I’ve got less than two weeks- and it makes me really sad… that is until Casey brought it to my attention today that in two weeks I’ll be on a beach in southern France.
I can live with that.
This weekend was basically a weekend full of Monks, El Cid, and the city of Burgos. Yesterday morning we drove to northern Spain with a stop in Lerma, a city with a view, and then around noonish we got to Burgos. You might remember me talking about how Spain is obsessed with Don Quixote in my last post…. Well, they are. However in Northern France they’re also obsessed with El Cid- Rodrigo Diaz deVivar... basically he was a great war hero in early Spanish history who ended up being exiled by bad guy king when he called him out on killing his brother... yeah there is a bigger history about him so if you're interested try wikipedia. Anyways, this guy is everywhere. There’s statues and plaques showcasing his life events, and tons of restaurants, stores, and hotels bear his name. They are in love with El Cid.
First stop when we got to the city was to throw our stuff in our hotel rooms and then explore the city. We did some shopping during free time- Zara, Blanco, Sfera…. We hit all the important Spanish stores on the street. At three our group met up and got back on the bus to head to Santo Domingo del Silos- a small Monastery town near Burgos. Our most random stop happened on the way to the city, when our bus driver just stopped right in front of this long tunnel and Professor told us to get out- we were hiking. Everyone was pretty confused… but as we started walking the spouts of confusion and complaining stopped. We descended down some stairs off the highway into a ravine, and the next thing I knew we were in the Narrows of Castilla de la Mancha!! This place was awesome, and the best part was all the águilas (eagles) circling overhead! For some reason this particular place has tons of owls, and as we walked they just circled overhead and perched on the cliffs up above. The path along which we walked was a manmade bridge over a river, and after maybe 10 minutes of walking, there suddenly was another set of stairs which led up to the highway yet again… only at the other side of the tunnel. It was so random, so picturesque, and very refreshing to be back in the naturaleza.
Again we boarded the bus, when reaching Santo Domingo we made another surprise attack on an unsuspecting bar for all their ice cream and Coke, and then we went to the Monastery and cathedral in the town. The guided visit was a bit… well I think I’ve exhausted the topic of guided tours, so I’ll just talk about the monks instead. We got to listen to their Gregorian Chants in some Mass-like service, and it was so cool! Silence was a must in the chapel, but it was the type of building you just wanted to yell in at the top of your lungs because you just knew how great the acoustics would be… oh, and it was freezing cold. The monks don’t want you getting too comfy! At exactly 7 about 25-30 monks clad in black robes came into the chapel and began their Latin singing, scripture reciting, and confusing me with their standing, sitting, standing, sitting ritual we were all supposed to follow. There was no chorister leading them, yet the monks all managed to stay together impeccably, reciting their Latin with hardly any breaths in between- I was pretty impressed… but not so impressed that I want to join them. No thanks.
At night we went back to our hotel for dinner, and as always, my expectations were not very high. When we arrived there was a crusty bread/dinosaur egg at each place setting, and even though I’m pretty sure that thing could have chipped teeth I was starving and I downed that thing! Our next course was paella with all the freaky seafood. “Más arroz, menos mariscos, por favor” was my request, and the server delivered… I had to pick out minimal pieces of chicken, shellfish, and shrimp antennae. Our last course was supposed to be a big hunk of chicken with fries, but Mabel took pity on the vegetarian and I got tortilla and a “salad” too. All I could think of was Hard Rock Café.
Last, our server brought us a scoop of ice cream for dessert. One scoop. Thanks Spain!
This morning began in the same restaurant for breakfast. I had a smaller dinosaur egg, hot chocolate with crackers to dip, orange juice, and a pastry. I always feel like I’ve go to eat as much as I can in the morning on trips because I never know when exactly the next time food will be available is…. So bring on the dinosaur eggs.
After breakfast we met our guide and had a tour of the city. Oh man. This guy was definitely the best thus far. The best part about his was how he dressed- so European! Just look at him: man purse, perfect facial hair, racing shirt, shiny silver racing shoes, grey skinny jeans, huge shiny watch, and the best part... which I don’t think you can even see in the picture- his Dolce and Gabanna diamond encrusted belt buckle.
Our first stop was this little building. Yeah.. the Burgos Cathedral is kind of a big deal. I suggest stopping by there if you're ever passing through Burgos. The best part about the cathedral was this the fact that El Cid is buried deep in the ground here... and man, our guide was proud of that guy. He made a point to show us this pedigree chart, assuring us that all Spanish royalty can be traced back to him. Talk about some Spanish pride right there! After touring the cathedral we went to another monastery. Still don't wanna be a monk. Think you might be cut out for the job? Here is la vida de un monje: bed time is at 11, and then you wake up and pray in the middle of the night, then go back to bed at 3 AM and wake up at 6 AM, eat at 11:30, and then sit in your room and study alone all day long. Dinner is at 6.... except for 7 months out of the year dinner is not served. Sorry! On Mondays (only sometimes) it's free day, so that means you get to leave your room and take a 2-3 hour walk around the monastery grounds and talk. You might right a book or something, but you're not allowed to sign your name. You can only write "written by a monk" on the cover. Sorry, don't want you getting too prideful! Think this is the job for you? You must also be 25-45, have studied theology, know Latin, and have a doctor's note saying that you won't die from hardly eating anything. Don't worry, I got enough applications for all of you! :)
After our tour it was free time yet again. We hiked up to a park high above the city next to some castle ruins, snapped some pics, and walked around the "cinturon verde" (green belt) Around 1:30 we went searching for food and found a little cafe with a 10 euro menu. Sold. This was what I ate.
Garlic soup, vegetables, and flan. Again, another meal with low expectations. First thing I do back in the US is hit up Costa Vida!
After free time we got back on the bus and headed back towards Madrid with a small stop at a monastery in San Pedro de Cardeña. This was the place where El Cid left his family when we was exiled, so we stopped to read a poem about that when this random lady came up and started talking about how she wanted to listen and whatnot... anyways, she ended up reading us the poem and it was great. Love those passionate Spaniards!
And now it is back to Alcalá for three days, then to Barcelona. Oh, and Barcelona means the MEDITERRANEAN. I can't wait. And everyone is going to be jealous of my farmer's tan.