Marruecos

Marruecos (the Spanish name for Morocco) was my most recent trip. I went for a weekend with a few friends in a big tourist group called Discover Sevilla. The trip was fantastic!! It was like an entirely different world over there. We stayed in Tangiers and visited Tetuan and Chefchauen. All three cities were very different. Chefchauen was in the mountains, built on a hill. All of the buildings were painted white and blue, symbolizing love for Allah. Tetuan seemed a little bigger. It was filled with tunnels under residential buildings, which were like tiny streets.

The food in Morocco was delicious. Couscous is a way of life there, I guess like pasta is for Italy. I actually didn’t like couscous until this trip so it was clearly the best.

Overall the trip was beautiful, despite the unfortunate amount of rain, and an experience to remember!

  

Semana Santa

We’ve been off from school for Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a huge celebration in Spain. The streets are filled with processions. Unfortunately, a lot of the week was cold and rainy, which cancelled some of the processions. Nonetheless, the streets remained so packed at night that we could hardly walk anywhere near the Cathedral. It actually turned into quite the struggle because our favorite tapas restaurant was right in the middle of the madness. But we caught some great views of midnight processions!

This leads me to talk about one of the most important parts of our lives in Sevilla: the mighty Taberna Coloniales. We LOVE this place. Maybe I haven’t discussed the culture of Tapas yet, so here you go. In Sevilla (Spain’s most tapa-ified city) tapas are everywhere. Tapas are just small portions of any dish. It’s great because you can try multiple dishes and share with friends. We college students also love it because they’re usually 2.50 euros (yeah!). If you don’t get a tapa, you order a ration or half-ration. But rations are huge and are also meant to be shared. It all feeds into the social culture that southern Spain is known for. The weather is warm, everyone is outside, eats outside, drinks outside. All restaurants/bars have outdoor seating. It’s the Tapa way of life.

During our time off for Holy Week, we went to a Sevilla soccer game! That was awesome. The stadium is actually right near us so we had no problem making the trek on a rainy day. Sevilla played Mallorca, and of course Sevilla won. There was so much energy and singing/chanting. I’m glad I took part in a real Spanish soccer game. Who knows, I might take interest in watching soccer now!

 

In addition to the week off for Holy Week, my two classes were canceled the day before break because of Spain’s general strike. Although I didn’t see all the strike action, the aftermath left Sevilla’s streets quiet and deserted. There was a lot of student involvement from what I could see. In days prior, there were students with loud phones protesting through the University. I’m still not quite sure about the details of the labor strike. I guess there are political issues here just as there are anywhere in the world. It’s cool to say I experienced a bit of it.

Barca, Te Quiero

This weekend we went to Barcelona and I fell in love. This city was absolutely fantastic. It is so much bigger than Seville. It’s so bustling with a huge, diverse population of people that I couldn’t help but be reminded of home. Barcelona is completely different from New York City but it has some similar vibes. There were people of every and any nationality, style, age, appearance, attitude.

Barcelona is also full of modern art. We went to see La Sagrada Familia, the most modern cathedral in the world, but only saw the outside. That was really a sight. Plus, to know that we captured a moment of it still in process of being built is pretty awesome.  

The famous architect, Antoni Gaudí, not only designed La Sagrada Familia, but is the artist behind a lot of other Barcelona landmarks. His Park Güell was also beautiful. It was filled with famous mosaic pieces, plus two really cute buildings that looked like gingerbread houses. We went into the Gaudí House, which was full of more Gaudí designs. We also got an outstanding view of the city. It was nice spending half of a day seeing a more relaxing tourist spot.

Aside from Gaudí’s works, there were some really beautiful and interesting parts of the city center. We walked down La Rambla, a famous street packed with people. Just off of La Rambla was a beautiful market called La Boquería. It’s supposed to be one of the best in all of Europe. We tried some exotic fruits- yum! The whole place was filled with color from the fruits, veggies, sweets, cheeses, chocolates and meats. It sounds ordinary but it was actually the best part of our day!!!

 

The whole trip actually made me realize just how much I love and miss New York City. Then again, it goes to show just how different and unique Seville is from anything I’ve ever experienced. Seville really captures the heart of Spanish culture and tradition. Then again, I know my heart will forever belong to NYC. Words from a city girl, through and through.

Matalascañas, Flamenco y Tio Pepe

The last week has been JAM PACKED. Last Sunday we went horse back riding through Doñana National Park and then on the beach. The scenery through Doñana was breath taking. I had a blast, especially because I’ve never ridden a horse before. Although my horse was NOT having it, he was exhausted. I felt so bad because there was obviously nothing I could do but force it to move.

   The town was called Matalascañas. Surprisingly, the beach was actually pretty crowded. It’s weird because we Americans often get responses about how we’re dressed for summer during their winter. But there were hundreds of Spanish people sun bathing on the beach there! I’m confused. Cultural differences that maybe we’ll never fully understand. Nonetheless, the weather was beautiful. The past week has been 80 degrees more or less. We’re starting to see less winter coats around, which is a good sign for those of us who want to wear spring attire.

