Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Rain In Spain

     This week was our first week of exams :( We spent the majority of the week studying indoors. Luckily this was made much easier by the rain! Tuesday we did have a small break from studying and visited the Casa de Pilatos in Arts and Monuments class. Once again I was amazed that another expansive palace hides among the modern shops in the city. The palace has some of the most beautiful gardens I've seen yet. The gardens also  are a museum of Roman busts, Spanish emperors, and stunning sculptures gathered from Roman Italica. The palace is a perfect representation of the beginning of the beautiful Andalusian architecture.
Gardens at Casa de Pilatos

     Thursday night we celebrated the end of exams as well as Kyle's 21st birthday by getting tapas at a restaurant called Las Coloniales, which was delicious. I ordered a plate of their famous chicken in almond sauce as well as two croquettes filled with cheese and spinach and topped with a red sauce. By far the best tapas I've had yet. And of course the birthday celebrations would not have been complete without a visit to Las Rayas for gelato. Las Rayas is just around the corner from our school and has about 24 different flavors of rich gelato, it's a good thing I have two months left to try them all :)
     Friday morning we were up early and on the bus to Ronda! It was another breathtaking drive through the countryside and up a steep hillside. When we arrived in Ronda, however, the rain was relentless. We took cover in a Chocolate shop and all had cups of steaming hot chocolate caliente. I ordered a cup of white chocolate and it was literally so thick I finished it off with a spoon! After we warmed up slightly we started our tour in the rain. The city itself is located on a cliff. The old part of the city (only 800 rich inhabitants) is located on one cliff and the new part of the city is connected by  a beautiful bridge. The view from the bridge was absolutely amazing, especially with the river raging below. We trooped all around the city in the rain and even made it to the bull ring. Our tour guide explained to us a lot of the culture that is behind bull fighting, such as the respect for the bull. This ring in particular only has three days of fights a year and the tickets are extremely pricey. The bull ring is also one where the bull fighters do not fight on horseback, but rather on foot making it dangerous not only for the bull but for the fighter as well. Although I am still on the fence about whether or not I want to witness the slaughter of an animal our guide really opened my eyes to the significance the fighting has for the Spaniards, both historical and cultural. At the end of the tour I was completely soaked and freezing and made my way to a coffee shop for some sandwiches and cafe con leche. Although it was one of the coldest rainiest days yet, we still were able to have fun in the city of Ronda.
 Only a little delirious from the rain...
 The bridge connecting the old and new city
 The cliffs
      The rest of the weekend was spent recovering from the long week of exams. Today we visited the Archivo de Indios which houses all of the documents and archives related to the "Nuevo Mundo" or the modern day Americas. I am actually taking history of Latin America and we have been studying the conquest of the new world so it was a little unreal to be able to see this documents and artifacts in the flesh after learning about their significance in class. I don't think I will ever get used to the history in this city.
The archives!

This week we only have three days of class! I will be sure to share the adventures I have when I get back :)
Love from Sevilla!

Monday, February 18, 2013


     Another busy busy week :) Monday started off with a night at the Real Betis soccer game only about five rows away from the field, it was awesome. One of the best parts is the pride the Seviallnos have in their team and the nonstop cheering coming from the rows of fans! The game was a tie 0-0 (Betis is not known for their wins...) but we still had a great time trying to cheer in Spanish and supporting the local team.
     Tuesday we went to the Cathedral in Sevilla in my Arts and Monuments class, literally around the corner from the school. I knew this was a beautiful Cathedral but I had no idea it is actually the largest Gothic Cathedral in the WORLD and the 3rd largest Cathedral overall. The culture and the history that exists in this city never ceases to amaze me. The inside of the Cathedral shows a blend of Muslim and Christian styles and there is still evidence that the Cathedral once was a mosque. The Cathedral also contains an amazing view of the city from the top of the Giralda (once the Muslim minuret), that is also an unmistakable landmark in the Sevilla skyline. The trip to the top took walking up 35 ramps but the view was remarkable.
     Tuesday afternoon all the SAIIE students all went ice skating in Parque Maria Luisa. I LOVE ice skating especially when it's on an outdoor rink and it's only 55 degrees outside. Wednesday I had my second day of my internship and I can tell I am going to learn so much from Paula, the woman who works with me. I worked on helping them with a database and she also gave me a number of free political seminars to attend around the city (definitely going to add to the holistic experience). Thursday my intercambio, Mamen, invited Mallory and I to see her house (right around the corner from the school) and eat dessert (of course). We talked with her and her boyfriend for two hours and it's amazing how much I was able to improve my daily conversation in such a short period. I can feel free to speak freely and Mamen will correct me when needed which I have learned is the best way to gain fluency! She and her boyfriend are both extremely sweet and have promised to take us to a real local flamenco show!
     I woke up early Friday morning and we all got on the bus to drive to Cordoba! We walked over a bridge to get into the old city and it was the most stunning skyline I've seen thus far. The mosque of Cordoba, converted to a Cathedral, sits right on the river. We toured the mosque in the morning and later in the afternoon we were free to wander the sunny streets, eat gelato, and drink sangria. The city still has a very historic feel with the small cobblestone streets and flower boxes on the walls and it is definitely my favorite place we have visited thus far.
       Mallory and I were up again early on Saturday to meet up with Megan and take the bus to wine country, Jerez! We took a wine tour of Tio Pepe, a massive winery in the middle of Jerez and it lasted three hours. We were able to see the Sherry bodegas, brandy distilleries, and of course try four different kinds of Sherry. It was an awesome tour and we learned so much about the process behind making Sherry.

