Monday, December 23, 2013

On the First Day of Christmas...Vacation

I feel really bad every time I fall off the regularly-blogging wagon, but I seem to do it over and over again. The other day, it occurred to me that part of this is that I have an expectation for myself to write really long, thought-out posts and so I have a dozen drafts of posts that are still only half finished. [I meant to write about my trip to Barcelona and 2 weeks later I still only have a title.] So I'm going to work on posting shorter anecdotes in between those longer ramblings.

But not today.

Today, I'm talking about figure skating, namely the Spanish National Championships of Figure Skating that I got to see on Saturday. [The competition actually started on Friday, so I missed all the short programs. Darn work.]

Actually, I'll probably have a bazillion posts in the next couple of weeks.

I'm also going to be talking about the city of Jaca, where the competition was held. This little town that I had never heard of ended up being a fascinating place to visit.

And I'm also also about to go on a marvelous adventure in Andalucia with my family, so you can bet I'll have stories to share from that trip.


Anyways, as I was saying. Figure skating!

Only once before in my life have I ever gotten to see Olympic level skaters perform live [the lovely Sasha Cohen] and that was something like 4 years ago. So being in Europe, in the Olympic year when Russia is hosting, I spent two months desperately searching for a competition that was either close to Spain or during one of my long weekends. There were a couple I could have gone to, but it would have cost a lot of time, money, and effort and to see a lot of skaters that I don't really follow.

[It would almost have been worth it to see Kim Yu-Na in Croatia a couple of weeks ago, but I went to Barcelona instead. Much cheaper.]

I was finally relieved from my I-can't-believe-I-live-in-Europe-but-am-still-too-far-from-Sochi sadness when Evgeni Plushenko announced a tour, with Johnny Weir, that's partially happening in Eastern Europe over Easter break.

And then I found out that Spanish Nationals would take place right when I started my holiday at the end of December.

And the city of Jaca is only a few hours away from me.

And Javier Fernandez would be competing.

This guy is one of my three current Sochi favorites, lander of quadruple jumps, skater of fantastically themed programs [his Pirates of the Caribbean is amazing]. Spanish skating is not the biggest - I had literally only heard of two other skaters in the whole roster - but that also meant that the competition was free and I had a really good view of the ice.

So after taking two buses [I had to transfer in Zaragoza], I got to the city Saturday afternoon, wandered a bit and had my sandwich lunch in front of a 16th Century castle. I couldn't check into my hostel until 5, so right after I dropped my backpack in my room, I walked to the Ice Pavilion. Which was conveniently located right next to the cheapest hotel in town.

The Junior Boys were just warming up when I sat down - in looking at the competition schedule, I had decided that catching a later bus [and therefore sleeping longer] was more important than watching all of the Novice performances, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well these kids skated. [I've always cared more about artistry than technical difficulty anyways.]

After the long Zamboni pause, during which I ate a whole bag of honey roasted peanuts, there was a team of synchronized skaters, which I have to say I had never seen before.

Then came the Ice Dancers.

And the pairs, one Juniors and one Seniors.

The ladies.

And the men.

It was a very different kind of competition compared to the ones I'm used to seeing. In the states, there are so many people competing for so few medals. I imagine that has as much to do with the size of the country as the depth of talent, although countries like Japan have been able to create a fantastic figure skating program in a small country. But anyways, it was funny to hear "Queda in primero posicion" after the only team in the event had skated - for them, 1st place was guaranteed.

The best part about a small competition though? I stood less than a foot away from an Olympic skater.

The medal ceremony was strangely held off the ice, so all the spectators crowded into the lobby of the Ice Pavilion to watch. And when the skaters got out to the lobby, they mingled with the crowd. They were taking pictures with people and congratulating each other and Javier Fernandez came to talk to some coaches who were right behind me.

It was an incredible moment to end an incredible day of skating.

[I have to mention that the 3rd place Mens Singles skater could be Johnny Weir's Spanish twin. And then waiting for the medal ceremony, I saw him holding hands with presumably his boyfriend who looks, to me at least, exactly like Johnny's husband. Bizarre.]


This event was really convenient for me because A) it was held fairly close to Soria and B) this weekend was the first weekend of the Christmas holiday. But once I was busy seeing Jaca, I realized something else - if I hadn't had anything to do this weekend but get ready for my family coming, I would have gone crazy with the anticipation. Keeping busy - first with work, and then with travel - really helped me keep my calm.

You know how I know this? I can't sleep. Or rather, I can't seem to go to sleep at a decent hour. Today's not so bad, it's only 1:00 as I begin writing this. But yesterday, I think I was up until 4. I could not for the life of me tell you how I spent wasted the last several hours of that time, because I definitely wasn't cleaning or trip planning or reading the last 200 pages of the giant book that I need to finish and send home.

Because have I mentioned that my family's coming to visit? And they're bringing a bagful of things that I forgot in my hurried packing and I'm sending stuff I don't need home with them so I have room for everything I've bought over here?

I'm so excited it's kind of consuming my every thought.

Merry Christmas, everyone!