comer, pero no había nada abierta en el presupuesto. Pasé por el pueblo al pie y me tomé un relaxing café con leche en su Plaza Mayor. Era una buena visita con buenas vistas, pero era una visita corta. 

Spanish Road Trip! 019

I got back in my car and continued driving to Sepúlveda, an even more beautiful village (to me at least). I had lunch here and walked through the quaint streets for a while. It was a late lunch but a good one, and the town was closed up for siesta. I saw what I could. Volví al coche y seguí conduciendo hasta Sepúlveda, un pueblo aún más bonito (para mi, al menos). Comí en el pueblo y pasé por las calles pintorescas. Comí tarde pero comí bien, y todo el pueblo estaba cerrado durante la siesta. Vi lo que pude. 

Spanish Road Trip! 006

My final stop along the way was the Burgos city of Aranda de Duero. It was a typical small city of Castilla y León, but it had the Duero. I didn’t stay here long as it was already around 17:30 and I wanted to get to Bilbao before dark. I was originally going to visit Haro in La Rioja too, but I postponed that for another trip that I did by bus. La última parada durante el camino era la ciudad de Burgos Aranda de Duero. Es una ciudad pequeña típica de Castilla y León, pero al menos tenía el Duero. No quedé durante mucho tiempo como ya era las 17.30 y quería llegar a Bilbao antes de anochecer. 

Spanish Road Trip! 077

After Burgos, wanting to avoid the toll roads between Burgos capital and Bilbao, capital of the world, I took the scenic back roads. And the scenic route was definitely that. It took forever, it seemed, and I stopped for another coffee around 19:30 in the north of Burgos. The waiter said I still had about 45 minutes to Bilbao. Después de Burgos, quería evitar pagar los peajes entre Burgos capital y Bilbao, capital del mundo, fui por las carreteras escénicas. La ruta escénica era bonito. Parecía durar mucho tiempo, y tenía que parar para otro café con leche sobre las 19.30 en el norte de Burgos. El camarero me informó que me quedaban 45 minutos hasta Bilbao. 

Spanish Road Trip! 084

I crossed the border between Burgos and Vizcaya, and everything seemed to change. Everything seemed greener. It wasn’t raining, and it was a rare 40º day for the north coast. Crucé la frontera entre Burgos y Vizcaya y todo cambió. Todo estaba más verde. No estaba lloviendo, y hizo 40º grados, algo super raro en el norte. 

There is something I love about a road trip, being behind the wheel and the open road ahead of me. I cannot wait to my next road trip from Bilbao to València! Coming soon! I’m hoping to hit up Nacimiento del Nervión, Frías, Laguardia and Tudela on this route, and maybe Sos del Rey Católico and Albarracín. Hay algo especial sobre un viaje de coches, conduciendo y la carretera abierta enfrente de mi. Tengo ganas para el próximo road trip, desde Bilbao hasta València! Próximamente. Espero poder visitar el Nacimiento del Nervión, Frías, Laguardia y Tudela…y si tengo suerte, Sos del Rey Católico y Albarracín.

Village facts:

Pedraza: Located 37 kilometres from Segovia, the village has 467 inhabitants according to 2011 figures. It has a walled city centre and has been a Conjunto Histórico since 1951. Está ubicado unos 37 kilometros de Segovia y cuenta con 467 habitantes, según las cifras de 2011. El centro es amurallado y fue declardo Cojunto Histórico desde 1951.

Spanish Road Trip! 030

Sepúlveda: 54 kilometres from Segovia, Sepúlveda is a bit bigger with 1193 residents as of 2014. It’s known for its gastronomy and mountain views. A 54 kilometros de Segovia, Sepúlveda es un poco más grande con 1193 habitantes (2014). Es conocido por su gastronomia y vistas del monte. 

Aranda de Duero. With its 33,000 residents, Aranda de Duero is the capital of the Ribera del Duero wine region. It’s located at the crossroads of a few important mortorways. Con sus 33.000 residentes, Arando de Duero es la capital del región de vino Ribera del Duero. Está situado en la cruce de unos autovías importantes. 

The trip to the Black Lagoon.

