Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Gibraltar, Seville, Cordoba.
Friday October 23
The AIFS troop made our way to Gibraltar on out APYME bus. After several hours of driving we made our way into the city, La Linea, the last town before the UK Gibraltar. The view of the bay and the “Rock” was breathtaking. Hundreds of ships lined the bay and huge oil tankers sat on the deep blue ocean, out in the distance I could see the straight of Gibraltar and the Moroccan coast. We arrived just on the outside of the custom/border crossing and exited the bus. Our plan was to walk arcoss the border so that the bus didn't have to be searched (which would take to long). So the 50 of us made our way across the border. But not everyone made it. Yuri, who had a green card from Russia, was stopped and not allowed to pass. He was still a Russian citizen but had been living in the states for a very long time. I mean he had made it to London and Spain but they wouldn't let him in, so he had to wait for several hours outside...
The rest of us made our way across the airport landing strip and into the city. For the next several hours we explored the lower part of the city (the touristy parts). Saw some glass blowing and ate some Burger King (Lol). After some free time we proceeded to board the tour bus with quite an enthusiastic guide (where does AIFS find these guides!) named Paul. We toured the city and made our way up to the light hose at the far corner of the rock. We got a history lesson on the way about the British occupation and the battles that took place there. The point at the end of the rock was probably the most amazed and stunned I've been on this trip. It felt like I had just walked out into a dreamscape. As far as the eye could see there were ships, scattered about, some just white specs on the horizon. The Morrocan coast, just 14km away, was visible through a slight haze.
From there our tour took us to the top of the rock, to las cuevas or the caves. Inside the cave we visited there was an orchestra hall!!! What good acoustics.
After visiting the caves we made our way to the main attraction, The Apes of Gibraltar!
Every now and then we would see one of the monkeys on the way down and the driver would slow down and the monkey would jump into the driver side window and Paul would start talking to him/her. He new everyone we saw by name and the history behind that certain monkey. We stopped and got some pictures with them.
That was pretty much the end of Gibraltar because we needed to get back onto the bus and make our way to Sevilla!
Gibraltar was amazing, but Sevilla was the real beauty of the trip (mind you Gibraltar isn't a Spanish city, its British).
Sevilla Oct 24
After sleeping the night on a cot that was a little too small (John and Adam both got the beds in our hotel room) I wasn't feeling very rested but I was excited to get up and walk around. We started our tour of the City, going into the old part of town... to the Palace and then over to the Alcazar. We walked though the gardens of the Alcazar (the living residence of royalty in the past). We had another very good tour guide who gave us some, in depth, histories of the city and its people. After that we made our way to the catedral. The catedral is actually larger in area than the one in Rome, but not in volume (No Catedral can be built larger than the one in Rome). We toured the inside and saw Cristopher Columbus' actual tomb and toured the muy alta (tall) bell tower, where we got some great views of the city!!
Maria, Daryl and I made our way back to the other side of the city to try and buy tickets for that nights Sevilla FC game versus Espanyol! Oye! I was so excited. We got decent tickets in the high side of on the south goal. I also decided that I needed to get some paraphernalia and went over to the Sevilla equipo store. All I could think about for the rest of the day was the game... It appeared as though I had the same mindset of most of the city. I saw numerous people running around in the jerseys, etc... I spent and hour shopping around and found a store with some eurpoean style clothing ( I think I have been converted!!). After an after noon of rest it was time for the partido! It started at approx 10pm and everyone of the AIFS kids could been seen wearing there (recently purchased) Sevilla clothing. I brought along my Nikon D90 hoping to get some good pics, which I did, but I wish I had the money to get the preferencia sitting down by the field. The game ended up being a 0-0 tie, sin problema, Sevilla controlled the field.
That night was daylight savings so EVERYONE stayed up later to take advantage of the extra hour (oh college kids!!).
Sunday was another one of those days where we spent a lot of time on the Bus. We boarded the bus after a tasty breakfast at the Hotel. About 2 hours later we arrived in Cordoba. I enjoy being able to have free time to wander the small streets of the old city. The main attraction in the city is the Catedral/Mosque. It was originally a mosque in the first century but later it became Christianized and a Cathedral was built into the Mosque and a bell tower over the Muslim tower. It was an interesting experience, to walk amongst both Christian and Muslim architecture. Our guide was Juan Carlos Cordoba (like the city ;) We were able to walk around the city and see a Jewish synagogue and other buildings that held significance for each religion. Spain is an interesting country, you can literally see history unfold as you walk through the streets of the cities.
After our tour of the Catedral I walked around the city with Maria and we found some unique items in the corner shops (maybe a few of those will make it back to the states :)
All in all it was an exciting trip, now I'm preparing for Nerja!!!
Look for more blogs and some great pics that will be uploaded soon!!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Where to begin.... So much has happened since the last time I blogged it's hard to remember what I wanted to put down.
