edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
1. I had a dentist appointment this morning -- just a regular semi-annual checkup and cleaning, though they also did a set of X-Rays since I had all the trouble with small cavities over the past two years. It turns out that although I need to floss more regularly (I always need to floss more regularly), my teeth are fine! No new cavities!

This is wonderful news.

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2. In less wonderful news, Vicky's apartment in Seville has been infested by fleas, courtesy of a stray dog one of her roommates briefly brought home a month or so ago. Vicky has... not exactly a phobia of bugs (except moths and butterflies; with those she is genuinely phobic) but the next best thing, and has therefore decamped to a hostel for the immediately foreseeable future.

Fortunately she is coming back to America on June 1st. My parents are making plans to store all her stuff in the garage or something, only bringing one item at a time into the house and cleaning each one within an inch of its life in the process.

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3. In writing news, I started ch. 6 of "The Courting Dance," which is Bree's POV and will (theoretically) get the characters over the border into Narnia for reasons of plot and stuff.

I also worked a bit more on "Friends and Neighbors," which took a slight twist and is now kind of about Sakura's relationship with her mother as well as ways people react to Naruto. Well, it was always about Sakura's issues, in a way, but it got suddenly more direct at a point I was not expecting it to. This is what happens when you face a character with a question she can't answer for legal reasons (i.e., why don't you like Naruto? and "because of the Kyuubi" is a forbidden answer) and she has to come up with something anyway.

Sometimes I dislike my habit of writing myself into corners, but it does tend to reveal interesting things about the characters who then must get out of them, so I have never gotten around to training myself out of that pattern.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
This can be summed up as follows:

Drove to Madrid, skipping Toledo because Mom said like hell were we going to get her lost in the tiny twisty one-way streets of yet another old city center. Successfully found our Madrid hotel, after a few map and traffic mishaps -- par for the course by that point, really. Vicky stayed in; the rest of us went out for dinner.

The next day Vicky slept in until afternoon (recovering from her cold) while Mom, Dad and I went to the Prado. Stood in line outside in 40 degree (Fahrenheit) weather for an hour and a half just to get tickets, at which point I insisted Dad get the comprehensive three-museum tickets that also get you into the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen, because there was no way on earth I was standing in another line like that.

It takes three days to do the Prado properly. We had about five hours. *sigh* Still, we saw a lot of interesting stuff, starting with a special exhibition on Reubens (who ought to have been a Hollywood director, swear to god), and I have discovered that I love El Greco, so that is always a plus. Also, I have to wonder if Bosch was an influence on Dr. Seuss, because their buildings have a similar complete and lunatic disregard for the rules of gravity and actual human habitations, though Seuss, of course, contains much less sex. *grin*

We got takeout lunch from a Burger King (because after a certain point, one wants familiarity more than one wants to spend an hour trying to work menus in a foreign language, no matter how good the resulting tapas may be) and went back to the hotel to wake Vicky. After eating and recovering from sore feet and backs, we went to the Thyssen and did the tour of the history of western art, plus some of the special collection, but skipped the ground floor because my family is of the general opinion that while the development of western art after about 1925 may be intellectually interesting, it is generally not something we find aesthetically pleasing.

The next day Dad, Mom, and I got up appallingly early and took the Metro to the airport. The Madrid airport requires endless walking to get anywhere -- it seems to be all stretched out horizontally rather than layered vertically -- but I did get through check-in, security, and so on. Then, of course, my plane was delayed. *sigh*

Nonetheless, I arrived safely in Newark and discovered that Susan and her brother-in-law were waiting to meet me and take me to Madison. Yay! The three of us also went to see Tron: Legacy that night. I have never seen the original Tron, but the new movie is basically a standard action/adventure movie, so it pretty much stands on its own. Also, some company (I think either Marvel or Dark Horse) has been putting out comicizations of the original movie, plus a comics-only transition story (Tron: Betrayal, IIRC), and I glanced at those as I was shelving new magazines a few weeks ago, so. Anyway, that was fun. Not especially deep or coherent -- they really needed another five minutes of explanation and to take the distortion off some voices so the dialogue was clearer -- but as I said, fun.

And then, of course, I got another cold.

