Friday, June 22, 2012

Road-trip: Lanzarote!

I had high expectations for our "beach weekend", but WOW! I had no idea Lanzarote would be (excuse my language!) SO FREAKING COOL! ;)

Picture this: volcanoes on the horizon. houses inside volcanic craters. blind white crabs smaller than quarters. green, volcanic lakes. me and my girlfriends driving our rental car (an automatic Mercedes of course) all over the island. beaches with beautiful views. wind in your hair. ok, wind everywhere. black sand. white sand. normal, tan sand. vineyards growing on top of lava. tourists riding camels. palm trees. mid-morning snack: canary island salsas mojo picon with tortilla de patata. takata playing on the radio. windows down (or air-condition on.) mexican/asian food. club promoters asking you (every 2ft of the sidewalk) "where are you going tonight girls?". loads of after-sun (a whole bottle in 2 days.) and so much more... the best vanilla ice cream i've ever had for example.

I really couldn't have asked for better travel companions, as I was able to travel with two really great friends in our group of 5 chicas. Erin, my fellow 2009 Salamanca study abroad-er and Switzerland travel buddy, was able to come with me for our second adventure of the year. It's a guaranteed good time with Erin, as we have now explored the Swiss Alps/canyons and Spanish volcanoes together. "AirEEEnnnn" I wish you were staying around another year for more fun adventures, but Kentucky isn't that far away from Missouri, so it's just "ta luego!

And, my second wonderful companion: Rachel, the "new Maria" in Navalmoral this year. Rach, if you're reading this, know that I love you! Not going to lie, Maria and I were skeptical at first... "Who is this girl coming in to take over our lives? She better not be cooler than us..." But, after our first weekend together during San Miguel, I realized how much you and I had in common and how glad I was to have you around. Really. I'm so happy we got to know each other this year, you were my "mejor amiga" and we didn't even live in the same city. Know that you'll be missed greatly; I expect you to start saving your propinas in a "Carnaval 2013" jar. El fin.

The Adventure
We only had a few days to explore Lanzarote. While it was ample time to see most important things, it wasn't enough time to just sit around, tomar el sol, put our feet in the sand... but, for the first time in a long time, I did just spend one whole day laying on the beach. That is what I call a holiday. Usually I'm running around, site-seeing and eating traditional foods. Well, instead of doing the "touristy" trip, we spent the entire Friday morning/afternoon sun tanning like all the Brits and Germans. Of course, we were the whitest ones on the beach. The Brits and Germans were the overly-tanned, red-as-a-crab ones.
Where we spent our Friday, Puerto del Carmen. Check out the view!
New beach towel: too bad it's not real. Oh, the places I could go for 100euro!
For dinner during the evenings, we went to Puerto del Carmen's main strip and had Mexican food (Thursday & Saturday) and Asian/Thai food (Friday). There were few Spanish restaurants and even fewer people speaking Spanish; we were still in Spain, although it didn't feel like it too often. Lunch on Friday and Saturday consisted of bocadillos eaten on the beach and in the car. 
This is a Mexican restaurant. This is not "Spanish" style. This is the first margarita I've had in Spain - EVER.
This was the first time I ever wore a "sombrero"... I'm sure it was all our first times. Please don't get confused!
Saturday was spent just like that: in the car! I can finally say I've driven a car in Europe! Rachel and I were co-pilots and acted as our chauffeurs. And, might I say we did a really great job. No accidents and no new scrapes on the car = success! We went everywhere. 
Look at the volcano behind us... AWESOME!
First, to the South. We started early because there was lots to see!
A driver's point of view.
We spotted these happy tourists! (These aren't dunes... these are volcanoes!)
By building rock walls to stop the wind, plant life (vineyards!) can grow on top of the lava! Incredible!
Timanfaya National Park.
View from the car. Not bad, huh?
The gang: Erin, Me, Rachel, Ana, and Sarah at El Golfo.
El Golfo - a GREEN volcanic lake next to the Atlantic Ocean.
Mojo picon sauces with tortilla for a mid-morning snack.
Random pit stop: BLACK BEACH!!!! Probably one of my favorite places we went!
Los Hervideros: here, we walked on lava and were able to climb around some of the natural water holes.
Sun in the sky. Wind in my hair. Ahhhhh!
Then, we made the long drive (1 hour or so) to the North. Like any good road-trip, we stopped for snacks at the gas station along the way and had some really nice music blasting on the radio. Takata! 
video

In the North, we were able to see some incredible places. In an attempt to visit a really nice look-out point (mirador) that gives you a nice view of the Isla Graciosa, a smaller nearly uninhabited island just off Lanzarote's Northern coast, we were told about a secret view-point (accessible only by going down an authorized-vehicles-only road) and it was there we had some of the best views of the journey!
Cacti and La Graciosa. Simply, genial.
Let's just say, I was glad Rachel was driving at this point due to 1) the road and 2) the view!
Next, we stopped by the Cueva de los Verdes (Green's Cave.) Our guide, dressed in a green stripped suit, told us interesting things...  
"I've been working here for 8 years... let me tell you about colors. You'll see all the colors... purple, yellow, blue... here in the cave. But, you know the one color you won't see? GREEN." 
We were here!
Clearly, this isn't green in Green's Cave! I SPY GREEN. haha 
Well, Mr. Tour Guide. I think you're wrong - or color blind. I mean, it's not called Green's Cave for nothing. He says it's "your camera lens" - but, due to algae or something, all you see is green when you take a photo.  I don't know what it is, but it's cool! It really is a fantastic place. Probably the coolest caves ever - mostly due to the next thing that happened.