About a week ago we (the AIFS troop) took a trip to Madrid. Once again we were taking a bus, which wasn't my favorite means of travel but it was cheaper than flying everyone out there. We loaded the bus at 9 am and left for Madrid. Well actually we were heading for Toledo, a kind of detour to split up the very long drive. After about two hours or so of driving we arrived in Toledo. We took a small bathroom break at a nearby park and then two tour guides from the city jumped on our bus and showed us the city. These two guides were wonderfully comedic. We encircled the city looking at the city from the outside, it was completely surrounded by mountains and a river making it an ideal place in the past to set up a fortified city. After the brief scenic tour we entered the city on foot with our guides. We saw the cathedral on of the top three in Spain (or Europe for that matter). I'm including several links at the end of this blog so that you can read more information about the different places we visited. It would take to long to go through all of the information that we acquired from our guides on the trip. After the cathedral we went to a small Church where an original Greco art masterpiece was painted. Our guides were very knowledgeable and excited the sites and history. After the tour of the city we went to a near by sword factory where they still make swords (not for actual use I presume). Check out my flickr site to see all of the wonderful variations of swords that were made there.
After a long day of driving I didn't really feel up to another hour and a half to Madrid. I just wanted to sleep. We made it into Madrid without hitting too much traffic but I heard it can be a nightmare sometimes (kinda like driving home from a twins game on 94). We arrived at our hotel a little past 8pm and checked into our rooms. I was rooming with John and Adam. It was refreshing to have a new place to sleep and to have water pressure!! Everyone was excited to get out and experience Madrid. I however just wanted some food! A group of us made our way to a nearby mall and ate at a restaurant called VIPS. A Philly Cheese Steak hit the spot (lol). I turned in early that night because I knew the next day was going to be just as busy.
We woke up early (yet again) and got back on the bus for a tour around Madrid with some new guides. We saw the train station and a statue that commemorated all those who died in the Madrid bombings. We ended up at the Prado where we took a tour through the art galleries. We only had about an hour in there but it was amazing to see the history and famous art pieces.
Afterwards a group of us made our way to the Madrid Zoo where we spent the remaining daylight observing a array of interesting animals. The next day we boarded the bus yet again and headed off to Segovia and El Escorial. The day was pretty much a blur of historical information, by the end I felt like I had travelled back in time and was an official member of that age. It was nice being a tourist for a bit. I feel like I have been flying under the radar while living in Granada. But in Madrid I didn't really care, it was out in the open, I was a tourist, I was doing touristy things and I loved it. Segovia and Escorial were amazing towns, there were towns out of a storybook. In fact the castle we visited in Segovia was the inspiration for the castle in Snow White. Those of us who wanted to climb to the top of the castle did so but were in for a surprise when we began the never ending spiral staircase, only big enough for one person (even though there were people descending the stairs as well). The sight from the top was memorable, and I'm glad I had the chance to visit such a place. After a break and some dark chocolate (Peru chocolate, yum!) we jumped back on the bus and headed back to Madrid for our last night there. That night we had a Chinese buffet! Yeah a bit american of us but I didn't care, I was happily full.
The next day most people headed off to other European countries and a few of us (Maria and myself included) returned home to Granada on the bus. It was a very scenic return ride but after 4 hours on the bus that day I was getting a little fed up with busses, I had spent almost 20 some hours on a bus in the past few days. Maria and I had planned on a less expensive trip to the ocean, Cabo De Gata. So after repacking we ran off to catch another bus to the coast. Turns out we were going to miss our bus to the bus station so we grabbed a cab and told him we needed to get there to catch our 5:30 bus. He was an older man in his 60s, his name was Antonio (taxi number 75). He sped us to the Estacion de Autobus, and it was quite fun to hear him talk on the way. We made it in time for our bus to Almeria and two hours later arrived at the coast at dusk. We frantically tried to find the bus to San Jose Cabo De Gata which was where our hotel was. NO LUCK!! We missed the last bus and had to take a 25 min taxi ride out to this little remote town. But form the moment we arrived in San Jose I was in love with it. It is a small fishing town (now a little more touristy) situated in the middle of the Cabo de Gata national park. Surrounded by mountains, dessert, ocean and music. I've never felt a more relaxed atmosphere. Our hotel was a quant little place called Posada de Paco. That night Maria and I treated ourselves to some italian food and I had a little vino de verano. The next morning we grabbed our cameras and sneakers and headed out for a walk along the beach. It was an exciting trail, through cactus, aloe plants, beach, mountain, and most of it was walking on the sides of cliffs by the ocean. It was hot but windy which made it a comfortable walk. Looking back on that trip I wish I had stayed there longer.
Laying on the beach after a long days walk and some italian pizza (like Punch in St. Paul) will do wonders for your health!! We explored San Jose some more that night and the next day before jumping on a bus for another 3 hours back to Granada.
All in all it was a fun week, expensive but hopefully the experiences will outweigh the costs when looking back on my time in Spain. I realized that part of studying Spanish is experiencing the language and using it. Cooped up in a classroom in Granada for 4 hours a day does wonders for the grammar but its worth nothing unless you have the opportunity to use it outside the classroom.
I am a week behind on my blogs but I'll catch up with this past week (first classes, exams, festivals, and much more) tomorrow!!
Adios (for now)!