Work Week #8

November 19th-22nd, 2012

The week was a normal one, except we had Thanksgiving to look forward to. We would be celebrating on Friday with auxiliar friends from Murcia. During the week, Maruja, the religion teacher, offered us a ride to and from Madrid. We planned on taking advantage of the offer and check out nearby cities like Toledo and Salamanca. Sometime during the week, Alex and I visited Bodega Silvano Garcia and got to taste a variety of sweet wines. We bought a Mistela. We left home Thursday night to catch the Murcia bus. Carrying our seven bottles of wine, we made our way from the station to Harmon’s flat. Amissa and I had our backpacks prepared in case we traveled to Toledo.  We slept in Harmon’s room with Puppy.

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Weekend in Murcia

Since I’m a month behind in journaling, I’ll be condensing the following entries.  I hope to catch up entirely before leaving to enjoy my Christmas vacation through Europe.

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Ascen, a professor at my school, offered Alex and us a ride to Murcia.  She would be going for some English lesson.  We would be going to have some fun.  We arrived in Murcia and headed straight to the Tranvia.  Alex wanted to go to the shopping center outside of  Murcia to buy a backpack.  The tram ride was about ten minutes.  The shopping center, Thader, was huge and we spent some time exploring.  When we returned to the city center, Harmon met us with her puppy, Puppy.  We had some salteñas and grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon.  Later, we went to a Bolivian restaurant, Doña Cindas, with a large group of people — photo below. The food came in large portions and the people were friendly.  I had a chicha and silpancho. Everyone was going to a nightclub after.  Harmon, Amissa, and I weren’t in the mood.  We met with Dave and Claire at a library-ish bar.  After, we went to a biker bar until about 2am.  We slept over Harmon’s house.

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

In the morning, we relaxed at Harmon’s flat.  Manu had invited us over for lunch so we headed over there around 1 pm. Manu had prepared a feast for us and some of our friends from the night before.  It was all delicious. Albondiga soup, flan, salad, and much more.  We sat around until it was our time to catch the bus to Jumilla.

Saturday

Saturday

Sunday

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Errands & Tapas

Friday, November 16th, 2012

On my first day off, I decided it was time to run some errands.  I finally exchanged all my dollars into euros and deposited them into my Spanish bank account.  It was a bit frightening with the whole crisis and all, but I feel a lot safer with my money at a bank than in my apartment.  We then headed to the Correos to mail some paperwork for Amissa’s mom and some postcards for friend sand family.

Premiering her new dress

Premiering her new dress

Once a handful of errands were completed, we headed to Nuestro Bar to celebrate.  We ordered our usual tapas, beieras, montaditos, and our new favorite drink, Mixta Shandy.  We returned home to relax.

At night, we headed to La Tapa for dinner.  The owner of the bar helped us a little in deciding what to choose.  I told him our budget and with a cigarette in his mouth he brought the tapas out.  I asked to sample the brains. He gave me a whole plate.  Pig brains.  Garlic.  Delicious when consumed in small portions. A whole plate was overwhelming.  We went to Sarao after for drinks.

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Work Week #7

November 12-15th, 2012

I tossed and turned all night suffering from a migraine and nauseau.  I had to call in sick to work.  I spent the morning on the couch messaging my friends on Whataspp drinking water and eating fruits.  I started an emoticon based game where we guess movie titles. This was good fun.

On Tuesday,  Amissa and I went to the market. We were craving Mexican food this day and decided to cook something up.  We attempted to make fajitas.  Although we didn’t entirely succeed, the invention was tasty.

Wednesday was a normal day. Thursday night we watched Being John Malkovich at night with Alex.

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Ruta de Pucheros

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Alex and I woke early to buy ten salteñas for our friends from Murcia.  We waited an hour before waking everybody for breakfast.  They would be leaving before noon.  From the looks of it, everyone enjoyed his or her salteñas. Our guests left.

Alex had invited a few more people from Murcia over to Jumilla for the Ruta de Pucheros.  Manuel, Alex’s couchsurfing host, drove from Murcia along with three Polish guys and Carlita, an auxiliar.  Basically, the  ruta de tapa is a city wide deall  at specific bars where for 2 euros you get  a puchero , small bowl ,  and a glass of local wine. In chronological order, we went to Reyes Catolicos, Bar Sebastian, Bar Las Venecias, Tres Soles, and San Augustin. We ate, in chronological order, paella, meat stew, meatballs, baccalao, and montaditos.

Sweet wine

Sweet wine

so sweet

so sweet

our friends

our friends

good times

good times

The day was rainy but it did not affect our thirst for a good time.  By night, we headed back to the house.  Our guests sobered up and left.  Amissa was feeling sick from the wine.  She had an exam to complete by the end of the night.  We went to Sarao to take the exam before ending our night.

