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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
Hello again! We had such a full day on Saturday that it definitely needs to be talked about today. Plus, it provides a good ending to the fairy-tale of a weekend which we’ve had.
We started in Segovia, at the Roman aqueduct which has stayed standing for over 2000 years, through countless wars and civilizations, and without any cement or mortar, just good old-fashioned pressure (and physics!). It was absolutely incredible!
On our way up the hill of the city, we passed by many rich people’s homes, churches, and synagogues. The most interesting thing about Spain is that all of the cities have Jewish, Muslim, and Christian roots. We have learned about the Muslim and Christian backgrounds, but no one seems to want to tell us about the Jews except that they were expelled in 1492 (pretty big year for Spain) if they did not convert to Christianity because the king and queen wanted uniformity in everything, including religion. Sorry, that was kind of a mouth full, but it’s true. I’ll try to find some answers this week and get back to you on that.
We also stopped by the Cathedral after eating ponches (this strangely delicious treat) and seeing the place where Queen Isabel was crowned. It was the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain and it was huge! There was also a wedding going on while we were there, and we were all pretty excited to see the bride who we did manage to get a glimpse of, even if we weren’t sure that we would!
Our final stop was the castle, or Alcázar, that was found at the top of the hill. It had some pretty great views. There was a moat surrounding it which was never filled with water but it did have bears at one point. There were towers, secret passageways, armories, red and gold everywhere, and a wishing well. It was pretty incredible what they were able to do and what they have been able to preserve. Magical.
After Segovia, we went to Ávila which is most well known for the wall which circles the city. It was built in the 12th century, and is the best conserved wall in all of Spain (most of the other walls have been destroyed). One cool thing is that some of the rocks were recycled from Roman times so really the wall is just super old. Karisa and I were just amazed that between all of the wars that have gone on over here, it is incredible that things such as the walls of Ávila and the aqueduct of Segovia are still standing. It must be for something. We also went to the cathedral which was built in with the walls. It is super old and very interesting because they used two different kinds of rocks to build it. I’m sure you’re probably tired of reading about Catholic cathedrals but if you ever want to hear the stories of San Nicolas or of the 11,000 virgins, just let me know and I would love to tell you!
Before leaving Ávila, we tried the yemas of Santa Teresa. Those were very interesting. They are this treat with egg yolk and sugar…that still look like egg yolks. Yeah, I´ll let you guys think about that for a little bit.
We got back to Alcalá very tired but also very happy to be here in Spain, the land of royalty and religion. And we all lived happily ever after! The end.
The two things I come up with whenever I think about the word, Toledo, have absolutely nothing to do with Spain. It’s either the Robin reference above or MASH’s Corporal Clinger’s hometown. However, after today, I can think about marzipan statues, steel blades, and red poppies (covering the ground where ancient Romans walked).
Toledo is pretty cool. It has a pretty long history of being a really important city as it was conquered by Romans, capitalized by Visigoths, inhabited by Muslims, taken by the Catholic kings, and recently named the gastronomical center of Spain. Our first stop on the tour was a panoramic view of the city, stunning! Because the main part of the city is up on a hill, there are escalators as well as stairs which make the climb a lot easier (except when there’s a traffic jam because someone dropped their sunglasses).
The city was all dressed up for the Corpus Christi holiday that they are celebrating this week. It was beautiful with flowers all over the place and these huge dolls that were put on display after the parade. Here they are now:
I’ll let you decide how creepy they are. Anywho, we also went to the cathedral which has some very important art by El Greco. This cathedral had the most detailed stained-glass windows I have seen so far in this trip. To mark the graves of the cardinals buried there, they use these red sombrero-like things that hang above the grave-marker. Those were really interesting. The relic here is a rock that was supposedly touched by the Virgin when she performed a miracle in Toledo. The most awe-inspiring part was when one of the artists decided to create an opening in part of the roof to let in more light and sculpted some pretty incredible things by it. It was definitely the Baroque style, but it did not need to be fixed.
We also saw a synagogue from the 13th century which looked more like the Muslim mosques we have been studying about, then a synagogue. That was because the Muslims were in charge of the city at the time and the architect used Muslim influences. Also, if you want to know a fun word to say in Spanish it’s “mezquita” which means mosque. Just makes me happy.
The weirdest thing we saw was this modern clothing store built on top of Roman ruins. How did we know that there were Roman ruins beneath? The floor was transparent! You could literally see the crumbled formations. Next door were the Roman baths which were also pretty cool. Not as well preserved as in England, but still pretty cool to explore.
Toledo is also part of La Mancha, aka Don Quixote’s hometown. Therefore, there was plenty of Quixote and Sancho to go around. We found this statue made out of marzipan and this other one which wasn’t:
Basically, it was a beautiful day filled with beautiful things to see and eat. I love just being able to step back in history for a time and then come back to the present by the means of escalators and air-conditioned buses. The 21st century rocks!
