Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Doozie of a Post

Take a bathroom break now.  Maybe prepare some snacks.  Possibly gather some canned goods that you can use as rations while reading this post.  I've got a lot of ground to cover and this post is a biggie.

On Thursday night, while still in the infinitely ongoing preparation phase of la boda, José Antonio and Amparo sat me down, and with the help of my kind, wonderful, thanks-for-always-translating translator Borja, told me that they were taking me to Sevilla.  They wanted me to see more of Spain than just Alicante (which of course I agreed with) and they had friends who were going to be in the city for a festival.  More on this extremely low-key event later (and by "low-key," I mean insane).  The real excitement about this trip was that we would make the six hour trek from Alicante to Sevilla on Sunday morning, the day after the wedding.  This meant two things: I wouldn’t have time to write a blog post about the wedding before I left (Sorry, guys!) and I’d be hungover in the car for six hours.  Ugh.
After a very scenic journey during which Amparo and I mostly slept with our sunglasses on and José Antonio drove holding his eyelids open, we safely arrived in Sevilla and checked into our hotel.  Around 8ish I donned my stylish high heels and ventured out into the many-a-cobblestoned streets of Sevilla with Amparo and José.  Eventually I will learn that high heels and cobblestones are not an ideal combination for walking MILES around a city and will become smarter about my shoe choices.  Eventually.
Here are a few nighttime photos of our first walk through Sevilla Sunday night:

One very important aspect of this trip was my host parents’ and my determined effort to eat as much as possible with as little guilt as possible.  Beginning around the time of the wedding, we started saying “después Sevilla,” meaning “after Sevilla,” while we gorged ourselves on the fried/greasy/artery-clogging/tasty/I-could-have-eaten-ten-and-probably-did (fill in the blank).  These little savories were anything from croquettas of ham and bechamel sauce to churros with chocolate and sugar at four in the morning.  Let me tell you, nothing quite says “chunky monkey” like waking up with residual churro chocolate on your cheeks.  And at each meal, we collectively said “después Sevilla” and threw another tasty treat down into our unsuspecting digestive systems.  
Monday morning after my regular breakfast of toasted baguette soaked in olive oil and café (unfortunately this is not a Sevilla-only habit), we ventured back into the city streets, this time wearing flats (Ah ha! Monkey CAN learn!).  Though the day was a bit rainy, we visited some of Sevilla’s most beautiful buildings.  A personal favorite (and for all you Star Wars fans out there, you’ll like this one too) was the Plaza de España, also known as Queen Amidala’s palace in Naboo in Episode II.  Just so you all know, I did have to look up that information.  I’m not THAT nerdy.  Here are a few pictures from this beautiful place in Sevilla:

After eating (again), I got to see what I really came to Sevilla for.  As the third largest Christian church and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede is just too beautiful.  There’s something about gigantic churches, especially this one, that I just love.  Perhaps it’s the fact that you feel like you have to whisper, because, I mean, this place is big:

Or maybe it’s the dual organs with pipes that reach practically up to the ceiling:

Or the altar pieces made of silver:

Or Christopher Columbus...well, at least they think it’s him:

Or this altar, 98 ft. tall by 66 ft. wide, handcarved over 44 years by one man, Flemish woodcarver Pierre Dancart, and then COVERED in gold:

I think, though, my favorite thing about gigantic churches, especially this one, is that the best views come when you look up:

I took this using a mirror on the floor of the cathedral.
And it was just after this that my camera’s memory card and battery both said “Please, we can’t take this anymore!” and I headed back to the hotel to upload the 408 photos I’d taken that afternoon and recharge mine, and my camera’s batteries, for La Feria.

Once again in my stylish high heels (It just never quite sinks in), we trekked over the river and through to get to La Feria de Abril which means “The April Fair.”  I love the spanish word for fair because it sounds almost like “fairy” and implies something whimsical, magical, ethereal, and in some cultures, extremely dangerous.  What I experienced in Sevilla fits this description pretty well.
The fairgrounds is really made up of two parts.  There’s your typical “fairground” area with rides, games, etc., which I didn’t see but only from a distance.  Then, there’s the main part which is just streets and streets and streets lined with red, green, and white tents, called casetas.  The casetas are all privately owned by wealthy families, corporations, small businesses, brotherhoods, trade associations, and political parties so each one has a security guard at the door and you need to be invited in to attend.  Luckily for me, my host parents are awesommeee and know everyone in Spain so we had a caseta to call home for two days.  

