Friday, March 30, 2012

18 Weeks!

Yup.  Still pregnant.  And actually starting to show for real.


You know, there's a real bump there.


And Hollis's mustache is doing awesome! Just six weeks of growth and already it's much fuller than Raul ever was (Raul was Hollis's mustache he grew before we started dating).


Good looking mustache, man!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Segovia with Michelle's Dad


Welcome to Segovia. Michelle's dad and I took a bullet train from Madrid Northwest to Segovia and then bussed down to historic downtown where our little tour began.

Segovia is home to the oldest standing aqueduct in Spain. It is over two thousand years old and brings water up the hill to inside the walls of the old city. It was originally built by roman soldiers and thus, to commemorate the two thousandth anniversary, this statue was given from the City of Rome to Segovia. It is a depiction of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who were suckled by a wolf. Those Romans, they're crazy.

This is a view from the wall looking out at the city.


This is the cathedral in Segovia. Those knobbly things on the spires are a tip that the architecture is Gothic. While most cathedrals invest in statues, elaborate alter pieces and large paintings and frescoes, the patrons of the cathedral in Segovia decided to invest in stained glass windows. They are beautiful and currently under an elaborate multi-year restoration. They are made up of three panels, with the left and right depicting types of Christ from the old testament and the center depicting the act of Christ they foretold.

 

In the Alcazar (the castle) they had a military museum. The castle was used as a military academy where things like better gun powder and cannons were developed.


This is a picture of the aqueduct from the city wall up on the hill. It is massive.


Hey, look! It's Michelle's dad walking toward the aqueduct.



Rob (Michelle's dad) standing next to standing next to a tiny door. Not only were people smaller, he knew that his mom would love the picture more if he was in the picture.




This is the view from the top of the wall looking out at the less historic (outside the old wall), historic area.



We had a great time and I look forward to going back when I have more time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Toledo with Michelle's Dad


Michelle's dad and I went to Toledo for a day while he was in town. We walked all over and saw the cathedral, military museum, and a lot of shops and things. This was the first time I had been in the Cathedral and it was stunning. There are more pictures from my visit with Christian and Stephanie last November here.
This is the main bell in Toledo's bell tower. There were 13 bells, all from different years in varying tones. This one was only rung once, and then it cracked. No bishop had ever been brave enough to try ringing it again for fear of breaking it and forever being known as the bishop that broke the bell. The support beams are all made of Alamo Negro (black poplar) which was abundant in Spain.
It was rung once and never rung again. 
This is the view from the top looking toward the old alcazar, or fortress on top of the hill.
 
This is looking out the opposite side at the undeveloped land outside of old Toledo.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Las Fallas!

Las Fallas is an annual festival in Valencia.  It's basically the biggest firework festival in the world. It originated when the carpenters of Valencia would take out all their winter junk and burn it.  Then the neighborhoods started turning the trash into funny sculptures.  And those trash sculptures have evolved to some amazing paper mâché statues.

This is Michelle and Dad in front of a sculpture making fun of Falleras (explained later).



Hollis in front of a tribute to music stars -Elvis is the big one.


This was the back of a funny one about different types of dreams.


This one was supposed to be about the Chinese taking over the world through various means.  However, the imagery was almost entirely Japanese (Samurai, Geisha, etc.) This highlights the fact that to most Spaniards, all Asians are Chinese.



 Each neighborhood (barrio) builds a falla.  They can prepare all year, but only have 24 hours to assemble the entire thing.  The fallas are judged and prizes are awarded (though I don't know if they win more than a "grand prize" banner and bragging rights). Then during the festival, the people from the neighborhood wear traditional Valencian dress and parade from their barrios to the central plaza where prizes are awarded for the different fallas.  Each neighborhood has its own band too, so it's a fun little parade.  The women in traditional dress are called Falleras.


(Some falleras) 

(a cute little Fallera)

Oh, the costumes are handed down for generations.  And all the girls wear matching high heeled pumps.  The pumps are covered in embroidery that matches the dresses.