DSCN2102Growing up, The Teacher from the Black Lagoon series by Mike Thaler and Jared Lee were some of my favourite books. I was (and still am) unaware of The Creature from the Black Lagoon series. Until I wrote the Setmeravelles entry for Soria, I never knew it really existed and was a place in Spain. Since last year, I’ve been dying to go. Cuando era un niño, me encanta la serie de libros de Mike Thaler y Jared Lee, El profesor de la Laguna Negra. No sabía nada (y todavía no sé nada) de la serie La Criatura de la Laguna Negra. Hasta que escribí la entrada de las Set Meravelles de Soria, no sabía que existe de verdad y era un sitio real en España. Desde entonces, he tenido muchas ganas ir a la Laguna Negra.

I’m still a bit sceptical of tour groups, but when I saw an advertisement from Viajes Premium Explorer for two of my undiscovered wonders of Soria, I immediately knew I had to go. Tour groups are still not my favourite way of travel, but sometimes they’re a necessary evil, and this one isn’t so bad. Todavía estoy algo escéptico de grupos de turismo, pero cuando vi un anuncio de Viajes Premium Explorer que incluyó dos de mis maravillas desconocidas de la provincia de Soria, sabía que tenía que apuntarme. Todavía no me gustan tanto los grupos grandes de turismo, pero a veces hay que hacer algo que no quieres para aprovechar bien una oferta. 

DSCN2239

On Sunday, 10 April, I woke up too early to make it to Termibus at the departure time of 7 a.m. Yawn. I got some sleep in on the bus and awoke to some beautiful countryside in La Rioja on the way to Soria, a province in Castilla y León. Domingo, el 10 de abril, me desperté demasiado pronto para ir a Termibus antes de la hora de 7.00 de la mañana. Estaba bostezando. Dormí algo en el autobús y me desperté a paisaje bonito riojano por el camino a Soria, una provincia de Castilla y León.

DSCN2034

We stopped for a coffee-toilet break, but the place was closed. I stretched my legs anyway. We lucked out and found a place open in a village in La Rioja. The poor village hostal was overworked by a bus full of Basques and one Euskovalencianoyanki. The café con leche and beautiful views helped me to wake up a bit. Hicimos una parada para tomar un café y ir al baño, pero el bar estaba cerrado. Me bajé de autobús para estirar las piernas. Tuvimos suerte porque había un bar abierto en el próximo pueblo. El pobre hostal estaba agobiado por nosotros, un autobús lleno de vascos y un euskovalencianoyanki. El café con leche y vistas bonitas me despertaron un poco. 

DSCN2125

A little while later, we finally arrived at the Laguna Negra. I was excited and surprised to find it frozen over. A lagoon that is supposedly bottomless covered with snow and ice. (In Spain in April no less. These are the mountains!) There was a beautiful waterfall nearby that hadn’t frozen over, and the snow gave it a magical feeling. I would like to return with drier weather. Unos minutos después, llegamos en la Laguna Negra. Me emocioné y me sorprendí ver la laguna helada. Un laguna que dicen que no tiene fondo helado y cubierto de nieve y hielo. (En España en el mes de abril. ¡Son las montañas! Había una cascada preciosa que no estaba helada, y la nieve dio al sitio un sentimiento de magia. Me gustaría verlo sin nieve un día. 

DSCN2131

It is a 2 kilometre hike from the parking lot, but the bus was able to meet us for the way back down. We had about an hour and a half to explore it. The lagoon was formed by glaciers, much like the Great Lakes, and is located high in the mountains. Está a unos dos kilometros del parking, pero el autobús nos recogió en un parking más cerca de la laguna. Tuvimos una hora y media para explorar. La laguna fue creado por los glaciares, como los Lagos Grandes, y está ubicado en las montañas. 

DSCN2204

Next stop was the beautiful Cañón del Río Lobos (Wolf River Canyon). I hadn’t heard of it, not even in my research for Soria province and its set meravelles, so it was definitely an unexpected surprise. It may not be impressive to someone who lives near the Grand Canyon, but as I was only on the Northern Rim once when I was 10, I was easily impressed. Próxima parada fue el bonito Cañón del Río Lobos. No sabía de ello antes, ni en mi investigación para la provincia de Soria y sus set meravelles, y era una sorpresa bienvenida. Igual no sería tan impresionante para alguien de la zona del Cañón de Colorado, pero como solo he estado una vez en la zona norte cuando tenía 10, me quedé muy impresionado. 

DSCN2212

I found some caves and explored the area. The bus left us off about 1 kilometre from the ermita (hermitage) San Bartolomé, which looks built into the rocky landscape behind it. There were some beautiful rock formations, and I made a mental note to return one day for a trekking excursion. 75% of the Natural Park is located in Soria with 25% in the province of Burgos. Encontré unas cuevas y exploré la zona. El autobús nos dejó a un kilometro de la ermita San Bartolomé, que parece construido del paisaje rocoso en el fondo. Había formaciones de roca chulas, y hice una nota mental para volver un día para hacer senderismo con más tiempo. 75% del Parque Natural pertenece a Soria con 25% en Burgos. 

