Kinda Square: Markets

I’m back after a bit of a hiatus from blogging and participating in this challenge, so this time I’m including multiple photos for Becky’s October KindaSquare challenge, because there are many different KINDs of markets around the world!

FDDA: I Scream…

Fandango has a special challenge for the month of August called Fandango’s Dog Days of August. Every day this month, he posts a theme to get our creative juices flowing! Today’s topic is “favorite food.” I know I’ve written about this before, but I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to really extrapolate about my favorite food, which is…

ice cream!

My favorite food is ice cream. It’s part of why summer is my favorite season. I actually have more than one favorite food – I could name a favorite in each food category but right now I’m staying with ice cream.

This ice cream dessert is called “schaum torte” – the ice cream sits on a meringue, and there’s both hot chocolate sauce and strawberries to put on top.

My favorite flavor of ice cream is peppermint. The problem (if you can call it that!) is that peppermint is often associated with Christmas, so it’s sometimes hard to find peppermint ice cream in the summer. I sometimes eat ice cream in the winter, but not very often.  Ideally, the peppermint ice cream should have hot fudge sauce on top. Skip the cherry and whipped cream, just hot fudge sauce please!  And then, if available, I like to put some kind of embellishment on top, such as sprinkles, m&m’s, little bits of brownie – in fact, if the ice cream is ON TOP of a brownie, that’s even better! Because next to ice cream, brownies are my favorite dessert! 

We used to have a restaurant in our area, called Baker’s Square, that specialized in pie.

It's been a slice: Patrons bid farewell to La Grange Bakers Square ...

But on their menu, they had brownie with ice cream on top listed in their dessert menu.  So I would ask for that – I didn’t really expect peppermint ice cream, vanilla was okay – and would ask for fudge sauce on top if possible.  When the waitress brought it to the table, it was really yummy because the brownie was WARM, as if it had just come out of the oven! Too bad they closed their restaurants around here, because nowhere else serves brownie with ice cream on top quite the way they did.

But I digress…back to ice cream!  While I do prefer peppermint, I like a lot of other flavors, too – chocolate, coffee, fudge swirl, mint with chocolate chips, you name it. One thing I do NOT like in ice cream is peanuts or peanut butter! I hate peanuts and I don’t like peanut butter used as a sweet – save it for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

I also find sorbet very refreshing in the summer, as well as frozen yogurt. These are usually considered “healthier” options – less calories, anyway – than regular ice cream. Anyway, I lump all three together as “ice cream” when referring to my favorite food.

Ralphs - Halo Top Mint Chocolate Chip Light Ice Cream, 1 pt
This entire pint is only 330 calories!

There is a relatively new brand of ice cream called Halo Top, which is sold in pints with the number of calories shown on the side in large numerals. So if it says “360” (but some are lower than that), that’s 360 calories for the entire pint! Of course, I never eat it all at once so I know the calories aren’t too high. Admittedly, Halo Top is not as good as Ben & Jerry’s, but that’s something I have sometimes been willing to sacrifice in order to “have my ice cream and eat it too!”

Here at our senior community, when we were eating in the dining room, ice cream was always one of the dessert options, and they often had several flavors. When the waiter would come by to tell us about the desserts, all conversation ceased as we listened to the ice cream flavor choices! Occasionally they would have one of two very popular options – Roadrunner Raspberry or Peppermint Bark Moose Tracks (the moose tracks being chunks of chocolate mixed in). I don’t know how prevalent this last flavor would be in the summer – we moved here in the middle of August last year, so my 6 months of eating in the dining room (until the pandemic hit and we had to lock down) hasn’t been enough to know if peppermint bark moose tracks is strictly a winter flavor. Anyway, ice cream is rarely a choice of dessert now that our food is being delivered to our house, and when it is offered, it’s always vanilla.

Raspberry Roadrunner (it’s made by Hershey’s) is also a delicious flavor and I wish I had real hot fudge sauce to put on it. Sometimes it’s available for purchase at our Mini Mart, which is still open on weekdays.

The best hot fudge sauce was made at a place that had a restaurant, bar, sweet shop and boat dock, called Bosacki’s, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. 

