Trip Back in Time

If we are keeping score, one area where Europe scores a point over the United States is the ease in which one can travel back in time with just a simple drive outside of the city. Two women Anna works with at school invited us to visit the town of Pedreza located in the province of Segovia. Yesterday, they picked us up and we made the hour-long trip to this medieval town which was unlike any other I have seen.

We began our tour at a stone castle made back in the thirteenth century. Next, we visited an old jail and then came my favorite part: an amazing lunch of the town’s specialty, roasted lamb, which was the juiciest and most savory dish I have had in a good while.

The group consisted of the two couples, us, and  the combined five kids who are all under the age of five. They actually behaved quite well and seemed to enjoy themselves. Not to mention, one of the perks of being with kids is finding the excuse to hang out in parks and we took advantage of that at one located at the bottom of the Alcazar, Segovia’s huge castle that I have visited a couple times in the past. It’s the one they say inspired the iconic Disney castle.

Eventually we made it home absolutely exhausted but thankful for the chance to see a place we would have never found on our own. It was also a great chance to practice our Spanish as these people didn’t know a lick of English. Apparently, they enjoyed our company too and offered to take us somewhere else we want to go which we aren’t reluctant to do soon!

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Carnaval: Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, my school celebrated Carnaval too this week. On Wednesday, all the classes dressed up and we had a parade through Estremera. Each class had a specific theme from Spongebob to Star Wars and I have to admit everybody’s costumes impressed me. All of the parents walked along with us and it ended in a plaza with the burning of a giant paper fish. Each child contributed a scale in which they wrote on the back what they want to rid themselves of. Most of them said something along the lines of behaving better which I can only hope materializes. I’ve come to find that in such a small town, they have to find ways to have some fun and this was certainly a shining example.

I’ll be honest, I did enjoy myself thoroughly although I couldn’t help but laugh listening to the same songs I heard at 4 in the morning at a club in Cadiz last weekend at 4 in the afternoon in a plaza in Estremera. The environment was definitely different but the spirit of Carnaval alive! Check out the slideshow to catch a glimpse of all the cuties I work with.

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Carnival in Cadiz!

I was told that February would feel like a long month. After all, we have a regular schedule void of any strange holidays off. Unlike the normal working population, this isn’t something I’m used to. I have spiced it up with a few special events like seeing Broadway’s The Lion King in Spanish and doing a cooking class, but this past weekend me and Anna stepped it up and headed down South to the sun and sea for one of the biggest festivals in the country- Carnival in Cadiz!

Carnival is a celebration that takes place all over the world, and is kind of like our equivalent of Mardi Gras. It lasts an entire week and involves a lot of dressing up, singing, and partying. Here, the two biggest cities to celebrate are Tenerife and Cadiz so we chose the latter and took a three and a half hour train there Friday afternoon. We actually stayed in a neighboring city called Jerez de la Frontera after all the hotels in Cadiz were booked quickly, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise!

Jerez is known for their wine of the same name which is referred to in the rest of the world as sherry since jerez can be difficult to pronounce. We quickly dropped our bags off at our hostel Friday evening and walked over to Bodegas Tio Pepe for a tour of one of the oldest bodegas producing tons of sherry and brandy. I wasn’t really familiar with sherry before but after the tour and four-glass tasting, I think I got a pretty good handle on it. After that, we headed out to grab a bite to eat and crashed early to prep for Saturday in Cadiz.

As I mentioned earlier, costumes are an important part of Carnival and we were not sure what direction to go in. Thankfully, an older woman I work with decided to play mom and help me out, lending me bright orange trash bags for us to make Flintstones costumes out of, like her class will be doing this Wednesday for the parade at our school. We decided it was better than nothing and, in the end, the outfits worked out perfectly. Throughout the day we had people singing the Flintstones theme song to us and yelling out “Wilma!!!” which was kind of neat.

Saturday morning, after covering our hands in superglue and permanent marker while making our costumes, we hopped on the train to Cadiz which was only about 40 minutes away. What happened over the next 16 hours is engrained in my memory as a photo stream of ridiculous costumes, talented street choirs singing satirical songs, meeting people from all over the world, and some breathtaking views of the beach. For a peak into my head, take a look at this:

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We didn’t get to sleep until 6:30 am and were kicked out of our hostel at noon on Sunday. That led us to hang around Jerez for a pleasant and extremely sunny afternoon which I pray put some color back into my pale face. It’s definitely hard getting accustomed to not being tan in the winter after living in Miami for four years.

You might have missed the part where I mentioned my school is having their own Carnival celebration this Wednesday. For the kid’s sake, I hope it isn’t as crazy as the one in Cadiz but I’ll report back with more on that later this week. For now, I wish you and yours a happy Carnival!