So I drove to Ithaca on the 30th with a cold, slept a lot, and went in to work on the 31st with a cold. That was madness. We closed three hours early yesterday, but did more business than we often do on a normal full-length day. It was as if every person in Ithaca was terrified that no store would be open today, and all descended upon us to do their shopping yesterday. And then after I closed, I couldn't just go home. I had to drive to the grocery store because I was out of cold medicine, having taken all of it to Spain to deal with my previous cold!

Argh.

The smoke shop was much less crazy today, thank goodness, but I am still going to bed early and not getting up until at least noon tomorrow.
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
Quick update: am in Madrid, using an internet cafe thingy -- well, strictly speaking it seems to be a DHL outlet? -- but anyway, internet for hire. I think I have gotten my boarding pass printed, though I´ll still have to do something about checking in my bag tomorrow morning. I also think I have the Metro schedule worked out, including two potential routes from right near our hotel out to the airport. Both, alas, involve two line changes, but whatever. I have a map; I can manage.

And now I am going to find my parents and show them the information on the airport that I have found for them.

I will write about the drive from Granada, and the Prado and stuff, when I am back in NJ... where I sincerely hope another storm will not have blown up overnight!
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Today we saw the Alhambra, the Generalife, the Royal Chapel, and the Granada cathedral. The Nazarid Palace in the Alhambra is as amazing as the guidebooks claim, and the rest of the complex is pretty awesome too, especially the gardens of the Generalife and the Alcazaba, or the old fortress at the far end of the complex. Emperor Charles V´s palace, on the other hand, is quite forgettable. It´s not anything like as dramatically out of place as a cathedral in the middle of the Mezquita, but not an eighth as interesting either.

The Royal Chapel is gorgeous and historically interesting. The cathedral is a huge, blocky Rennaissance construction -- logical, since Granada was Muslim until Ferdinand and Isabella (who are always referred to as "the Catholic monarchs" here) took the city. It´s quite light and bright and impressive inside, but while I like Rennaissance artwork and am down with Baroque altarpieces, I vastly prefer Gothic architecture. Gothic is less "I will impress you through sheer SIZE, and to hell with grace when I have strength and (theoretically, at least) balanced proportions," which is my general impression of Rennaissance architecture, and more about "I will impress you through HEIGHT, and also look at how many windows I can fit in! Yay windows and pointy arches!" I am, as you may have gathered, a fan of pointy arches and giant stained glass windows. :-)

Random observation: instead of real votive candles before the various chapels, the Granada cathedral has little banks of electric fake candles, which you "light" through a coin-operated machine. Every ten Euro-cents buys you one candle for a certain length of time. I bought three candles and asked for nothing to go wrong during the rest of the trip, on the off chance that someone or something both exists and might be listening. Given the predicted blizzard on the east coast, I figure I have a right to be slightly worried about the weather conditions when I fly home on Wednesday!

Between the Alhambra and the cathedral, we had tapas for lunch; the best part was the figs wrapped in Spanish ham, which I could happily eat every day hereafter. Alas, I don´t think I can get that dish in Ithaca. :-( After the cathedral, Mom and Dad went to climb a hill and hopefully see the Alhambra at sunset. Vicky is taking a nap. I wrote and stamped three postcards and took the opportunity to check email and write up the day. We hope for an early-ish dinner, so we can leave for Madrid at a reasonable hour. If we succeed, we may detour for a brief stop in Toledo. If not, well, we will at the very least get to Madrid, which is all we strictly need to do.

In a small side note, our hotel has heated towel racks, which is very helpful in drying hand-washed clothes. :-D

Now I am off to rest a bit before dinner, as we probably can´t get into any restaurants until at least 8pm. Spain is weird like that.
edenfalling: colored line-art drawing of a three-scoop ice cream sundae (ice cream sundae)
We did not leave Sevilla until nearly 1pm, alas, due to complications of moving Vicky and getting up too late. We decided to go by way of Ronda anyway, partly because we´re crazy but mostly because Ronda is where Vicky stayed for a month on an exchange study program a few years ago, and it is a town with an absurdly scenic river gorge.

It was a bit of an adventure to get into the city, but we managed, we admired the gorge, and we ate lunch at a nearby hotel. Then we decided to take the mountain road south to San Pedro de Alacante on the Costa del Sol. That road is damn curvy and steep, though quite well-engineered.