Bosacki\'s Boat house, Minocqua Wi, Dining Boat Rentals

We had a cottage about five miles from there and I worked there one summer (in the kitchen), so their fudge and hot fudge sauce was a real treat – they would give you the ice cream in a bowl and serve it with a tiny pitcher of freshly-made hot fudge sauce! It was their “secret recipe” – also used in making their delicious fudge – so when they went out of business, that flavor experience was lost to me forever! However, one of the Bosacki siblings, Cathy, opened her own sweet shop where she sold the famous fudge, as well as jars of fudge sauce, but since we sold our cottage, I never go up there anymore.

But again, back to ice cream! Ice cream is a wonderful treat to have when we are traveling, because other countries have different flavors and after an exhausting day of sightseeing, it’s just the thing to recharge my energy!

Ice cream flavors at a shop in Mont St-Michel, France

In 2010, Dale and I went to Spain for a month under a study abroad program run by a local community college. We spent the mornings in Spanish classes and in the afternoon, we either had group sightseeing trips, or we explored on our own. We stayed at a dorm near downtown Madrid, so we walked everywhere. It didn’t seem like a long walk to the Prado and Reina Sofia art museums, for example, and en route we would cross plazas surrounded by colonial buildings and traverse narrow alleys, so there was always something to see. Being summer, the temperature in Madrid was always hot so people didn’t go out in the middle of the day – that’s siesta time, so we usually would wait until mid afternoon to go exploring.  To this day, if I were to go to Madrid, I would know exactly how to find the gelato place on the Gran Via! After walking around for hours, we’d be on our way back to the dorm and at some point I would be so exhausted, I couldn’t go a step further…and what do you know, that point was at the gelatería! After a soothing, cool ice cream sundae sitting outside under an umbrella, my energy would return and I could make it back home! (By the way, Madrid also has some excellent chocolaterías, where you get hot liquid chocolate to dip churros in, which are kind of like an elongated doughnut.)

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! That’s what we used to say as kids in my family, and in late spring, we would begin hearing the tinkling of the ice cream truck as it meandered the residential streets of our neighborhood. Occasionally Mom or Dad would give us a quarter or fifty cents to buy something from the ice cream truck – what a treat! That incessant tinkling melody always takes me back to summertime in Janesville, Wisconsin. This is the one we always heard then:

But when I lived in Des Plaines, we would usually hear this one:

Here’s another saying: Whenever we were begging for a favor, we’d embellish our “please:”

Pretty please?
Pretty please with sugar on top?  
Which I changed to –
Pretty please with ice cream on top?
Pretty please with ice cream and chocolate sauce on top?
Pretty please with a hot fudge sundae covered with sprinkles and whipped cream?
Pretty please with a hot fudge sundae with sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry?
…and so on.

Well, I’d better end this because I just remembered that I have a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Boom chocalatta! cookie core ice cream in the freezer! *Smack!* OHHHH, so good!

WPC: Ornate

The word for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is ornate.

The first thing that immediately comes to my mind when I think of the word “ornate” is Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Like many royal palaces, this is a showcase of luxury, with room after room of walls decorated with gold. This style was particularly fashionable during the Baroque period, during which the majority of Catherine’s Palace was constructed.

This large hall was used for receptions or balls.
This large hall was used for receptions or balls.

KODAK Digital Still CameraThese pictures are just representative of the many ornate Baroque decorations found in this palace. The outside of the palace was also done in ornate Baroque style.

KODAK Digital Still CameraWith this display of luxury, I could see why the Russians had a revolution!

One of the rooms of Catherine’s Palace is “The Amber Room”, where photography was not allowed. This room is decorated from floor to ceiling using pieces of amber in various colors. This is a beautiful example of ornate at Catherine’s Palace. (Note: I downloaded these pictures from Google, since we were not allowed to take pictures in the Amber Room.)amber room wall

Amber tabletop
Amber tabletop

On the other hand, ornate does not have to mean “ostentatious”. When I was in Spain in 2010, our group of students visited Granada in the south, particularly the Moorish palace La Alhambra. This palace has been preserved for centuries due to European cultural sensibility, recognizing that such beauty should be preserved for future generations. The Muslims believe that nothing endures forever, except Allah. For this reason, their palaces were not made to be preserved for posterity. Furthermore, they did not “show off” their wealth like the European royals, such as the Russian czars. The outside of the palace of La Alhambra was not ornately decorated – it was stately and formidable, but the walls were plain, completely free of decoration. It was only when you were invited in that you would see the beauty of design.

