Group Trip 1: Part 2: Córdoba and Sevilla

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
Trip End Jun 02, 2007

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seville (Sevilla)
The capital of the quintessentially-Spanish region of Andalusia, Seville is an enchanting place of flower-filled patios, orange trees, bullfighting, great festivals, a grand Alcázar and huge Gothic cathedral. The site of modern Seville has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was the important city of Hispalis under the Romans. One of the earliest Moorish conquests (in 712 AD), Seville flourished under Islamic rule until the Christian conquest of the city in 1248. Seville's cathedral, begun in 1402, is the largest Gothic building in Europe.
We only spent half a day in Córdoba because we then traveled to Seville. I always get confused when people say Seville because I think of it as Sevilla - I think it's the same place, but I'm not sure why there are different spellings. I'll be sure to ask Concha one day. Here, we stayed in Hotel América for the rest of the weekend. Seville was amazing. There are no words to describe all these places I go to in Spain. Everything is so new to me that I just want to whisk it all up and keep it with me. Here, we visited the great Gothic cathedral, which also happens to contain the grave of the great Christopher Columbus, the Real Alcázar, where the king and queen of Spain once resided, Plaza de España, where some of the most famous movies were filmed (como Star Wars II), Casa de Pilatos (a palace), the Museum of Fine Arts, and also a flamenco dance, among other things.
For Córdoba, we had a different tour guide named Juan. On the first day there (the second half of the day from Córdoba), we found our way to the hotel, Hotel América, and ate dinner. Some people went out; some people stayed in and got some sleep. Anna and I went out with Stephanie, Jenna, Deena, Sean, Kevin, and Juan. The next day we had to be ready to leave by 10:30 (b-fast at 9:30). We walked through the city to the Cathedral (Catedral). This thing was huge! It was way bigger than the mosque we saw in Córdoba. The Gothic architecture was very evident on this cathedral. The inside was cold, same as before. Juan took us all the way through and explained some history stuff to us. I, of course, couldn't understand all that he was saying, so I asked Maria (a girl from my university) some questions when I was interested in something. I saw this huge bowl-thing filled with holy water. It was below a great picture depicting Columbus' voyage to the Americas. Columbus' tomb was on the other side of the cathedral. Margaret explained to us that his remains had been moved so many times to and from different places; it made me wonder if his true remains are in there, or if it's only like one bone or something. We were told that people can get married in this cathedral; of course, all the chicas were like 'Oh, I want to get married here.' Juan showed us the bell tower connected to the cathedral and showed us the difference between the old architecture and the new Christian architecture. The Christian architecture starts right above the main arches and goes the rest of the way to the top. We actually got to go all the way to the top - WALKING - up 45 floors! But the views were fabulous!
After that, we had the afternoon off. We kind of split into some groups. Some people went back to the hotel; some people went off to find a little restaurant place that we had seen the night before; and the rest (Me, Anna, Stephanie, Juan, Kevin, Scott, Sean, and Simone) walked around and found a cool outside restaurant place to eat lunch. We found it while walking down some of those winding streets. Our waiter was British/English, and Sean cracked us all up with a joke and a fake British accent after our waiter snapped his fingers to his assistant and was like "James, take this..." (James, get the car ready; James, could you get the bill, etc) HILARIOUS! Sean seems to be the joker of the group. We all ordered some REALLY good food (mixed paella for me - mi primera vez) and, of course, some alcoholic beverages (nice time to try out the local sangria, lol).
In Seville, all streets kinda lead to the Cathedral in the center, with odd streets going elsewhere. Around dinnertime, Sean, Anna, and I walked around and tried to find SOMEplace that was still open for dinner. We found a hole-in-the-wall place and figured it was as good as any other place. It wasn't. It wasn't the worst I'd ever eaten, but it definitely wasn't the best! The food came out real quickly, which made me wonder if they just heated it up. The best part of that night was going to a flamenco dance with the group.
We went to Los Gallos - a small, tablao flamenco place near the center of the city. It was a small place, but we got a free drink with entrance. We sat in for the first viewing (out of two) of the night and watched as three or four women and about two different men took the stage in an incredible style of dancing. It's like a mezcla of tap-dancing and suave, salsa dancing -ish. I can't really describe it. The women all wore different styles of long skirts, while the men were dressed in different styles of suits. There was also one man playing the guitar or some type of instrument that I don't know the name of, while at least two others were clapping to a tune that the flamenco dancer set. All in all, I'm glad to have had the experience. It was really unlike any other. At the end, all the dancers came out and stood around in a circle and took turns doing their thing in the middle with everyone else cheering them on. That night, we went out afterwards, and found this amazing little hidden street lined with different pubs, filled with people. But some of us didn't feel so into it, so half of us left early.
That Sunday, we walked to Casa de Pilatos and the Museum of Fine Arts, which was across the street. I'm not gonna lie, the museum was kinda boring. But we did get to see some Roman and Italian sculptures (wait till you see the pics). After that, we went to the Plaza de España, which I mentioned above is a sight seen in many famous movies, two of them being Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Episode II (where Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala are getting on something similar to a public bus or train towards the beginning of the movie).
On Sunday, we visited the Real Alcázar, where the king and queen once lived for a period of time (isn't it funny how all the palaces/fortresses are all named Alcázar?). THIS PLACE would be where I'd want to get married (in the distant future)! It was huge, with gardens on the second or third floor, and ancient scripture on some of the walls and amazing architecture. I could just imagine living here during ancient times. Once again, it has a mixture of Muslim and Christian architecture. Just wait till you see the pictures.
When we finished looking at all the gardens and stuff, we headed back through some winding streets (which are about as wide as a small European car) and Juan (the one from Marist, not the tour guide) got lost! We had stopped for a small break in between four or five different streets and Juan just took off. He eventually found his way back to the bus and was there before us. That was our last stop - we were now on our way back to Madrid.
For lunch, we stopped at some place off the highway. They were expecting us. I had arroz a la cubana (white rice with salsa and eggs), calemares fritas (fried calamari), y for dessert - FLAN!! I have decided that flan is my current favorite dessert (coffee ice cream is all-time fav, but the ice cream in Europe doesn't compare with the kind at home). And the ride back actually worked out for me and Anna because our casa is only two blocks or so from the pick up/drop off point.
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