DSCN2230

The last place on the day’s agenda was the village El Burgo de Osma, population 5,250, a Villa de Interés Turístico since 1962 and a Cojunto Histórico-Artístico since 1993. La última parada del día era el pueblo soriano El Burgo de Osma, población 5.250, una Villa de Interés Turístico desde 1962 y un Cojunto Histórico-Artístico desde 1993. 

DSCN2287

We only had about an hour to explore the village, but I saw the Plaza Mayor (and even had a relaxing café con leche as I saw València CF actually win a fútbol match! Amunt!), the beautiful cathedral, and my fave, the Roman bridge and the old city walls. Sólo tuvimos una media hora para ver el pueblo, pero me dio tiempo ver la Plaza Mayor y tomar un relaxing café con leche durante el partido de València CF-Sevilla (y por fin, ¡ganó València! Amunt!). También tenía tiempo para ver la catedral hermosa, y mi favorito, un puente romano y las murallas antiguas de la ciudad. 

DSCN2273

I saw the Castle of Osma in the distance, and I would’ve loved to have had time to hike up to it. Alas, we had to return to Bilbao, and the trip back to the so-called Capital of the World by its residents and no one else was over three hours. I arrived home tired but happy after a great day on the road, crossing off items on my infinite Bucket List for Spain and the greatest peninsula in the world. Vi el Castillo de Osma en la distancia, y me hubiera encantado caminar hasta el castillo. Pero tuvimos que volver a Bilbao, la capital del mundo, y el viaje de El Burgo de Osma a Bilbao tardó unas tres horas. Llegúe en casa cansado y con sueño pero contento después de un gran día viendo Soria, tachando cosas de mi Bucket List infinita de España y la mejor península del mundo.

DSCN2115

A cold weekend in León and Astorga

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 053

Catedral de León

A return to León has been on the agenda for some time now, and I already know I’m going to have to come back one day with a car to explore all the wonderful treasures this province has to offer. I had plans to also visit Zamora and cross it off my list, but the cold weather and my current cold made me decide to postpone it for another trip. I need an excuse to get back to this part of the peninsula. He tenido una vuelta a León pendiente desde hace un rato ahora, y ya sé que tendré que volver otra vez con coche para explorar todas los rincones de la provincia. Tenía planes para visitar Zamora otra vez y tacharla de mi lista de provincias españolas, pero el tiempo frío y el hecho que estoy bastante resfriado han pospuesto estes planes. Necesito un razón para volver a esta parte de la península. 

I was in León all too briefly in 2011 on my way to Asturias, and I regret not spending more time here. It’s an important stop on the Camino de Santiago Frances, and I enjoyed seeing all the Camino souvenirs throughout León. The Cathedral, as always, is beautiful, and I am glad I got some more time to know the capital city of the province León better. Estaba en León brevamente en 2011 por el camino a Asturias, y siempre he lamentado no tener más tiempo aquí. Es una parada importante en el Camino de Santiago Frances, y me gusta ver todos los regalos del Camino por León. La Catedral, como siempre, es preciosa, y estoy contento haber conocido la capital de León mejor. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 062

I arrived Saturday morning vía ALSA bus about 13:00 (I’m on Spain time…before lunch is morning!) . After going to my AirBNB destination, I went exploring the town and found a really cheap menú del día for 8,90€. You get what you pay for. I tried to find my favourite café from 2011, but it had closed. I enjoyed the Casa de Botínes again and took a lot of pics from the nearby park. Llegué sábado por la mañana con un autobus de ALSA sobre las 13:00. Después de ir al destino de AirBNB, fui a explorar la ciudad y encontré un menú del día barato por 8,90. No estaba tan bueno, pero recibes lo que pagas. Intenté encontrar mi café preferido de 2011, pero había cerrado el café. Disfruté la Casa de Botínes otra vez, y hice bastantes fotos del parque a lado. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 051

Casa de Botines de Gaudí

I also made it to the Parador at Hostal San Marcos, an old convent. También he ido al Parador de Hostal San Marcos, un convento antiguo. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 064

Parador de San Marcos

I loved the pilgrim statue in front of this incredible building. Me encantó esta estatua de peregrino enfrente del edificio increíble.

