Solid Times in Madrid and SEVILLA

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End Jun 07, 2009

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Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Thursday, May 21, 2009

So I realize it has been a long time since I have written a blog. Since Lisbon actually. For that, I am sorry.

Basic update about life in Madrid:

As of tonight, I have 2 weeks left. For the past few weeks, I have been finishing up classes and taking some exams. The 3 I took were not too difficult at all. 2 exams remain.

My camp friend Max Rubinson was in Madrid prior to embarking in his program in Salamanca where I hope to visit him. Doogan and I showed him around Madrid throughout the days, and had some good times at night for sure. We reminisced about our abroad stories and camp memories. The 3 of us also quoted more movies in a 4 day stretch than any 3 humans on earth have ever quoted. Fact. Throughout the weekend, it was the festival of San Isidro which essentially commemorates Madrid's patron saint, Isidro. Activities include a concert in Plaza Mayor and an area called Vistillas where lots of botellón [ing] occurs. It is an expression that signifies publicly drinking alcohol in big groups. Essentially, people get some beer, sangria, or other preferred drink and hang out, drink, chat, and mingle amongst thousands of people and a heavily concentrated set of streets. It's right by the Palacio Real. People remain in this area till about 3 or 4 am which is what we did. It truly proved to be a great time, and I think we showed Maxwell how we do it right in Madrid. He was impressed and safe to say we had a great time experiencing Madrid. And quoting boats and hoes....

After Max left, I planned my trip to Sevilla. I had been wanting to go there for quite some time but was unsure if I had sufficient time to make it happen. However, a quick booking of a hostel and a bus ticket made it happen. I had done all my traveling with my roommate Jon up until this point. For Sevilla, I would be traveling with just girls. 4 girls from my program. No wingman for me. I knew all four of the girls very well, so I figured I wouldn't have any problems. For the most part, it was problem-free, minus the fact that when "feminine conversations" arose, I simply chose not to participate.

Tuesday morning I got to the bus station 10 minutes before departure. Having been very tired from the weekend, I knew I would maintain narcoleptic fashion on the bus. I slept 4 out 6 hours perhaps on the bus. Great success. 3 of us (Amanda, Olga, and I) got off the bus and took a cab to our hostel. The 2 other girls [Mimi and Farber] (who were taking a later bus) made the reservation. However, what we did know beforehand, or perhaps we were ill-informed, was that we needed our physical passports to check in to this hostel. The 3 of us did not have ours since we assumed traveling on a bus in Spain did not require a physical passport on hand. However, after a brief 15 minutes of frantic pacing, we found a hostel not too far away that didn't care if we had physical passports or not. Although it may have been slightly less quality of a place, the location of it was much better.

That afternoon Amanda, Olga, and I walked around trying to get our bearings of the city prior to the other girls getting in. We didn't really know what we wanted to see, but we meandered through some streets and found the city to be quite "charming" as the girls dubbed it. The city is completely walkable from end to end. Many of the streets are very narrow and often unmarked. Oh, I have yet to mention that it was about 90 plus degrees on this day; not really blistering sun, but just hot temperature that made me feel sticky all throughout the trip. I even heard it gets up to about 100 degrees easily in July. Either way, after a nice perusal through the streets, we grabbed a quick snack and even a nap prior to the other 2 girls arrival.

Once the girls got there, we got ready to go out to dinner and other night activities. We found a great tapas restaurant that was recommended by Mimi and Farber's friend who was studying in Sevilla. We shared some goat cheese with honey (I think) on a piece of bread which was delicious and then some chicken dish with some almond sauce which was absolutely delightful. These 2 tapas dishes for very cheap! We then proceeded to botellón for a little bit in Plaza de Francisco where people gathered, drank, and shmoozed before going out more.

Following the botellón, Alyssa (the girls' friend) guided us across the dirty, yet pleasant river the divides up Sevilla. It looked absolutely magnificent at night as some of the lit up buildings reflected wonderfully upon the water. One of them included the Torre del Oro (Golden Tower) which is a famous monument in Sevilla. It was a brisk walk prior to arrived at a bar that offered 50 cent tequila shots. We took a few, but it was bad quality tequila so we headed out (although I thought it tasted just fine). We headed to a place nearby the featured mostly American students studying in Sevilla. Nevertheless, the bar was fun and cheap as well, which was a large difference between Sevilla and Madrid. The bar was a little too American, yet we still managed to have a decent time. At about 1:45-2am we headed back to the hostel for a nice night of (warm and sweat-filled) sleep. No pasa nada....(no big deal).

