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July 13 -16: Viaje a Andalucía August 6, 2012

Posted by luciabird in Travel Log.
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Our second weekend in Spain, we traveled to Andalusia, which is the southernmost “autonomous community” or region in Spain. The Strait of Gibraltar, which is just nine miles, separates Andalusia from Morocco in northern Africa. Andalusia was certainly my favorite part of Spain, and this region is famous for its culture, which we were able to experience in the form of attending a flamenco show and touring several examples of Moorish-inspired architecture. We also had much free time to get to know the other students on the program better, as well as tour the cities of Sevilla and Granada (the particular Andalusian cities that were our destinations) independently.

Bright and early Friday morning, our tour guide met us at our Residencia at 6:00am, and then we all headed to the Estación de Atocha in Madrid to board a high-speed train that would take us to Sevilla. Although we were still very tired, I was excited because this was my first experience with high-speed trains, and I literally felt like I was stepping onto the set of the old cartoon “The Jetsons.” The trains were silver, aerodynamic, and looked like they were from the future. We entered them from a station that was more like an airport than any train station I have ever entered. We arrived in Sevilla at 9:30am and embarked on an extensive walking tour of the city, as our hotel rooms were not yet ready. Some of the highlights of the tour include the Palacio Arzobispal, the residence of Seville’s archbishop; the Archivo de Indias, which includes the political, financial, and cultural records of the development of the Western world in relation to Spain; and Plaza de España, which was my personal favorite site. The Plaza de España is a large semicircle with buildings surrounding it, a large lake and fountain in the center, and walls with murals representing the different regions of Spain along the edge. For me, this particular plaza was very interesting because the scenes featuring the planet Naboo in the movies Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, part of my favorite film serious, were filmed there.

On Saturday, we toured the two most famous sites in Sevilla—the Catedral de Sevilla and the Alcázar. In the morning, our tour guide led us through the Catedral, informing us on the various types of architecture and art that were housed there, the important political and religious figures that had been buried there, and the historical events that had occurred there. For me, the most interesting part of the Catedral was the Giralda, which is a large tower attached to the Catedral that was originally built by the North African Moors who had ruled Spain. We climbed the thirty-six floors to the top of the tower and then witnessed the most perfect view of Sevilla possible. I have not experienced such a wonderful view since climbing Il Duomo in Florence. Later that afternoon, we toured the Reales Alcázares, which was a Spanish palace in Sevilla that was originally a fort for the North African Moors. Our guide informed us that the technical term for the architecture is “mudéjar,” referring to the Moors that remained in Spain after the Reconquista of southern Spain by the Christian kings. The interior of the palace was beautiful, especially the tiles decorating the walls, but the most amazing part of the Alcázar was the gardens outside the castle—I felt as if I had walked into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. At both of these sites, I was able to find many gifts for my family, such as a St. Lucia statue for my mother, who collects them, and a print of the courtyard of the Alcázar for my father, who enjoys Arabic art.

On Sunday, we left Sevilla for Granada, arriving at 12:30pm. Upon arrival, our guide led us on a brief walking tour of the city so that we could get our bearings and then allowed us free time for lunch, during which most of us again had tapas and finished with gelato, of course. That evening, we attended a fabulous flamenco show that was held in a cave in the mountains near Granada. The dancers, costumes, and music were very beautiful and haunting, and were also a real window into the Andalusian culture that we could not have experienced through just films or lectures. I felt that I could appreciate it even more because of a flamenco lesson we had at the International School on July 10, which gave me insight into just how difficult flamenco dancing is. Also noteworthy about this particular flamenco show was that Michelle Obama had attended the show in 2010 during a visit to Granada. The next day, Monday, July 16, we visited the Alhambra, a Moorish palace located on the top of a hill on the outskirts of Granada. At the flamenco show the night before, we were able to see the complex lit up against the dark forest, and it had appeared beautiful then. During the day, the ruins appeared even more beautiful—they included very typical Muslim architecture and art, such as colorful geometric patterns, and absolutely gorgeous gardens with lush plant life. I really enjoyed visiting this palace, and, in a small shop in the streets near the base of the hill, I was able to find two lovely paintings of the Alhambra, which will be perfect gifts for some of my friends.

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