Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 4 - Beach and Bulls

A very late update on day 4 in Spain. On Sunday, we had a nice relaxing morning and then Steve and I went to the beach.

There was a restaurant that I wanted to go to on one end of the beach, and Steve wanted to go to the nude/gay section of the beach which was on the other side. I didn't want to tell him that it was 2 miles from one end to the other, so we went to the nude/gay beach with the intention of taking a nice stroll before lunch. I've never beed to a nude beach, but I didn't expect to be bothered by it, and I really wasn't! It was totally relaxed - just people being naked (or not) and hanging out in the sand. We settled down in the more nude/less gay area of the beach, which would be my preference only because the nude beach is quite and calm, while the gay beach tends to be a little bit louder and more in-your-face (especially with Steve around, who is like a walking... I don't even know... fag bilboard I guess. But not in the cute lovable fag way, in the loud, annoying, bad clothes, bury your head in your hands kind of fag way...). So, we spent a little bit of time there, and then walked to the food place, which was a very long walk in the very hot sun. I was doing fine, and silently laughing inside that I was inflicting such discomfort on Steve without any harm to myself! After all the shit he had put us through at that point, it was very rewarding to have some retribution. I'm evil, I know.
The Frank Ghery fish we saw on our walk to the restaurant.

So, we finally make it all the way to the restaraunt, and they won't let us in because we didn't have resverations! It was SOOO SAD! We ate at the place next door, which was fine, and then took the subway back to the apartment to pick up my mom and get ready for the bull fight.

The bull fight.
The opening ceremonies.

I don't even know where to start with this. I guess I didn't really have a clear understanding as to what a bull fight entails - I knew it had matadors, and capes, and... bulls. That's pretty much all I knew. About a week before we got here, my mom said that the POINT of the fight is to KILL the bull. I didn't like the sound of that then, but I decided that I should go on ahead and see what it was all about, if only to gain a little bit of cultural knowledge about Spain. We get to the bullring, and there are a handful of protestors outside calling for the end of bullfights and urging people not to go in and support the fight. This is the line I would normally see myself being on, and I started to get really weirded out at this point. We get our tickets and find some seats and wait for a bit before the "show", "specticle", "blood fest" begins. And it goes like this: after some pomp and circumstance with the matadors and horses and guys dressed up like conquistadors, they let out the first (of 3!) bulls. The matadores (little matadors) start by taunting and teasing the bull a little bit with their brightly colored capes. This is to start getting the bull angry so it will actually fight against the main matador. The teasing with the capes I could deal with - it's cruel, yes, but I could handle it. In the next part, a single matadore runs around the bull with these bright colored tubes, sort of the size of a packing tube but smaller, that have hooks on the end. In this "game", the matadore has to dig the hooks into the flesh of the bull so they stick in and flap around, and mostly so it makes the bull angry. This is when the bull begins to bleed, and even from the highest section in the ring I could see the blood pouring over the bull's back. Then, men on horseback come in a jab at the bull with pointy javelins, puncturing and wounding the bull even more. I left in tears at this point and sat on the sidewalk outside the ring crying for about a half an hour. I couldn't bear not only to see this bull, this poor confused creature, be tortured and humiliated in front of a crowd of people who believed it entertaining, but to see the famed "matador" take down the bull, which is already broken and bleeding, covered in blood and feces, scared and angry. I hardly see it as an act of heroism to take down a beast for sport, but even less so one that has already been wounded to give man the upper hand. This is done with 3 bulls, and once they are killed they are dragged through the dirt in a show of merciless pride around the ring, and then out to God Knows Where to be disposed of. It is not my intention to condem a cultural practice based on my own views. Bullfighting has been going on for many many MANY years in Spain, and some people claim there to be an "art" to it (although I don't know what could be artful about animal slaughter). But the King and Queen themselves could not have kept me there to continue watching that barbaric tradition. I was glad to hear that the provence of Catalunya overall tends to be against bullfights, and they are moving to make the whole provence Bull Fight Free.