Below are some pictures I took inside La Alhambra, exquisite examples of ornate.


A sentence in Arabic "There is no victor but Allah" is repeated hundreds of times along with other repeated designs on ceramic tiles in The Throne Room of La Alhambra.
A sentence in Arabic “There is no victor but Allah” is repeated hundreds of times along with other repeated designs on ceramic tiles in The Throne Hall of La Alhambra.

The Throne Hall was the most important part of the palace, in which important meetings were held and important visitors were received. On the lower part of the walls are beautiful ceramic mosaics. Each mosaic is made up of smaller cut pieces, each one a solid color. In the middle of the wall are messages in Arabic, from the Koran. One of them says ¨”There is no other victor than Allah” which is repeated over 5000 times in the Alhambra. The Throne Hall is the most original part of the palace, that is, it contains more of the original designs and architecture than anywhere else at the Alhambra.


Detail of ceiling. The ceiling of the Throne Hall is totally original, and it dates from the latter part of the 14th century. It is all made of wood, with cut pieces in mosaics to resemble a heaven full of stars. This represents the Islamic concept of "seventh heaven" (from which the saying is derived). In Islam, when you die you go to first heaven, then to 2nd, then to 3rd, etc., until you get to 6th heaven. To get to seventh heaven, which is Paradise, you must break through the stars and enter Paradise.
Detail of ceiling. The ceiling of the Throne Hall is totally original, and it dates from the latter part of the 14th century. It is all made of wood, with cut pieces in mosaics to resemble a heaven full of stars. This represents the Islamic concept of “seventh heaven” (from which the saying is derived). In Islam, when you die you go to first heaven, then to 2nd, then to 3rd, etc., until you get to 6th heaven. To get to seventh heaven, which is Paradise, you must break through the stars and enter Paradise. Allah dwells in Paradise.

Ornate is a totally human concept, I think. In nature you do not find examples of ornate. Nature’s beauty is in its majesty, color and simplicity. In fact, it is in nature that I find the the most wondrous beauty of all.

Walking: journey with the senses

I love to walk – it is my favorite form of exercise and of exploring. I consider every walk a journey, a mini-trip. There is always something to discover.

Walking is good for my health, both physical and mental. Physically, because it is an aerobic exercise, so it exercises the heart and muscles of the lower body. Breathing the (relatively) fresh air brings oxygen to the brain. Filling the sun on my face and the wind in my hair invigorates me. Studies show that the capacity for memory improves with walking.

Enjoying the sun and breeze on a walk near the beach.

Enjoying the sun and breeze on a walk near the beach.

Psychologically, walking is a way to “clear my head” – I can ponder a problem or issue and develop fresh insight. I feel refreshed after a walk due to having taken the time to be alone, to observe nature, and delight in small discoveries: the contrast of bright yellow flowers against a 20150722_133837dark-colored bush, a leaf with a drop of rain in the middle, or weirdly shaped mushrooms that pop up in people’s yards at random.


20150721_193138When I travel, I much prefer walking. I walked all the time in Spain and covered a lot of ground – only took the Metro once the whole time I was in Madrid! Walking, rather than taking a bus or taxi, allows me to figure out where places are in relation to each other.

Strolling through Segovia, Spain, I noticed this man making music with cups filled with different amounts of water.
Strolling through Segovia, Spain, I noticed this man making music with cups filled with different amounts of water.

In Granada, we walked past this display of teas for sale; I stopped to take a picture.
In Granada, we walked past this display of teas for sale; I stopped to take a picture.

I don’t understand people who walk around with headphones on – they seem so unaware of their surroundings. When I walk, I like to take my time, listen to the sounds around me, and always have a camera handy! My husband wants to bike more, but I prefer walking because at a slower pace I notice a lot of details. During a winter thaw, I notice the ice melting into puddles

A March thaw - the ice breaking up resembles a river delta.
A March thaw – the ice breaking up resembles a river delta.

on the sidewalk and the mirror images of trees and other objects in the puddles. In the summer, I see children playing on a playground in the park and I hear their shouts of joy. I stop to take a drink of water at a cool water fountain and relish the cold water on my lips and in my throat. In my neighborhood, one of the most common smells is a rather bad one – we have a lot of skunks! However, there are good smells too, such as lilacs blooming in the springtime.

