Only 80 km from Madrid and 7km from the city of Segovia, one of my favorite day trips this year has been to La Granja, Spain.
The most famous attraction, the 18th century palace, is the former summer residence of Spanish royalty.

This city has been called the Versailles of Spain because of its beautiful Baroque architecture and its sculptured fountains. Each of the 26 fountains that are located around the palace are different, representing themes of Greek mythology. 

Unfortunately, the fountains were off on the day we had visited, but they were still equally as stunning. 
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The gardens surrounding the palace are of French architecture, and equally as beautiful as everything else surrounding the palace. They are made to gaze at, as we did for the entire overcast afternoon. 

We also opted for a hike through the woods and terrain surrounding the palace on our day trip. Many Spanish kings have used the over 1,500 acres of land for hunting.
 

Falconry

12/12/2011

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Living in another country and building relationships with new friends, students, and colleagues gives you opportunities to try new things. Recently, I experienced something that is not unique with the Spanish culture, but still really interesting.

Falconry is the art of training and hunting animals using birds of prey.

It used to be one of the favorite sports of the royal courts in Europe. And in Spain specifically, there are records of falconry dating back to over 2,000 years ago.
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One of the champion Peregrine falcons
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The terrain of the land where we hunted
The hunting begins with the search for the prey (in our case, Partridges) over miles and miles of land. We had so much land to cover that we began by our search in the car.

After spotting a group of birds, we released a falcon. Then, the dogs ran to stir up the partridges, which duck down into the rocks to hide themselves. When the dogs scare one away, it begins to fly (not very far because it can't) and the falcon swoops down at over 200mph to kill it.

Falcons are the fastest animals on the planet.
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My student became my teacher
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One of the hunting dogs
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Mom, can I have a falcon for Christmas?
Although my experience was not of Spanish culture, I did learn some new Spanish vocabulary, and some really cool facts about something very new to me.

Sometimes the things we don't anticipate or plan turn out to be the best experiences of all, no matter where we are in the world!
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With our winnings of the day! Ew.
 
 
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Vineyards
One item on my bucket list this year is to become a wine connoisseur in Spain. Drinking wine in bars and tomar-ing algo on Saturday nights hasn't really helped me in that department. 

Instead, day trips to wine-making regions and talking with locals about different types and flavors of wine is slowly helping me achieve my goal. 

Most recently, I took a day trip to the province of Zamora for a wine-tasting tour. 
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Vino, vino, and more...vino!
While there, I visited many different bodegas (wine cellars) and got a real sabor for what wine tasting is all about.
The Basics of Wine Tasting
Step 1: The Tilt. Tilt the glass to take in the true color and clarity of the wine.

Step 2: The Swirl. Swirl your glass for about 10 seconds and sniff. Take in the true smell of the wine and inhale. 

Step 3: The Sip. Take that first sip of wine and let it sit in your mouth a bit, enlightening your palate.

Step 4: El fin. The finish is the aftertaste and observance of the wine and its flavors.
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The wine is taking a little siesta. If you call little 2-3 years.
The wines from Toro were mostly dark, bold wines with lots of flavors. 

Wines there are muy fuerte. And they are also famous. Said to be the very first that Christopher Colombus brought to America, I think that this proves that even in 1492 Americans craved a little bit of that Spanish lifestyle.

The wines were so strong, that after a day of tasting, I had to mix them with tonic water at dinner to tranquila a bit.  

I haven't yet acquired the tolerance of a Spaniard. The drinking age is 18 here, so they start earlier.
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Wine tasting in Bodegas Monte La Reina
Needless to say, they don't call this area of Spain La Tierra del Vino (the land of wine) for nothing. 

Beautiful bodegas, strong wine, and one day trip luego...I am fully lip-stained, but one step closer to becoming a wine connoisseur!
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Lip-Stained in Zamora