A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

Valencia, Spain

20 March 2011

sunny 65 °F

churro stand

churro stand


Valencia continues to have wonderful weather and closed restaurants. It is amazing how quickly the aftermath of the celebration last night is swept away. We headed out by 1000 and all that was left was a few scorch marks on the sidewalk. On the way to the Old Town we continue our food challenge and give in for more churros and bunuelo.
The mission for today is a market that is supposedly hopping on sundays with valencian souveneirs. Cafe and Tea seemed to be a chain restaurant but it was open and had seats outside. Paella was the expericnce of the day and we spent the better part of an hour watching the well dressed locals walk by while we ate.
Valencian balconies

Valencian balconies


Streams of people were all headed in the direction of the market Rodonda. About 50% of the shops were open in the round set of shops. We learned the Valencian way to tie a scarf in one of the shops from a very persistent salesman. I hit the jackpot in a couple of shops and ended up with a pile of pretty cheap clothes.
valencian architecture

valencian architecture


We were dead on our feet by the evening but hauled ourselves all the way home. No restaurants are open for food prior to 2030 but we spotted a pizzeria that advertiser 2000. At 1959 the lights popped on in the restaurant but the guy in the pizzeria said we needed to wait until media (2030). By 2030 we were about to fall out from hunger when we got our pizza margeritas and lambrusco.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Fallas Festival

19 March 2011

sunny 70 °F

churros

churros


Last night nothing much was accomplished outside of arriving, finding our hotel Melia and eat some churros with chocolate right outside our hotel. Little did we know this would only be the beginning of our vain attempts to eat in Valencia.
Our neighborhood witch falla

Our neighborhood witch falla


Our excitement was high when we left the hotel on Saturday in search of Fallas. These are paper mache displays much like parade floats that are placed in each neighborhood on the 15th of March. Each neighborhood has a childrens fallas that is small and a larger one the adults worked on. The communities can take almost the entire year to build their display. These are burnt to celebrate the end of the winter and coming of spring. The witch was the one right outside our hotel.
main street in Valencia

main street in Valencia


Unfortunately to get to the Old Town where much of the action is we had a 30 minute walk. It wasn't much of a problem on day one because we had beautiful weather and it gave us a chance to come across plenty of displays like this one we affectionately called the world.
The world

The world


demon bridge

demon bridge


The Old Town was right across this bridge which of course I figured Curt would appreciate with the demons.
Here are some more photos from the many fallas we spent most of the afternoon photographing....
pinocchio

pinocchio


Camel with detail

Camel with detail


The details on the displays were amazing - this camel is a pretty good demo of that.
Harry Potter makes it to the fallas!

Harry Potter makes it to the fallas!


Snake lady falla

Snake lady falla


I call her pocahontas falla

I call her pocahontas falla


naked ladies falla

naked ladies falla


toilet falla

toilet falla


The devilish falla

The devilish falla


The following were all pieces of the winning falla for this year...you could pay 5 euro a person to take photos up close. All others were restrained behind guard rails. The theme seemed to be the animal world taking over the humans.
rhino turtle

rhino turtle


me with the dogs

me with the dogs


me with part of the #1 falla

me with part of the #1 falla


mice torturing human falla

mice torturing human falla


class on capturing humans

class on capturing humans


#1 winning falla

#1 winning falla


At one point along the street they had a falla that was destroyed. I think it was there for people to see what they were made of. They looked like wood as a skeleton then styrofoam and a paper mache outside.
inside the falla

inside the falla


Occasionally we would see one of the fallas queens who will later light the fallas on fire. I think that each neighborhood must have atleast one representative.
one of the falla queens

one of the falla queens


falla queens

falla queens


Most of our day was spent either walking around looking at displays or shopping at the markets that seemed to be around every corner.
shopping street

shopping street


We were pretty despirate for a place to sit down and heading back home when we passed the bull ring.
bull ring

bull ring


People were showing tickets and going inside but we weren't sure for what. The ticket window had quite the gaggle surrounding it but no one was at the window so I asked what was going on. As it turns out a bull fight was starting in 30 minutes. I had very conflicting ideas on if I wanted to go but in a spontaneous moment bought two tickets for 100 euros.
The seat was at the very top row of wooden seats and very small. Being near the top made it easy to look outside when the bad parts came up.
bull fighting ring

bull fighting ring


I wonder about the statements that you sometimes here about people being inherently good when I am sitting in a stadium PACKED full of people cheering on the pretty brutal torture and murder of not just one, but six bulls.
matador practice

matador practice


First the matadors come out in their fancy outfits and practice waving around their capes.
bullfight

bullfight


When the bull finally comes out these guys with the pink capes basically tire them out making them run all over the ring. When the bull gets close to them though they hide out behind the wall.
matador hiding places

