So, I had that whole blog-post-once-a-week-like-a-beast! mentality going and then midterms and two trips happened and suddenly it’s been two and a half weeks since I last wrote. It’s funny now to read back on my previous post and see what was going on, and see how life has changed in just a two and a half week period. Time always has such a way of flying by, right?
Midterms came and went just like they always do in a week full of stress, constant studying (yet constant procrastinating). It was different studying for midterms here in Spain; most of my studying took place in my room in my house instead of in Milliken or the publications room and in general it was a healthier week as there weren’t any late night Cookout runs or Burwell breakfast to enjoy. Overall I think my midterms went fine, I still haven’t gotten the majority of them back so I don’t want to count my chickens so to say, but they honestly weren’t that different from midterms in the States once you got over the fact that they were all in another language and you had to write on white unlined paper. During midterms week, I was able to meet up with Chris Novak (he’s studying in Rome, Italy for the semester) for a mini WoCo reunion lasting Wednesday afternoon. I can’t express how amazing it was to see a familiar face after two months of not seeing anyone I know personally from before Spain. We spent the afternoon walking around Alcalá, eating tapas, and talking. It was refreshing to talk about “woffordprobs” for a change: rooming, classes, what the social buzz on campus is, and even more. It definitely made me miss my school even more though, but it also made me realize, once again, how great it is that I have the opportunity to even be here, learning and studying a culture different than mine. It makes me appreciate what I have.
After midterms week, we headed out on our second and final program trip with CIEE to la Rioja, Spain. As of right now, this trip was one of my favorites of the entire semester. It was really nice not to have to plan all of the details of the trip- just to be able to experience it and “go with the flow” from place to place; that’s one of my favorite aspects of the two program trips we took. I also love the fact that Fausto comes with us as our own personal tour guide. I’ve fallen a lot into the habit of visiting and taking pictures of these gorgeous historic buildings simply because of that- they are gorgeous historic buildings. In reality, I have no idea what they are, the reason they were built, why they are important, etc. It’s funny now to look back on field trips in high school or middle school that included a guided tour and think of how much I hated to have to just stand and listen to someone talk about the Washington Monument or Arlington National Cemetery. Now I actually wish I had the money to have a personal tour guide at all the sites I visit in Spain because I almost crave the knowledge and history of them. Maybe that means I’m growing up?
Our trip to la Rioja consisted in basically stopping at different little pueblos, touring the major sites for an hour or so and learning about the culture and history, then getting back on the bus and heading to another area. I actually really enjoyed this format of the trip; I feel like the travel time on the bus in between gave you a chance to sit back and realize what you just experienced instead of being overloading by site after site after site. Plus, I honestly can say I fell in love with that area of Spain. The air was crisp and fresh, there were beautiful trees all set in these little towns that looked almost like how you would imagine Europe: cobble stone winding streets between historic buildings and breath taking churches all set into a lovely countryside. On Saturday, we had a guided tour of a bodega (winery) and learned about how wine was made, followed by a wine and olive oil tasting. I’ve never felt so classy in my life than when I was sitting in this room, overlooking beautiful vineyards, swishing a glass of wine and critically tasting the flavor to find the difference between an old wine and a young wine. Both types of olive oil we sampled were absolutely delicious (and the wine as well!) and I only wish I had room in my luggage to bring it all home, haha. I know it was an experience I will never forget, and even better, the entire tour and tasting were conducted in Spanish which just again reaffirms that I’m actually here learning a language. Truthfully though, after studying Spanish for six years, it’s an amazing feeling to finally know that I can understand the language and take part in conversations in the language. I feel as if my Spanish has grown considerably from my first day here; though I think the most major obstacle I’ve overcome is any form of embarrassment when it comes to attempting to speak in Spanish. Now, I speak with no hindrance or second thought, whereas at the beginning of the semester it was hard to even string together a sentence without worrying I was saying it wrong.
Saturday night of the trip, we went ice skating in Logroño, the city were we stayed for the weekend. It was one of the funniest nights I’ve had since being here, I completely forgot how much I love to ice skate and it was so much fun watching everyone and playing around on the ice. I felt like a little kid again skating around and around the rink and trying to pull of tricks and not fall. It was such a cool activity that I never imagined myself doing in Spain. After ice skating, we went out to tapas in Lorgoño which is one of the things the city is known for, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I had this little frying pan filled with french friends, a fried egg, and chorizo. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but I’m kind of obsessed with it, haha. On Sunday on the way home, we visited Burgos, a really cool city surrounding an even more amazing cathedral. While we were there, I swear there were little snow flurries (and Cristina backs me up on this!) falling on our faces as Fausto explained the significance of the beautiful cathedral. It was one of those “wow I’m really taking part in this life-changing experience” moments for me; sometimes it’s the little things like standing in what (in my opinion) was snow to fully realize and be thankful for how blessed you are to be where you are.
