So I went to Sevilla again this weekend for the second time. I went 4 years ago when I did the immersion program in high school but the only thing I actually had to visit again was, of course, the cathedral. Everything else I visited was new so that was good!
Can I just begin by saying the hotel we stayed in was super swanky, either 3 or 4 stars I can’t remember. I mean for how much how parents are paying, the least we could get was a nice hotel and that is what we got! The hotel wasn’t exactly on a quiet street but I didn’t mind. I think everybody was a bit surprised by the way you had to turn on the lights in the room. The keycard we used to get into the rooms (a lot of people had issues with that by the way and ended getting locked out of their rooms but I lucked out with that) had to be inserted into this special slot right by the door. If you didn’t insert the keycard into it, you couldn’t turn on any of the lights. Way to conserve energy, Sevilla! The USA should totally look into this. I had seen it before 4 years ago so I was prepared but my hotel roomie was definitely a little confused!
So we got to Sevilla on Friday and after we had rested a little at the hotel, we traipsed off to this museum called Casa de Pilatos. As in Pontius Pilate… I think the reason for this name was that the house (it used to belong to some member of the royal family) was some distance from some cross somewhere in Sevilla and this somehow related to Pilate somehow… the explanation has some religious significance. Anyways the guy who owned the house collected a lot of art and I will be honest when I say I don’t remember much about the museum. We had a tour guide and visited a bunch of different rooms with period furniture and art. I remember we got to see the men’s salon and the women’s salon and of course, the women’s salon was much smaller. Oh sexism…
After that we went back to the hotel (after I and some girls bought some chocolate at Corte Ingles) and we had dinner at the hotel. Manolo sat down at my table that night and gave us a whole overview of Spanish table manners and other interesting topics (the man seriously knows everything about everything). We had fish and a really delicious dessert, a kind of pie and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called… (I know I should write stuff down but I don’t walk around with a pen and notebook and record everything, that looks dorky) I also ate ALL my vegetables Mom, including peppers.
Saturday was a very busy day. In the morning we visited this palace called the Reales Alcazares, where Pedro El Cruel lived (I don’t know why he was cruel but I’m guessing he wasn’t well liked). Again this place was an architectural wonder and was designed in the mudejar style, which I should be able to explain since I’m taking a Spanish Art History class but I really can’t. Basically it’s a mix between Arab architecture and Christian architecture… that sounds about right. If you see my pictures of the Reales Alcazares on Facebook, you will see what I mean. I think the most breathtaking part of the RA was the room with the huge gold cupola. It was very impressive and even though I had seen pictures of it before arriving in Sevilla, it was still awe-inspiring. The designs on the walls were very colorful and intricate and every room we walked into, there was too much to take in and observe. The gardens were also very beautiful. In all, the place is probably equal to La Alhambra in terms of historical architectural significance.
After the Reales Alcazares, it was off to… drum roll please… the cathedral! I will grant that the Cathedral is very impressive, it’s big and all and there are a million capillas (chapels) on the sides to visit. Also the “treasure room” is interesting with all these gold religious artifacts… though I’ve seen that at a few other of the cathedrals I’ve been to in Spain. I’m not sure what sets the cathedral apart from other cathedrals… except for the fact that Christopher Columbus is buried in there. No joke! He really is. There’s this majestic looking tomb with statues of 4 imposing looking men carrying what looks like to be a coffin… except it’s not really shaped like a coffin. The thing is huge. I mean, I know he was an important explorer but he didn’t end up discovering the USA, I think it was the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba, and some of South America (yes I did look this up on Wikipedia I didn’t know this all from memory!) Anyways there is some uncertainty as to whether the remains are really Columbus’s… but I think some DNA testing with the remains of Columbus’s son (also buried in the cathedral) proved that they are his. I think some remains of Columbus are also buried in Santo Domingo… wherever that is (somewhere in South America).
I also climbed the bell tower for the 2nd time, 35 ramps up (no stairs except at the last floor). The reason ramps were built and not stairs was that so the bell ringer could ride up to the top of the tower on a horse to ring the bell on time. Or at least that’s what I remember… and I think I heard Manolo explaining this very reason to someone in our group. The view from the top is nice but it was very crowded so we didn’t stay very long.
After all this, we had free time to kill so we all went to a restaurant because it was lunch time. While the waitress was a bit useless, the lunch was really good. I had paella and some steak and natilla for desert. Natilla, by the way, has become my new favorite dessert. My host mother has made it for me a few times and she has realized that I absolutely love it, judging from the way I gobble it down. There a few different ways to make it, judging from the recipes I’ve seen online. It’s basically a vanilla pudding made from egg yolks and milk and my host mother adds a graham cracker type cookie that floats on top with sprinkled cinnamon powder on top. The cookie breaks apart rather easily and the pudding is just superb. Dad, if you can somehow make this at home (it’s pretty easy I’m sure you can make it!) when I return to NY, I would looooooooove it!
After lunch, we walked along the river for a little bit (the Guadalquivir) and then headed back to the hotel to all walk as a big group to the Bellas Artes museum. It was okay… a lot of the paintings were religious ones depicting Catholic people and saints. I’m Catholic and I suffered (yes that is the correct word) through 9 pointless years of CCD (cathecism for the uninitiated) until I was confirmed… and suffered through 2 more years of Christianity classes when I went to Holy Child. (So in all that’s 11 years, I could probably lead a mass if I felt like it and if I was actually allowed to) (and no I haven’t been to mass since I’ve been here sorry Mom and Dad… the nearest church I’ve seen is the cathedral and I don’t want to go there again) So yeah I was able to tell what was going on in the paintings, but a lot of the other Dickinson students were bored since many are not Catholic. I mean a painting of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus is the same no matter how many ways you paint it… Mary always looks serene and Jesus has advanced child development judging by the way he is always depicted sitting up with a straight back in Mary’s arms. Afterwards, some students said that if they were religious or had knowledge of Christian faith they might have been able to appreciate the art more. I’m not sure if I agree or not… Angels are always inexplicably naked and always look sleepy with half lidded eyes. God/Jesus always has a beard on and looks rather Caucasian when in reality he probably looked more Middle Eastern than European. I must say the fact that we worship some guy dying on a cross is rather weird… Just because I know what is going on in the paintings doesn’t necessarily make me appreciate the art, it just makes me think about how Catholicism is so morbid.
