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Gap Year Abroad

10 posts from February 2015

02/28/2015

An Eventful Weekend in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities where every time you visit, you can do something new. This past weekend I visited this Catalonia city for the second time with four of my friends: Emma, Eliza, Erin, and Riley. We had a great trip.

The weekend kicked off (literally) with all of us attending a FC Barcelona soccer match. Even though Barca lost, we enjoyed watching some of the big-name players like Messi, Neymar, Piqué, and Luis Suarez play. Personally, as an avid soccer fan, going to the game was a dream come true. :)

 

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Barcelona vs. Málaga
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The Spanish version of "The Sons of Ben" at PPL Park in Philly

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Piqué
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Messi
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Neymar

Barcelona is also home to some of the famous architecture and artwork created Antoni Gaudí. Two of his most well known masterpieces in the city are the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. We got to visit them both.

Gaudí took over the Sagrada Familia project in 1883, but died in 1926 before it was finished. Actually the church is still in construction, and will not be finished until 2026. (100 years after Gaudí’s death). However, today it looks totally different from when he last saw it. Four towering steeples stand high above the city rooftops, and two gigantic facades on each side of the building tell the story of Christ’s life (The Nativity and Christ dying on the cross).

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Sagrada Familia
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An overhead view



 

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The Nativity facade

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The inside of the church is just as stunning as the outside. When Gaudí was designing the church, he intended to incorporate nature into the structure. He accomplished this in a number of ways. As the sun shown through the glass-stained windows, it filled the church with colorful light and a peaceful presence. Plus, all of the columns inside the church did not just go straight up, the architect made supports to attach to them which resemble trees.

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This door has the "Lord's Prayer" written on it

Park Güell is the other famous piece of architecture that Gaudí designed. Originally made as a place for the rich to live, it has now changed into a park. Situated on Carmel Hill, there is a beautiful view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea below.

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Enjoying the park :)
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Rock it lady!

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All of these places and activities were really cool, but I think the most enjoyable and memorable thing that the five of us did last weekend was waking up early, and going to the beach to see the sun rise over the Mediterranean. It was gorgeous to see the sun come up over the horizon and shine over the water, sand, and the tops of the buildings.

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Almost there...
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Good Morning Barcelona!

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Rise and shine! :)

Barcelona etc.

Helloo.

So I went to Barcelona last weekend with a couple friends. Took lots of pictures, obviously.

IMG_6487We left on Saturday morning really early and went to a Barcelona soccer game later that day. The game was actually kind of horrible-- Barcelona did not play well at all-- but it was still really fun to experience it and all. They lost to Málaga, 1-0.

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Hello.

IMG_6499This is the section of crazy crazy fans that start all the chants and everything.. Seriously, it reminded me of our high school sports games on a huge (HUGE) scale: These people were constantly waving flags, making noise, being rowdy, and then the rest of the crowd would follow along if they started a chant. It was pretty cool.

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Piqué

IMG_6533Worst part of soccer by far.. Someone trips over a blade of grass and the game stops for five minutes because he's rolling on the ground in clearly very excruciating pain. COME ON.

IMG_6536Neymar

IMG_3312Camp Nou

IMG_3314Gift shop after the game.. Imagine how much this club makes in just one day. It's seriously amazing.

IMG_6550On the second morning we got up at 6:30 in the morning to go see the sunset on the beach. A little bit of a stressful experience trying to get there since we left a little late and basically had to sprint to the beach to make sure we didn't miss it, but definitely worth it. The clouds were so, so cool and looked like big white mountains.

IMG_6552So pretty

IMG_6561:))) IMG_6574

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IMG_6657So close..

IMG_6678The boardwalk. Fun fact: Barcelona's beach is actually man-made, created before the '92 Olympics for tourists.

IMG_6682Marina.. So many beautiful and huge sailboats.

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IMG_6705Cool street art seen on the walk home

IMG_3289One of Gaudí's famous houses on Passeig de Grácia. Don't the windows kind of look like skull eyes?

IMG_3291And this is the other one.

IMG_3301Cool fountain

IMG_3307I LOVE these things. I really wanted to get one when I went to Barcelona over Christmas, and I really wanted to get one this time, too, but I just don't really think they'd travel well. I'll have to make one for myself at home.. So cool though. Who wouldn't want a mini mug magnet with a mini cactus in it?

IMG_3310Just building a casual human tower.

IMG_6716One of the days, everyone else went to La Sagrada Familia and I went to to the Palau de la Música since I had already been to Sagrada. It was really cool and beautiful, and also really impressive to hear the history of it. It was built in 1891, during the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia (It was so strange to hear those words in Spain.. Obviously we learned about the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. but nothing like that ever happened in Andalusia, so they just don't talk about stuff like that here. But anyway.), and was built all on donations from people (costing just 6000 euros). On top of that, the building was finished in three years, a really short amount of time for a building of such detail. The tour guide told us that they did that by doing most of the artisan work outside of the building while the workers built the actual structure. Pretty impressive. So these are some of the columns that are outside the windows on the second floor. Since the streets are so narrow in this part of the city, and therefore the buildings very close together, these pillars were designed to make it look like the buildings on the other side of the street are farther away.

IMG_6720The Palau was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (yes I did have to Google that) around the same time as Gaudí, and they shared a similar style. You can see this in the way that he uses a lot of nature in his work, just like Gaudí does.

