Posts Tagged With: Andalucia

Andalucia – Sevilla

Our third stop on our journey around southern Spain was Sevilla. Sevilla was by far my favorite city. When I first started taking Spanish in sixth grade, I was graced with learning from a teacher who would become one of my all-time favorites. She studied at the University of Sevilla so finally being there made me think of her and her belief in my Spanish skills, even when I was just a little middle schooler.

The weather in Sevilla was beautiful and warm and I loved everything about it from the get-go. Sevilla is how I imagined all of Spain to look: vibrant colored buildings, beautiful weather, traditions and history etc. Sevilla is what the rest of the world sees as Spain and as I’ve seen more and more of the country, not everywhere is the stereotypical look. The first place we visited was La Maestranza. La Maestranza is the bull fighting arena in Sevilla and is the second most important in all of Spain. [The first is Las Ventas, located in Madrid. It’s really close to my house here!] We took a tour of the ring and learned about the traditions of IMG_20140222_134424_290 bullfighting and how the bulls are killed. Spoiler alert: the bulls die in bull fights. If you’re looking at my shirt and panicking a little bit because I wore red in a bull fighting ring, have no fear; there were no bulls there. It’s not toreo season yet.

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GAZPACHO!!!

Then for lunch we trolled around the city center and ate some traditional food of southern Spain. We had Gazpacho. It was at this moment when I re-fell in love with Sevilla. I had never had Gazpacho before but I LOVED it. It was one of the greatest foods I’ve ever had and I’ve already roped my dad into making some for me over the summer. Gazpacho is a cold tomato based soup, traditionally eaten in the summer, but the weather was so nice that it worked. I downed mine and didn’t even flinch. Get at me, bro. Anyway, the weird thing about gazpacho is that you’re not supposed to eat with a spoon. You dunk crackers or bread in it but for the most part, you drink it. It was served to me in a wine glass so that was an interesting cultural experience for me. But really, if you have the opportunity to have gazpacho, I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we saw another Cathedral. For those of you who actually read my blog, I hope you see the pattern of sites we go see. This cathedral was cool because it is the biggest Gothic church in the world. And it has the Giralda. The Giralda is currently the cathedral’s bell tower but it used to be the minaret of the mosque but was transformed into a cathedral and bell tower once Sevilla was reconquered. We got to climb to the top of the tower, like we did in Segovia. The difference between this tower is that there weren’t steps, but ramps instead. So we hiked more than 30 ramps up to the top to overlook all of Sevilla. Fun Fact: the Giralda had ramps instead of stairs because when the Muslims would announce prayer time from the top of the tower, they rode horses.

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Reales Alcázares

The last part of Sevilla was actually the next morning when we visited the Reales Alcázares. This castle and garden was beautiful and is still in use today! When the royal family comes to Sevilla, they stay in this castle and then tours are shut down. There was a gigantic hedge maze that we walked through that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. The architecture was once again beautiful and the whole palace looked like it had been taken out of a completely different era and dropped into the 21st century. My favorite part was the little lake with a flume shooting water near the front of the royal building. There were carp in the lake and when we started to feed them bread, schools of them came to the surface. Codfish are single handedly the ugliest fish on the planet and they eat by sucking the bread into their mouths…ew. But our group just had a blast hanging out there and looking at the beautiful surroundings.

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Plaza de España is also Naboo!

The last thing we saw in Sevilla was the Plaza de España. This plaza had a huge fountain and was just generally awesome. We walked around and took our pictures and then all of us laid out on the steps, basking in the sun and enjoying the relaxation of the plaza. There was music playing and people going for a casual Sunday stroll and I was working on my tan. Listen, anything to get rid of this winter white, you know what I mean? Something that’s really cool about this plaza is there is a scene from Star Wars II: Clone Wars there as the set of Naboo.  Look at the picture and then click on the hyperlink and you’ll realize they are one and the same!

After we saw the Alcázares and Plaza, myself and a few other girls loaded up our stuff and were on a bus home headed to Madrid. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay with the other kids as they travelled on to Lisbon, Portual because we had our business class on Monday morning.  But all in all, the trip to Andalucia was wonderful! Though I won’t get to revisit these provinces again while I’m here this semester, I am going to Malaga, another Andalucia province, in May. Stay tuned for that!

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Andalucia – Granada

Andalucia Take 2 – Granada!

Where did I leave off? Oh, right! So we leave Córdoba and get on the bus to Granada. By this point, it’s night time and we’re all tired so we got to the hotel, ate the hotel dinner and went to sleep. But when we woke up….we had breakfast. And then started our day! Granada is Paco’s, our professor, favorite city so he was so excited to show us one of the coolest sites we’ve seen to date: La Alhambra.

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Patio of 12 Lions

La Alhambra is a Muslim city-palace that was built during the time of the Reconquest. Granada was the last territory of the Muslim influence that was reconquered by the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel, in 1492. So essentially, La Alhambra was a fortress that the Muslims built to keep the Christians out. The place is gigantic! We started out in the Palacios Nazaries and the floor and parts of the walls were covered in tiles with the emblem of “Plus Ultra”, the words on the current Spanish flag. Tiles and mosaics were big in Muslim architecture and can be seen in many old Muslim buildings and mosques. La Alhambra also has a bunch of reflecting pools and fountains within it [some even have fish!] that represent the paradise but also represent the purification and cleansing of the hands, feet and face before prayer. One of the coolest fountains is the Patio of 12 Lions. This fountain is dedicated to all three major religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as the Zodiac signs. The courtyard is divided into 4 parts, representing the 4 parts of the world, with one water channel each that signifies the 4 rivers of the Paradise. The number 12 signifies the 12 zodiacs and the 12 apostles of Christianity. Surrounding the patio are 124 columns and when the numbers are combined and/or separated, they also signify important things about the religions. For example: 1+4 = 5. There are 5 pillars of Islam.

