Sunday, March 4, 2012

Andalucia: Paradise

This weekend, my friend Lauren and I took a trip to southern Spain, a region known as Andalucia. Before I write any more, I should mention that all of these pictures were taken with my new camera! My old one broke, and I had to buy a new one. Good news: it was only 99 euros, and it came with a case, charger, 4 GB memory card, and tripod in case I get super into photography.

We went to the provinces of Sevilla and Granada, two places inspired by Arab architecture and religious history. Our flight left Thursday evening, and we arrived in Sevilla at 8:30, took the bus from the airport to our hostel, checked in, and then went to a famous tapas restaurant called Coloniales. It turns out that in Spain famous does not always mean expensive because we got the food and drinks at a very good price. Although the prices at famous restaurants in Spain are low, there are usually long waiting lists. Luckily, there was a bar where we could order drinks while we were waiting to be seated. I ordered a tinto de verano con niranja which is a combination of red wine and Fanta orange soda. 

While we were waiting to be seated, a group of girls that we had met at the hostel arrived. They were from the east coast and are spending the semester studying in London. They were in Spain for their spring break, and it turns out that they were on the same flight from Barcelona that we were on. We ended up all getting a table together, and I let them try my tinto de verano con niranja. They all loved it, and since they didn't know any Spanish they asked me to order for them. Lauren and I helped the girls read the menu, and then ordered their food for them. I ended up ordering patatas bravas and a piece of cheese cake. I think the waiter liked me because I was able to communicate in Spanish, and he gave me an extra big piece of cheese cake. It was absolutely delicious. 

After dinner, we were tired from traveling and decided to go to bed. The next day, we woke up at 8:30 to get free breakfast at the hotel, and then we decided to go on a free walking tour that the hostel was offering. We met up with one of the guides, and he took us to the Cathedral of Sevilla to meet up with the rest of the group. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but the tour ended up being a great idea. First of all, I got to meet people from all over and hear what brought them to Sevilla. Next, I got to see things that I would have had a lot of trouble finding on my own. Third, the guide knew a lot of historical information which I wouldn't have heard if I didn't decide to do the tour. 

We all met for the tour at this big fountain in front of the cathedral. The first girls that I talked to are currently teaching English in Mallorca, Spain. One of the girls is from Nebraska and has been to my uncle Tom's restaurant. One thing that talking to these girls taught me is that most people don't have a plan when they graduate college and that's perfectly acceptable. I always worry about what I'm going to do when I graduate, but this weekend taught me that rather than worrying about what the future holds, I should live in the moment and be excited for things to come. There is a world of possibilities out there, and you don't have to take the beaten path of going to college, going to grad school, finding the job you're going to have for the rest of your life, getting married, having kids, and living happily ever after. I thought of The Road Not Taken while I was having all of these thoughts this weekend. Robert Frost says: 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

To me, that means that happiness is not a result of doing things because everyone else is doing them. Rather, it is a result of finding what you love and being brave enough to follow that path, even if it's not the typical journey. I'm not sure what is in store for me after college, but I now know that I don't have to accept a way of life just because it is the norm. I can follow my passions and still be just as successful. I am twenty years old and still have the rest of my life ahead of me. I am excited to see what lies ahead.

Andalucia literally means paradise in Arabic. Our tour guide, Jerome, said that it is sunny in Sevilla 320 days a year. We happened to pick a chillier weekend with less sun, but to be honest I really liked the weather. It wasn't too cold, and there were only a few drops of rain and Jerome made it seem as though that is the worst weather they receive all year. He said that it usually gets up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, which completely explains why the siesta, or nap, is so important.  

This is Jerome standing next to a statue of a living woman. Apparently making statues of living people in Spain is very common. This woman is 80 years old and has been married five times. She is royalty and is one of the richest people in the world. In fact, when the queen of England sees her, she has to bow because the Spanish woman has more titles. 

This is a very expensive hotel in Sevilla. Madonna and many other celebrities have had their honey moons here. They are currently undergoing some construction and getting ready for Semana Santa, which means Holy Week and is the spring break of Europe. A group of my friends and I are spending the week in Italy. First, we are going to visit Rome, then Florence, and then Venice. I am excited to see the Vatican, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the canals in Venice. Also, my friend Marie is studying abroad in Florence, so I will be able to spend some time with her. 

This building is La Facultad de Philology de La Universidad de Sevilla, which means the Philology Department of the University of Sevilla. What exactly is Philology? Good question. I had no idea until I enrolled in La Facultad de Filologia de La Universitat de Barcelona (The Philology Department of the University of Barcelona). Philology is language studies. I am taking two classes in this department in Barcelona, and they are both literature. I enjoy my Realism and Naturalism class much more than my poetry class. In Realism and Naturalism, we are currently reading a novel called Pepita Jimenez. It is about a young man who is in training to be a priest and falls in love with a young widow named Pepita Jimenez. The novel has great descriptions of nature and human psychology. It is also fairly easy to understand because it is more modern than many other novels I have read in my Spanish literature classes.

