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Viva España! July 23, 2012

Posted by bethcarpenter in Travel Log.
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Spain is absolutely beautiful!  Though I was warned by my aunt and uncle when I visited them in Málaga prior to my Madrid trip that Madrid is known as the “Frying Pan of Europe,” nothing quite compares to the heat and humidity of Atlanta.  I’m quite enjoying the dry heat here after winter in Peru.  🙂

Below is a picture of me, my aunt and uncle, and some local friends from the nearby village.Image

I visited my aunt and uncle in Málaga my sophomore summer of high school, and my mental idea of the Iberian Peninsula before this summer’s trip was purely based on my experiences in the southmost region of Andalucía.  This area carries heavy Islamic influences that remain from the Moorish conquest in the 8th century lasting until the reconquest by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492; the tradition of flamenco dancing and the sensual, rhythmic music that accompanies it are actually a result of gypsy/Spanish syncretism.  I was delighted to return last weekend for a four-day trip to Seville and Grenada!

We took one of the famed European bullet trains for a three-hour journey to Seville, the setting of perhaps the most famous opera in the world–Carmen by Georges Bizet.  I adored Seville so much, despite the four hour walking tour in the heat of the afternoon upon our arrival while we waited for our hotel rooms to be cleaned!

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The last evening, we shared traditional Spanish tapas by the Guadalquivir River and ended our night with a long walk in the city.

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We took a low-speed train further east to Grenada, the sight of the famous Alhambra (the final stronghold of the Moors in Spain, defeated in 1492).
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We also attended a traditional, authentic flamenco show our first night in Grenada!  What made the show so fantastic was not, however, the gorgeous costumes or the magnificent dancing before our very eyes–but the appearance of a two-year old dancer in a polka dot dress and a miniature fan who joined the adults!
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Andalucía was the Spain I remember  from when I was fifteen and embarking on my first solo international trip.  I discovered an entirely new facet to Spain in the capital, Madrid, where our program takes place!  Ascending the stairs from the metro exit from the airport into the heart of Madrid where the residencia is located, I couldn’t believe how European everything looked in comparison to Peru!  Buildings had sweeping bay windows and balconies out of a fairy tale; Spanish women walked down the streets in mile-high heels and breezy fabrics as if off a runway.
Despite the intensity of the workload here that demands not only my evenings during the week–but also (gasp!) valuable siesta time that is so valued by the Spanish–I have managed to see and learn so much about Spanish culture and history.  With the mandatory conversations with madrileños (citizens of Madrid) an important segment of our classes, I have discussed the Franco-era, gender issues, and even the tradition of soccer during the Eurocup!  I have participated in a flamenco class (much to the horror of my classmates), discovered the Spanish concept of the siesta and ocio–taking the time to relax and enjoy life (something we Americans sometimes forget), and integrated a crimson fan into my daily wardrobe (a gift from a Spanish wedding during my visit with my aunt and uncle).
I only have a week left here in sunny Spain.  Afterwards, I fly to Montana for several weeks of desperately-needed family vacation (and sleep!), return to Savannah for a day or two, move into my North Avenue apartment in Atlanta, and then fly for five days to England to visit my mother’s family!  I’d like to say I’ve had a pretty international experience this summer.  🙂
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