The next day we slept till about 11 or so and got ready for the day. We had heard about a Free Guided Tour that some of the local hostels offer. We obviously couldn't pass it up. So, we grabbed a tostada around the corner for breakfast and convened at a plaza where an American guy in his 20's led us and some others on a 2-hour or so tour through Sevilla. We traversed the entire city passing many a church and several plazas. One of the absolute highlights was the famous Cathedral of Sevilla. This cathedral, as were instructed, is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world and the world's largest Gothic-style cathedral. It was huge, mangificent, and very gothic-esque. Around the corner of it also was the Giralda which was the tower that accompanies the cathedral. Pictures will display the splendor. We continued on our tour through the "Judería" area of town, which is where the Jews used to live. However, playing into the common theme of Jewish expulsion, the Jews had been expelled and Franco had taken away pretty much all signs that Jews had existed. Nevertheless, it was still a charming area with some cute restaurants and some narrow-winding streets. I at least took a picture of a "Judería" sign in order to document that region and its ethnoreligious sentinments still may reign.

We continued onward towards a less depressing sentiment of the tour towards The Gardens of Murillo and the University of Sevilla, which was a pleasant area to walk en route to Plaza de Espana, perhaps the best part of the tour. This magnifcient moorish monstrocity was built in 1929 as part of the Spanish-American Exhibition. Fun Fact of the Day (for all you nerds.....[Max]: Plaza de Espana was used as a setting for Naboo in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, though it was digitally modified. Pictures will once again show its glory. This concluded our tour, and I could definitely say I gained some useful and solid knowledge of Sevilla's history (not including the silly, aforementioned fact above).

Later on, we grabbed some food at a place that provided shitty service and half-way decent food. Gazapacho was included and while it was very delicious and refreshing, it was interesting to drink it out of a what appeared to essentially be a wine glass. Cute, right? I know. Following lunch, Alyssa had organized a picnic by the river with the WashU crew and the UNC kids she had been with all semester. The area wasn't the most attractive since the water looked murky and somewhat infested and the grass a little scattered with trash. However, we enjoyed each other's company I guess. It was definitely a nice time to mingle a little bit despite the 90 + degree heat and the stickness and sweatiness that pervaded my body. Enjoyable nontheless.

We went back to the hostal around 6:30 pm to nap and shower. I still felt very sticky. We got ourselves ready for dinner at another Tapas place. We shared some Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp boiled in olive oil and garlic), and then I shared some chicken with Pine nut and wine sauce. Delicious. After dinner, we made our way out to an outdoor bar area that had a Hyde Park Cafe in S. Tampa / Miami Beach type vibe going on. We met up with Alyssa's friends and grabbed some 1 euro beers there. It was a fine place but Olga, Amanda, and I didn't see the need to make it a rager for a night nor become belligerent in any way. We had a couple drinks, talked a little bit, and decided to make our way back to the hostal semi-early.  2 am.

The following morning I woke up early to get my bus time changed for 2:30 pm instead of 4. After doing so successfully, we ate some breakfast at the hostel, checked out, and made our way to the Real Alcazar, which is a moorish fortress along with an enormous area of lush gardens that give Sevilla some sort of tropical element right smack in the center of the city (albeit inside a fortress). All of it was beautiful and is much easier to gather with the pictures I will post. We grabbed a quick bite and made our way to the bus station and took off by 2:30 pm as planned. I slept the majority of the way of course. I arrived in Madrid, so happy to be back after all, even though it was only for a little while since I was to leave the next day for Asturias. After traveling with 4 girls for the weekend, it was nice to be in the presence and comfort of the family again... finally. The girls were fun though, and I was so glad I got to see a precious, beautiful city like Sevilla, and chalk up another area of Spain that I experienced. No idea what the tiny region of Asturias in Northwest Spain would bring....I am hoping for the best.
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