Los Molinos and Toledo!

>> October 20, 2009

Last week Thursday and Friday the school took a trip to Toledo, which is so nicely displayed as the header of our blog. The destination, which is a little south of Madrid, is about 6 painful hours on a bus. But it was all broken up nicely by our "tobacco fiend" of a bus driver and his mandatory smoke breaks. He thought he could get away with taking a few puffs while driving but we all knew what he was doing. Apparently the smokeless tobacco he also had in his mouth wasn't doing it for him.
On the way up we took a short detour to the city of La Mancha to see the Molinos de viento of Don Quixote fame. It was a good place to take some group photos. One of the students, as seen in the bottom right of the picture, tried to inflict damage on them with a styrofoam sword. Mostly because he thought it would make a good facebook picture.

(from left to right) Jose Maria and Carmen were the Acento Professors along for ride posing with Julie Ann, Leslie, and Sarah.

We are a windmill too! There is some interesting history to this pose.

Sarah and Julie Ann being crazy.
Some were broken, all were falling apart. It looks like they are repairing the castle in the back.

The inside workings.

These stairs are definitely not code.

As the area was being taken over by a couple buses of Japanese tourist and after the driver had smoked a pack, we loaded back on the bus and were on the road again.

When we got to the city of Toledo we realized that the streets going inside the city were very small and the bus we were in, filled with all our luggage, was very big, and our hotel was inside this city. We drove around trying to find a way in, had to turn around in a roundabout not made for buses while scraping sounds were being heard, then ended up on a street where tour buses were not allowed. A policeman, who thank goodness showed sympathy, directed us in the right direction and we finally got in view of the hotel. We checked in, ate lunch them met together for our first excursion.

The first stop was at the the Church of Santo Tomé to view El Greco's most famous painting: The Burial of Count Orgaz. The history of the painting is really interesting, also there is a lot going on when you look at it closely. Pictures were not allowed and I was almost going to sneak one before I realized that there was probably a better one than I could take on the internet. So here it is.

Then we headed to the Claustro (or monasterio) de San Juan de Los Reyes

Jose Maria was our tour guide. Leslie was translating to English.

This group is the smart people from the Art class at Acento. Carmen was their tour guide. They didn't need a translator.

Yay for pictures being allowed!

You rarely see a good courtyard in the States.

There we are

"Tanto Monta" was the motto of Isabella I and Ferdinand II. Its meaning it is thought to have something to do with their equality in ruling.

Cranes are aways peaking out, ruining shots.

You can't see it to well, but in the company of all the gargoyles and animals that drain water from the roof, there are legs sticking out with the drain pipe coming out of the "back region" i guess you gotta throw some comic relief in amongst all those scary gargoyles.

The men of Acento, with a couple of the girls hiding in back.

One of the doors into the city.

The next day, after a great continental breakfast we headed out into the cold city for a tour of the Catedral de Toledo.

You can see the Lord's supper depicted above the door.

Our wonderful professor/tour guide Jose Maria, gave us some interesting history about the architecture.

We were not allowed to take any photos inside the cathedral and security was extra tight because in a couple days they were going to turn someone into a saint, so there was a lot of preparation going on. But heres a picture I found online to give a little taste. Not all of the decor is this gold and gaugdy though. I was a little taken aback by the structure and grandeur.
As we were headed out of the cathedral I spotted Marina, one of our couchsurfing friends sitting in the plaza. It was a very coincidental meeting. So we caught up on her travels while sitting in the sun that finally decided to show up.
One thing toledo is known for is its swords and knives. There are stores on every corner. I felt like a kid again and I was at the biggest Renaissance Fair ever. My wonderful wife, bless her heart, finally let me buy a sweet Spanish knife before we left.

On the way out of the city we stopped to take pictures at the same spot where Sarah took the famous Toledo panoramic back in 2006. I wasn't about to try to recreate it. So here we are.
The bus ride back was brutal, but we had the weekend ahead to recover.


Where were we?

>> October 12, 2009

I guess it is my turn to write a post! I have been pretty busy with work and meetings and visits and the worship night and teaching the service learning class so its been hard to sit down and do justice to a blogpost, but today is a holiday and we don't have work or class! Thank you Columbus, for having your own day.

So, we have been up to a lot since Jordan's birthday (which was spectacular). It seems like the weeks have been flying by! On Thursday it will make 7 weeks that we've been here in Spain. Let me see if I can catch you guys up a little bit with the many adventures we've been having...

To date, we've had 12 couch surfers stay on our loft! Gui and Leah (from Brazil and Arizona); Lauren (California); Maja and Rok (Slovenia); Emma and Dennis (Finland and Sweden); Marina (Germany); Kirsten and Matt (California); and Elsa and Jan (Germany).

