During our stay in Spain we have visited a small bullring in Granada and the bullfighting museum and large bullring in Sevilla. The bullfighting museum consisted of authentic bullfighting attire, many bulls´ heads on the walls, bullfighting capes, and other paintings and artifacts that explained the history of bullfighting in Spain. We saw a large bullring in Sevilla, and our tour guide, Paloma, told us a lot about bullfighting – for example, she explained that the bulls are killed after the bullfights and are then eaten (many people eat the bulls´ tails). Bullfighting is a national pastime in Spain, although some people do not like it because the bulls are killed after the fights.
Flamenco is Spain´s national dance. On Wednesday, our second full day in Madrid, we had dinner and saw a flamenco show at a restaurant in Madrid called Villa Rosa. It was like dinner theatre. After our dinner three dancers, a singer, and a musician came out and performed. The dancers were two women and a man. They danced with great intensity and passion (like the Furia Hispania or Spanish fury that our book on soccer, La Roja, talked about). Many of us concur that the flamenco show has been our favorite part of the trip so far. We hoped that after the show the dancers would be willing to dance with us and maybe teach us flamenco dancing, but they were getting ready to do their next show. But it was a great way to experience authentic Spanish culture through the art of flamenco dancing.
On Sunday we visited the Alhambra, Granada´s most famous site. It sits atop a hill looking over the city of Granada. We toured all of the rooms, the courtyards, and the gardens and went to the Generalife (the summer house), which is near the Alhambra. The Alhambra is significant because it represents a time in Spain´s history when the Muslims conquered Spain and remained in power for more than seven hundred years. The walls of the Alhambra are covered in inscriptions from the Koran (Qu´ran), the holy book of the Muslim faith. (The Muslim conquest of Spain began in 711 A.D. and ended in 1492 with the beginning of the Reconquista or Reconquest by Christians.) The Alhambra has many beautiful features, including courtyards with reflecting pools. A notable theme throughout the Alhambra is the use of geometrical lines and shapes in its construction.
Today we had a really great experience! We went to the Escuala de Hosteleria y Turismo- We started out our trip by going on a scavenger hunt in the city to learn about some of the important buildings. We were given brief explanation of the site and then had to act out what historical event had happened. For example the town plaza had a statue of Don Quixote and we had to be pretend to be him and fight a windmill. One of the best parts about this was that our tour guides were students from the school and were practing giving tours in English with us. It was a lot of fun especially getting to interact with college students from Madrid.
The day got even better when we had cooking lesson and were taught how to make paella by one of the best chefs. We all gathered into the kitchen and watched as he made the dish. The paella was cooked in a specially designed pan that was the size of about four large pizza pans. By the time each of us had are plates served,there was still over half a pan left. In addition to the paella we had croquettes, gazpacho, flan, and sangria. We were given a three course meal and served. Just like the tour guides, our servers were practicing both their English and serving. There couldn’t have been a better way to have paella.
After ten hours of traveling we have finally made it to Madrid! We got in around 11 o´clock in the morning and had the entire day to ourselves to explore the city. We broke up into separate groups and went on a couple of mini adventures. Some of us tried churros and hot chocolate while other tried tapas, both of which are some of the local specialties. In addition to trying the new food we walked through some of the different plazas and went shopping for souvenir. Some of us have even been trying to practice our Spanish. It was an exciting first day in this new city.
Our trip to Spain and Morocco has started this week in Madrid and included stops in Segovia, Escorial, and a trip to Alcala de Henares for a cooking demonstration and lunch at the cooking school. On Friday we began the really cold day with a tour of the town where Miguel de Cervantes (who wrote Don Quixote) lived. We did a game in which we were divided into 2 teams – orange and blue – and were asked to recreate various scenes from Spanish culture and history. Our guides were students from the university who were studying tourism. They showed us the various sites of the city, including the home of Cervantes and churches. The blue team ended up winning the game. Following the game and the tour, we were shown around the cooking school and watched chefs prepare our paella that we ate during our lunch at the school. The paella was delicious! It is truly an authentic Spanish dish, will saffron, fish, and other ingredients. We were served gazpacho, a cold Spanish soup, and flan.
Prior to our trip to Alcala de Henares today, yesterday we went to the Alcazar in Segovia. The Alcazar is a fairytale castle that is set atop the hill. Inside there are knights´ uniforms, paintings, and beautiful stained-glass windows. Outside the castle you can look down into the lush greenery and see the surrounding countryside. You can also see peacocks walking around. The Alcazar is probably Segovia´s most famous tourist attraction, as it resembles a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Wizard of Oz, and many other depictions of storybook castles.
The weather here has been very cold, and we have done a lot of walking through the streets of Madrid and the other places we have visited. But we are enjoying our stay here in Spain. On Saturday we will be off to Granada, where we will tour the Alhambra on Sunday.