On Friday night we FINALLY took ourselves to see a Flamenco show. It was amazing! Everything about it was fascinating; the dancing, the singing, the guitar. I never really knew what flamenco was before this. I see now that it is actually a collaboration of art forms, not just the music or the dance. The dance is apart of the music because of her intricate, rhythmic footwork. The singer even participates in the dancing when so inclined. The guitarist has to pay such careful attention to communication between all three of them. It was really beautiful experiencing a great group of artists, even though I didn’t have much to compare it to.

To top off the week, we took a day trip on Saturday. We took a bus down to Jerez de la Frontera, a town famous for its sherry wine. It’s much smaller than Seville. Cute and quiet. We went on a very fancy tour of the Gonzalez Byass vineyard (with the logo Tio Pepe). We ended up talking to a really nice couple from Sevilla for about a half hour. They actually invited us to visit their tent during Feria in Sevilla!

All in all a great week!

 

Esohippy!

“Esohippy!” We learned that phrase for saying “hey!” to a friend. The real Sevillano lingo!

I can’t believe we’ve already been here for a month and a half. Midterms are coming up this week, so we’re all starting to feel a little stressed. On the other hand, the weather is only getting more beautiful by the day. We’ve had one day of “rain” which consisted of a light drizzle and cloudy skies. It was really awful, unbearable to say the least.

Tomorrow I’ll be going horseback riding through the nearby national park Doñana, and then riding along the beach on the Atlantic cost. I’m really excited to explore beyond the city. Being with a little nature could be a nice getaway just for a day. Plus I’ve never been horseback riding! It should be a lot of fun.

We’ve been without internet in our building for a few days so I haven’t been able to post. But last week on Friday we had a tour of Plaza España and a bit of Maria Luisa Park. Plaza España is a large circular building with mosaics representing every Spanish city. Maria Luisa Park is absolutely gorgeous. It’s full of little gardens and has lots of large, beautiful trees. I want to go back on a nicer day and explore the park for myself.

Here are some photos of our tour!

(And if you recognize Plaza España, it’s probably because it’s in a few movies, including Star Wars! Cool right?)

    

Fotos de Sevilla- Up to 2/24/2012

  At the river Quadalquivir.

The University! There is an art exhibit going on called “Nature as Structure and Decoration.” The courtyards are filled with these interesting pieces.

More art at la Universidad.

Courtyard of the University.

Famous bull fighting ring.

70-degree weather in February. The first of many HOT days!

Catedral de Sevilla and Life 3 Weeks In

Things have been fantastic here in Sevilla. It really feels like we live here now. One way I can tell is I’ve actually become used to hanging up my clothes to dry, because here in Andalucia, Spain, they don’t believe in driers apparently. Just one of those simple things that makes the experience extra authentic.

Every Friday we have a class that counts towards our 3-credit orientation. The class consists of elaborate tours of historic spots around the city. The professor, Rosio, is a history genius! She knows everything about everything it seems. This past Friday, the seventeenth of February, Rosio took us to the Cathedral of Seville. It is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. Part of its architecture is of Arabic origin, which is very unique. There was also some Italian influence in a few rooms. We walked up its tall tower to get a beautiful view of the city. Although it was a lot to take in, the entire tour was breathtaking.

The weekend following was Carnaval. Cadiz, a city one hour away from Sevilla, holds the world’s third largest Carnaval celebration. We all went through one of the organizations for international student excursions. The trip was really easy and inexpensive. The streets in Cadiz, unlike in Sevilla, were packed with people in costume. It seemed like everyone in Cadiz was outside to celebrate. A group of us dressed up as fairies. It was a really cool experience being apart of Spanish culture like that.

Sevilla, Finalmente

Since my last post, we traveled to Marbella, a beach town near Malaga. The resort we stayed at was absolutely beautiful with a straight view of Africa across the ocean. The two days in Marbella we got to spend relaxing and winding down before the big trip to Seville. One day we went into the busy city of Marbella to shop around. We walked right on the sand and then got tapas at the beach. It wasn’t warm enough to swim outside but the sun was still great.

Moving to our homes in Sevilla was very exciting. We dropped off our things and went out to shop for all the things we needed. Luckily our apartment building is right in the city center. There is a big shopping mall across the street and next to that is a huge store (similar to Macy’s) called Corte Inglés. Everything is really accessible, including the Universidad. It’s about a 20 minute walk to school but it’s a nice walk and way to get in a little activity each day.

My classes are really interesting so far. I’m taking two literature classes (Obras Maestras de la Literatura Española and Cervantes y el Quixote). The Obras Maestras [Master Works] class is really interesting. It covers very similar topics as many other classes but the teacher is so enthusiastic that it forces you to pay close attention, even though the class is 7-9pm at night. At the moment we’re focusing on Don Juan Tenorio– intriguing so far!

I’m also taking La Imagen de España a través del Cine which is all about Spanish cinema. That professor is also really engaging. He obviously has a passion for cinema and I think we, as students, can identify with that. My other class is a Phonetics and Conversation class but I haven’t gotten a real grasp on what the class is like because I just added it and my professor may change next week. So far it’s been really great because I love linguistics and phonetics.

