Monday, November 3, 2014

Hola from Espagne!

So much excitement for a week in Spain!
Last week I put my conquistador panties on and headed to Spain for another dip in the Mediterranean...and some adventuring too. My friend Kate and I quickly settled into the tapas hopping, sangria sipping and siesta taking routine of the Spanish, but we didn't loose our sight seeing ambitions in all the culture soaking. With our handy friend Rick Steve we ventured out to experience the ins and outs of both Sevilla and Barcelona. Though we only had one week, it was amazing and an experience I will never forget. 

Our first stop was Sevilla! After a good nights rest following a busy week of exams we headed for the sunny and warm (actually, a little toasty!) city in the south of Spain. Once our plane landed we were
greeted by Palm trees like those you see in pictures of Hollywood. They lined the streets as we entered Seville and accompanied any large plaza within the city limits, adding lots of glamour to our stay.  Though our hostel was lacking the glamorous identity of the trees and surrounding views, it still kept with the tropical feel by providing a daily flooded bathroom (and I forgot shower shoes! Quick improvisation with my sneakers ensued.)  Still, despite the Amazon that was our room, all in all, our stay turned out well and we made some new friends from France, England and Austria. 

As we preferred the sunny outdoors, we left our tropical homeland and soaked up the beauty that is Sevilla. On our first night we grabbed some gourmet tapas for a great 2 euros each, and a little bit of Sangria for 1.50 euros (which means a glass as big as my head!) and explored the local plazas outside the city limits. However, the next day we marched into town and began to explore our new favorite small city in Spain! Oh my goodness, it was BEAUTIFUL! As we stepped outside on our first full day, the sun hit the golden yellow, orange and white washed buildings in dazzling angles which brought the city to life.
Young runners littered the street competing in some 3K being hosted by the city and we listened to vibrant Spanish echo through the many small squares and plazas which we encountered on our approach.  Once we arrived in the city, we followed the wise footsteps of Rick Steve and wandered around, discovering the small nooks and intricate histories of the town. The following day we continued our exploration but took it a step further, venturing inside the Cathedral in Seville where we not only found the remains (or relics) of St. Peter but also the actual tomb of Christopher Columbus! Adorned with orbs and carried by detailed statues of four pallbearers, the tomb rests in a large section of the Cathedral
(which, as it turns out, was the largest Cathedral in the 14th century before it was eclipsed by St. Paul's in London and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome).  Later, we followed the towns great history a few blocks over to the palace of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as the Alcazar. Filled with beautiful tiles and decorated in the colorful Moorish style it was breath taking, but its beauty was completely eclipsed by the vast gardens behind its walls.  Joining the epic palm trees there were hundreds of rose bushes, too many magnolia trees to count, fountains every few feet and some of the prettiest tropical flowers I'd ever seen. If that were not enough, it held within its boundaries different tiled buildings, gates and benches which added to its vivid, colorful expanse. As our time in Seville came to a close, we were sad to leave our little paradise, but excited for what Barcelona had in store.

SO Barcelona! Well I thought it would be a great idea to "save money" and buy a plane ticket for 6AM (when no buses or metros are running by the way! Did I mention Taxis to the airport are super pricey?) from Sevilla to Barcelona. Boy was I mistaken! We arrived in Barcelona without delay at a lovely 8AM and headed straight to our next hostel/apartment where we quickly hit the sack and recovered from that wayyyy too early morning. However, after the recovery, with new found energy and excitement we hit the streets below us and began to get acclimated. We may or may not have taken advantage of the slightly discounted Zara (compared to France) before grabbing a delicious, and surprisingly inexpensive, meal in the mind-blowing La Boqueria Market on the Ramblas of Barcelona. Fruit juices you've never imagined, fishes with their heads and eyes attached and every piece of a cow you never actually wanted to identify populated the very cramped, tiny aisles of the evolved, ancient Roman market. (For those of you who are wondering, yes Kate and I did try cow
blood one day, and I must say, I think my heart is better for it :p) After that delicious meal and introduction to La Boqueria (followed by many subsequent trips) we set out to explore some incredible sights including la Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen. While not plated in gold like the Vatican, its beauty lies within the symbolism which adorns all parts of  the cathedral and the descriptive scenes, statues and architecture originating from Gaudi's vision in the late 1800s. Despite all of its detail and richness, the church still isn't finished. There rest so many more symbols and representations to be added and it is not projected to be finished before 2026. Yes, I will be coming back after its completion. 

Our later adventures included the Picasso Museum (a must see when you make your way to this fabulous city!) more trips wandering the streets of Barcelona, a visit to the Mediterranean, and my all time favorite, a train ride and climb up Montserat! While every trip was filled with adventure and lots of exercise, Montserat climbed to the top of our list. On our last full day in Barcelona Kate and I headed out of the city limits to a small Monastery in the cliffs of Catalunya referred to as Montserat. Though no longer housed in its ancient buildings due to the highly despised Franco, the location is quite picturesque and contains a history older than the walls which surround it. There, housed in the basilica, rests a statue of the Virgin Mary, claimed to have been created by St. Luke, although in actuality carbon dating traces it back only 800 years. Even older than the statute are the cliffs which shelter this quaint spot.
While Rick Steve did recommend we take the tram up the rest of the cliff to the vast lookout points above our original resting point, Kate and I braved the mountains, climbing inclines steeper than I ever experienced in my mountain fairing days in Sewanee. They definitely put my heart to the test as there was no downhill until you reached the top.  Two miles uphill later and without any lack of beauty, Kate and I finally reached one of the many high peaks to take in the lush, green valleys and rolling hills below us.  As we caught our breath in the afternoon sunlight  atop the stone, finger like cliffs, we were able to see for miles in almost every to Spain. It was the perfect way to sum up our journey, climbing through history and natural beauty to get a glance at the larger country around us. After a hike back down the mountain, a return trip and a last night on the town with some tasty pasta and good wine, we packed our bags and prepared ourselves for our return to France, sufficiently renewed, restored and enlightened by all we had seen and experienced in our week  From our glamorous entry into the country, our diversified pallets, our broadened minds and our two very sore feet, we decided such growth shouldn't end after a one week trip, and are looking forward to more explorations in the coming weeks, months and years ahead. Our next stop? Paris, Avignon, Lyon, just to name a few!