Market Day

I finally got a GREAT night’s rest and caught up with my sleep the night of Friday Feb. 3, so on Saturday I was up bright and early. After breakfast (which is always toast with olive oil — YUM!), Margarita asked me if I wanted to accompany her to the market! Of course I said yes, and I brought along my trusty camera because I knew I was bound to see some great stuff. And I was right. Here is some of Sevilla’s Saturday morning market.

Fresh fruits at the mercado

What is THAT?!!

Something smells…. fishy…. Hmm. I need to hire someone to write jokes for me.

Some of the fruits and veggies were so exotic! We got a LOT of food, it filled up our whole cart — and it was only 30-40 Euros! That same amount of produce would have cost over $100 back in the U.S. In our apartment in Sevilla, we always had a giant fruit bowl filled with the most delicious fresh fruits, and that’s what we snacked on during the day. I had wondered how Margarita managed to keep it so well-stocked, and that day at the market I got my answer.

Cooking Lessons

[Journal Excerpt: 7 Feb, 2012]

So, my host “mom” Margarita loves to cook, and she says she’s going to teach us how to cook Spanish dishes! I’ve already helped her make Tortilla Española (and by “helped” I mean “peeled and cut potatoes”). But I’m looking forward to it! My mom gave me an ultimatum before leaving: “Don’t come back home without learning any Spanish recipes!!” Well, Mama, it looks like I’ll be coming back with a few! 🙂

NOTE: I came back knowing how to make Patatas Bravas and Migas.

My Sevilla Must-See List

On my first full day in Sevilla, my program took us on a bike tour of the city. 40 loud American students riding on bicycles through the streets of Sevilla, cutting through traffic, blocking the way of cars and other pedestrians, nearly running over a few Spaniards, receiving dirty looks, amused looks, and on occasion, claps and cheers and shouts of encouragement from some drunk hobos.

Total. Mortification.

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¡Allí ves Sevilla!

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, it is with great pleasure that I present to you….. SEVILLA!!!! The city I called “home” for 4 months. I had the privilege to live in a beautiful city. When you imagine Spain, you’re imagining Sevilla. Sevilla’s got everything we romanticize about España: Flamenco, bull fights & matadors, spring fairs, sunny clear skies, Mediterranean heat, olive trees in the surrounding lands, ladies cooling themselves with their lacy hand-painted fans, narrow cobblestone mazes of streets, and gorgeous details painted and carved onto beautiful buildings. There are orange trees lining almost every street, and the people of Sevilla did this on purpose: so that the city smells good in March and April when the trees’ flowers are blooming. I felt like this city was a mix of Madrid and Toledo. Not too big, not too small; just right.

I arrived at night on February 1st and met my host “mom” Margarita, and her 14-year-old daughter (whose name also is Margarita. Easy enough!). After finding the two American girls who’d be my roommates for the semester and meeting our host family at the pre-determined bus drop-off point, we made our way to our new home. We all didn’t fit in Margarita’s car along with our giant suitcases, so her daughter (henceforth known as Maggie) took two of us and we got to our apartment in a taxi (I was greeted by a pretty interesting song when I got in the cab). Upon arrival we got a quick tour of the apartment (which had the best view in the city, I believe), enjoyed a fabulous welcome dinner, then we all unpacked and knocked out. My two other roommates actually shared a room together, and I got a room all to myself! I even got my own desk! SCORE!

So yeah. Life was pretty good.

More about Sevilla soon!

Spanish Etiquette

Just a few rules I’ve learned so far. I think it’s interesting to compare/contrast with/to American etiquette, or how there are some things on here we’d never even consider.

