On Strikes and Hikes

Tomorrow there is going to be a student assembly at the Universidad de Sevilla to protest some proposed changes at the university and discuss the possibility of a student strike. We’ve had student activists talk to us at the beginning of almost every class this last week about it so it’ll be interesting to see it all play out.

None of us really understand much of the details, but it does mean that there is no school tomorrow and many classes today were cancelled as well so we aren’t complaining.

Also on Sunday, we went on a CIEE-sponsored hike in the Sierra Norte of Sevilla.

We were thinking we were pretty cool up until our lunch break. It was more of a nature walk than hike. But then after lunch (when all I really wanted to do was take my siesta), we started going up. And then it felt like a hike.

It was completely worth the sore muscles the next day for the beautiful views of the countryside and town.

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These Hallowed Waves

One of the most long-standing items on my bucket list has been the desire to see the Mediterranean Sea.

Well, today that item was officially crossed off the list.

I was almost in tears when I first caught a glimpse of the water. Seeing the sea satisfied so many parts of me. The history nerd part, the travel bug part, the love of gorgeous scenery part etc.

We took a bus from the city centre to the beach, about 25 minutes.

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This seems as good a time as any to deviate for two seconds and rave about my travel partner, Karishma. Karishma is my long-lost other half from California and I really don’t think I could’ve ask for a better person to experience Portugal with <3

Ok. Back to the scheduled topic.

The Mediterranean did not disappoint all my hopes built upon years of expectations.

I found this quote the other day when I was roaming around the internet looking for inspiring quotes about the sea. I remember reading part of the natural history book this quote appears in in high school for “fun” for about .2 seconds before hating it and closing it but I do love this quote and I think it perfectly expresses my emotions this morning.

“Who that has ever visited the borders of this classic sea, has not felt at the first sight of its waters a glow of reverent rapture akin to devotion, and an instinctive sensation of thanksgiving at being permitted to stand before these hallowed waves?”-Edward Forbes

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This rainbow was literally the first thing we saw when we stepped off the bus and that’s when we knew we were going to have a fairly spectacular morning.

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(I’m just going to apologise now for any and all gratuitous pictures of myself in this blog from here on out).

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“It looks like Heaven has taken over the earth.”-Karishma

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A few crazy people braved the cold water to windsurf. It was entertaining to watch the struggle as the waves were also fairly big today.

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Paradise. Absolute paradise. We already can’t wait to go back when it’s warmer to actually test out the water!

Igreja do Carmo

After a bit of wandering on our first morning, we eventually found the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church), which had indoor facades of Brazilian gold. Super beautiful and impossible to fully capture on camera but I tried because I am not a quitter.

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At this church is also the Cappella dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). This chapel is made out of, what else, bones!

If you’re like Karishma and I, you’re thinking, “Oh cool! A chapel that used some bones to help build it.”

Oh no. No no.

The Chapel of Bones is quite literally and appropriately named.

It is made completely out of bones (of about 1,000 Carmel monks). Its purpose is to remind humanity of our own mortality and the finiteness of life.

It was a very appropriate place to visit after Ash Wednesday and very solemn but we didn’t fully appreciate it until after we finished freaking out about the fact that we casually looked up and there were skulls grinning down at us.

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Overall though, we chalked this up to one of the strangest but coolest things we’ve seen in Europe so far.

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Walk Like an Egyptian

Karishma and I spent 30 hours in Portugal this weekend because what else do you do when the rest of your friends are going to Morocco and you kind of want to skip out of Spain?

Those 30-hours were filled with much laughter, getting slightly lost (but not really because Faro is TINY), crossing items of bucket lists, valiantly trying to read Portuguese (actually not that hard. much harder to understand it when spoken though), lots of walking by the marina, wishing on rainbows, sleeping on buses, freaking out about bone chapels and generally relaxing.

This also marked the first time I pulled out the big guns (aka my very nice DSLR camera) and I was not disappointed. Though shout-out to my iPhone for also taking some very beautiful pictures when I was too lazy to take the time to adjust the actual camera settings. And panoramas. I do love panoramas and the DSLR does not oblige me in that aspect. (those of you on Facebook: every photo on there is from my phone. Impressive little piece of technology isn’t it?)

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Karishma and I went to Faro with a few ideas of what we wanted to do (the beach, obviously, and the Sé cathedral) but otherwise just planned on wandering and being tourists and above all, relaxing.

So that is what we did.

We took a two-hour bus ride to Faro from Sevilla (complete with a random Spaniard playing traditional Spanish ballads, bagpipe, and Irish reels without headphones…yes, you read that list correctly). Our hostel was beautiful (purple-themed yes please), the staff amazing, and came with free coffee in the morning so really what wasn’t to love? Also the mini-park right across the street was amazing and where we sat and ate lunch our last morning there.

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First order of business: Getting slightly turned around on the crazy streets with weird names (Faro was organised by the same people who organised the University of Sevilla who knew?*)

After finding the Chapel of Bones (worthy of its own blog post HERE!), we also wandered over to the city market, got some fresh raspberries and figs (artsy picture at the top of the post!) and also sat and got a much needed water for Karishma (Lenten disciplines involving coffee are the worst) and coffee for me.

We also went to the Faro marina near the old city walls (Afonso III built them to protect the city from invasion. Also Portugal has had a lot of king’s named Afonso). Gorgeous views all around both during the day, and later when we returned for sunset.

Day:

Night:

We returned for sunrise (Yes, I did get up at 6am. Thanks for asking). While it wasn’t as visually spectacular, it was very peaceful to be nearly the only ones awake and sitting by the marina that early aside from the fishermen.

Faro in general was just a lovely town and we are dying to go back once the weather gets even better and we can enjoy the beach fully (also getting its own post soon).

But for now, here are just some general pictures taken while wandering around.

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Annnnnd even more! (Sorry guys. Laziest blogger ever aka I really want to go write about the Mediterranean right now so I’m rushing this slightly).

Mushrooms

Today’s post is about our excursion to las Setas yesterday.

Las Setas is this massive structure that the government spent a lot of money on (think: 100 million euros. Which equals out to about 143 euros PER PERSON in Sevilla). Why? Because it wanted to, in an attempt to make Sevilla look more modern.

Las Setas look like giant mushrooms in the sky. The structure literally does absolutely nothing but sit there and draw in tourists who want a great view of the city (*ahem*me*ahem*).

For this reason, Pablo (our CIEE orientation guide) said that many people in Sevilla hate it and call it the “literal fungus of Sevilla” which is possibly the greatest description I’ve ever heard of a contemporary art structure.

Anyway. It does have great views so off we went to check it out for 3 euros/person.

Original goal was to be there for sunset. Well. The sky/clouds did not cooperate as far as sunsets go, but we did get some pretty spectacular lighting regardless.

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But really. That sky <3 No sunset but this was the next best thing.

I live here and it is really kind of thrilling every time I think about it in depth for any length of time.