Monday, July 25, 2011

Sevilla, Spain

After nearly missing the bus to Sevilla Jordan and I prepared for the long overnight bus.  We arrived in Sevilla around 5 am before the sun was even up.  So we wandered the streets trying to find the hostel in the dark and found some pretty cool things… like a shop that sells clocks shaped like animals and all the animals eyes move with the pendulua…ok well that was actually pretty creepy. 

Anyways we went to the wrong hostely by accident… but they had the same name for some reason.  So we eventually got to the hostel and couldn’t check in until noon or something like that so we waited in the general common room and slept a little more on the couches, used the computers and mooched some of their breakfast.  After finally checking in, we acquired a map and went exploring.  We just hit up things on the map that looked interesting such as; the main cathedral in the city, some really pretty gardens, a park (were we sat and swung a little ) and la plaza de Espana.  My favorite place that we stopped at was la Plaza de Espana (see picures).  It was a beautiful plaza that had a moat running on the inside of it and across the moat in the semicircular plaza there was a dedicated mural and map to each region of Spain.  It was quite spectacular.

From there we continued exploring a bit and had churros con chocolate from a stand and it was amazing.  We learned about this in Madrid but basically you dip a churro (or fried dough) in liquid chocolate and simply eat it.  Amazing. 

On our further explorations we ran into what looked like a parade of the KKK.  Now I must reassure you, it was not a KKK rally or anything of the sort.  What we ran into was a procession of the Semana Santa (or Saints week) basically the three days leading up to Easter (as we found out later).  It was really cool at first seeing the procession and the floats with the virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and various ones of Jesus, but eventually it made crossing the street nearly impossible and we would try to avoid the streets where it was but it was excruciatingly hard to do so. We eventually made it back to the hostel to nap and check the internet and such, but not before taking a massive detour. 

Later that night I was talking to some of our hostel-mates and we all decided to go out together to see a flamenco show in the city.  As soon as we left our hostel we had to cross the procession route…  it was a proper mess.  I ended up getting separated and taking a wrong turn.  Then map-less mike found a hotel and got a map so I could find my way to where we thought the show was.  I made it to the place walked around for about an hour looking for them and the show, before deciding to just chill under the awesome looking parasol.  Then I tried to make my way back to the hostel thinking that if the procession is on the east side of the city center, that I should try the west side to get back… WRONG  the church is on the west side and naturally the thickest part of the procession is near the church…  it took me about 2 hours to get back when it was only like a 20 min walk…  I did see the resurrection of Christ float which was pretty cool.

After getting back I found the people I was going to meet chilling on the roof lounge and it turns out they didn’t find the place either and we just sat up there and told stories of the night and how ridiculous the crowds were.  We then went to bed after it started raining.

The next morning i was eating breakfast and turned around and saw a guy that looks just like my floor mate from freshman year at PSU.  We stared at each other for a while and then randomly enough it was!

Yes i saw Tom Schweers randomly in my hostel in Sevilla...But it rained pretty much all the rest of the day and was completely miserable.  BUT they didn’t have the procession in the rain so streets were clear and bars were packed.  Jordan and I hung out with two Norwegians that we met the day before and we went back to the Plaza de espana cause we liked it so much and they hadn’t seen it yet.  Then they had to catch a bus back to Portugal (where they were studying) and Jordan and I went back and packed up our things to leave the hostel. 

When we booked the hostel basically every one was filled because of the Semana Santa and we were racking our brains for alternative places to sleep since we had a flight the next day.  Well turns out Jordan has a good friend who studied in Sevilla last year and her friend has friends in the city so we ended up staying at Jordan’s Friend’s friend, Oscar’s place which was just outside the city center, an easy 45 min walk from the hostel.  His place was pretty nice and him and his friends were really great hosts.  Oscar works as a translator so that was perfect for us who spoke very little Spanish.  The next day he drove Jordan and I to the airport so we could catch our flight to Rome.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tales from Madrid

Im finally getting to my blog after returning home...

So Madrid...
After finishing up the sea survival training friday afternoon Jordan, Marissa and I departed for London at 2:30 am.  Boarded our flight at 8 am and were in Madrid smoothly by noon.  After taking the metro to our hostel we decided to grab some food from a cafe across the street.  We successfully ordered and when the food came, i got a quesadilla the size of my palm, Jordan got a ball of fried dough attached to a magnifying glass and cheese in a syringe and Marissa's food was moving, not alive but still moving...  It was quite the meal to say the least...  So later we met up with Marissa's friend Deidre and the notorious Samantha, who found her way to Madrid to meet up with us.  Deidre took us around the city which included this small little bar that serves infamous liquor made from berries that are alcoholic when they are growing on the tree.  The symbol of Madrid is an alcoholic bear trying to get at these berries on the tree, or so the legend says...  anyways this little bar is the only place where you can get this alcohol and they serve it in chocolate coated ice cream cone glasses.

