Hola de Espana

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
Trip End Apr 17, 2009

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Monday, July 14, 2008

We were able to schedule a brief stop in Madrid on our way to Prague. It was a good transition for us--Europe, but still Spanish-speaking. Nevertheless, there was still a bit of culture shock. For example, the automatic doors at the mall threw us for a loop. We're not entirely sure why this was the case--Argentina has nicer malls than we're accustomed to in the U.S. 
We encountered other transition issues as well. The move from Argentina's albeit mild winter to Spain's summer was a bit of a shock. Each day it seemed to get progressively hotter with highs reaching 39C (about 100F). As we also had jet lag, we typically fell asleep at 4 AM and starting our day at it's hottest--instead of taking a siesta as sensible people would.

We visited many museums in Madrid: the Prado to see El Bosco's (the Spanish rendering of Hieronymus Bosch) "The Garden of Earthly Delights," the Reina Sophia to see Picasso's "Guernica" (we liked that many of Picasso's preliminary sketches of small portions of the canvas were also surrounding the massive painting--a really enjoyable way to study the painting), the Thyssen-Bornesmisza--which has an amazing collection of 19th century American landscape (including several of St. Anthony Falls!), and our favorite, the Museo de Jamon (Musuem of Ham) where we purchased a take-away picnic almost every day we were in Spain. http://www.museodeljamon.com/establecimientos/mayor.php

We took days trips to Toledo and Segovia from our Madrid hub. Ray had a print of El Greco's "A View of Toledo" in his grad school apartment. Unfortunately, the El Greco Museum was unexpectedly (to us) closed. We're still glad we went as Toledo is a beautiful, walled city (a little bit touristy). And, Ray did get to see this reminder of his grad school days.

The drive to Toledo was also interesting to Ray. Spain has been going through a 20 year real estate boom. The area between Madrid and Toledo reminded Ray a lot of Scott County. However, the density of development and how much agricultural land remains just a few miles outside of a metropolitan area of 6 million people was very different.

Our visit to Segovia was even more impressive. This walled city has a 90-foot tall  Roman aqueduct built around 100 AD to provide the city with water. At the other end of the town is an imposing alcazar (fortress) that we were able to tour. The ability to be so close to many examples of armor more than made up for the time Ray had to spend in the dungeon.

Many years ago Ray's friend Geoff spent his honeymoon in Spain. He said the best meal he had was on the plane. As many of you know, Spanish cuisine is now the darling of the food world. We tried tortilla (a crust-less potato quiche), gazpacho, and tapas-for-dummies (you checklist what you want to try on a printed menu card rather than pointing at something. Ray also enjoyed the first of many Doner Kebobs he has tried around Europe. A doner is what we would call a gyro in the US--chicken or lamb shwarma in bread with veggies and a garlicky sauce. The Spanish variation is particularly interesting in that instead of pita, they take a large hamburger bun and toast it until it's flat and crispy. The ridges are a great adaptation of the classic (unlike the inclusion of pickled cabbage in Germany and in the Czech Republic).

Our trip to Spain was a quick week-long stop-over and we hope to be able to visit many other areas of Spain in the future.  Tune in soon for our Prague update to hear about beer, sausages, our first fashion update, and much more.

Candy and Ray

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