Monday, August 13, 2012

Spain Part Three: Avila, Segovia and El Escorial

And so we've come to the last bit of my Diego Spain: 2012 edition.  The last three days of the trip were spent en route to and in El Escorial, a small city about 45 minutes outside of Madrid.  On our way there, we stopped by Avila (again!) for lunch.  It really is a cool little town, with tasty food and gorgeous sights. 

 A common sight after lunch: cafe con leche, y azucar (sugar) in my case.  I was working my arm swag throughout the vacation, as you'll notice in this photo.

 How good-looking are the Diego siblings?!  John Paul, Ana, and Belen just photograph well.
Oh, and you  may notice the city in the background.  All of Avila is surrounded by an old wall, and the city itself is a UNESCO heritage sight. 

 We learned about the history of Avila during a brief trolley tour after lunch, which Patricia thoroughly enjoyed, and Pablo looks like he is merely tolerating.  I spent the Spanish tour looking a la izquierda (left) and a la derecha (right), as those were the only words I could pick out. 

 John Paul just got some great photos.  This is taken from an area about 2 minutes from Avila, called Cuatro Postes (4 posts...not to be confused for 'Postres,' which means pastries and got me very excited), which offers excellent view of the city.

On Friday, 6 of the 8 of our travel group woke up at the crack of dawn for a hot air balloon ride.  Who knew that Patricia's brother owns a hot air balloon company and would offer us an hour-long ride along the outskirts of El Escorial?  I was beyond excited.

 Ok, maybe you can't tell from this photo, but trust me- excitement was in the air.

 In order to get the balloon ready, you have to first unroll the balloon, attach the ropes to the basket (which holds 7 people, including the pilot), then blow both a fan and hot air via fire into the cavity.  It took a while, as the balloon is flippin' huge and requires lots of air to inflate.

Then we all climbed into the basket, and were off!  We cruised about 1km up, and occasionally the pilot (who was so, so nice) would drop us to just 2m before lifting us up again.  Evidently, you can't really control the right/left operation of the balloon, but up/down is easy.

This looks green-screened, doesn't it?  Very surreal.

The views were just incredible, and the balloon was so quiet and smooth! I was amazed at the whole experience.

Belen caught this photo of JP and I post-balloon ride.  We landed, then helped fold up the balloon, put the basket into the back of a truck, and the pilot and another assistant drove us back to the operations center for a breakfast of chorizo, manchego, and champagne.  Oh, and we got diplomas for the excursion!  It was really fun. 

Then it was onto Segovia for lunch.  There is a crazy-old Roman acqueduct in the city, and that's kind of the main attraction.  It was built with no concrete, and is in miraculously good shape. 

We also went inside of the cathedral, which is super intricate.  Catholics really know how to use marble and gilded fences well. 

Our last full day in Spain was spent at Las Radas, the home my father-in-law spent his childhood summers in.  It is a gorgeous estate, and two of JP's uncles and their families joined us for a day spent by the pool, veggie garden, and grill.

There are three dogs that live outside of the house as 'guard dogs,' although they were incredibly sweet.  This one was the only player left at a game of Monopoly, abandoned after food appeared on the dining table.

An expansive vegetable garden grows everything from onions and tomatoes to sunflowers and grapes.  For our lunch salad, the ingredients were picked only 30 minutes before we ate it.  Perfection.

How wonderful to live in such harmony with your food.  It's a simple pleasure.

This photo is not color-enhanced; that is the natural pigment of these gambas.  They were eaten fresh off the grill with just a bit of salt to enhance the briny flavor.

On Saturday night, we said good-bye to the view of Spain from our hotel window and had an early night.  Sunday morning, we were up bright and early for the drive back to Madrid for the 8.5-long flight home to the US and our babygirl, Mia! 

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, just lovely pictures. And you, Abigirl, are very funny!