A Travellerspoint blog

Enjoying my city

Córdoba for the weekend (15-18 Sept)

sunny 22 °C

FRIDAY 15 Sept:¨"Medinat AL-zahara" Friday was the first excursion for our program. The group split in half (as was the fab 5) and Chris and I, apart from our other 3/5, went to the ruins of the Medina, which is the old Islamic word for city. The place took nearly 10,000 men and close to 25 years to build only to be destroyed 100 years after construction started by a civil war. The Medina was built by the Muslim Caliph (king) during the time when Córdoba was the Islamic capital of the world around the 10th century. The tale is that he built it for his wife, but the real story is that Córdoba, the main city, was too populous for his liking, so he built himself a palace about 6 km outside the city where he, his concubines, religious/political officials (which were the same people) and the army worked and lived. The palace itself isnt very well preserved for the exception of the "office" of the Caliph, a few archways, some of the pools where water was kept, an oven and remnants of the fortress walls and living quarters.

The entire fortress was built from the rocks from the surrounding Sierra mountains for the exception of the marble and ivory columns that were imported from the middle east. The walls are decorated elaborately with carvings, although none of animals or humans because there were not allowed to be depicted in art. The carvings in the stone on the walls consists mostly of geometric shapes and plants, such as the tree of life. The walls surrounding the 2nd of the 3 levels of the original Medina, were military barriers and built at 90º angles as to more easily defend. The pools around the palace were also interesting, and when I asked why so many reflecting pools I was told that the Muslim community loved the sound of water, which was scarce in their native country.

The Medina was an intersting place, it was hard to imagine it as the citadel of the once capital of an empire extending over 3 continents. Next week is the Mezquita, the "cathedral" for Muslims here in Córdoba.

FRIDAY NIGHT: Out on the town was the name of the game and the fab 5 (not named by me) aka Chris, Cody, Marissa, Jessica and I met up at Plaza de las Tendiallas (i have no idea what that means) where we broke out sippee cups and hung out with some Spaniards, learning new and useful words (like ronronrear=to purr) before heading to a bar/club for a little late night/early morning dancing. After a couple hours of Spanish dance music (not as bad as it sounds) I was ready to call it an (early by Spanish standards) night, and headed home around 4am.

SATURDAY: a day of much needed R and R. I woke up to find both Carmenita and Diego at friends houses, so i kinda had the house to myself except for Carmen who was in and out. I spent the morning sipping my tea and reading Harry Potter in spanish (which takes about 3 times as long), before popping in Matilda (also in spanish) to take up the afternoon. Later, Marissa, Cody and Chris came over and we hung out by the pool.

SAT NIGHT: That night the 5 of us had decided to go out for a traditional Spanish dinner aka Tapas. Carmen had recommended this great place, called Salinas, by the Plaza de las Corederras which served traditional Cordobese cuisine. After a 30 minute wait we were finally seated and in a state of utter indecisiveness, let the waiter pick the dishes, wine and dessert (although we piped up for the caraf of sangria). Our meal consisted of about 8 different dishes including some of the following (*** is the highest rating I am giving any dish): Salmorejo(***) a creamy tomato paste garnished with hard boiled egg slices and pieces of ham. Spinach and Garbanzos (***) which had a little bit of a curry/mexican flavor, Fried vegatables (**), Croquetas and Croquetas de Bacalao (**) which are fried balls or cylinders of different vegetables or meats, Araña fritos (*) which is fried fish, and another type of over salted fish with some orange slices which doesnt deserve a rating. The dessert was ok (*) some pudding surrounded by a less sweet version of flan and chocolates. The wine, whose name if am forgetting was the house Tinto, the famous type for this reason, and was very good (**). It was not to dry, a little on the sweeter side, and one of the better reds I have tasted.

After dinner we walked our stuffed selves up to another plaze to meet up with Rafa (Marissa´s intercambio) and friends for a little more spanish hour before heading home.

SUNDAY: Up, out and about bright and early, Spanish time. Met up with some people to head out to the Mercadillo (a big street or flea market) in an area called Arenal by the stadium here where the river bends. The vendors mostly sell clothes and shoes and they all pretty much look the same. Somehow I managed to escape with only a few additions to my Euro-wardrobe which now includes pleather yellow stilletto boots, white sunglasses (of the obnoxiously large type) and long string of beads, which is pretty much a necessity here. After walking the market we headed back home walking along the other side of the river, and catching a great view of the Mesquita and ribera (waterfront) of Córdoba.

Im glad i stayed in Córdoba this weekend, there isnt always a lot going on but its nice to get to see the city in its normal routine. Things are starting to cool down weather wise, and the holidays are almost over which means that businesses will be open more, all the schools will start, and I will be able to get a picture of what Córdoba is like for most people, most of the time.

Posted by tuffchix 23:48 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Life in Córdoba

Week of Sept 12-16

sunny 24 °C

School here in Córdoba is picking up the pace and we are diving into the lessons. I have three classes: Spanish Grammar and Conversation, International Relations, and Spanish History, and the last 2 are actually pretty interesting. Things move at a relatively slower pace which is great because the language difference adds a dimension of difficulty all on its own.

