Sunday, June 9, 2013

Barcelona & Cardona

The next morning I woke up to a quiet house with my dad in his office, working. He has a great view out his windows. (Sorry about the closed eyes, dad.)
We ate breakfast and relaxed for a bit, and then my mom and I headed off to the Spanish version of Costco -- Makro -- to do a little grocery shopping. It's a pretty amazing store. We put a euro in the cart dispenser and headed inside with our cart to shop.

Makro, like Costco, has everything. Clothing, camping gear, books, housewares, papergoods, and also cans of tuna bigger than my head. Spaniards love their tuna!

They also love their mayonnaise, apparently.
The Makro jamon display was very impressive -- the biggest I saw anywhere on our trip. Makro, you take the cake. I seriously would have take one of these home with me if I could have gotten through customs with it. I'll say it again -- I heart jamon.

My mom said sometimes people give these away at Christmas time like we give hams here in the states. So every once in a while at Christmas they'll go into missionary piso and there'll be a big old jamon leg sitting there across the counter that the missionaries are slowly eating off of because a member gave it to them for Christmas, ha ha. Too funny.

I was fascinated by their produce section. Tomatoes in every size, shape and color you could think of. I wanted to try them all.
Some crazy looking seafood.

Makro is also where my mom and I bought giant packages of gummy candies for me to stuff in my suitcase and take home. (More on their amazing gummy candies later.) And also some amazing raspberry jam, and also some amazing chocolate chips. Their cocoa is a lot stronger and richer than ours, so sometimes my mom has to halve the cocoa her recipes call for when she's using Spanish cocoa because it overwhelms. Their chocolate chips are delish!

When we got home from Makro we unloaded our groceries from the car into the shopping carts owned by the condo building. Then we wheeled them to the elevator and upstairs into their house. It can be tricky living downtown! I never thought about these things before.

After we put the food away I added some artwork to my mom's fridge that I'd brought from home.

We found the boys in the living room, watching video clips from “Preach My Gospel” and busting a gut. Apparently they have some clips in there on how NOT to teach an investigator. And I’ll admit, a few of them are hilarious.

Later in the afternoon we packed up and headed up to a city called Cardona, which is about 90 km Northwest of Barcelona.  They have another one of those amazing fortresses up on the top of a hill. And this one has been restored, unlike Sagunto. Remember in Granada how I talked about the Parador Hotel where you could stay inside the Alhambra fortress?  The castle in Cardona is also a Parador, and that's where my parents booked us rooms to stay for the night. Yeehaw!

We were so excited! As we drove up the hill towards the castle, this was our view.
We parked our car and walked up the drive toward the lobby. (Almost felt like we should have been riding a horse or something?)
When we checked in, they gave Chris and I the suite at the end of the hall with 20' high ceilings and a big sitting room. It had a fairy-tale canopy bed and tapestries on the walls. It was amazing! I've never been in anything like it. We dropped our bags in our rooms and sat for a minute to talk and enjoy the scene.

El Presidente eating a bocadito (his favorite cookie).

The view out our window was really neat. The walls were like 8' thick, it was crazy. They had bars on the windows themselves but they opened up with no screen and I was dying to crawl out and peek over the ledge, but my mom wouldn't let me.

The view down below is of the salt mines nearby -- that is the main industry in Cardona (besides tourism, I suppose). They make sculptures and lamps and candle holders and body scrubs out of this cool, colored salt they mine there.
Our bathroom was ginormous with a huge jetted tub.
(These pictures of the room are from the next morning, but I was trying to capture the size of it, which was rather hard.)

A little panoramic of the place.

More views of the salt mines.
We took a short nap for about an hour, and then we decided to explore the castle a little bit before dinner. The castle itself was built in the 9th century, with a tower built in the 2nd century, using Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It sits up on a hill and looks out over a valley with a river and the mines below.

As part of the parador agreement, the entire castle is open to the public (except for the individual locked rooms, of course). Through this archway is the church within the castle that is huge. We explore it later.

