Monday, May 28, 2012

Castillo hunting in Castilla y Leon

When the novio suggested driving through Valladolid to drink wine and see castles before we went to a communion, I jumped at the offer. A weekend away from Madrid (that doesn't involve a frisbee) was just what the doctor ordered. I knew I would need some relaxation and wine drinking to prepare me for the massive quantity of familia I was about to meet on Sunday. 

The novio and I picked up our rental Minicooper (haha) on Friday and drove northward to Valladolid. Our first stop was Coca a small town between Madrid and Valladolid with surprise, surprise a castle. We stopped to take pictures, dar una vuelta (take a walk), and have a drink.

We stopped for the night in Pe├▒afiel a small town in the heart of the famous wine region Ribera del Duero. As we drove in, the impressive castle stood at the top a hill looking ominously over the city. 

In the morning we awoke to a rainy and cloudy day. The castle looked gloomy as we walked up to take the tour and check out the wine museum. I was excited to try some of the wines that Ribera del Duero offered and do a wine tasting with a sommelier. I will admit that I love drinking wine but I know nothing about it. 

Wine Museum

After a quick tour of the castle we headed down to try four regional wines. As the sommelier explained how to evaluate a wine through sight, smell, and taste, Alberto and I did our best to not look too tonto when she asked us what aromas we detected. 
The oldest Plaza Mayor in Spain!!!

Next we moved onto Medina del Campo which had another castle (are you sensing a trend here?) We passed on the 2 hour tour and walked around to take some pictures. 

We moved on to our penultimate town of the day Simancas that had a wait for it....a castle! But my favorite part was the historic bridge crossing over the rio Duero

To finish up our trip through Vallodolid, we stopped for the night in Tordesillas to check out their claim to fame, the Treaty of Tordesillas. The treaty established a line dividing Spain and Portugal for colonization purposes. 
Isabel la Catolica overlooking the city
Although its not the most well know region in Spain, Valladolid is an amazing province to spend a relaxing weekend drinking wine and seeing castles. What could be better?

Have you every been to Valladolid? What were your thoughts? Any recommended sites?

Friday, May 11, 2012

San Isidro: Madrid's Holiday

Although I won't have a holiday this year (thanks to not working in the city), Madrid will be celebrating its annual fiestas, San Isidro on May 15. Its not the most well known celebrations in Spain in comparison to San Fermines in Pamplona and Las Fallas in Valencia, but if you live in Madrid it's definitely worth checking out! Here are some ideas for ways to celebrate:

1. Eat the traditional pastry rosquillas: This pastry, similar to a doughnut, comes in 2 forms tontas (silly) and listas (smart). The tontas are plain while the listas are covered in a sugary glaze. Yum!

2. Go see a bullfight: Although people ask me about them all the time, I've actually never seen a bullfight. They just don't really appeal to me, but maybe this year I'll change that. The bullfighting season officially starts during the fiestas. 

3. Peruse Spanish goodies at the Pradera: In the main grounds of the San Isidro celebrations roam around women and men dressed as chulapos and chulapas. There are lots of stalls to buy food as well as live music. Many people go to spend the day, see the Santo Hermitage, and eat rosquillas!
Chulapos y chulapas
La Pradera: Madrid's party grounds
4. Protest in Puerta del Sol: Madrid's holiday also coincides with the one year anniversary of 15 M, a massive protest over the lack of jobs and general frustration about the economy here in Spain. Thousands of people took over Puerta de Sol (Madrid's center) and camped there for months. 15 M inspired many similar protests and camp outs all over Spain. 

Felices Fiestas!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pobre Spain

When I saw my blogger friend Kaley's facebook post on the announcement of Spain's Olympic attire, I excitedly clicked to see what traje the athletes would be wearing in the opening ceremonies. My mouth dropped in shock and slight horror when I saw the picture. 

Whaaaaaaaaat? Ok lets address the first glaring problem...these are pretty much hideous. In my opinion, Spanish people dress quite well and (also in my opinion) these uniforms are tacky and look cheap. I mean you are presenting your country's best athletes to the entire world, shouldn't they look good? These just don't make cut and the material looks kind of like something you would see at the Sunday market El Rastro in Madrid. Yikes. 

As I was reading the article I found out that the company contracted to make these uniforms is an italian-russian company called Bosco. Hmmm that's strange. The article commented that most countries try to pick a designer from their country, you know for like national pride. What's the deal-io Spain? The article did not state a reason for why Spain did not choose a Spanish designer but the fashion community is not happy about it. And I have to say I agree with them. The Olympics is about having pride in your country and choosing a designer that isn't from there for the Olympics doesn't seem to show a whole lot of it. In this time of crisis, Spain should show that Spanish products and designers are valuable and that they take pride in them. Get in the spirit of the games Spain!