Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Córdoba y Sevilla

This past weekend I went to Córdoba y Sevilla in Andalucía with my AYA program. Saturday morning we took the AVE from Madrid to Córdoba, where we saw the Mezquita, a great Mosque dating back to the 12th centuries. However, during the 16th century, during the Reconquista, a cathedral was built in the heart of the reconsecrated mosque, part of which was destroyed. Now the Mezquita is a beautiful "mezcla" of Muslim and Christian architecture. After a few hours in Córdoba, we caught the Andalucía Express Train to Sevilla.

When we arrived in Sevilla, we checked into our hostel, Hostal Picasso, which was beautiful inside! Then Patricia gave us a brief tour because Sevilla was where she spent a year studying abroad! We saw the Alfonso XIII Hotel, the University, Plaza de España, the Torre de Oro, the Plaza de Toros, and even the street that she walked down everyday and where she lived. Sevilla is gorgeous! We did some souvenier shopping, then went tapa-hopping for dinner.

On Sunday we began with the Real Alcázar, the royal palace in Sevilla. It was absolutely beautiful, modeled after the Ahlambra in Granada, and full of beautiful Arabic architecture and charm. The gardens were my favorite part, though! Full of terraces, fountains, and pavillions...I could have spent all day in the gardens! But it was kind of rainy and cold, so afterwards we went to a little cafe for some Cola-Cao (hot cocoa)! By time we were finished with our drinks it was done raining so we headed to the Tourist office to get some maps, then we went to the Turno to get some cookies from the Convent! We ate lunch at a really neat Italian restaurant, then went to the Sevilla Cathedral and La Giralda. Sevilla's Cathedral stands on the site of a great mosque built in the late 12th century. La Giralda, its bell tower, and the patio de los Naranjos (Oranges) are the only legacy left of the Moorish structure. However, the Cathedral is the third largest in Europe, behind St. Peter's in Rome and another in Milan. We saw the supposed tomb of Christopher Columbus and climbed La Giralda. Something interesting is that the tower has ramps instead of steps because the horses used to have to climb it! But the view from the top was impressive! After the catedral, we had a few hours to finish up our souvenier shopping and then we had to catch our train back to Madrid. On the train, they showed the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona, which I really liked! It was so neat to see all of the sights I visited when I was in Barcelona! :) It was a great end to a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Real Madrid Game!

Last night we went to the Real Madrid fútbol game against Getafe at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, it was probably one of the best games I have ever been to! I'm generally not a big fan of fútbol (soccer), but it's such a big part of the culture here, so we wanted to experience a game en directo (live)! The stadium was full and our seats were in the "vomiteros" section...I think that is equivalent to the English "nosebleeds" section, because we were literally one row away from being in the highest up! But it was a great experience for only 20 euros! It was a great way to practice my coloquial Spanish, learn more about the culture and the game of fútbol, and even learn a little of the fight song! An interesting thing is that during "half-time" everyone eats their bocadillo that they brought for dinner. So you see everyone with their baguette sandwich in tinfoil, eating dinner. And everyone wears scarves of their team, so of course we had to get some Real Madrid "bufandas" to show our support for the team! It was an exciting game too; lots of scoring! The score was tied, but Madrid came back to score the winning goal in the last minutes of the game and ended up beating Getafe 3-2. The stadium is also very close to my house, which is so nice! I walked there in about 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Today Patricia invited us over to her house for lunch and some cookie baking! It was so much fun! We made two different types of cookies: the normal chocolate chip cookies and then reverse, chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips...so delicious! In Spain, they don't have chocolate chips, so we had to cut bars of chocolate! I had never done that before, so it was interesting. We made tons of cookies, but I think we ate even more! For lunch we had spaghetti or pasta with pesto, bread, and salad...then we had a few bites of cookie dough here and there...and then of course we had to sample at least one of both types of cookies! What a rough life! :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

El Escorial

Today I took a bus to go visit El Escorial, Felipe II's palace, in the foothills fo the Sierra de Guadarrama to the northwest of Madrid. It was built between 1563 and 1584 as a final resting place for Felipe II's father, Carlos I of Spain. I took a tour through the gigantic building and got to see the architecture museum, the gallery of paintings, the royal apartments, the royal panthenon, the chapter rooms, the library and the gardens, but the basilica was being renovated, so I wasn't able to see it. But the palace was beautiful! I got to see Felipe's bedroom where he died in September 1598 and the views he enjoyed out his windows. It was a great little daytrip!

I couldn't take pictures inside, but here are some photos of the outside:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Semana Santa en Málaga (y Florencia...)

This past week was Semana Santa, so I headed to the beach for a few days with some friends! We stayed at a resort about an hour and a half outside of Málaga, on the Coasta del Sol, it was absolutely beautiful and a great way to relax! I took a bus (7 hours) down to Málaga on Sunday, April 5, and stayed until Thursday. On Monday, Hannah and I went into Málaga to see some of the processions. Each day, there were between six and eight different processions. We went to the Crucifixion procession. It was so incredible to see the processions so close! We've been hearing about these famous processions for so long, it was a great experience to actually see them up close! There were tons of people who came to watch these processions of people in tall, pointed hats and hundreds of men carrying a large "paso" (float). It was a great way to spend the day! Then Tuesday, we went to the beach--one of the best beaches on the Coasta del Sol! Our resort has a little mini-bus and so they came and picked us up and drove us to the beach. All of the resort staff were so nice to us because we could actually speak Spanish! Málaga is very touristy and almost everything was in English, so I'm sure they appreciated us speaking in Spanish. The wind was terrible that day, so we were covering up with our towels instead of laying on them! But we found a little spot a little more sheltered and were able to finally soak in some sunshine. Wednesday we visited Mijas, a little pueblo near our resort. Mijas is a very typical Andalucian town, with white buildings, small streets, and donkeys for taxis! It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our little excursion! Thursday I left Málaga for Madrid...and 7 hours later I arrived!
I spent Thursday night and Friday morning in Madrid, then I was off to Rome! I met up with some friends, then Sunday and Monday I was in Florence! Florence was beautiful! I saw the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, The Galleria dell'Accademia (where we saw Michelangelo's David), Piazza de Michelangelo, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Vecchio...

But now, it's back to classes! It's hard to get back to studying after such a wonderful break and when all of my friends who studied abroad this semester are now home! I am the last! But I am going to enjoy every last minute of my time abroad! :)