April 21, 2007

4/26/07 Almansa Spain

Amparo and Santi are amazing people. They literally seem to be about a dozen people rolled into two. Besides being full time parents to a 7 year old and a 3 year old, and keeping house for all that, they seem to run the hostel 24 hours a day. They both run the language school and teach, and even find time to volunteer for community events. But they still seem to be working on new things all the time, like expanding the hostel and creating travel blogs about Spain. Amparo told me that she loves teaching, for one reason, it's one of the few times of the day in which she isn't being pulled in several directions. And it's a time to slow down and really interact. But the most amazing thing is, that despite it all, they are warm, kind, patient people who always have a smile and will drop everything just to help you. I am blessed to have met them by chance and kept their friendship.

Santi and I took the kids on a day trip to Valencia on the coast. Valencia is where the America's Cup is being held, probably because the defender is team from Switzerland, a land-locked country. We got to see some of the boats, including the defender Alinghi. The city itself reminded me a lot of Malaga, only larger.

Waiting in Almansa for the one hour train to Valencia

Miranda is terrified of trains while German loves them

All along one street they had sculptures

But I loved these trees

Miranda looking for a photo-op

Guliver's Travels was the theme of this huge slide park

But German was just as happy playing in the rocks

City of Arts and Science

The Planetarium

Both of them hamming it up for the camera

We headed down to the harbor
to join in all the America's Cup festivities

The America's Cup is in Valencia
because the defenders, Alinghi, are from Switzerland

Lots of fountains

The architecture had an Arab influence

The Cathedral in Valencia

Detail of the carving over the doors

Later we ran into a some of Amparo's family from Mogente who were in town for a protest march. So, we joined in. (smile) There were groups from all over the region to protest the developers taking over their small towns, driving prices up so high that they can't even afford to live in the city of their grandparents. A lot of the groups were advocating more national parks, and more protected green space around and near their pueblos. The striking difference was that the march was more like a fiesta instead of a protest. The protesters all were very clear in what they wanted but there was no anger in the crowd, at all. Even the local police were smiling (except for the few guarding the front door of city hall with riot gear dangling from their belts). After a very, very long day, we took the train back to Mogente where Amparo picked us up to take home.

To me the march was huge, but very peaceful

The protest group we joined

Don't tell German this isn't a parade

Unfortunately the march blocked a wedding

And there were a lot of speeches and singing too

I was surprised to find out that Sunday was Santi's birthday. The children were very excited. In Spain, instead of baked cake, the have a 'tarta'. Santi's was a chocolate extravaganza that would do any chocoholic proud. The worst part was this was the first time since being here that I didn't have my camera with me to record the event. Ah, but the tarta was very good. When I was in Spain the first time, another type of birthday 'cake' I had was made of ice cream. Mmmm, I love it all.

Had my last 'language exchange' with Maria. I really enjoyed that time. Even though I seem to be on Spanish overload, with Maria it always seemed easy to talk her. I hope we can continue our 'exchange' through emails in the future.

My brother's surgery went well they tell me. During a 3 hour surgery, they removed a benign tumor about the size of a golf-ball. No wonder he was having such bad headaches. And, the insurance company is only letting him stay in the hospital for two days. Knowing him, he'll probably be better at home anyway. Still, I wish I was home in case I could help.

The 25th was the 300th Anniversary of the Battle of Almansa and the city opened with a flag-raising ceremony with a flag from each of the countries in the battle. It was a very festive affair with many people dressed in period costumes. After a short speech, food was served on tables out in front of the church. Then, at night, there was a good fireworks display. Too bad I'll miss the battle reenactment this weekend.

Opening ceremonies for the Battle of Almansa

Many were dressed in period costume

Food being prepared for everyone

Everyone turns out for a little food and conversation

Taking the train to Madrid tonight to visit my friends Sonia and Cesar, whom I met on my first trip to Spain on the Camino de Santiago. And by Monday I should be on the Camino. But like so many things in life, I might have a change in plans. More on that in the next update. (smile)