Madrid. Seville. Granada

Friday, July 3, 2009

First day in Sevilla-- Traveling Day

Waking up and getting to Sevilla was the difficult part. We had to be waiting for the bus by 9am; which would already be a feat. That is, after we woke up, showered, finished packing, ate breakfast, and carried our near 50 lb suitcases down 3 stories... simply getting to the bus was hard. To make matters even better the bus we ordered was simply too small. For a near 5 hour venture; an 18 person bus was ordered to seat exactly 18 people-- very tightly. We could have done it if our suitcases had fit, I guess 18 people with 3 weeks of suitcases on a small bus was not figured into the bus booking. So, after waiting over an hour for a larger bus, we were finally on the road to Sevilla. We stopped a long the way in Cordoba to view a Mosque, (once the largest in the world). It was enormous and had both Catholic and Islamic influences because of numerous takeovers over a thousand years ago. It was too big and we were too tired so most of our group just ended up sitting and waiting to leave. Once back on the bus I got a little sleep before finally arriving in Sevilla around 5pm. We unpacked and got our rooming assignments, and Merritt and I were assigned to share a 2 person room! Finally some space! We were very excited about rooming together which quickly died when we realized our room had no air conditioning... but that problem would have to be resolved later. We then went out for a quick dinner and a walk around to get our bearings in Sevilla. After some gelato we were ready for bed, and all happily in bed by midnight! 

Last day in Granada!

The last day in Granada is still one of my favorite days of the trip.... not for the reason that we were LEAVING Granada; because truly it has been my favorite town. We were allowed to wake up whenever we chose (which was nice) and then had free time until one. Around 9am Allison Jamie and I headed out to shop. I was able to go into a few stores I had been dying to check out, along with the street vendors who sold small trinkets that were  necessary to purchase. My favorite purchase of the day is about half a pound of homemade tea called "te de granada". It smells like heaven. Just a whiff and I felt like I was in the tropics on the beach.... I can't wait to try it out when I get home! At 1:30 we met back at the Hostel for a late lunch and to celebrate one of our group members birthdays (his would be the next day and we would be traveling all that day). After lunch and cake we had a short siesta, worked on some shutter speed fountain pictures; and then were released back into Granada for a little farewell free time and shopping. Once back at the Hostel again, we got ready for a nice dinner (finally a chance to dress up!) We walked to an amazing restaurant, that overlooked The Alhombra at sunset. The meal was exquisite. 5 courses of mouthwatering foods... some more interesting than others. I will never forget my first (and last) bite of blood sausage. It's aftertaste stayed with me all night... around 11 it was back to the Hostel, to finish packing and sleep! Tomorrow we would leave bright and early for Sevilla! 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The hike!

On tuesday our guides thought it would be a great idea to take a hike. So, we were on the bus around 9am for a 2 hour drive towards our destination, where we would then enter a small town and make our way into the mountains. Around 11ish we had reached the town, unloaded; and strapped with backpacks and water bottles made our way towards the path. Somehow in the course of 100 feet our group was then separated. Davin (one of our guides) was in the front and led about 6 kids down one path.... when our group caught up with Meghan (our other guide) there was a fork in the road... and ofcourse we chose the OTHER path. So for the next 3 hours our two groups were separated, wandering the mountains of Spain... The original plan was to wear your swimsuits so that at the middle of one trail there was a swimming hole and waterfall; but that was the path Davin's group took. I was in Meghans group with the other 10 students from our school, and ofcourse Davin had the map and his cell phone was dead... so it was a very interesting 3 hours. Regardless of the situation, our group had a lot of fun wandering the mountains (sarcasm) but really it wasn't that bad. I was tired and didn't want to be there... personally I have nothing against hiking or nature and I really do like it it's just that I wasn't really in the mood or shape to be doing this kind of walking. (Picture steep incline of a tread mill in 100+ heat for 3 hours). But our group made it fun and after reaching the next town that lunch was the most rejuvenating one I have ever had.... It really was a challenging, frustrating, exciting, entertaining and interesting day. 

Jun 27th- Sunny Mondays and Horse Shows

On monday we took a 9am bus ride out to training stables to watch horse lessons. Originally the plan was to view the traditional Spanish style "training of horses", but it turned out to just watching the upper Granada elite take riding lessons. Regardless, it was great to get some action shots of the horses, get to interact with the horses in the stables, and capture the early morning lighting. The stables were attached to a country club; so instead of the normal "country clubs" in Houston featuring tennis or golf; this one was dedicated to riding. All the riders were learning English, which reminded me of the days that I used to ride when I was younger. Sometimes I really do still miss riding, and it was fun to live vicariously through these riders because I understood the difficulties and skills of jumping large quarter horses. After the stables we went to a lunch at a chinese buffet, it was probably my favorite meal yet. Just the word buffet gave me excitement but the excess of fruits and vegetables, all meats and desserts gave me all the protein and nutrition I was craving. It was a very relaxing day! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ancestry in Architecture

