Andalucía, la linda

This past weekend, it became abundantly clear to me that Granada isn’t the only city in Andalucía that has the capacity to awe me and leave me breathless. After my whirlwind, less-than-24-hour stints in the cities of Córdoba and Sevilla, it’s as if the travel bug within me has been sparked anew, to such an extent that rather than putting the majority of my energy and focus into my classes, I’ve been obsessively researching and compiling lists of all of the places in and around Spain I want to visit sometime in the next four months.

I knew prior to arriving in Granada that I wanted to make the most of my weekends and see as much of Spain as I could, but now that I’ve actually been somewhere else outside Granada, the potential for me to make another trip happen is now that much more conceivable and exciting.

My Andalusian mini-adventure: Córdoba until the afternoon of 23 February, Sevilla until the evening of 24 February

My Andalusian mini-adventure: Córdoba y Sevilla entre el 23 y el 24 de febrero.

The bus ride, other than being uncomfortably stuffy and humid, was relatively uneventful and got us to Córdoba sometime after 10am on Saturday. Mumford & Sons is quickly becoming my favorite travel music, except the transportation it accompanied this time was unfortunately not as smooth nor as comfortable as the BART in San Francisco (read more about my San Franciscan day trip here: https://parayana.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/sea-to-sfo-and-back/).

Nevertheless, this English, Grammy-award winning indie/folk band comprises a large part of my ever-expanding “INDIE” playlist, which also includes Imagine Dragons and Of Monsters and Men. Like my travel bug, it appears my interest in discovering and listening to new music has spiked since being here, and thanks to the suggestions of good friends and of course the Internet wonder that is YouTube, I’ve been able to expand my music library quite a bit. Suffice it to say my “INDIE” playlist provided the perfect soundtrack as I watched the Andalusian countryside roll by outside the windows of our tour bus.

In any case, it was quite a relief when we finally pulled up on the southern banks of the Guadalquivir, got off the tight and stuffy bus, and made our way across the Puente Romano through the cold morning breeze into the centro of Córdoba.

La Torre de la Calahorra (right) and El Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir

La Torre de la Calahorra (right) and El Puente Romano crossing the Guadalquivir.

El Puente Romano, with the Mezquita de Córdoba in the distance

El Puente Romano, with the Mezquita de Córdoba in the distance.

From there our experience of the city started off with a bang: a visit to and tour of the exceedingly impressive Mezquita de Córdoba, now a Catholic cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but formerly an Islamic mosque (for more historical and background information: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/cordoba-mezquita). While I feel like I’ve always had a decent amount of appreciation for art and architecture, I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the stunning interior of the Mezquita. The following pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice. This is just a tiny sample size from my massive pool of Mezquita photos, but these are some of my favorites.

The Mezquita; this and all subsequent photos taken without flash, from my iPhone 4 camera

The Mezquita; this and all subsequent photos were taken without flash, from my the camera on my iPhone 4.

IMG_2782

The ever-repeating striped arches.

Again, the image really doesn't capture this awesomely majestic architecture

Again, the image really doesn’t capture this awesomely majestic architecture.

I also found myself extremely intrigued by the appearance of Arabic script carved into the walls, arches, and the pieces on display in various corners of the interior. I was also reminded of my dire need to finally visit the Alhambra of Granada, which like the Mezquita features surfaces upon surfaces of inscribed and carved Arabic script. I’ll get there, I know I will; and based on my experience at the Mezquita, I’m expecting to be just as if not even more moved by the beauty and precision of the architecture.

One of several inscribed slabs on display within the Mezquita

One of several inscribed slabs on display within the Mezquita.

The sheer precision here just astounds me

The sheer precision here just astounds me, and reminds me of the frieze sculptures I studied in my Greek and Roman Art and Architecture course at UBC last year.

Like I can't even begin to describe to the feeling of awe the varieties of architectural styles and features left me with

The juxtaposition of the Moorish architecture with the Christian, Renaissance additions is truly remarkable.