We are having a blast getting to know people from all different nationalities and backgrounds! I think we last left you when we were hosting Lauren, from California. Here are some photos of our most recent surfers and our good times with them! If you are curious about couch surfing.. check out our profile:

Also here is the link to the mission statement and other info:

Emma and Dennis

Marina, Jordan, Leah, and Gui at an Irish Pub in Plaza Dos de Mayo


Kirsten and Matt, from California!!!

and finally, our most recent guests (who left this morning)
Elsa and Jan, from Germany.

I decided to spruce up the loft a bit and made some curtains for a bit more privacy. They are from IKEA, of course! They came with a strip that you iron down in order to hem them where you want... they are perfect!

We have also rearranged the loft a bit for more space.
Wouldn't you just love to stay up here?

We truly have had an awesome time meeting new people and sharing our house with them. We have only hosted so far and haven't traveled anywhere using couch surfing yet! We hope to do so soon, maybe when we go to Barcelona for a weekend towards the end of November... we'll keep you updated.

Well, in between Dennis & Emma's stay and Marina's stay, we went on an excursion with the students to the province of Huelva. We visited La Rábida, the name of the monastery where Christopher Columbus waited until he got his funding for his first famous voyage across the sea. It has many relics from the discoveries of the indias (including dirt.. maps.. flags.. little ships, etc). All of us really enjoyed seeing it! Here are a few photos from that interesting afternoon...

Outside view of La Rábida

Beautiful little courtyard!

Interesting art in the first courtyard...

Dining room where they used to host CC... He used to sit under that cross.

Me in the 2nd little courtyard!

La Niña, La Pinta, y la Santa María.. representations of CC's ships

Thinking to myself... it is really difficult to walk on this
thing while it is still.. can't imagine out in the open waves!

Meanwhile... the other chaperone and I are on another boat... and some of the students started to climb the rigging... not 45 seconds later we hear over the loud speaker (in English) "Climbing is strictly prohibited on the boats!". Oops. Couldn't resist a taking picture before they came down!

Life-like representations, of course.

Jordan is much better at this than Leonardo...

And to top it all off... we spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach! We were entertained by the game of American Football for quite a while.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit more of what we've been up to!


My Birthday

>> October 9, 2009

For those of you that didn't know yet, I married a good one. I was a little wary about having my birthday here in Spain without family or old friends around but Sarah planned a great day for us to spend together and with some new friends.

The day started with Gui and Leah showing up in the morning with churros and chocolate from our favorite spot. I guess we were still waking up in this picture.

The churros here are amazing. You can kind of see one left in the bowl.

Thank you Gui and Leah! They had to wake up pretty early and waited pretty long to buy the first batch. Good thing they really like churros too.

After class Sarah and I came home and she cooked me some burritos for lunch. It is hard to find the ingredients but she pulled it off. They definitely satisfied the Mexican food craving. Then of course we had a siesta.

Also in the morning Sarah had me open a envelope with a reservation to a spa that is part owned by one of the receptionists at the school. So after siesta we rode the Sevici bikes across town to the very lush spa located in a very lush hotel.

The first part included time in a steam shower, then cold shower, then jet shower (with blasting cold water at the end, then a sauna. It did a number on the nervous system, but was pretty fun. It reminded us of the time we spent at Ben Folds house when we used his steam shower.
Then we spent a good amount of time in the spa room with spas of various temperatures with jets for various muscles. It was very relaxing. I will admit that I utilized the Speedo that Fusion School of Music gifted to me as a going away present. When in Rome......

Our favorite part was the shower looking thing on the left (in the picture below). I want a shower head with as much pressure as that thing. It was amazing on the back and neck.
The waterfall didn't do much except look cool.
You can't see too well but on the right there are lounge chairs in the water and when you push the button you are blasted with bubbles. Reminded me of those gum commercials.

Then it all ended with some relaxing almost-full body massages in a private room upstairs. Sarah kept saying "mas fuerte por favor" The massages were more for relaxing than for adjusting. It was super nice. They gave us champagne and cookies too.

I have also really been craving a good American style burger so for dinner we met up with friends at a place called Foster's Hollywood. Kinda like an Applebees/Chili's vibe. It's also one of the few places where they give free refills. Unfortunately not on beer.

I guess this was my birthday cake.

Enrique, Julie Ann, and Martín


Gui and Leah are very photogenic

So I ate a lot that day.

Thanks to my wonderful wife, new friends, and everyone who sent birthday wishes!
Best birthday in Spain ever!


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