Monday, April 1, 2013

España, Part I

The half way mark of my program is here, and with it SPRING BREAK! I can't believe it's half way over already. Seriously... where did all of the time go?

I knew before coming to Italy that I wanted to spend my spring break in Spain, I had heard nothing but amazing things from anyone and everyone who had traveled & studied abroad there that I wanted time to be able to have time to explore and enjoy all Spain had to offer. 

Remember how I said I was in love with Paris? Well... i'm in love with Spain as well. 

Here's the break down of the trip... 
9 Days
4 Days in Sevilla, a town in the very south of Spain (which I will cover in this post) & 5 Days in Barcelona (covered in a post soon to come). I saw so much, and loved it all that I decided to split it up into two posts instead of one ridiculously long post. Although now I realize that this is still going to be an incredibly long post, but Spain is just so amazing and I didn't want to leave anything out.


When we first landed it was raining, which wasn't exactly what we were expecting... South of Spain is always sunny right? ...Wrong. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, which apparently is Sevilla. It rained or was overcast almost the entire time that we were in the south, but it still doesn't stop me from having a fabulous time!  

We took the bus into town and made our way to the hostel where we kept bumping into these Americans that we had sat behind on the plane, we thought it a little odd and continued to our hostel where we found out that we were going to be sharing a room with them. They were also students studying abroad in Milan but at a different University, we thought it was pretty funny that we all ended up at the same place and they ended up being a really fun group to hang around with. I was glad that I could make some new friends and tag along on a few of their adventures. 

After checking in we made our way to a cafe that served churros y chocolate, (Churros and hot chocolate). This wasn't the last Churro y chocolate that I had either. 

The exhaustion finally set in from our early morning escapades to the airport and we decided to take a siesta... that turned into about a 4 hour nap. We woke up for the free sangria/social hour that the hostel provided and got to know the group from Milan as well as some others that were staying at our hostel. After, we set out for dinner at a place around the corner that was recommended and found that it was packed. We weren't sure if it would be worth it to wait, but after two Brits told us that it had the best tapas in town I went up and put my name on the list. The man asked me for my name and when I said Rachel, he gave me a confused look, I repeated it and he then proceeded to write down Lethol on the waiting list. Okkayy, close but not quite. Go figure, very few people in Europe get my name right anyways. The wait was worth it. Tapas for days... but please keep them coming. The food in Sevilla was very cheap, and delicious! On average about 3 euros a plate. 

Plaza Encarnacion, we referred to it as the mushroom or waffle.
Plaza Encarnacion at night

The next day I woke up had breakfast and took advantage the hostels free walking tour. Learning about the history of Sevilla and Christopher Columbus was really interesting especially being able to see it from a completely different perspective than we see it in the Americas. Oh, and we heard the tale of Columbus giving syphilis to Queen Isabella about 3 separate times... great story. The tour finished and the guide was also promoting a Flamenco show which I decided was something that I couldn't go without seeing. I stopped back at the hostel to eat something and check out a few details for our day to Granda and then headed out with the group from Milan to go visit the Cathedral, it had closed early due to Semana Santa (holy week) so we proceeded to visit the Alcazar. Beautiful gardens and we even had the weather clear up. That night we saw the flamenco show which was not as authentic as it had been advertised to be, it was mainly just kids from all of the hostels. Nevertheless I really enjoyed the show. The dancers were SO intense and very serious, it was very entertaining!
The Cathedral, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world
Because Sevilla is near to N. Africa, much of the architecture
was influenced by the Moorish in these very old buildings.
A lamp, with creepy, cherub children staring down.
All the groupies from Milan! Plus a guy from Canada, Todd. 


Another early morning and we were off on a 3 hour bus ride to Granada to see the Alhambra. The one thing we learned this trip is not to trust the weather forecast, from any source. No matter where we checked, what we googled the weather never did what it was expected to do. Initially it was raining when we arrived so we stopped for a quick breakfast at the bus station and then made our way into the center of town and up to the Alhambra. On the way we were able to observe part of a procession. From my understanding a procession is where they parade symbolic religious relics through the streets followed by people dressed in robes they call Nazareno's (They look similar to KKK outfits). The walk up to the Alhambra was rainy but beautiful. We were easily able to get our tickets and still had time to wander to an overlook where it cleared up beautifully for about 20 minutes. Just enough time to snap some pictures. We then cashed in our tickets for the Alhambra. It is set up on a hill that overlooks the city, so not only does it have stunning views but the Moorish architecture is amazing, and intricate. It makes me wish that I knew more about architecture to really appreciate it. It was well worth the day trip to Granada, as well as the rain, just to see the Alhambra!

Sidenote: My camera died half way through the Alhambra, so once I get a chance to steal some of the pictures from Caroline i'll add them to the post! :)
This wall is completely covered with hand carved
designs as well as inscriptions. Amazing!
The ceiling decorated in this hand carved "stalactite" stucco.
Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones)
Noticing all of the selfies? Unfortunately, Caroline reserved
tickets too late and wasn't able to get entrance into the Nasrid
Palace, which in my opinion was the most beautiful part. 

Our last day in Sevilla we spent leisurely walking around viewing the rest of the city that we hadn't already seen or that we wanted to see more of. Including the famous Plaza de España, as well as the tobacco factory (now a university), and the bullring.  
Plaza de Espana

Moat built around the tobacco factory to
keep people from stealing the highly
valued tobacco
Outside of the bullring!
Entertaining little street performer with a extremely
high voice, who would grab people from under
 the table when they put money into his cup.

Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede
Our final sight was the Cathedral, the largest gothic Cathedral in the world! It houses Christopher Columbus's said to be tomb, as well as lots of treasure! Extremely busy due to holy week and unfortunately the gold altar was under construction but definitely worth the few euros to get in!

Christopher Columbus's Tomb held up by 4 men because the
king would not allow him to be buried in Spanish soil after
he insulted him by kissing Queen Isabella's hand first.
Giralda bell tower

Caroline was meeting some people from the hostel for the tour of the Alcazar which I had done the previous day during the walking tour so we went out separate ways and planned to meet up later. I was able to have some me time and enjoy leisurely going through the garden of the cathedral as well as do a little bit of shopping on my way back to the place where we were meeting. On the way there I got caught up in a procession and was able to snap a couple of photos and watch everyone preparing, it was very cool to be able to experience parts of Semana Santa, however it also proved very annoying when you were trying to navigate through the streets as most of them were blocked off or crowded with people.

All of the chair set up for the Processions
Crowded streets during Semana Santa

I barely made it back in time to meet Caroline, and we spent the rest of the evening snacking on a churro and doing some more shopping. We finished up our last night in Sevilla packing and of course ending it with late night tapas! Sevilla was such a great little town to visit, it was so laid back it was the perfect spring break getaway! All of the Spanish architecture and the culture reminded me so much of Costa Rica, and made me miss the fam and our awesome Christmas vaca. It really is amazing how much influence the Spanish empire had over the rest of the world! 

We flew out the next morning to our next destination, BARCELONA! I could hardly wait! 

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