Also, this post would really be remiss if I did not mention our trip to the temple this week. We did baptisms and confirmations for the ancestors of those in our group. It was a really special experience. The temple is so beautifully simple which was a great relief from all of the hustle and bustle of this trip. It is so cool because the temple serves those from Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, so they have to include all of those different languages for the services. Pretty soon, though, all of those countries will have their own temples. Happy day! So many exciting things to come.
This week, we went to the north, to Basque Country, where it was green and mountainous like the Spanish version of Switzerland. Actually, maybe more like the mountains of Austria where Maria could hear the sound of music. Needless to say, it was beautiful!
We stayed in San Sebastián, a city right on the beach that had all of the signs in Basque as well as in Spanish. It was pretty impressive, especially since our hotel was found on the top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. We had to take this fun cable car down the mountain in order to reach the city. That was so fun. The beach was so nice even if it was cloudy and cold outside. We hiked up another hill to the ruins of a castle overlooking the city from another angle. You know, as fun as it is to see old cathedrals, there is nothing that excites me more than a ruined castle. It takes me back to my childhood when TJ, Josh, and I climbed all over the ruins of Kenilworth and Tintagel. Anywho, it was magical, even if we weren’t able to go inside because we got there one minute after the last tour started. Guys, I want a castle.
Something else that was awesome about San Sebastián was the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. It was big and dark like other cathedrals, but it was simpler and instead of having the crucified Christ as the main statue, it was a statue of Christ with a sheep. It was so beautiful. I also learned that as long as there is a little bit of light outside, the stained-glass windows will capture it.
Thursday, we crossed the border to France to San Juan de Luz, singing Les Miserables with mucho ánimo as they say in Spanish. It is a much smaller sea town but it has some historical significance because it was where the French and the Spanish signed a peace treaty. Plus, Louis XIV married la Infanta (Spanish princess) there in a little church which we visited. But mainly we went there to eat crepes and chocolate. After spending so much time in this tiny town where we didn’t understand anything, we were all so happy to find out that the woman at the chocolate shop spoke Spanish… and she had lots of samples. GOOD DAY!
Friday we left San Sebastián for Burgos. It’s this city in the countryside surrounded by little villages and pastures. It felt very different from any other town we have visited in Spain probably because it is so isolated. What is its claim to fame? El Cid, the most important hero in Spanish history, is buried there and he had a lot to do with that city. When he was exiled from Castilla and Leon, he left his wife and children at a monastery outside of the city. We went there and had a tour given by a monk who was wearing slippers! It was really cool to see how the monastery worked and all of the art there.
Other adventures: We went to Santo Domingo de Silos to hear the monks sing Gregorian chants. That was absolutely incredible. They even sang the Magnificat. It really was a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Carissa and I hiked to the ruins of the castle in Burgos. It wasn’t open but we were able to walk around it and get a feel for how it was. After having a poor dinner experience on Friday, we were a little wary of finding food for lunch on Saturday. However, we stopped at a bakery which had great sandwiches and delicious ice cream. I will say this about the Spanish though, they sure do love their meat. I asked for a vegetable sandwich and it had tuna in it. Only in Spain! There was a book fair that was pretty cool, plus it included a carousel that brought out the children in us. It really doesn’t take much. And I shouldn’t forget to mention all of the enlightening conversations we had with Profe about bold (bald zebras) and how to say “gallivanting” in Spanish. We sure do know how to have a good time!
Here’s to another week of Spanish fun and gallivanting!
This is going to be kind of a short post because, well, it’s been kind of a short week. We’re off to San Sebastian, San Juan de la Luz, Burgos, Santo Domingo de los Silos y Yecla. Whoo, that’s kind of a mouth full. To keep it short, we’re going to be spending some time in Basque Country! Now, we going to get to know a whole other culture as well as the other coast of Spain. Yippee!!
But before we get ahead of ourselves, here are some of the blessings from the week so far:
Only two days of class this week!!!!
We went to a Catholic mass yesterday and I was reminded again about the grand importance of prayer and the Holy Ghost (as well as the sacrament).
Side note: We to the Magistral Cathedral (one of two in the whole world) which just means that all of the priests have doctorate degrees. Interesting.
We just happened to go to mass on the day that the Colorado State University choir was performing so we stayed for that. It was absolutely incredible. They sang some really pretty Latin songs, some English, and then ended with some rousing Gospel music. Hallelujah! We talked with some of them after the performance, and they were so grateful to be able to talk to people in English.
Sunday was Stake Conference, so we got to go to the stake center which is right next to the temple! We’re hoping to go inside sometime later this month.
It wasn’t just any stake conference, but the stake conference when there were visiting general authorities. Elder Kearon from the Seventy and his wife spoke (he’s the one with the incredible British accent that gave that amazing talk about the refugees) about setting goals and being grateful for the things which we have been given.