"An Anti-bullfighting demonstrator sits amid others laying covered in fake blood while holding a sign that reads 'Bullfight abolition' at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas on May 24, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. An estimated of 300 demonstrators protested for the abolition of bullfighting.
(May 24, 2009 - Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe)"

I finally made it home and waited for my mom and Steve to come back, and then we went and had some more really shitty food on Steve's reccomendation. I was glad to end that day, for sure.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A 3 Part Train Ride to Montserrat

Day 2 Barcelona. Today was the day for Montserrat, the site of an old Benidictine monestary set high on a mountain which after many trials and tribulations was finally destroyed by Napolean in 1812. The church was rebuilt in the 1900's, complete with a series of death-defying trains and funicular.... things. I'm not really sure WHAT a funicular is, I think it is generally a basket or box that hangs from a cable that is then "reeled in" to it's final destination.
Anyways, to get there you have to take a normal train from Barcelona to Montserrat, then take a cog train (a train that has a mechanical cog attached to a track (sort of like the wheels in a clock) that prevents it from falling backwards down the mountain) to the site of the monestary and very peculiar museum.
Inside the new Monastery

The main attraction at the monestary is the "Black Virgin", a very old statue of the Virgin and bebe Jesus, the skin of which has turned black over centuries of smoke from the candles and incense used in ceremonies. The statue was found in a cave near the mountain, which is apparently a fairly common occurance in Spain. In fact, so many Virgins have been found in the country that there is a national holiday devoted solely to "Found Virgins". I think people should keep better track of their virgins so they don't go off getting lost all the time. The Black Virgin is in the back of the altar, and there was a crazy long line to go see her, so we skipped it and went to the museum.

Ah the museum, the most random collection of things to exist in one place at one time in a place that call itself a museum. There were many paintings by some less famous Spanish artists and many of the subjects of the paintings were of Barcelona or Montserrat itself. There were also a spattering of lesser pieces by Miro and Dali, as well a whole collection of posters by Picasso. And then, who could forget, the Egyptian section, complete with mummy, it's casket thing, and embalming jars. What, exactly, all these egyptian things were doing atop a mountain in a Benedictine monestary in Spain is beyond me. We pondered this relationship for a while, and then took our final train up the mountain to the very very top. This train, or cable car I guess, literally LITERALLY went STRAIGHT. UP. the mountain. The car was stepped against the angle of the tracks so you couldn't feel just how steep it was, but... it was steep. Way steep.
That track is at like, 150 degrees up the mountain.

The views were fantastic, even though it was a little cloudy and misty. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Mediterranean Sea on one side and all the way to the Pyrenees Mountains on the other. We couldn't see quite that far, but my mom thinks we should tell everyone we could anyways. I don't know why she feels that way. But, now you know when she tells you that she saw the Mediterranean Sea from the top of Montserrat, it's not really true.

On the ride back, Steve, who had been causing problems for us all day with his "I know everything" attitude (which already resulted with us getting off at the wrong train stop and having to wait forever for another train, and would later result in me having to wait over an hour for my dinner), had "found out" what time the train was leaving, and chose to go to the bathroom. Well, the train came early, so we got on it. And then it left. While Foxy was standing with his dick in his hands in the bathroom. Well, he was in for a great surprise when he came back outside an no one, not even the ticket attendant was there. We finally called him after we figured out what the Spanish country code is, and my mom found his number, and he was still standing dumfounded at the previous station. Luckily another train was coming in 20 minutes, so he didn't have to wait long, and then many laughs were had. But, let this be a lesson to you all! When you try to control your travel companions, you will be undermined and left standing in an empty train station an hour from Barcelona!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vamos a Barcelona!

After our nice visit in New York, my mom and I hopped on a plane at JFK and took our flight to Paris. It was TERRIBLE! I didn't sleep even a little bit! I don't know what it was, but man, I didn't sleep at ALL, which made the next day totally hellacious. When we got to Paris, we were on a flight with at least 4 screaming children, and being as I was already exhausted, the flight was much more diffucult. Anyways, we got to Barcelona (although neither Spain nor France stamped my passport, oddly enough), and took a cab to the city. We are staying with a friend of my mom's here who has rented a flat for a month while he takes Spanish classes. His name is Steve, or Foxy. More about him later.

