Over the last week, we have had a "cultural excursion" every morning before the afternoon classes and also spent the weekend in Madrid as a program. In summary, our awkward and slow-moving group of 35 has clogged the walkways in the following places:
- Los banos arabes
- Madrid's largest art museum, El Prado
- Madrid's modern art museum, La Reina Sofia
- El Palacio Real, built by King Philip V in 1734 to be the largest palace in all of Europe after the old wooden castle burned to the ground. You'll notice it is nearly all stone, as the King wanted to avoid another fire. Inside, there are more than 2000 rooms, nearly all of them decorated in gold, the most dazzling chandeliers, and silk wallpaper.
- El Parque de Buen Retiro in Madrid
- El Plaza Mayor
- Kapitol, the largest discoteca in Madrid (7 floors, each with a different type of music being played!)
- La Iglesia Santa Luisa de los Franceses, the pre-eminent example of Baroque architecture in Sevilla
- Bodas de Sangre, a play by Federico Garcia Lorca
- La Catedral de Sevilla, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. The mix of Arab and European architecture shows the strong influence the Moors (who ruled in Sevilla for 500 years) had on the Spanish even after it had been reconquered. The Catedral itself was built on top of the mosque that had stood there before
- La Giralda, converted from a minaret to a bell tower at the Catedral
As the extensive list shows, I have been running from one place to the next and each deserves a post of its own. While I write this blog so that everyone can know what I'm up to, I also find that it has given me a chance to reflect on the memories that won't be captured in pictures. Without this, a year from now I probably wouldn't have remembered how the arab baths smelled of mint and chamomile or that our guide through the Prado, Santiago, went out of his way to take us to the best possible spot in the museum to view Velazquez's famous "Las Meninas" so that we could fully appreciate his mastery and use of perspective. These types of memories are what make a trip but are often the most quickly forgotten.
Though the history and the architectural facts about each of these places have been fascinating (and very helpful in adding to my stockpile of facts), it has been the small moments, often away from the group and in no particular place, that I have enjoyed the most in the past week. I have spent the long lunch hours, after I finish my sandwich and the sweet oranges Loli has packed for me that morning, wandering through the streets or simply sitting in the sun near the fountain in the center, people-watching and occassionally finishing up my reading before class. Or, on a less poetic note, realizing that for two weeks I have been asking for marijuana water (agua de grifa) instead of tap water (agua de grifo)! So, I hope you will all excuse the glossing over of many wonderful places I have been in the last week in my summary, but, for my own sake, I will attempt to not let so long go between posts again!