Andalusia

I usually enjoy infusing my blog with videos, but I have been unable to find the one I am looking for on YouTube. Stinking copyright laws. As a result, I plan on posting a bunch of videos that only barely relate to the things I am talking about. But here’s the thing–I need you to remember a part from one of the best movies of all time, though. Remember in Enchanted when Jodi Benson’s character is trying to get an airplane ticket for Giselle and she says something about not being able to find the place she’s looking for–a place called Andalusia? Well, it turns out such a place exists! And it turns out, it’s in Southern Spain!
We started our little adventure by going to the place (whose name I can’t seem to recall) where Don Quixote fought his legendary windmills. Eli ceremoniously read the section from his copy of Don Quixote de la Mancha, we took random pictures, and ran away. Much like Don Quixote did. (The running away part, that is)
Next stop: Cordoba, home of the famous Islamic Mosque. But first I had to cross one of the oldest surviving Roman bridges in the world.
Before crossing the bridge.
La Mezquita!
Anyone who’s anyone (or who has taken Humanities 201 at BYU) has studied these amazing arches. That happen to look like candy canes. What most people don’t know, however, is that after the Christians took over the city, they converted the mosque into a cathedral. And it is AMAZING.
The detail in the ceiling was incredible!

I thought this photo portrays the cool mix of Christian and Islamic cultures we saw all over AndalucΓ­a.
We had a couple hours of free time after the tour, so we ran down the street to the carnival they were having and rode the ferris wheel, of course. Best 2 euros I ever spent (It came out of my ice cream budget)
After Cordoba, we headed off to Sevilla, where I willingly ate seafood for the first time in my life! I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of eating squid, but after drenching it in lemon juice and ignoring the…squishiness of it…**shudder**…I found that eating things that come from the ocean are actually edible. Good thing to know if I’m ever stranded on an island.
Calamari. Yuck.
The next day, we toured some sights in Sevilla. These were cool because they were all built by Arabs back in the day, so they had a cool Arabian feel to them.



And then we toured the Cathedral of Sevilla. Of course. Because if there is a cathedral, we are going to tour it. Of course. This one was fun to see, though, because it was Spain’s first completely gothic cathedral. Well, that, and there was a tower you could climb to see the entire city. Which was beautiful.



Oh, did I forget to mention that a certain Christopher Columbus is buried there, too? That was cool, I guess.
After our little tour, Rachel and I escaped to a cute little romantic park where we rented a cute little tandem bike type thing and acted all classy and European while driving around this beautiful park.
We ended up going to the same park the next day, because apparently the building we had been driving past all afternoon was used in the second episode of Star Wars! Yes, it was a terrible movie, but I was totally where they filmed a whole 30 seconds! If you’ve been ignoring my obnoxious video clips up to now, be sure to check out this one.

Our final destination was Granada, where we visited the world famous Alhambra.
This beautiful city is the last place the Muslims had control of before they totally got kicked out of Spain. Here’s a good little piece of history for you: When the city fell to the Christians, the leader of the Muslims sat looking over the beautiful city he had just lost and started crying. His mom came up to him and told him to keep crying like a woman because he couldn’t defend his city like a man. Talk about tough love.
I absolutely LOVED the gardens here. Someday, when I have a rich and perfect Spanish husband, we are going to pool our money to buy them and move them into our backyard. Or we’ll just buy the Alhambra. I’d be cool with that too.
I even found my old American Lit pal Washington Irving in the Alhambra. He wrote a story about Alhambra using many of the old Arab legends. This plaque says that the room we were standing in was the room he wrote in–sweet! The English Nerd inside of me made me take this picture.
That night, we went and saw some more Flamenco dancing. And it was AMAZING. I’m going to include another must-see video here, because the rhythm of the clapping and the dancing is absolutely mesmerizing.

Aubrey and I being all Flamenco-y before the show
All of the girls with the attractive Flamenco dancers/singers/guitarists after the show
Unfortunately, I woke up sick on Saturday morning. So when we went to the famous Spanish poet Lorca’s house, I wasn’t terribly interested or excited. I did learn, however, that Lorca wasn’t just a great writer–he played the piano, drew, and acted extremely well also. A true artistic genius. But it felt oh-so-good to come home at last and take a nap after our amazing trip to Andalusia. Which, it turns out, is awesome.