Over a two-day period, the Falleras (women and girls) parade through the streets with la ofrenda, or the offering for the Virgin Mary.  Each Fallera carries a small bouquet of red, white, pink, or yellow flowers and adds them to a scaffolding.  The flowers eventually create the robes of a giant Mary statue.


The two small boys at her feet are two martyrs.

And the most entertaining part of Las Fallas:  The FIREWORKS!  For the entire festival period (five or six days) you can hear fireworks going off at all hours.  And you have to be aware where you are walking because firecrackers could go off at your feet!  And we aren't talking tiny little ones.  Some of these are bigger than M-80s.  And because the EU has banned these fireworks, they are all made and sold locally.

Hollis was so excited and waited in line at a firework shop to buy fireworks.  He got several boxes of lady-finger sized fire crackers, some bottle rockets, bumble bees, and pitardos muy grandes (really big fire crackers).  I'm not sure if they were the biggest size you could buy (I don't think they were) but they were plenty huge.

(Hollis holding some pitardos grandes)

I blew up firecrackers for the first time in my life and it was really fun!  And lady fingers are nearly so dangerous as I always imagined (because they are illegal in the US).  Also, every day at 1 PM there was an auditory firework show called the mezcleta.  There's a really big one in the government plaza, but each barrio has one as well.

This is a picture over the city of Valencia during a mezcleta.  You can see how smoky it gets from all the fireworks.  (This is why the EU banned the festival - for pollution reasons.  They totally had it anyway and made statues that made fun people in the EU governing committee.)


We got a video of a neighborhood mezcleta.  It was pretty benign compared to some of the ones we heard.


And this one is us walking through the old riverbed.  We could hear mezcletas from all around the city.  Near the end, we could hear the teramoto (earthquake) that is a signature mark that finishes all Valencian firework shows.


 

There were also some awesome night time firework shows.  The best I've ever seen (they put Disneyland to shame) and they were at midnight or 1 AM every night.  We didn't try to take pictures of those, we just enjoyed it immensely.

Then, on the last night, they set those beautiful fallas on fire!  The fire department has to constantly hose down the surrounding buildings because the fallas are built right between them and the fires get huge!  I had to go back before this because I had to work in the morning, but Hollis took a couple of pictures of the fires that just don't do them justice.


Valencia with Michelle's Dad

My dad came to visit us in Spain.  One of the first places we went was to Valencia for the weekend.  It was the weekend of the Las Fallas festival (explained in a later post).  Valencia is a beautiful city and we saw many cool things. 

One thing Valencia is known for in Spain is their City of Arts and Sciences, a stretch of the old riverbed that has several museums, one of which is an aquarium.  I had heard about their awesome aquarium from many people, so I asked if we could go see it.  We walked there, slowly because I'm not a particularly fast pregnant woman.

This is Hollis and I on our way there.  Note my little preggo pooch.


The day was so nice.  The beautiful buildings that make up the City of Arts and Sciences make for an un-missible photo op.



At the aquarium, there was a tunnel right through the middle of the tank with sharks in it.  It made it seem like we could touch the fish!


After we spent time in the aquarium, we went to the dolphin show.  It was pretty awesome!  My favorite parts were when the trainers would appear to fly through the water by standing on the dolphin's noses.  One guy had trained the dolphins to toss him in the air!


There were also several interesting things that we saw.  Hollis really enjoyed the painting on the cover of a store front:


Also, we present beer!  On tap.  At your local ice cream parlor.




And to satisfy your craving for flayed pig head meat, here we have it!  For only 2,20 € per kg!


And we saw the best mustache ever.  You can only kind of see it in these pictures because we were scrambling to get out the camera before he walked away.  It's the guy with the white mustache that sticks up above his head!


We climbed to the top of an old gate house.  I love stairs, but it took me a while to get up to the top.

 

But once at the top, the view was quite lovely.


And lastly, but definitely not leastly, we saw THE holy grail.  Indiana Jones got it wrong.  It wasn't hiding in a cave guarded by a knight.  It's here in Valencia!  Behind three layers of glass in the cathedral.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week 15

I think reality is setting in...



There is a bump, I promise!



See?



And Hollis's gotee growth after 3 weeks.