Before we could really buckle down for some serious socializing, we had to witness one of my favorite parts of La Feria which is the lighting of the gate (it’s different every year) and the lights of the streets.  This happens at midnight and is the official start of the party.  Pre-lighting, everyone is leisurely strolling through the darkened streets.  Post lighting, everyone comes to life and it is party time!  Those who are not in a caseta line the streets and dance, drink, and get crazy.  Those in a caseta really do the same thing, you just have a nice place to sit and socialize when you’re not dancing.
Here is a video I took of La Luz, the lighting of the fair at midnight.
So I keep referencing dancing at La Feria.  I’m not talking about the robot, or the sprinkler, or even just your normal hip shakin’ get-down.  This is SevillanasBaile por Sevillanas is a popular flamenco-style dance that has four parts.  High school students in Sevilla take classes in Sevillanas and you can find dance schools all over Spain to learn this.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  So all over La Feria, there are men and women, and many times just two women, following the same motions to this beautiful, upbeat music.  It was like being in the middle of a musical where everyone somehow intrinsically knew all the choreographed dance moves.   Here's the link for one of my videos of some people in our caseta dancing Sevillanas and you may also find a couple quick glimpses of me learning the first dance.  I’m determined to learn the rest, which means I’m going to have to teach one of youuuu back home to be my partner!  Who’s it gonna be, huh?
After arriving home in the wee hours of the morning and getting some limited sleep before another day out in Sevilla, my camera and I were just buzzing with excitement about the day ahead.  As Monday night is the official start of La Feria, every day after that for the next five days is a display of color and culture.  Beginning on Tuesday, the men all wear suits, the women all wear flamenco dresses, and together they ride in horse-drawn carriages through the streets of the fair.  After Amparo and I both each bought a new pair of shoes (that’s five pairs for me since arriving in Spain, in case anyone’s counting) which would not kill our feet, we found our way back to the fairgrounds and were welcomed back into the caseta for lunch.  I can’t really describe how beautiful the fairgrounds became on Tuesday.  It’s like you are almost stepping back in time if it weren’t for the tourists (like myself) not wearing flamenco dresses and snapping photos.  And again, of course, there is eating, drinking, and Sevillanas.  
Here is the link to a short video I took of one of the intersections of the small streets of La Feria, just to show you the activity.  Horses and carriages, caballeros (cowboys), and beautiful dresses everywhere.
And here are a few of my favorite photos from Tuesday at La Feria:

After another night of La Feria, we were all ready to head home on Wednesday.  On the way back to Alicante, we stopped in Granada for lunch.  On a little stroll we were passed by 5 or 6 black Mercedes and a bunch of police officers on motorcycles.  After we speculated who that could have been, we walked a short distance to a street overlooking Granada and it’s two most famous landmarks: the Alhambra and the Palace of Carlos V.  
We were greeted there by a crowd of people and this group of gentlemen.

They included this man playing what I thought was a giant potato.
Turns out it was a pig skin.  A pig skin instrument.
And those Mercedes?  Eh, it was nobody.  Just the Sultan of Dubai.  
You can watch a video featuring the musical stylings of pig skin instrumentation here.
Thanks for reading and Happy Mother’s Day Mom,

After this week's trip to Sevilla with a pit stop in Granada, and the subsequent 825 photos taken (not kidding), I decided that I would start a Flickr account to help share some of my favorites with all of you!  Of course, this is all part of my master plan to increase my online presence and completely rule the internet.  And since I know many of you aren't Facebookers and it's very difficult to post a lot of pictures to the Blogspot website, Flickr was the best option.  I'll still include pictures in my blog posts, as well as add to my current Facebook albums, but now you have more options to follow La Chica Americana in Spain!

You can view my photos on Flickr here.

And you may have noticed that I started a YouTube channel as well!  I'll post videos from my trips there as well.  


  1. Muy bonito el post, gracias por compartir.
    que tengas un feliz fin de semana.

  2. I would love a chance to wear one of those dresses- beautiful!

    I hope this trip continues to be all you hoped for- it certainly looks like it from your posts and pictures!

  3. Thanks for the continued support Jess! I appreciate all of your comments!

  4. The videos are a GREAT addition to the posts! I loved seeing the dresses and sevillanas! (Do you think they have classes here in Rochester?) I'll bet you enjoyed seeing all of those fancy bedazzled horses, too. The Plaza de Espanas was one of my most favorite places to visit - it is impossible to do it justice in photos. The close ups reveal the beauty of the ceramic tile. After watching the Granada music video - I figured out that the pig skin was being played like a bagpipe. That was pretty different. Unusual. Okay - it was weird. But I liked the music. Please tell Amparo and Jose Antonio "gracias, gracias" from us for taking you to Sevilla and Granada. Ricky and I remember their kindness to us (and showing us the sights as well.) I'm so glad you could see it too. Thanks for the Mother's Day wishes - love you too!