Things I’ve Learned in Spain-5

16. Air actually blows in those little air vent things in the ground here in Spain. So don’t walk over them when you’re wearing your new purple dress or you will have a legit Marilyn Monroe moment in the streets of Madrid. Oopsies…

17. When you go to the temple without your Spanish professor, everyone will talk to you in English. Even the extremely attractive Portuguese man who spoke perfect English without ever having set foot in the United States. Unfortunately, he was attached to a very cute Portuguese girl. Dang it….
18. When the temple president comes in to greet you and thank you personally for coming to the temple, you should probably wake up your roommate who’s dozing next to you. Or else she’ll be mad. Also, all the nice people in the world are from Arizona. Including the cute old man checking temple recommends at the front desk.
19. If you come to Spain to be immersed in the Spanish culture, be prepared for lots of American music.
20. The only deodorant available in Spain is the rolly kind and the spray kind. Both are way more fun than the regular American kind–so either way, you win.

Salamanca and other Grand Adventures

Sidenote: (You know it’s going to be bad when I START with a sidenote) I am in love with the Spanish countryside. We’re driving along in our big happy bus of wonderfulness, watching beautiful green fields rush past, when out of nowhere, a blanket of red poppies overtakes the entire field. I learned in my BritLit class that poppies are supposed to be representative of death and gloom and such and such, but I cannot tell you how happy these little flowers make me.
Now, our featured presentation:
First stop of the weekend–Avila! Avila is most famous for their big, old wall. (And no, Mom, it’s not the Great Wall of China. Nice try, though)
These suckers surround the entire city, and they’re awesome.

Everywhere we go, they tell us how old all of these buildings are. However, I found these workers building one of the towers right in front of my eyes! They can tell me they’re “just restoring it,” but I know the truth πŸ™‚
After running around there for awhile, we drove over to Salamanca, a university city super close to Portugal.
Yeah, I know. It’s fantastic πŸ™‚
Our awesome tour guide first took us to the University of Salamanca, the 4th oldest university in the world. It was amazing. And very old.
This is the original building. They don’t use it anymore for educational purposes, but it was fun to look at. Our next stop was–surprise!–the Cathedral. I’m having a harder time appreciating the cathedrals, now. After the 12th one, they all start looking the same. Some pretty sweet highlights from this though came when we took a peek at the back door.

This is a lion. Eating an ice cream cone. Rachel and I were totally jealous.

This is an astronaut.
It turns out the facade over the back door had to be redone at some point in the 20th century, so the architects decided to have some fun and include Space Men and Ice Cream in their designs. Oh, those Spaniards and their sense of humor!
We had a blast that night. We spent the first little while wandering around to different shops, comparing ice cream prices, and just chilling in the Plaza Mayor.
This is the Plaza Mayor. It’s a beautiful centro with tons of cute shops and apartments upstairs. Someday when I move back here with my Perfect Spanish Husband, we’re going to own an apartment upstairs so we can make everyone sitting in the middle of the plaza jealous.

Oh, we’re just chilling in the Plaza Mayor. No biggie.
We then spent the next half of the night trying to find a dance club that would let us in without buying alcohol. (Oh, the sad sorry life of a BYU student) Unfortunately we had no luck there, so we found a political protest and hung out with those guys before the police showed up. While the dancing was kind of a flop, how many people can say they got lost in the streets of Salamanca for half of a Friday night?
The next morning, we all went and had breakfast in the Plaza Mayor (ah, the day in the life of a Spaniard) before a few of us went to mass in the cathedral. Well, we attempted to go to Mass. When there weren’t any actual Catholics there, we just hung out until we could talk to the Priest. He was adorable, and I’m probably going to adopt him. Highlight of that conversation: he showed us a chair that one of the popes sat in when he visited in the 80’s. And I sat in it.