IMG_6731This is the chandelier-ish thing in the main concert hall of the Palau and is meant to be modeled after the sun (which you can see from this angle) and a drop of water (which you can see in another picture later).

IMG_6737These are tributes to the first women who sang in the Palau in a women's choir.

IMG_6744Another angle of the chandelier thing where it looks like a drop of water.

IMG_6756This is a building (I'm not really sure what it is.. A church? Some sort of religious institution I think) that is the first of its kind dedicated to the adoptive father of Jesus, Joseph. I had never really thought of Jesus having an adoptive father but I guess it makes sense.

IMG_6786We also visited Parc Güell and went into the "memorial zone" which is where most of Gaudí's famous works are.

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IMG_6839Just hangin'.

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IMG_6890So many people taking pictures of the famous lizard statue.. And people would get really feisty if you accidentally stepped in front of their selfie. It's a dog eat dog world.

IMG_6897We also, of course, went to La Boquería (Barcelona's famous market) and they had these WONDERFUL creations.

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IMG_6902I was pretty jealous at this point.

IMG_6904Yum..?

IMG_6908Pretty popsicles

IMG_6910Mmmmm.

IMG_6911The artist behind these wonderful creations

IMG_6916Just an octopus on a plate.

IMG_6918"WHAT AH THEY SELLIN'??" @pow @jill

IMG_6923Omg hedgehog chocolates.. Revolutionary.

IMG_6928We walked down by the water and saw the monument of Christopher Columbus. I'm assuming this is Queen Isabel.

IMG_6936Lion whisperer

IMG_6937This guy just can't wait to be king.

IMG_6948So REGAL.

IMG_6949Christopher Colombus' statue.. You would think he'd be pointing toward America (logical, right?) but he's not. Just kind of pointing at something in the distance.

IMG_6958This seagull apparently wanted in on this pic.

Alright, that's it. Fun weekend :)

In other news.

This was the view from the Triana Bridge a couple weeks ago in the morning..

IMG_3265Kinda crazy, right??

Also, my mom seriously should win so many awards for this.

IMG_3326-1I shared with Elvira, my teacher, and Irene and got some pretty good feedback. Oh, and my favorite Southerner (Maddy) but she thought it was too sweet. Too sweet?? Your tea is too sweet. -_-

Ok couple things to add to the list..

Things that are different:

- The other day I saw two Americans run by in shorts and tshirts then a Spanish guy run by in leggings and jacket and hat.. Not surprising.

- At soccer games, instead of booing or shouting when the fans are mad about something (a call, something the other team did, whatever), they whistle. It's pretty impressive how loud they can whistle, too.

Things that are the same:

- They apparently have these little mini boxes of cereal here like we do at home.. Reminds me too much of camping when I was little. And everyone fighting over the Froot Loops and Lucky Charms cause it was either that or Corn Flakes and boring, un-sugarfilled ones.

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Ok, that's all for now. XOXO

02/18/2015

To: Krammer; With love: Alex

Hola amigos!!

Happy belated Valentine's Day! This Valentine's Day marked my one month anniversary with Sevilla, and I think things are starting to get really serious between us <3 To celebrate, some friends and I took a bus to Catis to see the Carnival. During Carnival everyone wears some type of costume, similar to Halloween. I threw on a mask and called it good, kind of lame, I know, but believe me, the mask was cool. There were people ev-er-y-why. Seriously, I cannot stress how packed the streets were, which was a good thing for me and my 'gyrie' friends (gyrie basically means someone not from Spain) because we were given the opportunity to meat hundreds of new people! I saw lots of football players, which was surprising because American football is not big thing here, I saw people dressed as zoo animals that had literally built a cage around themselves, hippies, mimes, butterflies, ect. It really was a once in a lifetime experience. I'm sorry to say that I don't have any pictures of Catis, I didn't bring my phone or camera in fear of losing them :(

People always ask me if I am getting home sick and uncontrollably missing my family, and yes, at times it can be a difficult to be so far away, but honestly, I just really miss my dog, Krammer. It has been so hard not to see his charming little face everyday, not to play with him and watch his nub of a tail wag back and forth at hyper-speed, and not to have him cuddling next to me every night. So, when I found out my weekend volunteering activity was going to a dog shelter, I just about had a heart attack. The shelter houses hundreds of energetic pups who don't have a place to call home. So our job was to play with them and make them feel loved, my specialty. They dogs were so fired up when we got there and ready to play. For hours, we ran around with them and played fetch, or rather we threw their tennis balls to them and then chased them around until they gave it back. It was a well needed therapy session for both me and my new four-legged friends. Of course none of them could replace Krammer in my heart (don't worry Krammer, I still love you the most), but it was nice to know we could help those dogs, even if only in a small way.

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Julieta - one of my favorites

Another astonishing thing that my group and I did was go on a graffiti tour! We saw a bunch of really interesting murals that had been spray painted on some of the buildings in this amazing city. Some were very realistic, and others extremely abstract, but all were absolutely stunning. I never knew graffiti could be so detailed and elegant. Then at the end of the tour, our wonderful guides, Alejandro and Angel, let us leave our own marks on the city (legally of course)!! We each grabbed a can of spray paint and went to town! Most of painted our names, nicknames, or something that we felt represented ourselves! I have to say, spray painting is no simple art. It is actually quite challenging, so props to those who have mastered the art!

