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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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!