Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Earning some street cred

Some of you might be wondering why hasn't Marisa been writing any blogs lately (or you haven't noticed) but the reason is I am back in school people.  I started my master's degree back in August and since then my nose is either in a textbook or writing a paper on my computer. So as you can imagine the last thing I want to do is write some more.  I am studying to get my Master's of Education in School Counseling at Liberty University.  It is a three part program with one third online, one third classes on campus and one third is a practicum.  I am four classes in and I am loving it. I love being back in school and learning about something I am actually doing.  Because I work in education already I have plenty of ideas for topics and it is actually information that is useful to me now. Also by getting some kind of certification it will open up more opportunities in the counseling world for me. Hopefully I will graduate in 2013 and have a counseling license in Virgina, but don't worry once I get the hang of this whole school thing I will be back to blogging regularly. Plus life in general (work- it is application season, coaching volleyball, grad school, being social and being a good wife) has been crazy this past month and I am hoping after the holidays things will slow down. I have a few blogs to catch up on and hopefully I can do that soon.  I went to Lisbon, Portugal for a work conference and stayed for a weekend with the girls and then I went to Dresden to coach volleyball and open up the Christmas market season, so more on that in coming blogs.


Here is to a more educated Marisa. Now back to my 10 page paper due on Sunday.

--Marisa


Friday, November 18, 2011

Belated Halloween Post

While Halloween and trick-or-treating definitely exists in Germany, it doesn't seem to be quite as big of a deal as in the States.  We don't usually do much on this holiday anyways, but this year we ended up going over to two of our friends' places for a dinner, scary movie, and pumpkin carving.
     The meal was an impressive rolled, stuffed slice of meat along with a homemade mushroom soup.  The movie was Scream 4, which I didn't know was still going strong.  The carving was inspired by "Jack" from the Nightmare before Christmas, which incidentally is a great movie for both Christmas and Halloween.

scary, huh?

     One cool thing around Frankfurt is a haunted house thing they do at Burg Frankenstein (Castle Frankenstein).  We didn't make it this year, but some coworkers said that it was pretty legit with professionally done-up characters crawling around the grounds and scaring the mess out of folks.  I think they also do choreographed shows and dinners as well.  Maybe next year.

--Justin

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Me Gusta Espana 2011 - Part Four: Ronda

     The last town that we visited in Andalucia was the quaint little town of Ronda.  Situated on a little plateau over a beautiful gorge, this little gem is known for being one of the first major bullfighting towns.  It was also immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls", in which the Republicans murder Nationalist sympathizers by throwing them off of the cliff that surrounds much of the town.  Ronda is not mentioned here specifically, but the reference is strikingly similar to actual events during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.  Our visit came complete with a walking tour around the gorge and a guided tour through the bullfighting ring/museum.

El Tajo gorge, spanned by Puente Nuevo ("new bridge").  This is the second attempt, completed in 1793, as the first try in the 1700's collapsed shortly after construction was finished.  Looks like they learned a lot from those mistakes.

 Here's a backside view of Puente Nuevo.

Ronda overlooks a nice little landscape.......and these are probably the cliffs referred to by Hemingway.

Outside of the bullring there were a few local heroes immortalized in metal.  While I can't recall who these chaps are, I read about one famous bullfighter from Ronda that killed a few THOUSAND bulls in the ring without an injury.  Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't sound as dangerous as it's made out to be.  

Apparently PETA doesn't have much of a stronghold in Spain, because bullfights are still held today.  They're usually during festivals for the town in the spring/summer.  

Inside the bullring we came across a Spanish riding school with these beautifully-bred creatures hanging around.

My go-to move when I'm in the ring.....

........and my back-up plan!!

Marisa goes for a little more charm than intimidation.......

.......and if it doesn't work she's got her plan B as well.  Maybe this is why that guy never got injured.

Ronda also has a lovely little park, covered in trees, that opens up to the cliffs.  They also have a few peacocks kept in a huge netted area in the park.

I definitely recommend Ronda for a quiet little Spanish town in Andalucia.  It's got a lot to offer for a half-day visit.

--Justin

Friday, November 11, 2011

Me Gusta Espana 2011 - Part Three: Granada

     Easily the most anticipated city on our trip was Granada.  Another Moorish-influenced town in Andalucia, Granada, is home to the last Moorish fortress/palace standing before the Spanish reclaimed the region as its own - La Alhambra!!  It's a crazy-busy hotspot year-round and unfortunately we didn't think to reserve tickets ahead of time.  Marisa had to call the ticket office a few times, dusting off the ol' Spanish language skills to try to book an entrance time over the phone.  Even more unfortunately, her phone lost the connection while she was giving the guy our card number, so we had to go for "Plan B" - waking up around 4:30am to drive the two hours to Granada to stand in line at 7:00am for the "first come-first served" tickets released each day.  I'm telling you, even on a Thursday during October there were still hundreds of people in line to make sure that they go into this thing - it kind of reminded me of our visit to Versailles this summer.  Loco!!

     The pictures from La Alhambra are below and speak for themselves, but it was a really cool pad.  We also came across a legit, local tapas bar for lunch, which was a trip highlight and we meandered through a Moorish neighborhood to a spectacular view of La Alhambra in its entirety.