 

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Two of the most breathtaking pieces I saw; The more realistic on the left and the more abstract on the right

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Me next to my piece! Guess which one...

 

The last thing I wanted to share was a few of the beautiful things I get to see here, because it truly is unimaginable 

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Where did this peacock come from? I don't know
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Beautiful sunset with my beautiful model, Sarah
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Some of my favorite buildings here

Alright, that's it for now! Hasta luego!!!

Besitos,

Alex LaRosa

 

02/17/2015

Pretty pics

Ok just wanted to share these pictures now because they came out really well and I really like them.

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IMG_6325Love the riv'.

Alright moving along. On Sunday, Eli and I went to Los Carnavales de Cádiz. It was SO cool and such an interesting experience. So Carnavales is something that is celebrated all over the world, most famously in Río de Janeiro, but also in various places all over Spain and in much of Latin America, I assume. I assume this because I think it's a Catholic thing-- a pre-Lent celebration. I think it takes slightly different forms in different places, but the one in Cádiz is a combination of maybe Christmas carols on steroids and Halloween, in a really awesome way. That's actually a pretty poor description of it but it's the best thing I can think of in relation to US holidays. Basically, people dress up in the coolest and most creative costumes, a lot of times in big groups of people, and go to Cádiz. And in Cádiz, there's a ton of singing groups called chirigotas that are a mix of a lot of different things: some are official ones that compete in the competition (I'll elaborate in a sec), some are "illegal" that just go to Cádiz and sing in the streets, and the amount of people in each one depends on the group, but they all sing songs that are usually comical and have some sort of social commentary threaded into them. The competition is something that takes place over the weeks before the actual festival weekend in Cádiz and is televised and what not, and there are different categories and winners that are announced the Friday before the festival weekend. I really didn't understand the lyrics of many of the songs I watched because what with the music, and people clapping and singing and dancing along, and talking in the background, and this and that, it was basically impossible, but it was still really cool to see all the funny costumes and what not. The amount of people was INCREDIBLE. If there was a chirigota in one of the streets, which were very, very narrow (as to be expected), you literally could not get through unless you threw some elbows. And then just normal walking in the streets was pretty claustrophobic, but you kind of went with the flow of the crowd and that was that. Eli and I went with Irene (my intercambio) and three of her friends, which was SO fun. We got lost a couple times, but no big deal. It was really fun talking with them and getting another wave of that cultural exchange: them being dumb-struck at the thought that I have my driver's license, and me telling them how weird it was for me to not go barefoot in the house. They were all super, super nice and great to get to know, and practice Spanish with!! Really the coolest part of the festival was people-watching; at one point, we sat down on the sidewalk to have lunch and just watched the people walk by. It was funny to see how some of them had gone super hard with their costumes, others were just wearing funny glasses or a hat, others without costume, and others still really dressed up and pretty. Another thing about Carnavales is that your experience really depends on when you go. Saturday night is the crazy night; people usually get busses to arrive there around 9 and then come back in the morning (no sleep). Sunday is a little more tranquilo, more family-oriented, more chirigotas instead of just fiesta fiesta. I was also surprised that I noticed very few foreigners on Sunday-- not sure if that was just a product of the fact that there were so many people, or if it was actually that way, but either way I liked it.

It was also interesting talking to Elvira about it after (just like with everything else). She told me she really loves Carnavales, for a lot of reasons, but because it's more "democratic" that festivals like La Feria in Sevilla. This is because Carnavales is truly open to any person, however they want to experience it, no matter where they're from or how much money they have or whatever. However, La Feria is a little different because it has these things (that I can't remember the name of right now) that are basically tents put up for La Feria that are private clubs where you can go and hang out, eat, drink, dance, and use the bathroom. Key. However, you have to be a member of these clubs the whole year and you have to pay for these clubs for the whole year. Then there's also the fact that the dresses for La Feria are expensive, and a lot of people go in horse-drawn carriages, which are expensive, and the food and drinks are expensive, too. So basically, it's a different experience for people who are, 1) not from Sevilla and so can't get into these "clubs" unless they know someone in them, or 2) don't have as much money and can't afford some of the luxuries that make La Feria that much better. Interesting thought.. Makes you wonder what other festivals around the world are more "democratic" and which ones are less so. 

On to pics.

IMG_6343Eli is ready.

IMG_6346Fre$h.

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Totally hijacked this person's picture.. Looking good.

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BUNNIES (Jill look out)

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These guys were both dressed as SpongeBob and didn't look to pleased about it.. I just missed the picture before they walked by.

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Yup, I'm taking a picture of you.

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Mario Kart Bros 4 Life (or Burger Kings?)

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This was probably my favorite costume.. Mary Poppins takes Carnavales.

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One of the main plazas in Cádiz with just a few people in it

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Minnie Mice and some balloons!

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Look how cute.

IMG_6384Peace, love, mini guitars.

IMG_6390The ensemble is officially complete.

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So this is one of the typical streets in Cádiz except this one was a dead end so it didn't have any people in it.. But just imagine it full of people. Like really full.

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Indians

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Cows!

IMG_6398Their version of carnival food (no fried dough to be found).. On the left are tiny little shrimp that you eat whole, shell and all, and I'm honestly not sure what the things on the right are.

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Not really sure what these guys are but they get an A+ for dedication and creativity.

IMG_6400So many PEOPLE

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These were all over the place.. Little stands with last-minute costume must-haves.