Walking allows me to explore with all my senses.

Sometimes I discover something unusual - like this abandoned Barbie in newly-mowed grass.
Sometimes I discover something unusual – like this abandoned Barbie in newly-mowed grass.

Blue heron on a pond near our local fitness center. There's a great walking path behind the building.
Blue heron on a pond near our local fitness center. There’s a great walking path behind the building.

A walking buddy and I decided to explore this trail along the Des Plaines River.
A walking buddy and I decided to explore this trail along the Des Plaines River.

My nephew, Mike taking a walk with his daughter, Sylvia in tow.
My nephew, Mike taking a walk with his daughter, Sylvia in tow.

A Word a Week Photograph Challenge – Arch

When I think of arches, I think of Spain: its architecture, with its strong Arabic influence, contains many arches, not to mention arched bridges and viaducts…


Archways at La Alhambra
Arched doorways at La Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Beautiful arched windows, La Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Beautiful arched windows, La Alhambra, Granada, Spain
School children on their way home, in El Escorial, Spain
School children on their way home pass under an arched bridge, in El Escorial, Spain
The arched viaduct of Segovia was a functioning method of transporting water into the town, until modern water systems began providing water to the town in the 20th century.
The arched viaduct of Segovia was a functioning method of transporting water into the town, until modern water systems began providing water to the town in the 20th century. These arches dominate the landscape of Segovia, and vehicles zoom under them every day.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Grand – what does it mean? In Spanish, the cognate is “grande”, which means big. However, “Grand” means more than just big: to me, it means majestic, awesome, breath-taking. In my travels, I have seen many places, both man-made and natural, that I would consider “Grand.”  Here are just a few of them:

By far the grandest place I have ever been, in which nature and man have come together, is the incomparable Machu Picchu in Peru. To this day, when I look at the pictures I took there, I can scarcely believe that I was actually there.

Machu Picchu at dawn, taken from the Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu at dawn, taken from the Inca Trail.


High above Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail en route to the Sun Gate.
High above Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail en route to the Sun Gate.

Hawaii, too, has grand scenery – mostly nature, but man-made too. Here are three examples:

Fiery sunset over Maui, seen above the clouds on Haleakala.
Fiery sunset over Maui, seen above the clouds on Haleakala.


Late afternoon on Kailua Beach, Oahu
Late afternoon on Kailua Beach, Oahu


Byodo-In Buddhist Temple, Oahu
Byodo-In Buddhist Temple, Oahu

One of the grandest places I visited in Spain was the still unfinished Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona, conceived by the brilliant architect Antonio Gaudi, and constructed based on his design (he died before he could see it built). The spires of this church are so high that they rise above the entire skyline of Barcelona. This was Gaudi’s monument to God. Here are two views:

Looking up toward the tall spires that rise above any other structure in Barcelona.
Looking up toward the tall spires that rise above any other structure in Barcelona.

This beautiful facade was the first one built, and I first saw it on my first trip to Spain in 1974! It reminds me of a sand castle constructed with dripping wet sand.
This beautiful facade was the first one built, and I first saw it on my first trip to Spain in 1974! It reminds me of a sand castle constructed with dripping wet sand.

I hope to collect many more photographs of all things “grand” as I continue the grand journey of life.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern in Spain

Spain has many beautiful examples of patterns in its various styles of architecture. DSCN3941At the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, beautiful Muslim artistry has been preserved in patterned tiling. They would make a template which they then pressed into the tiles used for building these walls, creating a repeating pattern. This building style allowed them to build efficiently with beauty. The stylized Arabic writing says something like “There is no god greater than Allah.” Other patterns in these tiles are of shapes and flowers. The ceiling over this alcove also contains patterns created with wood inlays. The stars represent the heavens and their placement forms part of a tessellation of polygons.

More patterns at La Alhambra:


Another master of beautiful artwork and patterning was the Spanish architect Gaudi, whose living works can be seen in Barcelona.

