Roaming through Ronda: The Unassailable City

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El Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) circa 1600s

Today we took a day trip to Ronda, an ancient city that crowns two steep hills divided by a deep cavern. This natural defense against invasion made the city one of the hardest to conquer during the Reconquest by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel. This bridge (seen above) is the highest one that spans the chasm and is the iconic symbol of the city. Ronda is one of the “pueblos blancos” (white villages) that nestle high among the hills. Known for its famous torreros (bullfighters), wine, and furniture makers, Ronda is a picturesque hike through the past.

 

October Summary in Less Than 200 Words

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Someone’s 22…in London!

I apologize for the lack of posts. October was a whirl of leaves and travel! I traveled to:

  • Toledo–a medieval monument of a city famous for its distinctive gold jewelry and its metal workmanship (WETA had the swords and the Ring from Lord of the Rings fashioned here)
  • Castilla de La Mancha–flat plains enclosed by ridges dotted with the Don Quixote blue-and-white windmills (and modern wind turbines)
  • London–a metropolis that defines the word “cosmopolitan” with its diversity and yet maintains the steady assurance of being British
  • Paris–an enchanting city of street markets, palaces of art, and the ever-rolling Seine.

Needless to say, I have a lot of updates to do, but stay with me–I’ll make it worth your while. I have hundreds of pictures and countless stories. I will try my best in the last few weeks I am here to tell all in retrospect. Even so, I may “drop off the map” once again if the world beckons and I answer the call of, “Carpe diem!”

 

Am I an American or What?

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Un Torero (Matador)

I have seen this poster all over Sevilla. I think it must be a relic from Semana Santa or La Feria in April. Every time I see it I see the face of President Obama! Is it just me going crazy as an American in Spain or do other people see it too? I know I am asking mostly Americans this question, but I am curious if anyone else sees the resemblance too.

Modern Art in the Historic Heart of Sevilla

  DSCN0296Known as “Las Zetas”, this large art piece presides over a whole square block smack in the middle of a historic district. Some people consider it an eyesore, but I enjoy the naturalistic elements and the feeling of space the piece creates in a crowded part of town. “Las Zetas” literally means “The Mushrooms” (or “The Zs”) in Spanish, and the latticework of the wood and metal appears more or less like the underside of a mushroom. “Honeycomb”, however, may have been a more appropriate name. Regardless of how you interpret its appearance or location, “Las Zetas” is definitely a sight worth visiting if you ever find yourself wandering through Sevilla.

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Things That Have Made Me Smile

  • Fake Cheetos–The Cheetos brand in Spain is different than the American brand. One of my housemates had been craving Cheetos and bought a bag. The chips had hardly any flavor and appeared like pale Cheetos puffs. If the bag had not said “Cheetos” I would never have associated the chips with American-style Cheetos. Dorritos is here as well, but the flavors are different like “Tex-Mex” (whatever that means).
  • Ruffles Chips: “Sabor de Jamón” (Ham-flavored)–This is how I knew I was in Spain. Iberian ham is a source of Spanish pride and for good reason. It just seems odd that Ruffles feels obligated to add ham-flavored chips to the market. (I do not know if Spaniards even like these chips; I just saw the chips at a corner “kiosko”).
  • An advertisement for English lessonsin English–Need I say more? Those that can read the ad do not need the lessons and those that need the lessons cannot read the ad! Slight slip in marketing.
  • A man walking his Macaw parrot (“loro” o “guacamayo”)–The lovely blue and yellow bird was sitting on his owner’s hand as the man moved the bird to and fro…even upside down if I remember correctly.
  • Three weddings in one day–All involved classy old automobiles to bring the bride or steal away the happy couple. The guests were also a sight to see! Weddings here are a fashion show of styles and color, with full suits for all the men and dresses (and frequently small hats or hair accessories) for the women. Weddings are lavish, community affairs to be sure.
  • A father taking his son home from school on a motorcycle–In Spain most parents or grandparents walk the children to school rather than drive them there. In this case, however, a father and his son of eight or nine years were sharing a full-fledged motorcycle and rocking the colorful helmets to boot. What a unique father-son experience!

How you know you are not in Seattle anymore…(or Newberg for that matter)

Coches de Caballo

  • Everything is flat! Hills, valleys, mountains? Forget them. And for water? One long, placid snake of green-blue. No lakes or oceans tucked away. Sevilla tries to make up for it with fountains in every plaza.
  • Everyone here appears to smoke. Walking along the sidewalks I cannot avoid the smell or sight of someone leisurely smoking a cigarette. I even saw a man smoking while riding a moped!
  • Lawns are almost non-existent. When you are fortunate enough to find one in a park, the grass is coarser and the earth sandier. More often than not, public parks are simply sand or gravel paths winding through groves of trees and the occasional fountain, playground, or art structure. Still beautiful, but less lush than those of the Northwest US.
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Even this meager lawn is a rare sight in Sevilla. Water is precious and grass is expensive to maintain, so sand, dirt, or stones often dominate the landscape.

  • We regularly live with temperatures in the 90s or even past 100 in September. Clouds, much less rain, are not on the immediate horizon.
  • I cannot walk around the house barefoot. Strange though it may seem, shoes are always a must here. I think it must harken back to the Arabic influence here in southern Spain (that and your feet get very dirty from walking everywhere). I miss putting my bare feet on couches and cool tile though!
  • Most sevillanos live in towering stacks of buildings. Apartment complexes wrap around gated courtyards or wind through plazas. The buildings stretch four, nine, twelve stories high and provide more shade in the city than do the trees (which, by the way, are palms or orange trees with real oranges on them–do not eat the oranges!).
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El Barrio de Triana (My Neighborhood in Sevilla)

  • Because my university is so near El Centro de Sevilla, we encounter tourist attractions on a daily basis, not the least of which are the “coches de caballo” (see above). These lovely horse-drawn carriages show visitors the glories of Sevilla (La Catedral–the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, Parque Maria Luisa, la Plaza de Torros, el Real Álcazar, etc.) Have a ridden in ones of these “coches”, you might ask? Unfortunately, no. As with all tourist attractions, the prices are steep and despite my love of horses, I have other plans for my precious euros. It is, however, a treat to see horses on a daily basis.