It has been a few months since I returned home from the journey of a lifetime. Spain was a trip that I will never forget. I learned about a new culture, I experienced great food, I learned about myself, those I went on the trip with, and about the people of Spain. I saw so many sights, meet great people, and learned about a different way to live – a life more relaxed and carefree.
Even after these months I still remember the great times I had. I am constantly remembering the beautiful sights, and recalling fun time I had with classmates and professors.
Each city that we visited in Spain had something different to offer. In Madrid, I got my first taste of Spain. Since it was a more touristy town, I saw people from all over the world enjoying Spain. Spain had a lot of people on the streets who were constantly trying to sell you something or showing off their unique skills in order to get a few coins. I was not used to something like that but it was still an interesting sight to see. In Spain I got to see the amazing art museums: The Prado and Reina Sofia. I ate at the Museum of Jamon (Ham) , a chain like restaurant. I also got to explore the small side streets and shopping Madrid had to offer.
Next came to Sevilla, which is definitely my favorite city that we saw. Sevilla was the perfect example of what I though Spain to be. Cobblestone streets, gardens, kissing lane that kept out the heat of the day, and countless fountains that you were just happen upon while walking. The people of Sevilla were also much more relaxed. They found refuge from the heat by sitting for hours at a little cafe and drinking sangria and wine. They sat and watched the people walking by. It was hard to not fall in love with people and city of Sevilla because it just felt like a great place to pass your time. While in Sevilla I visited the Bull Fight Museum at Plaza de Toros and even caught a fight. I visited the Alcazar with its abundance of gardens and its old city wall. We also saw the Macarena, the “Virgin of Hope”.
Next was a day trip to Cordoba and I got to see one of the sights I was most excited for, the Mezquita-Cathedral of Cordoba. A mosque and cathedral combined, this sight is most famous for its red and white stripped arches, which I was surprised to find that many of them were painted. The Cathedral of Cordoba was even more beautiful and majestic than I expected.
Out next stop was Granada, where we saw the Alhambra, a Flamenco show, and visited the Cathedral and Capilla Real. We did not spend much time in Granada and I wish we had. It was a beautiful city and there was so much sights to see. If I ever got the chance to visit Spain again, Granada would be on the top of my list.
Our last stop was in Barcelona. I got my first experience of riding on a metro, we had to take one everywhere we went! From the most famous street in Spain, La Rambla, you could get a bite of ice cream, shop at the Market that had countless stalls from Candy to fish, sit down for a meal, or just stroll the street. Off this street we visited Casa Batlo, an apartment turned museum built by Gaudi, a Spanish architecture who based his designs on things seen in nature. We also visited to Joan Miro Foundation, a art museum with Moro’s work.Barcelona was also the place that we saw the famous Sagrada Famailia, the site that I was MOST excited to see. Words cannot describe this beautiful cathedral that was begun in 1882 by Gaudi, and is still being built today, with a completed date projected to be in 2026! The inside is built like a forest of trees, with columns that stretch up and almost turn into the branches of the trees, ending in what looks like leaves, creating the tree tops. This church is majestic, breathtaking, ingenious, innovative, and a sight to see.
I really have been blessed to have this opportunity to see the world. I got to see a beautiful country that prides itself on its lush and long history. I had the chance to experience all that this world has to offer.
I hope you have liked my posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them. May you always see the beauty in everything, even the smallest things.
Today was our last day of classes here in Nerja. It was bittersweet. While it is always hard to leave new friends and people you have grown close to it is also nice to close one chapter in your life and start another. We had class as usual and afterwards we went into the courtyard of the school to have the ¨graduation ceremony.¨ Two teachers read out the names of the students that are leaving then the walk up and get a certificate from them. It isn´t formal or even mandatory but it was still a nice feeling when I went to get my certificate and my friends cheered and all of my teachers clapped. Afterwards everyone hangs around to take pictures, swap facebook information, and say goodbye. After the farewells were said we went home for our last lunch with our host families. I stopped in a flower shop and got my host mom a boquet of flowers then went into a bakery and got a Spanish apple cake for her and her family as a way to say thank you. Anna and I had already gotten some thank you cards (and had our teachers proof read what we wanted to say in them). I gave my host mom the gifts and thanked her for everything she did for me: the food, the bed, doing my laundry, taking me to the hospital, teaching me a few flamenco steps, etc. I told her I learned as much from her as I did at the school. The schools teach vocabulary and grammar but the host families are the ones that teach you about the culture, slang, and general way of life in Spain. She seemed genuinely grateful that I had taken the time to say thank you and she told me how womderful I am, that she will miss me, that I am fantastic, and that she loved me. Then she proceeded to hug me for five minutes and told everyone near her that I was a great person and I bought them all cake, which make the others hug me too (they either like me or really like cake, it is hard to tell). Anna and I are packed and ready for the morning. She is being picked up at 4 am by her cab to make her 6:30 am flight and I will be taking a bus into Malaga and going to a hotel to wait for my mom and aunt to join me for a small vacation. There are so many more things to write about but there is just not enough time in the day, I could go on and on about how easy it is to make friends from all over the world here, how waiters speak to us in English even if we try to speak Spanish to them, about horseback riding in the mountains and on the beach, about the rocky beaches with freezing water, and street performers who do everything from play the acordian to blow enormous bubbles for kids. This has been a wonderful experiance and I wouldn´t trade a single minute of it for anything in the world and I am grateful I had to opportunity to share my journey.
