The Last Week

So the last week was kind of a whirlwind between goodbyes and finals and last minute activities. But it was an absolutely splendid last week.

Monday we had our last FHE with a white elephant gift exchange, games, and testimony meeting. It is so cool to see how much everyone has learned over that seven week period. We have been so blessed!!

Tuesday was study time for our finals which we had on Wednesday. They weren’t too bad, but it was also nice to have them over with in one day… and before lunch! That night we had one last dinner all together. I had salmon and it was delicious. The directors gave us all gifts (a plate with Las Meninas on it) and we gave them a gift (chocolate and candy and a picture with all of us). And we spent the night like real Europeans, staying late at the restaurant just chatting. Real Spaniards, that’s us!

13483263_1319216771426119_3199488940041679592_o

Thursday we were given our diplomas for going to school at Alcalingua. It was super casual which was kind of funny, but it was also awesome. We celebrated with ice cream afterwards. After lunch and a quick nap, we made our way to Madrid to tour El Prado again (we got to finish the tour with Velazquez and Goya and even got to see some more around it). That was so awesome! Again, we have been so blessed! To end the evening, we saw The Lion King, the musical, in Spanish. It was awesome! The sets and costumes were just incredible. Most of the singing was enjoyable and it was just a lot of fun to be a part of it all.

DSC00950
Look! A fancy diploma!

Friday we (meaning Karisa, Colby, Mitchell, and I) decided that the most appropriate thing to do on our last day in Spain is go to the most somber place in Madrid: El Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen). It’s a church that was built to house the tomb of Francisco Franco (Spain’s dictator). There is a huge cross on top of it that you can see from miles away. It serves kind of as a memorial for the Spanish Civil War as well, but for the most part, the Spanish don’t really like it. So many horrible things happened during that time period and it is just better for them not to remember it. However, the building is quite majestic. It kind of feels like something out of The Lord of Rings with this great stone building built on a tree-filled mountain. Gives you chills.

DSC00958

I’ll write a wrap-up post later. Just know that I will be forever grateful for this experience, for the people I met and the history I was able to walk in to. Spain is a BEAUTIFUL country!

You´ve Got a “Fan” in Me

Well friends, summer has come to Spain and the heat has come on full force. But it takes a lot more than 100+ degree weather to stop us!

It was a pretty full week. Monday we went to the Real Madrid stadium for a tour. That’s right. I have walked and sat in all the places that the players have walked and sat. Their lockers all have their pictures on them so they know which one is theirs. We also walked by all of their trophies. They’ve been playing for over 100 years plus they were recognized as the best fútbol team of the 20th century so there is a lot of them. The gallery was filled with video highlights and epic music which just made it so much more awesome.

Real Madrid
The Real Deal

Tuesday we went to El Prado, which was incredible. We only spent two short hours there (actually, we got robbed because they kicked us out 10 minutes before the museum closed). I could have spent all day in there, so many incredible things. One of the first things we saw was a fresco done by Mozarabes (Christians who lived in Arabic-ruled lands) which used the elephant as a symbol of Christ due to their meekness and their strength. That was so cool. We saw art from several distinctive time periods and from different parts of Europe so that we could compare styles and see how things changed and how some things stayed the same. We were unable to see Velasquez’s Las Meninas which was kind of a bummer (that’s the main reason why we went), but I wouldn’t give up the experience we did have for anything.

Wednesday we left for our last trip of the program. Our first stop was Córdoba, the most precious little city. It had white-washed buildings and the Spanish-Arabic influences were so pronounced. It was like we were in a different country. We went to La Mezquita which was a mosque that was turned into a cathedral. It is kind of sad to see all of the evidences of how the Christians just took over; however, it is also clear that if they hadn’t preserved the buildings in some way, they all would have been destroyed. The most incredible part was all of the columns and arches. They are aligned so precisely so that your view is never blocked. You can really see how that provided such a sacred atmosphere for prayer. My friend, Mikaela, commented on how that provides a symbol of our lives. There may be lots of ways that we can go that will take us back to our Heavenly Father. As long as we are good girls and good boys, we will go in the right way for us and we will develop all of the traits that are necessary for becoming like our Heavenly Parents. And when we go a little astray, we can make changes thanks to the Savior’s Atonement (He wants us to do this, we can all change a little bit). I’ll let you reflect on that for a minute.

DSC00797
Choose the path that makes you better.

Done? Ok, so have I mentioned how hot it was? Yeah, it was hot. That called for water and ice cream and fans (hooray!). After finishing in Córdoba, we drove to Sevilla (Seville) where we ate an interesting dinner in the hotel and tried to watch Tarzan (that didn´t work out so well) while learning the language of the fan. Karisa was dared to show a guy in our group one of the signs (swiping the fan across the forehead meaning “you have changed”). It took a couple of days before she was actually able to do it, but it was totally worth it.

DSC00772
The Secret Life of Fans

Sevilla is incredible!!!!!!!! It is definitely up there with Barcelona. The city was built along a river and was a key part of the Age of Discovery. Christopher Columbus and Magellan both started there. In fact, some of Columbus’ remains are entombed in the cathedral. Due to this, about 100 years ago the city had an exposition celebrating the Americas with fancy buildings and gardens and American products. Some of the buildings are still there. The most impressive though is the Plaza de España which is just beautiful. Here, I´ll let you see for yourself:

DSC00827

We also saw the Real Alcázar which was different from the one we saw in Segovia since this one was Arabic in nature. That means more gardens and fountains and crazy beautiful architecture. We have decided that Arabic-inspired gardens are the best. The cathedral was very pretty as well.

