Saturday, April 28, 2012

las fotos: semana santa

my computer crashed right after i uploaded the pictures from sevilla, so i feel incredibly lucky to be able to share them with you. time for a new computer!

semana santa parte dos: sevilla

after a severe bout of culture schock, joelson, margo and i paused for a night in madrid and then somehow caught a bus down to sevilla on thursday. madness then ensued.

i kid, i kid. it was an awesome time though, to state it simply. i absolutely fell in love with sevilla. in between spurts of rain, we were lucky enough to catch a few glimpses of the sun. these pictures come from the magnificently impressive plaza de españa.

among other things, we also went to the alcazar, which is the spanish answer to the linguistic problem posed by a proliferation of royal residences. it is funny too, that the spanish have a word that means a castle/palace/fortress, because alex and i actually had a running joke in italy about trying to figure out what to call the million and one "palazzi" that we saw. 

i only took a few pictures inside because i knew that i could never do it justice. in fact, sometimes i really do prefer to just leave it up to the professionals and procure a few postcards. this was definitely one such instance. the inside of the palace was positively breathtaking, as were the gardens though too! back in the day the catholic king commissioned muslim artists to decorate the palace in the elaborate style using a type of painted plaster, and the results are truly magnificent. i would even go so far as to say that i liked it better than alhambra. blasphemy?

the modern architecture in sevilla was also impressive, and between late night and early morning processions viewings, we popped over to this structure, which coincidentally gave me a taste for waffle fries that haunted me all day.

what were perhaps the most significant parts of this trip though, were the moments that i, of course, do not have pictures of. the hostel that we stayed at, for isntance, was by far the nicest one that i have ever stayed at, and we eneded up meeting some cool spaniards there. i would also hate to forget the nights that we went out and came home with crazy stories each time. the first night that we got to sevilla we saw the some of the biggest processions of all of semana santa. picture hundreds of people dressed up in dark hooded outfits carrying candles and hundreds of pounds worth of ornamentation. the processions lasted hours, and while i still do not think that i fully understand them, it was incredibly powerful to experience them at least for a moment. 

then there was the night that we went out super late, still on tiempo madrileño. after a delicious meal, a few bars later maddy and i had managed to make friends with flamenco guitarists and locals inviting us back to sevilla for feria, another great big spanish party. 

the next night though, was the kicker. i was determined to watch some flamenco while in southern spain, so with a super nice spanish girl from our hostel we set out to do just that. upon asking a local for directions though, we discovered that the better deal would be to see a less "guiri" or touristy deal and just look for a wandering guitarist in the local bars. not more than an hour later, the four of us found ourselves in the middle of a truly neighborhood affair, squeezed into a closet sized bar listening to a singer and her guitarist play some of the best flamenco music that i had ever heard. there were no costumes, no frills or gimmicks, just locals singing the lyrics to the songs that they all knew by heart. it was perfect. it did not take long for us to make friends with everyone there either, as it was readily apparent that we were the only four that did not live within 5 minutes. needless to say, we closed the bar taking shots courtesy of the guitarist who had fallen in love with me. this is chicago blues right?? he asked as he played something not even remotely close to blues. bravo! i replied and smiled at maddy.

the night did not end there though. the fabulously entertaining gay bartenders insisted on taking us to the next bar, which was alright but not exactly the club that i had been looking for. so i sidled up to the bar, and started making conversation with the older man next to me. i liked his glasses. how could i have known that he was one of the most famous toreros in all of spain? it was only after a few minutes of talking that i turned around to realize that everyone was awestruck. he is a famous bullfighter! maddy whisper/shouted at me. so i turned back and jose tomas went on talking about his son and showing me pictures on his iphone.
then we went to a club. jajaja. 

for me though, one of my favorite experiences in spain was walking alone down the river at dusk. there was a true spanish botellón taking place, and for as far as the eye could see, groups of spaniards sat listening to music, drinking with friends, watching the world go by. in this particular instance though, i was the one walking on by. it was that moment that i knew that i would come back to sevilla. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

semana santa parte 1: marruecos

the third largest mosque in the world

watching casablanca at rick´s cafe in casablanca while drinking a casablanca

morocco was unbelievable. i anticipated a mind blowing experience. what little did i know.

morocco was utterly overwhelming. the sights, smells and sounds were enough to take your breath away. snake charmers and monkeys dotted the main square. drumbeats rumbled across rooftops late into the night. snail vendors pitched their fare at while smoke billowed from the grill stands. 

in casablanca, marrakech and essaouira i discovered a world unlike any that i had seen before. riding camels on the beach at sunset, trying delicious new flavors at sketchy looking street food stands and haggling for hours with vendors all proved exceedingly fun. more significant though, were the experiences that sound so much less glamorous and exciting. riding the bus between towns, for instance, felt at times like watching a slow motion horror film. for the first time in my life i saw a population that lives in huts and scrapes by for a living hustling on the side of the streets. i also though, was able to marvel at the beauty that is the moroccan countryside and reflected on how lucky i am to be able to afford to travel to other countries. 

after a day´s rest in madrid, my friends maddy, margo and i migrated south for the rest of semana santa to watch the processions. more to come on that later. for now, shokran! (thank you in arabic)   

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

valencia dos

i thought that you guys might appreciate a few more pictures from valencia that i stole from the ever gracious hope morrill's facebook album. they are decidedly more tame, but still fun.

paella in valencia was a must, despite the fact that we arrived a few hours late jaja

waiting for the grand finale

which was more than worth the wait!

i promise that fotos from semana santa are on their way. i just have to whittle them down from the 1000 that i took!