IMG_6408The cathedral ft. Carnaval crowds

IMG_6414Work it

IMG_6417One of the typical souvenirs for Carnavales are whistles. This was a stand for personalized ones.

IMG_6421More Carnaval food, all sea food. (Cádiz is on the water, if you couldn't tell.) Snails, mussels, those little shrimps, etc.

IMG_6423Yes, those are sea urchins. For eating.

IMG_6428More funky costumes. The wigs are definitely big.

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Lots of confetti.

IMG_6431One thing I definitely didn't like about the festival was the HUGE (HUGE HUGE HUGE) amount of litter there was in the streets. People would just finish what they were eating/drinking and very deliberately throw it on the ground. Trash can three steps away? No problem!! I've got the ground to hold my trash even more effectively!!

IMG_6432This was the street where the parade passed through.. We actually didn't get to see it because, in true Spain form, it started an hour late so we had to go back to the train station before we could see it pass. But again, so many people lining the streets.

IMG_6437There's the ocean right over there!!

IMG_6438Killin' it.

IMG_6463Parade signs

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All the people walking up to see the parade

IMG_6469Mimes (I think?)

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Lots 'n' lots of potato chips

IMG_6471LOBSTERS IN SPAIN OMG

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Blue haired cheetah, 'cause why not.

IMG_6478Irene and María

IMG_6479Slightly terrifying clown statue

IMG_6484Just some Egyptians

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The whole crew

Hope you guys at home are all somewhat surviving the cold and snow.. Thinking of you!! XO

PS Shout out to Greely Swim Team for winning State title this week!! WOOHOO!!!

 

02/13/2015

"If at first you don't succeed, try again"

Hey guys! Welcome back.

Everyone has heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”, right?  This phrase can apply to almost any obstacle you encounter. It has come in handy for me a couple of times while I’ve been over here in Spain. For instance, earlier this year, I planned a day trip to Doñana National Park with some friends, bought a ticket to where I needed to go, hopped on the bus, and was off. Not until I got to the beach town of Matalascañas did I realize that I was not in the right spot at all to go into the park. (Matalascañas is totally surrounded by the park, but you cannot get in it) It turned out to be a great day at the beach though. :)

Well, as the saying goes, I tried again to go to Doñana this past weekend, and was much more successful, thankfully. :)  I had the awesome company of Eli, Emma, Riley, Erin, and Eliza with me to explore the park. I did my homework, and this time we went to El Rocío, which is where one of the entrances to the park is. The town reminded me of an old Western movie-there were no paved roads, more horses live there than people, and there are extra high tables at the restaurants for the customers who want to have a drink while sitting on their horse. El Rocío is also known for the brotherhoods that travel from long distances to have religious ceremonies there.   The brotherhoods, or “hermandades” in Spanish, are similar to a fraternity, but have more of a religious significance.

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The church steeple in El Rocío

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Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Doñana.  Since the park is so heavily protected, there are not many routes to go hiking, so we took a “safari” tour instead. It was not a bad exchange if I say so myself. All 6 of us, plus our guide Javier piled into a jeep, and took off into the wilderness.

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Eli's ready :)

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Doñana is made up of a variety of different landscapes. Some of them are el bosque (forest), la marisma (salt marshes), and las dunas de arena (sand dunes). On this trip we visited the forest and salt marshes.

Our trip was during the middle of the day, not the best time to see animals, but we were lucky to see a fair number of birds, deer, and wild horses.  We even came across a few flocks of flamingos! Flamingos in Europe? Who would have known?

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Fun Facts about Flamingos:

-       Flamingos make Doñana their home for almost the whole year.

-        Many people have heard that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp. This is true; there is a chemical in the shrimp that makes the birds pink. The same chemical that makes carrots orange.

-       To catch their food, flamingos shuffle their feet in the water to loosen up the mud in hopes of finding a tasty treat.

 

Other waterfowl that we saw were storks, (Spanish-Cigüeña), herons (Garza), and different wading birds.

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Look at those bright feet!

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Eliza and Eli scoping out the field

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The forest portion of Doñana was such a unique place as well. We encountered a fair number of deer. The forest had a peaceful, quiet ambiance to it. The stillness and beauty was very refreshing from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Right now the park is in its wet season, therefore the forest is lush and green. In the summer there is very little rain, so everything is dusty and dry.

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A number of land birds and birds of prey were in the park too. Vultures (Buitre), Red Kites (Milano Real), Red Partridges (Perdiz Roja), and Kestrel Falcons (Cernícalo Común) make their home there.

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Kestrel Falcon
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Red Partridge

Doñana is home to many more types of animals, for instance foxes, badgers, wild boars, and Iberian lynxes (these cats are critically endangered-there are only 80 in all of Spain). We didn't see any of these animals, but saw some wild horses.

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Doñana was definitely worth visiting. It was a good change of pace from the daily life of Sevilla and a wonderful opportunity to learn about some of the wildlife in Spain. If anyone is planning a trip to Spain in the near future, put Doñana National Park on your list!

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02/11/2015

Doñana National Park y Más

Hello..

Ok before I go into Doñana stories, just going to put up this picture that I took while reading by the river the other day.. It's unbelievable, so surreal, that it's February and outside is a place where humans can actually walk and breath and live and survive and what not. Who knew that actually existed??

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Simply brilliant.

Also..

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Strawberries by the river is always a good decision.

