Monday, September 7, 2009
Don't ever stay at Waves in San Sebastian. I arrived to find that nobody was working during my scheduled arrival, 11pm, which on the advertisement, says reception is open 24 hours. It also says that reception accepts credit card, which would be a great help to my fiscal situation, only that was not the case. I awoke the following morning to the owner doing the sheets herself and looking over her shoulder screaming at me that I needed to pay her now in cash, to which I tried arguing with her about the credit card option, but don't even try arguing with a mid 30's basque woman. That soured me quite a bit, considering I was on a strict cash budget and she had just removed a solid half of it on the first morning. I was determined not to let it get me down, nor would I let the weather get the best of me. Now, you've got to remember that San Sebastian is on the Atlantic, so the water can be turbulent, the weather can change quite quickly, despite its two incredible beaches. So for the few days I was there, it was overcast about 70 percent of the time, raining for about 40 percent of the time, and windy of course. But all of that was kept at bay when you entered the old town. La parte vieja is known for its intensely popular bars, food, cideres (which are alcoholic apple ciders) and generally an atmosphere straight out of the early 1800's. It's pretty rogue/piratish, as in every sign looks the same, the bars seem to all work in the same general way, and seems to be one big area for meeting people. And when I mean big, I mean basically the intersection of town. The two beaches form somewhat of a W and that middle peak and if you can imagine it leading down to some mountains, is basically the old town. Their food, oh man...if you haven't tried pixtos, I suggest you try them. They're like tapas, the concept is like a buffet. You grab a plate, grab all the little delicacies you want, ask for any speciality hot items (I had foie gras and I don't care if you are an animal lover, that is a taaaasty dish), and they add it up, so my wild adventure ran me about 12 euro including a nice big sangria. BAM. As far as adventure goes in San Sebastian though, it's not too wild. It's a get away from the cities for everyone, being that it is like a Capitola type area, with a more historic downtown, and less beach bums. Everyone is there to relax, have a good time, and enjoy life. I say that with the thought of all the elderly folks I saw out walking in groups, going to pixtos bars, going to bar bars, and generally being the life of the party. The only problem is not knowing the Basque language, because it is definitely not spanish, and is definitely difficult to understand. It is a culture certainly worth experiencing. I feel somewhat bad for leaving so quickly, but Barcelona was beckoning...
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Granada is spanish for pomegranate. Pomegranate is veg for awesome. The pomegranate was a big part of Al-Andalus, brought up by the moorish influence that dominated the area for such a long time. It came to represent the city of Granada itself, due to its rich flavor, its difficulty to actually be consumed, and its symbolism in sensuality, if you don't see it, I will not be explaining it, but I read that somewhere and I'm sticking with it. The city of Granada can still be evaluated in this way, difficult to open and devour, but once you're in, oh what an amazing experience it is. Upon arriving, I smelt one thing, urine. I decided not to get a map, just explore and see where I find myself, which oddly enough I found myself in some serious bazaar type markets, which lead to the doorstep of my hostel. How could it get better? Well for one, the hostel (Oasis) has a view off the roof, overlooking the city, and part of Alhambra, it's in a great location and great people frequent there, myself included. The sights and sounds and smells start to grow on you more than you would expect, even the urine, you just have to accept it, but oh the food...I could have eaten at one shwarma-kebob place every single day, it was unreal. The tapas were fantastic, and it seemed every place you sat you had a great view of something. You could people watch, look up at an enormous cathedral or palace, lose yourself in the mazes of colors, smells and fabrics that are the markets, even just stare at the ground where most of it is laid with marble, or intricately designed rock patterns in the shapes, names, and coats of arms of past rulers. Until you go up to Alhambra, and feel like you have conquered the city, you don't appreciate how difficult it must have been to let go of if you were Boabdil, (I think he's the last Nasrid king, but thats off the top of my head) or how badly you desired the city if you were Ferdinand and Isabel. Once you are up there, overlooking the city made up of so much history, culture, and ideals of coexistence, you realize the city is much more inviting than it is portrayed.