In addition to having cool professors, we’ve also had fantastic program leaders- Miguel, Luis, and Rosio. We always talk about how much they do to make sure we’re comfortable and safe.

The weather is also really beautiful here. There’s almost too much beauty here in the architecture and in everything for me to say in words. So I’ll post some photos and leave off with that!

Arrived in Granada!

Today is Day 2 in España and I am loving it. We arrived yesterday just after noon at this lovely hotel in Granada, Spain. That was only after a very long trip via two airplanes. At JFK I found the rest of the group waiting at the gate for our plane to Madrid. We all introduced ourselves and everyone is super nice. We all had separate seats on the plane and reunited in Madrid where we waited another five hours before the next flight. Our second flight was on a much smaller plane. We boarded the small plan from stairs outside like celebrities and presidents do! Exciting right? I thought so. I used to have a fear of flying and the small plane was a little more rough so I was glad when our feet reached the solid ground in Granada. Luis and Miguel, our program directors, met us right when we arrived in the airport of Granada.

By the time we got to the hotel I was hardly awake. After a nice lunch we went to our rooms and snoooooooooozed. Then, after a total of only two hours of sleep throughout the trip, I couldn’t resist sleeping. They say you’re not supposed to nap in order to quickly adjust to the time difference but after a shower and then feeling my eyelids gain weight, yeah, I gave in. I forced myself to wake up at 6:30pm and take a walk to get cash and some fresh air. My roommate, Rachel, came with me and we explored a couple of blocks near the hotel. Walking outside of the hotel made us say “Hmmm, okay NOW we’re in Spain!”

After dinner with the group, everyone else wanted to take a walk also so we went on another outing and then returned for some real sleep. At 9:30am we boarded the bus for a tour of La Alhambra, the famous castle in the mountains of Granada. The castle was filled with beautiful Islamic artistry. My favorite spots were the most serene and peaceful. You could really imagine how easy it must have been to pray in peace. Los torres had fantastic views of Granada and its surrounding mountains. We saw the tallest mountain in all of Spain, covered in snow just like many of the others. My toes were frozen by the end of the tour, but it was worth seeing those beautiful sights.

The bus then took us to a mountainous part of Granada that had a gorgeous view of La Alhambra. This was probably my favorite part of the day because of the area itself. We were in a residential area filled with houses on a steep hillside. We saw and heard men playing flamenco on their guitars. The sun shone just right. The walk through the beautiful Arabic architecture was precious; really something unique that I can still smell and taste in my memory. I almost felt at home seeing people in their natural state. There were numerous people with dreadlocks which I thought was fantastic! It was like being back in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or back in my childhood. I didn’t think I’d see that here. There were a lot of places to see Flamenco. (We didn’t see any Flamenco dancing but I can’t wait to see some in Sevilla!) There were also cute little shops on the way back into the main part of Granada. After a lunch and siesta, we took a tour of la catedral de Granada, then got some chocolate con churros.

There are two things you should know about today- one is that it was cold. Be prepared because I wasn’t. Granada is surrounded by snowy mountains unlike a lot of other Spanish cities. The second- chocolate con churros is a legitimate reason to visit Spain. When you ask for hot chocolate here, it’s nothing like American hot chocolate. It’s almost like hot chocolate pudding, plus you get churros to dip in it. Enough said.

Now that it is 1am I must sleep to be up and ready for Malaga tomorrow! I’ll share a quote before I go from the “Powerful Thoughts” book by Louise L. Hay. “I feel good about everyone I meet. All my relationships are healthy and nourishing.”

Buenas noches!

One Week to Go!

It’s snowing in New York City today and somehow I’m going to have to adjust to 64 degree weather in one week! I don’t think that adjustment will be an issue though.

So I’ve begun the packing process. I just bought a gigantic suitcase that could probably pack a person. There are still a few things to be done like laundry, which is the only part of packing that I can’t stand. This week is going to be filled with preparation so hopefully I won’t be too stressed out by Saturday.

All of the New Paltz students are heading back to New Paltz this weekend and it is so sad to say goodbye! I didn’t think I would be sentimental at all but it is a bittersweet farewell for now. At least I won’t be waking up for class on Monday! However, I will be waking up early. The time difference in Spain is 6 hours ahead of New York. So waking up here at 9am is like waking up for Spain’s 3pm. So for almost the entire winter break I’ve been trying not to sleep late. Yesterday I woke up at 6:30am accidentally and decided to stay awake. Hopefully by the time I arrive in Spain my body will be adjusted to waking up around 6am EST, or 12pm in Spanish time. I really don’t want to be jet-lagged when classes begin.

Also, I have a little book of inspirational quotes that I think I’ll share here on this blog. Each quote is a little daily affirmation for us all to remind ourselves of. There’s one for each day of the 2012 year. So, to leave you guys with a little food for thought: “I have many dreams, and I know that I deserve to have these dreams come true.” – Louise L. Hay