Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pilgrimage across Spain II - "Grape Juice"

"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."

--Proverbs 31:6-7

The origins of the "Addictive" Santiago Trail are religious, but the reasons for doing the trail have mulitipied - drinking great wine is one of those reasons.

Our last stretch of the trail just happened to be through the Rioja region of Spain. Rioja is the most famous wine region in Spain and outside the country. Therefore, following scripture - and good taste - we decided to try as many glasses (and bottles) as possible.

We crossed the Rioja region at the end of the harvest season. There were tons of sweet grapes for us to pick and eat as we went along. However, it became harder and harder to bear the sight of so many grapes going to waste. The wine growers have limits and they are punished if they pick too much. This means that on most years there are tons of grapes that just rot. Prices are kept up, but my heart sinks at the sight.

We finished our trip the Rioja region by visiting a local monestary with beautiful Romanesque architecture and details. One of the stone carvings around the door depicts a vinyard with a man, lying under the vines, sucking every drop out of the grapes! The head is upside-down, but you might guess from the eyes that it is none other!

Mr. Monkey helping to finish the bottle of Rioja at dinner.

The United Statesian

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pilgrimage across Spain I - "Addiction"

Dear citizens of the world,

Like many things in life, logic plays only a small role in making decisions. Most people prefer to spend their weekends and holidays relaxing in comfort, others choose to walk (or cycle) across Spain on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Trails of of insanity that cause addiction (750 to 1000 km long).
Virgen of "locura" Insanity -- Protecting pilgrims along the trail

After ten days of suffering through the heat of July and 250km, my partner had many bad memories and did not want to return. However, after the blisters dissapeared and the hours of walking in 35ºC heat were forgotten, she decided to return to the Santiago trail with great enthusiasm... twice!

Marcelino, the eternal pilgrim has taken this addiction to an extreme. He decided to dedicate his life to the trail and the pilgrims fourteen years ago when he became financialy independent. He spends his days sitting at a table in a park outside Logroño welcoming pilgrims, signing and stamping credentails (Pilgrim Passports), giving advice and handing out nuts and fruit.

The eternal pilgrim explains his behaviour by claiming complete addiction to the Santiago trail and its' ideals. Pilgrims are more friendly, helpful, caring, loving with others than in normal life. This feeling of constant love and support is what brings so many people back to the trail. Even to the extreme:

A monument to a pilgrim who died while on the way to Santiago

We were only on the trail for two days, but we had a great time, met nice people, drank fantastic wine, ate as much food as possible, and we will have memories (and photos) forever.

Maybe Marcelino is not so crazy after all?

The United Statesian

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Madrid 2016 - Hola Everyone! Nervously waiting...

Dear citizens of the world,

There are five cities on the edge of their seats, waiting for the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to choose the 2016 candidate.

Madrid is going all out for the election with activities supporting the city's candidacy for the 2016 Olympic Games. The students at my school decided to make a large banner supporting the candidacy with the multi-color hand symbol chosen in Madrid as the logo for the bid.

Some children even wrote comments like the one in this foto which reads, "I hope that the 2016 Olympic Games will be in Madrid!"

On Friday, October 2nd, we will all know if the years of preparation and support (which has involved the whole city) will be worth while.

The United Statesian