matador hiding places


THen a couple guys come out on horses and the bull attacks the horse while the man on top stabs him with some kind of prod. Then 3 or 4 guys put some kind of sticks in his neck that hang out. This whole time the bull is bleeding out and getting more and more tired. Finally the guy with the red cape comes out, tires him some more then puts a sword straight through the back of his neck. He is still kicking around until he gets cornered and then finally put out of his misery with another stab that I assume severs the spinal cord. Some horses come out and they chain the dead bull up and then drag him off. THis whole time the crowd is cheering!!! We had to sit through this SIX times!!!! It was definately an experience but nothing I want to experience EVER again.
After a very short rest and room service for dinner we went to the burning of the childrens fallas at 2200. The entire community gathers around wearing matching sweatshirts. The queen and I guess king are given a piece of the display. Then they through wood, firecrackers and gasoline on the display. A string of fireworks is attached which is lit by the king and queen. When the fire catches the display sprays fireworks.
childrens falla with fireworks

childrens falla with fireworks

Every watches, then circles around it until there is nothing left of it. Then the community heads to their party tent to await the burning of the adult falla at midnight. We go to the room to rest again before seeing the witch go down.
The witches house is on fire!!!

The witches house is on fire!!!


Fireworks were in her house and shoot out of the top which really looks cool. Then it appears as if she is flying away from the fire.
flying from the flames

flying from the flames


and then finally she is no more.
The witch goes down!

The witch goes down!

Posted by ErinDriver 12:34 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Berlin, Germany

13 March 2011

sunny 60 °F

The main purpose for this weekend was the travel expo but today the goal was to check a few toursit spots off our bucket list. I have been to Berlin for the marathon before but did not originally make it to the east side gallery to see the photography on the wall. Our first stop today was this 1 mile strip along the wall covered by artists making it the longest open air art gallery in the world. And the other bonus is that Bella got to enjoy it with us. I took so many pictures of the wall but I like all of them so most of this blog is through the photos.
colorful graffiti

colorful graffiti


real life art

real life art


Bella and I with the wall lobster

Bella and I with the wall lobster


Mom in a car wreck

Mom in a car wreck


Hands across the wall

Hands across the wall


Einstein

Einstein


Dragons for Curt

Dragons for Curt


Save Our Earth

Save Our Earth


a longer view of the wall

a longer view of the wall


I liked this painting on the wall

I liked this painting on the wall


the former east and west germany

the former east and west germany


Everywhere - I don't think so!

Everywhere - I don't think so!


Kissing on the wall

Kissing on the wall


hands on the wall

hands on the wall


Souveneirs at the wall

Souveneirs at the wall


Bella and I resting in Berlin

Bella and I resting in Berlin


Bella was such a good girl all day but needed to take a rest with mommy while grandma went into the shops!
Reichstag

Reichstag


Next two stops were quick photo stops at the Reichstag and Brandenburg gate just to check the blocks. Unfortunately we still had to drive hom so we cut out the rest of the trip and headed home.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:11 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Worlds Largest Travel Expo

12 March 2011

sunny 60 °F

My birthday weekend could not be more exciting than going to a giant set of buildings with a stand for over 100 countries. First thing after breakfast Mom and I hit the subway and found our way to the Messe for the expo.
ITB Berlin travel expo

ITB Berlin travel expo


It was unbelievable!!! At 1030 on Saturday morning the place is already crawling with people. Poland is the sponsor country this year so the first section is full of giveaways from poland to include bags to carry around all pamphlets. We worked our way through Europe on the way to Africa. By the time we were through Africa we had so much stuff to carry we could not go on. We had to skip the rest of europe, most of asia and the americas. It was a bit disappointing but we physically just could not carry any more. That is a lesson learned for next time. Also though the place was so crowded that it gets tiring quickly.
Exhausted after the travel expo

Exhausted after the travel expo


Exhaustion hit so hard we didn't even bother with the subway back and took a taxi. The entire afternoon was spent looking at the goods and napping.
We ventured down the street from the Mercure hotel to Mamma Mia's, an italian restaurant. They allowed Bella in so we could forgive the guy for the order we got. After pointing at a picture of shrimp with pasta on the menu we were told the pictures were not exactly there food but pointed to a menu item that was very close to the photo. As it turned out the only thing close was that there were shrimp in the picture. There was rice instead of pasta and some vegetables. We polished off a liter of lambrusco so cared less and less about the meal. To make up for it we ordered spaghetti ice cream to split.

The waiter was quite an Italian asking me if he could change places with my dog! I don't know - does that mean he wanted to go home with me?? Dang it Curt - where are you when I need you?

