Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stratford trips first round

The offer was made for me to join a group of students to a town in the UK called Stratford.  I obviously had to accept, whatever the duties of the trip might be!

If you, like me, have never heard of Stratford, perhaps you have heard of one of its most famous residents... William T. Shakespeare... yep the one and only Billy Shakespeare.

It has so far been a fairly quiet trip, if you can actually describe a trip with 90 kids that are age 10, as "quiet"!  In typical British fashion the weather oscillated between rain with gail force winds and sunshine.

I joked with the kids that it would be disappointing to visit and have sunshine and warm temperatures!  No one would believe they were ever here!

We walked the city and visited the theater he made so famous and saw many of the landmarks of the town.  We took public transportation... with 90 kids!  We stopped traffic no less than 10 times with a procession of kids crossing the street that felt more like a parade than a field trip and we managed to not lose any of them!  AMAZING!

Tomorrow, LONDON!

And I promise to include pictures.  I couldn't take any this time because the battery in my phone died and much to my surprise, Spain and the UK have different types of outlets... come on Europe, get your act together! :-) 

Also, I'm pretty sure I invented the middle initial in Shakespeare's name above.  Maybe I stoll it from Star Trek?

Saturday, March 21, 2015


"You MUST visit Segovia!", that is what my colleagues here said to me and so we piled in the car and headed off on what we thought would be an hour's drive to the hostel Don Jamie in Segovia.  We learned on that trip that it might be a good idea to have a GPS here... especially when you can't speak the language very well!  In the end, we had to agree that you absolutely MUST visit Segovia!

After about two and one-half hours and nearly decided to just call it quits and head home, we found out hostel and as hostels go, it was really nice in both amenities and location.  About a block away from our hostel was this:

It is an original Roman aqueduct.  It is a beautiful, and truly amazing structure!  There isn't any binding agent (mortar) to hold the blocks together and yet it has stood here for centuries!  For a long time we just stood in amazement of such an incredible structure that was erected in a time without cranes or modern equipment.
The grass sneaking through the ancient steps alongside the aqueduct made for a beautiful scene.
Me:  Violet stand right there so I can get a picture!
Violet:  Ugh, okay... 
I wanted to have a picture to show that there wasn't any mortar 

Oh, Hi Amanda... I didn't notice you here!  I was a little distracted by this structure that was built in 50 AD!!!  SO crazy!

So apparently this is a "famous" wall in Segovia but I have to say that I'm not sure what is so interesting about it after seeing the aqueduct.

It was still Christmas season so there were decorations out in full force.

The cathedral here reminded me of the one in Burgos but less Gothic.  BUT.......!
The Alcazar in Segovia is mythically known as the inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle and I can see why!  Truthfully, there is also a mosque in Turkey that claims the same thing but... I haven't been to Turkey!  This place was really amazing at night and was worth a closer look the next day.  But, at this point of the night it was time for...
Tapas!!  I am addicted to the outdoor seating in the plazas here in Spain.  The kids can run and play while Amanda and I can enjoy some of the finer culinary offerings of Segovia.
And as luck would have it, there was a group of carolers on our walk back to the hostel.  Also, if you have never had chocolate caliente and freshly made churros, you MUST... it is nothing like "hot chocolate" in the states!
The Alcazar by daylight... and that is what I call a moat!
We had to pay extra to climb the "tower" and I was concerned that the kids couldn't do it but in the end, they were fine and....
... the 156 steps to the top were no problem at all.
A knight on horseback!  Kids loved it!
Clara!  Put that Down!!!
This was the dining table.
While I'm at it, I should mention that one of the really cultural interesting aspects of Spain is the confluence of both Christian and Islamic influences.  If you don't know much about Spanish history check it out because it is some interesting stuff.  Haha, that might actually be a bad site for a history lesson, I'm not sure.  I didn't read it!  I guess Cliff notes is too much for me!

I think we should focus on our ceilings more in the States because these are amazing!

They have cameras in some of these rooms so that if you touch something they will make an announcement yelling at you!  It happened to a woman who was in the this room (the "pineapple" ceiling room) with us.

