Me and Cervantes in Toledo. Spain really loves this guy. Look at how long my hair is getting. I'm think about getting it cut next weekend, but maybe not.
I'm very tired today, even though I've slept and slept. I guess it was a beautifully gorgeous day, but I stayed inside all day, relaxing and not moving. I haven't even begun any of the projects that I need to finish before sometime in March or before the end of the semester, and there are quite a few that are going to take quite some time. I really need to quit procrastinating and get to work.
This week went by pretty quickly, thankfully. Friday was 8 weeks in and exactly 8 weeks to go. I'm halfway there and I'm feeling a bit relieved that I'm over that hill. Like I said, I love being here, this has been a great trip, and I don't regret coming at all, but I'm so ready to go home. I'm just getting through the rest of this time be filling it with things that I'd like to get done.
Friday, I went to Toledo with a couple of girls from our group. Getting there wasn't bad at all. A bus from Alcala to Madrid, the metro to a different bus station (we asked information for the correct bus station because my parents told me that Rick Steve's sent them to the wrong bus station), and then a bus ride to Toledo. It was about a 2 hour and 15 minute commute, but it wasn't bad at all. I chatted for quite a bit with one of the girls and I was pretty glad that I went with them on Friday. I was asking around for anyone that wanted to go with me on Saturday, but no one was game and then they asked me to join them on Friday. I hadn't spent much time with either of them, but they are friendly and cracked me up, so a good day over all.
We climbed the huge hill up into Toledo, taking a little bit of a shortcut over the side of a wall. This was after we wandered around for five or some minutes, trying to find an opening in the wall that surrounds the city on the one side that isn't bordered by the river. Making our way all of the way to the main plaza in the city, we went to check out the Alcazar, a huge former imperial residence that is currently closed for renovation. Honestly, it was not that impressive. The streets to Toledo are very narrow and while we walked past it, standing practically right next to its walls and craning our necks up to see it, it wasn't a very impressive building, just long and tall. Later, we took a tour-bus train up along the other side of the gorge and got to see it stand out along the skyline and that was far more impressive.
The tourist-bus train. You really feel a bit ridiculous riding around in it, but most people seemed to be entertained and like I said, I got some great pictures on this ride.
We traversed the narrow, hilly streets towards the cathedral. We managed to get a few nice pictures of the cathedral, but we had the same problem. Standing right next to a huge building only allows you to take in tiny portions at a time, much less impressive, but again we got to see an impressive view from the train.
We headed, then, to the workshop of Mariano Zamorano. He makes his own swords and knives and was, in general, a really nice guy. He showed us his workshop, explained how the swords and knives are made, and let us take pictures with some of his swords. He was really nice and I was tempted to ask him to tell us how he lost some of his fingers, but I thought it was probably pretty obvious and I didn't want to be rude.
At this point, I was starving. I wanted to go into the cathedral, but the girls I was with weren't willing to pay the 7 euro admission fee. So I headed to McDonalds (finally allowed in Toledo after a great struggle), got a cheap meal of nuggets and fries and then went and bought my ticket to the cathedral. They ate their packed lunches and wandered around Toledo for a bit. The church was absolutely gorgeous. I wandered around a bit, following Rick Steve's guided tour. The Transparente, a big hole in the ceiling with amazing paintings and sculptures around it all of the way to the ground was my favorite. Unfortunately, you weren't allowed to take any pictures inside, but I got some nice postcards that had random pictures on them. I hung out in the gift shop for awhile afterwards, trying to figure out which of the 12 booklets that they sold was the one Isha wanted me to pick up for her. Each booklet had pictures and focused on a different part of the cathedral and I didn't know which she wanted. After calling my mom, who called my brother, two separate times, I settled on the booklet about The Transparente, which I hope is okay.
In the Catedral of Toledo, there is a gift sent from Toledo's sister city, Toledo, Ohio. I'm a little bit ashamed that they call Toledo, Ohio, Toledo, Spain's sister city because there is no comparing them, at all, but it's kind of nice to be from the sister city of Toledo, Spain. The gift, however, was little pathetic sitting next to all of these gold pieces and the sword of Franco and other ridiculously historical things. It was just a interesting looking piece of glass, which makes sense as we are the glass city, but still... I was just impressed that they agreed to display it in that magnificent church.
I met back up with my friends and we wandered around a bit more, stopping in at random shops to buy random things. I found a very decent looking set of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza statues for a lot less than I was looking to spend and bought them immediately for myself. They will for sure be a centerpiece in my next place. Those statues were on my list of things that I wanted to get while I was here, as well as earrings from each place I visit. I picked up some really cute flower earrings at a shop off the Plaza.
