Salamanca and Sevilla

BLOGGING IS HARD! Now that I am into a schedule with university classes and my English tutoring classes, finding time to write seems impossible. Once I organize my pictures from a trip, I seem to run out of time to write a blog post before I’m off to the next place. I suppose it’s not so bad a problem to have, but I apologize that I’ve been a bit absent here. I still owe you all a post about my trip to Galicia, which is almost a month ago now (oops!). I have it half-written, so it’s coming soon, I promise. As you can see by the title, I went to Salamanca and Sevilla last weekend, and I wanted to write a post about this while it was still fresh in my mind. I think Sevilla is my favorite city I’ve ever been to! So, here is a post about my trip to two beautiful cities in Spain: Salamanca and Sevilla (click for pictures.)

Since last Thursday was a holiday here, my friend Catey and I decided to hit the road and head on south for the weekend. Our first stop was the college town of Salamanca, which is about three hours south of Oviedo. We stayed in a youth hostel, and met pretty much every stereotypical person you would expect to find in such a place. Salamanca is a precious, small city with some really amazing architecture. I’ve talked a little about the ~vibes~ of different places, and this city had a very interesting vibe for me. I didn’t have déjà vu, but the city felt homey and familiar somehow. I get a similar feeling when I go to Tallahassee, which is where I lived until I was 8, or to St. Augustine, a city I’ve visited about once a year since I was little. It had that feeling of familiarity, but I didn’t feel like I had been there or seen it before. I think this might be because it reminded me of other places in Spain, and everyone was really friendly. It was weird, but pleasant.

We saw lots of amazing places in Salamanca, like the Universidad Pontificia, the cathedral, and La Plaza Mayor. The University had a great tour which included going up to the bell towers to see the whole city, and that was an amazing view. The Cathedral in Salamanca might be my favorite one I’ve been to since I’ve been here.cathedralsalamanca.jpg

It was absolutely breathtaking inside architecturally, and featured some of the most beautiful art  and statues I’ve seen in Spain. It is a truly special place. Aside from those amazing buildings, we also thoroughly enjoyed the Plaza Mayor. This is the heart of the old city, and it is circled by tons of cafes, restaurants, and bars. We ate lunch here alfresco, and felt very fancy. We decided to return that night, just to see how it looked in the dark, and we were astounded. It was filled with people, because it was a holiday, and the plaza was not only lit up, but illuminated with the colors of the Spanish flag. It was so special!

The next day, Friday, we had the morning to complete one essential task: find the astronaut. Yes, you read that right. During restoration work on the Cathedral, some cheeky artists added a tiny astronaut in the work around the main doors, nestled in between the seraphim and cherubim. We looked and looked and thought we would never find him, until we saw a man pointing it out to his kids. We were almost out of time before we had to leave, so we were really happy that we finally found it (or rather, that man found it.) He’s hiding in this picture. 

By Friday evening, we were settled into our Airbnb in Sevilla, which is another 4+ hours south from Salamanca. By this point, we were pretty deep into southern Spain, and it was hot and dry, which is pretty much the exact opposite of Asturias. It was a nice change. Sevilla embodies exactly what I thought Spain was before I came here. There are palm trees, Arab-influenced architecture, tapas, flamenco, and everything has a slightly dramatic flare. On top of that, it was absolutely beautiful. parquemarialuisa.jpgThe colors seem more vibrant, and every detail is exquisite. That is a picture from the Parque de Maria Lusia which is gargantuan and beautiful. Other than that, the gems of Sevilla are the cathedral (obviously), the Real Alcázar , and the Plaza de Espana.  Sadly, we didn’t get to do a full tour of the cathedral because it was closed on Saturday for a ceremony, but we did get to go to mass there on Sunday. We had to wait in line to get in to the the Real Alcázar, which is a royal palace which was originally constructed by Moorish Muslim kings. Every square inch of the interior of this place is filled with detail, and the expansive gardens are meticulously cared for. By the time we were exploring the gardens, it was a hefty 94 degrees, but we enjoyed it all the same.  The Plaza de Espana feels absolutely otherworldly, so much so that it is featured in Star Wars Episode II as an exterior shot on Naboo in this scene.

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This was the last picture I took before my camera battery died!

It’s one of those places that’s so amazing that it’s hard to process what you’re seeing. After walking around all day, Catey and I returned here to put our feet in the water and rest, and it was one of the best feelings ever. This plaza is so amazing!

Sevilla is such an amazing place to just walk around. Everything smells like honeysuckle. Well, except for the horses. (There are tons of horse and buggy tours around the city.) But everything that doesn’t smell like horses smells like honeysuckle. The Barrio de Santa Cruz is known for its little shops and its abundance of restaurants and bars, all with lots of seating outside. After dark, it is filled with locals and tourists all enjoying tapas and the warm night air. During the day, Catey and I bought some fans and blended right in by drinking coffee in the shade while practicing our fanning skills. One night, when we were eating dinner outside, we were serenaded by a group of students raising money who were really good! And there were tons of different groups of them walking through the streets and singing. It’s literally like a fantasy world. Everything smells like flowers, and there’s minstrels, mild weather, and delicious food. Living here would be like being on vacation 24/7. For me, the “toursty-ness” of this city doesn’t not detract from it’s beauty at all, it simply adds to its vibrancy.

One of the major highlights of our trip was the flamenco show we went to Saturday night at the Flamenco Museum. If you’re ever in Sevilla, I would highly recommend this show. It is reasonably priced, especially for students, and it was so amazing! The dancers, singers, and the guitar player were incredibly talented and we had a great time. It was a sold out, intimate show and the energy of the performers was palpable. I have never seen another dance form able to portray such raw emotion so effectively. I think it appeals to me especially because of how rooted it is in improvisation. Flamenco doesn’t really exist in northern Spain so it was  great to be able to experience it. Unfortunately, no pictures or videos were allowed so I will just have to cherish that memory in my mind. It was a great way to wrap up our whirlwind trip.

On Sunday, we had an 8 hour ride home, but it was so worth it for all the amazing things we saw. Southern Spain, especially Andalusia (where Sevilla is), is so incredibly different from the part of Spain where I live, it’s hard to believe they’re only a few hours away from each other. I would love to come back and see more of this part of the country one day. The buildings are amazing, the flora is beautiful, and the people are friendly. Overall, it was a very successful weekend; Catey and I had a great time. I enjoyed Salamanca, but I fell in love with Sevilla. I will be back someday.

I promise my long overdue post about my trip to Galicia will be up soon! Thanks for staying tuned!