Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday, May 24 -- Day 11

** Hello Portugal...

We got an early start today as we piled in the coach headed for our next destination.  It's a little sad to say goodbye to this wonderful country that's treated us so well, but we're moving right along to some new adventures in a new country.  Our bus ride was once again filled with a lovely view of the Spanish countryside.  As we crossed over into Portugal, we could see that the landscape was changing to reveal miles of vineyards and other agricultural crops.  With the change in landscape also came the change in temperature.  Man oh man, is it hot!  It hit us pretty hard as we set foot at our first destination, Evora, Portugal.
Home to a large cork industry, Evora is a quaint and quiet town with white washed buildings that stand out amongst the hills of the land.  What an amazing site for us as we walked the streets to see the rich history of the Capela dos Ossos, literal translation Chapel of Bones.  

 This church was created by several Franciscan monks in the 16th century as a practical solution to a interesting problem.  As many as 42 monastic cemeteries were taking up valuable space in Evora, so they moved all the bones to a single consecrated chapel.  Seeing and opportunity to contemplate and communicate the inevitability of death, the monks chose to display the bones prominently rather than storing them away.  The walls are clad in bones and skulls from these human remains whose bones belong to people of all walks of light that were buried during the medieval times.

We were able to take away some thought provoking sayings that adorned the walls of the chapel:

"I leave, but I don't die"  -  "I die in the light."  - "Our bones that are here, wait for yours"

Incredibly deep, and so beautiful as to celebrate eternal memory. 
After that incredible sight, we ventured into the streets where we caught a glimpse of some stunning views!
This was followed by an incredible lunch that was one course after another, after another of delectable Portuguese food.  Amazing service throughout, this meal is definitely one we won't forget as we head to Estromoz for our stay before Lisbon.  We have a full day tomorrow in Lisbon, so a good night's rest is in order!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23 -- Day 10

**On Wednesday, we were able to really dive-in to the details of Seville. 

Without our great tour guide, Juan, our group of UT students may have left the sights of Seville uncovered. We began the day by waking-up in our new  hotel in downtown Seville. All of us being new to the large city of Seville, it took a little adjustment. Pleasantly, we all woke-up to a delightful breakfast in a downtown area.

The highlight of the day, without a doubt, was the Cathedral at Seville. Being the third largest Cathedral in the world, behind Saint Paul and Saint Peter, it was truly a magnificent site. Having never been to either of these other holy sites, I can only imagine how they could match in grandeur. 

The beauty was amazing. With high arches and beautiful stained glass, the Cathedral provided a beautiful Christian site for our eyes. The Cathedral at Seville also provided a beautiful view of Seville as a whole. Being able to journey up to the highest tower in Seville, all 37 ramps (whew), the site at the top was well worth the hike! We had an amazing view of the whole city.

After the tour of the grandioso Cathedral, we were able to grab a bite of lunch and take a traditional Spanish siesta. After an hour or two at the hotel, we ventured back out and toured the Worlds Fair Park. With a garden the boasts flora and fauna from all around the world, the park was impressive to all of us.

 The night provided a little bit of free time for us to grab some dinner and enjoy the town of Seville. With boutiques and cafes all-around, the town was quite the pleasant experience.This being last night in Spain, it took a little time to appreciate all that we’ve seen since we landed days ago. From the coast of Lloret De Mar to this dry heat in Seville, we’ve experienced all different conditions throughout Spain. While we’ve enjoyed Spain thoroughly, we’re ready for the adventure for adventure that Portugal presents.

*** A special thank you goes out to Seth Campbell for his awesome assistance on helping me get this blog up to date after the black out in internet!***

Now on to Portugal...

Tuesday, May 22 -- Day 9

**We're getting warmer...

On Tuesday, we traveled from the sprawling Sierra Nevada Mountains and the beautiful city of Granada and we had quite the temperature change by venturing to the much warmer city of Sevilla. The bus drive wasn’t all that bad and we viewed it as just more bonding time.

Seville was unlike the other cities. By and far, Sevilla was a much more progressive city by expressing with commuter-friendly and youth-orientated events. We saw mass transit in use and we even saw one of the famous Spanish protests in action. We were able to journey to the Islamic holy site of Alcazar. It provided us with the beautiful site of traditional Islamic artwork and gardening. From the traditional Islamic carvings to the unique irrigation system, soaking-up the experience was an experience in itself.

If anyone has been reading the news as of lately, we all know Spain is going through their economical troubles and understand the meaning of some of these revolts. Witnessing some of the unhappiness firsthand is stunning in itself.
Going on with the night, we were even able to see a traditional Flamenco show. Showcasing lavishly dressed Spanish dancers and original styling, the Spanish Flamenco show was a sight for all of us travelers. While we were patiently waiting for the event to start, we were all nervous for what to expect. Once the dancers took stage, the aura of Spain filled the arena on full-blast and not one of us was disappointed in the nearly 2-hour show. If anything was Spanish culture, the Flamenco show was it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday May 21 -- Day 8

**On Monday, our group had quite the time in the beautiful city of Granada!

The Gardens at the Generalife and the Palace at Alhambre were both a sight to see for us travelers. After enjoying a nice breakfast at our beautiful downtown Granada hotel, we ventured out for a day exploring this beautiful and historic city.

Traditionally Islamic-based, both sites provided a shift from the ordinary for all of us. Ranging from intricate Islamic carvings covering massive 30 meter walls to beautiful sprawling rose gardens that include all different colors and vairations, this Monday provided beautiful and unique scenery. Not to mention Granada was sitting in the foothills of the beautiful and snowcapped mountains of the Sierra Nevada. 
Moreover, two of our fellow University of Tennessee travelers got engaged today! Not only was I sure of their excitement, but it also excited all of us! And is there a better proposal opportunity than the beautiful gardens of Spain? 

While the rest of the day was filled with excitement due to the engagement of our fellow travelers, we somehow ventured on and had a good portion of the day to journey throughout Granada at our own accord. Being the fashion capital of Spain, the girls in the group, and some guys (Garry), enjoyed the shopping opportunities throughout the city.

Tomorrow, we travel onward to the beautiful city of Seville. Though Granada provided memories for years to come, I am sure that Seville will open another batch of opportunities and a number of untapped memories.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19 -- Day 7

**On Saturday, we endured the rainy weather for a great time in Cordoba! 

Even though the weather took a rather rainy turn, we still made the best of it! Waking-up in the a little quant villa outside of Cordoba provided a pleasant morning and a pleasant accompanying breakfast. 

Taking the quick thirty-minute trip into Cordoba was enough time for our beloved tour guide, Juan, to provide us with a well-informed history of the city of Cordoba. When we arrived in the city, the beauty of the ancient city shocked our entire group of travelers. What was surprising for most of us was the age of the city. Dating back to nearly the year 800 A.D., Cordoba and the sites around the city provide the oldest structures we will see during our venture abroad.

 The Mosque at Cordoba is a holy structure that has represented the religious struggle that has occurred throughout Spain’s existence. Regularly switching from Muslim to Christian control and vice versa, the Mosque at Cordoba showcases traits of each religion and this makes for an excellent visual representation of Cordoba. With distinctive architecture, the structure has Islamic and Christian markings that truly make for an excellent tour.

After touring the beautiful mosque, we ventured into the streets of Cordoba and experienced an authentic Spanish city. With Flamenco dancers and Spaniards lining the streets, Cordoba was an experience all in itself.