The professors here are very helpful, not only in class, but they keep us posted on the goings on in Córdoba and the nearby cities, as does our program coordinators. When I first got here things seemed really disorganized but as things get going I am realizing that its just a matter of finding what you need (and going to get them in the few hours the places are open).

The weather is still warm here, but the mornings are brisk and there is a nice wind that cools us off in the mornings and late nights.

Other than that I have just been walking around a bunch, SPAIN WALKS EVERYWHERE! and learning my way around the city while navigating through the Judería (the old Jewish neighborhood) whose streets are as maze-like as the ones in Cádiz. Yesterday Marissa, a friend from UCSB in my program, and I went out with her interacambio, Rafa, and exhausted myself by speaking spanglish for hours (The intercambio program is something the school sets up so that Spanish students learning English can practice and vice versa for American students), i get to meet my intercambio, Carmen, later this week.

I also tried a Flamenco class on monday, but wasnt too into it and would rather play rugby or fútbol (soccer) here, so im waiting to hear back on how to do that.

Plans for this weekend are to stay in town and check out Córdoba. Thier fútbol team is horrible but i need to see a game, for the sake of seeing a game, while I am here. There are also Mercadillos (huge bazaar type markets) on Sundays here, which will give me something to do when the place is dead.

FOOD: I also have been experimenting with the food here. There is only one thing I have tried, since the tapas sampler in Madrid, that i didnt enjoy, and that was a tuna salad smothered, literally, in Mayonaise, YUCK! other than that things are really yummy: Paella (a rice dish made with meat and saffron), lots of albondigas or bolitas (little meatballs or fried meatballs), pescado (fish), gazpacho (basically Spanish V8), paté, yes paté, and its not bad when its made with real meat and not liver, and tons of pan (bread). I think my favorite so far are the postres (desserts) here. Lots of yogurt in yummy flavors like pear and coconut and really good sweet breads. My favorite so far though, is called leche canela límon which is literally milk with cinnamon and lemon. I know it sounds nasty but the lemon is very faint and it is a really yummy drink. They make it as a batido (milkshake) too and you can choose what flavor of ice cream to put into it!

Well thats all for now, thanks for all the messages, i love hearing your voices. Happy Birthday to Steph (yeah for 21!!) and Nicole W!! I miss you all, talk to you soon!

Posted by tuffchix 23:59 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cadiz (9 Sept - 11 Sept)...

...pronounced Káh-deez

sunny 25 °C

So the first week of school was a wrap and friday afternoon was the start of an adventurous weekend (to say the least). Our bus outta Córdoba left at 18:00 and 4 hours, some hot humid "air conditioning," one bocadillo later we arrived in the city of Cádiz. Cádiz is the beach resort town of the west coast of Spain. It is just south of Portugal and home to some of the finest sand and great ancient Roman and Muslim architecture...pause...getting kicked off cause the internet cafe closes....ahhh i hate this....check back later for the update.....sorry....

....ok, back again...

so the beaches were gorgeous, but heed warning, just because sand looks comfortable doesnt mean it is! On our first night there, we scoured the entire town looking for a place, ANY place to stay. We looked at hostels, pensions, hotels, apartments and asked other travelers on the street and the answer was always the same: COMPLETA (full). So, that left us with three options (a)going home: I think not! (b) staying out all night: definitely possible, and (c) sleeping on the beach. We (being me and 5 others from my program) opted for a combo b/c. We hit up the local heladería y cervezería (ice cream shop/cafe/bar) for, well, ice cream and drinks, and then people watched as the night kicked off and the clubwear came out and the boteón began. A boteón is when the Spaniards all gather in a plaza with the drinks they buy, bring, and share, and hang out. They ususally get going about 2am and when we left headed out around 4am they were still going strong. We ran into a couple of people from our program at this local bar where we stuck out like sore thumbs. A small local pub, the size of my kitchen, filled with 6 ridiculously white Americans with all thier stuff. The place closed down shortly after and we called it a night and began our walk down La Playa Victoria. 20 minutes later we ran into an old Roman wall that extended from the town center out the entire beach, setting up camp (aka some towels and blanket or two) we attempted sleep. We were pretty much unsuccessful until the sun came up, but as soon as it warmed up we were out. We woke up at 11am to the old Spanish men in Speedos laughing and staring at us.

The first item on the list was a place to stay. We found one back by the bus station in the Pension Argentina just outside of the Plaza España where we saw a (bad) flamenco show later that night. The day was made up of eating spaish tortilla (a thick pancake of potatoes and eggs...yum yum) and sunning ourselves on the Playa de las Calletas, the smaller beach in Cadiz. It is situated between the old castle wall, which sticks in the water connected to the beach by a cobblestone walkway, and fortress walls making a little alcove perfect for some frisbee (very american) or wave jumping (note that Spainish ocean water is pure salt).

