Week 6 - Salamanca and Madrid
So it is getting to the end of my trip and my professors have decided to actually give homework now.I have found this little café that has internet near the aqueduct so on Wednesday night I went down there and got a drink and did research for my presentation.The awesome thing is that at restaurants and cafes here, the waiters don't bother you.It is normal to just have a drink and sit there socializing for 2 hours.So I am sitting there, typing up homework looking at the aqueduct lit up at about midnight or so and it was so peaceful, beautiful and relaxing.That is something I am definitely going to miss.So on Thursday I had to give my first presentation for about 15 minutes on three different countries in the European Union which wasn't too bad because we could talk about whatever we wanted to.I ended up talking about tourism stuff and it went over well and then we were able to go to the market for the rest of the class.I wish we had a market in the states like this one.I guess a farmer's market is similar but it is another thing that I am going to miss.That night I had my last dance class.It was fun because we learned some new moves and reviewed the old ones.She gave us a CD that had a good mixture of songs that we can use to practice.Then at the end of class, she danced for us.It was crazy how she could move.It would be something that I would consider taking a few classes in when I get back.It is just a totally different type of dance that is not seen often but is fun.After class, my friend and I went out with our teacher and her friend to dinner.But before dinner, we walked down to the Alcazar because the sun was setting.It was a gorgeous sight to see the sun set over the castle and the country side.They told us interesting facts about the town and helped us with our Spanish while we helped them with their English.So for dinner we went to a hamburgueseria, which is basically a hamburger joint but hamburgers here are different than in the states.This place had a "super grande" hamburger and it was bigger than my head.At the table next to us, there were 5 guys sharing 2 of them and one serving of one hamburger was about the size of one hamburger.I have no idea how those guys finished it all.After dinner we walked around a bit more and then headed for home.It is nice to talk to them in Spanish because it is in a no pressure situation so if I make a mistake it is no big deal but they also correct me which is nice.Both of the girls are super sweet and it was nice to walk around with locals.
On Friday, our planned excursion was for La Granja which is known as "Little Versailles" and is a palace about 10 minutes outside of town.My friend and I decided, instead, to go to Salamanca for the day because we were unable to go with the group because we were in Pamplona.Once getting to Salamanca I realized this was a good decision.Getting to Salamanca was interesting because there are only two buses and it takes about 3 hours so we decided to take the early bus which left at 7:45 in the morning which was not fun.The positive thing about it was that I was able to see the sunrise which was gorgeous as always.We ended up arriving in Salamanca at about 10:30 which gave us plenty of time to do what we wanted.I had a guide book and we knew the basics of the town and what to see so we just started walking.The first thing we encountered was the Plaza Mayor.Now this plaza was used in the setting of the movie "Vantage Point" to give you a hint of just amazing it is.As I walked into the plaza, I think my jaw just dropped.It is completely enclosed with great architecture and artwork.Deciding that I was going to be a complete tourist that day, I went smack in the middle of the plaza and just took pictures around.I also took video all around the plaza which is posted.Knowing we would be back later that day we took off to find the other big sights.First we went to the new cathedral, new being a relative word.That was interesting but nothing compared to the old cathedral which was right down the road.Surprisingly, the whole day we did not get lost at all.We were pretty proud of ourselves.The old cathedral is of gothic style as well and is breathtaking.Surround each of the doors is an arch with artwork.The really weird thing is in the artwork at one of the doors there is a small astronaut.Now this thing was designed and built well before the idea of astronauts and this little sculpture looks just like an astronaut which is just a little creepy but interesting.From there we went to the University of Salamanca which is the third oldest university in existence.Christopher Columbus actually studied there for a while.I walked in the same rooms as he once was which was cool.Yet again, around the door is artwork and there is a frog hidden to symbolize luck I believe and at all times there is a large group of people standing around trying to find it.Luckily, we found it fairly quickly to give us luck for the rest of our trip. We went inside the university and saw the old lecture halls where there were religious and political debates and where many people have studied.There was a chapel inside the university that was gorgeous, filled with artwork and red velvet.It looked absolutely regal.We then went into the library which was fairly similar to that of El Escorial.There were ancient books and globes that depicted the world before everything was discovered.From the university, we walked around a bit and then went back to the Plaza Mayor.At the plaza we found a cute little café and had lunch in the square which is something I will never forget.I could have sat there all day and I think we were there for close to 2 hours just taking in the scene with some good food.It was fun to people watch as well because there is a good mixture of locals and tourists and just to guess where everyone was from.After lunch it was siesta time, so we walked around the plaza a few times just looking at all the artwork and taking it in before we headed to the bus station.The last bus that went back to Segovia left at 1:45 and it was about quarter to 3 so we took a different route home.We ended up taking the 4 o'clock bus to Madrid which took about 2.5 hours and then when we got to Madrid we had about an hour until our bus left for Segovia, so we walked around Madrid for a bit.Needless to say, we got home about 9:30 at night so it was a fairly long day but absolutely worth it.I really enjoyed Salamanca and if I end up coming back to Spain one day I definitely would go back.