Our day trip to Granada was different then any of the other day trips we have been on. This one wasn’t faculty led, in fact no faculty went with us at all. The tour company had us all meet at the bus stop at 7 AM to begin the drive to Granada. We stopped in two other towns along the way to pick up more passengers which led to a very full bus. After a short drive (where everyone napped) we arrived in Granada at the enternace of the Alhambra. Our tour guide split us into two groups, German speeking and English speaking, and we met with our tour guides for la Alhombra. We were given small audio boxes that we wore around our necks the idea was that we plugged in headphones and we could hear our guide as if he was next to each of us. The idea was good the follow through was sketchy. If there was a cell phone, door way, distance of more than 7 feet, or other audio boxes near us the feed was interrupted. We abandoned the audio boxes early on and just make sure we were close enough to our guide to hear what he had to say. He would speak in English first then in Spanish so all of us knew exactly what we were seeing and why. The Alhombra is enormous. I didn’t realize just how much walking we were going to do, it may not have been the best idea for someone with a sprained ankle to do but I was determined not to miss out on anything. We started in the gardens then made our way over to a terrace that overlooked part of the city. As always Anna and I enjoyed the view and the history lesson that we got. Further into the tour we learned that for a while the Alhombra was really run down and no one cared about it. It was home to hobos, drug addicts, and gypsies until Washington Irving, an American author, wrote about it. On a trip to Spain he visited and stayed in the Alhombra where a man, also living there, told him stories about the run down fortress and how amazing it used to be. After Irving completed his book tourists began to flock there and the Spanish government took notice in it and restored it (a process that is still going on) and opened it to the public. So the third most popular tourist attraction in Europe was made popular by an American (according to our tour guide). The best part of the tour were the gardens and terraces we got to see. They always ofered a wonderful view and gave us a look at the city we were about to visit.
After our visit to the Alhombra we got to go into the city itself and have lunch, shop, and explore the area. First our tour guide took us down extremely narrow passages that opened up into a small square where there is a Moroccan market. They had everything there. Clothing, food, postcards, lamps, Spanish Goods, African goods (we are very close to Africa on a clear day from the surrounding mountains you can see it), random American products, and more gypsies. Anna and I left the market and went in search of lunch. our tour guide reccomended a place so we decided to try it. We had just gotten our food when I looked over and noticed an enormous pig’s leg sitting on the counter directly across from me. It is really hard to eat when you are staring at the hoof of a pig and the waiter keeps slicing pieces off of it. I was not prepared to see this and I haven’t been able to eat a pork product since but I have always been a little squeamish when it comes to meat that still looks like the animal (I can’t roast whole chickens without apologizing to the dead bird the whole time). After I saw the leg I began to notice them every where. All of the good meat shops in Nerja have them hanging in the window, if a place boasts about its jambon then you are sure to see a leg in the window, some places even offer to slice it infront of you. After leaving lunch no less full but a lot less hungry Anna and I wandered the shopping district where I got a few things before we found a Burger King and went in to get the first “normal sized” pops we had found the entire time over here. Happy and hydrated we returned to the bus for the drive back home. The scenery we passed on the way back to Nerja was beautiful and since everyone was more awake our tour guide gave us some facts about the areas we were passing until she gave us permission to nap until we had returned to Nerja.
Aside from the Balcon De Europa Nerja´s claim to fame is its caves. They are some of the oldest in Spain and archeologists have found evidence of early humans using the cave as a sacred cite. They are home to some of the first cave paintings in Spain and the largest stalactite in the world. Anna and I knew that we had to go. We decided to try and use the public bus system by ourselves (neither of us use buses on a regular basis..or ever). After buying our tickets from a grumpy man in a booth we boarded a bus and after 10 minutes we were at the caves. They are beautiful but the public only has access to about 26% of the caves. You aren´t allowed to use a flash, wear flip flops (we still haven´t figured out why), talk loudly, or touch anything. It took us about an hour to go through the caves, take photos (without a flash), and read all of the plaques. I wish we were allowed to explore the rest of the caves and see the wall paintings and all of the archeological sites but I understand why they would want to protect those areas too. Later in the summer the hold events in the caves itself. They have had plays, concerts, dance recitals, and more there. Nothing was going on during our visit though. It was still worth going and is very impressive.