This past week my mom, one of my best childhood friends, and her grandma came to visit me in Spain! My friend, Alexa, is currently studying abroad in Ireland so after my mom and Alexa’s grandma spent a week with her in Ireland, they all came to see me and spend some time in Spain. They arrived on Thursday night (October 23rd) and I picked them up from the airport to show them the way to their hotel which luckily, was only a few blocks away from where I live. We all went out for dinner and later had tapas at the famous “El Tigre”.
The next day we all had plans to travel and spend the weekend in the town of Sevilla in the southern region of Andalucía, Spain. My mom actually studied abroad for a semester in Sevilla when she was in college so she was really excited to be heading back and re-live the memories she made while she was there.
Our flight was very early the next day, but we were able to sleep for a bit on the short flight. Once we arrived in Sevilla, we took a bus from the airport into the city center and were dropped off right near the torre de oro. Everyone was still a bit dead from the morning travels so we stopped for a small breakfast of café con leche with toast to wake up. Of course, Alexa and I took the opportunity to climb the tower once breakfast was finished with our new-found energy.
We made our way through the city with the intent to drop off our things at our hostel a bit outside the city center. Once we checked in, we took a short rest before heading back out to explore more elements of the city including the famous Alcázar palace of Sevilla.
From the outside, the Alcázar doesn’t seem like anything too exciting, but my mind was quickly changed once I entered.
First off, it’s HUGE. There are so many rooms and corridors to explore and intricate Muslim architecture to appreciate. However, that’s just the beginning. The gardens of Alcázar are what took my breath away.
It seems like they never end! I could pass hours upon hours in the gardens alone. Apart from the beautiful flowers, water features, and greenery of the gardens, my favorite section of the gardens would have to be the labyrinth area. I knew that if I ever lived in that palace during it’s heyday, that’s where I would spend the majority of my time getting lost and hiding from my royal duties.
During our visit to the Alcázar, I also ran across a former Wipper when she recognized the Wisconsin t-shirt I was wearing. I always like wearing Wisconsin apparel when I travel because you never know who you’ll meet!
After the Alcázar, everyone walked through the city and my mom showed us where she used to live when she studied there.
My mom, Alexa, her grandma, and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying tapas before we turned in early to get a good night’s rest.
The next day I slept in a bit and met up with everyone else to tour the most popular feature of Sevilla: the cathedral. This cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world as well as the the third largest church in the world.
I was excited to see and tour the cathedral because it was another building I had studied it in my intensive art/architecture class and I got to put my knowledge into action.
Inside, there was so much to see it was almost overwhelming. Originally the cathedral was a Muslim mosque that was later converted and expanded into a Christian cathedral. Therefore, you can see the contrast between the different architecture styles. Of course, the cathedral is filled with precious paintings, metals, and religious artifacts and displays.
The cathedral is also the final resting spot of Christopher Columbus. We couldn’t resist the temptation to take a selfie with him.
The Giralda (or bell tower of the cathedral) is attached to cathedral and is one of the tallest points in the city. The exhausting trek to the top validates this. But the view from the top is worth every step because it’s absolutely beautiful. You can see the entire city of Sevilla from every direction as it extends for miles and miles.
Next on our list of sights to see was the Plaza de España. But not before we stopped to enjoy Spain’s famous paella- a signature of the south. It did not disappoint and was absolutely delicious! My mom thought that was worth the trip itself and I would agree.
With full bellies, we continued to the Plaza de España. This plaza was built as a space to host the World Fair in 1929. Today it is discretely the site of government buildings and the Sevilla town hall as well as a beautiful and photogenic tourist destination.
As the sun began to set, we looked for a place to sit and enjoy the evening air as we recapped the days events. Later that night we went to a bar called La Carboneria which is one of the oldest and most famous bars in Sevilla. Every night there is an authentic Flamenco show which we made sure not to miss.
After our two days in Sevilla, we realized that we had already exhausted the main sights of the city so we decided to take a day trip to the Roman ruins of Italica about 30 minutes outside of Sevilla. Remarkably preserved, these ruins tell the story of what was once a functioning and vibrant Roman city.
You can even still see some of the detailed tiling that was laid as the floors of houses.
But perhaps the most incredible feature of the ruins is the ancient amphitheater where the community would gather for sporting or theater events. Definitely a great place to see and fun to explore.
The four of us also took the time to visit the city of Jerez de la Frontera, known as “sherry country”. This was my first time riding a train in Europe and it was nice to see a bit of the Spanish countryside. The first thing we did in Jerez de la Frontera was- by my personal request- visit the clock museum. And it did not disappoint. We even got a PRIVATE TOUR of the museum and saw over 300 clocks of both French and English design.
I learned that the difference between French and English clocks is that the French focused more on the exterior detail while the English placed more value on the interior function (the more you know!).
After our tour of the clock museum, we visited of one of the many wineries in the city: Lustau. Although I had already toured a small winery a few weeks prior, it was nice to see and tour a larger and more established winery.
Once the tour concluded, we had the opportunity to sample different types of sherry. I don’t think I care for sherry, but it was fun to try and a good experience.
We then rode the train back to Sevilla and caught our flight back to Madrid.
However, my mom, Alexa, and her grandma still had a few days to spend in Madrid. They spent their days sight-seeing while I went to school and carried on with my daily duties. After I finished classes we would meet up and do something together in the evenings. I also set aside time to spend with just my mom or Alexa which was nice. One night, we went to a rooftop terrace called “La Tereza de Circulo de Bellas Artes” to have dinner and take in the view of Madrid at night which was stunning.
Their last night in Madrid was Halloween. Surprisingly, Halloween is a popular holiday in Spain even though it is closely associated with American culture. The one difference between American Halloween and Spanish Halloween falls in the costumes. In Spain, everyone dresses up scarily (like you’re supposed to?) rather than a object, character, or something sexually subjected. But due to my lack of preparation, I didn’t have much time to come up with a costume. So I bought Alexa and I a few small things from a store nearby (including a halloween cape and pirate hat) and we dressed up and went to a club to celebrate the night.
It was really fun to see everyone in Halloween spirt with their fake fangs, wounds and blood. We spent all night at the club and danced and enjoyed our first (and maybe only) Halloween in Spain.
Sadly, the next morning (with at total of 1.5 hours of sleep) my mom, Alexa, and her grandma left. But it was so great to see all of them and spend time traveling together in Spain.