On Sunday, I went to Doñana National Park with Eli, Emma, Erin, Riley, and Kate. Doñana is about an hour and a half or two from Sevilla and is really, really beautiful. We went in really without a plan, just caught a bus and arrived, to find that you can't really walk around inside the park because it's all protected. So, the woman was nice enough to give us a private tour for the price of a normal, group/bus one since that tour got back after our ride back to Sevilla was going to pick us up. It was SO cool and so fun, like a safari but Spain-style. Before we left on the tour we walked around Rocio a little bit, which is the town from which the tour left. It's a really beautiful little village with a lot of history and culture: every year, thousands and thousands of people make a pilgrimage to their church because it has a famous statue of the Virgin inside it. It's said to bless children and have healing powers, so people try to touch it in huge hoards while they're there. There are also 114 "hermandades" (brotherhoods, which are religious clubs, sort of, that belong to certain churches) belong to this church and they all take turns visiting it on the weekends. This weekend was Granada's turn, which is apparently an important one, so there were a lot of people in and around the village.IMG_6010Lots of horse-drawn carriages and little shops and restaurants surrounding the main attraction (the church)IMG_6013Miniature ponies for kiddiesIMG_6034Little kid and his dad watching the procession go into the church. I'm still not really sure what the processions were because there were multiple of them, one right after the other, that went through the church, and I think it was the same people doing it every time. Not sure.IMG_6044This is the famous church and one of processions.IMG_6049Little kiddie riding a pony and his grandfather :))IMG_6055One of the processions coming back out of the churchIMG_6068Inside the church.. So many people!!!IMG_6071The crew.. New people, left to right: Erin (going to Colgate *cough* Sarah take note), Riley, Emma, and then you know Kate and Eli.IMG_6077Lots and lots of horses. There are actually more horses than permanent residents in Rocio.IMG_6091This is the marsh right next to the church area. It's completely dry in the summer, which is weird to imagine.IMG_6096Munching on some lunch.IMG_6098Got to wear my hat, a rare occurrence in fashionable Sevilla. I break enough rules on that front.. A hat feels overboard.IMG_6102One of the main streets in RocioIMG_6104Our first stop on our safari/tour, looking at flamingosIMG_6105And here are said flamingos.IMG_6111Eli getting in the safari spiritIMG_6119My favorite picture of the entire trip.. This guy saw me taking a picture and gave me this little smirk. It feels like a wink follows it, doesn't it? And a hat tip and, "Howdy, darlin'." Perfection.IMG_6121Ready to rumbleIMG_6133Marking down the animals we saw, which were mostly deer and lots of different birds.IMG_6134Our guide, Javi, with Eli riding shotgun in the Jeep. It was like driving in snow because there was really deep sand.IMG_6137This is a famous bridge the "pilgrims" (people doing the pilgrimage to Rocio) walk across before entering the village. All the plaques have the names and founding dates of the different hermandades that belong to the church in Rocio.IMG_6158This part of the forest was SO BEAUTIFUL. Javi told us it's his favorite part of the National Park during this season because it's one of the few places in Doñana that gets this green, and this is the best season to see it like this. In the summer, it dries out a lot and isn't so green.IMG_6167Eli didn't get the memo I guess.IMG_6171Pic under a big oak treeIMG_6174

IMG_6183The whipIMG_6204So many deerIMG_6225Hoof printsIMG_6229Pretty DoñanaIMG_6242Lovin' itIMG_6243Wilderness explorers at their bestIMG_625510 points for Gryffindor if you can spot the bunny.IMG_6264

SOOOARIN', FLYYYIN'

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Ready for my close up

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These are actual wild horses that live in a specific part of Doñana and just hang out and live wildly. Reminds me of Spirit (who remembers that movie????).

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More soaring birdies.

Ok, that's all from Doñana. Now I just have some stories and stuff to add to the lists that I haven't added to in forever.

First, feeling so proud to have teachers in my family.. I know how hard my mom has worked to become a teacher and how awesome she is at it (7th grade. Seriously.), and watching Elvira as a teacher has been so cool. She's only a part time teacher-- her normal job is in a doctor's office-- but she went back to school at age 40 to study social work and after became a teacher in her department. It's a conditional thing, meaning they call her if they need a long-term sub for someone, but she loves it so much. This semester she's giving three different courses, two of which she's never given before, so she's been really stressing out about it and working so, so hard to learn the material and make lesson plans. The other day was her first real class with one of those ones, and she got home and when I asked her about it, she just started gushing about how amazing it had been and how she learned so much and could tell the students were interested and engaged and how all her hard work had paid off. So happy for her.

On another academic note, I've been reading SO MUCH (lol free time, hello). I finished Fall of Giants the other day and I'm now feeling so smug about myself and about how much I actually knew what they were talking about in WWI (The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand anyone???). Shout out to Mr. Tureff and Mr. Tracey and two years of some combination of pain and triumph for that. I've also finished Wild, as I talked about in the last post, and I'm 85% done with all three of the Divergent series books right now according to the Kindle. Also, RIP to the bottom right side of the screen of the Kindle that no longer works. Sad day. 

Quick side note: Does anybody have any idea what a good source of movies is online, other than illegal ones and Netflix? That may or may not be free? Sorry, I realize those are pretty tough conditions, but if anyone knows of one, please share!! Or movie recommendations that are on Netflix would also be appreciated.

