Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting a Grasp of Granada!

By Tindall Sewell and Caroline Brown

We loved visiting Granada, and the city had many new experiences to offer! Honestly, I’m surprised we left the hotel after sleeping our first full nights without the church bells every 15 minutes in Cádiz! Also, I now know why there are stereotypes in Spain about Americans loving breakfast! Scrambled eggs, crepes with chocolate, cereal, various meats, fresh fruit, and a coffee machine filled us up for the weekend. Ultimately, we did leave the hotel to wander the narrow streets with a Muslim-influenced flare! Before leaving Cádiz, we finally met our mom’s daughter, who lives in Granada, so we switched places with her for the weekend! She gave us a few recommendations, but we’re jealous of where she lives because Granada is definitely an ideal place…forty minutes from the snow and beach!

Following our Americanized breakfast at the hotel, a majority of the group went to go see the La Catedral of Granada and the Capilla Real. Although somewhat similar to other cathedrals and capillas (small chapels) we had seen, it was very unique in the fact that it houses the marble tombs of Los Reyes Católicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, along with Ferdinand’s sword and Isabella’s crown and scepter. These Catholic Monarchs had an incredible influence on the history and unification of Spain!


After seeing the Alcazar in Sevilla last weekend, we had high expectations for the Alhambra in Granada! This “palace-fortress” is by far Spain’s most popular attraction. Again, the scenery blew us away, but we probably only observed portions of it outside of our camera lenses. We had a set time to enter the most famous Nasrid Palace, but we were easily able to entertain ourselves with the gardens and palaces scattered throughout the mountainous land! The main garden, called the Generalife, was our favorite, which was full of bright colors and flowers galore. Our moms would have been in heaven! Because of the many different plants, trees, scent, and smells, all of our senses were put to use. When we climbed to the top of the Alcazaba, the castle at the tip of the Alhambra, we could see a 360-degree view of the city. Once we entered the Nasrid Palace, we had déjà vu from Sevilla’s Alcazar, but this original masterpiece surpassed all comparisons. Besides admiring the tiles and intricate designs on the walls, we kept looking up to find our favorite ceilings! Sadly, the Court of the Lions was under construction, but we got to see the Court of the Myrtles, which the Alcazar tried to copy. Overall, we were in awe of the Muslim’s original design!

Another handy experience: Every tapas bar in Granada combines a free tapas with each drink usually for around three Euros, so the norm for dinner is to hop from each place to place. On Friday night, we started with the group at Bar Minotaur, but twenty people overpopulated the tiny tapas bar, so we switched to the oldest tapas bar in Granada, Antigua Bodega Castenada. On Saturday night, we searched the Arab streets for Mr. Brown’s best friends’ daughter, but we got lost in the maze and joined other friends at the Beauty and the Beast tapas bar for the night. The longer you stay at a tapas bar, the bigger the tapas become, so we eagerly anticipated each dish! We ended the night at a discoteca, Camborio, that overlooks the Alhambra illuminated at night and appears a shimmering gold in the mountains. There’s no words to describe it besides that it was gorgeous! We can’t believe that we’ve come to our last week in Cádiz, and even though we have exams and final papers, we’re hoping to live it up as much as we can!

Monday, July 18, 2011


By Tindall Sewell and Caroline Brown

We have been living in Cádiz for a week and a half now and have had the chance to get situated, embrace the culture, study Spanish, and explore the city. Although every day brings something new, we have developed somewhat of a daily routine. Clanging bells from the church wake us up around 8:30 every morning. We get ready for school and usually have juice, cereal, and some sort of fruit for breakfast. Although we try to leave the house as quietly as possible, we usually hear a ¡Buenos días! or ¡Hasta luego! from María’s room.

