12 Pictures 10 Days (part 3)

January 28, 2010

The last part of our Spain trip was really hectic, and yet still fun. Caroline and I decided at the last minute that we wanted to see Granada, and I felt that I absolutely could not pass up an opportunity to see the Mosque/Cathedral in nearby Cordoba. I had studied it in my art history class, and I really wanted to visit the building in person. So we decided that on our last full day we would visit two cities. And I’m very glad that we did!

Oranges in Seville

This is the last image I’ll show you from Seville, but the subject is not specific to Seville! Orange trees are everywhere in Spain, and their season is approaching so the trees were absolutely covered in fruit! The trees are beautiful, and the blossoms in spring apparently completely permeate certain areas with their aroma. Those are two of the main reasons that the trees are often used decoratively, and not for their produce in many places. They line the streets, they dot the courtyards of churches, and they grow in nearly every park. Caroline and I couldn’t resist picking an orange in Barcelona, and we were so excited to try it! Unfortunately the experience was absolutely awful! The oranges don’t get enough minerals and nutrients growing along streets and in patches of tired park ground to produce good fruit. So the resulting taste is one of concentrated lemon juice, but even more bitter. I was so disappointed! I heard that the cities collect them every year to make marmalade, since they taste fine when you add enough sugar. I brought my host mother Marmalade from the cathedral in Seville, and it tastes pretty good! I wonder if holy oranges taste better?

The arches of Cordoba's Mosque/Cathedral

The Mezquita de Cordoba is absolutely extraordinary, but also very strange. The site was first a church, but when the Moors came to Spain they built a mosque in its place. The rows upon rows of red and white arches lend an infinite array of angles and portals, it was overwhelmingly beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen before. When the Catholics came back into power they converted the mosque into a church by building a gothic cathedral literally right in the center. It is strange to be looking at Islamic mosaics one moment, and white cherubs the next, but that’s how religions often work. Claiming and reclaiming, making the necessary changes and leaving the rest-it’s like looking at photo-shopped photographs. My visits to various cathedrals nearly always include a few minutes of private prayer, and this time I decided that this strange mix of religious buildings would be the appropriate place to pray for peace amongst the world’s religions. I hope that if we can all realize the beauty and value of each others’ religious architecture we can all learn to respect the value and beauty of the rest. The eastern architecture is quite a change from the gothic cathedrals I’ve been studying all semester, but I love the styles of both. The human capacity for creativity and innovation, especially for me in the world of art and architecture, is fascinating and awe inspiring!

The Alhambra

I will confess right now. Caroline and I went to Granada and did not see the Alhambra. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to, or didn’t try; it was mostly that we ran out of time in Spain and planned that part of the trip too late. We did hike up the trail and walk around the few parts of the gardens open to the public at night, but our arrival was too late in the afternoon to get a daytime tour, and the night tours only take place in the summer. I tried taking a few pictures of the gardens and the imposing outside walls of the palace, but my best photograph was sadly that of an umbrella hanging outside of a tourist shop. I am disappointed to have missed it, but Caroline and I saw no small amount of important Spanish buildings and monuments, so I guess I’ll just have to see it when I go back to Spain to see the completed Sagrada Familia in 15 or 20 years!

Me in my train bunk!

I had an epic last lunch with Caroline in Barcelona. My train was leaving for Paris that evening and her flight was later that night, so we enjoyed bringing the trip full circle and saying goodbye to Spain from the city that so vibrantly welcomed us. We ate at La Fonda, which we had discovered thanks to a new friend we met on our second night in Spain. Caroline and I were there just the two of us, but we drank our last glasses of sangria and devoured a pot of black rice (which is very similar to paella) with relish. The name comes from the unusual color of the dish because of its squid ink sauce. I was ready to go back to Paris when I left. I missed my host family, regular conversations via skype with my real family in the states, and I missed Paris and the Parisians. I slept in a real train bed on the way back, and had a comfortable and stress free night. I was also really excited to be sleeping on the top bunk-it was really high off of the ground as you can see from my picture! But now that I’m back in “my” city I am ready to begin a new semester in Paris with new friends and new adventures-and I’m already speaking a lot more French! A bientôt!

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