Spain is famous for its beautiful cathedrals, synagogues and mosques. The south of Spain is very religiously diverse, (and being so close to Morocco) holds beautiful centers of worship for differing religions. While in Spain we have gotten the chance to tour a few cathedrals and one synagogue; and we will be visiting our first mosque tomorrow. While here in Granada; we have visited the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain who sent Christopher Columbus to the Americas some centuries ago... It was amazing and very historically enlightening to see the tombs, but also a little disturbing. They were buried in the Holy Royal Cathedral; and to see the graves you walk down to an underground basement, past their tombs (along with 3 other unmarked-- probably children) and then up to the cathedral again. After viewing the graves we continued on to The Cathedral de la Granada, a beautiful old church near the center of old town. It was beautiful-- high ceilings, marble floors, gold incrusted everywhere-- doors that looked as if they led to Narnia. Simply amazing. A third world nation could have been fed with a portion of the riches found in the cathedral. After visiting Notre Dame in Paris, I can honestly say that I found this cathedral more beautiful. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Bull Fights

On Friday we were in for a unique treat of traditional Spanish culture. A bull fight. Unknown to myself however there are 3 stages of bull fights... the last one with the matador is the only typically known of. First the bull is let loose into the arena; A man with a spear on a horse provokes the bull to charge the horse and then stabs the bull every time the bull comes near. After a certain amount of time young matadors who have not yet made a name for themselves enter the ring and take their chance with the bull; last the valiant head matador enters the ring and slays the bull. 
What we watched on Friday was a different sort of bull fight. Our group took a 30 minute bus ride out to a ranch where the bulls and cattle are bred and raised. On this particular day the ranchers were testing out 4 different cows (female bulls?) to see the ferocity of their nature. The ones that had the right strength, anger, and endurance would be kept to breed with the head bull. A stallion of the cow world. The others would be slaughtered for meat. It was inhumane disgusting and I am no longer eating red meat. You could tell that the cows ( bulls?) did not want to be in the ring, they were tired angry bleeding and probably just wanted to go back to their pasture instead of being injured for sport. I know that it is a part of culture and should be appreciated but the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia is also "culture", and yet that doesn't make it any more right. These breeders argued that it was a classic case of "man vs. beast" yes I do not agree. In "man vs. beast" one lives, the other dies; it is a fair game. This was simply provoking an innocent animal and giving it pain for sport. Obviously I will never be a hunter... regardless I got some great shots and they are included above. 


Much needed Relaxation-- Saturday

Yesterday I woke up sick. I think it was a combination of dehydration, fatigue, lack of nutrition (etc.) Although they say it is good to drink I am scared of the tap water here in Spain, are guide swears that it is fine but I don't trust it. Also, there is very little tap water available.... so that must be a sign. I have been gulping an average of 6 bottles of water a day (with euros that is defiantly adding up) and still am ALWAYS thirsty. We are always on the go here, its miserably hot outside and even with our siestas I feel very drained; and I am convinced Spain does not believe in fruits and vegetables. Even with my dislike of salads I feel myself craving them... I never realized how lucky I was for the diversity of food in Houston. Vegetables here are very dry and bland and fruit is hard to come across (except for as a dessert). With that all said I was very sick in the morning and refused to move. I literally felt like my veins had a fever; my mouth was drier than the Sahara and everything ached. I was allowed to stay in bed for the morning and I slept a good 5 hours strait. When I woke up I had a light lunch and then joined the group to head to beautiful cathedral near the middle of the old part of Granada. I have some amazing pictures (which are still on my camera) but I will upload soon! We saw the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (the Spanish monarchy which sent Christopher Columbus to America!) It was incredibly interesting and somewhat disturbing to view their caskets... but very educational! Later that night we had the most amazing surprise ever!! A traditional Indian bath. I'll admit at first we were all skeptical of the authenticity of a place like this... and how hygienic it would be. A public bath? It sounded disgusting.  We complained to our guide the whole 15 minute walk there... but in our defense it was saturday night in Granada and we were walking through crowds (of kids our age heading to clubs) wearing our flip flops swimsuits and carrying towels; definitely a spectacle. Anyways when we entered the bath it was well worth the trip. The bath had low ceilings, dark lighting, gorgeous fountains, beautiful mosaics and looked as if it was an ancient Roman bath (only indian designs). There were three pools; hot, warm, and cool, a steaming sauna, complimentary 15 minute massages and wonderful hot teas. I was in spa heaven. We stayed there until around 1am and then trooped back to the hotel, soaking wet but relaxed and content. It was the best sleep I've had in weeks...