Proof.
We hit a couple other cities on our way home, with no special details to mention. You know how it goes here–visit some cathedrals, eat bocadillos de tortillas in open plazas, visit with the viejitos (old Spanish men)…just a day in the life πŸ™‚

So You Want to be an English Teacher

If you stalk me under BYU’s system, you will see that I am a declared English Teaching Major. I dream of someday molding little high school minds to love English literature and writing, much like dear Mrs. Wayne did for me back in the day. But when the people at school told me today I was supposed to teach a whole bunch of Spanish teachers English, I panicked. This is not what I signed up for!

As part of our time here in Spain, we’re supposed to talk to a certain number of natives a weeks, memorize parts of Cristo Viviente (The Living Christ in Spanish) and do service to improve our EspaΓ±ol. So apparently I was assigned to teach English to some profes in town. When I talked to the lady in charge, she asked, “What, you’ve never taught an English class to foreigners before?”
Um, no.
So while I was freaking out about the absolute inadequacy of my future-teacher self, she was probably wondering why I had even agreed to do this. But seriously–I was terrified. What about this short, semi-blonde American gave them the impression I was qualified for such a thing?
I ran home and googled “How to teach English to Spanish Speakers” and found a whole lot of unhelpful nothingness. After realizing I had no idea what level these people were at anyway, I gave up on the whole thing and decided to just show up and wing it.
And you know what? It didn’t go too badly.
I just had everyone introduce themselves in Spanish at first, giving their name, describing a little bit of their childhood, their families, and what they did the last weekend. And then they asked me a bunch of questions that I knew the answer to, all because I have been speaking English my entire life! And before I knew it, class was over, and I got on my little Bus #7 to go home and eat pasta and yogurt.
So apparently, the only qualification you need to teach English is being able to speak it! I knew those 20 years of English training would pay off eventually πŸ™‚

Excuses, exsuses, and one crazy week!

I’ve been asked by several people when I was going to update my blog/why I haven’t updated my blog/what’s going on with my blog/why I continue blogging even when I sound ridiculous. Either way–here is a new post about the crazy nuttiness that was my third week in Spain!
Monday–Museo de Reina Sofia
This museum was AMAZING. It has hundreds of works from Spanish artists from the 20th century, including Picasso and Dali.
Tuesday–Real Madrid
Tuesday I forked out 30 Euros to go see the world’s most popular sport in a place where people appreciate it–Soccer in Europe!

Wednesday–Flamenco
We headed down to Madrid to see some real life Flamenco.

We couldn’t take pictures of the inside, but it was gorgeous!
Thursday–Nature Walks, Cuenca, and first night in Valencia
We woke up at the unholy hour of 6:30 to get ready to leave for our weekend trip to Valencia. We took quick stops at a national park where we hiked girls-camp style (in other words–we walked around on a path for a while and put lizards down people’s shirts). Then we went to a cute little town called Cuenca. Just so you are aware for the next time you visit Cuenca–there is NOWHERE to buy a scoop of ice cream. We looked.

Cuenca!
Friday–Valencia
Morning–visit to the Lladro museum. Seriously–it was amazing. My grandma had a couple of them, so it was way cool to be able to see how they’re made. Afterwards we went to this sweet sassy aquarium where we saw a dolphin show, sharks, weird fishies, and sting rays! We had a good time there, but we are too willing to blow that Popsicle stand to go to LA PLAYA! Sadly, no pictures there. Don’t hate me! We spent that night running around the Centro and living the life of young college students partying it up in Spain. Sigh…I love this place πŸ™‚
Saturday–Valencia II
We went around to a couple the areas of Old Valencia, saw some cathedrals, shopped in some open markets, and had some original horchata. It was pretty great, but then we ditched that Popsicle stand to go to LA PLAYA! Sadly, no pictures again. (I’m sorry!) Valencia was fantastico, and if you hear about me moving here in a couple years with my perfect Spanish husband, don’t be too surprised πŸ˜‰

Things I’ve Learned in Spain-4-Picasso Edition

12. Picasso paintings are just as weird in real life as they are in the pictures you’ve studied in school. Part of me feels bad for his models. Their self-esteem must take a real hit when your portrait turns out like this.

