Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome to the land of flamenco and bull-fights - Sevilla!!!

Oh dear...I started this quite a while ago and apparently couldn't find the time to finish it. So, on this sunny yet chilly Wednesday afternoon I will finally finish the Sevilla blog for anyone who has enough patience to stick with me :)

Hola a todos! Last weekend we ended International Week with a bang - a trip to Sevilla! We left at 2 am on Friday morning, so Angie, Lily and I decided to split a cab for the 45 minute walk to where we met the bus...good choice on our part. One thing that was made very clear to me on this trip was the concept of Spanish time, which is always late. If they say that you need to be there because we're leaving promptly at 2, what it really means is that the American kids will all show up at 2, everyone else will be there around 2:20, and we might end up leaving around 2:45. That was the theme for the weekend, and no matter how much I knew that, I was always one of those American kids who was there on time. Oh well...I stick out like a sore thumb anyway, so it's not like everyone can't tell that I'm American. May as well just embrace it :) I didn't sleep so well on the bus - maybe it had something to do with the fact that we stopped every so often and everyone had to get off the bus. That's was my beginning to a weekend of very little sleep.

We got there in the morning and went to our hostel - Picasso. It was so adorable! I was in a room with four other girls, and it was a nice room. Kind of small, but it isn't like we spent much time in there anyway.

We met at noon to tour the Catedral and the Real Alcazar. Seriously some of the greatest tours that I've ever seen. The Catedral was sooo beautiful, and probably one of the most ornate on the inside that I've ever seen. We actually went to mass there on Sunday, and it was so neat. We had a tour guide who spoke in Spanish, but spoke very clearly so that we could understand everything really well. I don't think I've ever seen that many pipes for an organ! Also, the really neat tall structure thing (like my description) is made of all wood, and it has scenes from Jesus' life. It is painted with some colors and a gold powder. I was serioulsy awestruck. The ceilings were so high, and it was just absolutely beautiful. People who had donated money to the Cathedral got to have their own little "coves" that they could pay to decorate.

The remains of Christopher Columbus (or at least part of them) are in the Cathedral as well. There was a lot of confusing history about how they were rumored to be in different places around the world, including Latin America, but this is his official tomb. That was kind of cool too!

It was a rainy day, but that didn't make Sevilla any less beautiful. There was a tower at the church with 39 sets of ramps that we got to climb up, and it was really cool. That tower is still there from the time that the Muslims had control of Sevilla and it was part of their mosque. It was very significant because it was supposed to tell them the direction where they should face every day to pray. During the Reconquista, the Christians destroyed the mosque and built their own temple over top of it, but they kept the tower and turned it into a bell tower. Our guide told us that they used to ride donkeys up to the top...I feel like that would be kind of a scary trip...

Here are some other sweet pictures from the church, as well :)

After the church tour, we went to Real Alcazar, which is a palace right across the plaza. This too, used to be for the Muslims, but during the Reconquista Spanish royalty lived there. It was so fascinating to me because the structures and art in the palace are a mix of Christian (Spanish) and Muslim (Arabic) art, and that is a pretty rare thing for that mixture to still exist. For example, the picture to the left has the Arabic geometric pattern, but the words around the outside are in Latin and from the Christian tradition.

There was also an amazingly amazing garden. I don't think the rest of the people on my tour realized that it was quite immense as it actually was, so I ended up exploring on my own, but it was worth every minute. There were mazes with the shrubbery, crazy beautiful trees, orange groves, random buildings, and singing birds. It's difficult to describe. I'll just let you see the pictures. :)

After I had thoroughly explored the garden, I left and decided to get lost in the city a little bit, so I just started to explore. I stumbled upon a souvenir shop, only this place seemed very legit - with actual artisan pieces and not just little trinkets. I left and looked into other places too and found some neat things, but I eventually went back to that store once I had run into a few friends so that I could get some gifts for friends and also for me. Then the three of us decided to wander a little bit. We shopped around a little more and then walked toward the Plaza Espanola. On our way we saw the Torre del Oro, which I think used to be a sign for people sailing in the river, kind of like a lighthouse. We continued on and found a little park with lots of grass, something that we've missed in the big city of Murcia. We hung out there and then found our way to the Plaza de Espana, which is absolutely sweet. I believe that it has a lot of offices - maybe governmental? Part of it was under construction which was sad, but we still got to take plenty of pictures and have fun exploring. The sun came out toward the end, and it was beautiful.

We left to go back to our hostels to get ready for dinner and the rest of the night, and on the way saw this beautiful fountain.

