Finals and the final week

The week after Feria was finals. I had finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, then Thursday to pack before my flight on Friday. None of my finals were too difficult. I went to a flamenco show with my program on night. It was better than the other one’s I’ve been to. It was a little sad since it was the last time the group would be together, though. On my last full day I met my intercambio one last time then walked around taking pictures of the places I went everyday or hadn’t taken pictures of yet. It was at that point that I began to feel nostalgic. Then I went home and started packing. The family didn’t make anything special for dinner, since it was one of the daughter’s birthday and they went out. Later on I walked around the city with my friend. My flight was at 9 a.m. the next morning and I got home safely without a problem.

So here my semester abroad comes to a close. The time really flew by, and I had a great time. I’m so glad that I got to see some new and beautiful places and get to know another culture. I would suggest to anyone who’s thinking about studying abroad to do it. You’ll learn so much more outside of the classroom about the world and about yourself; I definitely did. I made some wonderful memories that I’ll always remember and met new people along the way. I’d like to thank you for reading this blog and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I did living it!


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Feria and Gibraltar

After Semana Santa we had four days of class and then the next ten days off for Feria, which is kind of like Carnival. It’s a big celebration to promote Andalusian spirit. It starts on a Monday night with a lighting ceremony and goes until Sunday night when they shoot off fireworks at midnight. The fairgrounds are next to the river and are like a small town. There are roads lined with casetas, or tents, food stands scattered throughout, and a whole amusement park. Except for Monday night, everyone dresses in traditional clothing. The women wear flamenco dresses and the men wear short jackets, trousers, boots, and hats. The wealthy families have their own horse carriages to ride around in. There’s a lot of drinking, dancing the sevillana, and going on the rides. I went Monday night, a couple days during the week, and Sunday night. I got to wear one of my host-sister’s old flamenco dresses! That was great, because they are really expensive (almost $300) and would take up a lot of room in my suitcase. It’s typical to wear a shawl, flower, earrings, necklace, and flamenco shoes. I really liked seeing all the different dresses the girls and women had and everyone looking their finest.

One day during the week I also got to go to Gibraltar with a few friends. We took a bus to the Spanish border then walked across into the English territory. Because of the bus schedules we didn’t have a lot of time to spend, so we bought a taxi ticket which included a ride up onto the rock and entrance into all of the sites which would cost the same as taking the cable car and walking. We went to the Pillars of Hercules, which was the point of one of his Twelve Labours. From there we could see three bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Straight of Gibraltar and three countries: obviously Gibraltar, which is an English territory, Spain, and Africa which was so cool. Our next stop was St. Michael’s Cave. I had never been in a cave before. It had the craziest formations; the walls and stalactites looked like frosting. Part of the cave is used for orchestral concerts. Next we went to the Ape’s Den. Gibraltar is the only place in Europe the monkeys can be found. We took pictures and, of course, had to do the Three Monkeys pose. Then we went to the Siege Tunnels which were built when Spain and France were trying to take Gibraltar from Britain. After that the tour was over so we crossed over the border again and took the bus back to Seville.

The pictures are: the first nine are of Feria (crowds, horses, flamenco dresses, paper lanterns, casetas, amusement park, inside a tent, the main gate, and everything lit up at night) and the other 12 are of Gibraltar (the rock, the Pillars of Hercules, three countries (the outline of Africa on the left, Spain on the right, and Gibraltar from where I’m standing), two of St. Michael’s Cave, the monkeys, a view of the rock where a James Bond movie was filmed, the clear water, the town cut by the airport runway, a siege tunnel, the British flag, and some crazy chip flavors at the bus station).

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Semana Santa and Easter

During Semana Santa (Holy Week) there are celebrations which include pasos, or parades, all around the city. A lot of stores are closed, and there is no school all week and no work starting on Thursday. I wasn’t there for the beginning, as I was in Barcelona. That was bad timing because it was sunny when I was in Barcelona, but when I got back it was raining all week. There wasn’t a sunny day until Easter Sunday. That was awful because all of the parades were canceled. The largest one, the one late Thursday night/early Friday morning hasn’t been canceled since 1930. Since most of the week I didn’t do get to go to any parades, I was determined to see the one parade on Sunday. My friend and I were able to find it, and it was cool to see even though it was really small. I got to see a few floats and some Nazarenos, members of Brotherhoods who dress up in outfits that look like the KKK, but who have existed long before them.