Another "princess" bed.  This one was a little older than the one we saw a few weeks ago.
This is a record of the leaders in this region of Spain.  It is pretty creepy and cool all at once.

The Alcazar offered a lot of beautiful views of Segovia and the surrounding landscape.

I can not say why, but when I saw this disturbing photo I had to send it via text to my Mom!  Pretty gruesome really!

This is one of the Sleeping Beauty-style towers
Ugh!  I SO wanted to get to this garden but the best I could do is to look down at it from the level above.  It did make me wonder how they grew gardens like this and even whole trees when they are built on top of rock and stone!
The armory!!!  Cannons and all kinds of weapons of the age.

This crossbow was by far my favorite weapon of the collection.
The Alcazar had several of these open, interior courtyards.
Lost in the alcazar and starting to lose our MINDS!!

There is a nice park with a beautiful trail, just below the Alcazar and it makes for some great photos!

We had so much fun here and this trip was the beginning of us feeling at home here in Spain.  I was sad to leave Segovia, maybe we will make it back there before we head back to the States.


Welcome to Burgos!

This was a fairly unplanned trip compared to other excursions.  Burgos is not a large city and we figured we could find what we wanted by just driving around.  ...and after a lengthy period of driving in circles or on roads that seemed to take us straight out of the city, we managed to find the castle.  There isn't much of the castle remaining because Napoleon blew it up, this is a common theme at historical sites here in Spain.  Maybe that's the origin of the name Napoleon Dynamite?  Unfortunately for us, we spent a little too much time driving around looking for the castle and by the time we found it, they were just closing the gate.  Luckily though, it was the Christmas season and there was still plenty to see and experience.

Burgos is north of Madrid on the A1 motorway by about two and one half hours.  It is known for it's morcilla or blood sausage or blood pudding, I prefer the name morcilla!  I would likely not have tried it the first time had I known what it was but once I tried it, I no longer cared what it's made of or how it's produced because it just plain tastes good!  (it can be produced in a way that would be considered really inhumane in the States)

I could try to describe the cathedral for you but someone else has already done that and much better than I could have.  If you want to know more about the Burgos Cathedral or see more pictures go to that site and it is all you ever wanted to know... more, actually.
We finally found a spot to park and went in search of food.  When it comes to a hungry family, there is a critical tipping point that once breached, turns a happy family outing into a post-apocalyptic dystopian fight for survival.  We had reached that point!

We did manage to find a place to eat, not good food but good enough to get us through.  When we no longer had the fog of hunger to prevent us from seeing the sights of the city center we were pretty excited to check it out.

The Plaza Major was set up for the holidays.  Including specialty food vendors like the one above.  They had carved a watermelon and a squash into a flowers.
There were rides for the kids and vino caliente (mulled wine) for the adults.

In the far background you can see the doors of the cathedral and just behind the girls you can see the end of the vendor booths.  The girls were entranced by this statue of a pilgrim who seems to have leprosy or has been traveling so long that he is turning into a tree?  Truthfully I have no idea what he represents but he had a rather odd anatomical feature that piqued their interest and I was happy to take the picture and find something else to interest them!

Many of the popular tourist cities have a guided tour on a mini "train".  They are hit and miss as far as how worth it they are, Toledo was a good one but the one in Burgos  wasn't as informative.  It was warmer and more efficient than walking and we found other ways to entertain ourselves when things became a bit dull.

I really liked all of the Christmas lights with the 13th century architecture in the background, it made for a festive and welcoming atmosphere and we happily embraced it.

One of my favorite features of the city were these really old highly manicured trees that lined some of the city streets.  They have been trimmed so that the limbs almost connect each other from one side of the sidewalk to the other.  I'm sure they create a great atmosphere in the summer when the leaves are out in full force as well.

The kids were great for this adventure!  It was crazy cold and they weren't completely dressed for the freezing temps (Amelia is wearing a dress) but they didn't complain, they just soaked it all in and enjoyed running around playing in the various plazas of Brugos.
This is my favorite picture of the cathedral!

I'm a sucker for these small alley ways and they are everywhere!

This is a cool infinity fountain in the front of a church.  I love all of the statues, architecture and fountains in the cities we visit.
Goodbye Burgos!