¡Husta luego Sevilla!

Very early on the 1st of Feb I hopped in a cab and made my way over my bridge and through the city I have come to love for the last time. This was not a farewell, but a goodbye for now. For my last blog post about this city I have decided to compile a list of things I will and will not miss about this beautiful city.

  • will miss – orange trees lining literally every single street. You cannot escape their citrusy smell filling the air, and they provide quite a bit of entertainment if you manage to see one fall off the tree onto to head of an unsuspecting pedestrian below.
  • wont miss – the toilet paper situation. Yes this blog just delved to a new low, but this needs to be said. Many of the buildings in Seville do not have plumbing that can handle toilet paper, so much of the time you are not allowed to flush your toilet paper, but have to place it in a little bin provided. I will let your imagination fill in the details of the joys this system brings.
  • will miss – the bicycles. The centre of Seville is largely pedestrian and bike only, and even when you have to go on a road there is normally a bike lane anyway. This combined with the fact Seville is quite flat and the bicycle sharing system (Sevici) makes this a beautiful, scenic and extremely easy method of travel.
  • wont miss – the pharmacy situation. You cannot buy things like paracetamol, vitamin tablets, Soothers, etc in supermarkets in Spain, and therefore have to go to a pharmacy for all of these very basic health related things. This means that it is more expensive but this is not the only hurdle. The way pharmacies work in Spain is also different. There is no ‘shop’ part as such, just a counter. This means that whatever you are after you have to just go up to the counter and ask the pharmacist for whatever you are after. Like getting a script but for everything. This means that you can’t shop around and see what is available and the different prices, etc. When you have limited ability to communicate in Spanish anyway this makes a trip to get some vitamin c tablets quite an ordeal.
  • will miss – the architecture. Seville is a lovely mix of European and Arabic architecture. I can’t even describe in a short amount of words what this specifically means, but hopefully my photos can speak for me on this one.
  • will miss – the street performers. Because I walked down the main drag of the city at least 4 times a day, I felt like I got to know all of the street performers personally. From the entertaining to the amazing to the down right creepy, they all had their own little personalities. Even though I never spoke to them they felt so familiar, like old friends.
  • wont miss – Spanish roads/drivers/road rules/roundabouts. Apparently Spain has the most fatal car accidents out of the whole of the EU, which I don’t doubt even for a moment. This is sometimes scary as a pedestrian, a little more as a cyclist, but overwhelmingly change-of-underwear-scary as a driver.
  • will miss – tapas every night. All aspects of tapas are the best thing ever. The variety is amazing. The atmosphere is buzzing. The beer can be as little as €0.80 a glass. You are not restricted to always buying the same amount of food, but can taylor it to how hungry you are (normally in Australia I am stuck paying for a meal I can never finish).
  • will miss – tortilla de patatas. Even though I have already mentioned tapas as something I will miss, this particular tapa needed to be singled out. It is nothing special, but it is always an available tapa and is just such a yummy little bit of food.
  • will miss – language school 5 days a week. Learning Spanish has got to be one of the funnest things I have ever intentionally set out to learn.
  • wont miss – eating breakfast at a normal time, and then not eating lunch until between 2:30 and 3pm. Even though I got used to this after about a week, sometimes it gets to about 12 or 1 and you are just so hungry but still have quite a while to wait for a meal.
  • will miss – having the middle meal as the biggest of the day. I think that science probably backs this up but it just seems better to not eat a huge meal just before bed.
  • will miss – the new friends I made. These people helped make this such a fun adventure, and kept me sane when toilet paper or pharmacies or Spanish divers could have easily got the better of me.

I could probably keep writing this list forever, but I have already written over 800 words (so well done for making it this far) so I will leave it there. Since leaving Seville I have been staying with Laura and Dave in Oviedo (in northern Spain), and I will update you all on those adventures hopefully in the near future.

¡Husta pronto Australia!

And we’ll never be royals…

This is the story of an Australian girl who casually decided one Sunday morning to visit a place she had heard was significant to Seville, El Real Alcazar de Sevilla. If you have read my previous post you will be aware that I left a spoiler saying that I thought El Real Alcazar was the most incredible manmade place I have ever been. Even writing this almost two weeks after I actually visited, I stand by those words.  

Having never been to a country that has been Islamic for any period of time, I have never really experienced Islamic architecture in real life. The day I visited El Real Alcazar that changed. Because I was by myself this particular day I was able to wander aimlessly around the many grand yet unique rooms of the Alcazar in complete silence and awe. It was just me and my camera turning corners never knowing what we were about to stumble across. Would it be a room that later in the Alcazars life had been turned into a Catholic chapel, or would it be a grand royal bedroom completely covered in the most intricate mosaics and patterns I had ever seen or would it be a shaded courtyard with orange trees, vines and a fountain? I wander through the maze of a building the Alcazar is for a good hour completely in a little world of my own filled with the memories these walls held of so much of Spain’s history.