 After that we went to this really cool market called El Mercado de San Miguel where we enjoyed some quality (yet expensive) spanish tapas.  After eating real food we went to a bar to watch the Mardid vs Barcelona football game (soccer).   This is a big rivalry not just because they're two big cities in spain but Barcelona is ranked #1 and Madrid is #2 in their league.  It was really cool to just sit back in a bar and enjoy the game.  After the game the had some drinks in the street as spaniards do and then we went our separate ways, in my case, back to the hostel.

Day 2 (Apr 17)

On sunday we met Sam early and went to this street market where we met Deidre.  This street market was absolutely massive taking up all the streets in about 4 city blocks.  They had just about everything you could be looking for.  My favorite bit was the small side street that had all the art vendors displaying and selling their work.  Some of them were amazing and some of them i felt that i could do with my eyes closes while painting with my feet.  I wish i had the means to get some of the work home with me.


After the market we went in search of this restaurant Deidre had heard good things about but had never been to.  We found the address and the building looked super sketchy, but as Deidre knows the culture she knew we had to take a rickety elevator up to the 6th floor to find the nice restaurant.  After a substantial wait we finally got a small table outside on the balcony where we were greeted angrily by a waiter who was angry we were taking up so much space.  After a nice meal it was now time for my most anticipated part of spanish culture... the Siesta!  We headed to a sweet park where we found a nice napping spot within earshot of a guy playing the saxophone.  

After a short nap Deidre had to leave for her easter break and the 4 soton americans went to the Museo del Prado, an art museum very near to the park.  The museum featured some very famous spanish painters such as Goya and Velazquez.  I was excited to see some fine art again, the girls were less impressed...  After the museum, everyone was still tired from a busy day so we decided just to chill.  We ended up getting some pizza for dinner, ice cream for desert and chilled in an Irish pub (of all places) discussing a variety of things while enjoying a Guinness.  We then called it a night because we planned to get up early the next day.

Day 3 (Apr 18)

On Monday, since our spanish student/tour guide friend Deidre left, we decided to go on one of those free tours that they offer around europe, much like Dublin.  Our tour guide for today was a Brit studying in Madrid.  We saw alot of major sites in Madrid, including the worlds oldest restaurant, the bar with the alcoholic berries liquor again and a really amazingly ornate palace.  After our tour and everything we wandered around a bit like we do best and then we planned to go with sam to her couch surfer meeting/social thingy.  So we made our way as the sun was going down to what they call the temple park.  The place was set up on a hill overlooking the outskirts of the city.  The temple that was there was actually moved to madrid from egypt to try and raise money for Egypt some years back.  We met up with the couch surfers and had some interesting conversations with some Norwegian guys and after the meeting we went in search of some food (at midnight cause we hadnt eaten yet).  Our new friend Guillermo took us to this one bar where he talked to owner into giving us proper tapas by saying that by giving us a decent meal he would create a butterfly effect for his buisness cause we'd tell all our travelling friends about it (which i did).  So the owner gave us basically an entire delicious meal and all we bought were 2 pitchers of Sangria.  After that bar we went in search of La Leche de Pantera... or Panther Milk at the cave bar.  This was refered to us by one of Marissa's or Sam's friends and we eventually made it there and split 2 liters of this panther milk between us.  The bar was actually themed like a cave... with stalactites on the ceiling and the milk part of the panther milk came out of one of the stalactites.  After this bar we made our way back to the hostel.

Day 4 (Apr 19)

The previous night and a few days before there was talk of Sam going out to the countryside outside madrid with Guillermo and the preious night jordan and I decided that we should go with Sam out to the countryside to Guillermos place.  So we met Sam and Guillermo at the bus station where we took a bus about an hour outside of madrid.  Upon getting off the bus it really did seem like the middle of nowhere.... and so we started to walk.  Tramping through the desert esque lanscape because it was a shortcut, we made it to his "house" about a half hour after getting off the bus.  The house was pretty rundown but very campy and outdoorsy.  But Guillermo doesnt actually live in the house... no. the property is actually his friends and she lets him and some other people stay there when they want.  Then he showed us his accomodation... a tent out past the 3 little ponds.  

When we got there Guillermo's hippy friends were literally building a raft out of wood they found.  It was pretty funny and i was doubtful that it'd float but by golly it did.  We spent the day just hanging out in nature, by the river, by the ponds, in hammocks, in fields of grass, etc.  I spent a good bit of time on the raft as well :)  and i gave guillermo expert advice on the carp fisheries of his pond haha :)  

It was a sad time when we had to leave but Jordan and I had to catch a bus to Sevilla at 11:00 pm so we treked out to the bus stop and waited forever for a bus.  After finally getting to madrid Jordan and i were super rushed to get to the metro so we could get to the bus station and make our bus.  We literally ran from the metro to the bus but did make it and so we were off to Sevilla.