Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beth Anne comes to Spain...finally (Part 1)

Beth Anne came to visit a couple Sundays ago and brought with her incredibly warm and sunny weather. I made the long journey from Teruel to Madrid to pick her up. They have recently jacked up the prices of all of the public transportation in Madrid, making a trip to the airport by metro almost ten euros. The bus that goes from the airport to the city center used to be two euros and it ran us five each. It was definitely worth it all to finally see her again after about four months, though.

We stayed in a hotel in the Puerta del Sol in the city center. I arrived a day before and quickly determined that it was an excellent location from which to see the city, but a terrible place to try to sleep. There were people out all night, yelling in the streets. So I may have managed about three hours of sleep before I just got up and showered and jumped on the metro. I arrived at the airport over an hour earlier than when Beth's plane touched down. As a result, I was tired and half asleep by the time she came through the gate and found me.

Before I showed her some of the major sites in the city center, I had to feed her and get some caffeine in both our systems. One of the magical things about Spain is its coffee. I have tried all manner of coffee in the States and have yet to like it (at least not enough to drink it habitually). I think Beth has had a similar experience. For her first few coffees here, I had to order an extra packet of Nesquik for her. After a few days, she was drinking it normal. We are both going to have some serious caffeine withdrawals soon.

Our first stop in Madrid was actually further from the Puerta del Sol than we'd be for most of our stay in the capital. On Sundays and holidays in Madrid, there is an open air market called El Rastro, where you can find all sorts of interesting and cheap items. Beth found a pretty blue dress and while I didn't end up buying anything, I found all kinds of things I really wanted (but wouldn't be able to get home in one piece). They had some ancient-looking cameras in one stand but they were going for over 100 euros. Beth also got her picture taken with an escaped Lord of the Rings extra.

Later, we went back to the Puerta del Sol and I took Beth on a little tour. We stopped by the Plaza Mayor and made our way along the streets to the Palacio Real. The last time I was in Madrid, I didn't get a chance to go inside, but we were able to go. It was surprisingly expensive but really impressive. We weren't able to take photos inside, unfortunately. I got some more pictures of the outside of the palace this time, as well as some pictures of myself and Beth. It's nice to not just be taking pictures of buildings and landscapes for once.

In the evening, we did a little shopping. I think Beth likes European clothes (as do I), but everything is really expensive in comparison to the USA. It's not that the clothes are of a higher quality in all cases either, because some of them are American brands. That didn't stop us from looking, though.

The next day, we had planned to make a trip to Toledo but it was poorly planned on my part and I didn't understand where the train left from. The information people weren't helpful at all either. It wasn't that big of a deal, we were really tired anyway. Instead, we hiked a short distance to an Egyptian monument that was donated to Spain after they helped out with a dam project. The dam was going to destroy or submerge some ancient artifacts, so as a token of appreciation, they took apart a would-be-affected monument in Egypt and shipped it to Valencia, where they put it on a train to Madrid. Now it stands in an open space near a beautiful lookout point into one of the greener areas of Madrid. It's a strange contrast to the rest of the architecture and monuments there.

We headed to Teruel in the afternoon, taking the slow, five hour bus. It didn't seem nearly as long with Beth there to talk to. In a surprising turn of events, she got a little car sick while I was trying to encourage her to look at just about everything in the world outside of the window. I'm normally the one on the verge of vomiting. Maybe I've just become accustomed to terrible bus rides at this point.

We stayed at a cozy little hotel in the city center of Teruel that is located on top of the ruins of an old church. There are stone passageways that run under the building and up into the nearby cathedral. The owners use it as a sort of tourist attraction and they have a little sitting room underground for people to drink tea and eat sweets from Arab-inspired plateware. We later got a tour of the underground passageways from the super friendly lady who runs the place with her family. All of the family was really friendly and treated us like important guests.

I introduced Beth to the city mascot, El Torico. She finally got to meet him after hearing quite a bit about him. I hope she wasn't overwhelmed by his majesty. For dinner, I took Beth to a popular overlook in the city center called the Ovalo and we ordered one of the typical tapas from Teruel, Las Delicias. They are basically little toasted slices of bread with a tomato sauce and Teruel's famous cured ham. I honestly expected Beth Anne to not like it all that much, given her aversion to country ham in Kentucky, but she devoured them. I guess that further supports my assertion that the ham here is just not the same as anything we have in the States. She went through a similar phase as me, where she wanted them for every meal thereafter for a while.

On Tuesday, I took Beth to work with me in Albarracín. We didn't get to go visit the village because I had to work all day, but she got to see the primary school and meet the teachers there. She came during a strange week where we only had about twenty-two kids who were all from the same place. Normally, the kids have to live with children from at least one other school and interact and whatnot. It's one of the main points of the CRIET. She got to experience hanging out with Spanish children, which was probably a lot like hanging out with children in the USA, minus being able to understand them.

In the afternoon, we headed back to Teruel and had a look around the city a bit. We had dinner with my roommate and his girlfriend in our apartment. They served us a wide sampling of some typical Spanish foods. We had a Spanish tortilla (potato omelet), ensaladilla Rusa, Delicias de Teruel, a plate of assorted hams, and the like. For dessert they served us fruit in a chocolate ice cream cone and later some kind of cake. It was delicious.

On Wednesday, we made a trip to Valencia by bus. Unfortunately, the bus schedules to and from Teruel are disappointing, so we didn't really have enough time to go to the beach or the City of Arts and Sciences like I had planned. We had a fun time wandering around the city center for a few hours anyway. I had a good time pretending like I was lost all the time and watching Beth get frustrated. We always magically ended up where we wanted to go, though. I'm sure she found it as amusing as I did.

We had a look at Valencia's city gates and the beautiful architecture of the city center and grabbed some ice cream. We saw lots of churches but I wasn't really sure of the history of any of them, thanks to my only previous tour guide being my anti-history roommate. They were pretty, at least. We went to the market and had a look around. We ended up sharing a strawberry shake that someone very easily convinced me to buy. For lunch, we went to a little food stand outside and had a meatball dish and a roasted chicken dish with lots of vegetables. Seeing pretty stuff is good, but I think Beth had eating well as a high priority too.

By the afternoon, we realized that we didn't have enough time to make it out to the beach so we decided to go shopping again. We both found something to buy and it was much cheaper than in Madrid (though still a little expensive). We then caught the relatively early (but final) bus back to Teruel.  

In Teruel, for dinner, I took her to a great tapas bar where they dress up their dishes quite well. We had a tapa that had won an award in Zaragoza for being downright delicious (at least I imagine that's why it won an award). Beth also had some kind of lamb tapa and I ate fried cheese covered in honey mustard sauce. For dessert we had a chocolate cake with fruity sauce all over it. I think it was Beth's favorite place to eat in Teruel.


  1. Thanks, Kyle. Glad the two of you had such a great time. Your pics are marvelous. I look forward to seeing more.

  2. Thanks for helping her get here! I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to show her around many of the places I've been and share new experiences with her here in Spain. I'm still trying to write down everything because I failed to do so as we went along. I'm traveling in the north of Aragon right now, so I have even more to write on top of that. We will have to come visit you sometime and share all of the pictures we took and recount any stories I'm sure I forgot to include here.

    1. I saw a golden opportunity for Beth to join you and see part of Spain, and I decided to help it along. Hope your final days there will go well and be filled with more adventures and more illumination on the Civil War. Yes, please do come and visit me, either here in MD or in FL next winter; I'd love to hear your stories. You're doing a great job with your blog.