I have successfully bypassed winter. I was reminded of this while I was laying out in my bathing suit by the river yesterday. It was glorious. However, I am feeling a little burnt. After sitting outside for about half an hour 2 days this week after class and then yesterday by the river I'm already as tan as I get during the entire summer in the States. At the rate I'm going I might be black by the time I get back.
Lots of updates since my last post! Two weekends ago we took a day trip to Córdoba. I had been wanting to see La Mezquita (Mosque) there for years, so I'm glad I finally made it. On the way there we stopped in a small town called Montillo to visit a winery. I didn't sample any of the wine, but I heard it was quite tasty! It was cool to have a tour of the place nonetheless.
The wine is stored in these barrels. The oldest wine is on the bottom and they refill it from the top. Unfortunately, I don't remember any more details than that.
We had some free time when we got to Córdoba, so we sat in the Plaza of the Mezquita to eat our bocadillos (sandwiches) and then we toured around a bit. The weather wasn't exactly beautiful, so that put a bit of a damper (no pun intended) on the trip.
The Mezquita is really great. In the middle of it there's a giant chapel. During the Christian empire they tore a huge part out of the mosque to build the chapel. Both are beautiful, but I still found it slightly unsettling.
The famous arches of La Mezquita
Our guide was telling us that instead of evening out the floor/ground they just made adjustments with the column height. Look at the bottom of the columns. The bases differ and in some cases there isn't even a base.
There are three important arches in the Mezquita. Our guide was telling us that the men that worked on that famous dome in Istanbul were brought over to construct the arches. Another thing I found interesting was that the workmen would "sign" all of the columns they constructed. That way at the end of the month the head honcho could count up the number of columns and pay them accordingly.
Me and the arches
Here's an example of one of the workmen's signatures.
Here's the strong contrast I was talking about between the Muslim and Christian architecture.
This is the chapel that replaced part of the original Mosque.
After the Mezquita we walked around La Judería, the Jewish neighborhood. Basically, it just confirmed my belief that there are no jews in all of Spain. Thank you Isabel and Ferdinand. Unfortunately, the synagogue was closed the day we were there. Supposedly it's the oldest in all of Spain.
(Random side note: Antonio and Antonia are getting ready to go out with some friends and they look so cute! Antonio's even wearing a suit!)
I can't think of anything too fun and exciting that happened between Córdoba and my next trip to Málaga. My friend Julie and I went to Málaga last weekend. It was kind of a last minute idea. All of our friends were traveling to other locations so we decided to go somewhere too.
(Update: Loud crash coming from the living room. Antonio knocked over a romanesque sculpture and it one of the arms fell off. Antonia started yelling at him. To try and solve the situation Antonio said it looked more realistic/authentic missing an arm. He is so funny. Everyday is he has at least one new fact for me. I'd like to check his sources because they don't sound all that credible.)
Julie and I randomly found a hostel on hostelworld.com and decided to go for it. We really didn't know what Málaga had to offer, but we were interested in traveling to another Spanish city. When we got there our first stop after the hostel was churros. I've decided it's very important to test them in every city. After that very important stop we walked over to the Picasso Museum. He was actually born and then lived in Málaga for awhile, so you could say he has a strong presence there. I can't say I'm a huge art person, so the museum was only ok. Funny enough there were randomly archeological ruins in the basement of the museum (which used to be a palace, fyi) The ruins might have been the highlight of the museum.
After the museum we relaxed in the park basking in the sun. From there we walked to the Alcazaba, an old muslim palace/fortress. It was really neat. We spent a long time walking around there. Adjacent, so we thought, to the Alcazaba is another fortress called Gibralfaro. The guy at the Alcazaba told it would be a 10-15 minute walk so we decided to walk instead of waiting for the bus. He neglected to tell us that you had to walk all of the way up the mountain. I think this was one of the steepest paths I've ever climbed. At one point in time we needed to take a pausita (short pause) to take a breather. During our pausita we saw an elderly couple walking up the mountain at a rapid pace. That told us we needed to get off our butts. We weren't going to allow them to beat us.
Me with the Alcazaba in the background
Goofing off a bit. :)
Look at that water! It was absolutely beautiful.
A nice view of Málaga
When we finally got up to the top Julie said, "Wow, I've never been so happy to see a sign that says entrada [entrace] before!" The Gibralfaro was nice, but it wasn't as cool as the Alcazaba. We had seen enough and decided to start looking for the exit. We had arrived relatively close to when it was supposed to close so we were starting to get worried that we would be locked in for the night. Luckily, after about half an hour of searching we found the exit. That was when I said, "Ah! I've never been so happy to see a sign that says salida [exit] before." Perhaps it's one of those things you needed to be there for, but at the time it was quite funny. After leaving the Gibralfaro we laid down on these benches for what seemed like a long time. After all of our walking we were exhausted so we decided to take the bus down the hill.