Casa Batlle:DSCN4371 DSCN4382 DSCN4393 DSCN4423Sagrada Familia (the cathedral he designed but never saw completed – and is still not finished):

DSCN4469DSCN4445 DSCN4464Parq Guell:

DSCN4487 DSCN4493 DSCN4505 DSCN4506

Also in Barcelona is the stunning Palau de Musica – not as well-known as other sights in that city, but well worth visiting:

This is the decorative ticket booth:


The beautiful facades and pillars can be seen from across the street. We were not allowed to take pictures inside.DSCN4331And then there is the ancient Roman aqueduct at Segovia; these arches dominate the entrance to the center of the city:DSCN4153 DSCN4156In Segovia also are many interesting facades, and pattern-forming roof tiles:

DSCN4092 DSCN4091 DSCN4076

Patterns exist everywhere; I chose Spain to showcase the pattern theme due to the variety, history and beauty of its man made patterns.






Friday, our last full day in Spain (E13 – Part 2)

Our last day, Friday, we went to class for the last time (I took more pictures, of course), had our last two meals (breakfast and lunch) at Barradas, packed, and then KF, Dale and I went out to complete our mission of buying dresses! We walked north this time, traversing streets we’d never been on before, and accomplished our mission! Each of us came away with a dress from the same store where one of the other girls had bought the dress she wore to the farewell dinner (Kelly bought one just like it)!

Most of my classmates. Mer (our instructor) is in the middle. I wrote on the board “Buena suerte, Mer! Adios!” because she also was leaving Enforex, to try her luck at getting a job elsewhere.

My other instructor, Alicia, holds a placemat/map of New Caledonia, which was a gift from one of the students, who is from there.


Enforex computer lab

Dale was on his own mission – to buy magnets that his daughter had only just informed us she wanted. This was annoying, since there had been nice magnets at virtually every museum and souvenir store we had visited throughout the entire trip and we hadn’t known until now that she wanted them. Plus the area we were going was not a tourist neighborhood per se, and there was really nowhere to buy the type of magnets he wanted.

What we did find, however, was a really nice little restaurant with fresh and inexpensive food! We only had ice cream (lemon with no added sugar!!) but noted the fare for a possible return for dinner if we didn’t like the offering for our last supper at Barradas. In fact, the food that night at Barradas was not to our liking at all, and once again our group of six adults set out for this place we had discovered. Along the way, Dale decided to go to a Chinese bazaar – not the one we usually go to – to look for magnets (I knew he wouldn’t find them but he was stubborn) and he said he would meet us at the restaurant. I didn’t think much about it, since Dale usually has a pretty good sense of direction and we’d been there only a few hours before.

At the restaurant, I ordered a vegetable calzone which was really great! It was filled with tomato and lots of hearts of palm! Yum!! Prof. A ordered the same thing and also really liked it. I also ordered a slice of tortilla, but ended up wrapping it to take back for our breakfast next morning, because I was full after eating the calzone.

Two hours passed and Dale did not show up!! At one point, I went out to look for him, but realized I could walk all the way back to where we separated and never find him, because he could just as easily come around the other way. I worried about him, but Prof. J told me quite sharply to stop thinking about him – he was independent and could find his way. She suggested he might want some alone time, but I seriously doubted that was the case – if so, why would he have put up with going on girly shopping trips for the last two afternoons?? So I said no more, but said a silent prayer for his safe return to Barradas.

Now I was glad about the tortilla because perhaps he had gone back, unable to find the restaurant, and would want something to eat. But when we got back, he was not there! His bag was there, but KF said he hadn’t taken it with him that evening. Now I was really worried!!

KF was developing a cold and wanted to finish packing and go to bed early, but she offered to go out with me to look for Dale. We met up with some of the other people from our group and told them that if they saw Dale, to tell him we were looking for him and that I had brought back a tortilla for him!