  1. Do not walk inside of a house barefoot. It’s considered very rude.
  2. Do not eat while walking. You will receive confused stares. (Fast food and eating on-the-go does not exist here.) Spaniards believe that there is always time to take a moment to eat. If you don’t have the time, then by golly, you make it!
  3. Do not say “sorry” too much. It annoys the Spaniards. They make fun of how often Americans apologize.
  4. Do not yawn. EVER!!!!!! (Very, very rude)
  5. Always let the older person take your seat on a bus if there are no seats available.
  6. Do not tip the waiter at a restaurant, or if you feel like you must, just round the change up.
  7. Ladies, ignore the catcalls. Whatever you do, do NOT talk back and risk making it worse.
  8. Never walk in the bike lane. The cyclists get really, REALLY annoyed (I learned the hard way!).
  9. If sharing a plate of food with a group of friends, do not eat the last piece. (I’ll talk more about this later. It’s actually a pretty big deal.)
  10. Do not stretch while engaged in a conversation with someone. It gives the impression that you’re bored with what they are saying & aren’t focused on them.
  11. If you enter a church, your shoulders and legs should be completely covered. It’s disrespectful otherwise.
  12. Do not switch your utensils in your hands while eating (opposite of proper table manners in the United States, where you are supposed to switch them).
  13. Don’t beat around the bush. Just get to your point, and be honest. (Painfully honest, if I might add.)
  14. When eating at a table, it’s considered rude to have one of your hands resting in your lap. Keep both hands visible. This is from back in the day when people used to carry weapons on them. It’d make everyone else nervous if someone had a hand in their lap, because you didn’t know if they were holding a weapon. People kept their hands above the table so that everyone could feel more relaxed. While the weapons are no longer an issue, the tradition of keeping your hands visible remains.

Only in Spain…

The food in Spain was incredible. My first few days I ate paella, bacalao, tapas, all sorts of fresh seafood, tortilla de patatas, bocadillos, and I sampled the famous Iberian ham and the most delectable cheeses. However, there are a couple honorable mentions that deserve to be highlighted:

Cheetohs shaped like soccer balls and ham-flavored potato chips.

Yes. You read correctly. And oh. yes. I. did. I tried them. How could I not? You know you would have, too!


Of course they’d have these in a country where soccer is the religion.

Question: How much do Spaniards like ham?
Answer: This much.

Holy Toledo!

I honestly don’t know where to start for Toledo. It’s probably the prettiest pueblo I’ve seen so far in my entire life.

First off, let’s start with its geographical location: It’s right smack-dab in the middle of Spain, situated on the top of a rocky bluff, surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River. It’s a natural fortress. Next, let’s talk about the town itself. When you imagine a Spanish town in your head, you think of narrow cobblestone roads, old señoras praying with their rosaries in beautiful churches, children playing fútbol on the street, the scent of freshly-baked bread, and lovely homes all built one on top of another. Well, that’s what I think of, at least. And that is exactly what Toledo is. It’s beautiful. It has low crime; its people lead peaceful lives. It’s better than anything I’d ever imagined!

Magnificent Toledo

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Day Trip to El Escorial

El Escorial is Spain’s royal monastery, and it’s divided into 4 parts: The monastery, the school, the palace, and the cathedral. It was constructed based on the descriptions of Solomon’s temple. It also has a library containing thousands of books, with some as old as the 8th century!! Students and scholars can actually read & use the ORIGINAL books for their projects or research (in a very special room, but still)! Here’s the library:

El Escorial library

It also has a huge underground network that houses the tombs of dozens of kings and queens of Spain from the past 5 centuries, along with many members of the royal families. In order for a queen to be buried there, she had to be the mother of a king. So even if you were the wife of the king of Spain, if your son didn’t become king, then you couldn’t be buried there. The circular room they’re buried in (called the Pantheon of the Kings) is GORGEOUS, and directly beneath the Cathedral’s main altar. Once again, like the royal palace, I was not allowed to take pictures inside. Sadness. But here’s a picture of the cathedral’s altar I found online:

In any case, I found out something pretty gruesome. The room and coffins are already made, so that means the kings and queens who die have to fit into those pre-made coffins. So, what they do is: after a king or queen who will be buried there dies, they are put in a special “rotting chamber” in El Escorial called a pudridero, and they’re left there for about 40 years. After that time passes, they’re just bones. Then the bones are placed inside the coffin. The current king’s parents are both in a rotting room, and they are going to take the final two slots available in the special burial room (26 total). That means the current king (Juan Carlos I) has to pick another place to be buried, since El Escorial ran out of space.

But yeah, it was absolutely awe-inspiring, and I really wish I could’ve taken a picture to show you all! But here’s one I found online (none of the pictures in this post do the real thing justice, but just to give you an idea):Pantheon of the Kings