Seeing Spain: A bittersweet trip to Seville
As the study abroad students continue to find their groove in Spain and comfortably settle into the daily routine of class, an almost complacent attitude takes hold until forcefully shaken awake by the fact that midterms are only a week away and no one has begun to study.
The possibility of up to five midterms in a week all dictated and written in Spanish, of course, is a slightly gruesome fate, compounded by the fact that the students of the ILACA program had the unfortunate pleasure to discover that the weekend before midterms offered no chance to study due to a weekend trip to Seville.
In a galloping hoard the desperate and anxious students heap complaint upon complaint on the program coordinator, demanding to know why a trip would be scheduled on this particularly key study weekend. The simple answer, ILACA posted its travel dates before the University of Granada Center of Modern Languages chose its mid-term testing dates.
As the mutinous band of students fume and hiss over the fact that we have to go to Seville on the optimum study weekend, and we can no longer blame the coordinator, we reluctantly shuffled onto the bus to be driven the three and a half hours to Seville.
The weekend began on a tense note buzzing with discontent. The entire bus ride to Seville and back resounded with the feverish shuffling of loose paper and notebooks full to the brim with Spanish grammar, culture and literature notes. However, after the mandatory rest stop when we were allowed to stretch our legs and feel the amazingly warm weather, the idea of keelhauling our program coordinator was far behind.
The first glimpse of Seville through the tinted bus windows was one of awe and fanatic anticipation. The sun was blaring, not a single cloud marred the perfection of the deep blue sky and we were all ready to stretch our legs and take in the sights, accompanied by a large helping of ice cream.
The first stop on the agenda was the Real Alcazar of Seville also known as the Royal Palaces. Situated directly across from the religious hub of Seville’s famous cathedral, the largest gothic style cathedral in the world, are three of the palaces used by the royals of Spain in distinct historical periods.
The first and most modest palace constructed for the “Reyes Católicos”, or, directly translated, Catholic kings of Spain Isabel and Fernando, hosts an array of important works of art, but with little to be desired in the architecture of the building.
Straight across from the first palace is that of Carlos V, which, while on a slightly larger scale, still leaves something to be desired in the somewhat bland taste in décor. The real gems of the Real Alcazar are the palace of Pedro I and the sprawling gardens hidden within the confines of the palaces.
Entering the Palace of Pedro I, it seems as if you are walking back in time to the era of kings and royal courts. The mudejar décor (from the Muslim artists still residing in Spain) resembling the later Alhambra palace, but on a unique and more intricate level, gently weaves together the aesthetic desires of the Christian kings with the unique blend of the talent of the Muslim architects residing in Spain.
Not only does the palace have historical and architectural appeal, but it was also used for the filming of certain scenes from the movie The Kingdom of Heaven, as our tour guide mentioned, winking slyly as she asked all of the girls in the group if they saw the movie and if they like Orlando Bloom. Aside from historical and pop culture fame the palaces have an air of prestige all their own.
While it is possible to spend hours wandering through the halls of the palaces, wondering at the intricacy in the designs and colors used to decorate the rooms and also dodging marriage parties taking their wedding pictures in the palace, (we saw seven parties that day), the favorite part of the visit to the Real Alcazar and Seville in general were the blooming royal gardens, complete with peacocks and aqueducts.
Imagine an amazing, bright blue spring day without a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the high 80’s. Keep this in mind and then envision colors bursting in front of your eyes as orange blossoms begin to bloom and infuse the air with their sweet and tangy aroma. Fountains gurgle softly in the background as you walk under the shade of the roman style aqueduct and are serenaded by a chorus of birds announcing the arrival of spring.
However picturesque Seville may sound, just be wary when crossing the street as the horse and buggy population of the city rivals that of the tourists.
While enjoying the wonderful views Seville has to offer, be it the number of amazing parks, palaces or cathedral, remember to keep an eye underfoot to avoid the numerous horse droppings littering the street. However, truth be told, your nose will most likely warn you of the danger before your eyes do.
[PHOTO COURTESY / LAURA HOLLISTER]