I thought that Easter Sunday would be the biggest celebration out of the week, but it was a normal day. There were people going about their business as usual, and I’ve been told that not many people go to mass. I went into the Cathedral to see what it would be like during a mass. The area where the mass was being held was roped off and outside of that area were a lot of tourists. I was disappointed that it wasn’t a bigger deal.

Here are the pictures: the first two sum up the week: rain, the next one is a float, the next two are of the Nazarenos with the second one being a little kid, the next one is a booth with snacks only open during Semana Santa, the next one is of a mass, and the last one is of torija, a food only made during Holy Week which is kind of like a sweet french toast.

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Seville and Barcelona

My mom came to visit me in Seville a few days before, and during, Semana Santa, which is Holy Week (the week before Easter). On Thursday and Friday I showed her around Seville. seeing all the monuments and the park, etc. We visited the Alcazar (which I’d been to before) and the Cathedral (which I hadn’t). The Cathedral was amazing! It was just as amazing, beautiful, and breathtaking as the Mezquita in Cordoba. It has beautiful columns, stained glass, niches all around the walls, and a grand choir and altar. It’s also where Christopher Columbus’ remains are. You’ll just have to look at the pictures. We also ate a lot of delicious tapas. I tried something new and different: ox tail, and it was actually really good! We also got to see a practice parade for Semana Santa, which was good, because my mom didn’t get to see any later in the week.

On Saturday we left for Barcelona for five days. It was not enough time to see all of the city, and we saw a lot. We also got lost all the time. On Sunday we went to Parc Guell, which is one of Antoni Gaudi’s creations. He had a huge influence on the city and his artwork is all over. The park was pretty cool. It had crazy looking houses and the famous dragon sculpture. We also saw the Sagrada Familia, another one of Gaudi’s works. It’s a cathedral and very recognizable. The outside is of Gothic/baroque design, while the inside is more modern. They almost seem opposite, as the outside is dark while the inside is filled with light from the stained glass. It really is quite impressive. Monday we spent the day at the beach, even though it was kind of chilly, about 70 degrees. That’s ok, though, because there weren’t a lot of people there like I’m sure there are during the summer. We had lunch at a restaurant near where all the sailboats dock. I tried paella, but didn’t like it, which, since I don’t like seafood, I didn’t think that I would.

On Tuesday we went to the Museu de Xocolate. Oh, and “chocolate” is spelled with an “x” because they speak Catalan in Barcelona, not Spanish. Anyway, the museum was quite small, but it had some cool chocolate sculptures. And we got a free chocolate bar as our ticket, and it was delicious. =) After that we went to the Picasso Museum, where we waited in line for about 40 minutes before we could get in. It’s in a really old building in the old part of the city, called “Ciutat Vella.” The exhibit is arranged chronologically, and it was really interesting to see how his style changed. I never knew that he did oil paintings and portraits, and they’re really good. Then he went through a phase where everything was blue, then he came to the abstract art that he’s known for. After we left the museum we found La Rambla, which is the main street. I had heard that it was like some big market and that there would be stands with people from all over the world selling unique items, but I’m sorry to say it wasn’t like that. It was just a regular street with souvenir stands. It does have, however, one market with food. There’s different sections, like fruits, meats, seafood, nuts, and spices. That was pretty cool to see.

On Wednesday we went to Plaça de Espanya. It was pretty cool because you have two tall pillars with a road in between leading up to a hill with a grand palace on the top. There’s also a big fountain in front of the palace, but it wasn’t on. Maybe that’s because it was chilly and a little windy. Then we headed to the airport to go back to Seville. I did like Barcelona, but I wish that I had more time to get to know the city. Back in Seville we had some more tapas and Mom packed. Thursday morning we had to leave at 5 am to go to the airport, ew. I am so glad that she came and I had a wonderful time. I love you, Mom! And I can’t wait to see everyone else when I get back!!

Here’s the pictures:

In Seville: Plaza de España, a mural on a building, the outside of the cathedral, a view of the Giralda (the tower of the cathedral) from the Alcazar, Arabic work inside the Alcazar, a peacock sitting on a wall, a waterfall, the entrance to the cathedral, the next five are inside and the third is Christopher Columbus’ tomb, the next two are views of Sevilla from the top of the Giralda.

In Barcelona: the house and dragon at Parc Guell, a view of the sea from the park, the outside of the Sagrada Familia, the next two are of the inside, the Arc de Triomf, the Mediterranean, a port with a bunch of sailboats and a fish sculpture where the aquarium is, paella, a Don Quixote chocolate sculpture, the Monument a Colom (Columbus), Plaça Reial, the next two are of the market, and the last one is of the palace.

