Study Abroad: Notes from Spain
Greetings from Spain! Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada
by Dani Schneider '09
After an interesting start, we all finally made it. Since we all are from different states ( Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware), we met in Boston to fly into Madrid together. However, bad weather in Philadelphia caused me to arrive a day late.
Within a day, Eby (Lauren Ebersole of Hagerstown, Md.), Emily (Hoffman of Tampa, Fla.), and Kat (Kathleen Blake of Greensboro, N.C.) had already mastered the Spanish metro system. Public transportation is everywhere which is making our journey very easy and pleasant. After the girls picked me up from the airport, we jumped on the bullet train to Sevilla, the first major city on our ´tour de España.´
Sevilla was beautiful. We arrived around 4:00 that afternoon and checked into our hostel for that night. We dropped off our bags and spent the night walking around enjoying the many sights Sevilla has to offer. The first major sight we saw was the Alcazar, a palace which was built by the Moors in the 10th century. Although the inside was interesting, we had more fun in its extravagant gardens. The spot was rather empty which made it ideal for fun pictures!
We spent the remainder of my first night in Spain cruzing through the Santa Cruz district, wandering from shops to restaurants, enjoying tapas and sangria. The next morning, Kat and I went to Sevilla´s cathedral which is the largest Gothic church and home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Filled with a large and lavish gold altar and numerous side chapels, you can't help but be impressed. The outside is also just as impressive.
We also climbed 330 feet up to the top of the Giralda Bell tower which gave us an awesome view of the city (and a good work out!). A great way to end our time in Sevilla. Eby and Emily met us at the bus station where we took a bus to Cordoba.
We arrived at the bus station just in time (we had to run) to catch the train to Cordoba. We gazed at endless hills of sunflowers, hay fields, and the insides of our eye lids for about three hours. We arrived in Cordoba around 4ish.
Starving and in search of some lunch we quickly realized that siestas in Spain are no joke, especially in smaller cities. In Spain during the siesta (like a late afternoon break), almost all stores, most restaurants, and even some tourist sights close down for a few hours. Thankfully, we did finally find a place to eat.
Our hotel had an awesome view overlooking La Plaza Tendillas, a well known plaza of Cordoba, complete with a central fountain, heladeria, and outside cafes. During our two-night stay, we enjoyed feeling like a local in this smaller, less touristy city. Eby also got to celebrate her birthday here, complete with the locals singing happy birthday to her in Spanish!
Besides enjoying new friends, restaurants, and some shopping, we also visited the jewel of Cordoba, the Mezquita. Originally a mosque built by the Moors, it is now a Catholic cathedral. After our visit, we were thankful that Jean Wurster, a college employee who works in Catawba's library, had recommended this must see cathedral/mosque.
That night, we had a great dinner in a small cafe where the waiters were so much fun. The girls decided to order some Cordoban dishes including robo de toro (bulls tail). I did try it, but can't say that I would order it again. The next morning, we continued onto our next city, Granada.
Although we figured out the metro systems here pretty easily, the locals buses are a different story. After we arrived at the bus station in Granada, we had to take a bus to get to our hostel. Well, we got off the bus way too early and got a nice little tour of the city through our adventure of trying to find where we were staying. Thankfully, the people on the streets were gracious enough to point us in the right direction, especially since we were still carrying our packs.
After we were settled in, we went back out for dinner and then we decided to go see our first authentic flamenco performance. Our hostel recommended it to us and we had a blast! We took a bus up to Sacromonte where we enjoyed the show from inside a cave. The dancing was amazing and I can't imagine what kind of leg muscles it takes to dance like that! I did get to attempt it afterwards when one of the dancers invited me onto the floor. I was no where near talented enough to be up there, but we all at least got a good laugh out of it.
After flamenco, the bus took us to the infamous San Nicolas view point were we had an awesome view of the Alhambra at night. It gave me goose bumps it was so amazing and it made me even more excited to visit it the next morning. It is no wonder that the Alhambra is in the running for the New 7 Wonders of the World competition. We spent almost four hours there wandering through the Placios Nazaries, Generalife Gardens, Charles V's palace, and the Alcazaba.
The Placios Nazaries was my absolute favorite. Its interior and courtyards were extravagantly decorated with stucco, ceramic tiles, molded-plasters, filigree windows, carved wood ceiling and fountains galore. The Alhambra also gave a breathtaking view of the city.
After a long hike back down the mountain, we enjoyed lunch and then headed to the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). Here, we got to see the tombs of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinan. What a feeling it was to stand there in front of people who were a major part of Spanish history. After the chapel, we headed back to the hostel, picked up our bags and now we are off to Valencia to start off the next week of our trip.
Dani welcomes e-mail correspondence from current and prospective members of Catawba's community and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.