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Amelia Hashizume :: Blog

August 01, 2011

Because it is summer time, we decided to go to the east coast of Spain, Valencia, so we can enjoy at least a day at the beach. From Ciudad Real, there is only one way to go there: by train. It took like 5 hours to get there. We started our tour by walking around the city. Our first stop was the city hall and then the Cathedral. Then we walked through some streets where we saw the world’s narrowest house according to the Guinness Book of World’s Records.  Afterwards, we went to visit the most outstanding building in Valencia, the City of Arts and Science. It’s a spectacular architectural and entertaining complex which will fascinate you. This gigantic building was inaugurated in the year of 1998, and it is now the main attraction for most of the tourists. The next day, we went to the beach (20 minutes from the city). I really enjoy this time cause Ciudad Real is located in  At the end of the day, we ate the typical Paella Valenciana.

Exterior of the City Hall



Valencia Cathedral 



Plaza de la Virgen



The Turia Fountain



The world’s narrowest house



City of Arts and Science




Keywords: Spain, Valencia

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July 21, 2011

I heard about Almagro, a small town near Ciudad Real, from a friend who told me that is a must-see place here in Ciudad Real especially in July. Every day during this month, there are many classical theater performances which are held around this small town. Some of the performances are free and are held on outdoor stages. So, we decided to go to see some performances there. We headed to Almagro in the afternoon, and when we got there nobody was in the streets, and just very few stores were open. It was not a surprise since everyone takes a nap after eating lunch. Even I am used to take a nap; ohh I will miss this Spanish habit!!! While waiting for the performances to start, we decided to go around the town. Luckily that day there were some good performances, so we chose to see “El Joven Burlador” and “La Vida es Sueno”.


Walking around the town



Iglesia de la Madre de Dios



Plaza Mayor



Corral de Comedias – it is the only open-air theater (original) in Europe. It was built in 1628



El Joven Burlador




Keywords: Almagro, Ciudad Real, Spain

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July 12, 2011

The Festival of San Fermin is one of the most popular events in Spain. It is well-known for the encierro (the Running of the Bulls) that happens every day during the festival (July 6 – July 14) at 8 am.

We bought our bus tickets one month before, and everything was almost booked. It costs around 40 euros (round trip). Round trip tickets are cheaper – almost half price. We caught the bus from Madrid at 1m, and we got there around 6am. When we got there, I was shocked how many people were sleeping in the bus station, streets, and parks. There where thousands of people from everywhere dressing in white and red.

Once we arrived there, our goal was to find a good spot to see the encierro. There are two wooden fences that mark the route. We knew in advance that we had to look for a space behind the sencond fence because the space between the two fences is reserved for runners, police, and medical service. Luckily, we found a place with nice viewing of the running, but we had to stay there for like 2 hours until the running started.

Minutes before the running, runners start to sing to San Fermin (saint) to ask for his blessing and protection. They sing in Spanish and in Basque.

Spanish Version: "A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición" ("We ask Saint Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the encierro and give us his blessing")

I watched the running on TV days before, but it is totally different when you are there even when I could not see the entire running. You can see some videos of the festival on http://www.pamplona.es/turismo/sanfermines/VerPagina.asp?IdPag=59&Idioma=1

When the run was over, we decided to walk the entire bull run in reverse. After the running, the celebration continued – it never stopped -- people were drinking, dancing, singing, or sleeping. Fiesta, fiesta and more fiesta!!!!


People sleeping in the bus station



People sleeping in the streets






Police barrier at the beginning of the running



Runner getting ready for the encierro





Giants and big-heads parade 



All town is celebrating



Keywords: Pamplona, Spain

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July 03, 2011

What can I say about the weather in Ciudad Real?

It is too hot!!! We have reached up to 104F, and this is the beginning of summer. I cannot imagine how hotter will be during this month. Well, the hottest time in here is between 2 and 5pm. That is why everyone goes home and takes a nap (siesta) until the sun goes down.

However, the high temperatures did not stop us from our journey to the southern part of Spain (hottest part in Spain). This time, we headed out to discover the city of Sevilla. The main attraction in Sevilla is the Cathedral which is the third largest church in the world. It has little chapels, and also the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The Cathedral was very impressive!!!!  Next to the Cathedral, there is the Giralda, an Islamic building that holds El Giraldillo at the very top. From there, there is a great view of the city. After the Cathedral, we headed to Plaza de Espana, another famous touristic place in Sevilla. We walked along the walls where there are ceramic benches that represent all the provinces of Spain.