Elder Bednar presided over a devotional for young men, young women, and young single adults. It was mainly a question and answer session which was so cool. He talked about the family, about personal revelation, about faith, about the Atonement, about keeping covenants, about the sacrament, everything. You could really feel the Spirit and the inspired questions and answers that were given. One of the questions was about the paralyzing effects of fear and doubt. Fear and doubt are the opposite of faith which is a principle of action and of power. Elder Bednar used the example of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River (found in Joshua 3). The priests carrying the ark of the covenant entered the river first without having the surety of dry land. But as the people kept moving forward, the Lord’s promises became sure and the river was parted. They might have questioned, “Will this really work?” But as they kept moving forward, they showed their faith and they were blessed. A question is not a doubt unless you let it keep you from progressing.
Well, that’s my sermon for the week. Basically, it was just the hugest blessing to have had time to spend with an Apostle and with the Lord. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true!!!!
This week has just flown by. As my roommate said, our trip this week feels like a dream. I have a feeling that is what this whole study abroad is going to feel like when I get home, but we don’t have to think about that yet.
We went to Barcelona this week!!! It is truly incredible. Definitely a favorite. The history is inspiring, the art/architecture is impressive, and the views are incredible. Plus, there is a beach and some very good food. It’s just an all-around win. We never got lost on the Metro, and we got to see some pretty incredible things, like…
The National Museum of Art of Catalunya: We only saw the outside of it, but it has these steps to get up to it which were just perfect for photo opportunities (see above). It is this really grand building and once you get to the top of it, you have a great view of the city. We also saw it from the old bullfighting arena which has been converted into a commercial center, and provides an awesome 360 degree view of the city.
Park Guell: This was designed by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900´s. It was supposed to be a residential area for the rich as well as a park, but because of its altitude it wasn´t super successful. Now it is just a park for people to visit and enjoy the incredible ceramic designs and the five houses which were built. Gaudí received his inspiration from nature so everything is really flowing and plant-like which is really cool. The ceramic pieces are all different colors and shapes and designs, because it was cheaper to buy ceramics that were already broken. It is a really fun place to visit.
La Sagrada Familia: This is the third most visited monument in Europe (after the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum) and it’s not even totally completed yet! Gaudí started it in 1882 and they are planning on having it done by 2026, but they’re not really in any rush. They still have the whole front to do. But the parts that you can see are really awesome. So, the entrance is on the east side and the facade consists of sculptures representing the birth of Jesus Christ. It is really beautiful and fairly realistic. Gaudí was trying to stay with the Biblical accounts as much as possible, so that people would not get carried away with their own interpretations. The inside is fairly simple. There are a lot of stained glass windows which illuminate and give color to the interior. The glass on the west side represents the Resurrection in an abstract way as it uses dark colors on the bottom to represent death and yellows and white on top to represent the triumph over death. It is absolutely stunning. There are statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as well as certain representations of God the Father and the Holy Ghost. La Sagrada Familia means “sacred family” referring to the family of Jesus, but also to all of our families (and may I say all of us as members of the family of God). Basically, La Sagrada Familia is a church meant not only for worshiping God, but also for instilling family values into the visitors. You exit on the west side where the facade represents the Crucifixion. It is a little more unnatural and not as pretty, but still very rich in symbolism. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.
La Rambla: It’s a famous street that has a lot of shopping and a lot of people. We visited the market which was really cool. They had everything from great big pigs’ legs to fancy chocolates. We all got fruit juices, I got maracuya, YUM! It was incredible.
Arc de Triomf and Park de la Ciutadella: Yes, Spain has its very own Arc de Triomf. This is the Catalan (language spoken in Barcelona) spelling of it. It’s pretty spectacular even if we couldn’t go up on it. There was also this very beautiful park where we saw street performers, bubbles, and angry geese. Hooray!
Beach: So, we went to the beach twice, once in Barcelona and once in Valencia. I touched the Mediterranean…again! It was really beautiful despite the couple brief encounters with those bathing in their birthday suits. The water was pretty cold (I’m shivering just thinking about it), but the sand was so fine in Valencia. Beach+college kids= a whole lot of fun in the sun!
Cathedral of Valencia: It is fairly plain on the outside, but on the inside, far from it. There was this beautiful stained glass window and lots of little chapels. We also found the Holy Grail (goodness, Valencia could have saved Indiana Jones a whole lot of trouble). And I am not kidding, it is really the chalice (or at least the bowl of the chalice) which the Catholic Church believes was used at the Last Supper. It has been adorned a little bit with gold and is now kept in its own special chapel in a special case illuminated by this really inconvenient light that non-flash pictures do not like at all (sorry about the picture). We also saw the arm of a saint, Saint Vincent to be exact. So many adventures!
Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias (aka City of the Arts and the Sciences): After a huge storm and flood, Valencia redirected one of its main rivers and put a park where the river used to run. The park includes all kinds of cool stuff to do, but the most interesting is this “city”. It consists of a few HUGE buildings that are used for exhibits and activities (kind of like OMSI for my Oregon people, except bigger). We unfortunately weren’t able to go inside any of them, but they were pretty cool to look at.
So, it was a week of Gaudí, tapas, ice cream, and sunshine. It was kind of nice to have a break outside of Alcalá and Madrid (I mean, you can´t really do any better than having a break in Barcelona), but it was also pretty exhausting. Here´s to a whole new week of adventures!
Well, we have had two days of nonstop rain, but today ended on a bright note with a rainbow. The earth is so clean right now:)
Yesterday, we went to church which was awesome! The ward is pretty large and very welcoming. There was this adorable little boy with the fluffiest curly hair and the biggest brown eyes who kept toddling up and down our aisle. He was amazed by all the strange faces, but I kept smiling at him and he would run away and then look back to see if I was watching (SO CUTE!). We met him and his dad later– his name is Aaron– and that was a lot of fun. We went to the Sunday School class for the JAS (young single adults) which was super exciting. I always wanted to go to that class when I was on my mission but I wasn’t really able to because we went to or taught Gospel Principles. It was really cool since we like quadrupled their numbers and we talked about King Benjamin’s speech which was incredible (talking about grace and how to live a Christlike life). Relief Society was cool too and afterwards, we stayed to sing in the choir. It is a pretty big one and we’ll be singing “As Sisters in Zion” in a couple of Sundays. That was really cool.
Something else that was interesting about church was how many missionaries were there. There is only one ward in Alcalá so it is a pretty big area to cover. There were two sets of elders, a set of sisters, and two married couples. It was pretty remarkable.
Due to the rain, we spent most of the time inside. I was able to talk to my mom for Mother’s Day and to Josh!!! He’s doing great (today is his 5 month mark, crazy!). He loves the people he’s been serving and he has been adapting fairly well to the German life. GO EUROPE!
Today we had class and learned about a folk song from 1245 that was “based on real events” and about Hannibal. It was inspiring, let me tell you. Also, Cervantes’ house was finally less crowded (probably because it’s closed on Mondays) and we were able to take pictures with the charming statue of Don Quixote and Sancho (see above). All in all, it’s been a pretty good couple of days. Wet but happy!
His name was Felipe II and he had four wives (our tour guide at El Escorial wanted to make sure we knew that). One of those wives was Bloody Mary just in case you were wondering, but the Spanish don’t really think much of her since she never came to Spain. Anywho, he decided to build a “summer palace” about 30 miles away from Madrid.But this wasn’t going to be any palace, it needed to show the power of the king and of God, so it needed to be a monastery as well. It was also built in commemoration of San Lorenzo, a martyr from the 3rd Century who was burned to death on a grill. This was important because the king thought that it was significant that they had a victorious battle against the French on the same day as this saint’s celebration day, August 10. Therefore, the building was constructed in the form of a grill. This majestic palace was built in just 21 years, under the direction of 2 architects, and it is still a functional monastery, basilica, burial ground, and boarding school.
The place where Felipe resided was a small room which was able to open up to the basilica so that he could watch the services without leaving his room. He was very old and could walk very far. In fact, for his last visit, people had to carry him for seven days to reach the palace. Other room was built for his eldest daughter since all of his wives had all passed away. He had many rooms to meet in and long hallways with beautiful paintings and 16th century maps (those were incredible). There were lots of frescos and ceiling paintings to match those of the Sistine Chapel. Astounding!
Felipe actually died in El Escorial and was buried in a pantheon he had built directly under the altarpiece in the basilica. His father, mother, and almost every other king and queen mother are buried there in this underground rotunda made of Spanish marble and decorated with gilded bronze. It is absolutely fantastic. Gross side note: the bodies were left to rot in separate rooms (we passed by the doors) for 20-25 years before the bones were placed in the already prepared coffins. And that is the story of El Escorial. The end.
We ate lunch outside the monastery in the gardens which were beautiful. Then, some of our group went on this fairly long hike up the to the top of a “mountain” opposite El Escorial where we were able to have this incredible view of the palace and all the surrounding cities. Se llama La Silla de Felipe II or the Seat of Philip II. It was kind of hard, but it didn’t rain on us and the view was unforgettable. The pictures just don’t do it justice (sorry). Miraculously we made it to the bus on time afterwards, and we were actually able to eat dinner at a reasonable hour. Good day!
Hasta luego and Happy Mother’s Day (we get to talk to Josh tomorrow)!!!
PS This Philip II was the one the Philippines were named after. Cool story, I know.