Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday fun

So today was Sunday--stake conference to be exact. Everyone was spread out throughout the entire building watching the broadcast. It was pretty fun.

We had a fireside tonight as well from President and Sister Farnsworth (Madrid Mission President) and it was really good. Afterwards Missy (who had been the pianist) was playing the closing, please leave music and I went up and sang softly with her. We'd been doing that all afternoon at home, so we just continued it after the fireside. Before long we had about six people singing all the parts, at full volume. It was awesome. I love how you can just grab practically any BYU students and you've got a full harmony choir. It's so cool!

Well, I've got school in the morning and family calling at 6:30 in the morning, so hasta luego!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Segovia and Pedraza

15 de febrero

This day trip was definitely full and tiring. We started in Segovia and as soon as we arrived headed straight to the Alcazar. This castle is pretty amazing. It’s said to be the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle in Disney World. And seeing how I am such a Disney fan, I was especially excited to see it.

The cathedral was stunning. It’s called the Lady of all Cathedrals because of it’s fair coloring. And it really is beautiful. It has 20 chapels inside and absolutely amazing acoustics. I was really tempted to sing in it (softly of course), but my stupid congested nose didn’t really allow it. I think it would have been ok in this cathedral. They had music going in the background. I haven’t seen (or heard) that before. Normally it’s deadly silent in there. They had a really pretty little courtyard in this cathedral as well. There was a well in the middle and we occupied ourselves for awhile pretending to be Snow White.

We had free time next, but it didn’t really matter because we all headed to the same place anyway—the Roman aqueducts. I was really excited to see these. These are the original Roman aqueducts, and they are the only surviving aqueducts in the world. And to top it all off, they still work! Plus, they are so massive it’s incredible. I still can’t imagine how you could make something this. . .big without modern technology.

We then all piled back on the bus and headed for Pedraza. It’s a little town that still maintains it’s Medieval atmosphere. All the buildings, roads, and food are similar to what it would have been hundreds of years ago. We found the castle and immediately started exploring all over it. It was closed, so this exploring was more climbing all around it. We climbed down into the moat—it was dry, but had an awesome lawn/weed patch—and played down there. Next I climbed around one side of the castle to lookout over the valley. It was incredibly fun. It was only a 25 foot drop to grass, and rather wide ledges, so I didn’t worry too much about it—plus it provided some fun pictures.

And I must say climbing was the highpoint of this town. We made this stop particularly to go to dinner. We had cuchinillo (roast suckling piglet) and cordero (roast lamb) which a specialty of the region. I took the lamb, and I must say I didn’t really like it. It wasn’t that they brought it out whole—practically half of an entire lamb was on your plate—I just didn’t like the taste. Actually, I felt sick the whole bus ride home. I’m really kinda sad I wasted euros on it. Oh well, it was a cultural experience and now I know, I don’t really like lamb. Plus other people had a great time with it. The pig came out as the whole leg, hoof and skin attached. People definitely had fun with the hooves, and there was even a fearfactor going on—some girls ate the lamb testicals—yech.

But overall, the trip was fun. I was definitely ready to get home though, and that didn’t happen until late. Next we’re going to El Escorial and I am super excited!

Andalucía—Los Molinos a la Mancha

Our last stop was the windmills made famous by Don Quixote. It was incredibly windy (no kidding, there are windmills here!) and cold and we were all exhausted. But that definitely did not stop us from running around playing and taking pictures. We only had a half hour, and in retrospect we probably would have frozen if we’d stayed much longer, and it was incredibly fun to run around from windmill to windmill and take pictures. They really take good pictures too!


As we drove to Granada, I realized how many olives Spaniards actually consume. I knew it was a lot, but this was crazy. We drove for about two and a half hours. It was straight olive groves, on both sides, the entire time. And this was just one section of olive trees, there were other groves in other places. But almost all the trees were smaller than the one at my Dad’s. That was kinda weird.

Granada’s visit was focused around the Alhambra. We went there first, so we could enjoy the last few hours of daylight. This was basically a palace complex. We normally spend about an hour and a half exploring a new place. We had two hours, and I didn’t see everything. I didn’t even go in some buildings! This place was absolutely massive! But my favorite portions were the Muslim palace and (surprise, surprise) the gardens.

