15 March 2010

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

In the past few weeks I've been trying slowly but surely to explore different parts of Spain. I really want to leave here with an experience in most of the regions of Spain, and since I was accepted to Teach for America in Chicago for next year I feel the June 12th deadline. I have less than three months left here and I really want to make the most of it. So two weekends ago, I headed to Sevilla (yes think Barber of Seville). It's a gorgeous city but my umbrella was nearly permanently glued to my hand for the weekend. We arrived late Friday, spent Saturday going to the sites, and then came back Sunday. It was a whirlwind of a trip!

First we went to the Alcazar (castle in arabic). It was one the of the most exquisite things I've ever seen in real life. The arabic architecture is so intricate and geometric.

But the gardens were by far my favorite part. Despite the rain I spent nearly an hour wandering around. There were lush patches of palm trees, orange trees everywhere, and beautifully haunting fountains. Every surface was covered in brightly colored tiles. The whole time I just kept imagining what it would be like with a bright blue sky, although there was something beautifully melancholy about seeing the misty, rainy garden.

After seeing the Alcazar we walked to the Cathedral and the sun peeped out for a few wonderful minutes.

The cathedral is in the gothic style, which is one of my favorites. I really loved this huge silver altar, but none of my pictures did it justice. I just thought the use of silver over the more traditional gold was really cool and it had this huge crown with sun rays coming out of it at the top. It was great. The cathedral also holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

You can climb to the top of the bell tower and see the city laid out before you.

After this crazy weekend I was exhausted and slept forever on Sunday night!

This weekend, I decided to take a day trip with some friends to Alcalá de Henares, a small pueblo near Madrid where Cervantes was born. We took a quick train ride, 35 minutes, and were in a charming pueblo. First we visited a garden filled with sculptures, but I found the weird mossy waterfall the most interesting.

The happened upon a beautiful plaza in front of a convent. If you look carefully at the top of the building you can see the nests of the storks for which Alcalá is famous.

We tried to visit Cervantes' home, but it was closed. So instead I grabbed a photo of the Don Quixote statue with an oddly fat Sancho.

Finally we made it to the central town plaza. There were family playing games, and strolling everywhere. It's one of the things that I love about Spain. Families hang out around town together on the weekends and really utilize parks, plazas, even streets. One of the most posh streets in Madrid, Fuencarral, gets shut down on Sunday mornings so that families can roller blade, see sidewalk puppet shows, and play games. It's an awesome Spanish tradition.

At the end of the day, my good friend Stephanie, suggested we buy bread and go down to the river to feed the storks. So we bought some snacks and bread to feed the birds. Needless to say, we ate most of the bread for the storks ourselves during the walk. Then we arrived at this "river" to find it was barely a stream. It was hilarious. Steph it's such an optimistic, idealistic person that she just really wanted it to be considered a river, but there's no way!

After a fun day we headed back to Madrid!