Although most of the way through, it is safe to say that March definitely came in like a lion over here in Spain. I actually do not mean the weather, as it finally seems to have turned from 50-degree rain to 65-70s and sun (alleluia!!!). No, I am more referring to the first few weeks of what seemed like very little sleep, lots of travels, and probably too much vino (just kidding, not possible).
The month really started with a bang when none other than my parents, John and Bertie touched down in Madrid at the end of February! They began their trip with two days in Toledo and a day/night in Córdoba before I met them in Sevilla. Although there was a slight mis-hap with the bus (namely, me missing it), meeting them was a breeze and we were able to enjoy two fantastic days in a fantastic city. I was (mostly) able to get them synced on the Spanish schedule of late to eat, late to bed, relaxed during day, which was fun. We ate well, had a great walking tour of city and Alcazar – the royal palace of Sevilla, that is actually still utilized when the King/Queen stay in Sevilla. We got to see the Catedral and even booked a traditional and exceptional flamenco show. All in all, Sevilla was enchanting: the mix of orange trees, the river, the imposing Cathedral and the inviting parks all mixed into a city I couldn’t help but love. I will be traveling back there this weekend so hopefully I’ll save my raving for next time.
After two wonderful days in Sevilla, we decided to take a trip to the UK…by means of Gibraltar. When we drove up to the border and there were Optis sailing in the bay, I had a good feeling about the day. Going into Gibraltar you really are entering the UK – everyone speaks English with British accents, pubs with fish and chips are everywhere, and the British flag flies proudly from many balconies. I definitely took advantage and got some fish and chips and a delicious dark & malty beer, which was one of the better beers I think I’ve ever had. We took a taxi tour of “the Rock,” and learned a surprising amount of history about Gibraltar and the Strait. The views simply couldn’t be topped, the monkeys were fun, and overall it was all hard to wrap your head around. The mix of exotic weather, vegetation, and animals mixed with British accents, Spanish slang, and fish and chips is quite the combo! I am so glad we didn’t miss this and highly recommend anyone in southern Spain to take a day trip and check it out.
Optis in Gibraltar!
View of the Strait, Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Morocco under the clouds
She was much cooler than I….
After Gibraltar, we had a few days in Granada, all surrounding my birthday on Tuesday. Now, I was perfectly pleased to spend my 21st in a different country but J&B wanted to come celebrate too (hide your surprise!). So, between two delicious dinners, drinks, and tapas with friends, I really couldn’t have imagined a more fun few days. They got to see all of the cool sights in Granada, including the spectacular Alhambra, meet nearly all of my friends, and even said hello to my host family. I wasn’t much help getting them out of Spain due to the unfortunate consumption of ____ too many drinks during the celebrations, but they managed. Apparently they threw a party a few days later….party party party!
At the Alhambra
While their party was going on, I was with some friends at “Carnaval de Cádiz.” We took a bus in around 10:00am, and took another out of the city at 4:30am the following morning. Its origins come from the Venetian carnival, and is a big celebration mixed between Mardi Gras and Halloween, but done as only the Spanish could possibly do. Abi, Saskia, and I took the morning to see their popular museum, which was quite the experience in our costumes. We wandered through the streets, stopping with the crowds to listen to the myriad performers, singing groups, and spectacles. Finally making it to the beach, we shared a bottle of wine and admired all of the costume-clad folk doing essentially the same thing. Many hours of walking, talking, eating, and drinking followed, but I must say choosing not to start the “real” party until after sunset was a very good decision, as we were able to enjoy the whole day. The Carnaval was easily one of the most fun and exhausting 24 hours of my life, and I can’t think two better people to have shared that with!
Abi and I in the museum with some works we had studied in Historia del Arte
Conjuring beach spirits on the beach in Cádiz
After these first few weeks, we decided we needed a break (and also midterms were coming up), so Abi and I decided to go to the Arab baths last weekend. They are original baths, obviously renovated, but still one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. You step in and are immediately swept back to the 14th century and the reign of Granada Moors. The luxury, beauty, and completely enveloping Arabic atmosphere was nothing short of magical. I could easily imagine the discussions of philosophy that once frequented the walls, smell the tea that flowed, and feel like a true princess for a few hours.
After this wonderful and relaxing evening, a group of us got together for a pancake and mimosa brunch on Saturday morning at Saskia’s house (she lives by herself, not with a host family). Being Australian, she was blown away by our pancakes and we were definitely the happiest group of ex-pats in Granada and possibly all of Spain that morning/afternoon/almost evening by the time we finished off the champagne and naps.
I swear we did use orange juice!
It’s been quite the month, and now that midterms are over we have officially reached the only-two-more-months mark (cue mild panic!). Somehow, I doubt it will go out like a lamb….