The palace was incredible. Almost every ceiling was tiered—it’s not like Christian/Catholic palaces, Muslims generally don’t depict humans in their artwork, so everything was geometric designs. It was really cool.

After exploring the palace buildings for an hour and a half, we made our way over to the gardens. They even had their own name in this palace, Generalife. I really wish I could see them in spring. They were beautiful—in winter. Seeing all these places in winter, and seeing that they’re still this beautiful when everything should be dead, really makes me want to see them in spring. They would be absolutely gorgeous then. But there were fountains, of course, sculpted shrubbery and trees, and flowers galore. My absolute favorite thing about the gardens was Las Escaleras de Agua. It was a staircase with a stream where the handrails would be. I’m not really sure why, but I absolutely loved this! It was really fun to walk along and run your fingers through—plus the water was freezing, which is somehow a good thing. Unfortunately, we were being herded out of the Alhambra at this point (closing time) so I didn’t get a picture.

After the Alhambra, we went up to a lookout to watch the sunset. It was incredible. The Alhambra was all lit up, and the city lights were on, there were gypsies (yes, they were actual gypsies) playing guitar in the background. It was absolutely beautiful—plus, it was really nice to just sit and relax after walking around.

Dinner was Kebabs. Now, these are not the kebabs we think of back home. No stick involved—it’s a sandwich! It was more like a pita than a kebab. But this thing tasted oh so good! I definitely need to track down kebabs in Alcalá.

Next morning we tracked down the gypsy market. It took a while to find, but it was pretty cool once we did. It was a bunch of little alleyways with stores and merchandise flooding the street. People were talking to ya, trying to get you to come into their store, and trying to convince you that you really did want to buy their skewers, or jewelry, or purses, or fabric. They had a bunch of random stuff.

And then our five day journey came to a close. We ended our tour of Andalucia and headed back home. I was incredibly glad to sleep in my own bed and get over the cold I had acquired. Overall though, I loved it, and definitely recommend Sevilla to any and all.


Cordoba was a lot smaller than Sevilla, not to mention a lot quieter. We threw our stuff in our hotel—which was amazingly cute—and then headed straight to the Mezquita, which was 20 yards away from our front door.

We were welcomed by yet more orange groves in the courtyard and a beautiful sun. I just stood around a while so I could enjoy it. As soon as I entered the building I was frozen. I’ve decided all old buildings are freezing. I am so glad I didn’t live then—I’m a wuss when it come to cold. But the mosque/cathedral was awesome. I definitely enjoyed the Moorish part more than the Christian.

This building was originally a Muslim Mosque. They had created something unique in the world with the forest of candy-cane arches—which are famous around the world. It was absolutely incredible. The mosque itself is huge. It really is an incredibly massive building. And I think in Moorish times, the entire thing was filled with these arches—that would have been absolutely incredible to see. But then, the Christians conquered everything and built a cathedral in the middle of the mosque. It is really weird. It’s a complete clash of architectural styles and not in a good way. Sometimes things can clash and it will look good. This is not the case. You can see a very precise line where Muslim ends and Christian begins. It was just bizarre, and I liked the Moorish portion better.

After the mosque/cathedral we went exploring around Cordoba. We found the “old” Roman bridge, which had just finished a renovation. We talked to a native there and he told us that a lot of people were really mad when they finished the bridge. They had changed it completely and taken away everything ancient about it. I agree with them. It was a cool bridge, but it was a new bridge, over a rather pathetic river (Spain is in a drought).

We then spent the next four hours wandering around looking for something to do. We had several ideas, but each one was closed or not there anymore. So we just walked around the city. When we got back, everyone was planning a movie night. So, about 25 girls were piled into a room and they watched a chick flick. By this point, I was definitely not feeling so well, so I just went to bed.

Next day brought La Calle de Flores. It’s a little picturesque street lined with flowers with a view of the bell tower. It was really rather pretty, but there were so many people trying to get to it that you couldn’t get a clear shot. Oh, well, the pictures are still pretty cool.

Next was the Alcazar. The gardens were my favorite part. Even in winter, they were absolutely gorgeous. The fountains and trees were beautiful and I loved being there. For some reason (I think it’s a BYU thing) people in our group have decided to take mock engagement pictures on several of our trips. We only have four boys, so they just get recycled. This spot was no exception. And I really can’t blame them here, it was really beautiful. We didn’t fully explore the castle. We went up to the towers and walked along the walls—that was fun. We even found the Inquisition tower where they would execute the “guilty”.