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 067

Peregrino

As I had the cold, I took it easy and spent Saturday evening resting instead of exploring the Barrio Humedo, which I did see in October 2011. This is the famous neighbourhood for bars and tapas. Como estaba resfriado, descansé el sábado en lugar de explorar el Barrio Humedo más, que vi en octubre de 2011. Es el barrio famoso de bares y tapas.

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 087

Sunday morning, after stopping at a large market near the River Bernesga, I caught a bus to Astorga. I was there by 11:00 and was able to visit the Cathedral there for free, seeing as how it’s free from 11:00-13:00 on Sundays. Domingo por la mañana, después de ver el grande mercadillo a lado del Río Bernesga, cogí el autobus a Astorga. Estaba allí a las 11 y visité la catedral gratis. La entrada es gratis entre las 11 y las 13 los domingos.

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 089

Catedral

I stopped by the tourist office for more information, enjoyed the gardens near the Palacio Episcopal which were free (the Palace is not) and had a relaxing café con leche in the Plaza Mayor of Astorga. I didn’t go to the Museum of Chocolate however. Fui a la oficina de turismo para más información, disfruté de los jardines a lado del Palacio Episcopal (que eran gratis. El palacio no es gratis) y tomé un relaxing café con leche en la Plaza Mayor de Astorga. Pero no fui al Museo de Chocolate. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 092

Palacio Episcopal

My fave part was walking along the old walls of the city. I regret not having the energy to walk the 5 kilometres to Castrillo de los Polvazares, a pedestrian-only village made of stone. Mi parte preferida era pasear por las murallas de la ciudad. Lamento faltar la energia para caminar los 5 kilometros a Castrillo de los Polvazares, un pueblo de peatones hecho de piedra. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 109

Ayuntamiento/Plaza Mayor de Astorga

Astorga is a town of 12,242 residents (as of 2009) and was first inhabitated in 275 BC by the Celts. The Roman settlement was founded in 14 BC. The capital city León has a population of around 132,000 residents and was founded in 29 BC by the Romans. The entire province is full of wonders that will bring me back here sometime when I have a car and can go exploring. The province is famous throughout Spain for being extremely cold. This weekend was no different. For now though, I’ll be headed back to Bilbao full of even better memories than my too-short 2011 visit left me with.   Astorga es un pueblo de 12,242 habitantes (2009) y era poblado en 275 a.C. por los celtas. Los romanos fundaron su pueblo allí en 14 a.C. León capital tiene una población de unos 132.000 habitantes y era fundada en 29 a.C por los romanos. La provincia tiene muchas maravillas que ya me llevarán aquí otra vez cuando tenga un coche disponible para mejor explorar. La provincia es famosa por toda la península por hacer mucho frío. Este fin de semana estaba lleno de este frío. Por ahora, vuelvo a Bilbao lleno de memorias mejores que mi visita corta de 2011 me dejó. 

Leon, Astorga, Euskadi Nov 2015 113

Selfie

 

Return to Ávila and Salamanca

DSCN0139

Ávila

For five long years now, I’ve wanted to return to Ávila, a small Castilian capital that I fell in love with on a short day trip from Madrid on a snowy February day in 2010. I even toyed with switching with someone in Ávila who was wanting to stay in Bilbao (and in the end, I’m glad I stayed in Bilbao, rain and egotistical people Capital of the World). I also wanted to return to Salamanca and give the famous university city a second chance, as the first time left me rather unimpressed.

I took advantage of being in Ávila province last week for VaughanTown to revisit these places on the way back. I regret not being able to visit some of the places nearby like Ciudad Rodrígo and Zamora, but that gives me an excuse to return in the future. (I plan on picking up Zamora, Lugo and Ourense whenever I finish the Camino de Santiago.) It also gave me an opportunity to complete some travel to-dos that I had left hanging on my prior 2010 visits.

DSCN0128

¡Bienvenidos a Ávila!

On Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to my new friends from VaughanTown at Cuatro Postes, which was coincidentally the monument I deliberately avoided seeing so I would have an excuse to return to Ávila. Five years later…I went to my pensión next to the train station, rested a bit as I waited for it to cool down, and went off to explore the province capital.

DSCN0142

Cuatro Postes

I stopped at the Oficina de Turismo for a map and meandered the cobblestone streets and admired the walls and views. I didn’t go up the walls (murallas in Spanish) as it was 5€ and I was on a budget, and I had already done the wall walk. It’s well worth doing again though, but budgets are budgets unfortunately. I walked through the park along the Río Adaja and went to the Cuatro Postes to admire Ávila. On the way back, I visited the Parador, as I am prone to do whenever I am in a city that has a castle renovated into a hotel (ie…Parador).

