The Camino begins

The intrepid travelers! We stand in front of a statue com erasing the Running of the Bull, an event that has made Pamplona famous. Me, Kathy, Stef and Tim.
The intrepid travelers! We stand in front of a statue com erasing the Running of the Bull, an event that has made Pamplona famous. Me, Kathy, Stef and Tim.

The four of us have arrived in Pamplona, Spain and are doing the last minute chores before heading out on The Camino. It’s all very exciting and we expect to begin Friday morning, April Fools Day!

I’ve invited each of my companions to guest blog right here, so you can also get to know them

This is the plaza de Castillo (Castle plaza) a short walk from out hostel. I love hoe Europeans activly use their parks and public spaces.
This is the plaza de Castillo (Castle plaza) a short walk from out hostel. I love hoe Europeans activly use their parks and public spaces.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to get a Russian visa (unsuccessfully) and getting over (ahem) some intestinal distress.

Tim arrived at the hostel a day ahead of everyone and I met him the next morning. We visited an amazing church that was build in the 1500's and simply beautiful.
Tim arrived at the hostel a day ahead of everyone and I met him the next morning. We visited an amazing church that was build in the 1500’s and simply beautiful.

On the road, again…..

Packing again! Tomorrow I head to Pamplona by train. My 3 friends and I will begin the Camino on Friday, April Fools Day (appropriate, no?). It’s roughly 500 miles, but we sleep in hostels each night and can eat at restaurants much of the way. And there’s lots of red wine and ham sandwiches!
 
Unfortunately, I’ll have to go to Madrid this week. I need to get a work visa at the Russian Embassy. Tried to set an appointment but the offices are closed for Holy Week. Who said they were godless commies?

Holy frickin week

I didn't even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.
I didn’t even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.

This is Semana Santa, or Holy week. The week leading up to Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It may be sacrilegious, but I just want to get some sleep.

In Spain, Holy Week appears to be celebrated with drums and marching bands accompanied by hooded figures, reminiscent of the KKK. Oh, and then more drums. The worst part is that all of the city of Valencia seem to be taking turns processing in front of my apartment. The bands start about 8am and seem to appear any time of day, but prefer early morning, late evening or anytime I am about to drift off to sleep. Last night they were drumming well past 11pm. The night before it was past midnight. This evening they’ve been pounding and processing for 3 solid hours.

This could put me off marching bands forever.

I don’t understand and find the hooded figures kinda creepy. And how on earth is it “Christian” to keep me from my sleep?

For more see here and here.

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There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.
There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.

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Stupid foreigners, unite

I am trying to learn Spanish. I am not doing so well, but as I tell my students, learning a language is a series of failures. If you don’t make a mistake, you are simply not trying hard enough. Clearly, I’m trying.

I was trying to ask my students the question, “When is your birthday?” (¿Cuando es tu cumpleaños?) But my pronunciation isn’t very good. Instead of “año,” the  Spanish word for year, I said “ano” which is a completely different word.

Go ahead. Look it up on Google Translate. I’ll wait.

Is this not proof that I’m trying really hard? Even if I’m failing monumentally?

Sleepless in Valencia

I can't imagine how much money is spend on both fireworks and the huge fallas displays. This is taken from my balcony on the 7th floor (6th floor in Europe).
I can’t imagine how much money is spend on both fireworks and the huge fallas displays. This is taken from my balcony on the 7th floor (6th floor in Europe).

I do really like Valencia, but it may be the noisiest place I’ve ever been to. It started with the Fallas celebration. Fallas means “torch” and it seems to be an excuse for lots of fireworks, explosions and fire. Huge, towering monuments, also called Fallas, are erected in the streets of every neighborhood and plaza. On the last night they are burned. The celebrations go on all night. Every morning, a “wake up” band goes through the streets at 8am.

Clearly, I didn’t come here to sleep.

The Fallas celebration went on well into the night. There were four large fireworks displays in my neighborhood alone on the final Saturday night.The bands and fireworks were still going off at 4am. I wasn't worried because I was sure I could sleep in the next morning, since it was Sunday.
The Fallas celebration went on well into the night. There were four large fireworks displays in my neighborhood alone on the final Saturday night.The bands and fireworks were still going at 4am. I wasn’t worried because I was sure I could sleep in the next morning, since it was Sunday.
This was the small children's presentation in front of my building, as pictured by day. This was the first one in my neighborhood to be burned.
This was the small children’s presentation in front of my building, as pictured by day. This was the first one in my neighborhood to be burned.
At about 10:30p on Saturday, they began burning the first and smallest of the monuments. As you can see, it was in the street directly below my balcony. A minute after this photo was taken they lite the fire. What I didn't know what that the fallas is made of paper, wax and FIREWORKS! Some of them headed straight for my head! I had to duck inside to avoid being blinded.
At about 10:30p on Saturday, they began burning the first and smallest of the fallas monuments. As you can see, it was in the street directly below my balcony. A minute after this photo was taken they lit the fire. What I didn’t know what that the fallas is made of paper, wax and more FIREWORKS! Some of them were headed straight for my head! I had to duck inside to avoid being blinded.
Unfortunately Sunday was the beginning of Samanas santos--Holy week. Each church had a band and processes through the streets LOUDLY, beginning at 8am. Every hour all the church bells would ring. The circular spot in the middle of the street is from one of the burned monuments (falles). This is taken from my balcony.
Unfortunately Sunday was the beginning of Samanas santos–Holy week. Each church had a band and processed through the streets LOUDLY, beginning at 8am. Every hour, all the church bells would ring. The circular spot in the middle of the street is from the same fallas monument above.  This is taken from my balcony.
One of the many bands nosily parading through the streets at the start of Holy week.
One of the many bands nosily parading through the streets at the start of Holy week.

IMG_0887 This is a short clip of one of the many light displays. Sorry it’s sideways.

The metro system here is quite good and makes it possible for me to see most of the city easily. I prefer the underground trains, but trams and buses are also very nice, clean and in good repair. But the "M" symbol of the metro always makes me want chocolate M&M's.
The metro system here is quite good and makes it possible for me to see most of the city easily. I prefer the underground trains, but trams and buses are also very nice, clean and in good repair. But the “M” symbol of the metro always makes me want chocolate M&M’s.