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Carnival!

8 Mar

Last weekend was the beginning of Carnival in Cadiz, which I hear is one of the largest in the world, and I was there! It was a quick trip but I got to check a lot of things off of my “Things To Do While In Spain” list.

#1- Botellon. This is the name for groups of people drinking in the streets. Younger people do it in Madrid, Sevilla and wherever all the time, but apparently the police are cracking down on it. (But judging by how blatant and often they are, probably not!) Saturday night is Cadiz was, simply put, one ENORMOUS, all day botellon, DJ included. Check!

Botellon/block party around 6pm...it got much more crowded later.

#2- Go camping. I have random and somewhat frequent desires to do outdoorsy things. Hiking is one of them, which I have done while and Spain, and camping is another. Like every other time I have gone camping, it was not all that rustic. We did squeeze five people in one tent (great for staying warm at night), and there was no grill or electricity, but there were bathrooms, showers and a cafe next door to the camp ground. Not to mention, the beach was right across the street! Check!

Our 'hotel room' for the weekend!

#3- Road trip. I knew I wouldn’t get to go on a road trip unless I found a Spaniard to drive. Luckily, my friend is dating a Spanish guy! The trip from Madrid to Cadiz was a typical 6.5 hour, picnic dinner, Cosmo-reading, play-trivia-on-an-iPhone road trip and it was so much fun! On the way back we made a couple of impromptu stops in Rota and Jerez. Rota is pretty beach resort town where we stopped for cones of fried seafood (YUM!). Jerez is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Nothing was really open since it was Sunday afternoon, but I would definitely go back t visit the Alcazar, cathedral and Tio Pepe winery!

Outside of the Alcazar in Jerez.

Basilica in Jerez.

 #4- Go to a Carnival. There are several carnivals in Spain in the spring. I’ve asked a few Spaniards why they celebrate and no one had a definite answer, so I’ve concluded it’s like Halloween or St. Patrick’s day in the U.S. – just another excuse to party! Spaniards take their costumes seriously, too. There weren’t many sexy secretaries or naughty nurses (and the ones I did see were probably American girls), but there were a lot of cross-dressing men. Most people were either super creative or had bought full on, head-to-toe get-ups. Basically, Carnival in Cadiz is the equivalent to Halloween in the states if you multiplied Franklin Street by 100. Check!

Amy (left) as a white board and an octopus with bush...because why not?

Needless to say, it was a great trip! Besides the day drinking and block party (which definitely got more and more sloppy and dirty the later it got, LOL), the city of Cadiz is right on the coast with palm trees and old architecture. Breathtaking!

Part of a huge church in the center of the city.

Literally RIGHT on the coast!

XO

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Sevilla

30 Jan

After spending a few days in Sevilla, I think it has become my favorite city in Spain. I do love Madrid and there are a ton of things to do here, but Sevilla seems to have the Spanish soul you read about in travel books or hear about from other people. The town is slower and more relaxed, which immediately makes it more typically Spanish. The people are very warm with a “no pasa nada” attitude about everything. Everything in the center is beautiful, there’s a lot of pride in tradition and Spanish culture, and the food is great. Beau and I split a fried seafood platter the first night and it beat every fish camp in the U.S. I’ve ever been to!

Our hostel was a five-minute walk from the Cathedral, which was our first stop the next day and at least twice as big as the one in Granada. (In fact, it’s one of the largest in all of Europe!)

View of the Cathedral at night...I thought this building was unbelievable!

The main altar. It has somewhere around 50 scenes from Jesus' life carved into it and is covered in gold.

Climbing the tower of the Cathedral.

We also toured the bull ring, which Beau liked a lot since he’s a guy, ha. The tour guide explained the tradition like a Spanish fairytale starring heart-throb matadors in fancy costumes dancing with these prized animals. It was very interesting to learn some of the history, but I still don’t know if I would go to a real fight.

Plaza de Toros, gate where the bull enters the ring.

In the museum at the bull ring.

  My favorite place in Sevilla, though, was Plaza Espana. Most cities in Spain share street and plaza names, but Sevilla has the Plaza Espana. The plaza was built for an exposition in 1928/1929 right beside Maria Luisa park (aka Central Park in Sevilla). Everything is covered in colorful Spanish tiles! It has a moat surrounding the plaza that you can paddle boat around and tile plaques dedicated to every different area of Spain surrounding the main building, which looks like it’s fit for a king but instead houses government offices. (Can I work somewhere like this, please?) I was just expecting another cute plaza with shops and restaurants…so needless to say I was blown away!

Plaza Espana...Did I mention there are horse-drawn carriages all over the city?

Close up of all the beautiful tile!

We also went to the Alcazar palace, participated in a Los Reyes parade (by participate I mean fight children for free candy, LOL), and went on a super fun pub crawl with our hostel (where we had to help a 18-year-old French Canadian who drank too much and threw up on herself at the end of the night. Kids, ha.). We wanted to hang out/ go out in Triana, a neighborhood on the other side of Rio Guadalquivir, but we ran out of time. I’m not too worried, though, because I definitely see myself going back to Sevilla!

The gardens of Alcazar, definitely the best part!

XO

Granada

13 Jan

My boyfriend and I got back to Madrid after 12 straight days of travel last Saturday night happy, exhausted and a little dirty (we had lost the shampoo and conditioner we had brought a few days before coming home). Our trip was absolutely AMAZING! In the end, we got the chance to hang out in 5 different cities in 3 different countries. We took tons of pictures and videos (most of which I will put on Facebook rather than here), but I’ll just give y’all some of the highlights.

Our first stop was Granada, Spain. Granada was such an adorable city. The highlights for me were La Alhambra and the live flamenco show! We also liked the Cathedral, which was beautiful, and a bar we found with good American music… aka lots of Rhiana (Spaniards love her!).

First day in Granada! Not as cold as Madrid but still chilly!

The first day there we went to the Cathedral and Royal Chapel. It was the biggest church with some of the prettiest architecture I’d ever seen until visiting some of the other places we went on our trip. Either way, it’s still in the top 5! My favorite part of the Cathedral was the organ, it blew me away!

This is one of the two sets of organ pipes in the middle of the Cathedral.

 

The main altar.

The second day, we went to La Alhambra, which is a huge palace complex that took us almost an entire day to get through. It literally had a miniature city inside of its walls! Turns out that a lot of other castles and palaces were modeled after this one, so it’s cool that we got to go there first. (We definitely saw a LOT of palaces, castles and cathedrals, lol. They were all breathtaking, though.)

This courtyard-oasis was my favorite part of La Alhambra and is one of the oldest parts of the palace.

Shot from the Generalife Gardens across from the actual palace.

Great view from the top of La Alhambra!

 That night, we went to a flamenco show for dinner. So far in Madrid, I had only seen a Flamenco ballet, which ended up being mostly ballet and maybe 10 minutes of what I thought Flamenco would be. This show was REAL flamenco! I couldn’t blink I was so into the solos and watching the footwork. The restaurant-bar had great drinks and tapas and the dancers danced their butts off!

Action shot

Dinner was good. Beau really liked what he ordered-it was probably his favorite meal the whole trip. I ordered shrimp (yes, for my time abroad I have gone from vegetarian to mostly vegetarian but sometimes pescatarian). The shrimp, or maybe more appropriately called “prawns”, had their heads and everything else still attached. After eating a little of two of them that Beau had to de-head and gut for me I gave him the rest and remembered why I decided to be a vegetarian in the first place, LOL!

Granada was very different from Madrid. You could definitely see the Arabian influence in all of the Moorish architecture, which made it the perfect destination before heading to Morocco… More to come!

XO