Friday, January 28, 2011

Two large Ficus trees

There are two enormous Ficus trees in the old part of Cadiz.  They are so large that their branches are being held up by pillars.  I just wanted to share some pictures to show you how magical they really are.  I hope the pictures and video does them the justice they deserve.  Enjoy!



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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gilbraltar

I never knew Gilbraltar ever existed until I came to Spain.  It is located at the southern tip of Spain, at the entrance of the Mediterranean, but is not owned by Spain.  It sits next to a Spanish town called La Linea, and once you cross the border, you are in what they call "the little UK".
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It became an important base for the British Royal Navy, which drove the local economy and provided employment for a large portion of the local population. Today its economy is based largely on tourism, financial services and shipping. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibraltar
Despite the fact that it was raining buckets on our heads, and that a dark cloud covered the famous Rock, we had a great time.  Walking with soaked shoes with soaked socks *squish squish squish, we crossed the border by foot.  They barely even looked at our passports.  As we walked out of customs, we immediately see signs of the UK, from the phone booths, to the cute British benches and "rubbish bins".  We were now in English speaking territory.  Or so I thought.  The first shop we stopped in Marcos told me I could speak for a change in English.  I asked the lady if their meat pies needed to be heated at home or if they were ready to eat here.  She couldn't understand me.  She spoke Spanish.  So apparently not everyone speaks English here.  I found out later that there official language is in fact English, but that they speak a dialect called llanito.  It's a mix between English, Spanish and Genoese (and some local words). The people of Gilbratlar can switch from fluent English to fluent Spanish at the snap of a finger.  I was so jealous.  What a great area to raise kids for language skills!
On our walk into Gilbraltar, you have to cross the airport runway.  Yes, you heard me right, you literally walk across the jet way.  There are two traffic lights, one for cars and one for people.  If it's red, it means a plane is either taking off or landing.  It's a small airport with very little air traffic, so we never saw any action on the runway.

By the time we got to the main part of town, we were so wet, you could wring out our clothes.  I felt almost this guilty pull in my stomach for not hiking up the rock, or going up to the rock, but it seemed absolutely pointless because you couldn't see anything up there.  We decided to wait it out and see what happened with the weather, and instead looked at the shops.

After walking the entire street, it finally stopped raining.  We visited a small grave yard, where we discovered a grave stone that had f's instead of s's.  Read the tomb below.
Apparently in the 18th century, their s's looked exactly like f's.
After walking around the touristy areas, we decided to just get lost in the city and walk wherever the roads took us. We walked and walked.  In a lot of ways, Gilbraltar reminded me of Ketchikan because of the way it was built.  It's a town right on the coast, built up on a mountain side.  Little stair cases give you short cuts down to the main road (just like Water Street).  We went through gorgeous parks with tons of Aloe Vera plants, and exotic fish.  The town is a very quiet town.  Nothing like loud Spain.  It almost felt like a ghost town in some areas, not a person in site or a sound to be heard.  Here are a few pictures, you can see more at the web album.
The Famous Rock that is clouded over.
My favorite house that I saw there.  How cute!
Gilbraltar Police Department
After walking for hours, and still feeling that guilty pull in my stomach for not experiencing the best part of Gilbralatar (the rock), we decided to look into going up to the top.  Who knows, maybe you could see something up there after all?  At the top they have caves, monkeys, natural reserves, and more.  Tour guides wanted us to pay around 60 euro each to have them do a guided tour for 2 hours and told us that the cable car was even more expensive because once you get to the top there is an entrance fee.  Since I had already seen cenote caves, we decided to go talk to the cable car people ourselves.  We found out that there is no entrance fee to enter the rock and we would be able to walk around as much as we like up there and see the monkeys for 9 pounds each! (They do euros and pounds here.)  I am so glad we ignored the tour guys.  We decided to go up!
Remnants of castles and war buildings

The fog did eventually clear up and we saw some great city views!

 I hope you enjoyed all these pictures!  School starts tomorrow and I have only 3 more weeks til I come home!   Miss you all! xo

Three Kings Day

In Spain, the holidays don't end on New Years Day, but instead 12 days after Christmas on Jan. 6th.  It ends with the Feast of Epiphany also called "The Adoration of the Magi" or "The Manifestation of God."  This day is known as the Three Kings (or Wise Men) Day: Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.  According to the Bible, these three kings followed the bright star to Bethlehem and found Jesus.  They gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (I never knew what myrrh was until I googled it.)
In Spain, the children wake to find gifts brought to them in the night by the Three Kings (just like our Santa Claus).  The day before, on the 5th, Cadiz had a huge parade down the main avenue, where floats throw candy for the children and the Three Kings make their appearance.  After the parade, the people walk to the old town.  It's a sticky walk too, as the streets are covered with candy remnants, and they stick to your shoes and the back of your pants!  At City Hall, the Mayor addresses the city and then sets off a huge display of fireworks from the roof top.  Then, and this is what all the children get excited about, the Three Kings come and say hello over the loud speaker, letting the children know they will be very busy tonight, so go to sleep early!
The camels of the Three Wise Men
Gaspar
Balthazar
Melchoir
This is a giant sized donut of what they serve at Three Kings.  Inside is little presents for the children, so you have to be careful of where you bite.

The streets on the way to the Old Town (Vane & Marcos)
City Hall - all lit up
Cole, Marcos and Vane
Fire works - all these pictures have been from my iphone 4.  Good camera for a phone!
Three Kings Day Morning - I received a Spa gift certification and a nice necklace and earrings!
The donut that is so popular for Three Kings Day



Barcelona

What a gorgeous city!  With over two thousand years of history, but with a young soul, Barcelona is the place to visit.  Around every corner was a new surprise.  From the houses of Gaudi to the rich diversity of the St. Joseph Markets.  Marcos and I arrived late in the evening to our Couch Surfing host Paoloa.  She is wonderful.  She gave us her guest room, with a nice pull out bed and some tips for our weekend.  I highly recommend Couch Surfing!  It's the best way to travel.
Since I am so behind on blogging, I am just going to give you a web album to browse pictures.  My favorite attraction was the Sagrada Familia.  Here is a video of the inside.  It's beauty brought tears to my eyes.  The church still hasn't been finished yet, and they hope by 2025 it will be done.  I plan on returning then to see it finished.
My second favorite place was Park Guell.  Gaudi's artwork was on display in every corner of this park.  The mosaic style benches were the best.  What a great environment for a day picnic, with the spectacular views of the city and the sounds of the unique music playing, I absolutely loved this park.


I hope you enjoyed the web album.  xo