We were walking along and then Mr. Tour Guide told us we were to turn off our camera flashes, remain quiet and to stay behind him - going any further could be deadly. We were going to see this incredible hole... which was, in fact, super incredible. 
Check out that gigantic hole! I was scared to peer into it thinking "what if the part I'm standing on collapses?"
He had us remain very quiet and peer down into the hole - that seemed to go foreevverrr. He asked a woman to throw a rock into the hole and we were to listen! ....... SPLASSHHH!!!!! What we thought was a giant hole was nothing more than a 2ft deep reflecting pool of water that reflected the top part of the cave. Really, I can't believe how spectacular it was! No one could. We all stood there, still peering into the hole like "No way, Jose! That didn't happen!" *If you look closely, just at the bottom of the photo - you can see about five rocks - one of which the woman from our group threw in!

Moving on.

Next stop was Los Jameos del Agua, a former house of a famous man named Cesar Manrique. He must have had an incredible imagination because he built his house INSIDE a volcanic crater. We were able to tour it and see the incredible views this man called "home".
The biggest hole, full of blind, white crabs smaller than a quarter! At each end of the jameo, there were cafes.
The blind, white crabs that live inside the crater's jameo.
Of course, this was "the pool."
Overlooking the crater from the "house"... absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Amazing!
After the hour drive back home to Puerto del Carmen, returning the rental car (bye bye Mercedes!) and drinking our free bottle of wine Rachel snagged for us, we got ready for a night out. We were bombarded both nights by club promoters "Where are you going to tonight girls? Nicki Beach?" Another: "Where are you from?" Another: "Wow! America?????" Really, we were a hit both nights because we were from "so far away". The second night I remember telling one of the promoters (after he started name dropping what cities/states we were from "Kentucky, California, Washington DC.... from the previous night") "If you can't name all five places, we aren't going to your bar." He began thinking even harder, but got no where. We continued on to a crepe stand and had more fun than we would have in any of their bars.  We found a cool jungle themed roof top where we had a casual drink before making our way back through the promoters.... only this time, we had a plan. 

Instead of having the boys ask us where we were going and give us promotional cards, we decided to ask them questions and hand them back their cards. Recycling is always good, right? (Hey, I worked in a Comenius project last year about being Eco-friendly and this year my school had a top-knotch recycling program (Hola Juanjo!)) Soooo it went something like this: 

Boy (standing propped up against a wall in flirty voice): Hello girls, where are you going now?
Me: Helloooo! Where do you work?
Boy: I work at....Nicki Beach. (side note: everyone worked at Nicki Beach.)
Rachel: No way! We work there too. Here, take my card(s). 
Boy (in loud voice and making a shoving motion): I don't want these! There is a bin over there if you want to dispose of them. 
Me (smiling and sarcastically): Oh, well you can save them for later in case you change your mind! hehe

The same happened with another boy who was seated on a bench. He was just as enthused - probably less, as he pushed the cards off the bench onto the floor. You see, their behavior was like this because the police had come. Clearly the tunnel of club promoters was "illegal" and the police came to stop them! Anyway, we got a kick out of it and got rid of all our promotional cards! Mission completed.  

It's always a fun get-a-way to the beach, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Lanzarote. It's landscapes were unlike any I've seen before. While Tenerife, another island in the Canaries where I went for Carnaval 2010, is home to Spain's largest peak/El Teide, Lanzarote has more volcanoes and is easier to explore in a few days time, making it a wonderful weekend trip. I'm happy I was able to spend one last weekend with Rachel and Erin as well, as both of them have returned home and we don't know when our next adventure will be! I really couldn't have asked for a better goodbye weekend! 

Thank you, Lanzarote, for blowing me off my feet (and nearly off the cliffs!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Bug.

After my whirlwind Easter trip with my mom and a weekend to Denia, I had no ganas to do anything. I became a hermit; I didn´t go much farther than school and my house. But it was nice, actually. Sometimes doing nothing is necessary. I was able to do a few really unique things in Valladolid, thanks to great people who've taken a liking to me! ;) 
Maribal y yo in Fuensaldana, a pueblo near Valladolid.
Day trip to Leon was a success!
Cortos and free tapas in Leon.
Valladolid basketball game with fellow teacher, Antonio.
The people were really into the game... cheering, shouting at the refs... joder! venga! tio!
Kentucky Derby Party with fellow English teachers. I made my hat especially for the occasion: with toy horses.
Carolina, Nawell, Me, Will (the Kentuckian), Lauren, Katie, Natasha, Jen
However, this ¨doing nothing-ness¨ didn´t last for long. I was bitten by ¨the bug¨ again... Instead of running off to a foreign country, I decided to go back to some places that I knew I already loved... in Extremadura.