About halfway back, we came across Prof. J and A–, who had split off from us after dinner to go to a store. Prof. J was putting away her cell phone and said that Dale had just called. He had gotten lost, finally found the restaurant, and was now on his way back. KF asked if I wanted to go back or keep going to meet up with him. I was indecisive but leaning toward meeting up with him, so we continued on. We finally saw him, crossing a street ahead of us. I yelled to him and when we met up, gave him a big hug!! He had gotten lost and, after finding a place to stop and have a sandwich, showed us on the map where he had gone. He had walked a long way, all the way north to Rio Rojas!! And not having his street map, he could rely only on Metro maps to orient himself. He always used San Bernardo as a reference point, and a couple of times he knew he was very near the restaurant, but just never got to it.

I was so relieved, because although he is resourceful, he still cannot communicate well enough in Spanish to be understood. And I was grateful to KF for coming with me even though she wanted to stay in her room and pack – she’s a great friend!

Yesterday (Saturday), we got up early and I took a shower. We were all packed, so we decided to go out for coffee, since the dining room at Barradas was closed until 8 and we had to be on the bus by then. Prof. A went with us, and I took the wrapped up tortilla to have with the coffee.

At 8 am, we were all on the bus with our luggage stowed underneath, except two girls, who were roommates, were missing! Apparently they overslept, having relied on S– to wake them up! She had gone and knocked on their door earlier, but they had gone back to sleep. Why they didn’t set an alarm clock, I have no idea. Anyway, S– went back to get them, and to their credit, they got up and to the bus in less than 15 minutes!

As the bus rumbled by Barradas, we waved and some of the girls screamed goodbye to Fernando, the night watchman, and then we watched the familiar sights of Madrid go by for the last time.

The flight back was long and noisy, but I managed to sleep a little, thanks to a sleep aid. Shortly after our return, we went to my sister’s house, where our extended family were gathering for a family birthday party – there were three family birthdays between July 30 – August 11. The cake had number candles on it – 81, which was the sum of all their ages!! We stayed until 7:30 pm (2:30 am for Dale and me!) but then we just had to go home and go to bed!

Last Thursday in Spain (E13 – Part 1)

As I mentioned in my last post, Thursday night was to be our farewell dinner. We had been told that there wasn’t even going to be a farewell dinner because there wasn’t enough money left, but as it turned out, our professors found a place to use whatever money was leftover. The name of the restaurant was Riazor and it was a little south of Plaza Mayor. We were to meet at 9:30 pm to walk there and we would have tapas and sangria at 10 pm. We also had a “town meeting” at 5:30 in the Barradas dining room, at which we were given surveys to fill out about the program, everything from rating our Spanish classes, the excursions we took, and the directors of the program.

Barradas dining room

Thursday was the last day of class for one of my fellow students, Miriam. She is a beautiful, soft-spoken German of African descent who is married to a very handsome young man and they are expecting their first child, a daughter to be named Sofia, in November. While many of the students in my class had been in and out, she had been there the entire time I was there. So I took a couple of pictures of her with Mer and Alicia, the two teachers.

It was also the day that I was taken out of the class to take an oral test. During Alicia’s class, we were having a laugh looking for a “novio” for one of our young students, a Chinese girl named Xixi (pronounced Cici). Birgit, a middle aged German woman who joined the class only last week and I were pulling up pictures of our sons to show around. The picture I pulled up of my son on Facebook was passed around and he was pronounced “guapo” (handsome) and that he didn’t look anything like me! However, he does look very Spanish – with his name and appearance he would blend in well in Madrid. He wasn’t right for Xixi, though, because “tiene gafas” (he has glasses).

The oral test was a bit hard – Mer asked me what I thought about the news that the region of Catalonia has banned bullfighting. I felt that I didn’t express myself very well and there were words I couldn’t think of so I had to resort to either repeating something or saying something more simplistic. Even so, I scored well on the test, so perhaps I am too hard on myself.

After lunch, because of the heat, I didn’t want to do much, but Dale, KF and I went out to do some shopping. K and I were sort of on a mission to find cheap dresses that we liked (and that fit, since there are few choices in my size). Most Spanish women are thin and stores are filled with a variety of cute styles that look as though they would fit nicely on someone who is about 6 inches wide! My size in Spain is 50 or 52, or XL. Large is more like a U.S. medium, Medium is like our small, and you can imagine who can fit into a Small or Extra Small!! There are very few obese people in Spain.