As usual here are some pictures!!! 

Plaza de Toros



Giralda Tower


Plaza de Espana


Real Alcazar


Cathedral of Sevilla


Torre del Oro (Golden Tower)


Keywords: Sevilla, Spain

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June 28, 2011

I was hesitating whether to go to Granada because everybody told me that it is very hot during this time. However, I went there, and I do not regret. One of the famous places there is the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex constructed by the Moorish during the mid 14th century. We planned to get there in the afternoon to see the Alhambra at sunset. We went to the "Mirador" de San Nicolas where we sat there on the wall and looked out to the Alhambra. Wow the view was amazing!!!!The next morning, we took a walking tour that lasted like 3 hours. We went around the city, and we visited many places. After the tour, we went to the Alhambra. I recommend you to get the tickets online before going there because they are mostly sold-out. We walked other 4 hours inside of the fortress. At the end we were exhausted, but it was worthy!!!!!

Here are some pictures (I wish I can post more pictures) 


The View from Mirador San Nicolas


Cathedral of Granada


Walking Tour



The Alhambra Palace






Keywords: Alhambra, Granada, Spain

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June 20, 2011

Last Saturday we woke up early in the morning to catch my bus to TOLEDO. The trip took around one hour from Ciudad Real. After getting off from the bus, we headed to the tourist information center for a map of the city. We took a very very long walk all around Toledo with some stops in between. It was a very hot day, but it did not stop us from our journey. We headed back to Ciudad Real around 7 pm.  

Here are some pictures of the city. Enjoy!!!!


Puerta Bisogra



Views in Town





Exploring the streets  




Cathedral of Toledo



Keywords: Spain, Toledo

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June 14, 2011

I arrived in Madrid two weeks ago, and then I had to take the train to Ciudad Real. From the airport, I took a taxi to the train station where I finally took the train to my final destination.

After some sleep, I went to meet my advisor Prof Eduardo Fernandez-Medina at Universidad Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM). We had a brief discussion about the work that we will be doing during my stay in Spain. Then, he showed me the lab where I will be working and other areas such as the cafeteria. The name of the lab is ALARCOS where there are like 12 other students working there.


Spanish eating customs

During my two weeks here, I have learned some Spanish eating customs: around 11 in the morning they drink some coffee with a croissant or other pastry. Then, they eat lunch between 2 and 4, and it is traditionally larger than the dinner meal. The lunch meal usually consists of 3 courses. The first course consists of a salad or soup, while the second course is usually fish or meat dish. A dessert can be a fruit salad, ice cream, or you can replace it with coffee. For the dinner, they eat around 9 to 11 pm.


Ciudad Real

Ciudad Real (“Royal City”) is a small city in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Ciudad Real was founded by Alfonso X El Sabio (“The Wise”) in the 13th century.  Ciudad Real was the scenario where Cervantes sited the adventures of the famous “Don Quixote de La Mancha”. There are different means of transport you reach the city. You can take the AVE (high-speed train): 56 minutes from Madrid. Also, you can get there by bus: 3 hours from Madrid. Besides “Don Quijote” airport is another option.


Puerta de Toledo



Puerta de Santa Maria



Don Quijote & Sancho



Parque de Gasset



M15 in Ciudad Real



Plaza Mayor




Iglesia de San Pedro



Universidad Castilla – La Mancha (UCLM)

UCLM has approximately 35,000 students at four campuses (Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo), and the main governing body is located in Ciudad Real. It has 14 building and 22 University schools.




Keywords: Ciudad Real, Spain, Universidad Castilla-La Mancha

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August 13, 2010

On Friday night, we took the bus from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to Kyoto. It took like 7 hours to get our destination.  
We stayed in a ryokan that is a traditional Japanese Inn. We slept on tatami mat floors with a roll out foam mattresses and comforters. They are very similar to hostels as there are shared restromms, kitchen, laundry, and shared areas. After checking in at the ryokan, we headed out to start our sightseeing. 
Kyoto was Japan's capital and the Emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. It is my grandfather's hometown, so it is a special city for me also. 
Firts Day -- North-western Kyoto
First stop: Kinkakuji, an amazing golden temple whose the top two floors are covered in gold leafs. After seeing a lot of temples, this is my favorite one.
A large garden surrounds Kinkakuji. While walking through the lanscaped garden, we passed three stones where people were tossing some coins on them and making wishes.  
There is a small waterfall along the path towards the pond. This is called the Dragon Gate Falls. If you look 
closer, the stones resembles carps. In ancient Chinese mythology, carps climbing up waterfalls will become dragons. 