We stopped at a service plaza just west of Marbella to get diesel and snacks, and then turned north on the A-92M toward Antequerra, which also leads indirectly to Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada. It was fully dark by that point, which did not make Mom particularly happy.

We got thoroughly lost upon entering Granada, just as we´d gotten lost upon entering Seville. In the end we resorted to the equivalent of double-parking for fifteen minutes while Vicky walked around looking at street signs attempting to figure out where we were. But we reached our hotel in the end, Vicky and Mom successfully found the associated garage, and we found a nearby restaurant that served a decent dinner.

And now I am typing this on the unfamiliar Spanish keyboard of the hotel´s free internet station, which is why I haven´t put accent marks where they should appear on the city names above. Alas for technical limitations!

---------------

While we were on the road, the Yuletide 2010 archive went live, which means I got a story! It is for Joan D. Vinge´s Psion trilogy, and more specifically, it´s sort of an alternate epilogue to Catspaw, the middle book, wherein Cat is hired by the taMing family ostensibly to use his telepathy to help prevent the assassination of a family member who´s a candidate for an important political position; the job is, of course, much more complicated than that, and Cat gets into all kinds of trouble trying to figure out what he´s been dumped into and how to get out while also helping the people he´s come to care about in the meantime.

My gift story works much better if you know the canon, but I think it´s a nice character and world-building piece on its own. So go read it! Close the Mind Out, by an author who shall remain anonymous for another week.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Dad, Mom, and Vicky took a huge load of stuff over to Vicky's new apartment around 8pm. Then we had a makeshift dinner consisting of sheep cheese, some kind of Spanish salami equivalent, green salad, leftover beef stew, leftover pasta, and a tiny frozen cheese pizza with the remnants of the salad makings as an extra topping. Quite tasty.

Then we did Christmas, which mostly consisted of gifts for Vicky and small, lightweight gifts for me. (Mom and Dad plan to do their own exchange around New Year's back in New Jersey.) We also drank champagne and had cheap grocery store petit fours for dessert. They were tasty enough, but no patch on the Wisconsin Cheeseman's products.

Today we are taking more stuff over to Vicky's new apartment, and then heading out for Granada via Ronda.

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In other news, while the other three were transporting Vicky's stuff, I wrote a Yuletide treat. It's in the same fandom I wrote my main story, mostly because all I had time to do was run a quick search on the giant spreadsheet of requests and say, oh, hey, I have the canon source right here with me and that's a prompt that plays right into my more general story type obsessions, so... I wrote it, and it wound up over a thousand words in under two hours. Sometimes things just click like that.

I also got my assigned story edited a touch.

The archive doesn't seem to be open yet, and I don't know what my internet access will be like for the next few days, so if I can't read it immediately, I apologize to my writer.
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
The day is not done, but I shall report on our progress so far!

We got a late start, due partly to Mom letting us all sleep in and then an attempt at more laundry; the machine in Vicky's apartment is very very slow, and there is no dryer, so once the wash was done we had to painstakingly set up the drying rack and heater and hang all articles of clothing carefully over the bars and wires.

Around 11:30 Mom, Dad, and I set out for the Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes), which turned out to be closed, so we continued on to the Alcázar (Reales Alcázares), which is a palace initially built by the Moors and later expanded and altered several times by a series of Christian Spanish monarchs; it is still the Spanish royal family's official residence if and when they visit Seville. We paused to hear and watch all the bells on the Giralda rung at once shortly after noon, which made an incredible clangor.

The Alcázar turned out to be closing at 1:30, since today is Christmas Eve, so we hurried in at about 12:30 and spent an hour and a half looking through the rooms and gardens. It is a glorious palace -- the carvings and tiles and plasterwork and paneling and gilding are ornate, omnipresent, over-the-top... and absolutely gorgeous. You would think it might be too much but the effect is only overpowering beauty, not the overcrowded busyness one sometimes finds with Baroque excess.

I have a special love for Islamic style gardens, which tend to be based around central water elements in a more contemplative way than European gardens, which tend to be more... cluttered, I think, even when they have central fountains. Anyway, these gardens were quite lovely, even in the middle of winter.

