I have been putting off posting about Spain, mostly because the number of photos I have is overwhelming, but also because I told and re-told my trip story to so many people that I just wanted to crawl off by myself and enjoy my memories in peace. Alas, a month later, here I am.
So for those of you who are thinking, “Spain? Huh?,” I went to Spain for a week in March to attend the 8th International Fracture Mechanics of Concrete and Concrete Structures (FraMCoS-8) conference. My incredible boss, adviser, and chocolate supplier (all one person) had submitted a paper that I did some work on as an undergraduate so that I could attend and present a paper. He also came along, since it turns out he’s actually a fracture mechanics celebrity.
The conference was held just outside Toledo at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. I had done zero research about the city before I left, and I was pleasantly surprised by the winding streets and walled-city ambiance, much like some of the cities I visited in Tuscany when I was eight.
Although it was sunny and warm while I was there, it was ALWAYS windy. But the air was welcome. Fresh. Foreign and smoky, with a hint of sweet near all the marzipan shops. I loved waking up early and going out for a walk, heading uphill into the sunshine, passing all the old men and their dogs. It was impossible to find my way in the city — my boss, his wife, and I spent many hours getting lost while looking for somewhere to eat. Some nights I ventured out and got lost on purpose, simply enjoying the walk and the buzz of the city around me.
My days were measured by espresso. The café in Spain is like nothing you can get in America. I wish for it daily. I drank three or four a day. This particular cup (pictured below) I had in a chilly outdoor restaurant overlooking the city. Bliss.
I took eight years of Spanish, starting in 5th grade and continuing until my senior year of high school, but stopped when I came to college. As a result, my Spanish is slightly rusty, but it came back quickly — it had to, since I was the only person in our group who spoke Spanish, and someone needed to order the coffee.
I stayed in a small hotel just inside the entrance to the city. My room was small, but cozy, and I enjoyed speaking Spanish with the people at the front desk. Although I didn’t spend much time in my room (the allure of the city streets was too much), I would highly recommend this place to anybody looking to stay in Toledo.
I would also highly recommend the city’s confections. This “magdalena de ratón” (mouse cupcake), with its little chocolate-covered-rice poopies, was scrumptious, and the perfect dessert after a glass of wine and a salad (incidentally the only greens I had in Spain…they’re big on meat there, but more on that later).
Often, we would walk until dark, listening to the church bells ring and stretching our legs after a long day of sitting in the conference.
I felt so alive with the foreign night air on my face, the glow of the sun in the distance, surrounded by a different culture and an ancient city.
Stay tuned for the next section of my trip: the conference! Don’t worry, I won’t summarize papers. But I will tell you all about the delicious food we ate. In the mean time, I have posted some pictures to Flickr, so hop on over there if you want to see more.