As I’m reflecting on my visit to the Mezquita now, I realize that I haven’t been that moved by a historical monument or edifice since my visit to Rome in 2009, where the wonder of the Sistine Chapel almost brought me to tears. What I’ve learned from experiences like these is such a simple lesson, but one that I think is extremely important while traveling in foreign countries, especially ones with histories as rich as Italy and Spain: see the sights. I remember being a kid and thinking it was such a chore to have to go and visit a museum, or take a tour of some historical monument, but now I realize sights like the Sistine Chapel and the Mezquita de Córdoba top the lists of historical sights to see for a reason.

So when in Rome, do go to the Forum and the Colosseum and the Vatican. When in Granada, do go to the Alhambra and the Albayzín and the Mirador de San Nicolás. When in Córdoba, do go the Mezquita, and, like in any city, do explore the roads and streets less traveled to experience the city from an angle different than that of a tourist. This seemed like the next best thing to do following our Mezquita tour, so together with my new exchange student acquaintances, Sarah and Meghan, both Montana natives, I set out on a spontaneous little meander through the centro.

La Torre de la Malmuerta

La Torre de la Malmuerta.

While we wandered it was siesta time, so this part of the city was almost entirely silent

At times it seemed as though we were the only ones on streets…then we remembered it was siesta time…only then did the silence make sense.

One of several cathedrals we encountered on our way

One of several cathedrals we encountered on our way.

And what do you know, there are Roman ruins in Córdoba too

And what do you know, Roman ruins…

Before we knew it, our afternoon in Córdoba came to an end and we made our way back to the busses. A view of the Puente Romano, Puerta del Puente, and the Guadalquivir, in the warm afternoon sun, made for a gorgeous last image of Córdoba to take with us.

Overlooking the Guadalquivir once more

Overlooking the Guadalquivir once more, this time from the north bank.

The Puerta del Puente, resembling a triumphal arch

The Puerta del Puente.

Last Córdoba shot from the south side of the Guadalquivir

Last Córdoba shot from the south side of the Guadalquivir.

Three hours, and a more lively bus ride later, we came to Sevilla. What can I say about Sevilla…well, for one thing, after barely a day there, I already want to live there. Where Córdoba is small and tranquil, Sevilla is alive and busy and bustling, much like the bigger cities I’ve grown accustomed to living in. So as it happens, I felt instantly comfortable in and excited by the fast-paced yet simultaneously laid back atmosphere of the centro of Sevilla.

We checked into our hostel (the 55 of us filled up every room) and headed out for a group dinner on the third floor of Los Coloniales, supposedly one of the best restaurants in Sevilla. Our first course was some sort of delicious scramble-like dish with eggs, potatoes, chorizo, and cheese, followed by two second courses dishes, one of chicken in a thick, flavorful sauce of crushed almonds, and one of their platos típicos (which I sadly didn’t get the name of) of solomillo (pork sirloin) with mushrooms and onions. I’m not sure if it was the best food I’ve had yet here in Spain, but it was definitely quite tasty.

Another impromptu wandering around the centro led Sarah, Meghan, and me to this absolutely delicious gelato places called La Abuela. For 3 euros, I bought a massive serving of coffee- and Ferrero Rocher-flavored gelato. And, honestly, it was probably the best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. And that’s just one of the reasons why I have really come to love wandering aimlessly around new cities: you stumble upon things you never would’ve encountered otherwise. And what better things to stumble on than the Swiss fudge in Córdoba and the gelato in Sevilla? I’d say our meanderings served us pretty darn well.

The view from our hostel room taken after our gelato binge. Buenas noches, Sevilla

The view of the Plaza Mayor from our hostel room taken after our gelato binge. Buenas noches, Sevilla.

The highlight of our Sunday in Sevilla was our visit to the Reales Alcázares, an illustrious palace and formerly a Moorish stronghold, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once again, while they do not do the palace justice, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

One of the entrances into the palace from the central courtyard

One of the entrances into the palace from the central courtyard.

Once again, I was mesmerized by the Arabic script carvings

Once again, I was mesmerized by the Arabic script carvings.

And so...

And so…

...as you can see...

…as you can see…

...the marvel of it all...

…the marvel of it all…

...including the marvel of this little fella...

…including the marvel of this little fella…

...is pretty obvious.

…is pretty obvious.

