Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Discoveries @ Casa de las Conchas in Salamanca...

This morning, while Ben was in class, I took a walk to the Public Library, which is in a historic building, The House of Shells.  The following excerpt from the website link explains some details about this landmark: Today the Casa de la Conchas is a modern library, but it was once a palace of Rodrigo Maldonado, a knight of the Santiago (Saint James) Order. The palace was built in the 1500’s. The shell that adorns the building is the emblem of the Santiago Order.
The inner courtyard of the Casa de las Conchas.
The library staff were very helpful, and seemed to understand my Spanish enough to help me find a book that teaches LSE (Spain's Sign Language) to children.  The book is very well done and features many photos of Deaf students demonstrating the vocabulary of LSE.  I hope I can order a copy of this book.  Below is the manual alphabet of LSE.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Salamanca: History & Tapas

We have really enjoyed the last 48 hours and the directors and professors at Mester Academy have been very organized and hospitable.  Yesterday, one of the professors gave us a walking tour which included explanations of some historical sites in Salamanca.  This evening, she and other representatives of the school arranged a ruta de tapas, a tasting tour of tapas offered at local venues.  Here are a few photos, with sparse details because it is almost past bedtime here--even for night owls!
The music of this instrumental/vocal duet echoed amidst the historic
stone buildings of Salamanca's streets. 


Gabriel Guillen (teaching assistant at Mester), Dr. Robert Blake
(professor from UT, Austin) & Ben on La Ruta de Tapas. 

Spanish teachers from California, Texas (native of Colombia) and Arkansas 

Many restaurants and shops have these hams hanging in their windows.  They have a
different flavor than Kentucky's country ham--very distinct.  Wish we could bring one home, but I guess that will happen when pigs fly :). 
The people who served us in each of the 4 places on our tour were very hospitable.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jetlag and Dinnertime...

I believe the jetlag is working in our favor.  Siesta time here is from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.  When I say siesta time, I mean that not a creature is moving, not even the pigeons, during this time of the afternoon.  The only movement on the streets of Salamanca during yesterday's siesta was caused by a group of international students arriving in town from CA, PA, MA, KY, UT, HI (and likely some other places, but I've not had a chance to meet them all yet).  Upon our arrival at Aladaba, our residence for the next 2 weeks, we immediately became "locals" by taking a good nap!
It was a good thing we did, because I was unprepared for the length of the evening's events.  Pardon my lack of experience, and skip this blog post if you are one of the people who have tried to explain to me the length and lateness of mealtime here in Spain (and other countries which I've yet to visit).  I will admit that I actually doubted your description.  No longer!  Thankfully, according to my stomach, it was late afternoon/early evening when our meal started at 9pm.  (Disclaimer: Let me say the entire evening was wonderful, and I believe I'll adjust quite well to the mealtimes while we are here; it was just a very new experience!)
We met some of the others in the Mester group in the Plaza Mayor (photo above) at 8:45 pm.  Mester Academy was hosting a welcome dinner for about 40 of us at a restaurant in the plaza, Don Mauro's.

9:00 pm Every place setting had a bread plate.The breads here are quite good and this seems to be
a country of bread eaters. So far, I've seen the bread served with olive oil.

9:20 pm:  The waiters brought plates of ham.  The plates were for 4 of us to share and had 5 kinds of meats, including jamon cerrano (in the center) which is the closest thing to some of Myers' Meats products that I've ever had.  It is muy rico.

10:00 pm:  The salad was probably my favorite part of the meal, although I liked everything.  The salad had mixed greens (almost as good as Riverhaven lettuces :), chunks of fresh mozerella, candied walnuts, sweet pickled peppers, tomatoes, dried cranberries (or some kind of similar dried fruit), and was topped with slices of tuna.  The dressing was some sort of vinaigrette.

10:45  Ham croquettes.  They are about the size of hushpuppies, but very soft, cheese filled and the ham must be pureed into the cheese.  Outstanding, but 2 of them were more than enough because they were so rich.

11:05 pm:  So, after feeling like we'd had a complete meal already (hams, tuna/salad,
croquettes, bread), we had the main course.  Uff-da!  I will say the objects in photo are much larger than they appear!  The lamb and homemade fries were so good, that I almost forgot I was already full!  Not to worry--I cleaned my plate!

11:40 pm:  What?!?!  There's dessert??  Yes.  Again, this photo makes it look petite.  It wasn't.  Tiramisu, gelato, cookie, dark chocolate sticks and some sort of fruit sauce garnish.  Thankfully, we didn't have to chew it--the phrase "melt in your mouth" developed to describe this dessert. At this point Ben made some reference to being like cows--having 3 stomachs. :)

11:50pm: Oh yes, we'd like some coffee :).  The one on the left is Ben's--café solo; mine, on the right, café con leche, is the typical way of serving coffee here.  It is excellent...yes, and keeps us awake until 3:00 am.  Apparently the other residents of the city drink coffee at midnight too.  And it keeps them awake until 3:00 am too.  They must have jetlag :).  Actually, it is pretty quiet here compared to China (no fireworks on a nightly basis beneath our window).


Plaza Mayor at 12:15 am.  Many more people on the street at this time compared to siesta time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sábado en Madrid...

@ Plaza Mayor in Madrid
We had a very nice day in Madrid.  Checked in at the hotel, took a nap (Spain is 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Time Zone), at breakfast (delicious ham, tortilla española, breads, yogurt, homemade granola etc...), had lunch with friends, and later in the day walked around the city.  
Lunch w/ Kathy, Ruth & Heather

En las calles de Madrid...

En la Plaza Mayor...

The Plaza Mayor has been a central part of Madrid since the 1560's.  Today, many restaurants, shops, artists, vendors and street performers make the plaza an interesting place to spend the afternoon.

En el Parque Retiro...
Retiro Park is a 15 minute walk from Plaza Mayor.  The park is very large with walking paths, gardens, a small lake, fountains and many vendors & street performers.  Performances ranged from puppet & magic shows to classical music recitals and hip-hop dancing.  It appears that this is a favorite place for Madrid families to spend Saturday afternoons.