Stephen Brown's Blog

Last Night Was Hot!

Posted Tuesday 02 August 2011 16:52 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Last night was a very hot night in Toledo. Charo told me a storm was coming, and the weather said it would rain but the rain never came in the end. Due to the large amount of cloud cover Toledo remained hot during the night.

I didn't have much of an appetite yesterday so I didn't go out for dinner. When I went down stairs Charo asked me if I wanted to eat with them so I had a very small sandwich with some salad in it. After dinner I didn't really do much - I chatted a bit and watched some TV. Before bed I read a bit of a book I bought with me (not your book Isabel - it's a little bit too difficult for me!). I had tried to read this book before but my level of Spanish was not sufficient, but last night I managed one of the short stories in it easily.

This morning I took a lot of photos on my way to school (see my previous post) but school was uneventful, but we did the simple past tense which I wanted to do again because it is definitely not simple! I got my appetite back this morning and in our break I had some coffee and toast in a bar.

When I returned from school today I ate gazpacho soup, lasagne (which was very good!) and then water melon. After lunch I posted all of those photos to the blog but it was hard work so I had a sleep half way through!

Tonight I am not planning to do a lot, but I will probably eat out. Tomorrow, Maite has organised another tour of the city for me. This one is with a theatre group that will act out some of the legends of Toledo on the way so this should be fun. One of the great things about studying here is that Maite makes sure that we know about all of the events that we might be interested in. I would never have found half of these things by myself!

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My Route to Class

Posted Tuesday 02 August 2011 16:42 by Steve in Learning Spanish

I promised my Mum that I would show her my route to class so here it is! Notice the clouds in the background - this is not normal for Toledo in the summer.

Also this is not the the most direct route to the school - but it is the route that I took every day for the first week and I still normally go this way on the way to class. There is a slight short cut that I take on the return journey because I'm normally hungry by then!

The Hospital
This building is pretty big and is at the end of my road. It used to be a hospital but now is a museum.
Next there is a road with a park on either side. Today there was a market in the park.
Puerta Bisagra
La Puerta Bisagra - this is the current main city gate. You can see the city wall extending to the left and right.
This is the city wall from the inside. This goes most of the way around the casco (historic city centre).
I think this is a church! It's fairly typical of the buildings in Toledo
La Puerta del Sol
La Puerta del Sol is another of the city's gates. This is part of another city wall inside the city (the city was expanded around this inner wall)
Another Church
Another church
Alley with pigeons
Lots of the streets are very small in Toledo. I especially like this street because it has plants hanging over the walls, and there are always lots of birds here (mainly pigeons).
Alley under a building
Another common theme in Toledo is streets with buildings over the top of them. This one is fairly typical.
Circular building
This is the last landmark on my way to class. When I was lost I always looked out for this building.
Aula Toledo
This is the door to the language school. Every door in Toledo seems to be different and has a different arrangement of carvings and studs.

One thing to bear in mind is that cars actually drive down most of these streets. Some of the streets are so narrow that when a car comes you have to stand in the doorway to one of the buildings.

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More Students

Posted Monday 01 August 2011 16:27 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Today in class there were a lot of new faces. In my class there is one new student called Jeremy. Jeremy is English and I think 15 years old, and lives in St. Albans. The other 4 students are American and come from New Jersey. They are a family and are staying in a hotel. The mother of the family seems to know a bit of Spanish but I think the others are just starting to learn.

I think I have gone from being the worst at speaking Spanish in the school to the best! It will be interesting to see how this week goes - I'm not going to meet up with any of them today because I want to give them a day to practice speaking Spanish. Hopefully tomorrow Jeremy will have had a little practice speaking with his host family and maybe we can do something after class. I don't want it to end up like with Ahmed where we just spoke in English when we were together.

I'd like to meet with the American family too, but I think it will be hard not to revert into English.

Cristian, Charo's son returned from his holidays yesterday, so there is someone new to talk to in the house. It's different talking to him because he is a bit younger, and speaks a lot faster, but I think it is good practice for me to hear a fast voice and to get used to hearing the different sounds coming from a male mouth.

When I returned from class today I had 'ensalada de verano', which was a salad of potato, egg, tomato, olives and a few other things and was actually very nice. After that I had roasted chicken with bread, and then crema catalana which is another type of custard desert.

Paula (the little girl) had a kinder egg, and it came with a little plastic toy with a little wheel that you can fire off. You have to put this little plastic strip into the base of the toy, and then connect the little wheel to it. When you pull the strip of plastic out (which has a zig zag edge) it makes the wheel rotate and roll across the floor. I tried to explain to her how to do it but it is a bit to complicated for a 3 year old and she couldn't get the plastic strip in properly. It was great fun though because she loved it when the wheel went rolling off.

I find it extremely difficult to understand Paula (and most little children for that matter) but I'd like to spend more time with her. It's always amusing to watch her playing with her parents and she is really funny. She's always stomping around in these tiny little shoes with heels, and pretending to interview people with a microphone.

Sometimes she will come right up close to me and stare at me, and then when I say 'hola' she gives me this shy look and runs away.

On my way back home today it was cloudy for the first time (it has been a little cloudy in the morning before but it normally blows over). Apparently there have been a lot of storms in Spain and we have one coming to Toledo. Charo told me that when the storms come here it really rains, and there is a lot of thunder and lightning. If there is a storm I hope it's over quickly!

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El Fin de Semana

Posted Sunday 31 July 2011 16:17 by Steve in Learning Spanish

This is the first weekend (fin de semana is Spanish for weekend) that I have spent in Toledo. Normally in the UK I look forward to the weekends because I don't have to work, but here I would prefer to have class everyday! Apart from my host family, I don't know anyone in Toledo so I have had to do a lot of stuff by myself.