Also, notes on today: got home a little while ago from a scavenger hunt with students from a high school in Sevilla. Pic..

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Woohoo. We did not win. But that's ok. Made some friends. Moving on..

Things I Miss:

- Surprisingly, I miss home more than I did last semester. I think that might be because at the end of last summer I was just so excited, A. to be going to Spain and having this new, amazing experience, and B. to leave Cumberland (Cumby, I love you, but you suck sometimes). But now that I've been away from it for a while, and then kind of gotten a taste of it going back during break, I think I value it a lot more than I did before. I value my town and the community, my friends and family, and I miss it more. It's not that I want to go back, but it's sort of a nostalgic missing-- just a greater appreciation for what I had, I guess. Deep thought of the day.

- Miss my doggie so much still. I saw FOUR Golden Retrievers today and was dying to steal them.

Things That Are Different:

- Today is one of the coldest days so far in winter in Sevilla, according to Elvira. It's, like, 50 degrees. I was sweating on my walk to school. Not in Kansas(Maine) anymore, huh? And it's a little windy, which they colloquially call "viruji" (not sure if that's how you spell it), and it's apparently really distressing and freezing for everyone. It's not even bad. Coming from 100 mph wind gusts at Sugarloaf, pretty sure I can handle it. Elvira just walked in and asked me how I wasn't freezing (wearing short sleeves and window open). Oops.

- The music they play during the news is absolutely hilarious..  It's always American music that has NOTHING to do with the news story. Perfect example: Today they were doing a little piece on Will Gadd, the guy that ice-picked (not sure what the correct term is) Niagara Falls and was the first person to do it. Big deal, right? Pretty intense? Impressive? And the song choice? *Drum roll please* Treasure, by Bruno Mars!!! Will Gadd (on screen): intensely climbing up wall of ice beside Niagara Falls, reaching the top and looking super triumphant and proud and accomplished. Bruno (in background): "I know that you don't know it, but you're fine, so fine!! (Fine, so fine) Oh, whoaaaa, oh girl, I'm gonna show ya when you're mine, all mine!!!!!" Perfect song choice. Great work. A+. 

- It might be here somewhere, but I haven't seen boxes of Kleenex yet. At home we would always have back-up stores of boxes of tissues in the house, or at school, or whatever, during cold season. And it's cold season here-- Elvira keeps telling me to "abrigate el cuello!!" (wear a scarf, basically) because it's "gripe" (pronounced "greep-ay") season and I'm going to get "resfriada" (a cold). But in spite of that, no one has boxes of tissues. They just have the little travel packs instead. Strange. 

- I just noticed this. If Elvira and I, or I assume anyone, are in the same room, she can't help but carry on a conversation. I'll come into the living room to hang out and read a book or whatever while she's doing work, and she'll just end up talking to me the whole time. Reminder to me to not do that because I'm obviously distracting her. Oops.

- Sometimes I look at a building and just think, "That is probably older than my entire country." It's a peculiar feeling. This is an example, the one I was looking at when I thought of this the first time, although it applies to a lot of things in Sevilla. I don't even know what it is, other than a church.

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- I've been told here multiple times that rain washes away bacteria, so when it doesn't rain for a long time, the likelihood of the flu/cold/sickness spreading is higher. I don't know if that's true but I guess I'd just never heard it before because it's not like it ever rains during cold season, aka winter, aka snow, in Maine.

- Learned some more things in class the other day that you're not supposed to do in Spanish culture. One is whistle; just not an ok thing. And especially not for women because prostitutes used to whistle at men. The other is stretching. This is so difficult because you know when you feel the need to do something, and then realize you can't, and then that need just automatically becomes so much harder to ignore? Like that itch on your foot that you know you can't reach because you have a shoe on and you're not about to take your shoe off in public? That's what it feels like now when I feel like I have to stretch in public. Struggles.

- This is Elvira's pile of ***IRONED*** things. Yes, it is a pile of towels and sheets. Yes, I did say ironed.

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Things That Are The Same:

- Feria is prom, except for women of all ages (0-100, seriously). I came to this realization the other day when Lucía and Elvira were discussing Lucía getting a new "traje" (dress) this year and they were talking about white dresses. Lucía was saying how she shouldn't get a white dress because she has pale skin, and Elvira started telling me about how when women get white dresses for La Feria they spend the prior three months tanning (naturally or otherwise) and I just realized how familiar that sounded. I can't tell you how often people discussed the issue of tans and white dresses and being tan and going tanning and the struggle of it all when it came to prom. SIGH don't miss that. But La Feria, in that respect, reminds me a lot of prom.

- Triana is like Cumberland.. Sometimes it feels like it takes a lot of effort just to leave your little space and go out into El Centro (the main part of Sevilla), or in the case of Cumberland, another town.

Ok. That's it. Until next time xoxo!!

Oh, PS, another side note, if anyone has any suggestions on where I could find good online classes, let me know :))

02/07/2015

Seville Street Art

This week we had a very interesting tour about the graffiti in Seville. Usually I have a negative connotation with the word “graffiti”, but after this tour, I have a better appreciation for it. It takes a lot of skill to create artwork that looks good close-up, and also far away.

We learned that just like the rest art world, there are different types of graffiti artists. Some artists are realistic, others like to incorporate history into their work, some prefer to make their artwork cartoonish, a few protest against the government in their art, and then there are the ones who just like to fill up space.