When I got back, my roommates had still been sleeping, so we got ready and went out to find the tapas place recommended to us by the lady at the hostel. We found it, and ended up ordering 10 dishes for the 5 of us, a pitcher or two of sangria, and three desserts to share. Needless to say, we were pretty stuffed after that. It's wouldn't think five girls could eat quite so much...HA After dinner we went back to our hostel and hung out on the roof for a while. There was a perfect view of the cathedral all lit up at night, and it was a beautiful sight!

We met the rest of the group at midnight (or more like 12:20) to head to the bus to go to the club that they had set up for us for the night. I was already tired, so when the rest of the bus voted to not leave the club until 4:30 instead of 3:30 I wasn't super thrilled, but once we got inside and I started dancing, I had all of my energy back. Brayan and I started the dance party - literally there was no one else except for the two of us just breaking it down in the middle of the dance floor. I can always count on Brayan to bust a move with me :)

Most of us didn't get to bed until after 6 am, so the next day we slept fairly late and then they had organized paella for us. Paella is probably one of the best known Spanish dishes, and I was very excited because I had never had it before. The verdict? Delicious. After paella, Sam and Anna and I walked over to a little market to explore it, and then decided to go to the Plaza de Toros in Sevilla, which is probably the most well known in all of Spain. (Oh - there won't be any more pics from here on out because I lost my camera the night before. It was on the bus luckily, but I didn't get it back until the next day when we left.) The arena is beautiful, and apparently the King of Spain (I don't remember which one) commissioned it. In fact, there was a spot at the top for where royalty would sit to watch the bull fights. There was a museum inside, and it was neat to see how things have changed over the years. Bull fighting was essentially invented by the Spanish, which is one reason that it's so neat to hear the history of it. There was a little chapel there too with a bullfighter's prayer. I never thought about it, but right before entering the ring with a mad bull is probably a good time to say a prayer!

After that Sam and I went back to meet up with some other girls and we went on a horse and buggy ride. They were ALL around the catedral, and with five girls it wasn't very expensive. It was so much fun! It did start to rain a little bit and Sam and I tried to put up our umbrellas (unsuccessfully because it was so windy), but it was great nonetheless. We got a little tour of the city and the driver told us about different monuments, and then we took pics with the horse and went to get ice cream.

We decided just to make dinner using the stuff that we found in the hostel, which was interesting. Sam and I whipped up a pretty mean pasta with garlic (for you, Dad). Then we met at our normal meeting spot for FLAMENCO!!! We walked to this little bar that had huge long tables - we tried this drink (don't remember what it's called) that's pretty typical of Sevilla - white wine and Sprite. And sangria, as always. We waited for a while and just hung out until a man with a guitar, a singer, and a flute player came out onto the stage. And then a beautiful Spanish woman in a sweet outfit. The music is very interesting, and the beat is kind of difficult to hear. The dancers need it to be silent so that they can listen to the music and know when to clap and move. She was so beautiful! Very graceful yet passionate and strong at the same time. After her show was done in the big room, she and the band moved into the smaller room and did a show there. Everyone else left, but I stayed to watch it and I couldn't have been happier with my choice. I loved the second performance, probably because it was more intimate and I could actually watch her feet and her face and all of her movements. I have a new dream of becoming a Spanish flamenco dancer :)

The next day I got up and went to mass in the Catedral, pretty much just so that I could say that I have. It was beautiful, and I got to hear a little bit of the organ in action. It's interesting because out of the two masses that I've attended, they don't sing hymns. I don't know if I've just hit odd services, but that's just an interesting difference that I've noticed. AFter that, I went with Katelyn, Angie, and Tiffaine to the other side of town to see the government building (there was a protest going on about the dirty water) and the muralla (wall). Murcia has a muralla too from the time that the Muslims had control of the city, but it's only part here and part there. The one in Sevilla was much longer and complete. It was a beautifully sunny day, and it was nice to walk around. We saw a free concert in the park (I think it was the festival of Sevilla's patron saint) and walked back along the river, which was beautiful. We saw kayakers and rowers and a TON of people fishing. We stopped for lunch at a doner kebab place, which was delicious. That's where they have the meat on a huge rotisserie and put it in a wrap with veggies - yum! Also very popular around the places in Spain where I've been, and also my first experience with it. Success!

That pretty much wraps up my Sevilla weekend, but one more quick observation before I sign off. I think it's so interesting how in Spain it is normal and acceptable for older men to tell girls that they're beautiful. The man at the kebab place told me how beautiful I was, but it wasn't in a creepy way at all. Just a compliment. Kind of nice :)

Okay - the week that Rob came to visit/Granada is coming soon! Hopefully tomorrow before I go to Valencia and get really behind :)

'Sta luego!

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