Friday, January 28, 2011

Toledo, mi Amor

I forgot to mention- at the Palacio Real, there was a whole room of artwork in the royal collection dedicated to Saint Michael! That was interesting to see, given how I go to Saint Michael's College. They had some pretty fascinating collection pieces, including paintings of Virgins from various sects and cults within the Christian religion. 

Yesterday, we moved out of the Hotel Moderno in Madrid and took a bus to Toledo. Toledo was an incredible place! It seems like a very small city, at least inside the old walls, with tiny cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. It was my favorite place so far on this trip. We had an amazing guide who took us through the important parts of the city to the Catedral Primada Santa María, a very famous part of Spanish history that used to be a mosque.

The three of us living-mates went to lunch in a hole in the wall place in Toledo and ordered sandwiches and a dish that Americans would call breakfast: tiny birds' eggs on top of toasted bread with bacon. It was all very delicious, and we decided to always look for those kinds of places to eat instead of the more expensive touristy places! We also looked around the little shops: there were plenty of tourist gadget shops and Toledo-specific shops (mostly displaying metalwork, knives, swords, and suites of armor, since Toledo is famous for its metalwork and for its history of battles. I found it interesting, and attractive, that there were also the chain stores from Madrid in Toledo, but in miniature form given the small size of the streets and shops. 

The Catedral de Santa Marìa was amazing! We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but that might have been a good thing because I wouldn't have known where to start! It was enormous, all marble, and very, very cold. We saw many tributes to the Virgin Mary handing a royal vestment to San Ildefonso, the patron saint of Toledo and a symbol of the city. Our guide brought us to the choir section- not really a loft, so much as an area surrounding one of the altars, with carved wooden seats and hidden doors leading up to huge pipe organs. Apparently a tradition in Espana is to have pipe organs that lower partway to be horizontal way up in the air. 
la catedral de Santa Maria
There were red cardinals' hats hanging in some places, indicating a tomb underneath below the main floor; we saw a small stairway, all darkened and creepy, leading to the crypts. We saw an incredible piece of artwork at the main altar that took 27 artists 6 years to build and paint; it extended from the floor all the way to the ceiling, and the windows in the cathedral tower were arranged around it to make the sacraments appear to glow. 

There were also tombs for a rich family who paid to be there, and a museum collection of religious artwork by famous people. Apparently the royal monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella were supposed to be buried there, but because Granada was the last city to be taken by the Christians they were buried there to solidify that conquest. 

On the way out, we saw a GIANT painting of Saint Christopher on the wall of the church. As the patron saint of travelers and children, St. Christopher is put in many Spanish churches as a representative for those souls who die suddenly and need to be saved. The painting was literally an entire wall of the cathedral, from floor to ceiling. 
We also saw some buildings with the royal crests of Ferdinand and Isabella, which was cool, and small pieces of artwork or statues tucking in the walls to indicate what the street was. We went into an ancient synagogue there as well, which was a very interesting place.We got back on the bus later in the afternoon and headed to Granada, which I only saw in the dark as we unloaded and found our resedencia last night. It was a really incredible visit, and Toledo is definitely my favorite city so far!

Please check out my pictures from Madrid (and Toledo, soon to come) under the "Study Abroad Pictures" link at the top of this page. More on Granada soon. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fotos y màs

It has already been an amazing time here in Espana! As I mentioned, we spent several days in Madrid touring various places and spending time walking around the city. El Museo del Prado was a fantastic excursion; we were split into smaller groups, and our guide gave us headsets to listen to her, which was good because it was crowded.

             We looked at the works of 3 major artists in detail, which was perfect- not too much and not too little, for those of us interested in the details of the artist and style. Velàzquez was my favorite, with his clean, realistic work and close attention to details. El Greco was probably my least favorite of the three artists, despite his fame in Spain; the dark, cloudy paintings were reminiscent of a scary Church and an unforgiving faith. The works of Goya were very interesting; apparently he was deaf, so he read a lot of body language, and was able to tell stories through his portraits about the people in them in that way. 