These pictures were taken at La Plaza de Espana in Sevilla. The Plaza has been shown in several movies, including Star Wars Episode Two. It is also in a movie that hasn't come out yet called The Dictator. The Arab influence is astounding. I loved all of the tiles because of their bright colors and vibrance. I also appreciated the fountain and the many arcs in the plaza, which are both very typical in Andalucian architecture. 

At Plaza de Espana, there were several booths which showed the history of different provinces in Andalucia. At the time the plaza was built, it was difficult to get travel information. These booths were set up so that people could walk around the plaza and learn important information about each region. The small blue structure was actually used as a book shelf where people could pick up books about places, such as Granada.

Southern Spain is historically important because it was the last region conquered by the Christians. Granada was the last city to be conquered by the Catholic King and Queen, Fernando and Isabel, who sent Columbus to discover the New World. This statue is dedicated to Columbus, and it was the last thing that we saw on the morning tour. 

After the tour, Jerome, our tour guide, invited us all to lunch. We went to a restaurant, and I ordered Humus and Patatas Bravas (again). The food was delicious, and it was only seven euro for a drink and the two dishes.

Although I was completely full afterwards, I stopped at a famous ice cream place called Rayas because my friend, Michelle, who studied in Sevilla recommended it to me. I'm not even really sure what flavor I ordered because the name was completely unfamiliar, but it was absolutely delicious.

When Lauren and I got back to the hostel, a man asked me if I wanted to go on a tour. Although I had just been on one, I decided to go because I didn't know what else to do in Sevilla, and I liked the earlier one. When I got there, I was glad to see that Jerome was the tour guide again because he was able to tell us a lot of information about the city that morning. 

This tour was a lot more historical than the morning tour. I learned more about the roman empire which occupied the city for hundreds of years. I also learned more about the struggle between religions in Spain. The Spanish Inquisition lasted from 1492 until 1808, 316 years. I hadn't realized that before and it kind of shocked me because I didn't realize that it lasted so long.

This is the restaurant that we ate lunch at before the second tour.

After the tour, I decided to go see if the Alcazar was still open because Jerome said that it was very interesting to visit. Although it was not open when I go there, I decided to go the next morning before our day trip to Granada.

I made my way back to the hostel to meet Lauren and the girls we had met the night before at the hostel. They really wanted paella, and I was a little hungry so I decided to go out to eat with them. While we were out, we found "Duffin Dagels," which looks like a Spanish version of Dunkin' Doughnuts. 

After dinner, Lauren and I went back to the hostel and went to sleep. The next morning, we woke up early, ate breakfast, and then I went to Alcazar. It only cost two euros to get in, and I was definitely pleased with the price and the palace. I am absolutely amazed by Arab architecture and design. There was an archaeological exhibit at Alcazar with many ancient tiles, and they were beautiful to look at. I tried to buy a tile to take home from a local store in Granada later that day, but they were too expensive and I had to settle for postcards.

I walked back to the hostel after I went to Alcazar and met Lauren so that we could catch the bus to Granada. When we were looking for the bus station, we ended up in a mall with a movie theater. They were showing War Horse which is the last movie Jason and I saw before I left for Spain. It was a nice reminder of home, so I had Lauren take a picture of me standing next to the poster. I get a little home sick every now and then, but I also can't believe that I am so close to being done with this semester. I will leave Spain around three months from today, which means that I have already been here for two. This has been such a great experience, and sometimes I just want time to slow down so that I can take things in. I will see my parents in exactly 20 days from today, and it seems like I just left them. I am very excited to see them and show them around the city, but I also know that them visiting means that I am over half way done.

Granada was absolutely beautiful, and it was everything that I had ever imagined it would be. I have wanted to see the city ever since I saw a poster of the Alhambra in my high school Spanish teacher's classroom. The Alhambra is a palace which is surrounded by gardens and roman ruins. The towers surrounding the city offer the best views of the city. There are mountains in Granada, and we saw people getting off of the bus with their ski gear, which seemed a little strange because it was around 75 degrees.

This was a wonderful weekend, and going to southern Spain now allows me to say that I know this country very well. I have lived in Leon and Barcelona, and I have visited Salamanca, Gijon, Burgos, Toledo, Madrid, Tarragona, Vilanova, Valencia, Sevilla, and Granada. I was very proud of myself after this weekend not only for getting to know another part of the country, but also for arranging everything. I was able to find flights and a hostel. I was also able to explore the city and find my way around. I am becoming a lot more independent here which is something that I really like about myself. Also, I am realizing that I can be put in any situation and find a way to be successful. I am working on staying calm when things don't go the way that I had planned and realizing that almost all mistakes aren't as bad as they seem at first. Spain is teaching me a lot about life, and I continue to see myself grow as a person. I am so grateful to be here and can't wait to see what the next three months have in store.

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