Next stop: Ryoan-ji. It houses the famous rock garden. It is composed of 15 rocks arranged in a rectangle of raked white gravel. The rocks represent islands, and the gravel represents the ocean.
Next stop: Nijo Castle was built around 1600. There are two main buildings: Ninomaru Palace and the castle itself.  
The entrance gate to Ninomaru Palace. 
The garden located on the side of the Palace. It is very beautiful!!!!!!

Second Day

First stop: Arashiyama (Western Kyoto)

Bamboo Forest

You can take a ride rickshaw ride through Arashiyama.
Tenryu-ji Temple

Second stop: South

Fushimi Inari Shrine: it is famous for the countless torii gates. It takes like 2 hours to walk along the whole trail. Statues of menacing kitsune (foxes) alternates with torii gates. Foxes are said to have the magic power to take possession of human spirit. 
On the way back to Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen (only took 2 hours). I would recommend to take Shinkansen cause it is very comfortable and fast, but the price is very expensive.

Keywords: Japan, Kyoto, NII

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August 09, 2010

We went to Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan. It is locate only 30 minutes from Tokyo.
Places of interest:
Minatomirai -- there is the most beautiful view in Yokohama. It is one of the highest building in Japan (296 meters).
China Town -- Yokohama's Chinatown is the largest in Japan. There are plenty of chinese grocery stores and restaurants.  

Red Brick Warehouse -- Historic port building dating to 1907, recently restored and now home to many boutiques and restaurants. 

We took a velotaxi (bicycle taxi) at the Brick Warehouse. It tooks us to different areas around Yokohama.

Also during this weekend, we went to the Cirque du Soleil show. The theater itself is brand new, and it is located next to Disneyland. 
The shows started out with 2 clowns that wander the theater doing silly things. All the acts were wonderful and very well performed. 

For many Japanese people, summer means Fireworks. Almost every weekend there are large fireworks events around Tokyo. We went to one of the fireworks display in Shimata. After taking 4 trains to Shibamata station, we slowly made our way through the mass of people in the station towards the fireworks.   
The show ran for an entire hour with an uncountable variety of fireworks. Some were amazingly huge and some in the shapes of famous Japanese characters like Doraemon :). The amount of people that gathered was also amazing as it is practically impossible to get on a train for hours after the show. 

Keywords: Cirque du Soleil, Fireworks, Japan, NII, Tokyo, Yokohama

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August 05, 2010

We went to Nikko, a city located in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture approximately 140 km north of Tokyo. It took us like 2 hours by train to get there. 

Between the town of Nikko and its main shrines is the Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge). In feudal times, only the shogun (a general) was permited to cross the bridge. Now, you will have to pay 350 yen (approx. $4) to cross the bridge.
The Toshugo Shrine is the main attraction of Nikko. It took like 2 years to create this shrine using 2.5 million sheets of gold leaf. 

Besides the Toshugo Shrine, there are other shrines such as the Rinno-ji, Toshugo, and Futarasan.
Ishidorii -- it was designed to be earthquake resistant. The pillars are made from 2 pieces of granite, and are joined at the middle. Also the transom is made of 3 pieces that allows the movement of the pillars. 
Nikko is also home of the Three wise monkeys carving: "Hear no evil, Speck no evil, See no evil"

We also visited the famous Keagon Falls. I have few words to describe the beauty and power that I witnessed. Just, it was beautiful!!!!
Lastly, we visited Lake Chuzenji (Chuzenjiko). It is a scenic lake in the mountains above the town of Nikko. 

My friend's mother took me to the National Theater to see Kabuki. Kabuki is a classicla Japanese dance-drama.  The play's title was Migawari Zazen (the Zen Substitute). The story was about a man who wants nothing more than to visit his lover Hanako, but he has one important problem, his homely and overbearing wife. He lied to his wife by telling her that he will be practicing zen meditation all night, but he asked his servant to take his place while he visits Hanako. He returns from a night of pleasure, and tells his story to his servant in dance, unaware that his wife has discovered his deception and has taken his servant's place. 
In the theater, I saw many Japanese ladies wearing kimono, which is unusual to see nowadays. Since there are no many ocassions to wear kimono, they wear it when they go to the theater. 

Keywords: Japan, Kabuki, Nikko, Theater, Tokyo

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