After standing in line in the cold morning air for at least an hour, we finally got our tickets for La Alhambra!!

Marisa is in a fantastic mood as she waits for our entry time into the palace.

One thing I noticed in Spain was the tremendous amount of stray cats running around.  Not sure if they're down with the "spay and neuter" policy.  However, some of them were cute from a distance and I couldn't help but picture them talking to me in an Antonio Banderas voice and walking around on two legs.

Those Moors love them some reflecting pools and I must say that I do as well.  I mean, if the Lincoln Memorial can have one then why not a private one in your palace?

As mentioned previously, with this style of architecture you get colorful geometric shapes.........

......and quotes in Arabic from the Qur'an - neither of which tempts you to follow idols..........unless you're a Geometry teacher or something like that.

Very pretty lettering carved into plaster along the interior of many of the rooms.  This close-up shows one of the most commonly occurring words - the one that looks like a "W" with a nose on the left side which means "Allah".

It was supposedly in this very room on this very floor that Columbus came and spoke with Ferdinand and Isabel about his proposed voyage.  I can imagine him with the flip charts going over his projected annual increases in the number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the world.

View of Granada from La Alhambra

Anybody a fan of M.C. Escher?  He visited La Alhambra and was inspired by the maze of geometric shapes and went on to come up with oodles of cool sketches of patterns and endless staircases and waterfalls that never reach the bottom. 




Marisa is checking out the palace of Charles V, which was built within the fortress in 1527 during his reign as the Holy Roman Emperor.


La Alhambra - reconquered from the Moors in 1492.


Another famous guest was Washington Irving who spent a year here in 1829 and penned "Tales of the Alhambra".  He's also the guy who gave us "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle".

Tapas bar - complete with shanks of Iberian ham hanging around with little juice cups inserted so as not to drip on the bar.  It was organized chaos as tons of locals came in, stood at the bar, drank a beer, killed some tapas and threw their napkins on the floor - somewhat like dropping your plastic cups in a stadium or throwing peanut shells on the ground at Roadhouse.

Here we have (clockwise from top left): house specialty stuffed eggplant w/asparagus, Spanish tortilla which is like a quiche made from egg and potato, and sliced iberian ham (from the legs hanging on the ceiling).  It tasted as good as it looks, and the best part about it is that when you order a drink...........they give you a free portion of paella (yellow rice cooked w/peppers and sausage or seafood).

Old Moorish-style market.  Today filled with tons of cheap touristy stuff - not quite like walking through markets with burlap sacks full of spices and whatnot.

After taking a power-nap on some benches we mustered up the strength to hike up this hill opposite the Alhambra and were rewarded with this fantastic view.

If you're going to Andalucia you cannot leave out Granada.  It was a fabulous city with lots of interesting sites.  On an unrelated note, this marks the 200th blog post of "Rockin' it Out" since our beginning in August of 2009.  We're thankful for all that indulge in our travel pics and random cooking bits that Marisa throws out there because without an audience..............well I suppose it'd just be a journal.  So "thanks" for reading.

--Justin

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Me Gusta Espana 2011 - Part Two: Sevilla

The next trip took about 2.5 hours of driving through windy mountainous roads to land us in the beautiful city of Sevilla (sometimes spelled "Seville" by the British).  Sevilla is known for its popular bullfighting ring, it's huge cathedral built on the site of a former mosque during the Reconquering, and a Moorish palace called "Alcazar".  As it turns out, it's also the home of the original "Don Juan", who's commemorated in a statue shown below.  We had a beautiful day walking around and taking in the delightful blend of Moorish and Spanish architecture.

Sevilla Cathedral - Guinness World Record largest church by area; third largest in Europe after St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and St. Paul's in London

Entrance to cathedral

Columbus' Tomb - he was tied to much of this region of Spain and his body was moved from the Caribbean and supposedly rests now under the guard of these gentlemen.

Columbus' Tomb - recall that he was from Genoa, Italy, but since it was King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel that spotted him a few pesos to sail to the "New World"

Crown from the cathedral treasury - I think it was a crown worn by Isabel, but I could be wrong.  Either way it was loaded with some 10,000 precious stones and featuring this angel with a body made out of the largest pearl in the world.

View from the top of the tower in the cathedral - notice the famous bullfighting ring on the right.

Cathedral Tower

View from Cathedral Tower

Marisa posed in the orangerie in the cathedral...........

.......complete with an old irrigation system put in place by the Moors

Moorish style entrance to the orangerie

Backside view of cathedral with funky lamppost

Here he is ladies........the original Don Juan from Sevilla.  I don't know about you, but I thought he'd be a little taller.

Alcazar - we really enjoyed walking through this old Moorish palace.  Some common trends that you'll notice in Moorish architecture are:  reflecting pools...........

........arched doorways and walkways..........

......decorative tiles in geometric patterns (since decorations featuring people or animals were frowned upon for being possible idols) ........
......tapestries featuring the Mediterranean as the center of the world........

.........colorful pottery.......

......and plenty of natural beauty such as these immaculate gardens.

Marisa enjoyed the return trip to Sevilla and it was nice spending a beautiful day there.

--Justin
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