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The art on this wall has a little bit a Sevillian history in it. In the middle of each of the lamps is a famous building in Seville. From left to right: La Giralda, Torre del Oro, and Las Setas. The lamps signify the ones usually present during the Feria - a popular fiesta in Seville
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This unicorn is really a part of a piece of art protesting against the Spanish government.
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The only function of these bubble letters is to take up space. They do their job well.
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Looks like hot dogs are the new "thing" in the graffiti world. Nikki seems to like the idea. :)

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Fun Facts:

- The art on American music albums inspired graffiti art in Spain.

- Supposedly the best spray paint for graffiti is made in Barcelona, but I guess we’ll have to talk to a graffiti artist about that. :)

CIEE has their own graffiti wall, so we got to test out our art skills. There are some talented artists in this group…..

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Henry adding the finishing touch..
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Will made this awesome face, peeking out from the vines.
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Alex made some great artwork :)

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Messing around...

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02/02/2015

Mucho Gusto, Sevilla

Holaa amigos!

This is my first blog entry...ever... so bare with my as I figure out what I'm doing!

It is the beginning of my third week in Sevilla, España and wow it is more amazing than I could have even imagined. Ahh I have so much that I want to share about these last few weeks! It's weird, on one hand I feel like I've been here for months because I already feel so comfortable, but on the other hand, I know I still have so much to do and see. My host family could not be more perfect. I live with a fifteen-year-old girl named Lola, and her aunt, Sylvia, who we call Tita (girl power!!). I'm kind of obsessed with them... I think my friends are all tired of me going on and on about them, but whatever, they're awesome. 

One thing that I have come to appreciate about this city is that we walk everywhere. Plus, I think I'm finally passed the "getting lost every time I leave the house" stage, which is a HUGE step for me considering I have zero sense of direction. Fingers crossed I didn't just jinx my streak of not getting lost. Lost or not, the walks are always scenic. Everyday on my way to school, I cross this bridge over the Guadalquivir River and the view is breathtaking. In the mornings, the rising sun flawlessly bounces off the buildings, and at night the moon creates this beautiful glowing reflection of the building in the river. Not only are the walks good for sight-seeing, but they're a great source of exercise, which creates a nice balance to my new favorite recreational activity: eating Spanish cuisine. So far I have tried bull's tail - amazing, Spanish tortilla - delicious, real Spanish churros with chocolate - unreal (my mouth just watered thinking about them), and plenty of other things that I can't remember the names of but what I'm trying to tell you is that this food is heavenly. The only thing that I was scared to try were these little fish that Tita made for me (I think they were sardines but I don't really know). But once I got over the fact that I thought they were watching me, they were so so good!

A really cool thing about this program is the free time they give us on the weekends to travel or do anything else our hearts desire. So, two weekends ago, some friends and I traveled by bus to Córdoba! It's a small, touristy city just north of Sevilla, and it is incredible! We stayed in a really cute hostel in the city and during the day toured the sights. First we saw La Mezquita, which is the Mosque-cathedral of Córdoba. I took around a thousand pictures of it but none could do this marvelous cathedral justice. Then, we saw yet another stunning sight, the Puente Romano aka the Roman Bridge. Next on the itinerary was the Alcázar de los Reyes, which was a giant castle with a jaw-dropping view of the entire city and a massively lush garden with fountains, beautiful flowers, palm trees, and of course fish, because what is a royal garden without fish? Back in Sevilla, we found other ways to spend our free time, including taking a Flamenco class! The instructor was this elegant woman who made the dance look beautiful, then of course when my classmates and I tried to re-enact it we butchered the whole thing. But after an hour or so, we could manage a few of the steps. Speaking for myself, I looked like Carlton Banks trying dancing to Tom Jones, but hey, I tried! Maybe after my four months here I'll be able to flamenco a little more gracefully!

As much as I am loving immersing myself in the Spanish culture, nothing could have felt more american than watching last nights Super Bowl XLIX. Being a Michigan girl, the Detroit Lions are my team, but considering they didn't quite make it to the Super Bowl this year..I decided to root for the Patriots (based on Tom Brady's good looks hehe). But none the less, I was a committed Pats fan for the night! The sports bar my friends and I went to watch the game was beyond packed, most of us couldn't even find a seat! Everyone was screaming, cheering, cursing the opponent and chanting for their favored team, and scarfing down nachos, chicken wings, onion rings, and french fries, it felt just like home <3  Katy Perry killed it at the half-time show, she rode a lion then flew through the stadium, she might have magical powers, I don't know, it was loco. As I'm sure you know, the Patriots won!!! Gooooo Patssssssssss! (Thank goodness I chose the winning team, total shot in the dark).

                             

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Sevilla at night

 

 

                

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The Not-So-Scary Fish

 

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La Mezquita

 

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Roman Bridge

 

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Alcazar De Los Reyes



 

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Super Bowl!!!

*Exhale* I think that's just about everything I wanted to catch up on! Hasta luego!!

Besitos

Alex LaRosa

Already February..??

So weird that today is February second.. Can't believe it. Now that we've settled down, trying to plan trips is a constant occupation and, still, so difficult (shout out to my mom for always planning my family's trips). Flights are cheap with RyanAir, but linking them together and getting the best price and time and everything is just wow. I've actually made a flow chart of possibilities of where we could go. Totally normal, I know. Anyway..