After the town meeting, I took a shower and got cleaned up for the dinner. Everyone showed up wearing nice dresses (except for the two guys, of course!) and some wore heels, which I thought would make it difficult to walk on some of the streets.  On the way, I looked at the places we passed with nostalgia, knowing it would be my last time. Plus, the weather by that time was absolutely gorgeous – it had cooled off considerably after sunset and there was a refreshing breeze!

The restaurant has hosted some famous people, including Salvador Dali, whose picture was framed on the wall, among others. We went upstairs and were seated at a long table set up with white tablecloth, cloth napkins and two cups for each person. One was for cold mineral water served in liter bottles, and the other for sangria, served in glass jars. The tapas began arriving and there was plenty for everyone – Iberian ham, sharp cheese slices, ham and cheese croquettes, tortilla española, calamari slices, asparagus spears, potatoes in tomato sauce….soon I was stuffed!! We also got a piece of chocolate and whipped cream cake for dessert. It was a wonderful meal and we had a great time.

Afterwards, everyone split up into their usual subgroups, and we “older” adults (me, the professors, and KF, – only 24, but mature for her age!) headed to a Cuban restaurant called “Cuando Sali de Cuba” to listen to live music and have one more drink. On the way there, we encountered a group of Galician bagpipers playing in the street! I got closer to take pictures and to see if they had a CD for sale, but they didn’t. A man who was not part of the group, but associated with them, saw me and asked me if I was Galician. Scottish, I told him. He then began talking in very fast Spanish or Galician about our common Celtic heritage and what else I am not sure, but something about “alegría.” He asked the band between songs if they had a CD for sale – they did but not on hand. I have always wanted to get some Galician “gaita” music, but I guess I’ll have to look for it on Amazon!

This has nothing to do with where we were going; I just saw the sign and thought it was, uh, interesting!

At the Cuban restaurant, there was a duo singing traditional Cuban favorites and playing guitar and bass with accented percussion and (KF’s favorite) cowbell! Most ordered wine or sangria, but Dale and I ordered mojitos, the famous Cuban drink with rum, mint, sugar and water. It was strong! We sat behind the musicians at the only small tables in the place, on stools. Twice vendors came in from the street with bouquets of roses, trying to sell Dale roses (presumably to give to one or more of us!). Dale was the only male in our group, surrounded by five women! The musicians sang “Guantanamera” and improvised on each verse, to sing about people in the bar: Este señor, rodeado de rosas, they sang, and then went on to say something about although he (Dale) was surrounded by women, he declined to buy roses for each of them!

By the time we had finished our drinks, some of us were ready to dance a little – Prof. A and I, and at the very end, I got KF to join us! We had a good time and I am glad we went – between the cool breeze surrounding us as we walked the streets of Madrid at night, the tapas at Riazor, the Galician gaita band, and finally the Cuban bar, it was a very satisfying evening. We arrived back at Barradas at 1 am and collapsed into bed!

Last week in Spain

July 29, 2010

We are on our second to the last day in Spain. Saturday morning we leave Madrid and arrive back in Chicago in the afternoon. People are doing their last minute things: last minute shopping, last minute sunbathing (yes, some of the girls actually went to the park today in this oppressive 100 degree F head to sunbathe!!), last minute emailing, last minute museum going, etc. On the other hand, some people are spending a lot of time sleeping. A virus has been going around and several members of our group have gotten sick. Or perhaps it has been brought on by fatigue in some cases.

It is just so HOT and I am sick of the dirt! I think I have learned a lot here, and for sure my Spanish has gotten a lot better, partly due to studying in class and partly due to gaining confidence as I interacted with people every day. And of course, this was the main point of the trip. I have very much enjoyed my stay here and have seen and learned so much about this country – including the cultural impact it has had on its Latin American former colonies. I have loved the artwork, architecture, the history. But I am ready to go home.

What this tells me is that this program is exactly the right length!

So here is an update on my last week in Spain:
After the weekend in Barcelona, we returned to Madrid and our usual routine on Monday. Classes at Enforex from 9:30 to 1:30. Lunch at Barradas after that, then studying, siesta or relaxing. Dale and I went out to a book store (Casa del Libro) and music store (fnac) where I bought a couple of CDs.  On Monday night, after our dinner at 8:30, a group of 7 of us decided to take the cable car ride over Madrid. The cable car station is just beyond Templo de Debod and it closes at 9 pm, so we had to walk FAST!