After another excellent dinner in the hotel (duck this time with pudding for dessert), it was off the theater (so cultural!) to watch a guitarist named Cazinares play some flamenco guitar. I tried to look him up on youtube to see if I could show you guys an example of his music but to no avail. We were a bit misled about this performance… I thought when our program director said we were going to watch a flamenco show, we were going to see women in beautiful costumes and men in black dancing flamenco together with castagnettes. Instead we were treated to Cazinares playing guitar with another guitarist and a drummer. Now don’t get me wrong… I absolutely LOVED the music. And there was a dancer, a man who I’m pretty sure was dancing flamenco but he was dancing by himself and he only danced for 2 songs. The other girls who went to the show told me what we watched wasn’t flamenco and that the guy wasn’t dancing flamenco but I beg to differ. I talked with my father about this and flamenco is also a type of music, not dance. My dad told me he wanted to learn how to play really fast like flamenco guitarists do and that the hand movements are very intricate. That is pretty much what Cazinares did, so I’m pretty sure what I heard was flamenco music and that the dancer was dancing flamenco. Sure it wasn’t the grand show of castagnettes but I liked it nonetheless. After it was over, Cazinares (don’t know his first name) got a standing ovation and came back on with his friends for an encore. It was really fun to watch him play because he got so into the music and he and his fellow musicians kept looking over at each other smiling and nodding their heads, so it was really great to see the camaraderie on display right on the stage. On the way back from the theater (we had to walk there and in Sevilla it does not get as cold at night because it isn’t right on the Mediterranean like Malaga is) I saw the gathering of what looked like a Botellon… so I’m guessing this happens everywhere in Spain!
Sunday we left the hotel and visited Isla de la Cartuja, which is a contemporary art museum. At first I was like “wtf?” because honestly the first thing I saw was a sideways video of a man naked taking a shower and had to ask myself “this is art?????” Honestly some stuff in the museum was downright stupid and NOT art, I don’t care how much artists will insist that it was art. Some of the exhibits were just weird… and others were interactive and more interesting, I liked those. There was one really big painting that had a lot of faces of famous dictators, religious leaders, political leaders… it was fun finding them and trying to identify them.
Our last visit in Sevilla was La Italica, which included ruins of a Roman amphitheater pretty well preserved and some not so well preserved… blocks of… foundations? And some pretty well preserved mosaics. However I thought it was a bit silly that they had hired this one woman to act as a guard in the amphitheater. This woman’s sole job was to blow a whistle when people got too close/stepped on the rocks in the center of the amphitheater. In the center there was a drop leading into an open underground part of the theater. This is where animals were kept during fights before they were let out at the people that had the misfortune to fight them. I asked Manolo why didn’t they just put up signs warning people not to touch/get close to the rocks. He answered me as if it were obvious “Well this is considered to be an important historical site, of course we don’t touch the rocks!” Well can I just say in the US there aren’t any Roman ruins or ruins that old… and it just makes more sense to post a bunch of signs which is probably cheaper and less annoying than having a woman blow a whistle like a lifeguard trying to get kids to stop splashing each other at the pool.
After some lunch (tortilla de jamon), we headed back to Malaga and tried to sleep on the bus… and I got home and found myself incredibly happy to be headed back to Malaga and my house. I consider Malaga “home” now and I couldn’t wait to get back to my host mother and watch our favorite game show together (called Cifras y Letras, apparently a copy of a French game show).
And now I’m going to class again, including the 5th class I’m taking at the central UMA campus. The building I have the class in reminds me of a giant high school… some of the kids look like they belong in middle school! The class I’m taking (history of tourism) is interesting but I don’t understand what the professor is saying, mostly because I’m hurriedly taking notes on the powerpoint slides he’s got all the info on. I can’t listen and write notes in Spanish, not yet have attained that level of fluency! He’s a nice guy, but his teaching style leave a lot to be desired.
Oh and last week before I left for Sevilla, I and a bunch of people from the group went to this seafood restaurant called El Tintero. It’s known for only costing 8 euros per plate. I shared a plate with another girl and ate cuttlefish… had never heard of it before then but I really liked it! I tried a few other plates and everything was pretty good. I also think everybody liked the food.
In other news, my French cousin found an apartment by the Cathedral so he’s all set and I’ll probs go visit him sometime this week to check it out. 🙂 Also there are more Austrian girls in my house this week… I’m starting to think I should have taken German what with all the German I hear in Malaga!
I’m also highly enjoying all this coverage about Sarah Palin and I have watched every video Tina Fey has played her in in the skits on SNL (that woman deserves some sort of comic award). Could Sarah be more clueless???? It’s entertaining and takes my mind off the fact that I might be living in a cardboard box on the street when I go back home.
Oh and I may get Internet soon according to my host mother instead of having to sit out on the 2nd floor balcony and steal it from the neighbors. So for those of you who have wanted to Skype with me, I may be able to in a couple of days!
Pictures will be up soon on Facebook.
Gotta run but hope all of you who read this blog are doing well.