Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spain finally

So now with my last final over I’m finally getting around to writing my Spain blog. Spain was a great country with great experiences, it just wasn’t as near as impactful as the other countries.
Three months ago I started out my country experiences by traveling independently by rail in Japan. I finished off my SAS experience by traveling around Spain independently by rail. Since the day we arrived in Spain was Thanksgiving we had Thanksgiving dinner on the ship the night before as we sat ported off of Gibraltar (we stopped to refuel, it’s funny because while we were in Spain we weren’t even allowed to visit Gibraltar). The dinner was really good. I can’t even begin to estimate how many turkeys they went through, it was a lot. There was stuffing and mashed potatoes too. The only thing that could have been better was the desert. Somehow no matter the day very few of the deserts on the ship are really good.
Because it was Thanksgiving we didn’t have a diplomatic briefing for Spain so we were able to get off the ship really quickly. Hallie had an SAS city tour until 1:30 so me and Jess walked around for awhile. We followed the waterline to an old fort then wandered around the spider webs of pedestrian streets through the city looking for a bank that would exchange travelers checks. It was hard. I’m seriously never getting travelers checks again because their only a pain in the butt.
The train station was really close to the port, not even a ten minute walk. We really lucked out because we made it there 5 minutes before the train was leaving for Sevilla. For some reason I thought the ride would only be and hour but it ended up being almost 2 after all of the stops we made. Along the way we could see two of the El Torro sculptures. The El Torro sculptures are a silhouette of a bull that they have perched on hilltops all over Andalusia. There’s actually one on the cover of the current Lonely Planet guide.
When we got into Seville station we went right to the tourist info center to see if they could help us find a hostal. We had a list of some cheap ones we’d copied out of a lonely planet but we still thought it was worth a try. She found us a cheap one and we were able to take a bus from the station straight there. It was called the Hostal Pino and it was located right in the coffee shop district of the old town. It was kind of funny, with all of the cute little coffee shops the first thing I noticed was the Starbucks, then the Burger King across the street.
Our hostal was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It was a three story building with a covered courtyard in the middle. It was a good thing the lady at the train station called for us because the woman working at the hostal didn’t speak any English. She gave us our room key and pointed us upstairs. We walked up the first flight (it was really pretty with marble stairs, floral tiles on the bottom half of the walls and light blue paint on the top half. The second floor had dozens of rooms and little hallways but we could not find our room. We walked up another flight of stairs but that took us to the roof and there was nothing up there but a little hut. We went back down the stairs and still couldn’t find it. The girl working there must have heard us giggling because she came up to show us. Our room was in that hut on the roof (actually there were 3 rooms and a bathroom). It was adorable, actually the room was kind of ugly, but they tried to match. Everything was blue and yellow and they had some sort of celestial theme going.
After we set out stuff down we decided to go get something to eat because we were starving. We got Burger King and it was so good. I don’t really care about eating fast food in these other countries, especially in Spain because there aren’t many restaurants where a westerner would be capable of getting some food. After dinner we walked around for a bit and ended up at this massive department store called El Corte Ingles. I dominated everywhere we went in the city. It was basically like a Macy’s and Target wrapped into one. After all that we ended up at Starbucks. I had a wonderful Carmel Hot chocolate, it was delicious. Then Hallie bought a phone card to call her parents and let me call home too (HAPPY THANKSGIVING!).
We didn’t really know what to do after that so we decided to walk to the river to see if we could get a cool night view of the bridge. We didn’t actually stumble upon the bridge we were aiming for but the one we did come across had amazing street art all over it’s base. We decided to come back the next day during the daylight hours to take pictures. On the way back to our Hostal area we stumbled upon a movie theater. They were showing the movie “The Fantasies of Goya” in English so we decided to see it. For those who don’t know Goya is a famous Spanish painter so we thought it was very fitting to watch it in Spain. Don’t see the movie. It was awful. It made absolutely no since. It ended with a crazy Natalie Portman holding a dead guys hand. Like I said it made no since.
When we went out the next morning it was like El Corte Ingles had decorated for Christmas overnight. All of their lights were up and a Santa platform was being constructed. We noticed this on our way to el Museo de Bellas Arts (Museum of fine arts). We were able to get into the museum for free. Either they had a special student fee or we looked like EU members. The museum was massive. There were more than a dozen rooms with art from many famous artists. Most of which was religious in nature. My favorite paintings took up an entire wall. It was a parade sequence on at least 8 different 4x6 canvases. Each parade painting had a different theme. One was air, one was fire, one was earth, etc (basically recite the Captain Planet song and you’ll cover them all).
After the museum we walked back down to the river to take pictures of the street art stopping at Pans and Company to get lunch along the way (Pans and Company is kind of like Panera Bread). We sat on the stairs near the bridge, in the wind eating our sandwiches as rain clouds rolled in. Thankfully we were able to get our photo shoot done before it started raining. We took our pictures then walked to the other side of the river. A lot of goof that did us we ended up just walking down to the next bridge (the original one we had been aiming for the night before) and walking back over. We stopped for a while to try and draw the bridge, but then it started raining again.
