Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hanging out in Madrid on a summer day

Today, and for several weeks now, Madrid has been suffering from a heat wave.  We have been having temperature higher than 35ºC.  My plants are constantly seeping every drop of water that I give them every night.  Luckily for them, water is not an expensive commodity and they can have all of the water they need.  However, for most common people to get alleviated from the  scorching heat all day, is quite a challenge and a sacrifice.  Madrid has no beach, but it has a lot of fountains, where children with their parents find a refreshing refuge. Rather than go to a swimming pool, where one has to pay, a better option nowadays is to put swimsuits and go to the nearest fountains,  to be refreshed.

Many Madrileños, in theory, are now on vacations but probably without employment and cannot afford to go out with their kids to be at the beach.  So what do they do?  They bring their kids to the park where they put bathing suits on, mothers included, while they get a refreshing shower in public fountains.   

But Madrid has swamps, rivers and natural pools that are equally refreshing and free from sand, just equally accessible.

 Pantano de San Juan (Source: Time Out)


Natural Pool of Riosequillo  (Source: Time Out)


La  Pedriza (Source:  ABC)

Another good option is to watch a movie, where in an air-conditioned movie house one can forget about the hot summer day and dream for a while, if the movie is not interesting.  But it seems that Ron and Beatriz had some fun watching Terminator and ended up running away in Schwarzenergger's motorcycle, after keeping his shades!

As for myself, I find the subway station an  excellent way to take at least a thirty minute exercise of walking and climbing up and down the stairs in a cool, natural environment.  Being underground and not even five minutes away from where I live, it is the coolest place to go for a quiet walk since trains come on longer intervals in summer and  there are fewer passengers.  Likewise, I go to malls by train, where temperature is cool and I can do my shopping or be content with just doing some window shopping.  I love these Lladró figurines, but not to have them in my apartment.  They are better off on displays where many people can appreciate them.


Go pass some time in a cozy cafe taking time out to read while you get your favorite ice cream or iced coffee.

Giuseppe Ricci is believed to be best Italian ice cream. It is located in calle de las Huertas and has all the flavors you can imagine, mojito or piña colada, that can please the most extravagant taste.

On the other hand,  I think that summertime, should allow us to focus also on others who are neglected, whether they be children, the sick or the elderly.  Summer is not only a time for relaxing and finding comforts for ourselves but more so an opportunity to do something for others that will make them feel attended and loved even in a small way.

Have a good summer to all!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Spring has arrived in Girona

In May, spring is in full swing in Spain.  And if you love flowers, you would likely visit either the patios of Cordoba or Girona, where for a few days, you get an exclusive experience of a real gift for the senses.

Ron, encouraged me to go to Girona, which takes four hours from Madrid Atocha by Ave train to the strategically located central station in Girona.

I stayed in Hotel Gran Ultrona, a curious hotel in the sense that it is a three star and a four star hotel in one building.  The three star hotel is called Gran Ultrona.  The only difference lies in the type of rooms.  I got a very quiet room with a big bed in the Hotel Gran Ultrona, which is well communicated by foot to all the interesting places.

Girona celebrates this year its 60th anniversary from May 7 to May 17, 2015 and becomes a huge canvas for artistic expression, where the beauty of the floral compositions is in perfect harmony with the city's wonderful architectural and historical heritage.

Since it was first held in 1954, the exhibition has moved around some of the city's best-known landmarks. In 1993, Girona, Temps de Flors became an official route that enables visitors to enter courtyards and gardens of dwellings and buildings of great cultural interest that are not open to the general public during the rest of the year.

Aside from the artistic displays, the festival also includes many other activities with something for everyone: flower, photography and film competitions, among others; the A Cappella music festival; special gastronomic offerings in many of the city's restaurants, where flowers are included among the ingredients; participation in the putting together of flower displays; and many other activities worth experiencing.

That's why Girona, Temps de Flors has grown famous beyond Catalan borders and has contributed to raising the profile of the city as a tourist destination. Source:  Costa Brava.

Here is an array of floral collections all over Girona.

By the Onyar river

The Cathedral

In the Cathedral, there is a legend: the witch of the Cathedral. Many years ago, there was a witch in Girona who hated everything that was religious.  She used to insult  religious people by  throwing stones at the cathedral. 

A day during the procession of Corpus Christi, she was throwing stones while the procession was moving forward, when a voice was heard: “stones you will throw and stone you will remain”... All of a sudden the witch became a stone and she was  placed in the wall next to Carlomagno’s tower as a gargoyle. Thence, from her mouth will never come out insults anymore but rain water and she is now facing the ground so she can never see the sky again. Source:  Tourism with me

Cloister of Cathedral

Underground passage of Cathedral

Basilica of Sant Feliu

Lateral steps of Sant Feliu

Other churches decors

Cloister of  the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligant 

Saint Lluc, was originally a church but is now home to  the castrum of the soldiers in Holy week processions. 

Floral arrangements in different places


Carme Church

Plaza of Judges, a public place for exhibits 

Caixa Forum


By the Rambla

By the gardens

Street scenes

Private exhibits

House of Lleo Avinay

Old Convent of Saint Marti

Arab Baths


Museum of History

Monastery of Saint Daniel.  It was a long walk up on a hot day but it was worth it.

The festival would not be complete without sampling a "Floral Menu", although most restaurants use the words only to call attention but  actually serve regular menus.  I did try salad with goat cheese and dressing of peach and flowers,  broiled chicken filled with prunes and raisins and ice cream with rose petals, different but not really exquisite to the palate but for 20 Euros, and in Plaza de Independencia, which is like our Plaza Mayor in Madrid, why not?

As I sat down, I immediately found some kind and accommodating waiters and waitresses who were all eager to give good service including pleasant conversations.  I felt like I was at home.  Incidentally,  wifi was everywhere and I was in constant contact with Ron and Mel.  Before I left, a boy about 6 years of age came over to tell me "Eres muy salada".. which in Spain means pleasant, cheerful, funny, someone wanting to live life and above all happy, and that also spreads joy to others.  Uhhh?


Funny way of translating the flower pansy for thoughts because in Spanish we say "pensamientos", which literally means thoughts...

The legend says that as a visitor, a kiss guarantees that you will return one day. This ritual is accompanied by its saying: "No pot ser veí de Girona qui no faci un petó al cul de la lleona".  "You can’t be resident in Girona until you’ve kissed the backside of the lioness".

For me it is not necessary to follow the legend but to follow the scents and the aroma of colorful flowers in Girona that will make me come back to this charming city.
At the Girona train station.

Luckily for me, I got to know somebody named Eva as I asked for directions on my way to the hotel.  She was kind enough not only to show me the way to my hotel as I arrived, but also carried my luggage as she found me struggling with the stony streets of Girona.  We got to know each other and she helped me also in the same way as I got back to the train station on my way home and even waited with me for my train to arrive.  

It is only a so long I will be back and not a goodbye...