Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tapas Gratis

Week 3 in Sevilla and I am still just as excited to be here as the day I arrived! Now that we are fully getting into the swing of things, I am truly beginning to appreciate the value of a Spanish siesta (nap). There's nothing quite like coming home from school to a delicious meal made by my senora, followed up by a little nap before heading back out into the city to explore a bit before dinner; I just love how quickly this place has started to feel like home.

Scavenger Hunt
This week, in order to get better acquainted with the city, Maria Angeles put together a scavenger hunt around the city center. Each team of three students was given a list of tasks to be completed, such as finding the oldest bar in the city and asking a Spaniard to teach us a traditional Sevillian song. While my group got a little side-tracked speaking with a few locals and didn't end up finishing in first place, it was a lot of fun exploring just a little bit of what this amazing city has to offer. 

La Alhambra
Over the weekend we packed our bags and took our first weekend trip of the semester to Granada! Only about 3 hours away by bus, Granada is a beautiful city surrounded by snow covered mountains and picturesque countryside. After leaving early Friday morning, we arrived around noon, dropped off our bags at the hotel and headed straight to La AlhambraLa Alhambra, situated on a hillside overlooking the city, is an enormous compound of palaces and fortresses dating back to the ninth century. The group met our tour guide and spent the next four hours wandering around the many different parts of the compound and learning about all the history that has taken place in this magnificent city. We had the chance to stand in the middle of an open air coliseum (where my roommate Ariel had an impromptu vocal performance), wander through the Sultan's summer home, and  even stand in the exact place where Christopher Columbus received permission from Isabel and Ferdinand to venture to the New World. Each room, patio and garden we saw was even more breathtaking than the last. Needless to say it was truly spectacular experience! That evening, we were able to head out into the city and take full advantage of the free tapas customs in Granada. Basically, anytime you buy a drink in Granada it will automatically come with a freshly made plate of tapas, usually chef's choice...definitely a rule I could get used to!

The next day we were up early and headed back out into the city, this time to explore the gypsy caves nestled in the hillside on the outskirts of the city. It was crazy to see just how many little houses and caves lined the steep and winding roads; definitely very different from anything I've ever seen before! After enjoying a cafe con leche at an overlook at a high point of the city, we were set free for the day to explore the many shops, plazas and, of course, pastelerias (bakeries) the city had to offer. We spent our last night enjoying a few more free tapas and made our way back to Sevilla early on Sunday morning. While it was an exhausting couple of days, I am so happy to have had the chance to explore this amazing city with such an awesome group of friends!

Open Air Coliseum
View from La Alhambra
The Sultan's Summer Home

Overlooking the city

Street in Granada

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Huevos Fritos Forever

The patio at el Palacio de Lebrija
It's strange to think that after only a week of living in Sevilla, I am beginning to really become comfortable with the city and way of life! It's been nice being able to finally start getting into a daily routine and getting used to some of the different customs, like eating lunch at 3pm and dinner around 9pm (not going to lie- snacking has become somewhat of a necessity). Also, after about a week of orientation activities and getting to know the other students in the program, classes have begun. Since it's not every day that I get a chance to study in Spain, I have decided to jump right in and take all of my classes in Spanish (wish me luck)! This semester I'll be taking Spanish Phonetics, 20th Century Spanish Literature, Spanish Culture in Cinema, Artistic Monuments of Sevilla and Flamenco Dance. I'm sure adjusting to thinking, speaking and learning in Spanish will be difficult at first, but surely worth it in the end! The Artistic Monuments in Sevilla class is the one I am most excited for as it gives us a chance to take advantage of all the history that Sevilla has to offer. Each day of class we venture out into the city on a different field trip, visiting everything from museums and monuments to palaces and cathedrals. This week we had the chance to visit el Palacio de Lebrija (Lebrija Palace), an old residence in Sevilla known for its extensive collection of Roman art from the 16th century. Also on the top of my list is the Flamenco Dance class that meets twice a week and, if nothing else, is a good source of entertainment! Nearly everyone in the program has decided to sign up for the class, even a few of (braver) boys! Hopefully, by the time Feria (a week-long cultural festival centered around music and dance) comes around mid-April, we'll all be ready to strut our stuff.

Besides getting used to the class schedule, we've also gotten a taste of just how busy SAIIE will be keeping us with different cultural activities! Each day there is a different opportunity for us to get involved in a typical Sevillian activity or get to know the city a bit better. This week, Maria Angeles, the Student Affairs Assistant, planned a shopping trip for the girls in the program. She brought us around to all the hot spots and best places to shop for the best deals and cutest Spanish fashions. Friday night was also the start of an ongoing semester-long cultural activity known as Ruta de Tapas (tapas tour). A couple times each month until the end of the semester, Samantha, the Student Affairs Director, and Maria Angeles will be bringing the group around to a different barrio (neighborhood) each friday night to sample a few of the best and most traditional tapas that area has to offer! This past Friday, we stayed close to our school and checked out a few of the tapas bars in that neighborhood, called Alfalfa. We had the chance to try some delicious montaditos (mini sandwiches) and huevos fritos (fried eggs served on top of french fries with tomato sauce or chorizo). I can already tell that this will probably be one of my favorite activities to look forward to, and not just because it involves food! Thanks to Sam and Maria Angeles, we'll have a chance to steer clear of the tourist traps and see all the amazing food this city really has to offer! To finish off the week, a group of us decided to venture over to Triana, the area of the city on the other side of the river, for dinner. We ended up at a beautiful open-air restaurant right on the side of the river, looking out onto the calm water and light-up city. While we probably ended up paying a bit too much for the sangria, the experience made it all worth it!

Shopping Trip

Typical Flamenco dresses worn during Feria

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Well, better late than never, right? After being in Sevilla for nearly a month, I have finally gotten my act together and started working on my blog! I'll start by backtracking a bit to when this journey first kicked off; it's hard to believe it was almost four weeks ago already!

Bienvenidos a Sevilla! After what seemed like a never ever series of plane rides, layovers and nervous banter about what our first words to our Senoras would be, I finally arrived in Sevilla, Spain! Luckily, I was on the same flight over as a few of the other students in my program, so the trip was far from lonely. After collecting my bags (I was one of the few lucky ones whose luggage didn't get left behind at our layover in Portugal), I was met by a few staff members from the Spanish-American Institute, given the address and name of my senora (host mother), and was promptly put in a taxi and on my way to my new home for the next four months. Next up, a huge sigh of relief. My senora, Carmen, is an absolute angel! Not only did she have a hot meal ready for me the second I walked through the door, but she greeted me with besos (kisses) and lots of Spanish words I was far too jet lagged to understand. Fast forward to the end of the day, I've eaten, napped and taken a walking tour of my barrio (neighborhood) and the route I will take to walk to school everyday. Shortly after the tour, my roommate for the semester, Ariel, an awesome fellow HPU student, arrived to our apartment after an even longer day of traveling than I had myself, needless to say it was an early night for us both.

Looking back on the next three days, it seems like something of a blur; an unidentifiable mix between overwhelming excitement, exhaustion and constant yearning for a cafe con leche (their typical cup of coffee). As a group of 27 students, we're all blending really well, especially considering how much time we've already spent together. In just the first few days, we had the opportunity to see an authentic flamenco dance and music show at La Casa de la Guitarra, visit the famous and breathtaking Plaza de Espana, and take a double-decker bus tour around the entire city. By the end of the week, our legs were tired and our feet were blistered but nonetheless, were we ready to experience our first weekend as Sevillanos! And what better way to kick off our first fin de semana (weekend) than with a Welcome Tapas party hosted by our program! It was nice to meet all of our professors and the staff and finally have a chance to relax with the other students in the group-- not to mention stuff our faces with tapas and sangria galore.

We finished off the weekend with a little adventure to the top of La Seta, a modern architectural observatory structure situated in the middle of La Plaza de Encarnacion in the center of the city. Even with a few clouds in the sky, the views were breathtaking. I couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up my first week in Sevilla than by having this chance to take in the jaw dropping beauty of this incredible city I am now calling home.
Flamenco show at La Casa de la Guitarra
La Plaza de Espana
La Seta from the ground
The view from the top of La Seta