We were walking around the river just minding our own business when two older ladies come up and shove twigs in our hands then grab our palms and start speaking in Spanish. I had a totally unwanted palm reading by Spanish gypsies. Of course they demanded money in the end. What a rip off. It wasn’t even two seconds later that another one walked up to us. We were so quick to say NO that I think we scared her.
Along the river the is a large tower (I forget the name). We made it to the tower 20 minutes before closing (everything in Spain closes down midday then opens again later). The lady said if we hurried we could make it to the top so we paid our 2 euros then started up to spiral staircase of 90 stairs to the first flat. Then you could climb another smaller set of stairs to the very top. The view was incredible. We could see all of Sevilla, with Seville cathedral dominating the skyline. We almost got locked up in the top of the tower. When we reached the bottom of the stairs a man was locking the doors. He yelled something at us in Spanish but obviously we didn’t understand him.
After the tower we got lost for a while before we made it to the Alcazar, the palace in Sevilla. Again because we were students we got in for free. I love being a student. We walked around the many rooms and courtyards. Saw underground baths, huge fountains, and endless gardens filled with orange trees, and even got to do a labyrinth hedge maze. It was a lot of fun and so beautiful. Our favorite part was actually an exhibit on a group of men that sailed on a replica of Ferdinand Magellan’s ship from Sevilla around the world. They stopped in a lot of the same places we did, Hawaii, China, Egypt. It was so weird, I loved it.
We wandered around for a while trying to find the Barrio when we had been in it the whole time. Apparently it isn’t as lively during the fall/winter. We walked back to the hostal to take a nap then went back to the Barrio to try to go to a flamenco show. Unfortunately it was full. WE got on the waiting list but didn’t have a good feeling about getting in so we decided to just get dinner and go back to the hostal.
The next day we got up early and caught a train to Cordoba. It was expensive, 22 euros but we got there really quick. It was actually an express train to Madrid that stopped in Cordoba. Me and Hallie had seats that faced each other with a table in between, and there were TV’s on the ceiling that played the movie “Duplex” in Spanish.
The ride to Cordoba was really picturesque. There were fields and hills and endless orange groves. One moment I just happened to look up from writing in my journal and saw an old medieval castle sitting up on the top of a hill. It was beautiful.
When we got to Cordoba we had a dilemma. Hallie wasn’t really sure if she wanted to spend the night and I really wanted to. We decided to just go out and look for a hostal and if we found one then we would stay. The walk to the old city wasn’t as far as it looked on the map (it never is), but the rain made it feel like forever (it was pouring and we had to wear the same sweatshirt day and night for 4 days). We ended up finding a really cute hostal that was only 24 euros for the night. We actually think we were in the only hostal room because the family lived in the house to and it wasn’t that big. Our room in this hostal was very different from the last one. The walls were plain white and there were two single beds with a night stand and picture of Jesus in the middle. We called it our convent room.
The entire reason we wanted to come to Cordoba was to see the Mezquita and it just so happened to be about 100 yards from our hostal. It was quite possibly one of the most spectacular and odd building I’ve ever been in. The forest of columns and arches seemed to go on forever. I just stood there in awe for several minutes. It’s kid of weird, in the middle of the sea of arches a church was built and it’s in a very gaudy baroque style. Really ugly. Around the entire perimeter there are rooms containing religious artifact too. I was only there to see the arches though. Me and Hallie sat down on a bench and drew the arches for at least a half hour. It’s so hard to draw because it’s so overwhelming.
After the Mezquita we went out to find some lunch. We walked along the river for a good 2km following a sign that assured us there was a McDonalds up ahead before we gave up. Instead we found a shopping mall. To us shopping mall meant food court. There wasn’t a good food court but there was a massive supermarket. I bought a loaf of French bread and the largest Milka bar I had ever seen and that was my lunch. It was wonderful.
We ended up being able to get tickets to a Flamenco show that night so we went back to the hostal to change then went out and got Pizza for dinner before going to the show. For some reason the guy in charge really liked us, he gave us front row seats. The show was incredible. It definitely wasn’t the same Flamenco I’ve been learning. They stomped and twirled with such grace, even mistakes would have been unrecognizable. One of the guys was able to stomp his feet so fast that I couldn’t even fully grasp it.
The next morning we woke up early to take the train back to Cadiz. This time we took a cheaper, slower train that connected through Sevilla. Me and Hallie pretty much played cards the whole time. First Jin rummy then WAR then crazy 8’s. It was a good time. As soon as we got back to the ship we went and got lunch then I went back to my room to change and take a shower. I was so dirty from the last three days. My pink sweatshirt went immediately into my dirty clothes bag it was so gross. We went back out later that night but nothing was open because it was a Sunday night.
The next day I went out with Hallie and Stephanie. It was just a day of wandering. We went to the post office and the supermarket and went around to some other stores then went to an internet café. We ended to night by buying some tappas then got onto the ship for the last time. It was sad. Everyone stopped to take pictures walking across the gangway for the last time which was luckily located on deck 2 that night. A lot of people were late getting back to the ship. There was still about 60 people waiting to get on when 9 o’clock rolled around. Everyone else was standing on the 5th deck laughing at them. They got dock time, but what can they do for dock time in Ft. Lauderdale?
I can’t believe it’s over, but I’m so excited to get back home.


Post a Comment

<< Home