Time absolutely flew by after we got back from la Rioja. We had been talking to about two weeks or so about possibly going to Sevilla, Córdoba, and Granada this past weekend because we didn’t have class on Thursday because it was the day of Todos los Santos in which the Spanish go to cemeteries and clean the graves of their loved ones and leave flowers for them. On Monday, we talked again about possibly going and came up with a schedule of when we would go where and what we would do, but it wasn’t until WEDNESDAY afternoon, the day we left, that we bought all of our tickets to go. It was an extremely stressful twenty four hours between planning everything on Tuesday and then buying all of our tickets and figuring out where we were going to stay and everything on Wednesday. I’m can honestly say as great and as happy as I am that everything worked out, I will not be planning any spontaneous trips anytime soon as I would rather not die from stress related causes, haha. We left Wednesday night/ Thursday morning at 1:00 AM on a night bus and arrived in Sevilla at 7:45 that morning. Sevilla was an absolutely gorgeous city; we stayed in a hostel that was close to all of the major sites and spent the day walking around and sight seeing. I think my favorite part of Sevilla was the Plaza de España, this major plaza complete with a little moat and row boats with these gorgeous mosaic bridges spanning it next to a beautiful building. The building had mosaic murals built into the side depicting each of the autonomous communities of Spain. It was one of my favorite places in Spain so far I’d had to say, definitely my favorite plaza so far. After we went there, we walked along the river near Sevilla before eating dinner and going to a free flamenco show at a local bar. I hate to say it, but the flamenco show basically encompassed the phrase “you get what you pay for” haha. Needless to say, we left the show early and got to bed early to be ready for another marathon day on Friday.
On Friday morning we took an 8:36 AM train from Sevilla to Córdoba and enjoyed a delicious breakfast of McMuffins and café con leche from McDonalds en route. I say delicious because it actually was, haha; it was oddly nostalgic to eat McDonalds breakfast. Upon arrival in Córdoba, we took a bus to the historic center from the train station and spent the morning in one of my hands down favorite places in Spain, la Mezquita. La Mezquita started off as a mosque but was transformed during la Conquista (like a lot of buildings in Spain) into a cathedral. It’s actually amazing because it was more normal during that time to destroy the conquered mosque and build the cathedral on top of it, but instead the mosque was left intact. Now, it this intricately beautiful mix between a mosque and a cathedral in such a way that highlights the similarities and difference between them both. There are these gorgeous arches inside I became slightly obsessed with and hence have roughly 5000 pictures of, but sorry I’m not sorry, they were absolutely amazing.
After la Mezquita, we walked around the surrounding Barrio Judería until our 3:30 bus took us from Córdoba to Granada. We arrived in Granada about three hours later, and after checking into our hostel, spent the evening “tapas hopping” from restaurant to restaurant and exploring Granda. It started to pour down rain and we left to go back to the hostel, and continued raining through the next morning when we got up, once again, at the crack of dawn to go visit la Alhambra. La Alhambra is honestly a city unto itself, there almost is not way to describe it. It includes a fortress, a palace, and a church with breath taking surrounding gardens all set up upon a hill in Granada, overlooking the city. We spent five or six hours just walking around and trying to take in all that we were seeing. It was beautiful; there really aren’t words to describe just how amazing the whole area was, especially the gardens. I loved it, even though we had to trudge through the rain for the better part of our visit. That afternoon, we took a 6:30 PM bus back to Madrid, and after various buses and waiting, I arrived home around 2 AM to take a much needed shower and basically collapse into bed and sleep all day. The trip to Sevilla, Córdoba, and Granada was so amazing, but it definitely was a marathon weekend. I feel like I need another weekend just to rest and recuperate from the weekend I had, but alas I have a busy week this week. Just gotta look forward to sleeping all day on Saturday!
After traveling these two weekends in a row, and honestly through all of my travels in Spain, I’ve fallen in love with the Spanish countryside. I usually spend my time in the bus getting from place to place looking out the window in absolute awe at the amazing country passing me by. In the States, it’s more normal to see city upon city or town upon town with billboards lining the sides of the interstate or tons and tons of trees. Here, however, there aren’t as many trees, awarding a panoramic view of what is surrounding you. You can see tons of beautiful hills set upon fields complete with Don Quijote-esque wind mills and sometimes awe inspiring mountains off on the horizon. I really enjoy sitting back and taking it all in while listening to music on my iPhone and just having a personal moment to soak in why I’m here and all of the amazing things I’ve come to love about Spain and being abroad. It’s these affirming moments that alleviate the other harder moments.
Well, this post was long overdue but there you go! I’ll try to be better about it next time. I am in absolute shock at the fact that I only have six more weeks here to experience this life. I miss everyone, and can’t wait to be reunited to share all of these experiences in person. Un beso .