Then we climbed the tower where there is a bell. Each January 2, girls will run to ring the bell and if a girl successfully rings it, the legend is that she will be married within the next year. I did not ring the bell. But the view was AMAZING and you could see a lot of the palace. Then we visited the summer palace with a beautiful fountain and lots of vegetation, even though it was only February. The summer palace had fountains and a bridge that overlooked all of the interior gardens. Similar to how my summer palace will look when I’m older.

Tomb of the Catholic Kings

Later on, we went to the Catedral Real. Just like the rest of the cathedrals, it was beautiful and ornate. But the coolest part about Catedral and Capilla Reales was the crypt. Yes, you read that correctly. In the middle of the chapel is a small stairway that takes you under the church to see the tombs of the Rey Fernando, Reina Isabel, their daughter, Juana la Loca and her husband, Felipe el Hermoso. Unfortunately, I got caught taking pictures in the cathedral so no pictures of the crypt. But this is what it looks like.

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La Alhambra at night!

But my favorite part of Granada was our surprise at night. After dinner, we went to a real Flamenco performance. Although I’ve been to Flamenco before, and even participated in a class, Andalucia is the real stuff. And it was awesome! The story was about the life of the gypsies and I had so much fun watching it but cultural flamenco is again so much different from ballroom style so it still throws me off a little bit. Our last part of the night was a “paseo”. We were all really tired from the day but we walked about 10 minutes to see the view of La Alhambra lit up at night. What a beautiful palace, but at night, it’s even more breathtaking!

After touring Granada, we left early the next morning to go to our third stop…Sevilla!

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Andalucia – Consuegra and Córdoba

Finally! A trip around SPAIN! I feel like I have been off exploring Europe but not enough time is being spent in my host country. My trip to Andalucia started the day after the Backstreet Boys concert — what a way to continue the awesomeness! Posting about this trip will be broken into 3 separate blog posts because we visited 3 different cities. Andalucia Part 1 starts now…

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The Windmills of Consuegra

We left Madrid early and travelled south towards Andalucia, but we made a stop along the way…to Consuegra! You may be thinking, “what is Consuegra?” But, if you know the story of Don Quixote, Consuegra is where the big windmills are located. And we saw them! It was extremely windy when we got there, but the windmills were awesome! And they are still functioning. When the blades spin, a cog inside the windmill starts to spin and crushes wheat into powder that they refine and…viola! Flour! The windmills are up on a hill and has a breathtaking view of the town of Consuegra below and the acres and acres of farmland. Of course, as time passed, the technology got better so across the way from the traditional windmills are modern windmills used for renewable energy!  

Then we got back on the bus and drove farther south towards Andalucia. Andalucia is one of the 17 autonomous communities and has 8 provinces. We got to see three of them and the first on our list was Córdoba! The first thing we saw in Córdoba was the Guadalquivir river that flows through the provinces of Andalucia. I can’t tell you it was pretty because it wasn’t — the water was brown with mud and silt. But the city of Córdoba was absolutely wonderful! Everything was made of stone and looked very old and fragile. Córdoba [and Jaén, another province in Andalucia] are most famous for olive oil. Fun Fact: Olive trees and therefore, olive oil, were brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Greeks in approximately 500 BC. My friends and I went to an authentic olive oil shop with tons of different techniques to obtain the oil, different bottles and even a testing plate with little pieces of bread. And so everyone in my family gets a bottle of olive oil!

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Horseshoe Arches
Mezquita de Cordoba

Then we saw the symbol of Córdoba: the Mezquita. Mezquita in Spanish means “Mosque”. This mosque in particular has an amazing historical timeline. In 711, the Muslim invasion from North Africa into the Iberian Peninsula began and they claimed the land to be their own. [The Christian Reconquest starts a few years later and takes approximately 750 years to expel the Muslim influence]. During this time, the most important Muslim area was Al-Andalus, present day Andalucia, and its capital was Córdoba. This mosque was constructed to be the holiest of the Holy in Andalucia and is absolutely GORGEOUS! Upon entering the mosque, the first thing we saw was a sea of archways. The Muslims used the Visigothic horseshoe arch design in many of their buildings as well as brick, so that the building and pattern would last for a very long time. We also saw the other main parts of the mosque, such as the Mihrab and its ornate decoration and learned that the Mezquita de Córdoba is not oriented in the direction of Mecca like most mosques are. There are a few theories on why not but I thought that was a cool fun fact nonetheless. Then, I started to see Christian things on the wall instead of Muslim things. It turns out that when the Christians reconquered the city of Córdoba in the 11th century, the Mezquita was transformed into a Catedral [cathedral].

Córdoba was a very short visit because after we saw the Mosque and spent some more time wandering around the city, we got back on the bus and travelled to….Granada!

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