We then headed to the Plaza de España, famous for being featured briefly in two of the Star Wars movies. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of the Star Wars movies, but I suppose those who remember seeing this plaza in the movies found it exciting to see the actual plaza in person. Once again, Sevilla left me at a loss for words. This plaza is so unbelievably extravagant and impressive (I really should find another word to describe all of the amazingness I saw this weekend, but I just can’t…), I could have spent hours wandering around the square and taking pictures of every little detail, it was that miraculous of a sight.

La Plaza de España, only part of all its glory

La Plaza de España, in only part of all its glory.

The bridge that crosses the moat-like river that circles the whole of the plaza

The bridge that crosses the moat-like river that circles the whole of the plaza.

A view of the plaza from the second level of the building

A view of the plaza from the second level of the building.

Our afternoon in Sevilla ended with another paseo around the city, this time via a loop along the river (the same one that runs through Córdoba, the Guadalquivir).

The Betis strip of taperías and discotecas, from the Puente Isabel

The Betis strip of taperías and discotecas, from the Puente Isabel.

According to a scene from Homeland, when a couple places a lock on a fence (or in this case, a bridge handrail), it signifies that their love will last forever...not sure if the same applies here, but there were dozens of locks, some of which had what I assume were the lovers' names

According to a scene from Homeland, when a couple places a lock on a fence (or in this case, a bridge handrail), it signifies that their love will last forever…not sure if the same applies here, but there were dozens of locks, some of which had what I assume were the lovers’ names.

The only downside of my Sevilla experience? The Cathedral was closed that Sunday when we were there. The sight you’re supposed to see when you’re in Sevilla, the must-see of Sevilla, was closedWe did find that out entrance was open, but you couldn’t walk through the entirety of the Cathedral, so we took as many pictures as we could but grudgingly left when there was no more to see.

What do you mean, la Catedral de Sevilla esta cerrada?! Oh well, guess I have to come back to Sevilla before I leave Spain. Not a bad deal

What do you mean, la Catedral de Sevilla está cerrada?! Oh well, guess I have to come back to Sevilla before I leave Spain…not the worst thing in the world.

It's just so BEAUTIFUL. Stunning. Can't even imagine how gorgeous the rest of the interior is...

It’s just so BEAUTIFUL. Stunning. Can’t even imagine how gorgeous the rest of the interior is…

I mean, come on. WHY WON'T THEY LET US IN?

I mean, come on. WHY WON’T THEY LET US IN?

One of the few interior shots I managed to get

One of the few interior shots I managed to get.

And what better way to end a full day of walking and sightseeing than some tintos de verano? I certainly can't think of one

And what better way to end a full day of walking and sightseeing than some tintos de verano at a charming little tapería called Huelva Ocho?

So how was my weekend? It was pretty fantastic, to say the least. But being back in classes this week has been tough for me. Because I now won’t be able to officially register for classes until next Wednesday, my schedule is thus as of yet up in the air, making it hard for me to establish some sort of routine, and, like I said earlier, making the concept of trip planning that much more appealing than course work. What’s next for me? A three-day trip to Barcelona this coming weekend, and then a dear friend of mine is coming to visit next week, and in that time I hope to visit the Alhambra at last…and what can I say, I’m ready to be wowed.

But to wrap up this whopper of a blog post, I leave you with this final thought: like other high school and university bathrooms, there is an absurd of amount of quotes, complaints, and musings scrawled in pen on the doors of the girls’ bathroom stalls in the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Those of you who share my taste in TV shows will understand my excitement and dire need to snap a picture of this gem when I came upon it on Monday:

No caption necessary.

No caption necessary.

That’s right, people. Season Three of Game of Thrones starts March 31st. And you better bet I’m going to find a way to watch it. (WATCH THE YOUTUBE TRAILER, it looks so sick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzI9v_B4sxw). So there you have it. My brief Andalusian tour was an opportunity I am extremely grateful I took advantage of. Game of Thrones is coming out in 32 days…I am absolutely PSYCHED.

And as for this upcoming weekend? Bring it on, Barcelona. See you in a couple days.

2 thoughts on “Andalucía, la linda

  1. Alex we love the way you write. having fun & learning other people culture is great. Looking forward reading your articales , take care, We love you: Nagypapa & Jannie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s