Then we had to rush back so we didn’t miss our bus to our next stop. . . Granada.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Sevilla was absolutely incredible. It was my favorite stop on our trip.

We started our tourist tour in the Cathedral there. This cathedral is absolutely massive. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest general cathedral in the world! It also holds what is believed to be Christopher Columbus's bones. I personally think they are, they match the DNA of his brother, so I choose to believe it's him. As all cathedrals are, it was incredibly ornate and gorgeous--but slightly over the top. I like things that are more simple, so cathedrals are a bit overdecorated in my taste. But it was still absolutely beautiful. They built it saying 'Let those who come after us they we were mad to build such a structure' and they succeeded. The architecture on the thing is crazy. There are flying buttresses everywhere!

So the cathedral itself was cool, as was Columbus's tomb, but my absolute favorite was La Giralda. It was a tower built by the Moors to call the Muslims to prayer. When the Christians took over, they kept the tower as well as the Patio de los Naranjos. We climbed 34 ramps (they'd ride a horse up to the top five times a day) to the top and were greeted by a beautiful breeze. I forgot to mention, but the weather there was absolutely amazing. It was beautiful and I went without my coat for almost the entire trip--I loved it! We could see the entire city from the top. It was a perfect, cloudless, smogless day and we could see everything. Pictures really don't do it justice. I kinda wish I could have spent the remainder of our cathedral time up there, but luckily I didn't.

Because our next discovery was the Patio de los Naranjos. This was also from the Moors, and it was really beautiful. There are orange trees everywhere in Andalucia, and this was a patio full of them. I really liked their irrigation techniques too. They had built the irrigation canals into the patio. You could water the trees without getting in the way of the people walking. It was pretty awesome. To the left is Missy and I in the patio with the cathedral--and the flying buttresses--in the background.

We left soon after the orange trees and moved on to the Alcazar which was right next door. Even though it was winter, the gardens in this palace were amazing--not to mention absolutely massive! There were fountains, and trees, and bushes and flowers everywhere you turned. It was so beautiful--plus warm! I know I mention that a lot, but I really, really liked that I was so warm. I'm definitely an ARizona girl!

After the Alcazar, we had free time to explore the rest of Sevilla. We walked along streets, popped into stores, and found La Plaza de Espana. Of course we took this picture opportunity. We all took some normal pictures, and then decided to have more fun. I had just bought a flamenco apron--which are really common in all the tourist shops--and we definitely used it. Although I have no idea how to dance the flamenco, I definitely tried. It allowed for some pretty funny pictures. We also saw El Torre de Oro, which is where they brought all the gold from the Americas to be counted. Needless to say, a lot of gold was stolen from the tower--apparently they didn't have very good security. Either that or there was so much of it, they didn't notice when some went missing!

But, this same night, we went to a flamenco show! It was pretty awesome. I've never seen flamenco before, and this was definitely a treat. SEvilla was the birthplace of flamenco, and it was awesome to see it done by professionals here.


I'm going to have to do this in segments, because there is so much to tell.

We started our five day trip in Merida, which was an old Roman strongpoint. They built an amazing amphitheater arena as well as a regular theater for plays. And the best part is, the ruins are still there! The amphitheater was pretty awesome, but they had let it continue to decay. It was really cool to see though. You could definitely see where they kept the animals, where the gladiators would enter from, and how it was a definite possibility to have a water-naval battle there. They actually flooded the place to have this mock battle!

Then I moved on to the theater. This was staggering. I kinda just stood there for a minute. I'm more of a play type of girl myself, so I enjoyed the theater more. Although they had also redone the seating and kept this from falling apart further. They still hold festivals in these ruins--that would be amazing to see! I spent the remaining 30 minutes we had in this portion of the 'entertainment complex'. It was absolutely beautiful. I took some awesome pictures which I'm pretty proud of.

But, before we explored the theaters, we had free time to explore the city. We found an amazing market, which turned out to be huge. It was a holiday there, so everyone was dressed up in Renessaince style clothing and selling fun trinkets. It was really fun to explore all the little booths and talk to people.

Merida was a great stop. It was incredible to see the ruins and imagine what it would have been like in Roman times. Plus, we got to explore an awesome market with tons of hand-made cool stuff.