Poor girl. I bet her nose really isn’t that hideous
13. You will make mistakes when learning Spanish. Just do your best to get the host family that puts up with your ramblings and still smiles and pretends like you make sense.
14. It turns out that singing really loud during church gets you weird looks even in Spain. These Spaniards don’t even know what loud obnoxious mezzo-soprano hit them.
15. When you go to the plaza to watch the teeny-boppers with nose piercings skateboard, you will inevitably be dared to go break dance with them. But it’s all ok, because you will receive an ice cream cone as a consolation prize for your ridiculous display. And we all know that a nice scoop of chocolate ice cream is totally worth it πŸ™‚

Fun Filled Days

Today was a day of many contrasts. It ranged from visiting a memorial to one of the most controversial leaders in history that had a Lord of the Rings feel to it to running around a mini castle like little kids. So all in all, it was just another one of my amazing days in Spain πŸ™‚
After loading on the same old bus at 9 am, we headed off to El Escorial…or so we though. We ended up in the middle of a beautiful forest in front of an ornate gate. After a ten minute drive where we saw nothing but trees and questioning where the heck this crazy man was taking us, we spotted this HUGE cross in the trees.
See? HUGE
As we got closer, we realized there was also a large gray building right in front of the cross. Profe told us that it was a monument to the Spanish Civil War that Franco built several years ago. (Or should I say, Franco used SLAVES to build several years ago. Yeah–he was a weirdee) We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, unfortunately, so I am unable to show you the absolute eeriness of this crazy building.
First of all, it was FREEZING. It didn’t help that it was rainy outside and I didn’t bring a sweatshirt, but the dark stone and zero heating system didn’t help either. The walls were dark and bare, except for a lamp lighting an inscription to Franco on the wall. It turns out that after he died, Franco was actually buried in this creepy, creepy tomb. A mass started while we were there, and with all of the echoing of the singing (which is honestly kind of weird to me without a creepy echo) and the dark oppressiveness of the cold stone, I was all-too-willing to leave. Quickly.
Disclaimer: I did not take this picture. My caption would have been much less formal and probably a little irreverent.

The next place we went to visit was El Escorial itself. It’s this awesome palace-slash-school-slash-monastery that several of the royals lived in after Spain was united under Isabella and Ferdinand (it always comes back to them. So yes–they are important)

Disclaimer: I didn’t take this picture either. Because I kind of didn’t take any pictures here. In my defense, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. But don’t tell my mom–she’d be mad at me.

One of the most interesting parts of the tour of this building was the panteon–the burial chamber of all the kings and queens.

Panteon
Disclaimer: I didn’t take this picture either. I wouldn’t have been allowed to, remember?

I’m not going to lie–I was a little creeped out at first at the thought of being surrounded byAlign Left decayed bodies of former Spanish leaders. But then I compared it to Franco’s crypt–the colors were warm, there was a ton of light, and everyone that was buried there had their spouse buried with them. Our guide mentioned one king in particular, though, who refused to be buried in el Panteon because his wife wasn’t allowed inside (I think it was because only women could be buried in el Panteon if their son was a king…or something) The power and prestige of being buried in this remarkable tomb was less important to him than being able to remain with his wife. I found it terribly interesting that this king would be willing to give up that prestigious opportunity to be with the one he loved, while Franco built an entire monument to himself so that he alone could be glorified. There are many mixed feelings about the former Spanish dictator, and I’m still not sure what to think about him, but I feel like even this simple choice to be so elevated in death has implications about what kind of man he was. I, for one, would choose my family over a fancy building all to myself any day.

Another highlight of el Escorial was the library.

An entire room with bookshelves lining the walls? I was in Heaven!
Disclaimer: I enjoy using disclaimers

All the paintings you see on the ceiling were quite intricate and portrayed many of the great philosophers, teachers, and thinkers of the day. The scholars of the day emphasized both secular and spiritual learning, and their two most treasured books in the collection were a collection of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and a collection of secular learnings. This was especially significant to me, as I study at a university where a heavy emphasis is placed on both secular and religious knowledge. Maybe 16th century Spanish monks and I have more in common than I thought.

We ended the day running around an old castle in Manzanares. Did I learn anything? Not at all. Did I have a fantastic time? Youbetcha. πŸ™‚

The Castle at Manzanares
Disclaimer: Again, I got this photo off the internet. Don’t judge me.



What an attractive group of American students!
Disclaimer: …
I got nothin’