DSCN0104

Catedral

Ávila is the highest province capital in Spain and is said to have more Romanesque and Gothic churches (along with bars and cafés) per capita in Spain and has been a UNESCO World Heritiage site since 1985.

DSCN0096

A león de Athletic in Ávila.

As I am prone to do, I took time to admire the beautiful sunset from just outside the walls. It was a special moment as I reflected on the amazing week I had just had and on my future as the sun said adiós to Friday, August 28th, 2015.

DSCN0170

Ávila Sunset

On Saturday morning, I had a quick tostada con tomate y café con leche at a bar near the train station before catching a bus to Salamanca. The bus was pretty empty, as I like buses to be, and it went through the small towns and villages between the two capital cities. I arrived to Salamanca around noon, and at first, my impression was the same as before: overrated.

After dropping my stuff off at the pensión, I made my way to the city centre and meandered the streets. It was hot, about 35ºC (90s F). The streets were full of people, however. The Plaza Mayor was happening, and although I didn’t have a relaxing café con leche in the actual Plaza, I did nearby.

The Plaza seemed smaller for some reason, but it also seemed more impressive than I remembered. I went inside the library at the Casa de las Conches (the Shell House), and I had a unmemorable lunch before going to find the frog. On my previous visit, I didn’t find the frog, and I wonder if that is why I have had a lot of bad luck in my professional career. It is said that university students must find the hidden frog for luck on their exams.

DSCN0212

Find the frog. ¿Dónde está la rana? I’ll never tell…

It took me a while, but I did it. I found the frog. Team Pablo for the win!

DSCN0241

Team Pablo!

I crossed the Roman bridge and admired the river.

DSCN0225

Lanzarillo de Tormes

As a fan of Lanzarillo de Tormes, an important piece of Spanish literature that inspired Charles Dickens, I was super excited to see the river again.

DSCN0243

Salamanca sunset

I watched the sun set from the Roman bridge, and I saw a bit of the supermoon, although it was hard to capture a picture of it.

DSCN0251

My camera doesn’t like moon pics.

Sunday morning, I went to the Cueva de Salamanca (the Cave of Salamanca), where legend has it the Devil gave lessons in evil. I saw no traces of Lucifer, thankfully (and that part of the legend escaped me until just now while researching the cave!) Today you can climb some steps for some precious views of the city.

Next, I went to the Parador, which didn’t impress me much. I took advantage of exploring the area near the river more. I stopped at a bar-café, Mordiscos I believe, and the waiter happened to be from Bilbao. Although I don’t support the local team (I am a diehard culé (Barça supporter) along with my #1 team, València CF), whenever I see an Athletic item, I have to ask. I do like how Athletic will only sign players from the Basque region, and I believe La Liga would be more interesting with Spanish-only players (I do like Messi and don’t mind Suarez, but I am so sick and tired of the antics of Neymar and especially Cristinao Ronaldo.) I digress. I had a relaxing café con leche here and read a while before having lunch at the same restaurant I ate at five years ago, Don Quijote.

DSCN0267

Salamanca

The Don Quijote restaurant has some amazing ambiance, and the food is quite good too. For those complaining that Spain doesn’t have vegetables, I had a delicious salad that also included peaches. (I never was a fan of veggies until I moved to Spain).

Salamanca left a better second impression than a first. When they had told me it was a “Granada del norte” (Granada of the north), I had my hopes high. If you say a city is a “Granada” of a place, you raise the bar so high it is impossible to reach. This time, with lower expectations, I got more out of my visit to the city.

That said…I still prefer Ávila and believe it is my favourite capital of Castilla y Léon, but Segovia, León and Burgos are pretty stiff competitors.

When I moved to Spain, one of my professors told me to spend a night in Ávila and another on Salamanca whenever I visted these two cities. I finally listened…por fin, le hice caso. The moral of the story, as he would say, is don’t marry a loser and listen to your professors.