After shopping for a bit, we were going to head to the Santo Tomé where El Greco's most famous painting is located: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. However, it was starting to get late and I decided that I absolutely had to take this ridiculous tourist train, which left the plaza every hour. I offered to pay almost half of the fares of the girls to convince them to come with me and it worked. So we went and bought some tickets, climbed on this train and went off. Rick Steve's suggests sitting all of the way to the right and a little ways behind the driver. Apparently, everyone reads Rick Steve's because there wasn't a single seat on the right side of the train open when we went to get on. I had to sit next to this guy (French, I think) and practically lean over him taking pictures. I didn't feel too badly about how rude I was being because his wife, who didn't even have a camera, was taking up the right side of the seat in front of us, which was really crappy and rude. She didn't even have a camera... you'd think she could have sat next to her husband and seen everything just as well, without forcing people to lean over her (and her husband) to get good pictures. But whatever. Here are some fantastic pictures that I got.
View of Toledo. If we had stopped, I would have been able to get some of the river that's right in front (the wall is coving it), but we didn't. That tall building to the right is the Alcázar. The tower-ish looking thing near the middle is the cathedral. Both far more impressive at this angle.
View of the Catedral. The weather was fantastic. It was overcast all day, but it didn't rain. Doesn't make for the best picture, but it makes it look interesting.
A bridge. This picture shows a bit of the river that surrounds Toledo on three sides. A very strategic defensive position.
When we got back to the plaza we were all ready to go to the Santo Tomé for real this time, but it had just closed. I was pretty disappointed, especially because it was my fault that we got on the train instead of going. I had seen it before though, when we stopped in Toledo when I was here in high school, not that I remember it very much, but maybe a little. It was starting to get late and with a two and some hour commute ahead of us, we decided that we had better catch the bus back to Madrid if we were going to make it home on time for dinner. On the way to the bus station, we stopped at the Santo Tomé dessert shop in the Plaza to buy some Mazapan, a famous in Toledo dessert. I bought a piece with some fruit filling and decided that I wasn't really a fan. I was trying to explain why I didn't like it to the other girls and the one said that she thought it tasted a lot like those circus peanuts and I couldn't agree with her more. And I'm not really a fan of circus peanuts.
Bus back to Madrid, metro to the other bus station, then bus back to Alcala. I talked more with the one girl and learned a lot about her. They both said that they were glad they invited me along, especially because they really enjoyed the tourist train and I demanded that we go. It was a really nice trip.
I think in my quest to make more friends and become way less shy, it would help a lot if I started asking people questions. When you're ridiculously shy, you tend to stay away from people and you definitely don't initiate additional conversation by asking people to talk about themselves. This tends to make people think you're a bit stuck up. It's compounded when I take the approach that if someone wants me to know something about them, they'll tell me. I'm not going to bother them to tell me something when they may not really want to talk about it. If they want me to know, they'll tell me, right? I think this also makes me look a bit stuck up, like I don't care about you or your affairs. I care, I just hate to pry. It also doesn't help that my memory is terrible. If I'm going to start asking people to tell me about themselves, I'm going need to remember it or there is really no point. And considering that I'm still having trouble sorting through the names of the people in our group... Sigh.
Last night, I went out with Dah-veed. He really likes to find random places, excellent hole-in-the-wall places that he will later bring our group to. Usually he wanders around alone, but he invited me to go with him last night and we wandered a bit. I played a bit of pool and, as usually, I began very strong (my first shot, I got two of my balls in, in two different pockets... ridiculous!), and then began failing. We chatted a bit and I found out that he went through BG's computer science program a year ahead of my brother, which he says means that there is probably no chance that they wouldn't recognize each other, but that he's terrible with names, so he couldn't picture him. I didn't drink all that much, but the mixture (wine, beer, and some kind of fruity drink) was probably a really bad idea. I haven't felt very well all day.
It's not helping that we've had tuna for the last three days. I don't mind a bit of tuna here and there, but I'm really not a fan at all and three days in a row is way too many days of tuna. I can't wait for Easter when Carla is no longer not eating meat and we can ease off the tuna a bit. We ate tuna omelette (or is it omelet?) for dinner tonight. Seriously, tuna omelette. Has anyone even heard of such a thing?
Well, tons of homework and no desire to do it. Loading these pictures is probably going to take forever too. I should really get to work on all that.