Europe Spain

Sevilla: The Birthplace of Flamenco

After Gibraltar, we drove to Sevilla.  We climbed up to the top of the Mirador, that looks like a mushroom, which was quite hot in the afternoon but had pretty great views of the city.  We wandered around a little that evening, taking in the area around our hotel, and then had the main tour the next day.  It started at Plaza de España, which was gorgeous.  Then we headed to the Alcazar, which had similar tiling as the Alhambra, and walked around the city center a bit.  Sevilla is a beautiful city, the architecture was very ornate.

The best part of our time there, however, was the flamenco show!  The footwork reminded me a lot of tap, and it was pretty impressive.  The woman who did the choreography was apparently 70 years old.  They performed an excerpt from Carmen, had live music, and did various solo and couples dances with castanets.  Having once danced to the music of Carmen, it was nice to hear music I recognized.  I love watching people dance, and it was awesome to see the regional style!

Our next morning was spent in Cordoba, where we went to a mosque that had been turned into a church.  It had beautiful ceilings, and row after row of columns with red-striped arches.  It still amazes me how the different religious practices seem to coexist so easily in Spain.

Our final night was in Madrid again, after coming full circle.  The trip was a whirlwind!  I had a great time, and although there are a few cities I would visit again, I feel as though I have a good sense of Spain and I’ve seen many of their famous monuments and artwork.

I’ve finished blogging about this trip just in time, because I leave for France in 5.5 hours!  I have a flight into Paris, a train ride to Strasbourg, and then I’ll have to find my Airbnb place from the train station.  I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.


Europe Spain

Valencia, Granada, and Sweating to Death at the Alhambra

After Barcelona, we headed to Valencia!  It was a long day on the bus, although the drive along the coast was very picturesque.  When we arrived, we did a city tour.  First we went to the modern section, which featured stark white buildings in creative shapes, like a couple that looked like fish or boats.  It was pretty interesting, very unlike anything I’ve seen in the US.  Which might be because our architects aren’t that creative and would rather just make another rectangular prism when they design buildings.  After wandering around the gardens in the modern section for a while, we headed into the older city center.  Our tour guide took us to an ice cream place and had everyone try the horchata flavor, which is a taste that is specific to the region of Valencia and is made of tigernuts.  I thought it was alright, although some people in our group described it as a bit chalky.  From there we walked around, went in a couple churches, and got a sense of the city.  I would have liked to spend a little more time in Valencia, because I liked what I saw while we were there.

The next day, we got up early to go to Granada. Our afternoon was spent at the Alhambra.  We had the bad fortune to have our visit on a particularly hot day, so it was a little miserable.  We kept dipping our hands in fountains along the way to try to stay cool, which didn’t really work.  Despite all of that, the palace was awesome.  All of the details were stunning, with tiles and intricate designs covering the walls.  The only ugly parts were the ones that Christian monarchs had added years later in an attempt to make the palace theirs, like these awkward ceilings with their crests on them.  Overall, pretty magnificent, and I’m impressed that humanity managed to accomplish anything before we invented air conditioning.

The morning after, most people went on the optional tour to a cathedral.  We decided we didn’t need to see more cathedrals, so we headed into town and checked out the shops.  I tried to buy a dress, except it turned out it wasn’t a dress and so I had to return it and the street vendor was very unhappy.  It was an awkward encounter.  After one more stop at a bakery, we went back to the hotel and met the rest of our group, so that we could get on the bus and head down to Costa del Sol.

Until next time!

Europe Spain

Modern Art and The Running of the Bulls, Except Without the Bulls

After we left Vitoria, we headed to Bilbao, where we saw the Guggenheim Museum!  Architecturally, it was amazing, with all these curved walls.  I’ve only been to one modern art museum before, which was ARoS in Denmark, and for me, modern art is very hit or miss.  I tend to look at it as an experience, rather than “art” in the traditional sense.  And I totally didn’t get some of the exhibits, like the umbrellas in the lobby, but other ones were really cool.  They have this giant flowered dog in the front of the museum, and there was another piece by the guy who did the Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and a creepy spider that was supposed to represent the artist’s relationship with her mother (….yikes).  The most interesting for me was a series of statues that looked like inflatable pool toys, like the animal kind that kids can sit on.  They looked exactly like inflatables, but they were made of steel.  It was bizarre.  I had the feeling if I could reach out and touch them that there would be give.  In the ehh side of the exhibit, the part that made me shocked that someone got paid to do it, there was a series with old vacuum cleaners in glass cases with bright lights.  Don’t ask me what that one represents.

After we left the Guggenheim, we went to San Sebastian, which was beautiful.  It’s shaped like a big horseshoe so there was plenty of beach space.  We walked around the area with shops and restaurants and got some ice cream.  I got to practice a little French with some tourists who wanted me to take their picture, and then we went on to the beach and walked along that.  It was lovely.  It was also my first introduction to topless beaches.  Which is a trend that I am very glad has not spread to America.  Not that I’m a prude, but I really don’t want to see certain people topless.

From there we ended the day in the Pamplona, where we got to walk along the path where they do the running of the bulls.  They were setting up the fencing for it while we were there, actually.  Our guide told us all about bullfights, which I don’t support, but I have seen the running of the bulls on TV so it was pretty cool to actually be where that takes place.

The next day, we left for Barcelona, and we had a stop at Saragossa at a very pretty church where supposedly the Virgin Mary appeared to someone.  After a short tour of the church, we headed off to a café again and enjoyed another relaxed morning.

Photos of Barcelona to come later~ Adios!