It’s only a 5-minute walk to the university. We are both taking the same 2 culture and art classes for the first 2 hours. Then, a 30 minute café con leche break to wake us up for our 2 hour grammar class…long, but it flies by, and next thing we know we are back at the house to meet María and Pepé for lunch, the biggest meal of the day. A typical meal includes some kind of meat or fish, a salad, side, and of course—the famous gazpacho (pronounced “gapasho” in Southern Spain). The gazpacho definitely took some getting used to, but now we pretty much expect it every day. Lunch has been our favorite meal, not only because of the delicious food, but also because of the relaxed, yet entertaining conversations we have had with both María and Pepé. After lunch we have a daily bible study and then, depending on the day, either rest, siesta, go to the beach, play beach volleyball, or have other activities planned by the program. One day this week we had the chance to visit the “Torre” to see all of Cádiz, while other nights we learned how to sevillana dance and attended a flamenco show.

Beach volleyball has been one of our favorites. After receiving a name of one of the professors at the university who played beach volleyball, we tried to contact him, but didn’t have the best of luck. One of the other teachers talked to him and gave us a sheet of paper with his name and a time to show up to the courts. So, we show up to La Playa Victoria (a beautiful beach just a short bus ride away from where we are staying in Cádiz) in our sporty beach attire, hoping to give them the impression that we are serious about playing. We knew this beach was longer than the other one we had visited, but we didn’t know it was miles longer!  Not knowing where the courts were, we asked this boy that looked like he might be playing beach vball. We lucked out, and he showed us the way. We arrived right at the time that was written on the paper and started asking around if anyone knew a man named Rafa, the professor we were supposed to meet. No one had any idea. So, we waited for a while, and about 20 minutes after they had told us to arrive, we were about to leave, when we saw this guy walking up to us. It was Rafa! I guess it wasn’t hard to find 2 tall, pale American girls. We realized that Spaniards take their time with just about anything, except for talking really fast. We played some super intense 2 on 2 matches and have even been invited back to play more. Since then, our communication has improved, as we are now on their beach volleyball league e-mail chain, wooo!

If we don’t have the chance to play beach volleyball one day, we’ve continued to make up our workouts depending on the circumstances.  Also, we joined the Millennium Gym, where we’re the only Americans and girls.  The humidity seeping into the hot gym and rampant smell of testosterone covering every machine create an undesirable atmosphere, but it’s got all the machines we need! If we don’t go the sweat chamber gym, then we usually make up a circuit with sprints in Plaza San Antonio just outside our apartment.  People have stopped to take pictures of us, just stare, or one day these little kids tried copying our pushups.  Whenever we pepper with the volleyball in the plaza, the little boys surround us and beg to be on our team!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hola from Tina and Carrol!

By Tindall Sewell and Caroline Brown
We’ve finished our first week in Cádiz and can’t believe it’s flown by so quickly!  Our host mother, María, is so sweet, and we’re finally getting to know her better, closing in on the communication barrier every day.  Because she only knows “Ok,” “Wow,” and “Oh my gosh!” in English, we’re forced to speak Spanish in the apartment.  Hence our new names, Carrol and Tina.  Who knew Tindall was such a complex name and Caroline was too long to say? We’re begging to respond to them, but these names will NOT travel back with us to the US.  Our apartment looks out onto San Antonio Plaza, one of the oldest in Cádiz, and María owns a hippie clothing shop directly across the plaza.  People watching is easily done from our balcony, and one night the yearly theatre parade happened to be performing below on the plaza.  Despite the gorgeous view and prime location, the church bell ringing and loud kids hanging out through the night disturbs our sleep.  Why would the bell ring 57 times at 8:45 AM? Neither one of us can answer this question, but it’s our alarm.  Also, Pepe, María’s partner, doesn’t understand our sense of humor, but we keep trying to crack jokes with him every lunch and starting to warm up to him.  We can’t forget to mention Pancho, our guard dog Chihuahua, who lives like a king and uses a liter box.  All in all, we love our family and couldn’t be more blessed to be here!

