It has been six weeks since my last post, and I have been very busy as always. I have done many things and gone on several adventures since my last update. Everything is going well and there is definitely never a dull moment here. School is going very well. I am still learning many things in class and outside of class. I wrote my last post just before going to Ronda with my friends Oli and Fabien. It is said that Ronda is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and I would have to say, it certainly is. It is a lush green oasis in the middle of a very brown and yellow Andalusia. It is an ancient Arabic style town situated on top of an enormous cliff over a green farm valley. There is a beautiful old stone bridge connecting the new and old parts of the city over a very narrow but deep river gorge. It is also the birthplace of the modern bullfight. While we were there we took a tour of the famous Plaza de Toros (bullring) – it was very cool to see. We also tried to take a hike through the valley but as usual, we got lost. After avoiding several killer dogs, crossing a live railway and walking along a main highway we decided we had too much fun and headed back to town. But the weather was excellent and the scenery even more so. We spent most of our time just relaxing, which wasn’t difficult to do. All in all, a very successful trip.
After returning from that trip I just stayed in Granada for a few weeks anxiously awaiting the arrival of Emily (my girlfriend)! I managed to stay fairly busy with school, tapas, siestas, playing soccer, watching soccer, and hanging out with friends. One day a few of us went to the beach (an hour away by bus), which was a lot of fun. The week before Easter is a very big holiday week in Spain – they call it Semana Santa (Holy Week). Which, for me meant “No school all week!” and “it’s impossible to buy anything because everything is closed.” It was a very interesting time. Every day they have religious processions throughout the city, which are basically just parades with marching bands, people wearing traditional costumes carrying candles, and men carrying giant altars from various churches. Each day and each procession is supposed to tell the story of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. I watched a few of them during the week and got trapped by a few others as I was trying to walk somewhere else. The most exciting thing for me during the week of Semana Santa (besides March Madness beginning) was Emily’s arrival! She came in on the Wednesday of that week. Although one day that weekend we took a day trip to the Alpujarras in the Sierra Nevada. Since I had been there before we were able to successfully navigate the trail that Oli and I got lost on back in October. The weather was very nice and we had a nice time. But this trip was just a warm-up for bigger things to come. It has been very fun to show Emily some of my favorite spots around the city. I have even discovered some new things and places that I hadn’t known about before. She has been enjoying herself very much and she is even learning some Spanish – both from me and from our Rosetta Stone computer program.
The last weekend in March and Emily’s second weekend in Spain was our three day trip to Madrid! Prior to this I had only ever seen the airport and the bus station in Madrid, which doesn’t say a whole lot for the city itself. We stayed in a very quaint and cheap hotel near the city center. Our first day we did lots of walking around the city just to take in the sights and get a good feel for the city. I must say, I was very impressed with what I saw. *If you want to visit Spain and actually experience Spanish life, go to Madrid. I say that because Barcelona is also popular and it is a very European city, but I feel like Madrid is the best representation of authentic Spanish life.*
Also the metro/subway in Madrid is the easiest, most well organized and user-friendly metro that I have ever been on. It really makes getting around the city very simple, quick and cheap. For Emily it was incredible because it was her first time using a metro system. On our first night in the city we went to a very popular discoteca called Kapital. It was the most amazing club I’ve ever been to. It has seven stories of dance floors, bars, lounges, karaoke, and even a small movie theater. We had a really fun time there, then we went home at 6 AM and went to bed. Saturday was a short day because we slept in, but later we went to the famous Prado Museum, which is home to many beautiful works of art. I think I enjoyed it a little more than Emily who got tired and hungry after a few hours. The museum is massive, and I don’t think we even got through half of it. Sunday was the best day. In the morning we went to the largest outdoor market I’ve ever seen (El Rastro). It is a regular Sunday market that spans about fifteen square blocks where you can buy and sell just about anything. Essentially it was a massive citywide garage sale. People were selling new and used antiques, clothes, shoes, gadgets, souvenirs, furniture, household supplies, cosmetics, electronics, hardware, comics, books, DVDs, video games, etc…(you get the idea). It was really interesting to see thousands of people packed on small streets, and the sometimes strange things people were selling. All that action called for a siesta. After our siesta came the highlight of the whole trip. We headed to the north side of town to Elstadio Santiago Bernabéu to watch Real Madrid FC take on Sevilla FC. It is a very big rivalry so the game was completely sold out on Friday when we went to buy tickets. Because of this we had to buy overpriced tickets from a team of scalpers (totally worth it). The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric, the game was very good, and it is an experience that I will not soon forget. Real Madrid won 3-1. The next morning we rose at 5:30 AM and headed back to Granada (5 hour bus ride).