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Day in Madrid

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

We woke up and had our free breakfast at the hostel.  We had an hour to walk around before the free walking city tour began.  We checked out of the hotel but were allowed to leave our bags or the day. Our tour guide, Roberto, started the tour at Plaza Mayor.  Our friend from Mexico, Joaquin, stuck with us most of the time even at the end when we had Burger King.  Roberto took us to see the Cathedral, Royal Palace, Egyptian ruins, and other sites. We tipped him at the end but more importantly befriended him and exchanged info for the future. The tour ended at Plaza del Sol.

We headed back to Gran Via and did some shopping. There was a bum with a squealing baby pig. I bought a jacket from H&M and Amissa bought a pea coat from Blanco.  We stopped at Museo del Jamon for a quick and cheap bite.  Before nightfall, we returned to the hostel to get our bags.  From there we walked up to El tigre tapas bar.  We payed €5 for a sangria and fat plate of greasy tapas.  The rain had started again. We walked by the Puerta de Alcala and through the Parque de Buen Retiro.  Ascen finally called me and we quickly arranged a vague meeting point.  We headed towards the Reina Sofia.

The Reina Sofia museum was huge. Amissa’s feet were hurting  and sat down at every chance she got. I urged her to continue it was strenuous but we made it through three floors of the Reina Sofia. Guernica was everything I though it to be. We killed some time at the gift shop before meeting with Ascen at 9. With my phone dead and no way of reaching her I stood along the street hoping she would drive by and see me. After twenty minutes, I realized the best thing to do would be to charge my phone and call her. We found a Starbucks, got ahold of Ascen, Amissa got a drink, and we headed to meet our ride back home. Ascen and her family were very kind giving us pizza, beverages, fruits, and good company. After an hour on the road,  I fell asleep.

We were dropped off at our door step. Upon coming home, we were greeted by a house full of visitors. Alex, Harmon, Dave, Claire, and Seonaid had spent the day doing the Ruta de Pucheros. They would be spending the night. We talked for a while and then went to bed.

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Jumilla-Albacete-Madrid!

Work week #6

November 5-8th, 2012

At some point during the week, my colleague, Ascen, offered Amissa and I a ride to Madrid. She would leave early Saturday morning and return the same night. I decided to jump on the offer but started looking into Friday buses to Madrid. Thursday night was hectic packing and planning for Friday’s trip to Madrid. We booked a hostel and ended up getting only four hours of sleep.

Friday, November 9th, 2012

We woke at 5 a.m., packed our bocadillos, and rushed to the bus station. We caught the 6 a.m. bus to Albacete. The tickets cost nearly €9. I fell asleep for the whole two-hour ride.  We exited the bus feeling groggy and nauseous. I purchased two tickets to Madrid from the Alsa window for about €15. The bus would leave at 12:30 p.m. giving us four hours to explore Albacete.

We sat in the bus station enduring power outages and rainstorms. Amissa took a short nap.  An hour and a Cola Cao later, Amissa was ready to see the city. The rain had gone away by now. The force of the city center drew us in. We saw many sites but the most impressive were the murals painted inside the cathedral. Upon entering Albacete’s cathedral the elaborately painted walls immediately commanded our attention. Life sized paintings of the pits of hell and bible stories surrounded us. We walked as far as the Plaza del Toros then decided to return back to the bus station taking pictures along the way.

The three-hour bus ride to Madrid gave us time to recover sleep. Amissa was already very beat. Worth noting, we saw one of the famous Madrid bull signs.  We exited the bus station and once again relied on instincts to lead us to the city center. We were about a mile and a half away from our hostel. On the walk along the bus station Atocha, we encountered a large mysterious amount of scattered garbage. Most of it was old shoes, clothes, broken frames, and lamps but we did happen to find a set of photographs from the 1960’s.  By 4:30, we had reached No Name City Hostel. This would be our first hostel experience.  We payed about €15 each and a €30 deposit.  Amissa took a nap. I anxiously waited to explore the city. We left the hostel around 6. It was raining.

At this point, the smartest thing for us to do would be to take advantage of the Prado’s free admission. We saw many masterpieces mostly from the middle ages.  Sadly, the  museum closed early and we missed all of the famous Goya paintings.  We walked north towards El Tigre, a tapa bar that a friend recommended. We arrived at the bar but it was too crowded. Instead, we ate at a pizza joint. Our next stop would be Plaza del Sol. On a street leading to the plaza, we saw many prostitutes. We rushed through many of these sites because it was dark, my shoes were soaked, and I couldn’t take proper pictures.

