Sunday, February 21, 2010

Madrid - First time 'cross the Pond.

A seriously illuminated city greeted us upon arrival, and this was just a sidewalk off the main strip. Madrid, Spain.

More illuminations lining overhead a main street; Madrid, Spain.

Gotta dig the street signs in Spain; most look like this. This one reminded me of a good friend, Ruben..

So this is a 'Doll Sanitorium', ironically located above a pharmacy. I truly admire how much of the world is more inclined to fix old things rather than consume anew - in this case its dolls.

22 - 24 December 2009 - Betwixt 2009 and 2010, I explored Europe for the first time in my life. I spent nearly 2 weeks traversing Western Europe by land, crossing from Spain into France, then back again. My first impressions are enveloped in the shroud of timelessness possessing the dry, land-locked Spanish capital: Madrid. That, and the neon/LED splendor of a heavily-Christian Western city preparing for the year-end holidays. Strangely though, a fierce ethnic pride still gripped me quick by way of my parents' bloodline; a rare European pride that led me to keep a keen eye out for just one of 'our' heraldric crests (what is ownership anyway...?), to no avail by trips end. In the midst of the old quarters of Madrid I found the Spain of yore - cobblestoned streets, dark and dank hole-in-the-wall dives with entrances akin to those of an ancient catcombs, colonial-era pensiones and goverment buildings, medival-era cathedrals, moques, and synagogues - a cacophonous Spain but where multitudes of cultures coexisted (at times) side-by-side. Make no mistake, though: Spain's burtaul, repressive history was not invisible to one with even a tiny bit of history to draw from - and that's not to speak much of the recent fascist reign.

Palacio de Comunicaciones, downtown Madrid.

This awesome statue of Neptune reminded me of my East coast surf buds. Way the waves ever be in your favor!

This amazing alleyway was just off Plaza Mayor, near to the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. Plaza Mayor buildings date from 16th century, A.D.

This was a brightly illuminated government building, built in that amazing sort of grand colonial style. Notice the EU flag and the dignitary vehicles parked out front.

This one you'll have to ask me about - I'll say only that I'm on the inside, and the dark background is the night sky.

Estadio Santiago Bernbeu - where Real Madrid plays home games. They're serious about futbol here.

National Library main entrance and statuary. In the background, the writers, poets, and artists whose mark has influenced a nation; in foreground, two patron kings of the arts.

It was in Madrid where I partook in the first of many culinary delights so resplendent of this perfectly aged social rag-quilt of a nation. To say the food was 'good' would be an insult to the Spanish, if they weren't so damn chill and didn't offend easily. They may chuckle and only feel slightly sympathetic because they know the food-like substances most of us eat/can afford in America is nothing like the taste of fresh Spanish food. It was not only the diversity of food around but the authenticity infusing all I ate that I can recall my meals so vividly now. Authentic food and eating experiences (on the cheap!) so spoiled me from the start in Spain, so that now it hurts a bit at times to eat out state-side. Among my favorite Spanish eats: all types of Jamon, tapas to dip with bread, and sangria.


Spanish cordwainer storefront display, in downtown. I expect the chain of exploitation to make these shoes is much shorter than most I've seen in the U.S.

My brother.

My mom.

It was here also where I discovered first-hand the best of Spanish & so-influenced culture around the world - the Siesta. EVERYTHING shuts down from around 2 to 4pm, except for some cafes and the road traffic. While annoying at first, I came to appreciate the down-time, even if I wasn't up for but a few hours before siesta time. As soon as I arrived I was similarly enamored by the architecture, the city planning, and the smash-up of era's represented in the facades of the buildings everywhere you looked; a trait of cities I appreciate more after living in San Francisco. No two buildings looked the same. As I explored central Madrid, I could begin to pick out common styles of buildings based style, materials, colors, shapes, even the statues (ya, statues!). This magnificient buildings was pretty much all arrayed around the Royal Palace and Parque del Retiro, Madrid's equivalent of New York's Central or SF's Golden Gate Parks. This is certainly a city to stay in for a while, enjoying the night life and the culture - music and museums are certainly top on my list when I return again. That, and LOTS more food.

The faces of many buildings all over Spain were just awesome. Here, the facade over the entrance to la Iglesia de San Francisco el Grande, Gran Via, Madrid.

Here, the bastions and corner face of what is now a hotel. This level of craftsmanship is everywhere here.

Detail of one corner of a larger Church; you can't see the rear which sits on a large hillside overlooking another part of Madrid.

Corner of building across from our hostel.

Facade over entrance of what I think is a converted chruch, Gran Via 17, Madrid.

Corner facade & dome of el Edifico Metropolis. This one is a particularly detailed French-Romanesque style; the four statues represent Mining, Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce. [thanks Wiki!]

This one's for Khoa. Lot's of motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, and small cars on the road here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Homeward Bound 1: Inglorious return

This one is NOT a dark & lonely crossroad. Where the Parkway and Turnpike meet.

14 - 17 December, 2009. And so once again I recently embarked on another journey, this time Eastward to make my way toward home and beyond. First stop: New Jersey. To what can only be described as my 'home state' - the place where I really Grew up and where most close friends and family still reside - did I arrive in mid-December, 2009. Spending one night here, another night there, and another over there - including a long, cold, but surprisingly uneventful night at/around a bus depot in Asbury Park, NJ - I crawled my way between family in Central Jersey on public transportation until the weekend.

Visiting the South Jersey Pygmy Pines: an ancient old-growth Pine forest, not much taller than you.

Ft. Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ. Officers' Row.

Part of my high school campus. Who remembers the tree?

Where land meets sea. Now I know: especially when compared to the Pacific, the Atlantic coast really is like a big pond.

18 - 21 December, 2009. When I finally nestled for a few days in South Jersey ready to visit some awesome friends from school, a serious blizzard sank the Northeast under close to 3 feet of snow and ice for the weekend. Cozy as I was - wood-burning stove, big puppies, a wise old cat, and my favorite kind of Tea - I was close to licking-my-palms crazy you get when the risks start to seem worth it because you were SO focused on the now-rerouted plan. I mellowed before I left; seriously good local vibes and some leftover SanFran-style brownies helped with cabin fever I'd developed. And then met with my Mom, caught a plane, and hopped across the Pond.

Stranded near by snow at Chris's place. Here, taking refuge by a field.

Endless country roads: deep South Jersey.

Snow-dusted prism.

The frosted world, seen from the porch.