María promised us the first day that she’d cook “operation bikini style,” and we’ve fallen in love with her food, except gazpacho!  The clumpy, cold, vegetable soup has become a cuss word between Lina and I because we both hated it before arriving, but now it was somehow lost in translation that it’s our favorite.  Even María’s mom claims that María’s gazpacho is the best around, so we gulp it down every lunch.  She prepares wonderful fruits, vegetables, cheese, and of course bread to go with our main course of every meal!  She’s also fascinated by how tall we are, so she feeds us twice as much food! One lunch, we had to try to find all the spines of the fish then spit them out, which is harder than you’d think!  Before we realized tuna, tomatoes, and onions were components of every meal, we switched salad plates to help each other join the clean plate club when María walked out of the room.  Luckily for us, María praises us for eating everything she puts on the plate, and most of it we normally love!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


By Tindall Sewell and Caroline Brown

During our two bus trips to Zaragoza and Segovia, we’ve noticed Spain’s beautiful countryside, covered with fields of sunflowers and mountainous towns.  Zaragoza had a beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar with frescos by Goya.

Fun fact: In Zaragoza, we made it onto the Spanish television as an example of viewers judging suggestively dressed people, which somehow translated into the difference of showing versus teaching.  We ate lunch on the Main Plaza of Zaragoza and relaxed during our bus ride from Barcelona to Madrid.

We also took a bus from Madrid to Segovia, to spend the day in the quaint town with windy cobblestone streets and unique architecture.  The Cathedral stands out with its gothic architecture and classy décor.  But the main draw of Segovia is the Alcázar Castle, which Walt Disney actually modeled Sleeping Beauty’s castle after this gorgeous sight.  Following the lead of Lina’s friends, we’ve been planking in famous town squares, but we decided to plank on the monstrous Roman aqueduct in Segovia too.  What better way to see the view than perched on the edge of the wall?!

We’ll finally be traveling to Cádiz tomorrow and can’t wait for the slower paced lifestyle.  Although we’ve been here for a week, we have not slowed down to take a real ciesta.  We can’t wait to meet our mom and get into our new routine life for the next month!

10 facts we’ve learned so far in Spain:
1. Water for free does not exist, so 1.5 liter bottles are sold everywhere.
2. Ham and cheese sandwiches replace turkey and lettuce.
3. We’re taller than the general Spanish woman’s population, garnering extra stares.
4. White bread or French bread comes with every meal… I don’t remember what wheat bread tastes like.
5. Spanish tortilla is the best thing you’ll ever eat until you realize that it’s served all the time and everywhere.
6. This past week was Gay Pride week in Madrid: rainbows covered the city giving us a different perspective on the culture.
7. McDonald’s hamburger and fries is 7 Euro’s (around $10.50), so there’s no such thing as the Euro (Dollar) Menu.
8. Don’t try to take a picture down the middle of the street because cars don’t follow the red stopping signal.
9. Starbucks are internationally on every corner.
10. The maid comes to remake your bed around 6pm after ciesta time, which are necessary.

Imagine trying to do an exercise circuit on a City’s busiest street…. People stopped to watch us do each station from planks to sprints.  Our overview tour of Madrid, a walking tour through the historic district, was informational but an overload of Spanish to start the day, trying to understand the tour guide. Eventually, each city’s Cathedral seems the same, but this one stood out as our favorite.  Madrid’s Cathedral de la Almudena has painted ceilings, vibrant stain-glass windows, and intricate stonework. Why did citizens in the sixteen or seventeenth century put so much money into this creation? At the same time, no building during my lifetime compares to the innovative architecture of the Cathedrals, palaces, and basilicas. The Plaza Mayor, Retiro Gardens, Plaza Sol, theatres, Plaza de la Villa, and Palacio Real were other highlights of the tour! 

To get around, Spaniards walk everywhere and public transportation is always the second option, easily one Euro to get anywhere.  For lunch, most restaurants have a standard price, 10-12 Euros, for three courses and a drink.  We dined at VIPS, which is a similar chain to TGI Fridays and popular lunch spot.  For the afternoon plan, we quickly walked through Reina Sophia to see Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, Guernica.  Then, we walked through the rooms of the Prado with some of the most recognized artwork. Rafael, Velasquez, Goya, and many other early Spanish artists are some of the few we stopped to see.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

¡Hola desde BARCELONA!

