Nochevieja

Last night of the year here in San Sebastián, Spain. Some pictures of a Basque Christmas

There has to be Jamon of course!

And this is where you would probably find me – on the edge of the celebration sampling the local tipple

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Salamanca Street Art

As part of our Spanish class this week we had an ‘art treasure hunt’ in the ‘Del Oeste’ neighborhood of Salamanca with a number of classmates. The Barrio Del Oeste is well-known for an abundance of art and I had a great time walking around.

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This is a detail from a poster on a wall, not an actual art piece, but I liked the way it looked

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The following shots are from other locations in Salamanca. It truly is an amazing city to visit. History everywhere you look and the city is always changing – never static.

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Another Day, Another Ham

I knew ham was important in Spain but I had no idea how important until we had spent a few weeks here. It’s part of every celebration and seemingly every dish, and it is wonderful. Here it is being served at the fiesta at our school – ‘Jornada de Puertas Abiertas’ or Open House

My Morning Walk In Salamanca

Salamanca is our home for 2 weeks as we attend our second language school. It is a beautiful, compact city with a lot of history and it’s a bit amazing that I get to walk through it every day.

Following are a few pictures of my walk from our apartment to the school.

I approach the Plaza Mayor through one of the historic gates every morning

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The Plaza Mayor is prettier at night when it is illuminated but I like it when the delivery vans have arrived to make their early morning deliveries. After a few weeks in Spain I’m sure that the most important thing to replenish is the ham!

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There are multiple historic figures arrayed around the Plaza. I tell myself I will read about each one, but I haven’t done it yet

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I’m always encountering street art in Spain – along with graffiti of course

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A short walk North of the Plaza Mayor I always enjoy the elegance of this building

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And, of course, there are churches and cathedrals galore in Spain. Below is the Parroquia de San Juan de Sahagún

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And the doors often intrigue me the most

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And just before I arrive at school I pop in at the Vasco de Gama cafe. I figure it was good enough for him it will work for me, too

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Just Strolling Around

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Like many people, I love to travel. But when I say travel I don’t mean that my focus is on seeing the ‘important’ sites. To me, travel is not a checklist of things that I must see, but the action of strolling around, meeting people, learning about life in another country, and soaking in the culture. My favorite way to do this is just to walk, take pictures and see where my whim takes me.

My wife and I are in Madrid for an extended stay and by happy circumstance we rented a flat close to the center that is about a 30 minute very pleasant walk from our school. The very large ‘Parque de El Retiro‘ is between us and the school. It is an amazing park – 125 hectares – and I’ve taken a different route through it each time. Most surprising to me was a Monday night walk at 9:30 when I expected to be the only one there. But I didn’t yet know that Madrileño’s late night habits extended to outdoor activities. The park was very busy even at that hour – runners, dog walkers, cyclists, and others just strolling.

Entrance to the park on a weekday

It’s only a week that I’ve been here so maybe my impressions will change but it is a wonderful city to visit and the people are usually warm and not rushed even with a beginning Spanish speaker. Following are some of my favorite pictures from this first week.

On the way to Plaza Mayor on a busy Saturday I caught these 2 taking a quiet break from a busy day

Like a lot of cities escaped parrots have adapted and add a color and chatter to the usual flocks of pigeons

Of course, the architecture is interesting and varied but I was surprised to see several building-sized murals that transformed flat, dull walls into interesting scenes

And the botanical garden next door to the Museo Del Prado was fantastic on a warm Autumn day. Visit the Real Jardin Botanico if you can

And for shear crowd density and bargains galore visit the Rastro Madrid open-air market but only on Sundays – and only if you can deal with being packed in like a sardine in a can!