Two years ago, we went to León in June to see the Summer Solstice San Juan festivities. While there, we decided to see a bullfight. It was my first bullfight. The star of the show was a newcomer named David "El Fandi" Fandila. What I saw back in June 2005 was not a normal bullfight, but one of those magical, unforgettable moments in sports where the crowd cheers until they can cheer no more.
I've seen twobullfights since, one of them with El Fandi, and neither was very good (the latter saw two of the three matadors leave the bullring in an ambulance). So when Marga saw that El Fandi was fighting in León again this year for San Juan, we absolutely had to go see him.
Most of the way to León, we stopped to change drivers, and I could admire the countryside of Castilla y León.
I witnessed this near miss in the skies above.
The other "best we've ever seen" thing that we experienced in León in 2005 was the San Juan fireworks display. A week ago, I discovered that my camera has a special mode designed especially for fireworks photography, so I was delighted to get a chance to try it out.
I like this one with the spectators in the foreground.
My camera has a special "fireworks" video mode, too!
The finale was incredible.
We stayed with our friend, Luisma, who came to visit us this time last year. His mother and aunt were excellent hostesses, serving us breakfast and making a paella for lunch on Sunday.
Ever since being invited to the Choking Hazards group on Flickr, I've been on the lookout for suitable material. I particularly liked this scene on a shelf at Luisma's house.
On Sunday, Marga's parents arrived and we went out for pre-meal drinks and snacks. Marga is holding a plate of morcilla. Everyone knows that the best morcilla comes from León. And everyone in León knows that the best mocilla tapas in León comes from one particular bar. That's where we went.
Morcilla has to have the highest "gastronomic enjoyment to appetizing appearance" ratio of any food. Even when served by a lovely señorita, it looks absolutely disgusting. I think that if I lived in León, I would go to that bar every day. Morcilla has got to be my favorite Spanish meat.
The one must-see tourist attraction of León is its cathedral.
A pudgy angel sits below a gothic tower.
Unfortunately, we didn't go inside. Luisma says that, at night sometimes, they turn on the lights inside the cathedral, and you can enjoy the stained glass windows from the outside. The effect must be spectacular.
Kind of a weird panorama looking up at the top of the cathedral.
I love this vertical panorama. Luisma, Juan, and Marce are looking down into a display area of ancient Roman ruins.
A few of León's ancient Roman roots are still present today. Luisma says that it takes years to build anything that requires any digging, because everywhere you dig, there's some archaeological goldmine that must be excavated.
European Idyll: people eating outside on a stone, pedestrian street, with cathedral spires rising in the distance.
A remake of a picture we took in 2005. Despite these hats being very typical for a bullfight, we didn't see many on other spectators. I can't wait for wearing hats to become fashionable again.
I'm not sure why this serious gentleman was riding around in the crowd outside the bullring. I'm sure he serves some purpose.
The León bullring has a retractable glass roof.
Luisma, Marga and her parents looking less goofy than me.
Marga's blouse was particularly revealing from my vantage point.
At the start of every bullfight, the matadors and their cuadrillas (groups of helpers) come out to salute the president of the bullring.
The blindfolded armored cavalry follow.
The president of the bullring gives a wave.
The Tyndall Effect was really cool.
A panorama of the entire bullring.
What a lovely flower you're wearing, Mr. Bull!
El Fandi could win a race running backwards. He's incredible.
It's most impressive when he runs backwards in front of the bull until the bull gets tired and stops.
El Fandi performs a kill. (Don't watch if you don't want to see an animal die.) The idea is to put the sword all the way into the bull's torso and then make him turn sharply several times until he bleeds to death internally. It's not a very nice way to die, I don't think.
The roof opened up for a much needed breeze.
El Fandi communicates with the bull using semaphores.
I experienced some photographic phallus envy next to these guys.
Enrique Ponce does some stuff on his knees too, but not when the bull is fresh.
Enrique Ponce kills a bull. (Don't watch if you don't want to see an animal die.)
Action shot. Bullfighting really has a lot in common with dancing, particularly with the Spanish dance called Pasodoble.
When things like the horses coming out or leaving has to happen, one of the bullfighters helpers keeps the bulls attention from behind a barrier.
Bad choice of fabric color. I had to do several double takes to make sure everyone was properly clothed out there.
This is perfect banderilla technique from El Fandi. It's just lucky chance that the bull is in focus and everything else is a blur. Sometimes my camera has moments of genius.
El Fandi broke several bones in his hand inserting these banderillas. He had to have surgery that night in the hospital.
El Fandi has to decide if he can continue with his broken hand. He does, of course, and performs the rest of the fight using only his left hand.
The only thing he did with his right hand was put in this sword to kill the bull. He must have been in a lot of pain doing this. Yeah, I know, he's not the one that died.
The Church of San Marcos.
Sleeping stork. Delivering babies is tiring work.
Luisma and Marga bathed in red light. The tables were all lit orange from inside.
The bar we were in was lit entirely in red. When I went downstairs to the bathroom, it was all blue. Very cool.
I couldn't resist photographing these two disco balls all alone in the corner. They were spinning in opposite directions.
My beer bottle looked pretty cool on the light table.
Alcohol + digital camera + cool lighting effects = pictures like this
On Monday morning, we got up, packed our bags, and headed back home, stopping just as Marga's parents took a separate fork in the road to have lunch with them. In total, we drove more than 8 hours this weekend.