We get a kick out of these walk lights we’ve seen at some of the crosswalks in some of the bigger cities in Spain. Not only is the walker wearing a hat (a very sensible thing to do in sunny Spain), but he’s animated. And he runs faster as the time left for crossing the street diminishes! ¡Andale, andale!
I’ve read a bit about bullfighting by aficionados, animal rights activists, and people who fall somewhere in between in an effort to understand what really goes on in the ring and why some people think it’s an art. I have to say I still don’t get it. I despise everything about it. How anyone could separate an animal from the comfort of its herd and then torture it until death is just beyond me.
But I have to confess that there’s something powerful about the plaza de toros by virtue of its perfectly round design alone. You can tell by the beautiful condition of this ring that the Zaragozanos love their “sport.”
I just love the Moorish architecture in Spain. Built as a palace and fortress by the Moors in the 11th century, La Aljafería was remodeled by Fernando and Isabel after they kicked the Moors out in the Reconquest.
Zaragoza, capital of the Spanish province of Aragón, was established as a river port by the Romans in 25 BCE. It was named for Caesar Augustus. If you slur his name a bit and truncate the syllables, you can almost get from “Caesar Augustus” to “Zaragoza,” especially if you lisp the z’s like you’re supposed to in Castilian Spanish. While you’re practicing that, take a look at some of the photos Marcus took of the city.
Every check-in at a new accommodation is stressful. Every single one. Just finding the address using a has-been GPS (yes, Rita is still with us) is difficult. Then there’s the parking issue – finding a place to leave the car at least long enough to check in and unload the luggage. Then, when all that is accomplished, there is the communication issue.
I am so happy to report that Zaragoza was the best Airbnb check-in we have ever had, in English or Spanish!
I was a little preoccupied on the approach. José Miguel’s emails had been a bit confusing. He said we couldn’t drive up to our apartment building; we would have to meet him at the building next door, which was on a different street. Rita couldn’t find the building number, so we settled for an address on the same street. Then there was the question of how I would know José Miguel from all the other men on the street. Should I approach each one asking, “José Miguel?”
I’ve done worse. In Llanes I asked everyone coming out of our apartment building if they knew Mercedes, our host who had failed to show at the appointed check-in time. One woman gave me such a long, sad story about how she knows no one in her apartment building because no one talks to her and she’s so lonely, I was sorry I asked. Suddenly my problem of not being able to locate my host seemed inconsequential.
So, back to Zaragoza…. We slowed down as we turned onto the street of our appointed rendezvous, looking for someone looking for us. We noticed a young man checking out all the cars. What the hell! “José Miguel?” I called out.
“Yes, yes! Quickly, drive down the street on the right and park anywhere you can find a spot.” Perfect English. That’s one less thing to worry about!
As we followed his direction, we noticed another young man on the opposite side of the street waving us into the side street; “This way; this way!”
“I think they’re together,” Marcus observed. Excellent! One spotter and one parking assistant. This is getting easier by the minute!
We parked, and they swooped down on us advising us about the parking, how much to put in the meter, when we would have to move the car, all the while taking luggage from us as we pulled it out of the car. Before we knew it, we were walking toward the apartment, jabbering all the way.
Turns out neither of them was José Miguel; they are his sons – and what polite, enthusiastic, and helpful young men they are! One a banker and the other an engineer, they just bubbled over with information and advice in perfect English. At one point we asked how they had learned English so well. Santi (Santiago) pointed at Alex (Alejandro). “He went to boarding school in Maine,” he announced proudly.
What great kids, and what a great team! How fantastic that one brother’s advantage of attending school in the U.S. was used to teach the other one English! And I loved watching them bounce ideas off of each other as they answered our questions. They email us daily to see how we’re getting along. I wonder if I can adopt them….
After seeing architect Frank Gehry’s masterpiece, the Guggenheim-Bilbão, we thought we’d drive by the bodega, or winery, he designed for the Marqués de Riscal winery in La Rioja. We didn’t know the exact location, only that it was in/near the town of Elciego. We wondered if we’d recognize it on a drive-by.
¡Sin duda! (Without a doubt!)
As we descended the hillside into the town of Elciego, there was no mistaking Gehry’s work practically floating in the trees before us. So much more beautiful than the museum! I love the way he worked the titanium to get the purples, pinks, blues, and greens in the “wings.”
In addition to the vineyards and bodega, this winery also has a luxury hotel named for its architect. Lovely spot!
We passed through the province of La Rioja on our way from the Basque Country to the city of Zaragoza in the province of Aragón. La Rioja is the primary wine region of Spain and produces some excellent wines, in our humble opinions. The countryside reminds me of Il Chianti in Italy.
This happens to be harvest season. We saw many pickers in the vineyards, and every 15 minutes or so passed one of these trailers laden with fresh-picked grapes. Looks like it will be a good season!
I found a great way to increase my vocabulary of everyday Spanish words: Visit a “dollar” store. We saw one yesterday called a “0,60€” (60 centimos) store. They’re a little behind with the exchange rate!
Finally came across the word for rubber that I was looking for when discussing the gasket on the washing machine with our last host. Saw a pair of rubber gloves at the store: guantes de goma – the word for rubber is “goma”!
I didn’t come to Spain to shop in the dollar stores, but it sure is fascinating!
I really regret not bringing sneakers with me. What was I thinking? I was thinking the Germans used to make fun of tourists in sneakers when we lived there, but now everyone wears them while sightseeing, even Germans. And they’re really cute nowadays, not those glow-in-the-dark, white running shoes of twenty years ago. That was all that was available then.
So I didn’t bring my sneakers, but brought two pairs of good walking shoes – one of which gave me blisters the first week because my feet were swollen from the flight over, and the other I really intended to wear with jeans when the weather gets cooler. (In other words, they look hideous with skirts and capris.)
I like to vary the shoes I wear; I don’t wear the same pair two days in a row. When you walk around 12,000 steps a day, it’s much better to rotate the blisters. Different shoes rub in different places. So I’ve been keeping my eyes open for shoe sales. Turns out they’re having summer clearance sales right now, and I found this adorable pair of Chuck Taylor knock-offs for 10€ (around $11)! Of course, I should have just brought my Chuck Taylors from home, but don’t say that to a woman who agonized for over a month over what to pack. So, I call these my Chuck Trailers. Whadya think?
We drove into the Basque province of Guipúzcoa to see San Sebastián, or Donostia as they call it in the Basque language. It’s really quite the cosmopolitan city; in fact, there’s an international film festival going on there now. It’s a beautiful oceanside city just a hop, skip, and a jump from Biarritz, France.
We did a little shopping, ate a few pintxos (the Basque equivalent of tapas), drank a little txakoli (local white wine), and thoroughly enjoyed just wandering all over the city.