Saturday, January 10, 2015

On the Road to a Happy New Year

Cathedral of Salamanca looms through the fog

Road Trip to Segovia, Salamanca and Ávila

Son David, Heidi and Emily arrived 20 December, and we spent two weeks traipsing across Madrid, driving to Segovia, Salamanca, Avila, via train to Barcelona, via bus and cab to Pamela and Juan's Boxing Day party in San Agustin de Guadalix; we've eaten pounds of jamón and cheese and olives, shopped in the narrow, winding streets of Chueca in Madrid and Barri Gòtic in Barcelona and elbowed through the crowds at El Rastro flea market. We beat time to flamenco at Casa Patas.

 [All photos can be enlarged with a click in the center]
El Rastro wares

We zigzagged through the snow-capped Sierra de Guadarrama mountains to Segovia where the towering 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct rises 30 m high and 825 m long and never fails to amaze even after multiple visits.We arrive just in time for lunch, and Rich finds a sunny spot in Segovia's Plaza Mayor where we each eventually shed winter jackets. Bean soup and lamb stew and duck leg and salad -- perfect for a winter afternoon outside. We explore the flamboyant Gothic cathedral topped with a Renaissance dome. The Gothic arches overhead collect any heat that happens into the structure, while at floor level, we tour in finger-numbing cold. At 1,000 meters, Segovia looks out over the surrounding countryside all the way to the Sierra de Guadarrama snow caps. The town is crowned by the Alcazar, a best in fairy tale castles--turrets and moat and high above the peon world.

Bean soup with clams in Segovia
Tall conifers
 in the Sierra Guadarrama
Aqueduct  in Segovia
We drive on to Salamanca that night with gusts of impenetrable fog spilling from the rolling farmland out across the road. We follow taillights hoping the driver ahead knows the road more surely than we. Then we follow a befuddled GPS through narrow winding streets, and finally abandon David with the Peugeot and tote all manner of bags down a pedestrian passage to find Hotel Rua. On this my first visit, the golden- toned stone blocks of Salamanca remind me of Oxford, which I visited more than 30 years ago, meaning memory, in truth, might be foggy. The cathedral, includes, relatively speaking, old and new spliced together; the old is 12th century Romanesque; the new (1513-1733), Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque. Fun to note, the same architect created the flamboyant Gothic exteriors of both cathedrals in Segovia and Salamanca according to one source. Both rise frilly and decorative toward the heavens. The University of Salamanca, established in 1230 and the oldest in Spain, originated in the cloister of the old cathedral. You can stand in the room and feel the tension of long ago students tested orally by the teacher/priests using an all or nothing scoring system.
Heidi, Emily and David with the
fairytale Alcazar in Segovia

Then on to Ávila, where I finally get to tour the first Gothic cathedral in Spain. Although begun as Romanesque, the cathedral was completed in the Gothic style in the 16th century. The gray block and  simplicity of the cathedral complement perfectly the medieval tapestry  of the walled city.
David and Emily

We loved sharing Spain with David, Heidi and Emily who go anywhere, eat anything (don't miss the final photos). While the rest of us relaxed somewhat between jaunts, Emily wrote college essays and submitted applications. Having the opportunity to read so much of her writing made this writer's heart proud. However, waiting to hear the outcomes in May might prove a bit nerve wracking. Plus, we have bets on the outcomes. Look for more on our travels in future posts.

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca 

 Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo

Spanish class was my best source for Spanish and madrileño traditions for the holidays, but if readers have corrections and additions, please do add to the comments. Although Christmas here is essentially preserved as a religious holiday, not a gift-giving extravaganza, the streets are certainly full of shoppers and sightseers and families, and Christmas kiosks pop up in any available space. The markets sell toys, trinkets, inexpensive memorabilia, but they also offer nativity scenes or the individual pieces for do-it-yourself scenes. They offer Christmas decorations like Santas and stars and sparkle, but stands also display lots of mistletoe, potted evergreen trees and cut greens, and yards and yards of moss. We deduced the moss must serve as landscapes for nativity scenes. We are talking real moss, not plastic soccer turf. 
Spanish class holiday photo

We five celebrated Christmas Day with a suckling pig roasted by a neighborhood restaurant and carried home. Emily and Heidi ate the ears, and I don't know what happened to the tail. We devoured the entire roast, succulent and delicious as promised, in two sittings.

Emily and Heidi share
 freshly spun cotton candy in
Plaza Mayor in Madrid
Although some here admit to courting Father Christmas, the real Madrid gift giving waits for the arrival of the Tres Reyes Magos (three kings) who arrive by Cabalgata (procession) and bearing gifts on Dec. 5. We skipped the extravaganza that terminates in centro Madrid at Plaza Cibeles, but all five of us loved the small replica procession of the Tres Reyes Magos in our barrio of Prosperidad with Reyes and kids in costumes throwing caramelos (candy) to hordes of kids and parents in the streets.  

Waiting for the parade

Reyes Magos arrive in Prosperidad

On the night of Dec. 5, kids follow the custom of putting shoes outside the door or on the patio to be filled with candy and gifts by the Reyes. In store windows, shops displayed knee-high women's boots overflowing with boxes and treats.

On New Year's Eve, David, Heidi, Rich and I made our way via Metro to a neighborhood close to Puerto del Sol and the major celebration. As is the custom, we each carried our baggie of 12 grapes to consume within the first minute of the new year for luck throughout the year. We left Emily at home, nursing a cold, finishing another application and holding her own grapes. 

Wishing all of you happy uvas and a wonderful year to come!

Heidi and Emily se gustan
las anguilas

Eating eels

1 comment:

  1. Fantastico!..... (I seem to have lost my Spanish dictionary). What a wonderful holiday season, esp. with your kids there!