Tindall Sewell and Caroline Brown continue to explore Spain

Part 1
The past three days we have been in the beautiful and historical city of Barcelona. After arriving in the airport around 9 AM on Sunday morning, we settled in at the Colon Hotel in the plaza of central Barcelona, directly across from the cathedral and surrounded by little shops and restaurants. Although jet-lagged after an 8-hour flight out of Atlanta, we had the chance to explore the city on our own. After dodging several cars, Tindall and I quickly realized that the lights telling pedestrians when to walk and don’t walk across the street are actually the same as in America. We walked down many streets, including Las Ramblas, one of the most known streets in Barcelona. We weaved our way through a flood of people, while holding our purse close to our bodies, as Las Ramblas has the infamous reputation for having thieves and scam artists. Although dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, we tried our best not to look too much like American tourists, while observing the cafes, vendors, and musicians along the sides of la calle.

Monday morning! Trying to adjust to the time difference, we woke up at 7:15 a.m. for a nice run/sprints along the port with the soccer girls. After breakfast, the entire group went on a biking tour to explore the city. We had a very entertaining guide from Australia, who gave us a good idea of what Barcelona is all about. One of the things that surprised me the most was the cultural diversity. Even though Barcelona is part of Spain, the Catalonia roots are still very prominent. Not only was this seen through the language spoken in Barcelona, Catalan, but also through the presence of buildings and parks built by the Spanish to show their authority over and suppression of all Catalan culture. It is very interesting to me how so many of the places and sites we saw are influenced by the Spain/Catalan conflict. The Catalan identity is still present, and to this day, many people do not feel as if Catalonia is a part of Spain.

The bike tour was not on the hardest terrain, however, there were still several obstacles in our way. Whether we were going up narrow streets, riding in the bus lane, ringing the bells on our bikes, or being distracted by the beautiful views and unique architecture, we had to watch out for people because they were everywhere! We stopped by the cathedral, parks, a bullfight arena, and towards the end of the tour we ate lunch out by the beach. Later that day we visited one of Barcelona’s most famous attractions: La Sagrada Familia. This church is very unique, as it is the unfinished masterpiece of the famous artist and architect, Antoni Gaudí. It is a representation of Jesus’ life, as Gaudí shows the birth, crucifixion, and the 12 disciples in some form through his architecture. We were blown away. I have never seen any sort of church like this.

For dinner we had tapas - a new experience for both of us! At the countertop there were plates and plates of different tapas, similar to appetizers. Each was a piece of food on top of a piece of bread with a toothpick through the top.  Depending on how many toothpicks were on your plate at the end determined how much you had to pay. Half the time I didn’t even know what I was eating, but I guess that’s what makes the whole cultural experience worth it!

Part 2
Wednesday we traveled to Montserrat (meaning- serrated mountain), a side trip from Barcelona. Here we took a gondola up to a small town, where we saw the Catedral de la Virgin Negra. We also went on a beautiful hike up to a cross. The views at the top were incredible; looking out over the hills and mountains to the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees.  After this we took a metro back to the city of Barcelona. Tindall and I would agree that after a workout in the morning and a hike up a mountain, we were exhausted and ready for a nap. However, we still had not seen Park Güell, another one of Gaudi’s projects. While most of the group went back to the hotel, Tindall and I and a few others decided that we would just make a quick visit there to see what it’s all about. Well, little did we know that it would take over an hour to get there.  We think we took the wrong metro because we ended up having to walk a long ways and had to walk up a super steep street just to get to the entrance. This definitely challenged our navigational skills. Although it was like another hike, when we arrived, we were so glad we had decided to go. Park Güell is another representation of Gaudi’s incredible work and his influence on Spain. It was originally built to be a private garden neighborhood, but because it was so out of the ordinary, the government decided it would just be a park open to the public. There are houses (that kind of look like gingerbread houses) with colorful broken tiles, gardens, flowers, and structural design that looks like dripping sand castles. We took advantage of our time there, and on our way back, we stopped to get some ice cream and to buy a Spain soccer jersey. They knew we were Americans and tried to rip us off at first. Who knew that bargaining in Spanish could actually be kind of fun?

Now we are on our way to the great city of Madrid! We are stopping in Zaragoza on the way for lunch and to see the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. El Pasoans reading this—this could be where we got the street name Zaragoza. We are excited for everything yet to come…We are in love with Spain.

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