Viva la espana!!
Four days, three cities, and we're on to Morocco next!
Spain was pretty amazing. I absolutely loved having to speak spanish everywhere and anywhere you went. I was surprised to discover that very few Spaniards spoke English at all, but also excited to be forced to use what I knew to get by.
CADIZ- I spent the first full day there and just walked around the city, took pictures, went for a run, and then went out for dinner. I am glad i decided not to do any of the student trips as I really enjoyed walking around and taking in the city without the massive groups of students. Cadiz is a southern port city with a lot of beautiful views of the ocean. It was starting to hit me as I just sat there on a bench downtown, watching and people speaking in spanish...it just hit me that I was in Europe for the first time. (btw...I saw a handful of surfers in Cadiz...full wetsuits and booties).
MADRID- I ended up traveling with Kate (LLC) and Janetta (Counselor) through the Spain tour, and a friend Justin joined us on the way to Madrid. We took the train from Cadiz to Madrid early in the morning, found a hostal in the middle of the city (puerto del sol) and headed out to El Prado, a famous museum w/ many historical artists of Europe (goya, vasquez, y el greco). I honestly don't remember much except for a bunch of paintings of jesus, naked ladies, and old white men. After the museum, we watched a beautiful sunset from El Parque de Buen Retiros before meeting back up with Justin for dinner. We ate (paella y sangria!) and walked around the city just taking in the city life, which included at very late night cafe con leche. As it was quite late, I wasn't sure how to ask for decaf. I asked the dude "tiene usted cafe SIN cafeinada?" He looked at me and said "decaf, si".
The next day we packed it in and went to the Palacio Real in the morning. It was a ridiculously huge palace w/ some very gaudy decor. A lot of gold, beautifully painted ceilings, and a constant smell of musty-ness. We swung by el Plaza Mayor, ate lunch, and then picked up our bags from the hostal. After going to buy train tickets, we met up w/ Kate's friends from SAS (she sailed as a student) and had coffee before visiting the Reina Sofia a 20th century art museum. Man, that museum was pretty HOT. I think it had a similar feel as MOMA in NYC but with more history and mystique. It was quite surreal to be standing inches away from famous Dali and Picasso paintings as well as walking down the steps into the huge lobby of the Palacio Real. After the Reina Sofia, we had to hustle, throw calamari sandwiches in our mouths, and just caught the train to Sevilla.
SEVILLA- perhaps my favorite city. We got there late that night, checked into our hostal, and went out to celbrate our tri-city travel w/ some...a lot of sangria. The city has the small city feel w/ classic european cobble stone streets and historic aura to it. I loved the small little orange trees all over the city. The next morning we packed in both La Plaza de Espana and the Cathetral of Seville in a matter of 4 hours. Both were quite impressive and both were swarmed with Korean tourists, so Kate and Janetta found it difficult to spot me that day =) (the Koreans all also had DSLR's btw). The cathedral allowed fotographs, and so you can see some in my pictures section. We had to catch the 1pm bus, so we grabbed a quick lunch (tortilla de patatas!) and headed back to Cadiz.
Overall, our three city whirlwind tour was a lot of fun. I had an amazing time with Kate and Janetta and was reminded of how well you get to know people you travel with. Sharing living space, food, and transportation together for 4 days straight will bring about some bonding and some great conversations. Whether we were walking through the streets of Madrid or sipping cafe con leche overlooking a plaza in Cadiz, we were constantly engaged in conversations about experiences, family, faith, and life. I really enjoyed spending time with our group and hope to do it again.
btw1...All 725 students back on the ship on time w/out issues....wow
btw2...We got delayed at the rock of Gibraltar one day due to fueling issues
btw3...We are currently docked in Casablanca Morocco (one day late)
btw4...I did bring the word yesterday at Church, a "sermon" if you will...wowsers
btw5...It's a lot of fun seeing this community of 1000 people come together....basically feels like a floating utopia