 Trying the wines at Tio Pepe
 One of the Sherry bodegas at Tio Pepe
 Walking into beautiful Cordoba
 Inside the Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba
 View of Sevilla from the Cathedral :)
Overall, it was an EXCELLENT week. And now I have to go study for exams...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nunca Jamas

Tuesday in my Arts and Monuments class we explored the Alcazar palace, right in the middle of Seville. The expansive gardens and rooms of the palace are seemingly endless, I literally had no idea I had been walking past the palace unknowingly. The palace is a great example of Muslim mudejar architecture as well as Christian influences. The palace is so large, in fact, that our teacher informed us he has visited the palace more than 100 times and has yet to see it all. I can't wait to go back in the spring and picnic in the gardens.
Tuesday afternoon I went with SAIIE to take a tour of the Real Betis stadium. We were able to see the press room, see their trophies first hand, stand in the "rich seats" (here you have to wear formal wear, restrain from cheering, and eat your tapas and wine calmly), stand in the locker room, and (my favorite!) run out on the field through the tunnel the players use! It was a really awesome experience and we were invited back to watch the Real Betis players train and get our posters signed. We also learned the loyal Betis fan slogan, "Viva er Betis manque pierda!" which basically means Betis will always be your team, even if they lose (the fans are clearly very loyal, reminds me of a Kentucky rivalry...)
Wednesday evening I returned to the school for the first day of my internship with the program at SAIIE. I'm really excited to see how study abroad programs work and to help out in any way I can. I'm going to be helping them update their website, and with their faculty led programs, as well as speaking more Spanish.
After a few hours I had my first meeting with my intercambio, Mamen! The intercambio program is designed to allow students to speak Spanish with a local Seviallanos once a week to help them with their English and us with our Spanish. She is so sweet and I am so excited to improve my Spanish with her help and also see the city from the eyes of a true Sevillana!
A few people have been asking what I have been eating here and I have no problem talking about the amazing meals my Senora makes. She cooks for us lunch and dinner, except on the weekends, and we have yet to have a repeat meal, I'm obsessed. She makes a soup with every dinner, usually beans and potatoes, and a main dish of vegetables, fish, or chicken. A very popular meal here is a Spanish tortilla which is basically a thick omelette with eggs, potatoes, and sometimes vegetables (my Senora makes the best tortilla I've tried so far!). Another one of my favorites so far has been a sticky rice, seasoned chicken dish with a red sauce filled with peppers. And, of course, a meal is not complete without fresh pan bought earlier that day. Mallory and I are pretty spoiled...
Finally, Friday we had Friday classes and I went on a walk of the beautiful barrio Santa Cruz (the Jewish quarter during Muslim rule) for class. That afternoon Mallory and I ate packed sandwiches from our Senora on the sunny steps of the Ceta, tough life, while we waited to meet up for a walk to a local art gallery. The gallery tour was free a free walk through a modern art exhibit called Nunca Jamas, Historias de Ninos para Adultos. It featured a collection of art playing with the idea of childhood stories from an adult perspective. I loved the experience because it was a good sense of the rich local culture present in Seville.
HPU on the Real Betis field!
Tortilla Espanola

One of the Gardens in the Alcazar

SAIIE students as close to the field as possible

Nunca Jamas

Monday, February 4, 2013


I had another exciting week in Sevilla getting to know the city better and better with each day. Thursday's arts and monuments class we walked down the street to the Lebrija palace, once home to the Countess of Lebrija. The palace is a beautiful building hiding literally in the middle of downtown Sevilla and is filled with the Countess's collection of historic artifacts such as Roman mosaics. Her historical collection is viewed as controversial among Spaniards who believe the objects were not hers to take, but I found the palace to be an amazing safe haven for the unique art and sculptures produced by generations of Spanish inhabitants.

Friday morning we were up early to take the three hour bus ride to Granada. The drive to Granada is lined with mountains, villages, and fortifications unlike anything I've ever seen driving throughout the US. We arrived, dumped our stuff at the hotel, and left for the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a magnificent structure constructed in 889 as a fortress, and converted to a royal palace for the Sultan in 1333. The Alhambra sits high on a hill and offers a breathtaking view of the city of Granada and inside is filled with endless Muslim architecture  Before entering the building we took a walk into an unfinished palace once intended to be the home of Los Reyes Isabel and Fernando III that, while remaining unfinished and roofless, now serves as a place of performance because of the phenomenal acoustics. After explaining this to us, our tour guide also explained that she heard someone in our group is a vocalist and would be performing to demonstrate these very acoustics  Although I was originally mortified about being called out in the group, I feel blessed to be able to say I have sung in one of the most magnificent structures in Andalucia, an experience any vocalist would be proud to have. The rest of the day we spent walking around the Alhambra and taking in the amazing architecture and remaining in awe of the view.
Saturday we were up early again to hike up to the Gypsy village! This walk gave us a view from the other side of Granada, this time allowing us to see the Alhambra as a part of the landscape. We were also able to see a few modern Gypsy homes which happen to be built into the caves on the side of the mountain. The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the city, taking a siesta (of course) and sampling tapas in the streets of  Granada (free tapas with each drink!). Overall it was an exciting, albeit exhausting, weekend.
Mosaic (Part of the Countess of Lebrija's collection)

Cabeza sculpture (Palace of Lebrija)

Stunning stairwell and ceiling (Palace of Lebrija)

Unfinished palace intended for Los Reyes

View of Granada from La Alhambra

Ceiling in La Alhambra