La Plaza de España, el flamenco y El Real Alcázar


To finish up our first week of orientation, CIEE took us on a tour through Sevilla on Thursday, and today (Sunday) we visited the Alcázar, otherwise known as the home for Spanish kings.

On the tour Thursday, we were fortunate enough to see the plaza de toros, a university, and the beautiful Plaza de España.

La Plaza de Toros (the place where Sevillanos watch bull fights)
A university in Sevilla

La Plaza de España was built to reconcile with the South American countries that the Spanish once discovered, settled, and later lost. It was built in the shape of un abrazo (a hug), as a symbol of love for these places. Our group had fun running around the plaza on a beautiful day.

Walking into the plaza

You can rent these boats!
Beautiful ceramic tiles (as seen on this bridge) are often used to decorate buildings in Sevilla.

I’m hoping that one day while I’m here I can rent one of those horse-drawn carriages. You have to travel through Sevilla in style!

We also got to walk along la Plaza de las Palomas (“palomas” means “doves”). My host mother said a lot of kids take pictures with the doves there. Here’s me to get their attention…

Mi amigo nuevo

…but I didn’t have food, so they pretty much ignored me.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention are the orange trees here. They line the streets of Sevilla, and for me, they’re truly what makes this city picturesque. They’re in season right now, so they’re super juicy and sweet to eat after lunch.

Maria Luisa Park

Later that night, our group leaders took us to see a Flamenco show. Flamenco is popular type of dance in Andalucía, which is the southern region of Spain (where Sevilla is). The music consists of clapping, stomping, tapping, singing, and playing the guitar. Spain is incredibly proud of their traditions, and you can see the passion in the artists’ faces when they dance. The artists also all have to work in unison to stay on beat, and they’re constantly watching and cheering for each other during the songs.

Although there were only four artists during our performance, the room got really loud.

Friday and Saturday were my first days off since I got here, so my friends and I explored and shopped in the center. It’s always so beautiful walking around:

Taking the bridge from Triana (my neighborhood) to El Centro (the center of Sevilla).

Even though it was cold and raining, today CIEE took us to visit the Alcázar. The Alcázar, the palace for the Spanish Kings, is absolutely breathtaking. It’s interesting because it was built by Muslim architects, so it seems counterintuitive that many Catholic kings have resided there. In fact, some walls have Hebrew on them.

Our tour guide said this Hebrew, although nearly unreadable, tells the stories of Muslim gods. However, the Catholic kings merely saw it as decoration. There are also other beautiful decorations that have the Moorish flair.

I had to take a picture with the tiny, tiled men. I love their little muscles 🙂

As you can see, all the decorations are incredibly intricate and colorful. Our guide told us there was one Catholic king who dressed in Moorish garb because it was considered beautiful.

The palace is full of plazas, gardens, and several rooms for countless activities. The gardens were closed for the day because of the rain, but they were still beautiful from above.

It was a little chilly in the rain!

My friends and I are going to come back soon so we can walk through the gardens!

As for the rest of the palace, many rooms are filled with history. One room is dedicated to the exploration trips to the New World, which began in 1492.

A ship to symbolize the trips across the Atlantic.

The picture above portrays many conquistadores who were sent by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to discover the Americas. You can see Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, and many others who helped conquer the americas. When sailors made the dangerous trips overseas, they often prayed to the vírgen for their well being, which is why she is a focal point of the picture.

Here is the plaza of the maidens, which was usually where the mistresses of the king hung out. You can see that the archways are shaped like a horseshoe.

This map was also interesting; see if you can figure out what’s unique about it:

If you look closely, you can see that the “normal” perspective while viewing a map is turned upside-down. Spain, France and Italy are on the bottom of the map, while Morocco is toward the top. It’s a good reminder that perspectives can vary a great deal from place to place, which I definitely notice daily while living in a foreign country.

I also made a peacock friend outside the Alcázar, and even he looks like royalty.

Some peacocks were hanging out by the gardens.

I can’t wait to go back to the Alcázar another day–hopefully with more sunshine! There are a bunch of areas to sit, and our guide said many people come to relax and read a book. I’m thinking of coming here after classes start…not too many people get to say that their favorite study spot is a Spanish palace.

Speaking of school, I start my intensive language class tomorrow. I tested into grupo 1 for a history class, which means that I surpassed all of the grammar classes offered here (honestly, I’m not sure how that happened). I’m fortunate, though, because instead of spending three hours in the classroom, I only have to spend an hour and a half inside, so I can spend more time outside exploring the streets everyday. ¡Qué guay! (How cool!)

Also, this weekend I discovered that my host parents have a bird. Meet my canary!

¡Hasta luego! (See ya later!)