Coming out of this magnificent building, however, was by no means disappointing, because the gardens waiting outside for me to discover were just as amazing. The sun was shining and it was almost the warmest part of the day so wandering through the perfectly trimmed hedges was just as magical. It is not hard to imagine Spanish royalty strolling along these paths as they take a turn in the garden. There is even a hedge maze there, but unfortunately it was closed so I wasn’t able to feel like Harry Potter in The Goblet of Fire.

As always, photos can never truly do justice to a place like this, but here are a few I took.

That time I hung out with Christopher Columbus.

How did I hang out with a person who died many years ago? Well I visited his tomb if you can call that hanging out. CC, as I have decided to call him, is actually buried right here in Seville in the cathedral I walk past everyday. I discovered this the other day when I visited the cathedral with two friends. I didn’t know this before coming here but La Catedral de Sevilla is one of the three biggest cathedrals in the world, along with the Vatican and St Paul’s. The cathedral also has a tower which you can climb, from the top of which you have amazing views of Seville. We happened to be up the tower as it ticked over to 4pm (I think), so we were up there when the bells went off. The noise up there, directly under the bells, was incredible! I can actually explain the cathedral better with photos (yay for wifi!) so here is a small sample.

 

I think I will try and keep my blog posts shorter from now on just to break it up a bit for everyone, but just to tickle your tastebuds, I plan to blog about Real Alcazar de Sevilla in the near future and I’m going to go out on a limb and say its the most incredible manmade place I have ever been.

¡Wifi en mi casa!

The recent addition of a new wifi modem along with a new internet provider has meant that I now have internet access on my laptop. What is the first thing you do when you have wifi again after more than two weeks? Upload photos to Flickr of course. If you click here you should be taken to my Flickr account, provided I know how to properly manipulate the internet. 

Córdoba y Ronda

As promised here is the next installment of my Spanish adventures. Whilst I am in Seville at the language school, there are many “Actividades Culturales” organised. These are sometimes free and sometimes extra cost. More extravagant things, mostly visiting nearby cities/towns, tend to happen on the weekends. The weekend before last there was a day trip organised to Córdoba. You may or may not have heard of Córdoba but it is one of the more famous places in this region of Spain. I didn’t knew anything about Córdoba when I signed up to take the trip there, but I’m very glad I went. 
 
Córdoba turned out to be utterly beautiful. There is a Jewish quarter of the town that is like a maze of tiny cobble stoned lanes twisting here and there with these cute little courtyards sprinkled throughout. I thought I had seen the most picturesque part of the town by this stage but then we went into a medieval Alcázar which had quite a large garden within it (Google image Alcázar de Los Reyes Christianos to see what I’m talking about as I still can’t get any of my photos onto the internet). I actually felt like I was in a Disney movie there. I’m not even going to attempt to try and convey what it was like because I could never do it justice. 
 
The thing, however, Córdoba is most famous for is its Mezquita/Catedral. You may wonder how one building could be called a mosque and a cathedral at the same time, but somehow this building achieves it. Originally it was just a mosque, when Spain was occupied by Muslims, however when it was taken by the Catholics they plonked a cathedral smack bang in the centre of the building, but kept the majority of the mosque intact around the new cathedral. If architecture at all fascinates you I am sure you would very much enjoy visiting there to see how two very different architectural styles can co-exist. They way the Islamic style blends into the catholic gothic is very interesting. Once again I suggest you google image this. 
 
The following weekend a group of 10 of us from the language school decided to hire two cars and drive to Ronda, which is about a 2 hour drive from Seville. As I was one of the only manual drivers I got volunteered to be one of the drivers. I think a week later by brain has not yet recovered from having to completely invert everything it has come to know about driving a car. My poor left hand kept slamming into the door trying to find the gear stick. I also later found out that Spain has the most fatal car accidents out of the whole EU. This explains a lot. The drivers here are crazy as are the people who designed the roundabouts if you can even call them that. 
 
Anyway we made it alive to Ronda, and I’m glad we did because it is once again a beautiful town. It is what they call a pueblo blanco, or white town, because basically all the buildings are white. Ronda is also situated in a mountainous kind of area so the views of the town are amazing with all the little white buildings against the Spanish mountainous countryside backdrop. The thing, however, that Ronda is famous for is its bridge. It spans a very deep crevasse and is a lovely loving bridge in its own right. I am not afraid of heights but some were, and I do not blam them because it is indeed a very very long way down. Again I refer you to my trusty friend google image to get a better understanding of what I mean. 
 
