Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Bridge in Spain

Ever since I made my fancy header thingy at the top of this page, people have been asking about the picture. Yes, really. I swear I'm not making that up. So I've decided it's time to tell that story: where that bridge is, why I was there, and why I chose it to, er, represent my blog.

First, the location. The bridge is located in a tiny Spanish town called Barco de Avila (I'll just call it Barco. It's easier). The town is located in the province of Avila (hence the name) and is known for its beans. You can't make this stuff up. So why was I in this little, middle of nowhere-ish town? I actually stayed in a hotel called Puerto de Gredos just outside of Barco while participating in a program called Englishtown. Now I guess I have to explain what that is.

(That building on the left is where I stayed.)

Englishtown is an English immersion program aimed at Spanish (and I think now Italian) businesspeople. With a one-to-one ratio of English and Spanish speakers, people basically spend a week just talking (and playing Trivial Pursuit which is the best) in order to improve the Spanish speakers' English. It's not the best way to see Spain but it is a fun week in a four star hotel*. For those of us used to hostels, that was a welcome break. Would've been better if you didn't have to pay to use the pool. And if it was open for more than, like, an hour a day before breakfast. I signed up for Englishtown during my semester abroad; I had a month-long holiday which I mostly spent traveling around. My plan was always to end the month in Spain (I had a place to stay in Madrid for a few days) and I decided that I wanted to relax a little rather than staying in a different city every few nights. Englishtown, which is free for "Anglos" (the English speakers, obviously) provided a way to do that.

Ultimately, spending a week at Englishtown meant a week of a lot of talking and just a little sightseeing. We did get to take nice walks through the countryside--the Sierra de Gredos (mountans)--which was pretty stark, but, then again, it was April. I don't exactly know when spring comes to west-central Spain.

One of the not-highlights of the Englishtown program is Fiesta Night. Well, it wasn't a highlight for me because I (confession time) got approximately the drunkest I've ever been in my life. It was miserable and it totally wasn't my fault. I blame the elementary school principal sitting next to me at dinner who kept refilling my wine glass. Yes, I'm totally serious about that.

Fiesta Night was about halfway through the week; supposedly it's some kind of magic turning point for the Spanish speakers and there's a fancy dinner/satanic weird ritual/dance party to make that all happen. Unfortunately, that special dinner turned out to be really gross (baby squid on a stick? No thanks) and I pretty much just ate bread and not much of that. I didn't even think to order my absolute favorite Spanish food ever (which also, fortunately, happened to be an option for practically every meal) which is the amazingly delicious tortilla de patatas. So, no, I didn't enjoy Fiesta Night.

For some reason, the day after Fiesta Night is the Day of the Walk to the Village. It's a miserable experience since people tend to be a bit on the hungover side. I think the powers that be (the powers that be being a man appropriately named Richard. Figure it out) do that on purpose in order to torture us but I really wish they hadn't done it: I, for one, actually wanted to enjoy the visit and it wasn't nearly as much fun as it would've been under, uh, different circumstances.

The walk into town felt interminable, though not nearly so much as the walk back. Fortunately for me and my also hungover roommate, we had a large bottle of Diet Coke to sustain us on the way back. I braved a store with hanging animal carcasses in order to make that happen. TMI? Moving on. The town itself wasn't too impressive; it had many typical Spanish town features including:

A nice town square.

Old men sitting around in said town square.

A castle.

A church with a mystical past. If you want the story I'll try to remember it. Some other time.

Also like lots of good old towns, Barco de Avila is on a river. And that, dear readers, is where the bridge comes in. Most of Barco is on one side of the river, that church I just mentioned is on the other side. In order to get there, one must cross a bridge. Not just any bridge, but the bridge all my lovely readers (both of 'em!) see when they visit my blog.

A view from the bridge!

And there you have it. Where the bridge is and why I was there. Oh, wait, I said I'd mention why I chose it to represent my blog. You don't want to read a bunch of made-up symbolism crap, do you? I didn't think so.

*I seem to remember reading that the program doesn't use Puerto de Gredos anymore. Whatever.