After doing some shopping we got back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. The hostel was actually very nice. We figured out that it's typically used for more of a long term stay for students studying in Málaga, but it worked out perfectly for us. We asked some guys where they recommended for dinner. They recommended a tapas bar called Pepa y Pepe, so we headed over there. On the menu the food came in three different sizes: tapa, 1/2 portion and full portion. We weren't sure what size to get of everything so we just told the waiter what we wanted and asked him to figure out the size. It worked out relatively well. We ordered fried shrimp and it came with the shell and everything. We weren't quite sure how to eat it so we unsuccessfully tried to remove the shell. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. When I got home I asked my señora about it. She said that when it's fried you can eat the shell. Woops. I guess we'll know for next time.
After dinner we walked around a bit and then went back to the hostel to get ready for Málaga nightlife. Getting ready consisted of me getting into my pajamas, getting in bed and telling Julie that I didn't think I was going to make it out. Luckily she agreed, so we just went to bed. On Sunday we went to the Botanical Gardens in the morning and then the beach in the afternoon. Unfortunately, when we got to the beach the weather turned and we had to don our fleeces. It was still nice to be sitting on a beach. After the beach it was time to head back to the hostel to pick up our bags and go to the train station. Ah, I forgot to mention what happened when we checked out of the hostel. We had been told check out was 12:00pm. We wanted to make sure we made that deadline, so we left the room at 11:50-ish. We went to the reception and it was closed. We knocked on that door and the adjacent door because the light was on. Then we headed downstairs to the dining room. It was also locked. We went back upstairs to try calling. We could hear the phone ringing inside the reception room, but still no answer. Finally we decided to ring the doorbell! That was the trick. A cleaning lady answered. I guess she was the only staff member on duty. It was kind of funny and we were glad when we finally got things settled/figured out!
Outside of the gardens
La Malagueta is the name of the beach. (I'm sitting on top of the G)
Today I went to Gibraltar! It was really neat. When we got there we had about 3 hours of free time. Sadly, the cable cars were closed for repair, so we weren't able to get to the top. I was really bummed about that! I guess I'll just have to go back. During our free time we ate our sandwiches and walked around a bit. We passed some cemetery, but I'm afraid I've forgotten its significance. We walked through the botanical gardens and past the church where John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married. After our break the guided bus tour began. Most people who live in Gibraltar speak British English and Spanish and it often comes out as spanglish. It was funny to hear them switch between the two. Our driver spoke English. It was a slight relief to hear it and I came out of the tour with the lot more than I do when they're in Spanish!
Our first stop on the bus was just a good photo-op. From Gibraltar you can see Africa, so we needed to stop and take a look!
From the left: Allison, Briana, Me and Julie (the same girls I went to Madrid with.) If you click on the picture to enlarge it you might be able to see the faint outline of Africa. It's really weird to think I'm so close! I'm actually going to Morocco next weekend and I cannot wait! I'm soo excited for it!
A nice view of Gibraltar, with Spain in the background, from the bus.
Our next stop was St. Michael's Caves. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before. It was so neat. The opening was huge and there were several stairwells so you really got to see a lot of it. There's also a concert theater inside! Perhaps this is a question for an acoustical engineer...we couldn't figure out if the cave would make the acoustics better or worse.
This is what the cave looked like, but the picture doesn't do it justice.
After the cave we went to my favorite stop of the day. Scroll down to see who we met!
We got really close up to them. My hands were less than an inch away! There are 6 different groups on the island. I think 5 of the 6 of them pretty much keep to themselves, but this group comes down to the tourists. They're very used to all of the attention, so they just sit there. Our guide warned us not to bring any food out of the bus and that they'll try and steal it. They were so cute. There were even two babies! I think I would go back to Gibraltar just for the monkeys!
Aren't they cute?!
This one jumped on the bus when were we leaving. It was sitting on the windshield and then on the side mirror while we were driving off. (ps. can you say National Geographic? :P)
Tomorrow I'm headed off to a small Spanish town called Aracena. I'm not quite sure what we're doing there, but I do know it involves a stop at some more caves. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take pictures in these.
Other random anecdotes: So as I mentioned earlier Antonio always has facts to share. Everyday he drinks either beer or wine with lunch and dinner. Yesterday at lunch we were out of beer. Antonia always yells at him anyway and tells him he should drink water. So yesterday he said that he heard that it's very important that both men and women drink several glasses of beer a day. Wait, here's the kicker...he said it's good for your bones. Antonia asked him if he got that information from a beer distributor and he said he heard it from doctors. I wonder if he has selective hearing...?
I guess I never gave this much consideration, but recently I've been thinking about it a lot. I would have thought that exclamations like ow, oops, etc would carry over between all languages. They certainly do not. Both ow and opps translate to ayyy. Additionally, an exasperated sigh is like a oui (pronounced like yes in french) sound. These exclamations are so second nature that it has been hard to switch over. Sometimes I'm not exactly sure how to translate it either. Well, I just thought that was interesting.