There is one more weekend trip planned for my time here in Seville, and that is to Granada. This is actually an overnight trip and I am very much looking forward to it because everyone says that Granada is the most beautiful place in this whole area. 
 
Until my next blog post, husta luego.  

The journey so far.

It has taken a while for me to actually let the Internet know what I have been up to for the last week-and-a-halfish, largely due to a lack of time and a lack of internet access. But here it is, my first actual blog post from Spain. So many things have happened since I arrived in this beautiful country, and they can be broken up into three main parts, the (significantly long) journey from the land down under to Spain, my brief but wonderful time in Madrid and then now this last week and a bit in Seville. For the sake of not writing an essay for you all to plough through I will keep this post to my adventures since I’ve been in Seville, and I hope I will have time at a later stage to back track and post about Madrid. 

 

I am staying in Seville with a lady named Angeles and her dog Duque. I arrived at her apartment smack bang in the middle of a family lunch (at 4pm) because my course happened to start right at the time of a large Spanish fiesta, Fiesta de Los Reyes, which is when Spanish children receive their Christmas presents. If you want to experience culture shock I suggest you yourself arrive at a random Spanish house during the middle of a fiesta, not understanding anything anyone is saying. A large part of this fiesta involves a huge parade with marching bands and the largest amount of lollies I have ever seen. The parade happened to go down the street I live on so we just stood on the balcony watching a hail storm of lollies rain down on the crowds below. 

 

The following morning I begun at the language school. I don’t really know what I was expecting with the language school but everything is in Spanish. I now am actually very pleased about this because I think it has meant that I have been learning much quicker than I would have if things were always explained in Spanish. For example if I want to ask a question about the work in class, I have to ask in Spanish, so just doing things like this and constantly listening to Spanish being spoken to me kind of forces me to understand. After 17 years of education I thought I was probably sick of learning by now, but I am immensely enjoying learning a language. There have been a few moments that sum up why I am enjoying it so much. When I was in Córdoba the other day (more on that later) I read a sign and wonder why they had written exactly the same thing twice. After a second I realised it was because the sign had said something in Spanish, and then directly underneath had the English translation. The other moment was when I realised that I was accidentally eavesdropping (and understanding) on a conversation next to me on a bus, and that conversation was in Spanish. Needless to say it is so exciting gradually understanding more and more things each day. 

 

Seville itself is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been, and I have the pleasure of exploring it for a month! If you google image Seville you will see what I mean, but just increase that by at least 10 times as photos can obviously never capture a place as well as actually being there. Two days ago I signed up for the bike share program in Seville. Check out my latest Instagram for a photo of the bikes. This has revolutionised how I can explore this city. the city is actually quite large, so it would take a long time to explore a lot of places by foot. The bike means that I can cover a lot more ground. And there is something so fun about the cool air rushing past as I cruise the streets, seeing something new with every cobblestoned turn. Unfortunately I don’t have internet in the apartment I’m living in, so I haven’t had a chance to upload any photos yet, but stay tuned. 

 

In the near future I plan to also blog about Madrid, Córdoba and Ronda, but just quickly these are all amazing places. If anyone has a trip to Spain planned I highly recommend these places, as well as Seville of course. 

And so it begins…

Tomorrow I follow in the footsteps of many 20-something Australian’s before me, and hop on a plane destined for Europe. Why am I travelling 32 hours to attend a Spanish language school? Quite simply it is so that I can graduate uni. I have one subject left of my degree, due to dropping statistics out of protest that such a subject exists back in first year. Because I knew this summer unit would fall at the end of my degree I decided to go out with a bang and leave the country to complete it. This was further confirmed when I found out that if I did this Spanish course I would be in Spain at the same time as my best friend Laura and her husband Dave.

I am very excited about my impending adventure, but there is also that small little part of my mind that sometimes wonders to think about the fact that I will hop off a plane that has transported my to the other side of the globe to a foreign country of which I cannot, at this stage, speak the language. Admittedly this thought mainly pops into my mind when I have been practicing my Spanish in the last few weeks and exploding my brain trying to remember millions (well millions is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels like a lot) of variations of verbs changing with different tenses. Learning a language, I am quite sure, will never be a walk in the park.

These small times of nerves however are hugely outweighed by how excited I will be to walk through the departure gate and jump out into the big wide world by myself. I hopefully will be able to keep you all updated here on how this adventure is going. Also feel free to pop over to my flickr account because I’ll probably upload some photos over there as I go.