The first thing I did yesterday morning, after a very light breakfast, was to visit a museum - 'Museo de Santa Cruz'. The museum was free, and was in an old building close to the main square of the city. I did the top floor first - it had a few bits of old pottery, but was mainly full of old religious paintings. I actually quite like looking at the old paintings because the contents are quite interesting. A lot of them are quite gory, for example pictures of saints with arrows sticking out of their bodies and lots of blood everywhere. It's also interesting to see what the people in the paintings are wearing, and to look at their facial expressions and the what they are doing to each other.

The lower floor contained an exhibition of modern art by a painter that was alive in the 20th century. Most of paintings here weren't interesting to me.

Museo de Santa Cruz
Museo de Santa Cruz

After the museum, I moved onto the cathedral. When you are outside the city you can clearly see the cathedral because it is huge, but inside Toledo it is difficult to see until you are quite close because the streets are very narrow and most of the buildings are quite tall (at least compared to England). The cathedral cost €7,00 to enter and was quite impressive on the inside. It's quite a big cathedral, I think slightly bigger than Ely cathedral which is close to where I live. There was no tower to climb up (or at least I could find it) but there were a few different rooms leading off of the main part of the cathedral with different exhibitions in them.

One room had the walls and ceiling painted - the walls showed the story of the birth and resurrection of Christ, and the ceiling had a depiction of heaven. One of the walls was really cool because it had a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary at the top in heaven, and below them it had hell, with lots of people being dragged off by demons and lots of blood. Unfortunately I was unable to take pictures inside the cathedral.

The Cathedral from the street
This is the view up one of the main streets leading up to the cathedral
Catedral de Toledo
The cathedral is huge and it was difficult to get the whole thing in the shot!

The previous day I had sent an email to Isabel, my Spanish teacher that I used have lessons with in England. When I returned at lunch time I was excited to find quite a long reply waiting for me in Spanish, and I understood every word if it, so I think my Spanish is definitely improving! Isabel said she read this blog too and we are going to meet up for a beer when I return to Cambridge.

For lunch I had a salad followed by marinated pork and then some watermelon. I don't know why but I like to document my meals!

In the afternoon I didn't really do a lot - I had a sleep and then watched TV with the family. In the evening the family went out for a birthday party so I did the other walk around the outside of Toledo, inside of the river. The views were not as impressive, but it was much greener and cooler (cool as in temperature) because of all of the trees.

There was a lot more shade on this route due to the vegetation
View from the camino
View across the river
This bit was like a jungle!
Puente de San Martin
The route ended at the Puente de San Martin

After walking around I was thirsty and hungry so I sat outside a bar and had dinner. The waiters all seemed a bit miserable though so I moved on and had a few beers in a little square near the language school.

I returned to the house shortly after the family returned, and I sat with Charo and watched some Spanish reality TV with her. To me, Spanish TV seems more like American TV than English TV. There are a lot of chat shows and the reality show that I watched has a lot of interviews. It also seems that people are always either shouting or crying and everyone likes to talk at the same time!

This morning after breakfast, I left the house and took some books with me so that I could find somewhere nice to sit and do my homework, but in the end I didn't do it.

First of all I went the main square and had a coffee with ice, and watched a very strange man annoying passers by. Then I walked to the other side of the city and found somewhere to have lunch. I was looking for a little park that Veronica had described to me but I couldn't find it and eventually just stopped somewhere to eat.

On Sundays there is no lunch with the family so I had a menu del dia outside a restaurant which is an inexpensive 3 course meal. There was an Italian couple sitting on the table next to me, and when they left I asked the waiter if he could understand anything that they had said. He said although the languages have a few words in common he couldn't really understand them because they spoke no Spanish at all. He seemed pretty surprised that I could say something other than "1 beer please" like most English tourists!

View from outside the restaurant
View from outside the restaurant

From the restaurant I could see the Puerta Cambrón which is one of the many city gates in Toledo. There are quite a few city gates because they kept adding more layers of city walls as the city expanded.

After eating I returned home for a siesta...

A shaded path back home
A shaded path back home


Isabel on Monday 01 August 2011 19:23

Mi próximo email va a ser más difícil todavía!!! :D

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Veronica's Last Night in Toledo

Posted Saturday 30 July 2011 15:24 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Last night was Veronica's last night in Toledo, and she wanted to go for one final walk around the outside of the city. We met at 7:00pm and left the city - it was still very hot at this time of the day. We walked from the main square (Plaza de Zocodover) out of the city and over a bridge across the river. This was the first time I had actually left the city.

The bridge over the river
This is a bridge called the Punte de Alcántara and was originally built by the Romans
View from the bridge
This is the view of the river from the bridge

There are a couple of different walks around the outside of the city: There is a route that takes you between the city and the river, and is very low and close to the river; and another that takes you around the outside high above the river. We took the outside walk as it offers some stunning views of the city. The photos don't really do it justice.

Me and the Alcazar
This is a (somewhat blurry) picture of me with the Alcazar in the background
The City
You can see most of the city from the hills
Catedral de Santa María de Toledo
Catedral de Santa María de Toledo
Another bridge
Puente de San Martín is a 14th century medieval bridge with a tower at each end

Part way around the walk we stopped at a bar for a 'clara' which is basically a shandy - it was still really hot and our bottles of water were warm and not nice to drink any more. We also received some free tortilla which was nice!

When we returned to the city we had dinner and a few drinks, and chatted for a while (in Spanish of course) outside a bar close to the house where Veronica is staying. By the time we parted it was midnight, and we swapped contact details. I also took some photos of Veronica's house for her which I will send to her later.

Veronica outside her house

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