              We also went to the Royal Palace in Madrid. Like the museum, we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but I have some nice ones of the outside and the courtyard. It was hard to figure out the layout of the palace without a guide, but we went to the armory and found our way to the rooms on display inside: huge dining rooms and party rooms, ornate dressing rooms and sitting rooms, a different color theme for every single room! It was pretty incredible to imagine people living in a place so huge and with a different room for every function. It was all white marble in the outer halls and larger structures; very impressive.

el Palacio Real from the outer courtyard
            The armory was amazing. There were full horse figures in engraved armor, many of them, with a mannequin rider in full armor on top, that took up most of the room. It was unreal! We could have reached out and touched them. The walls were lined with various weapons, including early firearms, and various helmets and other pieces of armor. Most impressive of all was a full wall-- 30+ feet-- of suits of armor for one king! I believe Carlos V had all those suits made for himself, some of them ornate, others frightening. The opposite wall was lined with his sons' armor, equally intimidating and fantastic.
           Downstairs we found armor for children, which was sad, but it was mostly used for training and decoration. I wanted to take pictures so badly! Every time my friends and I mentioned it though, a security guard came out of nowhere to keep an eye on us. It was all so amazing though. Other than cathedrals in New York, I had never been in buildings so large.
The private part of the palace, facing the marble structure pictured above

las chicas, goofing off!
The rest of our time in Madrid, I spent with my roommate/new suitemates, walking around Madrid, doing a little shopping, finding places to eat, and we went to a nightclub! It is very nice to order drinks with dinner or just go to a bar and try something new. The food here is really amazing. I loved breakfast at the hotel- they had fresh fruit, toasted bread and olive oil, fresh little croissants....everyone loves pastries here, and they are so easy to find! I am going to miss that at home. I love the crunchy bread and olive oil for breakfast, and it is served with many meals. Buen provecho!

Monday, January 24, 2011


After a long overnight flight from Philadelphia, I joined my study abroad group API in Madrid, where we will be staying for several days! It has been such a long day I don't even know exactly where "today" began. Long hours of waiting and moving luggage finally landed us in our hotel near Plaza Mayor at the very heart of Madrid, and literally, the very center of the country. It is really fascinating here; the streets are all cobblestone, which I'm told is a European norm, and where we are is a touristy place with lots of shops and walking streets. It's hard to tell which streets are for driving and which are for walking!

We have been warned about pickpockets and other dangers, especially after dark, of the area and although we won't be here for very long can hopefully familiarize ourselves with some of the ways of life here before settling in Granada.

I met my roommate for the semester and my 2 API suitemates! They are really awesome; we bonded very quickly and have spent some time together already. It looks like a fun semester ahead, what with traveling and spending time in our resedencia and meeting their friends throughout Europe. One roommate is Puerto Rican and knows many people abroad; one has family and friends in Spain; and one spent a summer in Salamanca and traveled in Italy prior to arriving here, so I'm pretty much the one with the least travel abroad experience, but that's okay. We seem to be getting along well so far!

Tomorrow I'm going to the Prado Museum, which holds the royal painting collection (collected by Spanish monarchs between 1400-1700). This museum houses many masterpieces from artists such as Velàzquez, Goya, El Greco, and Italian and Flemish artists. We also have a trip planned to visit the Royal Palace, built for Bourbon King Phillip V after the Alcàzar burned down. It will be a busy day! Later in the week we will visit el Escorial, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, and visit Toledo before bussing out to Granada! Pictures to come.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Two weeks from yesterday, I'll be starting my semester with API study abroad in Spain! I was nervous earlier, but I'm really getting excited at this point. Saying good-byes and thinking about packing helps, I think, especially considering the light clothing I'm packing! It will be in the 50s and 60s for January and February in Granada, comparable to our April-May here in Vermont, so I'll be back just in time for a second spring and summer :) I've been carefully picking through clothing and bags and other personal items to bring; it's hard because I know I will want room in my bags to fill on the way home, and also there is always the possibility of losing things or being pickpocketed...lots to think about. Still, this is an exciting time!

Leave your address in the comments if you'd like me to send you a postcard.

Although I'm not taking any theater classes while in Spain, I'm hoping the experience will broaden my horizons and give me a larger pool to draw from in terms of design in the future. I may look for a drama club at the university I'll be studying at; I may try to see some performances once I understand all of what is being said; in any case, I'm hoping to travel and take pictures and keep this blog up to date.

In other news, I've applied to about 12 summer stock theaters, ranging from Montana, Utah, Illinois, St. Louis, and (for the most part) New England and regional New York. I understand the concept of internships being resume builders and designed for the experience, but after a semester abroad I'm not going to be able to work without pay, unfortunately. Most of the theaters I've applied for offer some combination of housing, meals, and/or payment, so hopefully one will pull through! I have alternated applying for stage management and electrics positions, and have interacted with two possibilities so far. It's hard to wait until February or March to hear back, especially when faced with decision making on some places when others are still uncertainties. I'm sure something will work out!