There were some ancient wells & cisterns in the castle courtyards, used to store water for the castle.
We walked all the way around the outside of the castle on an upper terrace. This is a view looking down at the window to our bedroom. That whole wall there is the outside of the suite we stayed in.
Looking up at the rest of castle. I think some of this is the outside of the church.

The little farms in the valley below were gorgeous.

The terrace leading all the way around the castle.
This is the Duke's patio.

Then we climbed the highest tower for a grand view from the top. It's called the Minyona tower, which means "girl" in Catalan (the language they speak in Barcelona). The legends say the Minyona tower was built to imprison the Duke of Cardona's daughter, as punishment for falling in love with a leader of the Moors, which was forbidden. Even though he agreed to convert to Christianity, she was imprisoned in the tower as punishment with only a mute maid to wait on her. The maiden's health deteriorated and she eventually died of a broken heart after being imprisoned for one year. Sad story!

The tower also used to stand 25 meters high but in the early 19th century they realized its height was making it easy for enemies to aim their canons at it, so they knocked half of it down and now it stands about 12.5 meters high.

The views from the top were amazing though, wind and all.

Then we headed downstairs to the restaurant inside the castle for dinner. Look at this lounge area right inside the lobby. The only thing that could have possibly made it cooler was if they had a stylist there to dress you up in medieval garb before you ate. But seriously.
El Presidente y Hermana Pace. Aren't those beams & gothic arches dreamy? And the fancy high-back, medieval-looking chairs to match. So fairy-tale!
Chris and I.
They had these fancy 4-course meals. I had baby goat because I was feeling adventurous. It was delicious! I don't think I ate anything the entire trip that wasn't amazing.
Chris had the lamb.
My mom had the fruit sorbet for dessert. There was one flavor of sorbet in there that was to die for, but we never did figure out what flavor it was.
We went for the good old-fashioned ice cream & brownie.
After dinner we headed back to our rooms to crash.

FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2013

The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant again. It was amazing. Starting with the churros and heading clockwise: churros, a postre (pastry), various flavors of quiche bites, pineapple, tomato puree to spread on my bread, and a slice of a flan loaf. They also had crazy flavors of fresh squeezed juice -- orange, mango, kiwi, pineapple, etc. I went for the kiwi. Yum!

After breakfast we took a little guided tour of the San Vicente church within the castle. It was built in 981 and enlarged 40 years later.

They had some tombs for some of their revered priests inside.
We went down in the basement for a tour of the crypt.
Some more amazing, original art carvings on the wall.
A view looking into the courtyard near the lobby.
Then we checked out of our rooms and headed down the hill to explore the little town.
As we walked we could look back toward the castle for better and better views.

The three amigos.
This is a shot of the windows in the castle wall as we walked down the drive toward the town. The long, skinny windows are called arrow loops. They allow one to aim and shoot a bow & arrow without exposing very much of themselves.
My dad drove the car down and parked it at the bottom of the hill while we finished walking down.
It blows my mind how skinny all of the streets are in these towns and how close together they build their buildings. Spaniards really are urban dwellers.
Even though it's not a big fancy town, the streets were still very clean and the buildings had lovely wrought iron balconies. So charming.
We found another church in the town and had to stop in and check it out.
They had some lovely stained glass windows.

And they had a crypt under the altar with some sort of a relic, I can't remember what it was. You had to put in a 1 euro coin for the lights to turn on so you could see this view of it. (Entrepreneurial spirit at it's best.)

We made our way down to a big plaza near the edge of town that ended up having the best views of the castle of Cardona that we'd seen all day! Now you can really get a feel for how big the castle is. And you can see a good shot of the tower up on top (that used to be taller, ha ha).

It was just the neatest place ever.

We headed back toward our car through the skinny streets. We of course had to stop in at the salt souvenir shop to talk to the owner, who my dad made friends with and gave a Book of Mormon. My dad bought us a little salt candle holder as a souvenir to take home with us and remember our trip to Cardona. It's sitting on our entry table next to the pictures of all of our missionaries so we can see it every day.

Then we hopped in our car and headed back to the mission home, with one last view of the castle from the road.
To be continued...

1 comment:

Emily said...

Looks amazing! I have loved reading all about your trip!