I am a nerd. A nerd for Spanish imperialism. I studied a lot of it at Cal Poly, and now that I find myself immersed in it, I've become overwhelmed. I get tired and take cat naps for no apparent reason other than my mind is overanalyzing everything it is taking in. It's pretty awesome. First of all, I took a day trip to Toledo while in Madrid. That is an unbelievable city. It sits atop a hill, completely fortified, like a scene out of a movie. It is surreal. There are guard towers, a moat, insanely planned cobblestone streets, giant libraries, numerous castles within the walls...it's really a lesson out of feudal living. Aside from that, the cathedral there is full of history, corpses, legends, and treasure, including a piece that is said to be made from the very first gold brought back to Spain from the Americas. The artwork was incredible, so incredible in fact, that the people who either commissioned it or created it, are burried with it right there in the church. It was awesome. I also saw one of the most important pieces of artwork I ever learned about, El enterramiento del senor Orgaz, by El Greco. For those of you who don't know el Greco, he was a greek artist living in Toledo who was an insanely devout Catholic. His artwork, like most of that period, circles around portraits of the saints, and his seem to envoke real emotion, especially in the eyes. He utilizes an early form of translucent oil strokes to honestly make it appear as if the eyes are real, or strained, or full of tears. This painting, let's call it THE painting, is full of action, and is one of the prime examples of a "painting within the painting." Or something like that, no seriously, the story behind it though, blew my mind. Studying it I had no idea that Senor Orgaz did exsist and in fact did an incredible amount of good for the church (I think of San Tomas) in Toledo. He was wealthy, but gave all sorts of money, charity, and even decided to tax the people after his death so that the church wouldn't fall, now...that could be bad or good, but they took it as a good thing. That's only half of what he fully accomplished, but as the story goes, when he died it was said two angels came down and placed him in his tomb (I believe the same tomb he still lies in underneath THE painting). They wanted to commemorate him and this miracle, hoping that nobody would forget his efforts, so they asked the young el Greco to paint. THE painting turns out to be this exact scene, of the saints lowering him into his tomb, while everyone looks on, to the audience and the heavens to see what reaction is evoked. It's also, I think, the only self portrait of el Greco at this young age. Anyways, the people, the landscape, the history, the legends, everything about Toledo can be summed up by the idea that behind the legends there are truths. Toledo is that truth behind the fantasy of the middle ages that most of us didn't think existed.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Mikey has just seen his first european soccer match. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Worth every penny. Thought to myself, I will never see another midfield like this again: Christiano Ronaldo, Lass, Kaka, and Xabi Alonso...so filthy. Ran out to the stadium in a hurry, with a huge grin on my face, grabbed the first ticket I could get at 40 euro, grabbed a beer at a really cool local bar called, TGIFridays...I'm not sure of the translation. Walked up to my seat, anticipating what the pitch would look like...and there it was perfectly green and cut in perfect checkers. The lights were shining and the sun was setting and it was beautiful. There was no way I was taking my camera, this pleasure was all my own. I want you to paint whatever beautiful scene you can in your head, because it probably won't live up to the reality that I experienced and appreciated. I sat in between the crazy home fans and the visiting stands. It was like having my own personal bodyguard next to me. Honestly, security stood next to me throughout the match. The fan to my right was picking fights left and right, and even got me in on it a bit, gotta say it was pretty fun, even though I wasn't really sure what he was saying...lots of homosexual slurs I believe. Regardless, the action was unreal. Ronaldo unleashed some serious moves, which even at the top of the stadium are so crisp and quick that its like you're watching a hummingbird go from flower to flower to goal. It's like he's faster than the speed of light. BUT he did not steal the show folks, no, my boy Xabi Alonso had a terrific game. He was involved in all the action, setting up 2 of the 3 goals. So exciting to see him doing well. We're old pals, I swear. Okay, just wanted everyone (as in Sam and her wonderful mother) to know that I just had a great night, and look forward to more AT LEAST in Spain. Oh and I haven't even found the words to write about Toledo yet...and I went on Thursday. Look forward to that post.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm in sunny Spain now, and I am trying to get everything in that I can. So this blog might take a backseat for a couple days, as I am taking a day off from Madrid and going to Toledo tomorrow. Pictures from all of this can be found at Flickr.com, search for Z-boy...I believe that should do the trick.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Now, for those of you who truly know me...I'm a total romantic but have had a hard time showing it for the last few years. It has led me to believe that was the reason behind not getting invited to some weddings, I thought maybe people didn't want me bringing them down on their day. Realistically, I haven't had many friends get married yet. However, Camille (formerly Roberts) Torresson invited me to her destination wedding in Sweden. Crazy huh? First of all, it was the entire motivation behind this endeavor, so thank you Cami. Second, I wouldn't have really had much reason to visit Sweden before, but I find now that there are so many things to explore in that quaint little capital of Stockholm alone, that you forget how far that country stretches, thus making you want to return. Leif and Peter tried to convince me to drop any plans for Spain and hit the Artic Circle, where the magic happens; where the real traditional songs of Cami and Klas' wedding will bring the house down, along with the panties...as Leif tells me. If you ever travel to Sweden, have someone teach you Helan Gar (pronounced Hell and Gore) and sing it as often as possible. Do not get pizza from a bar in Bagarmossen, you will vomit. Go to the icebar, it IS worth it, especially if you can talk the barkeep into a few free drinks. Also, find a small yellow signed Antik shop...which is antique for the non phonetic crew here, and snoop around. Coolest antique shop, ever. There are a ton of things to say about Sweden alone. First off, Fred lied to us about Sweden's "potential." Unless everyone was on holiday...pound for pound, Copenhagen takes Stockholm in the giant game of who's got the world's most beautiful women per capita chess. Night club and music scene though, Stockholm has got it, and we only really went out one night. Every place was fun, every place had good music (Toots and the Maytals in Sweden??) and on top of that, the exchange rate didn't hurt. Food wise, we did see some strange recipes, involving a lot of dill on salmon I believe, but Cafe Fatoljen...if you ever subscribe to this, I want your food right now. One of the best sandwiches I've ever had. 10 bucks got you a salad, fruit, coffee tea or water, any of 20 sandwiches or pasta salads, I chose salami and brie. I would have gone back there every single day if not for some of our laziness. It was not laziness, more like relaxation with your friends, because to see friends and family halfway around the world celebrating two people's adventure into the world as one, made everything up to and after worth it.