I arrived mid day on Monday in Madrid and navigated the Madrid metro system to the bus station so that I could catch the bus to Seville (6 hours by bus). As soon as I stepped off the metro, I was shocked to realize one thing: coldness. Where it had been about 80-85 in Cairo the week before, stepping into about 50 degree weather during the day was a bit of a shock. After I got my ticket sorted out, I stopped by the bus station where I grabbed a sandwich and freshly squeezed orange juice-- pure deliciousness
. Herein lies shock number two: pork. I had kind of forgotten that the rest of the world eats pork until I was trying to decipher the Spanish sandwich signs, one of which read BACON. In Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world it is very, very, very rare to find pork products because eating pork in Islam is haram (not allowed). Since being in Cairo, I have only heard rumors of one place in Maadi-- a very foreign part of Cairo-- which might sell pork. After polishing off my bacon and cheese sandwich and freshly squeezed orange juice I made my way to the bus. While on the bus I made discovery number three: organized traffic. I did not realize how used to Cairo traffic I was until I was in Spain where people obey lines and traffic lights (in fact, there are traffic lights in Spain) and drive at a relatively steady pace without hours long traffic jams. At the same time I realized shock number four: rain. There was rain in Spain (it may have fallen mainly on the plane). Having lived in the desert for three months I had not seen legit rain the entire time; I also managed to forget my umbrella back in the desert. After all of my discoveries/shocks, I made my way to Seville where Alice was waiting to pick me up at nearly midnight! She took me to my hostel where I then got settled and promptly fell asleep.
In the morning, Alice and I met up at Starbucks, which is delicious in Spain
. We talked for hours just catching up, and let me just tell you how nice it was to have someone to talk to about home-- face to face. Of all the things I may miss at home, the people (that is you dear readers) are what I miss the most. Then, Alice and I just walked around Seville, which was beautiful even though it was raining. We grabbed lunch at this cute little sandwich place with tiny sandwiches. Alice headed off to class and I crashed for a bit at the hostel until I woke up and went to explore Seville's thriving shopping streets. I had a mini shopping spree (in which I bought clothes that are appropriate for winter weather, and I am now very thankful for in Cairo). Not surprisingly, I have found that I love Spanish clothes! When Alice got out of class, we headed to get dinner of pallela (kind of like jambalaya, only better). The pallela we chose was of the delicious seafood variety and I also got to try one of Alice's new favorite drinks Tinto de Verano. We walked a bit more around Seville before I headed back to the hostel. I woke up the next morning and went to Starbucks where I actually got some studying done, that is right, I was studying my life away while in Spain as well. I then made my way to a museum which details Spanish imperialism. The museum was neat, but mostly in Spanish (go figure, ha). Then, I received a call saying that Caroline, Sarah, and Ellen had arrived and were waiting for me at a coffee shop. After a little directional confusion, I finally got to see them
! We then went to one of Seville's main attractions, the al-Cazar (which means the palace in Arabic). During the Ottoman period, the Ottomans ruled over parts of Spain and established themselves in the area. The architecture of the al-Cazar was stunning, and it was weird seeing Arabic architecture in Europe. Caroline and I even got to see the upstairs which is still used as the Spanish royal living quarters when they visit Seville. Then, Caroline and I broke off for lunch at one of Seville's adorable street-lining restaurants. We all then met up and looked more around Seville-- including the infamous bull ring-- and strolled along the Guadalquivir (which meant Big River in Arabic). Later that night, after a brief siesta, we met Alice up, who finished with class later in the evening, and continued to go to dinner to celebrate Caroline's birthday! I was able to try tapas for the first time and everything was so delicious, especially the grilled goat cheese with honey which I picked out. I was able to try the infamous Iberian Ham again and Ensalada (Russian Salad) among other things.
The next morning Alice, Caroline, and I met up and played tourist around Seville. We met up at one of the cutest cafes ever, Cafe de las Indias, and left from there went to the huge cathedral in Seville. The cathedral is one of the largest in all of Europe, and believe me, it is gigantic! It used to be a mosque before the Christians took it over and replaced the minaret with something of their own design. Much of the Arabic architecture still exists and it is really neat to see the combination of the two different types. Attached to the cathedral is the al-Garalda, also of Arabic origins. We climbed all 40-something flights of stairs and got an amazing view of the city! After we went and grabbed a quick lunch at the cute sandwich place again and then headed to get my bus ticket and also to a park and Plaza de Espania
. The Plaza was absolutely gorgeous and had just been restored. The park was also really neat and I got to take in some real fall air (of which does not exist in Egypt). Some of the trees were even changing color! That night, even though we were exhausted, we went of the search for advent calendars so that my roommate and I can remember that Christmas is in fact approaching. No luck, but Alice did manage to find them before she came to visit and she brought them with her! We celebrated Thanksgiving that night with more excellent tapas and some of the best darn ham in existence. It was great to be with friends from home on Thanksgiving and I can really say that I am thankful for my amazing support system at home, my family and my amazing friends who keep me updated on news from home and hold down the fort while I am gone. After dinner, Alice took Caroline and I to a flamenco show which was so fascinating! The show is so intense and evokes so much emotion, even from the audience.
Sadly, the next morning I had to make my way back to Madrid to catch my plane. I left early in the morning and Alice came with me to see me off at the train station. I took the AVE train back to Madrid and the 6 hour bus ride turned into a 2.5 hour train ride. The AVE train is the high speed train and it was so smooth and so, so fast! I only wish the US would create a more efficient train system so that I could travel quickly throughout the country. Once again I navigated the metro of Madrid and then the airport. The plane ride back was normal, but I arrived this time into Cairo at night! Seeing Cairo at night by air is an amazing experience. Just seeing it made me realize even if I give Cairo a hard time sometimes, I really do love the city. I am getting ready for home, but I really am going to miss Cairo when I leave. Cairo just grows on you, even if you do not realize it at the time
. I am glad I had a chance to go to Spain, though, and the country is really beautiful. It seriously has me considering going abroad to Europe for grad school. Now I just have to figure out where! Wish me luck in that! Next entry, when I get sometime will be of Alice's visit here and going up the famous Alexandria (named after Alexander the great and rumored to be the site of Cleopatra's tomb). Also featured will be my "official" pyramids trip and riding my first ever camel. I will try to write again soon, comment and let me know if you are still reading! Just two more weeks, no slacking off now!
Sorry faithful readers, but exam week has hit me and I am crazy busy! Currently, I am procrastinating two, ten page papers (make that three if you include the take home exam I was just handed). This entry will be dedicated to my time in Spain where I was visiting one of my friends from PC, Alice Parish! My friends Caroline and Sarah joined from the US and Sarah's friend Ellen who is studying in Barcelona also joined us.