Posted by ErinDriver 11:59 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Paris Half Marathon and some more touring

6 March 2011

sunny 45 °F

A crowded subway ride was just the beginning of the Paris Half Marathon. I dont' want to spend much time on it because 1 - I wasn't so impressed and 2- I forget the battery for my camera so there are no photos. I should say though that the route did not offer any kodak moments anyway so I didn't miss anything. It was the most crowded run I have ever done with not even a hint of elbow room from start to finish. The route didn't seem to pass anything important although it did run along the Seine for a brief period. Luckily Catherine was watching for me and found me at the end where we shuffled through the crowd to turn in our chip and get some snacks. By now you can guess that the food offerings were not the greatest but we did hit up a french fry stand before getting back in the subway.
Notre Dame window

Notre Dame window


Catherine needed to check the block on the Notre Dame so that was our first destination today. IT is gorgeous and HUGE inside so we spent a bit of time taking in the beautiful windows.
Notre Dame candles

Notre Dame candles


Looking back across the river also gives a good and different view of the huge cathedral.
Notre Dame with river

Notre Dame with river


Not far away was the torch that is replica of the one that the Statue of Liberty holds. It is on the street in the middle of a random road but is easy enough to get a photo of regardless.
The Torch

The Torch


It seems by now we should have seen all the markets paris has to offer but there was one left and my favorite - the bird market.
bird market

bird market


Bird market merchandise

Bird market merchandise


I had never been to anything like this before. It was more of an animal maket. I got a little shirt for Bella and the guy who sold it to me had a rat sitting on his shoulder. He tried to put in on me but when I wasn't a big fan he set it on Catherine instead.
Cat with Rat <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Cat with Rat :)


She didn't seem to mind.
my pink car

my pink car


OUr time was growing short so we consulted the map on how to get to Rhodan's thinker statue. On the walk there I spotted this lovely car I would have bought on the spot.
Parisian bridge

Parisian bridge


We also got a nice view over the river on our walk there.
thinking hard

thinking hard


It was our lucky day - the outside monuments were free today so we got to walk in, snap a few photos with the thinker and walk out - sweet!
The thinker

The thinker


Having checked off everything on our lists we set out for dinner again. Our goal was a tapas restaurant but it was closed so we hit the next thing we saw - Le Square trousseau. The waiter was very nice and helped us while speaking English. I got shrimp Risotto that was really fabulous and a good ending to the weekend.
shrimp risotto

shrimp risotto


The purpose of the trip was to run the half marathon which ended up being the most disappointing part of the trip. Catherine and I had a blast hitting the markets and tourist sites which made the trip worth it in the end.

Posted by ErinDriver 02:10 Archived in France Comments (0)

Can't do Paris without the Eiffel Tower

5 March 2011

sunny 45 °F

Catherine had not been to Paris before so I was pretty much letting her take the lead on what she wanted to do. We spent the morning at several different markets taking in meat, vegetables and flowers being purchased by locals.
Parisian market

Parisian market


At a flea market I was excited to get a crystal dog that could hold peanuts or jelly beans, etc. The bad part was now I had to lug it around all day. Another market was very bohemian and we spent quite a bit of time at a shop from india. An antiques market was ater that and then I was begging Catherine to let me eat lunch. We stopped at one of those places that looks super tiny from the outside but keeps going and going once you are inside. It was crowded which we took as a good sign. We split a pizza to get us some energy to tackle....
Tower from the front

Tower from the front


....of course the Eiffel Tower. As you may have guessed by now I had to take a photo from every angle :) The trip up the elevator was not on our agenda but we did spend some time pretty much walking all the way around it. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
The tower==Your heading here...==

The tower==Your heading here...==


Eiffel Avenue

Eiffel Avenue


Catherine and I at the tower

Catherine and I at the tower


Eiffel tower with flowers

Eiffel tower with flowers


After this walking I was starving once again so we found the closest restaurant that might have some pasta for us to fuel up for tomorrow with and dived in. A good night sleep was in order since the race started pretty early in the morning.

Posted by ErinDriver 02:01 Archived in France Comments (0)

On the way to Paris

4 March 2011

sunny 45 °F

The train was our chosen method of getting to Paris for my frined Catherine and I. We were attempting to make it into town for the Half Marathon expo. The bags were dropped at the hotel and an immediate departure was made via the subway. IT has to be one of the worst I have ever been on. A collection of tickets for 10 trips could be purchesed for something like 7 euro but then half the tickets didn't actually work. At one point I was trying to explain to the woman who worked there that my ticket didn't work and she told me to speak french.

At any rate eventually we arrived at the park where the expo was held and students had used all teh folaige and fallen branches to make large spiders out of the refuse. OUr little group seemed to be the only ones enthralled with this.
Spider in the park

Spider in the park


The expo was quite a disappointment and that should have been the first clue. There were not really any interesting stands and when we got our goodie bag we had to show our passport. The woman threw it back at us and said, Ughh, American. She still gave us the packet but without a smile! Even the shirt was sad in bright orange with a black screenprint on the front with some runners.

NOw we had plenty of extra time for plan b which turned out to be shopping. Paris seems to have an individualized store for everything. The fondue shop made out on us and we got samples. Everybody was happy! I got a yorkie tea pot and Catherine got some stuff for Nate.
Wine bar

Wine bar


Our fuel was low and we had spotted Le Porte Pot which I just now realized sounds like porta potty. Anyway it was good and we put away some wine, cheese and risotto. We took some time to recover before we attempted to find our way back to the hotel.

Posted by ErinDriver 01:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

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