We found out that because it was so close to closing time that we could only go to the end of the line but NOT come back on the cable car!

Views from cable car

Palacio Real from the cable car

The ride dropped us at a park on the far outskirts of Madrid called Casa de Campo. When we got there, two of the girls decided to walk around the park on their own and the rest of us wanted to find a way back. There was a family with a small child in a stroller with the same problem. It was nearly sunset so 5 of us figured it would be best to hang with these people who appeared to be natives.

Actually, they are Colombians who live in the Spanish city of Alicante and are in Madrid on a vacation. So they didn’t know how to get back either, but still there is safety in numbers.


It was enjoyable talking to them. They told us how they wanted to go to the U.S. but could not get visas because they are from Latin America. The two year old daughter, Natalia, a Spanish citizen, would have no problem getting a visa for the U.S.!! As we followed the path to the road, then followed the road, asking along the way, that led out of the park, I talked with them a lot and thought about how comfortable I was feeling about conversing in Spanish. I didn’t have any trouble understanding them either!

bullfighting practice!

I was worried about the 2 girls who had gone off on their own, and said a private prayer for their safe return. They returned safely!

Actually they got back before we did because we stopped to have sangria at a bar in Plaza 2 de mayo, after we got off the Metro at Tribunal station. It was hard to find a table – the bars were packed! And the custom here is that you don’t pressure people to leave if others are waiting. A waiter will not even give you the bill until you ask for it, and won’t collect it until you hand it to him or her. This is a nice custom, in my opinion. I don’t like to be pressured to leave a place when I am relaxed and engaged in a conversation over a drink at a sidewalk cafe or any restaurant for that matter.

Tuesday we did another thing we had wanted to do – have chocolate fondue with fruit at Valor. We had had chocolate and churros a few times at the famous Chocolatería San Gines, but this time we wanted to go to Valor. It was very hot and we were not in the mood to do much else. When we found the place and went in, we came across the foursome from our group who always do things on their own. It was fun to sit and talk with them, which we rarely get to do. The fondue came with a tray of 4 different fruits cut up into pieces. It was yummy! There was so much chocolate leftover and such a shame to waste, so I ordered a 1/2 order of churros to finish it off!!

Wednesday we went to buy our last souvenirs. KF came along again, and showed us a whole section of Corte Ingles that sells souvenirs!! I bought several things there and Dale finally found a flamenco doll for his sister’s collection. We actually had gone out shortly after class, skipping lunch at Barradas, because KF wanted to visit the Cerralba House which was free on Wednesday. We didn’t know exactly where it was, so we asked someone when we were in the vicinity, who turned out to be American, and she told me that it was closed for restoration since she had also tried to go there! So we went to Nebraska, an Americanized sort of restaurant where we had a bocadillo of ham and cheese filled nuggets, and salads. On the way back in the oppressive heat we went to Palazzo, the Italian ice cream place.

It is a pity about the heat because I wanted to go back to the Buen Retiro park and explore the rest of it, but I just can’t do it in this heat. Unlike the girls who went there to sunbathe today!! Yikes!!!!

Little park in our neighborhood (between Barradas and Enforex)

Street near Barradas

Today we did some more shopping to buy cheap clothes! I bought a blouse and KF got a dress. She is unsure about the dress, whether it’s too colorful to wear to work, or the neckline is too low (wear a tank top underneath!!). Anyway her dress was cheap – only 10 euros. The clothes here run the gamut – you can find just about anything and people wear all different styles. At first I found the clothes expensive, but have since learned where to find cheap items!! And everything is on sale in July. There are “Rebajas” everywhere.

Supermarket next door to Barradas

Tonight is our farewell dinner. We are going out to a tapas place near the Plaza Mayor at 10 pm. The tapas come with a glass of sangria, but some of us are thinking of having MORE sangria afterward somewhere else!! So it is the night to get a little dressed up, take some nice pictures and spend a last evening together. Tomorrow we’ll be going to our last classes, packing and trying to figure out how to carry all our purchases!! 🙂