Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Real Madrid Football (Soccer) Game

On the evening of August 22, 2013, Scott and Beverly attended a football (soccer) game between Real Madrid and Al-Sadd (of Qatar). It fulfilled one of our mission "bucket list" items, to attend a Real Madrid game.

When we got off the subway near the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, we found lots of booths selling paraphernalia of Real Madrid and their opponent. We bought a Real Madrid banner. Scott wanted to buy a Real Madrid jersey but they were too expensive (He bought one a day later from a street salesman at a much better price):

The people poured into the streets from all parts of Madrid and the surrounding areas:

Scott took this picture of Beverly about 30 minutes before the game started. (The game started at 10:30 pm!). The rabid fans, in their Real Madrid jerseys, were already filling the stadium, which holds 100,000 people:

During the opening festivities in the stadium, we enjoyed a full-moon rising in the sky above us:

Here we are with our Real Madrid banner. 

The huge stadium filled quickly:

This was a special night. The pregame festivities honored one of the most famous Spanish football players of all time and top all-time scorer for Real Madrid, Raúl (Raúl González Blanco). Raúl retired from Real Madrid in 2010 and he now plays for Al-Sadd. So this was his return to Madrid:

Amazingly, Al-Sadd let Raúl play the first half for Real Madrid. This is a picture of Raúl, in Real Madrid uniform, running onto the field (Al-Sadd is in black and Real Madrid is in white) to the applause of the players and fans:

The start of the game:

The celebration after Raúl scored the first point of the night, for Real Madrid:

Real Madrid won the game 5-0.

It was a great cultural experience for us to attend a game of one of the most respected and successful professional soccer teams in the world, Real Madrid.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Storks in Spain, including "Air Dancing."

During the summer we've seen white storks and stork nests in old buildings or tall trees. These storks fly north from Africa to their breeding range in Central Spain. Here are some pictures we have taken of these beautiful birds.

Stork nests on top of an old church in Alcalá de Henares (the birthplace of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote), east of Madrid:

An adult stork watching its chicks in a nest on top of a tree in Mazanares El Real, north of Madrid:

In this photo, you can see three stork chicks in the same nest:

One of the adult storks sailed overhead, evidently in an attempt to distract us from the nest:

 Another stork joined in the effort:

 Then the two storks started to fly in "bomber" formation over our heads:

They flew in other types of formations as well, like the Navy's "Black Knights''. Here the two adult storks appear to be air dancing as they cross their legs and flap their wings in unison at us:

These are some storks on the top of an old wall of a church in Valladolid, two hours north of Madrid:

A stork does a "helicopter hover" just before joining its mate on top of the Cathedral of Valladolid:

A stork flying overhead in Valladolid:

Two dozen storks stand like sentinels on and around the statue of Christ on top of the Cathedral of Valladolid:

We've enjoyed watching and taking pictures of these beautiful birds, but we haven't seen them deliver any babies yet!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sunflowers in Spain

Throughout central Spain, we have seen huge numbers of large and small fields of sunflowers, grown commercially for sunflower seeds and oil. The flowers and fields are beautiful.

These two sunflower fields are located near Cuenca, southeast of Madrid:

These two fields are located between Madrid and Valladolid in the north:

Nodding sunflowers backlit by the sun:

Another field located about an hour north of Madrid:

A closeup of a beautiful sunflower:

Spain is indeed a beautiful place.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Madrid MTC, 18 August 2013

On Sunday, August 18, we spent the day at the Madrid MTC. The MTC president, President Sitterud, asked Scott to conduct one of the two sacrament meetings because his two counselors were out of town. He also invited us to attend other meetings, have lunch at the MTC, and be the fireside speakers that night.

The day began at 9:00 am with Priesthood and Relief Society, which we enjoyed immensely. Sacrament meeting started at 10:40 and went until noon.

We then enjoyed lunch with the Sitteruds and all the young missionaries. In the evening, we spoke at the MTC fireside (held in the adjacent stake center) to around 90 missionaries.

The final activity was the weekly Sunday evening hymn singing by the missionaries on the steps leading to the temple and MTC area.

This is a video of one of the hymns, "Onward Christian Solders":

Here are photos of the missionaries. If you see your missionary here, please leave a comment below:

Scott and Beverly with Elder Ben Adamson, our step-nephew, and his companion Elder Sorenson:

Elder Adamson with his best friend from home, Elder Dan Farrell (how nice that they were at the MTC at the same time!):

Castles Near Madrid

Spain is a land of castles. In fact, two of its autonomous communities (like states in the U.S.) are named Castilla y León and Castilla La Mancha, where "castilla" means "land of castles." Lucky for us, many castles are near Madrid, within a two-hour train or bus ride from where we live. Here are photos that we took of each of the fifteen castles we have visited. We have been inside of all of these except those which are in such a state of dilapidation that no visitors are allowed. (Unless otherwise indicated, the castle has the name of the city in which it is located.)

Castillo de Arévalo:

Castillo de Belmonte:

Castillo de Buitrago de Lozoya (this castle has not been restored, although we went inside):

Castillo de Cuéllar:

Castillo de Garcimuñoz (this castle is in the process of being restored and we could only go inside part of it):

Castillo de los Mendoza in Manzanares El Real:

Castillo de la Mota in Medina del Campo:

Castillo de Peñafiel:

Castillo de Portillo:

Castillo de Simancas:

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río:

Castillo de Coca:

Castillo de Sigüenza. This is our favorite, not because it is the most beautiful or interesting but because it is a "parador" (state-owned hotel within a castle, convent, or monastery) where we stayed to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Another view of the Castillo de Sigüenza, which from this view, seems to be out in the middle of nowhere. Actually, the city of Siqüenza comes right up to the castle on the other side.

Castillo de Uclés. We actually went to Uclés to see the monastery, shown here on the left. This castle (on the right) has not been restored and we could not go inside:

Alcázar (Arab castle) de Segovia:

All of these castles have their own history. Some castles include a museum, a palace, or an outdoor concert area. All of them are interesting.