“I’m really good at sleeping on buses.” Said no one ever.

After six days of absolute craziness with my family and heavy rain forecasted for the night of Easter Sunday, I was ready to crawl into my bed and not come out until classes started again on Tuesday morning. But my time in Spain is racing by (the clock moves faster here than it does in America, I swear), and my to-do list doesn’t have nearly enough checkmarks on it. But Easter Sunday gave us an opportunity to check another thing off that list. People say that it is basically a crime to spend time in Spain and not go to a football game, so despite the torrential downpour, we took off for Madrid with umbrellas, raincoats, and warm clothing in tow.

Let’s play football.

Now you have to realize that when I say football, I actually mean “fútbol”, which actually means soccer, not American football. Having two very athletic little sisters has given me the opportunity to watch countless soccer games over the years and thanks to my favorite movie, Bend It Like Beckham, I know that the offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt, so I would say I have a pretty solid foundation for understanding how soccer works. But besides the actual rules of the game, I had no idea what else was going to happen and I didn’t know what to expect when we walked into the stadium.

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In this picture, I’m an Atleti Madrid fan. If you asked my host dad, I would be a Real Madrid fan (he loves them!). But in reality, I’m more of a Manchester United type girl. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)

It’s like going to your first Badger game in the student section; you can’t possibly imagine what it is going to be like until you get there. People yelling cheers every two and a half minutes, waving their flags and scarves, enduring buckets of rain—all in the name of Atlético Madrid. Just like the Packers and the Badgers, Atleti has plenty of diehard fans. We considered ourselves to be pretty hardcore Atleti fans. I mean, we bought scarves and everything. Go big or go home.

As spring break came to a close and April 1st happened upon me, I realized a few things, the most important being that my last month here has officially started. O.M.G. WHERE DID THE SEMESTER GO? Looking back through all of my photos, tickets stubs, and maps, I realized that there was still one city in Spain that I hadn’t been to yet. You know what that means, road trip!

It is said: “Quien no ha visto Sevilla, no ha visto maravilla.” Having Monday off made the school week fly by. With a free weekend in sight, Valerie (a fellow badger!) and I decided that it was now or never. Let’s get out of damp, rainy Alcalá and go somewhere with potential for sunshine. Get ready, Sevilla. We’re coming.

For this trip, we tried something new, opting for the overnight bus. We boarded at 1:00 A.M. on Thursday night (technically Friday morning) and arrived in Sevilla at about 7:30 on Friday morning. Pros of traveling overnight: you don’t waste daylight on a bus. Cons of traveling overnight: getting a good night’s sleep on a bus is easier said than done. After checking into our hostel on Friday morning and taking a much needed three-hour nap, we began to explore Sevilla.

Our first destination of the afternoon was the Catedral de Sevilla, the third largest cathedral in all of Europe. It is easy to see why the cathedral is one of Sevilla’s most important sites; it is just exquisite. Head to the corner of the cathedral and you will find the entrance to La Giralda, a 34-story high bell tower with only ramps to get to the top. This seemed absolutely ridiculous to me; why would you use 34 stories of ramps instead of just building a staircase? Obviously, they used ramps instead of staircases so that it was easier to ride a horse to the top of the tower! How else would you tell all the people it was time to pray?

 

Standing in front of La Giralda at dusk.
Standing in front of La Giralda at dusk.
Oh hey, Sevilla.
Oh hey, Sevilla.

 

What’s the cathedral’s other claim to fame? The cathedral is the home of the tomb of Christopher Columbus, confirmed to be his actual remains in 2003. Prior to a whole sequence of DNA testing, Sevilla, Havana (Cuba), and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) all claimed to have the corpse of Christopher Columbus in their possession. But after matching the DNA of Sevilla’s remains to the remains of Ferdinand Columbus (Christopher’s brother, who is also buried at the cathedral), there was no denying that his actual remains are in Sevilla.

 

Tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Catedral de Sevilla.
Tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Catedral de Sevilla.

We also had the opportunity to check out the Torre de Oro, an exquisite tower next to the Guadalquivir River that used to be covered in gold, and the Plaza de Toros, the bull-fighting stadium.

Checking out the oro-less Torre del Oro!
Checking out the oro-less Torre del Oro!
Our resemblance is uncanny; we could be twins. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom
Our resemblance is uncanny; we could be twins. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom

Our evening consisted of meeting up with a friend of Val’s, soaking up some sun by the river, and tapa-hopping for dinner. One reason why we instantly loved Sevilla: the weather. Seventy degrees and sunny for the entire weekend. Absolutely B-E-A-utiful. I wasn’t too keen to get back to rainy Alcalá when Sunday came along.

On Saturday, we met up with another friend of Val’s, who showed us the Plaza de España, which I have selected as my favorite place in Sevilla, possibly in all of Spain. Take a look.

 

Welcome to la Plaza de España! (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)
Welcome to la Plaza de España! (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)
Found Alcalá de Henares on the map of the community of Madrid!
Found Alcalá de Henares on the map of the community of Madrid!

 

Just chilling in the plaza, ROWING A BOAT. Everything I know I learned from Girls Camp 1. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)
Just chilling in the plaza, ROWING A BOAT. Everything I know I learned from Girls Camp 1. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)

After obtaining plenty of Vitamin D, we took a short siesta before heading off to dinner and a flamenco show. I had already seen a show in Granada, but Valerie had never been and Sevilla is known for flamenco, so it wasn’t something we could pass up. The show was amazing, just like the last one. Incredible dancing, singing, costumes, and guitar-playing.

 

Trying to figure out where we are on the map while reading next to a garden with a palm tree. Casual, real casual. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom
Trying to figure out where we are on the map while reading next to a garden with a palm tree. Casual, real casual. (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom

When the average person hears the word “Spain”, a specific image forms in his or her head. Certain words are associated with Spain. Flamenco. Tapas. Sol. Vino. Toros. Siesta. You know, everything that we thought Spain would be like when we applied to study abroad here. This cultural stereotype was made popular in the 1960s under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, to increase the tourism economy in Spain. He loved the culture of Andalucía (the Southern region of Spain) and wanted to promote and mandate this lifestyle as much as possible. Well, most of Spain isn’t actually like that. Alcalá de Henares? Not like that. Madrid? Not like that. But Sevilla? Sevilla is like that. To a T. Want to get a true taste of Spanish culture? Book a flight to Sevilla ASAP.

Thought of the day: The weekend could not have been better. Before arriving in Sevilla, we decided that we didn’t want to have a schedule and a list of things to see, places to go, and food to try in a course of 48 hours. So we didn’t. We explored at a relaxed pace, we took time to enjoy the city, and we spent plenty of time in the sun. And looking back, it feels like we still did so much. We saw the Catedral, La Giralda, Plaza de Toros, Torre de Oro, Plaza de España, and Christopher Columbus’s grave. I ate octopus. I rowed a boat! No contest, this was my favorite weekend in Spain thus far. I definitely know why they call Sevilla maravilla.

 

So the real question is: when exactly is this weather going to surface in Alcalá? (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)
So the real question is: when exactly is this weather going to surface in Alcalá? (Photo Credit: Valerie Hagerstrom)