December 9, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Spain

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We had seen what there was to see of the monastery and it was time for a new adventure. On Sunday we set out to visit one of Spain’s larger cities – Zaragoza. It’s the capital of the Zaragoza province and was once the capital of the very important Kingdom of Aragon.

We wandered through its historic quarter and then headed out intent on doing some pueblo hopping on the trip back. On our drive home we passed what seemed to be more than a pueblo – it was the city of Calatayud. Since we were more set on visiting small towns, we decided to drive on, and that we would return if we found nothing else of interest.

Shortly after Calatayud, we came upon a sweet looking pueblo called Munébrega. Like most pueblos, particularly on Sundays, it looked like a bit of a ghost town, except for the herds of cats that seemed to be more in charge of the city than anyone else. Getting out of our car we were greeted by nine straight away, all eyeing us up as though we’d invaded their territory.

The town was small and charming – I particularly loved that many houses, that would otherwise be drab looking stone buildings, were painted rich vibrant hues of blue, red and yellow (reminds you of another lovely city with wildly colored houses, doesn’t it?).

After we’d seen the few streets that the city consisted of, we headed back to the car, deciding that Calatayud was worth a visit. Turning the corner to our car we started hearing the shrill sounds of a cat fight. We then realized that cats had conquered our car and were fighting over it. Silly cats.

We reached Calatayud by dusk and walked our way through the streets and down its long main paseo. It was worth the stop, although a shame that we couldn’t do so much considering the late hour. That didn’t stop us from venturing through two more pueblos before heading back to the monastery though.

On the curvy road to the monastery, we had noticed signs to some other nearby pueblos, so despite it being dark, we figured we might as well take the short drive to see if we’d come upon a small-town treasure. After making the turn though, the road got eerily narrow and dark, with steep dark abysses on both sides (we were indeed high in the mountains). We ended up in some random pueblo called Ibdes where we popped out of our car just long enough to enter into a smoke filled bar and have everyone stare at us as though we were aliens, at which time we promptly turned around and left.

Last stop was Nuévalos – a pueblo we’d already passed through several times as it was on the road to the monastery. We had also stopped there the night before actually, thinking we’d have dinner, but decided against it when the drunk gas station attendant declared that he wouldn’t recommend a single restaurant in the town because he got screwed (rather f*&@!$) when they charged him 100 euros. Anyway, this night we decided to ignore the drunk guy’s advice and ended up having dinner there. It wasn’t anything amazing, but it also wasn’t 100 euros. We walked away satisfied.

That ended our day of pueblo hopping. When we got home, we curled up (literally) in our miniature bed and watched a really, really bizarre special on gypsies in Spain. That night my dreams of waterfalls were replaced by nightmares of creepy gypsies living in caves, getting married at 16 and following the laws of strange elders. Seriously weird stuff, and yet incredibly fascinating.

The trip’s not over yet though! One more day to come.

December 8, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Spain

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This last weekend was what is known as the December “puente,” (or bridge). This is because today, Tuesday, is a holiday, therefore everyone takes Monday off and goes on holiday for the four day weekend. Last weekend, Jacob planned a getaway for us at the Monasterio de Piedra (Monastery of Rock), located in the province of Zaragoza – an area I had yet to really explore.

We arrived there on Saturday morning, checked into our room at the monastery, and immediately headed out (along with our gloves, hats and coats) to check out the surrounding grounds. This monastery is less known for the monastery itself, and more for the large piece of land it sits on. Every bit of the land is covered with trickling creeks, streams, and rivers. In some bizarre way, it reminded me of the Alhambra in Granada (one of my favorite places on earth), which has water running throughout it like veins in one’s body. But this was nature’s Alhambra, which meant that it couldn’t all be peaceful creeks. I could hear the sound of falling water from the monastery, and as I got closer to the more mountainous part of the land, it became rather deafening. Just a five minute walk from the monastery and you encounter countless gushing waterfalls. It seemed like a volcano of waterfalls – water seeping out of every hole and fissure in the mountainside, as if it were erupting from somewhere within. I still can’t fathom where all that water comes from. I tried to put myself to sleep one of the nights there just trying to imagine how a waterfall must begin…it kind of gave me a headache though.

The property is pretty vast, so we were able to walk up, down, in and all around – from the bottoms to the tops of waterfalls, in caves, and over creeks. We were even able to trek behind a massive waterfall, deep into the mossy cave behind it. It was breathtaking, and sadly impossible to capture on camera (well, on mine anyway…hint, hint mom….xmas list 😉 ). We also were able to see the vast fish ponds they have (I later ate one of the trout at the monastery restaurant), as well as a small lake called “Mirror Lake” with the most crystal clear and still water I’ve seen in my life. It’s clarity was hypnotizing because you could see every leaf, rock and fish as though it were just inches away and frozen silently in time.

The monastery’s land was pretty impressive, and while the monastery too was impressive, I would definitely recommend staying elsewhere. The building was very charming, but our bed seemed to be preserved from the monk days hundreds of years ago – in that it was terribly uncomfortable and hardly fit someone of my height, much less someone like Jacob. Next time I go to the monastery, I would likely stay either in Zaragoza (1 hour+) or Calatayud (only about 30 minutes away) where you can find reasonable hotels and more things to do and see nearby (not to mention a selection restaurants).

Since there wasn’t much else to do at the monastery, we ended up visiting several other places on this same trip. I’ll get to those in the next blog though.