For lunch, we ate at this beautiful restaurant on the river. The food was absolutely amazing! I had paella with vegetables, potato salad, tomatoes with cheese and balsamic vinegar, and ham croquettes. Yum! After lunch, we explored the city a little bit, ate ice cream, and bought flowers for our hair in honor the flamenco show that we went to. That was absolutely incredible! They can dance and sing and clap for days. It is definitely a different experience, but it was so beautiful to be a part of. One of the ladies had the swishiest dress that could have knocked over the drinks in the first row (that is, if we hadn’t moved them first). So cool! Dinner was Italian food and it was delicious. Then, we walked back to the hotel, kicking an orange around just for fun.

DSC00862
Flamenco!

Friday, we left the hotel and drove to Granada, the last city to be conquered by the Christians. It’s where King Fernando and Queen Isabel are buried, where they have a Renaissance style cathedral as opposed to Gothic, and where you can find the Alhambra. The Alhambra is this palace complex that is so amazing. It is up on a hill and it is like it’s own little world. The buildings were so cool; they are so simple on the outside while the insides are just packed with detail and decoration. The gardens, again, were incredible. You can just see everything because the city is up so high. It was so incredible.

DSC00917
I can show you the world!

Saturday, we went back to Alcalá. On our way, we stopped in Consuegra where they have the windmills that inspired Cervantes to write about Don Quixote fighting the “giants”. It was so charming. We were even able to go up in one of them which was so cool. Once back in Alcalá, we bought ice cream to celebrate our friend, Grace’s birthday. Yum!

DSC00930
GIANTS!!

This last trip was so nice because we were able to see so many cool things and yet still had time to relax and just feel the southern Spain atmosphere. It just helped me to realize how blessed I have been.

Love you all!

 

 

“Mejor es tener una oveja que no tener nada”

It’s better to have a sheep than not have anything. That was my favorite line of the play that we went to see this week: La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba). It was kind of an intense play about a dominating mother who has five daughters that she won’t let leave the house because they are in mourning for their father. Of course, this means that the girls are absolutely boy crazy and three of the daughters are in love with the same boy. Thus, madness ensues. The above quote comes from the grandmother who is trying to escape from the house to get married… and have sheep as children.

Monday for FHE we went on this crazy scavenger hunt in Alcalá where we met “Cervantes”, wrote the most ridiculous poem about a hedgehog, and danced in the main plaza for everyone to see. Yep, we’re those Americans in Spain… and they love it!

Tuesday we finally got the chance to go to the Roman ruins close by. Alcalá was once a Roman city called Complutum, so there are some ruins from the youth club house and from the forum of the city. You can see where there were houses and the public baths. It was super fascinating. There was also this mosaic which I´m pretty sure I´ve seen in my art history books. It was a lot of fun to be so close to that history. The guy in charge showed us a gold piece that they found there from that time. That was actually super awesome.

DSC00663

Ok, story time: so last week when we were in Toledo, we saw patches and patches of poppies. As Toledo was also a Roman city at one point, my roommate Karisa decided that the poppies grew where the Romans had died, getting their red color from the blood (a little morbid, I know, but also kind of a nice sentiment). Well, that story was thought to be a Spanish urban legend by several friends. It wasn’t until we were at Complutum on Tuesday that they realized that Karisa had made it up. Haha. Though of course, now we see poppies everywhere!!!! Lots of battles going on:)

Wednesday was a pretty momentous occasion. We went to the Reina Sofia Museum and saw Picasso’s “Guernica”. It is pretty breathtaking. There are so many details that are hard to see just pictures. And while the Cubism makes it a little hard to follow, the message is pretty clear. For those who aren’t sure what it looks like, here you go:

picassoguernica

It shows the horrors of war while spreading a little bit of hope with the flower by the broken sword and the candle. It is pretty strong and the contrasts in the black and white are pretty impressive. It was incredible.

Thursday, we took a test (wait, this is a STUDY abroad?!). Friday we left for Salamanca, an old university town north of Madrid. We ate the most delicious desserts and tapas there, like this yummy chocolate roll:

DSC00685

The tour guide showed us the old university buildings and the cathedral(s). There is an old one and a newer one which are right next to each other because they were supposed to be built into one. That didn’t happen, so now the two of them are used for different events and different days. The city was so beautiful at night. They have the streets and buildings lit up so well, and people stay up to enjoy the sights. In fact, there were guided tours still going on at midnight! We were also lucky because there happened to be a concert series going on in the main plaza. So even if I have to miss out on some of Provo’s rooftop concert series, I still got some music this weekend!

Today we left Salamanca for Valladolid which was absolutely beautiful. It’s the capital of the Castilla-Leon province. They are also very well-known for their floats that they bring out for Easter and for the museum of sculptures which was so cool. It was so amazing what they could sculpt using wood (either pine or walnut). One of the other cool things was this huge display of the birth of Jesus that was shown in a Naples-like city. It’s called a Belen napolitano, and it shows the nativity and the shepherds and the wise men among the bakers and butchers and musicians from the 1700’s. They were all hand-sculpted which was so amazing.

DSC00726

Lunch was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. We went to a bodega (aka wine storehouse) where we ate the most delicious steak and salads and desserts, no wine though. It was absolutely incredible! And the atmosphere was so cool. It was called El Hilo de Ariadna (Ariadne’s Thread) which comes from the Greek myth about Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur. Ariadne helped Theseus return from the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur with the help of a golden thread. They ran away together, but Theseus left Ariadne on an island where she was found by Dionysus, the god of wine, and they were married. Thus, the bodega was found about 20 meters below the ground (to control the wine’s temperature) and there were all sorts of winding passageways just like the labyrinth. It was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Well, time to sleep and start a new week. Hasta pronto!