We headed back to the hostel showered and hit up a popular Italian restaurant hidden between the maze-like cobblestone streets. It was hidden between this tall, european, squashed-together building and the next, just 3 meters across the walkway from its neighbor. Yummy yummy some more and then off to find ice cream, a staple, before heading to a smaller plaza to take in the night.

The next morning we ate at the Plaza de Juan de Díos, my favorite of all the plazas in Cadiz, and there are tons, before catchin the bus back. Cadiz is a beautiful city combining all the charm of narrow, cobblestone streets littered with small balconies, window boxes, laundry hanging outside, and open doors with the relaxing atmosphere of the beach and all its comforts (or lack thereof if you are calling it home for a night), and the nightlife to keep you out late.

If you are in Andalucía and have and need a day to relax, head out to Cadiz and enjoy the beaches and some fresh seafood, pescado fritos is the local favorite!

Things to remember when traveling on Spanish buses: speaking in English makes you stand out, throwing a Spanish word or phrase in the middle gets even more attention and when the phrase is "tengo fuego en mi ano" you will get more attention that you ever wanted!

Posted by tuffchix 11:20 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

My First Day of School

...its like kindergarten all over, sort of.

semi-overcast 23 °C

Its like Kindergarten in the sense that you dont necessarily know what is going on. Like in Kindergarten you arent paying attention because you are half crying cause you want your mom and your toys, and half so excited you cant pay attention. But for me, paying attention is a lot of work. Having all my classes taught in Spanish requires a huge amount of concentration, especially on the first day when you are trying to make sure you understand the goals of the course and the way tests work and grades (which are entirely different in Spain) are assigned. Luckily my regular classes: Spanish Language, History of Spain and International Relations, are only Monday thru Thursday 9:30-2:00 with a 1/2 `descanso´or break in the middle. Fridays are reserved for special activities like field trips, movies, and performances, or we get the day off for a long weekend (most likely to be filled with travelling).

Other than that nothing new here. Some of the people from my program and I were planning on taking a trip to Cadiz, Spain (a ancient little town on the West coast of Spain with great beaches) tonight and tomorrow cause tomorrow is a holiday here in Cordoba: Día de la Fuensanta (she is a patron saint of the Córdoba). We were rained out tho :( so we are going this weekend instead. My host `mom´Carmen, is from Cadiz so she has given me the run down of the place and all the best plazas to visit and times to go places.

Hope all is well on the California-front. Waves of homesickness come and go as i see things that remind me of home, or miss things that i have at home, but in general things are great and im starting to get used to life here, including the siesta!

Posted by tuffchix 10:08 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Getting ready....

...and settled

all seasons in one day 26 °C

So I began day 2 here with my family in Cordoba. It was kinda nice to wake up this morning and have everyone still sleeping so i could get myself ready and not have to concentrate too hard on forming a sentence, which takes lots of work!

So off to school I went, its about a 20 minute walk or a short bus ride, but as the lady at the bus stop informed my, i had just missed the bus and didnt know how long until the next one. Punctuality isnt really a big deal here in Spain for public transportation schedules, or store hours which can be frustrating. So the walk was nice, its cool here in the mornings and warm and sunny in the afternoons here (save for today when it was/is raining). Got to school, found the classes, sat down, answered the same questions they ask on every spanish exam: how long have you studied spanish? why do you continue to study? why are you studying abroad? why in Cordoba? and the lot....then off to more placement testing with an oral examination with much of the same questions, but in addition we had to describe some art. Needless to say, enought questions was enough and i welcomed the orientation that came next. To my dissappointment was boring as all hell, and the professor, a Poli-Sci prof from UCSD was the culprit. This man was literally foaming at the mouth (you know those people that have spit at the corner of thier mouth the entire time they talk, well that was him) and proceeded to repeat himself a ridiculous number of times.

I was relieved to finally get out of there and head home for la almuerza (lunch) and my siesta, which I had filled up with plans to meet friends at el centro (the city center) and get a cell phone, which I had to figure out the plans and what i wanted entirely in Spanish (uugghh) but hey, im finally connected to the rest of the world.

After that some of the other guys in the program and I met up in the Plaza de las Tendillas at the middle of the city to hang out where it proceeded to pour, yeah, thats right, in the middle of the heat, in summer, it was pouring! So we ventured away from the city and walked around through the small cobblestone streets just wide enough for one car and three college kids jumping out of the way as it whips around the blind curve.

The streets are beautiful. The city is very old and all the old builings and churches and walls are still erect and you weave your way inbetween all of them in a maze to find your way to some plaza or outlet. Its great, and being lost was never so fun and exciting!

I am definitely ready to start school here, there is a lull in the day for siesta and im (a) not used to it yet and (b) dont like it too much cause i feel like i waste valuable daylight hours. Ill either adjust or find something to do with that time... hoping to find a gym asap, this not working out thing is killin me.

Well, school officially starts tomorrow with classes and the like, then thursday is a holiday and if the weather is nice there is talk of going to Cadiz,a gorgeous city on the western coast of Spain just south of Portugal. Back to class Friday then the weekend..yeah!!!

Posted by tuffchix 10:54 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 35) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 »