We rested for about an hour and then took a walk down "La Rambla". A rambla is a median or section in the road that separates the cars going in opposite directions, and La Rambla is the grandest of them all, apparently. It's a pedestrain walkway with all sorts of touristy things: Painters, crafts, souvenieers, and street performers. Only, on La Rambla, most of the performers aren't really performers, but just people dressed in elaborate costumes who don't do much at all. There are some who do the living statue kind of thing, but none of them are very convincing, especially since there are so many of them. If I had to do a living statue schtick I would set up camp somewhere where people wouldn't expect me to be, because then I would have a better chance at being convincing. Luckily, I don't have to do that because it seems really uncomfortable and pretty humiliating. There are also all these stalls on La Rambla that sell pets of all different kinds: Paraqueets, chickens, ducks, roosters, guinnea fowl, guinnea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, fish, CHIPMUNKS, turtles - all sorts of things. I'm not quite sure who is going on vacation to buy live animals, but there are an aweful lot of them, so someone must be buying them. And I hope that's true because they are in rather deplorable conditions, and it made me really sad to see all those poor animals in tiny little cages out in the hot sun. It's just not right. My opinion of La Rambla might be a little bit sullied by the fact that I was in a pretty crummy mood by the time we got there, having traveled for 12 hours and not slept for 24, and I had no desire to be smashed together with a bunch of people anymore for the day. On a different day, I might like it more. I'd like to go back and get some photos of the costume people (as depressing as it is) so I can show you all, so I imagine we will be going back there at some point.

After La Rambla we went to dinner with Foxy. He took us to a place called Castro (named after the gay district in San Francisco), and as you would expect it was a gay restaraunt. The food was alright - it had a really floofy, creative looking menu, but the execution was sorely lacking. I sort of expected this was going to be the case and just ordered a salad. The cava sangria was delicious, and although I think it's a bit silly to order sangria at a bar anyways (it's similar to ordering Jungle Juice), this was really tasty. Also, my mom thought that cava was a cactus, which was amusing. We had an alright time, despite being really underdressed (WHICH I HATE!), and the fact that my mom and I were the only two women in the place (and possible on the whole block). Honestly, I don't think I could have been TOO thrilled about anything at that point, and I was glad to get back to the apartment and finally go to sleep.

I have decided that since upload pictures is not really happening that I am going to come back to all these posts once I get home and add pictures so you all can see them. So, check back later! Also, I apologize for the temporary bad spelling - I'm not using firefox which is usually my saving grace. I will update soon with more! The upcoming days are much more exciting, I promise ;) .

Saturday, August 8, 2009

24 hours in NYC

Hello everyone! It's Saturday today, but I'm going to tell you a bit about this previous Wednesday and Thursday! My mother and I, en route to Barcelona, made a 24 hour stop in NYC to visit my great Aunt Hilda and my darling friend Alie! We flew in Wednesday night and checked into a really nice hotel on 79th and Broadway. After about an hour of resting we made our way down to Lincoln Center for their first night of their Out of Doors concert series, stopping at your typical upper west side gourmet grocery store to put together a picnic dinner. Man I love those places! Anyways we settled down on a bench and ate our dinner to the opening act - some Arabic jazz fusion band - while we waited for the main act to begin, Dave Brubeck Quartet!

Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Lincoln Out of Doors 50th Anniversary

When they started to play, every person there was TOTALLY captivated! All 4 of them are really old, but they rocked sooo hard. Towards the end of their set they brought out a man from Pakistan for some more Arab jazz fusion, but for the last song he wielded a violin. The first part of the last song was a duel type thing between the resident saxophone player and this new violinist and it was amazing - both these instruments were just whining and screaming into the open air, and every person in the crowd was just silent. The violin solo was even more spectacular as the player took a simple jazz riff and twisted and turned it into an unbelieveable journey and then in true jazz style brought the whole thing back in just a few notes to close out the night, and the concert, in the most classic jazz you've ever heard. I guess what I'm trying to say is it was pretty damn awesome. As we were leaving we happened upon Dave Brubeck himself leaving the building and joined in with a handfull of others to offer him another round of applause. A very great night.