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Random stuff in Sevilla

Half of my classes have field trips. For one, we went to a museum which is located in a big park in the middle of the city – Parque Maria Luisa. It’s really pretty, with all the trees and fountains. Plaza de Espana and two museums are also located in the park, and they were built for the World’s Fair in 1929. For another class, we went to a small town outside of Sevilla called Valencina. They have really old dolmens, or tombs, and we got to go inside of one. It was really small and dark, and, luckily, they were empty.

A classmate and I visited the Alcazar, which is the royal palace where the royal family stays while they’re in Seville. Apparently, the prince was in Seville the day we went, but I don’t know if he was in the palace at all. It’s a pretty cool place. You have the building which has many different rooms, the courtyards and patios, and the garden. It is Arabic, so it has detailed plasterwork and a lot of fountains. Water was extremely important to them, as they lived in the desert and water was scarce.

One night my friend and I were walking around and we spotted a big crowd of people. We decided to check it out, and found out that there was a fashion show of flamenco dresses! So we just walked in and watched a fashion show.

Another friend and I love one restaurant called “100 Montaditos” which serves mini-sandwiches. We go there every Wednesday because everything is 1 euro and it is delicious.

So here are the pictures: the first six are of Parque Maria Luisa, the next four are of Valencina, the next seven are of the Alcazar, the next one is at the fashion show, and the last one is of the sandwiches.

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Another weekend in Madrid – Taylor Swift concert

On Saturday my friend and I took a six-and-a-half hour bus ride to Madrid to see Taylor Swift in concert. When we got to Madrid we went to our hostel, checked-in, rested for a bit, then went to the concert hall, Palacio de los Deportes. When we got there, there was a huge crowd. We didn’t have to wait too long, though. We went inside and went out onto the floor in front of the stage. We got to be pretty close, actually, about four rows of people away. The opening act started at 8:15 and the actual concert started at 9:30. When Taylor came out the whole crowd started screaming. It was a really cool concert. I don’t know how many songs she did, but it didn’t feel too long. She had cool pictures on the screen and changed outfits a couple of times. She did a really great job engaging the crowd too and even spoke some Spanish! So after the concert we went back to the hostel and slept. On Sunday we didn’t do anything except wait in the bus station for three hours then be on the bus again for 6 1/2 hours.

Here are the photos (and by the way, I don’t edit any of them). They’re all from the concert:

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Friday we took a really early train to Granada. We arrived about 10 a.m. and had free time until around 5:15 or so. Since our rooms at the hotel weren’t ready yet, some of us went for coffee and pastries. My friend and I went on the roof of the hotel, which had amazing views of the city, and took pictures. I then took a nap until the time we had to meet. We met our tour guide, who showed us around Granada. He took us to some plazas, around the small Arabic-influenced streets, to the Cathedral (which is huge!!),  the outside of the building where Isabella and Ferdinand are buried, and a small square where you can look across and see the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a huge palace by the Moors in the 14th century. It’s on top of a hill and looks red because of the type of bricks used to construct it. The tour was structured so that we could see it during sunset, which is the best time to see it. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that night, but we could still see it. After that, we were on our own for the night. I had the most delicious kebab for dinner. Apparently, kebabs are a popular Arabic food. (Granada has the most Arabic influence I’ve seen in Spain).

Then on Saturday morning we got to go inside the Alhambra. We had a 15 minute walk up the really steep hill, but it was worth it. Inside the walls, there’s the royal palace, the Generalife gardens, and a small town. When it was used in the past, the royal family lived there and wouldn’t need to leave. The royal palace is beautiful; it has cool architecture and detailed plaster-work. That is also where the well-known Fountain of the Lions is, which I was really looking forward to seeing. Unfortunately, they’re restoring the lions, so we couldn’t see the fountain. After we finished our tour we had a lot more free time. We got more kebabs for lunch then went to a tea shop. Afterward, we went shopping in the cool bazaar area. Then we bought dinner to eat on the train and returned to Seville.

It was a pretty cool trip, and Granada certainly is a really nice city. Here are the pictures: The first two are inside the Alhambra, a view of the city from our hotel roof, cloth from the bazaars, the Cathedral, the Alhambra at night, Granada through palm trees, some tile work inside the Alhambra, and a view of the city from the Alhambra.

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