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On Thursday, a cold front from Siberia swept into Spain. It’s not as bad here as in Eastern Europe, not by a longshot (and it's still warmer here than in Vermont), but it’s been colder and the wind is just howling. It was particularly upsetting to see some beggars in bare feet. (I still can’t get the image of one old lady out of my head – she was at a minimum in her late 70s, sitting on a cold sidewalk with her legs and feet bare. There was nothing I could do – I couldn’t communicate with her or the police. There was a young woman talking to her as we walked by, so I hope something was done for her.)

So (on a more vain note), on Thursday I bought a pair of summer shoes. Shoes are really big in Madrid – there are shoe stores everywhere. There seem to be two types of shoes to buy here – leather ones and espadrilles.

I went to an alpargaterias called Casa Hernanz, which has been around for more than 150 years. What a hoot! Piles of espadrilles everywhere.

And they are surprisingly comfortable and very reasonably priced. I can't decide if I should go back and buy more now or wait for Barcelona to go to another store (or here) with [ profile] hollywdliz and Caroline. (Or both.)

[Aside: Lucky me, we arrived in Spain in the middle of the bi-annual sales. The way sales work here, they have them twice a year, in January into February and in July into August. Every store has huge Rebajas!!! signs in their windows. The discounts really seem to vary – I’ve seen some really great deals, and many mediocre ones. However, by now the stock has dwindled to an almost nonexistent state. So Liz: the bad news is that by the time you get here the sales will be over; the good news is that there may be merchandise to buy.]

On Friday we went to a small museum about Lope de Vega, a Spanish writer who was very famous in his day, which was the same time as Cervantes. They had a rivalry, one that Cervantes won in the long run, since almost everyone has heard of Don Quixote, and very few people outside of Spain know of de Vega. In a quirk of Spanish humor, de Vega’s house is on Calle de Cervantes, and Calle Lope de Vega is the street where Cervantes once lived. Anyway, I’m mainly mentioning this visit because of the conversation I had with the tour guide. I asked her about the non-English-speaking Spaniards. She said Spaniards must take English in school, but they don’t do the work they need to learn the language. Basically, she said, the Spanish are lazy. I asked her about the English songs on the radio, and she said sometimes people look up the translations, but they typically just bop to the music, singing the words but having no idea what they mean.

Saturday was Segovia. We had been waffling on this all week. This Siberian cold front meant even colder temperatures in Segovia, which is at 3000 feet and north of Madrid. We decided to go.

But what I didn’t count on was SNOW!

The forecast was sunny. Instead, there was this huge dark cloud hovering over Segovia, and then it started to snow. No snow in Vermont, of course, but snow here. We coped as best we could.

First stop: Segovia has an amazingly intact Roman aqueduct:

Photos just don't capture it, but here's another:

Next was a small Jewish museum, and the Jewish quarter. Segovia has almost nothing left of its Jewish past, aside from a couple of street names. There is one church that used to be a synagogue, and some existing buildings that were owned by Jews back in the day.

Church that was once a synagogue:

We had info for two walking tours of the Jewish section, which we gamely set out to do. We did cover most of the area. But it was snowing and windy and just miserable, and I lost all feeling in my toes. So we went to a nearby museum, just to warm up. After putting on a third pair of socks, I was in relatively OK shape for the rest of the day.

We visited the Alcazar, a fairytale like castle. This is a view from atop one of the towers, looking out at the other turrets and the countryside:

And then it was time for lunch. We went to a recommended restaurant and had the recommended local speciality, a roast baby pig. I’ll spare you the video I took of the expert chopping it up with a plate. Instead I’ll post this (although this is not the one we ate) (not for the squeamish):

We toured the Cathedral next. No heat, of course. These buildings are just frigid in the winter – they are decorated with ornate gold and huge paintings, but there is no heat.

I easily could have spent more time in Segovia. Of all the places we’ve been for day trips, Segovia is the one where I wish I could have spent more time.

Two observations:

We’ve visited a handful of information/tourism centers so far, and they are just so lacking. Granted, ones in the US can be overwhelming, since every store and tiny tourist trap within 200 miles of the center has a brochure. But the ones in Spain have hardly any information. It’s bizarre to walk into a tourist center and see nothing to pick up. They want you to get one-on-one help – to get a map, you have to ask for one. The Segovia info center at the train station was particularly amusing. We got off the train and like everyone else, went to the center. There was a long line. The attendant provided a map for each person, and, like a tape recording, in either Spanish or English, gave the exact same speech to each person, circling the exact same spots on the map. In the same vein, we’ve been to museums and tourist sites that don’t have any postcards, or opportunities to buy posters/books/etc. 

As I enter our fourth week in Spain, I am realizing that I don’t really feel like I’m “living” in Spain. I do feel like a tourist. Food is one of the few ways I feel I’m capturing what it’s like to live here. Not knowing the language, I can’t read the papers or understand what people around me are saying, so I feel very removed. And now with the Internet, I have access to all the news I want from the states, so I feel very connected. Knew all about the Komen-Planned Parenthood controversy as it unfolded, for example. 

Superbowl is beginning soon, but since it's midnight here, I don't think I'll stay up. Not sure who I'm rooting for, but I'll get the results in the morning.


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March 2012

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