Walking towards Plaza Mayor, we stumbled upon some great Spanish folkloric street music. A group of elderly woman danced around in a circle — it was very entertaining.  Plaza Mayor was awesome.  We remembered the scene in Rick Steeve’s Europe where Rick lounges at a table eating jamon and drinking wine inside the Plaza Mayor. We headed back to the hostel. The night was young but we felt old. At the hostel, Amissa took a shower.  We explored the hostel and met some friendly people in the kitchen — they were from Mexico, Argentina, Austria, and Poland. We went to bed around midnight.  Our hostel roommates who we had never seen before arrived late in the night.

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Goodbye, Granada!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

We packed up in the morning knowing we’d be leaving at 2pm.  We woke up around 10am to go to the Science museum. We stopped along the way for breakfast.  We walked along the river — I wondered what it would be like to live in this amazing city. We got the museum and had to rush again.  The most interesting part were the birds of prey and butterfly room. Sadly, we wasted our time watching the bird show.  The rest of the museum looked great.  We would have to return especially to see the pupeetering exhibit.

We grabbed our bags from Zebbies, said goodbye, and rushed to our meeting point. Alberto picked us up with Kat and Alex and we rushed to the bus station.  We left a city we fell in love with. Within a few hours, we’d be in Jumilla, home sweet home.

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The Alhambra

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

We had two tickets to enter the Alhambra at 12:00pm.  We woke around 10am and left in search of some food.  We entered a bar near the Rio Darro called Minotuario.  We shared a bocadillo.  We walked up towards the Alhambra in a bit of a rush because it was crucial to enter at the time on our ticket.  A foggy forest trail led us up to the Alhambra — this alone was worth visiting Granada. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize we could have entered as early as 8am.  The 12pm ticket was just to enter certain areas of the Alhambra.  We were told the Alhambra closed at 2pm.  Sadly, we had to rush through the thousand year old fortress.

Overall, the experience was overwheleming.  The detail in the architecture was endless, the view of the city was charming, and the history was omnipresent.

At the Generalife, we bumped into Alex and Kat towards the end of our Alhambra visit.  We would meet later.  We left the Alhambra feeling satisfied, hungry, and tired.  Amissa couldn’t walk anymore so we sat on a bench for nearly fifteen minutes.  We walked back through  the forest to the city.

We found a strip of tapa bars and decided to choose one to eat at.  We had a few glasses of sangria and tapas.  After, we returned to Zebbie’s flat.  She made us some sweet potato veggie burgers. Later that night, we walked forty five minutes to meet our roommates for more tapas at El Peruano.  Their tapas came with a mountain of french fries.  After a few hours, we headed back to Zebbie’s to end the night.

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A Friday in Granada

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

In the morning, we walked down to the Plaza Mariana Pineda and had breakfast with Zebbie at the Futbol café.  Amissa and I had toast and tomato. Zebbie had churros and chocolate.  We split and headed to the Plaza del Carmen again to meet our friends.  We had arrived early and took advantage and entered the Ayuntamiento’s tourist office and garden.  We were told the Alhambra tickets were sold out.  Alberto and the roommates arrived. He gave me instructions on how to find tickets online the way they did earlier.  I went through the purchase on my cell phone. With that cleared, we headed up Avenida Reyes Catolicos towards Albaicin. Our first stop was at the Corral del Carbon, our first look at the Moorish footprint. We continued.

Amissa was stopping at every souvenir shop. I was anxious to see the city and became frustrated.  I assured her that there would be time for that later. Everything was better once we reached Carrera del Darro and walked along the river. This part of Granada was pure magic – a superb mixture of nature and fascinating architecture.  We then walked to the Sacramonte and up to one of the city’s viewpoints.  The atmosphere changed in this barrio.  You could feel the isolation and poorer living conditions in this area but there was a certain Spanish charm that made this place exciting and real.  We reached the viewpoint and were impressed by the size of the Alhambra directly across from us – we would be going there the next day.

We were exploring Albaicin and eventually began looking for a place to rest and eat.  We ended up at a tapa bar, had some sangria, and devoured our patatas bravas. We decided to continue eating elsewhere.  We walked down Albaicin. Amissa bought earrings.  We stopped to eat at a Kebab King.  After, we headed to see the cathedral. It was immense.  We walked to the Plaza Bib-Rambla and split up to explore the shops of Alcaceria for 30 minutes. Instead of meeting back in front of the Cathedral, we bumped into our group members at a tea shop.

From there, we headed back up to Albaicin looking for a teteria.  We entered what looked like a random house. Inside was a teteria with three floors.  We each ordered our teas. There was Jazmin, Strawberry, Lemon, Raspberry, and a blend called Andalusian Night at our table.

We split, met up with Zebbie, and went out for tapas.  We hit three bars before going back home to bed.  The second bar had really big tapas. The waiters in the third bar were really friendly.  All the greasy French fries made me sick but I was fine. Granada is spectacular.

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