Monday, January 31, 2011

Toros, Tour, Teatro, Tapas

Saturday, January 29

Another sunny day arrived in Sevilla on Saturday.  Although my legs still hurt, I stretched them out and headed to El Centro for a day of sightseeing.

Plaza de Toros:  My first stop was the Bullfighting Museum.  A Bullfighting Ring sits by the river waiting for the May - September bullfighting season to arrive.  The guided tour of the museum and stadium gave me a history of the spectacle.  Most interesting was the story of Manolete.  In 1947, the admored matador was killed in the ring.  To the horror of city, the bull and the bull's mother were both killed.  Heads of Bulls lined the walls of the museum, but there was only one Cow (vaca) -- the mother of the bull that killed Manolete.

El Mercado del Arenal:  Next to the ring is Sevilla's premier "farmer's market" -- a commerical building of permanent artisan stands offering a fine selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, and most spectacular of all, fresh seafood.  I will have to return on a weekday, when more stands are open.

Plaza del Salvador: I enjoyed just wandering the streets of the Centro that day.  I stumbled upon quite a mob scene in Plaza del Salvador.  It is notorious for attracting young locals; it is the premier place to mingle with your cervezita (little glass of beer).

The Night Out (sadly, no pictures):  Montse (my host mother) invited me to a movie in the Centro with her friends.  I saw the Spanish-dubbed version of Clint Eastwood's new film with Matt Damon,"Hereafter" ("Más állá de la vida").  Montse's friends were outrageous, each separately referring to "BradPitt" (one word in Spanish) when they met me.  After the stellar movie, we went to a tapas bar. There I tried two new Spanish culinary wonders: (1) Morcilla (Blood Sausage) con Brie, and (2) Merluza con patatas, setas, y jamón (Merluza fish with potatoes, mushrooms, and ham).  Both were roughly $3.00 and incredible!  Nice to spend an evening with Spaniards, too.  Listening to a conversation is still hard.

For pictures of Bullfighting day:

The Sun Arrives in Time for Catedral Visit

Friday, January 28

After our Spanish exams, we reunited in the Barrio de Santa Cruz for a guided tour of the Catedral, Sevilla's central attraction.  It was a beautiful day in Sevilla.  We have had spitting rain all week, but I am not complaining about the temperature.  It feels like Indianapolis in April, quite comfortable to me, but terrible to the Sevillanos.  The constant refrain in my host household is "Qué frio" (how cold).

Sevilla's Catedral is the third-largest church in Europe after St. Peters (Vatican) and St. Paul's (London).  It is the largest Gothic church in the world.  Now I understand.  The church contains several inner chapels, one of which is open at no charge.  The site was originally home to a Moorish mosque.  After the Christians reconquered Spain, they destroyed the structure and erected the spectacular Catedral.  Two Moorish elements remain: the Giralda Tower (Torre de Giralda) and the Court of  Oranges (Patio de los Naranjos).  The tower had been used by the Moors to call prayer over the city five times a day.  Instead of stairs, the tower contains ramps, so that the Moors could ride horses up the tower.  In the Court of Oranges, an intricate irrigation system remains.

The church was spectacular inside and out.  With my fellow students, I walked up the ramps of the Giralda Tower.  There are 34 ramps in total; they become steeper and narrower the further you go up.  My knees, already weak from hours spent walking the city streets everyday, were aching.  The view from the top is the ultimate reward.  No Sevillano building can stand taller than the Giralda.  Thus, from the top, you get a panoramic view of the city: Triana, Barrio de Santo Cruz, outskirts of the centro. 

My favorite statue within the church was the Tomb of Columbus.  Four kings, each representing the Christian kingdoms that comprised Spain (Aragon, Castile, Leon, and Navarre) carry the tomb of Columbus.  At the feet of one of the kings is a speared pomegranate, the symbol of Granada.  The city had been the last Moorish fortress in Spain.  Its fall ended the Reconquista, the period during which Columbus discovered the new world, Spain united under Christian rule, and the Golden Age began.

See pictures of the sunny Catedral day at

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trip to Alcázar in "Wintery" Sevilla

Sunday, January 23
Group Trip to Alcázar in the Barrio de Santa Cruz

On a cold day (40 degrees F) in Sevilla, I miraculously reunited with the group without getting lost.  Together we walked with CIEE staff to the Alcázar for a personal tour (all in Spanish).  The 10th century palace was originally built for Moorish leaders.  A 14th century renovation turned the fortress into a Christian royal palace for Pedro I.  Whereas Granada's Alhambra was built for Moorish rulers by Moors (and remained so), the 14th century Alcázar was built for Christian rulers in the Moorish ("Mudejar") style.  Queen Isabel later greeted Christopher Columbus here after his New World adventures. The palace is still in use today.  The royal family of King Juan Carlos stays in the palace on visits to Sevilla. 