On Sunday we headed to Madrid for the day.We left around 11 in the morning which was nice to be able to sleep in for once.We were heading to Madrid to see the Reina Sofia and the Prado.We had a little meeting earlier this week to talk about some important paintings that were going to be in these museums so we knew which ones we wanted to spend our time on.I was really looking forward to going to the museums because there are so many great works of art there.We first went to the Reina Sofia which is a modern/contemporary museum.The biggest attraction there was the fact that they had the "Guernica" by Picasso.This is a black and white mural that is huge displaying the cruelty of the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.This was the first piece of art I saw in the museum and it was amazing.The pure size of it was overwhelming and it is just incredible to try and figure out how he came up with all this.Picasso's style added to the emotion of the picture because of his jagged pieces put together it looked like shards being but together after the bombing.Other than the "Guernica" there was a large room of other Picasso works which was enjoyable to look at.The other part of the museum that I enjoyed was the room of Dali.They did not have his melting clocks painting there, I think it is in New York, but they had a whole room of his work.This was very interesting; his paintings are very different but have a common theme.Most if not all of his works have a coast line of the Mediterranean and either his wife or his sister.Also, a lot of his paintings have his profile in there is some weird shape and/or position.I just couldn't imagine how he could think is such a manner to produce these paintings.There were a lot of other different small displays but I am not a big fan of contemporary art and I did not really understand much of the works of art that were displayed.Therefore I did not spend much time on the other works.After the Reina Sofia, we had about 2 hours of free time to eat lunch but it was during siesta so nothing was really open so a group of us just sat and talked and people watched which was entertaining enough for me.After our break we headed to the Prado.
The Prado is known as one of the top art museums in the world.It is up there with the Louvre.I was really looking forward to this because there were so many great works of art there.They had art from Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Durer and many more that I cannot remember right now.One of my favorites was Velazquez's "Las Meninas".This painting is very intricate are large in size.It is of Velazquez painting the King and Queen who is not in the painting but whose reflections can be seen in the mirror.Their daughter is being tended to by the maids and she is staring at the onlooker.It is hard to describe but is very interesting.There were many others that I loved but don't want to spend all my time describing them on here.In total, we had two hours to walk through this museum which was not enough time to see everything that I wanted to but my friend and I picked up a floor map when we first got in there and mapped out the important things we wanted to see.Within those two hours we were able to see all the masterpieces that we wanted to.To achieve this, we ended up walking fairly fast towards the end so we would have enough time to see them all.I really enjoyed the whole museum and I would have loved to have had more time there but that wasn't possible because we had to leave by 7 pm.We ended up getting back into Segovia around 8:30 at night so needless to say it was a fairly long day but completely worth it.I am down to just a few days here and most of that time will be taken up by studying for my finals on Wednesday.I am then heading to Madrid Wednesday night with my friend who is going with me so I don't go alone and then heading out at 6 in the morning on Thursday.This has been a great experience so far and I am thoroughly happy that I made the decision to do this.