Weekend Uno
My first weekend, of three weeks segiudas, was spent with friends from last year in Navalmoral de la Mata, one of the places that makes me feel at home, when I´m so far away from home. We did nothing special, but it was all wonderful. We made it a fine weekend complete with a bbq on Diana's terrace (Americano style). I was able to visit friends and families from last year and really feel at home once again! I´ve recently learned I´ll be going back to Extremadura the following year, starting this September. I´ll actually be living in Navalmoral again, working at CEIP Almanzor (primary school) and a secondary school, IES San Marin, in Talayuela, a pueblo near Navalmoral. I'm excited about going "home" and hope that my last year in Spain can be just as good as the first...second...third...time! 
Admiring our bracelet collections.
Drinks at El Abuelo after dinner at La Taberna del Loco.
BBQ on the terrace! Really great night!
Jose Miguel decided to get Rachel wet... so she and Eric teamed up for payback. HAHA
Rachel and I decided to make a bucket list of things (ok, places) we wanted to do over the weekend. Our list included:

1. Sunbathing. (check!)
2. Playing beerpong in the park (didn´t have time!)
3. Kebabs at Quetapa. (after two attempts, check!)
4. Drinks-tapas-people watching at Zaragata. (check! check!)
5. Gargantas. (check!)
6. La Suite. (we went outside...check?)
7. Temple. (it's getting a facelift. no check!)
8. Casa Candy (didn´t make it here either!)
9. Canterville for dancing. (check!)
10. Los Claveles for dinner. (yummmm...check!)

This is us in Boulevard. It was only 4am... the night was still young. We got in at 8am (after churros!)
Garganta de Cuartos (Losar de la Vera) for some sunbathing!
While my friends (Diana, Eric, and Rachel) jumped off rocks, I sunbathed.
A visit to Madrigal de la Vera to visit the Devil's Waterfall. What a cool view!
Villanueva de la Vera for an afternoon drink.
A street full of plants. Can you find Diana in the jungle? haha
I didn't just stay in Navalmoral/go garganta-ing, I also made the trip back to Jarandilla to visit former students and teachers. I got chills just walking through the streets again, making the trek from the high school to the primary school like I did two days a week last year. The surprise was very exciting, hearing all the little whispers in the hallway "whittneyyy!" and also the not-so-quaint-whispers that were screaming my name from the window as I approached the building! Really, it was a great visit. After school, I went with Divina, Toni and Emilliano for lunch in the plaza and then for drinks in the Parador. It was a great afternoon, where the company outweighted the extremely-nearly-unbareable-weather!
Overlooking the Sierra de Gredos, Jarandilla de la Vera
Drinks on the patiro: Parador, Jarandilla de la Vera
Weekend Dos 
Last year I wasn´t able to go to the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival in Cáceres due to a Comenius trip to Poland. No, I´m not complaining; I was more than excited to spend ten days in Poland... but I wasn't in Poland this year. 

I headed south on Friday morning, making it to Cáceres around 1pm. Kristen picked me up, it was so nice having someone meet me at the station - it's been awhile since that's happened; usually I'm the one meeting someone who has come for a visit, or, I'm traveling to an unknown place and no one is waiting to greet me! Anyway, we did some shopping and finally got some lunch, before taking siestas. We have turned Spanish. 

WOMAD was exactly what I thought it would be, a huge botellon (Spanish version of a tailgate party!) in the Plaza Mayor with bands playing there and also in Cáceres' old city. There were massive amounts of people everywhere! I actually saw quite a few students from last year hanging about, old study abroad friends, old teaching friends, old friends' of friends... Because it was festival-like, there were lots of "mid-evil" street vendors selling cous-cous and crepes... I may or may not have visited the crepes stand twice. Hey, they were good! 

Katie came to town on Saturday, and after stocking up for the night's festivities, we again took siestas and then headed out for round two - which ended late in the morning after dancing in Bahia, one of the discos. We had such a nice day together!
Plant covered buildings in the UNESCO Old City part of Caceres!
We were there, officially. ;)
Awesome bar for canas in the afternoon!
Plaza Mayor filling up...
Concert time!
With Kristen and Jade on Friday night!
WOMAD 2012

Botellon Aftermath: two words: TRASH CAN.
Oh wait, you speak British English? PUT YOUR RUBBISH IN THE BIN.
So, that's how my weekend adventures came to an end. I'm in Valladolid for a few weeks - until the end of my time here - and truly embracing it. It's taken awhile for Valladolid and I to become friends, and dare I say I'm gonna miss this place.... but I think I will. The goodbyes have began, and they aren't going to get any easier. All good things must come to an end, right?