The next day, after the continental breakfast circus mess the hotel offered (6 small tables between 200 guests), we stopped for coffee and went to see Hilda for a very nice lunch. She's 93 years old and sharp as a tack, it's really so much fun to spend time with her. We then met Alie, whose birthday was the day before, literally on the street and went to get our nails done (in true New York fashion).

Black is the new black.

We stopped at a little bar place for a glass of wine (or a mojito, in my mom's case), wished Alie a happy birthday, and headed out to JFK for the next leg of our journey.

Aww! Happy Birthday, Alie!

Mom, a mojito, and some Willy Wonka glasses.

I was hoping I would be able to upload pictures to share every other day or so, but the guy we are staying with is really uptight about his computer, so it's just less stressfull to post from my phone. Hopefully I will find a place to upload at least a few photos before my adventure is over. Alright, gotta go, tapas and sangria await!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

At 10,378 Feet

Today was a glorious day. Simon and I went on the Albuquerque tram for our anniversary. The tram, although a neat technological feat, was packed full of annoying tourists, boy scouts, and babies. Honestly, I did not expect as many people to be on the mountain as there were. Really surprising. At the top, we hunkered down on a nice rock and ate the picnic lunch of cheese, french bread, and fruit we had packed. Mmmm cheese! We decided to keep trekking further down the trail and deeper into the forest. We were both wearing flip flops, so the going was slow, but even just a few minutes down the trail away from the noise of the tram, things were peaceful. And quiet - Oh how quiet! No whirring swamp coolers or skate boards or traffic. Things were just silent. And every so often a breeze, but not so much a breeze as a breath or a sigh, would silently pass through and persuade the leaves and little flowers to shimmer and dance. We watched the wind, even though we couldn't always feel it. The air was cool and light, not hot and stiffling like it is in the city. It made me miss Taos a little, to be honest. Taos mountain is just so much prettier than the Sandias (No offense, Senor Watermelon), and it doesn't take a 40 minute drive and a jam packed tram to get away from the din of civilization. But, don't tell anyone I confided such thoughts, I need to up hold my Big City Girl image. I'm beginning to falter here, I have spent the rest of the evening gearing up for my trip tomorrow, so without further ado, I will leave you with some pictures and bid you adieu!

This is the tram! Crammed full of people. Tram Cram.

From Wiki: "With a total diagonal distance of 14,657 feet (4,467 m) the Sandia Peak Tram is the longest aerial tram in the world".

Albuquerque from above. The visibility was a little poor today, but I didn't really mind.

Rock face on the West side of the mountain. That side is super rocky and dry, while the East side is green and moist and cool. Very strange and cool.

My Simon enjoying the cool mountain air.

A very cool little spiral whirlygig plant that we found. Spirals rock! Fibonacci FTW!


Part of the pulley system that runs the tram.

Well, I'm off to bed for tonight so I can head for New York, and then Spain in the morning. Just one more thing: I LOVE YOU SIMON! <3

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Exhibit A.

Ladies and gentlemen, regarding the case "Why Whitney should be working at the Daily Show", I would like to present to you exhibit A: On July 24, Whitney made a blog post regarding a recent New Jersey scandal that I'm sure you've all made yourselves familiar with. On July 28, Jon Stewart ran this segment on his show:

Daily Show 7/28/09

I rest my case.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Farmer's Market

Today we went to the farmer's market. We got there early enough that it wasn't super hot yet, which was really nice. We mostly just wandered around
a bit and people watched. We got a few things (some sunflower sprouts and oyster mushrooms, which I am going to use in a soup today), and kicked it in the grass for a bit. I guess I wasn't quite awake enough to think about taking many pictures (I really shouldn't be expected to do anything before I have coffee), but here are a few of the ones I did take.

The park that the market is in. There is another on Saturday mornings that I suspect is bigger, but it's in a parking lot, so I think I prefer this one.

Simon eating a delicious fresh almond chocolate pastry! I could eat those every day!

'Lil old ladies in 'lil old lady clothes. They were singing along to a little mariachi group that was there. They were ok - they were having a lot of fun and the lead singer was hilarious! She would throw her head and shoulders back and just bellow into the sky like she was trying to wake the neighbors. All in all, we had a nice relaxing morning at the market. I will post later with the results of my oyster mushroom soup.