Traveling to Spain or Latin America this summer and want to say more than “Donde esta el bano?” (though, that’s an important one to know)? Lonely Planet has just launched a new online foreign language program, Fluent Road, partnering with Spanish language program Fluenz. The focus is on Spanish for now, but you can choose from dialects from Argentina, “neutral” Latin America, Mexico, or Spain.
Fluent Road is designed for travelers to get the basics before a trip: Spanish for transportation, finding accommodation, ordering food, etc. It’s also a good stepping-stone to a more intensive learning program, and travelers could easily work up to a Fluenz course after completing Fluent Road. What differentiates this from other language learning like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur is a dissection of the language, showing you how Spanish works and providing explanations, not just rote immersion. Fluenz founder and avid traveler Sonia Gil guides you through obstacles, pronunciation, and practice speaking, writing and reading as a native speaker and “language geek.”
As with all online learning, you can go at your own pace; there are 30 video lessons that can be completed in one to six months. Other useful features include the ability to record yourself to compare pronunciation a native Speaker, and customizable digital flash cards to help practice. You can also contact the teacher and program designer via Twitter.
Take a free 12-hour trial now, subscriptions start from $9 for a month to $30 for six months of access, at www.fluentroad.com.
Capturing a stunning combination of architecture and weather, Flickr user Mike Rowe took this black and white photo at the palace of Charles V, contained within the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain.
Commissioned as a royal residence close to the Alhambra palace, the 16th-century building is a square, two-level structure done in the Renaissance style. It’s also home to two museums: the Museo de la Alhambra and the Museo de Bellas Artes. With this photo perspective, you certainly get a feel for the grandiose scope the building.
Have a photo that captures the essence of travel? Submit it to the Gadling Flickr pool for your chance to be featured on Photo of the Day.
Do you find yourself bored by the typical hotel’s amenities? Butler services, organic mini bars and other bells and whistles just don’t do it for you anymore? Well how about staying in a hotel with a vertical wind tunnel? And maybe after that you can unwind in the world’s first zero-gravity spa? It sounds pretty out there, but those features are actually part of the plans for a Space Hotel in Barcelona, Spain.
The company behind the project, Mobilona, recently announced their vision for the complex, which includes a hotel, private apartments, a 24-hour shopping mall and a marina. All of this would be built on a Dubai-style, man-made island giving guests sea views no matter which way their room faces. A stay in the 2,000-suite hotel – which looks like something out of a sci-fi movie – would cost between 300 and 1500 euros per night.However, Barcelona’s mayor insists he won’t have any of it, saying the futuristic hotel doesn’t fit with his vision of the city’s future. “We have no intention of turning Barcelona into a spectacle,” he told local media. Despite this, plans for the space-age hotel may live to see another day, with the Mobilona announcing similar projects in Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Want to get a taste of Spanish food, hear Flamenco music and see beautiful footage of the Spanish city and countryside? Then take a few minutes to watch this beautiful video from The Perennial Plate. Cut together with footage and experiences from two weeks spent in Spain, this video features food and travel imagery from Basque County, Galicia, Andalucia and Barcelona. Retrace the steps of The Perennial Plate through this video and savor the Spanish view.
At the Roman necropolis in Carmona, Spain, visitors are led to the popular “Elephant’s Tomb,” a large underground chamber that gets its name from a crude sculpture of an elephant found there.
Now archaeologists are saying it may not be a tomb at all, but rather a temple to one of the ancient world’s most mysterious religions. A team from the University of Pablo de Olavide, Seville, has analyzed the structure and says it was once a mithraeum, an underground temple for the god Mithras.
Mithraism centered on secret rites centered on the mystical slaying of a bull was one of the most popular faiths in the last years of paganism. Several mithraeums are scattered about Europe, including in London, Mérida, and along Hadrian’s Wall.
The archaeologists point out that its general shape, with a columned, three-chambered room leading to an area for altars, is the same as other mithraeums. They also found astronomical alignments. Sunlight would hit the center of the chamber during the equinoxes, and during the winter and summer solstices, the sun would light up the north and south walls respectively. As the sun shines through the window during the spring equinox, Taurus rises to the East and Scorpio hides to the West. The opposite occurred during the autumn equinox. Taurus and Scorpio figure prominently in the religion’s astrological symbolism, with the God Mithras slaying a bull as a scorpion stings the animal’s testicles.
It was only later that the temple was turned into a burial chamber, researchers say.
Carmona is less than 20 miles from Seville and is a popular day trip from there.
[Top photo courtesy Daniel Villafruela. Bottom photo courtesy Henri de Boisgelin.]