I just have some random thoughts and photos to share. Nothing earth-shattering. Sorry guys.

[If you don't want to hear about politics in Spain, feel free to skip right over this paragraph.] I had a really long and interesting conversation the other night with Elvira about politics in Spain. This subject in Spain is a really weird thing right now just because so much stuff is going on: lots of corruption in the government, people still very much suffering from the crisis, new party (loved by some, loathed by others) called "Podemos" (which means "we can"), and a lot of dissatisfaction with the government in general. This dissatisfaction comes from young people, who are struggling to get an education in a country where education reforms (like very big ones) have happened too often in the past ten years, and who are also struggling to find jobs after finishing their degrees (a whopping 50% unemployment rate for young Spaniards) and often have to leave the country to make any money. Dissatisfaction is also very prevalent among older generations who have lived through the crisis, lost everything they had, and seen politicians promising so much while secretly stashing millions of euros away for themselves. Elvira and I talked about all of this and compared our countries.. I never realized how far-left Spain is. Not in a radical way, but the "conservative" party is populist, which to me would normally mean a liberal party. Here, no. It seems like a lot of people are at as loss as to what to do come election time; they're tired of what they've been seeing for the past however-many years, but they aren't seeing a whole lot of promise in the rising candidates. For example, Podemos is a new party that's gotten a lot of attention in the last year or so because they're totally new and unaffiliated with the tried-and-true parties and because they promise a lot of change. They're not career politicians and they're very grass-roots based. However, they are often criticized for being idealistic: many people believe that they don't have enough experience in politics to know that what they want to do isn't what they'll actually be able to do, due to red tape and bureaucracy and the EU overseeing it all. It seems like such a perplexing and almost panic-inducing situation to me because people really are suffering, but no one really seems to be doing anything about it. I don't know. I guess we'll see come election time what happens, but for now people are kind of waiting to see where the chips fall. I think a lot of people will be watching Podemos to see where they go with their campaign, as well as the situation in Greece, which is something that could become a model for Spain in the future. We shall see.

I'm starting a project for CIEE that I was starting last semester and decided to make it into my "spring independent project" this semester. It's basically like Humans of New York (which recently raised over a MILLION dollars for a school in NY, look it up, it's amazing) but not as bold because I just don't have the courage to walk up to random people and ask for their life stories. BUT basically what I'm doing is interviewing people from Sevilla on the topic of their pace of life and how they feel about it and how it compares to what I consider to be pace of life in the States. Should be interesting. I think my intercambios going to help me out, too, so that'll be fun.

OK, pictures.

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My desk in tip top shape. Thought it looked pretty.

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La Giralda lookin' good.

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Just finished this glorious book today, thanks to Mrs. K.

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I had the chance to go see this parade with my intercambio. It was a celebration of the 200th year anniversary of the death of her school's president, a guy named Don Bosco. She goes to a Catholic school and Elvira told me later that it's one of many all over Spain and Latin America. The amount of people there was amazing, though; students, teachers, parents, former students, etc. A mini taste of Semana Santa, too.

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This is the float with Don Bosco and an altar boy.

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On Saturday, we got to go to a dog shelter outside the city and play with the pups. They were so cute :))

I went to watch the Super Bowl last night at an American bar and it was the strangest and coolest thing I've ever seen. For one, it was the first Super Bowl I've watched beginning to end and actually been really into it.. I'm not a football person, but it's the Pats, and it's the Super Bowl. But the bar was literally like a little America in the middle of Sevilla. 99% of the people there were Americans, and we all belted out the National Anthem and America The Beautiful at the beginning of the game, and it was just ever so American in the strangest and best of ways. We got wings and nachos that were definitely sub-par but tasted like God's gift to the human race. And it was so much fun. Definitely more Sea Hawks fans in that particular bar but a good contingent of Pats fans too. The game started at 12:30am here, so that was a deterrent for a lot of people-- some left before the game even started, and a lot left at half. But there were still a good amount of people there when all the excitement happened. WOOO my throat is so sore today from screaming. So exciting. Go Pats. Go America.

Alright that's all I've got. Hasta luego..!


 

02/01/2015

The Oranges of Seville

Seville seems to have surprises in every street and around every corner. A new plaza to discover, another beautiful church to explore, or a unique shop selling its specialty items. Each day you find something new.

One thing from this vibrant city that I have come to really enjoy are the orange trees. For me, they are a colorful decoration lining the streets of Seville. Actually over 14,000 trees are on the city streets. They outnumber all the other types of trees in Seville. These trees infuse the city with their sweet scent in the spring, and provide bright color during the winter. IMG_0110

 

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You might be thinking, "Awesome! Orange trees all over the city! What a great, easy snack!" That's what I thought too when I first arrived here too, but in reality the oranges are extremely bitter. I'd recommend not eating them. So then what's the point? The oranges and the trees have a variety of purposes.

1) The orange trees have ornamental value. They add color, plus a little bit of nature to the city.

2) The trees provide shade in the summer when it is unbearably hot. The mercury can reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

3) The oranges, when ripe, are used to make marmalade. When the time is right, the city collects the oranges and off they go to become a sweet spread for your morning toast.

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In January, and now the beginning of February, the orange trees are loaded with fruit.

I've also seen a variety of other flowers during the winter months. I don't know all of their names, but it is always nice to see their sunny faces during the "cold" winter of southern Spain. :)

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Lantana: usually a summer plant in PA

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