Disclaimer: this is gonna be a long one - vacation week was full of stories :)
While I guess technically I started my vacations by going to Salamanca last weekend, our real “trip” started on Tuesday. We (Erin, Abby, Kristy, Malcolm, Aditya, Romen, and I) woke up early (again…) and cabbed to the airport to catch our 7:45 flight to Lisbon, Portugal. We arrived in Lisbon at 8:05AM (thanks time zones!) and we found our way to our hotel - Holiday Inn Lisbon. Kind of nice to have a familiar place to stay. The hotel was great and we had gotten a great deal on it (thanks to Kristy, our hotel-finder extraordinaire) so that made it all the better. After dropping our stuff of at our room, we went out to explore Lisbon! We meandered down a main road until we got to Baixa, a neighborhood right on the water. We walked around there for a bit, popping in the occasional cathedral, and generally taking in the Lisbon ambiance. While Lisbon was pretty, it was just generally a little bit more run-down feeling than any of the other cities I’ve been in, although I did love all of the buildings that, instead of paint or stone facades, were covered in colorful tile. After eating lunch at a restaurant with the most well-meaning but incredibly pushy waiter/owner, we went to the Castelo de San Jorge, a medieval castle on top of a hill overlooking Lisbon - needless to say the views were incredible.
The view from the top!
While we were there, we ran into Antonio, our Dartmouth professor! He was there with his family, and one of his daughters recognized us. It was such a surprise to see him there! After getting lost a little bit, we made our way back to the hotel and then to dinner, after which we all promptly fell right asleep - we were exhausted. The next day we went to Belém, a neighborhood about 15 minutes away by trolley, where we visited a beautiful monastery, and also the Torre de Belém, which, during Portugal’s golden age, would have been the last thing that travelers would have seen before reaching America, which is pretty cool if you ask me. We also tried a pastel de Belém, which was this DELICIOUS cream pastry sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar that Belém is famous for. After that, we grabbed our things from the hotel and made our way to the bus station, where we took an overnight bus from Lisbon to Sevilla, Spain. Still not sure what possessed us when we made that decision, although we were all so tired that we slept mostly all of the way.
The monastery in Belém
Sevilla was incredible - by far my favorite city that I have visited. It was so beautiful, and I enjoyed myself despite the lack of sleep from the night before. We arrived in Sevilla at 5:30AM, which was a bit earlier than we were anticipating (the bus was scheduled to arrive at 6:15, so much more reasonable I know), so we wandered aimlessly for a few minutes trying to find something that might be open before giving up on that idea and just heading to the hotel. After dropping our things off, we headed out in search of breakfast and a famous flea market, El Jueves. Problem: we forgot that Thursday was November 1, AKA All Saints Day, meaning that a ton of things were closed and our flea market was a shadow of what it would normally be. Oopz. We still wandered around the few booths that were there before meeting up with another Dartmouth student, Jack, who was already in Sevilla. On our way to the restaurant for breakfast, Jack led us through the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which is the old Jewish quarter of Sevilla, which was just gorgeous. It’s exactly what you think of when you think of old European neighborhoods - winding streets, laundry hanging out to dry, character everywhere you look. After breakfast, we explored some of the more famous sites - the Plaza de España, the Alcázar, and the Catedral, with its famous tower, la Giralda. Each one was more beautiful than the next, although the Alcázar was so impressive. It’s an old palace, but it was made in the Moorish style, and it is HUGE. The building went on forever, and the gardens went on for even longer than that, and all of it was ornately decorated with carvings and tiles. After that, we headed back to the hotel to get changed for dinner, which was so fun. Our lunch that day had been less than impressive (read: when we ordered chocolate mousse for dessert, we got mousse in a little yogurt-cup looking thing. to prepare said mousse, they literally just took off the lid.), and we had been pretty frugal for the rest of the trip, so we decided to treat ourselves and go out to a nice dinner. Although to call it “nice” would be the understatement of the century - dinner was perfect. The restaurant was on a small, pedestrian-only street in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, and we sat out in a terrace that was so beautiful. The food was delicious, the company was great, and it was so nice to forget that we were broke college students, even for just a meal. On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon a little square where we caught the end of a performance going on of the play Don Juan, which is apparently a tradition on All Saints Day. Actually the most perfect night.
part of the Alcázar (photo credit to Abby - definitely forgot my camera in the hotel in Seville… oopz)
The next morning, we hopped on a train to Cadiz, which is on the southern coast of Spain. When we got there, we met Kristy’s friend Isa, who is studying at the university there, and she helped us find our hostel. The hostel was hilariously eclectic, which just made the experience. One of the staff members was actually from Alabama, so it was fun to talk with him about his experiences. After dropping our stuff off, we went out and wandered around Cadiz, which was a pretty small city, but still very beautiful. We stopped by the beach and put our feet in the (pretty cold) water, in disbelief that our vacation was coming to a close. That night, we decided to partake in the paella cooking class that our hostel was offering, which was such the perfect decision - number 1, I now know how to make paella, but number 2, the atmosphere was so fun and it was so great to hang out and cook and just have a good time with the other people staying at the hostel, plus the paella was delicious.
our paella!! - photo from Kristy, our resident paparazzi for the trip :)
the girls on the beach in Cadiz :) (also from Abby, I was really bad about remembering my camera during this trip!! #oopz)
After dinner, we hung out with some of Isa’s friends, which was really fun. The next morning, we had delicious pancakes and granola for breakfast at the hostel before heading out to explore a little more before our bus back to Madrid. Catching the bus was a bit of a fiasco - we didn’t realize that it wouldn’t be stopping at an actual bus station. Instead, Cadiz was just a stop on this bus’s route, so it just stopped at a bus stop on the side of a road. All of that would have been fine except that we did not give ourselves nearly enough time to make it to said bus stop, so we had to run down this road, luggage in tow, to make it to the bus on time. Thankfully we caught the bus, and we spent the next 8 hours sleeping and chatting until we finally made it back to Madrid. It really is so cool how Madrid feels like home now - all the way back on the bus I was thinking about how it would be so nice to be back in the apartment, sleeping in my own bed and showering in my own bathroom. This trip also showed me how much I really like Madrid. While the other cities were beautiful, with the exception of maybe Sevilla, they still couldn’t match up with Madrid, for me. Traveling around really made me appreciate Madrid that much more.
Next week begins our final month of classes here in Spain, which is actually the weirdest - this trip is flying by. We have an exam on Friday for our history class, which will be thoroughly interesting, since none of us have really understood anything that’s been going on in that class. :) Still, it’ll be nice to be back in the rhythm of things, although I know that before I know it, this trip will be winding down, and I’ll be thinking about coming home to the good old US of A.
P.S. Happy birthday mom! hope you had a great day :)