 

A different English village in Spain.

vaughan town

Last week, I participated in another English village in Spain. This one, VaughanTown, happens to be part of the Vaughan English Learning Empire of Spain. From Sunday morning until Friday evening, I joined 21 other “Anglo” volunteers to help 21 españoles out with the English language by giving them an opportunity to use all that English grammar and vocabulary they have been studying ad nauseam for their entire lives but never actually use.

vaughan town 5

The most popular 1-to-1 Spot

The location was in the heart of the Gredos near Barco de Ávila in the province of Ávila. The hotel was amazing, and the scenery was breathtaking. We arrived about 13:00, and after a brief introduction we had some lunch and time to check in and unpack. The rule is that two Anglos (English-speakers) and two Spanish-speakers sat at every table. At the beginning of the week, it was quite difficult for the Spanish-speakers to understand (especially the Scottish accents, but I had some problems with those myself). By the end of the week, their conversation skills had improved.

vaughan town 3

The hotel/el hotel

After checking in and receiving more rules, we were off to our one to ones, which we spent talking to the Spanish speakers and assisting them as much as we could.  We usually walked on the many trails nearby, the most popular being to the Río Tormes (Lanzarillo de Tormes) Throughout the week, there were some group activities and three Entertainment Hours, which consisted of skits rehearsed throughout the day.

The Spanish also have to prepare a presentation in English. As a lifelong student of Spanish (and now Catalán), I understand the nerves of having to present on a topic not of your choice in a language that is not your own. It’s very difficult. I can barely do it in English myself if it’s not in the classroom.  Major props to the Spanish who participated.

One evening, there was a queimada, which is a Galician tradition to burn out the bad things in your life. Queimada is an alcoholic drink made from orujo (a Galician alcoholic beverage), sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon that is set on fire. It’s ready when the flames are a bright blue.

On Wednesday, we had a brief tour of the village of Barco de Ávila. On Thursday during my free time, I found another village, Los Llanos de Tormes, which had even more beautiful views of the Gredos mountains.

vaughan town 2

Los Llanos de Tormes

There was lots of wine, even more water, lots of great meals, but most importantly were the memories I now have of these 42 people from all over Spain and all over the world who had gathered here this week.

I’m not going to make a statement as of which is better, VaughanTown or Pueblo Inglés    (now Diverbo). Both are unique opportunities, and both depend on the participants. You get out of it what you put into it. Either one will give you lifelong memories and a week with some fantastic people, and there are too many variables to say which is better.

If you’re interested in applying for a week with VaughanTown, their website can be found here.

vaughan town 4

An English village in Spain.

IMG_4386

The pig of La Alberca

Three years ago, I participated in a program called Pueblo Inglés (which is now Diverbo). The program offers a chance for Spanish students of English to be immersed for a week in English without leaving Spain. The locations are in beautiful mountain villages, and “Anglo” volunteers are there to speak English and create the surroundings of an all-English environment without leaving Spain. The volunteers do it out of the kindness of their heart, for a chance to see Spain, because they’re low on cash funds, for the experience, or for any of a plethora of reasons. There are probably as many reasons as there are volunteers. Just for speaking English, you are treated to seven nights in an amazing hotel and are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner along with water and wine. Not bad just for speaking your native English, eh?

The Thursday before leaving, the Anglos are invited to a tapas lunch and a flamenco show to get to know each other a bit. On Friday morning, they meet outside the headquarters to take the bus to their location. The bus arrives around lunchtime and we start meeting the Spaniards who we will be helping with for the next week. The Spanish (or their companies they work for) pay a pretty penny to attend this, so we want to make sure they get what they pay for.

It’s a lot of talking, which can be hard for the introverts out there like me (I made sure to get away during our free time after lunch to recharge), but it works well. There are 1-to-1s, which they change up so every Spaniard talks with every Anglo at least once, 2 to 2s, which you’re given some topics to debate, and many other activities. Every evening there are some skits or performances, usually on the comical side.

On one night, there is a “queimada”, which is a Galician tradition and drink of warding off evil spirits. The drink is alcoholic in nature and creates a fire during its creation. It did not ward off the evil spirit of anxiety for me unfortunately. Another night is party night, which is later followed by a tour of the nearby village the next day.

The three-course meals are amazing, and by the end of the week, everyone is exhausted and sad to say goodbye to the new friends they’ve made.

These “English villages” are held throughout the year and throughout Spain, although the most famous location is La Alberca in Salamanca. (This is the one I did. Amazing village). They recently opened up the opportunity in Germany.

It was a week I’ll never forget, and I’m not writing a lot of details to respect privacy. I have also recently volunteered to do a week with a similar program, which you’ll be able to read about next week.

If anyone is interested in volunteering for Diverbo’s Pueblo Inglés, here is the link.

IMG_4379

La Alberca, damn my blurry camera that year.