One interesting thing about being in Seville in the winter is that while it's generally chilly -- daytime temperatures have been in the upper forties Fahrenheit, I think -- oranges are in season, so the orange trees that line nearly every square and a ridiculous number of streets are all loaded with vivid fruit. I had some coloring book pictures of orange trees as a child, and I always thought they must have been exaggerated for effect -- that nothing could be quite that fruit-heavy -- but no, the images turn out to have been quite realistic. The fruit really is that dramatic: an explosion of brilliant orange among the dark green leaves on the small, bushy trees. Seville oranges are bitter, though, and better made into marmalade than eaten fresh or squeezed for juice.

The three of us had lunch at a small bar (paella for me, crispy omelette w/ shrimp for Mom, and calamari for Dad), and went north of Vicky's apartment to a Lidl and a local supermarket to buy some food and cleaning supplies. Vicky is now up and Mom and Dad have bought some more random stuff from a little local shop (an alimentacion, or Chino, as local slang seems to have it, since many are run by Chinese immigrants), so we will begin getting Vicky packed for her move tonight and tomorrow morning.

Later tonight we will eat random leftovers and possibly a small frozen pizza, and open Christmas presents. It's an odd holiday, but we're together, which is the main point. :-)

(And the Alcázar is gorgeous, did I mention that? I am glad to have seen it. I look forward to the Alhambra even more now!)

Tomorrow we finish Vicky's move and drive to Granada, detouring south along the coast in hopes of scenic views if we have time.
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
Today has been an ADVENTURE. Capital letters most definitely deserved.

So, first we decided to go out for breakfast. Then we had to go back to Vicky's apartment because she forgot her phone. Then once we got the car out of the garage, we had to drive back yet again because Dad had forgotten both the guidebooks and the papers for the car. So we were nearly two hours late leaving on our planned day trip to Córdoba. But we got onto the highway, and thought our troubles were over.

Oh no.

As we were nearing Córdoba, we stopped to get gas for the car. We figured out which side of the car the tank was on, and continued on our merry way. Just as we had exited the highway and were getting into the city proper, following signs for the historic district...

The car stalled.

It wouldn't start again, no matter what Mom tried. (She drives, Dad navigates; it's a good partnership.)

It turned out, upon looking in the manual, that the car took diesel fuel. We had filled it with regular gasoline.

Ooops.

Fortunately, Vicky speaks Spanish and after she and Dad trekked to a nearby gas station and determined that they couldn't help us, she called the emergency help line in the car papers (and wasn't it good that we'd gone back for them?) and got us a tow truck to take the old car away, plus a taxi to take us to the local Alamo/National/Atesa office where we were able to rent a new car. Which also takes diesel fuel... but this time we KNOW that, and will not screw up again.

In a silver lining of sorts, it turns out that the new car is easier to drive than the previous one. *wry*

Anyway, we proceded onward to find parking and walk into the historic district at the center of Córdoba, whereupon we stopped for lunch, and then spent an hour or so wandering around the inside of the Mezquita, which was the huge and famous mosque built by the Caliphate of Córdoba (I cannot remember which dynasty they belonged to) that was later consecrated as a Christian church, and even later than that, bits of the mosque roof were knocked out and a Gothic/Baroque cathedral was inserted into the center of the vast colonnade that makes up the mosque's interior. It is architecturally bizarre, and absolutely fascinating.

We then took a brief walk out onto the old Roman bridge to see the flooded Guadalquivir river (this is apparently one of the rainiest Andalusian winters on record), and decided we had had enough adventuring for the day; we headed straight back to Sevilla. We reached the car park safely after another slight adventure in inadvertent detours (we seem to have taken one exit too soon or too late; we're not sure which), whereupon we went to a grocery store to get some supplies for Vicky and for tomorrow's breakfast.

When we reached Vicky's apartment, Dad declared he was feeling ill and needed a nap. Vicky said she was tired and ill and stressed and didn't want to go out for dinner, or to cook. So Mom and I went down the Alameda on our own and managed, rather awkwardly, to order dinner at a local restaurant Vicky recommended to us -- despite me slipping and ordering papas frites instead of papas bravas, it was tasty enough and we got through with extensive use of "por favor" and "gracias." Thank goodness for phrases of social lubrication!