I was overwhelmed by the level of ornateness of each room.  Then, to add to my amazement, the tour continued through an endless number of rooms, culminating in a garden that puts Alice in Wonderland to shame.  As you will see in the corresponding photos, I practiced taking pictures of myself with sites in the background.  But, I also had to take advantage of having a group:  it seemed like we were all taking pictures of each other, trading cameras, and snapping multiple shots in each room.

See link to my web album:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Perdido en Paradiso

It seems that every time I walk out of my apartment, I end up lost in the maze of Sevilla's streets (El laberinto de Sevilla).  I start walking on one street, and then the street changes its name and direction.  Intending to go one way, I go in another.  Montse (my host mother) and I sat down with a map.  The breakthrough came this morning when I walked from my apartment to El Centro to tour the Alcazar with the CIEE Group.  I never took a wrong turn. 

Highlights from the weekend include:

Friday, January 21: 

Lunch with my host family included potatoes and scrambled eggs, fried pork loin, and tomatoes with olive oil.  Southern Spain has the best oranges.

After visiting the CIEE Study Center in El Centro, my group and I (with Antonio Lopez as our guide) feasted on tapas in the Barrio de Santo Cruz.  At La Gitana, Antonio's friend María ordered an array of tapas: calamares fritos (fried squid), lomo con Roquefort, ensalada de piquillos (sweet pepper salad), gambas como cigarillos (shrimp wrapped like cigarettes in a hard pastry shell), taleguitas de queso de cabra (Croquettes of Goat Cheese). 

Then, we set out for the club.  Our entire Business and Society group danced the night away at a Club near El Centro.  This was the first time for letting loose with our guides.  At about midnight, I took a taxi with Nicole and Claire.  The taxi dropped us off at Claire's apartment; I walked with Nicole to her apartment, and I proceeded get lost in Sevilla by myself for about an hour before I miraculously found Estrella and Irene (two guides), who guided me home. 

Saturday, January 22 - Lost again.  I woke up late and tried to get to Hotel Hesperia to meet the group.  But, yes I lost myself again.  But another miracle occurred and I met up with Adam.  Together we walked to El Centro to admire the Barrio de Santo Cruz and the Catedral.  We ran into my group (with Antonio Lopez leading the way) at the most famous tapas hotspot: Bodega de Santo Cruz (or "Las Columnas" to the Sevillanos).  Then, back to the apartment for lunch (pollo con patatas bravas).  I later bought my cell phone amid the chaos of "Rebajas" - the season of heavy discounts at Sevilla's malls.  Going out would not be possible; I stayed in and chatted with Montse for the night.

Sunday, January 23 to come.  For now, some more pictures:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Orientation and Beginnings

After a few days in New York, I flew to Madrid via Aer Lingus.  My arrival was accompanied by the invasion of American students to Spain in general.  The Madrid airport was my first test in language skills.  I had to get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 several miles away on a separate campus.  But, with fellow Americans at my side, I managed.  We waited in Terminal 1 for a few hours before we boarded an all-American-student Iberia flight to Sevilla.

We arrived at the Orientation hotel after getting a CIEE shuttle from the airport.  Lunch awaited: Salmorejo and Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin.  I was late to lunch, so I got to eat with the orientation staff.  This was my second test: holding a conversation at the table with non-English speaking Sevillanos.  But, Estrella, Marta, Pilar, and Eloisa made great company.  I proceeded to spend the entire afternoon talking to them in Spanish.  I am grateful for their patience and eagerness to teach me.  Alvaro, Virginia, los tres Antonios, Jaime, and others joined the group later.  An exciting dinner of Eggplant-wrapped cod followed.  Then, sleep.

Day 2: Lots of breakfast treats including a cheese and charcuterie bar. Pilar and Marta gave me a tour, making the distinction between choped, chorizo, lomo, and other cured meats for me.   After visiting Jaime at the Business School, we toured the tapas scene for lunch.  More tapas followed at night.  Then I witnessed a rapturous Flamenco show.  Plenty of "Oles" and rounds of applause.

Day 3: I met my host family: Montserrat and her 23-year-old daughter, Cecilia.  The 19-year-old son has moved to England to pursue a career as a Futbol trainer.  I now have his single bedroom and bathroom.  Montserrat (name of the Virgin of Catalunya) works in a jewelry store in the area.  She has a great apartment across from the Business School.  The short walk will make the lunch break easy. 

More tapas and Sevilla adventures to come.

Check out photos here: