Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tapas Tour; Family Edition

The last few weeks of March seemed to just fly right by; it seemed as though we were all caught up in some sort of whirlwind. Even with the second round of exams looming just ahead, I was still able to take advantage of some of the cultural activities that my school had to offer, starting with an Alfred Hitchcock movie night. With popcorn and candy in hand, we took a break from studying and enjoyed a relaxed night watching Psychosis, or Psicosis in Spanish. Weirdly enough, this was somehow the first Hitchcock movie I'd ever seen and it was mostly enjoyable, especially because of all the dulces (sweets). Later that week, a small group of us ventured out to the Pabellon de Navegacion (Navigation Pavilion) to experience the world-famous Titanic Exhibition. This exhibition has been traveling around the world for several years and has spent the last 6 months in Sevilla. At the exhibition, each of us were given a headset with recorded information about the different artifacts and people associated with the Titanic. All in all, it was a great afternoon and really interesting to learn so much about the journey and sinking of the ship.
Playa Andaluza Resort

The following week we had midterms before our week-long break for Semana Santa (Holy Week), so nothing too exciting there. Luckily, after getting through all my tests, an 8 day visit from my family awaited me! Having been living in Sevilla for about 3 months, I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to play tour guide for the week and show my family all my favorite spots in the city. Besides visiting all the must-see tourist spots, La Catedral, El Real Alcazar, La Plaza de Espana and Las Setas, we also devoured endless tapas at some of my favorite restaurants, and even tried a few new ones. Given that it was Semana Santa, the city was packed with people, and I mean PACKED, and trying to maneuver around all the different parades that went on each day proved to be a little difficult at times, but nevertheless, it was an adventure worth experiencing! After packing in as many typical Sevillano tapas as possible in 5 days and enjoying a delicious 4-course, 3 hour lunch extravaganza at my senora's house, we headed out of the city and hit the beautiful mediterranean beaches in the coastal city of Estepona, about 2 1/2 hours southeast of Sevilla. We stayed at the amazing Marriott Plaza Andaluza resort, situated right on the waterfront, only steps away from the sand. After an insanely busy first half of the semester in Sevilla, a few days filled with doing nothing but laying on the beach, spending time with my family and stuffing my face was exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Dad, soaking up the sun
Even though it was sad to see the vacation with my family come to a close, I was excited to get back to Sevilla, my second home! It's crazy to think that I only have 5 weeks left in this amazing city, I can't believe how fast the semester has flown by. Now that the end of time in Sevilla is quickly approaching, I have all the more reason to seize each new day, carpe diem all the way!

Playa Andaluza Resort
Me and Mom
Family pic

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pastry Pit Stop

Cathedral in Lisbon
It's starting to seem like my life revolves around packing and unpacking my duffel bag. All this weekend traveling is really making the weeks fly by! This weekend, we met at our coach bus at 6:30am on Friday and hit the road for a 5 hour to Portugal! Luckily, my senora had packed Ariel and I some breakfast for the road and we got to stop a couple times along to way for a rest stop/coffee break. We arrived in Lisbon around 1:30pm, dropped our bags at the hotel, had a few minutes to freshen up, then we met with our guide who brought us on a bus tour of the city. Along the tour, we had a chance to stop a few different hot spots, such as the Cathedral which was designed to look like the inside of a cave, to take some pictures and walk around. We also stopped at a well known bakery called Pasteis de Belem to try their famous custard pastry, which was delicious of course! After the tour, we had some free time to walk around the shopping district and grab some dinner before heading back to the hotel for an early night.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and got back on the bus for a 1 hour drive to the beautiful city of Sintra, nestled alongside a hillside with its very own castle. We were given free reign over the three hours we spent there and a group of us decided to climb up the hillside towards the castle on top. Hiking along the trails of the plush forest gave us the chance to see some amazing views of the city below and burn off the custard pastries from the day before! After poking around in a few souvenir shops and enjoying a cup of coffee, we were back on the bus and headed to the coastal city of Cascais. Luckily, the sun decided to poke through the rain clouds that day and we had a beautiful afternoon wandering along the beach and through the harbor, all the while enjoying a few ice cream cones and taking pictures of the stunning views.  Once back in Lisbon, we ventured into the city to find some dinner and wander around the shops a bit before relaxing at the hotel for the night and climbing into bed early. The next morning we packed up our bags and made the long journey back to Sevilla where we were, once again, greeted by a delicious home cooked meal and the smiling face of my senora. I'm starting to think that's a sight I'll never stop being thankful for!
Hiking in Sintra

Vasco de Gama monument in Lisbon

Forest in Sintra
Harbor in Cascais
Beach in Cascais