Tomorrow Mom and I plan to see the Alcázar (the old Moorish and then Spanish royal castle/fortress), whether Dad is up to it or not. Vicky will be staying home to rest and start packing for her move. If Mom and I are feeling particularly adventurous, we may try to visit the Museum of fine arts as well.

I shall report on how this goes. But for now, I am off to bed. :-)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Quick update, then bed.

We got a very late start today (Wednesday) -- I think Vicky and Mom got up around 10, while Dad and I slept in until noon. We had breakfast (toast and jam) at one and left the apartment shortly thereafter, heading toward the cathedral. The Seville city cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Europe (maybe in the world, who knows!) -- only St. Paul's in London and St. Peter's in Rome are bigger. It is built on the footprint of a former mosque, though the mosque itself was razed and the cathedral is mostly Gothic style with bits of Baroque decoration thrown in later as they gradually finished it over the centuries. The Courtyard of the Oranges is still the original construction, though -- it was a place for ritual cleaning before entering the mosque -- and the bell tower is the minaret, just with a new top added.

Interestingly, the bell tower (or Giralda) is nearly handicapped accessible -- instead of stairs, it has ramps almost all the way up. Only the very last flight to the bell-bestrewn walkway and viewing area has actual steps. The cathedral also contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and a chapterhouse chapel thing that has the most gorgeous acoustics I've heard in a long time -- it would be wonderful to practice singing there; any wrong note would practically jump out and stab you in the ear, the echoes are that crisp and clear.

After leaving the cathedral we had cake in a cafe, followed by a walk to the Plaza de España. (The walk was punctuated by an interlude trapped in a bar on account of rain, during which I discovered that Spanish Pepsi is made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, which I think is unfair. I want proper sugar in my unhealthy drinks in the USA too!) Anyway, the Plaza de España was, I think, built for a World Fair or some similar exhibition, after which Seville didn't know what to do with the thing, and resorted to installing some government offices there. We then went out for dinner -- tapas at a bar Vicky likes -- by way of walking past the Torre del Oro, the University, the bullfighting ring, and a big Christmas market set up in a couple plazas near the cathedral. All very interesting, though often a bit damp!

Dinner was, of course, delicious. :-)

Then we returned home for dessert and several games of hearts, which is a game that works best with four people and which we all therefore get little chance to play. Mom crushed us all, very efficiently. *wry*

And now we are off to bed, as tomorrow we plan a day trip to Córdoba -- where it will, we hope, not be raining. :-)
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
Success! We are in Spain, in Sevilla, and in Vicky's apartment... which is soon NOT to be her apartment, as she's arranged a new place with a new roommate who is actually one of her friends rather than a chance acquaintance.

Getting here was a bit of an adventure.

Suffice it to say that first there was no rental car at the Madrid airport, so the company (Alamo/National/Atesa) sent us to a garage, via taxi, which we had to pay for ourselves. The garage had no idea what to make of us, but finally (after an hour and a half) managed to find a car. Which was not the automatic transmission we'd been promised (and had reserved TWO MONTHS AGO), but a manual transmission. Which my parents barely remember how to drive. So that was fun!

We got to Sevilla more or less without trouble. Getting into the right PART of Sevilla... that's a lot harder, when Vicky lives within the old city walls, which are a maze of tiny one-way streets with hard-to-find street names that looks like they really ought to be alleys that you can hardly walk down, let alone drive a car through. That lost us another hour and a half.

But we finally arrived, whereupon Vicky fed us beef stew, garlic bread, and mixed greens salad, on the theory (as she said) that after a long and hard day of travel, the last thing we'd want to do was go out to a restaurant and have to wonder what on earth we were dealing with when trying to read a menu. Hence the plain American-style meal.

And now she and Dad are moving the car to a parking garage (at least, in theory they are doing that; in practice they may be lost, or the garage may be closed, or god knows what all else may have gone wrong!), while I am typing this and then heading to bed.

(It is very difficult to sleep on a plane when you have to keep clenching your throat and concentrating on NOT COUGHING. I dozed for a couple hours, and dozed another couple hours in the car, but that's no substitute for proper sleep. I am tired like you would not believe.

And on that note, good night!)

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edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Elizabeth Culmer

June 2017

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