On our long journey towards Portugal, we stop in a Merida, a town founded by romans in the 1st Century B.C. The roman remains still stand and attract many to see its wonders. The remains of the ancient city include the still used today Teatro Romana and also the very popular Puente Romana. We say it all as we toured both the Museum of Roman artifacts and the land itself once used by the romans.
We spent the day roaming the old city and left the next morning for our next quick stop in Évora. In Évora, we saw the Capela dos Ossos. The chapel was built in the 16th Century by a Franciscan monk who wanted to allow for contemplation and reflection on life and this transitory state that we experience. The bones come from 5,000 monks that were located in cemeteries situated in the local chapels.
Wednesday night we arrived in Lisbon. We checked into the hotel and found yummy Thai food. We walked around the city till late at night, walking around the city at night was one of my favorite memories of the trip.
Thursday started with the Jeronimos Monastery. The Monastery is located only yards away from the Tagus River. Construction started in 1501 and took 100 years to finish it. Manuel I selected the religious order of Hieronymite monks to occupy the monastery, whose role it was to pray for the King’s eternal soul and to provide spiritual assistance to sailors who departed from the port to discover other lands. In 1983, it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
We then headed across the street to the Tagus River and entered the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. This monument is placed directly on the Tagus river and was built to celebrate the Portuguese Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th Century. I loved the art section of the museum and the lookout on the very top of the monument.
After a pastry and gelato break, we headed to the Tower or Belem. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The tower was built in the early 16th century and is an example of the Portuguese Manueline style.
Later that we ate a late night dinner and Fado show as a group at a typical Portuguese restaurant. A night to be remembered for sure!
Sintra was my favorite part of the Portugal Trip. The town is situated in the Sintra mountains on the coast of Portugal. Sintra is visited for its two famous Palaces; Pena National Palace and the Regaleira Palace. The Pena Palace was a colorful dream. Its situated on one of the tallest mountains in Sintra so we all jumped on Tok Toks and toured the Palace. The palace was built in early 19th century and has become a hot spot for tourists and travelers alike. After a typical Portuguese lunch we headed over to the Regaleira Palace and toured the acres and acres of forest and amazing features.
Ávila is a small city northwest of Madrid. Placed on a hill, its known for the medieval wall that still stands around the “old town” of Ávila. We arrived early Friday morning and headed straight to the wall with 80-plus semicircular towers and nine gates, including the arched El Alcázar, on the eastern side. Long sections of the walls are walkable so we were able to walk around most of it and see some of the best views of the city from there.
Salamanca is also in the northwest region of Spain. Its history dates back to the Celtic era and is popular for the sandstone architecture and the Universidad de Salamanca. Our first day we saw the the Cathedral and toured around the Plaza.
After our tour, we had free time to eat and wonder around. A small group of us ate a yummy three course meal at a local restaurant and then headed to the plaza for live music and dessert.
Saturday morning we toured the Casa Lis. The building is known for it beautiful stain glass work over the entrance and its eclectic collections of art and history. My favorite section of the museum was the perfume collection. All in all, it was a fun weekend trip. Salamanca is a place I will definitely come back to visit and spend more time exploring.
This weekend we went to three little villages. We started in Cuenca, a couple hours southeast. Cuenca was magical and just all around very impressive. I loved seeing the ancient and modern architecture and art come together all in one little city.
The church that we went to was beautiful. There were different prayer rooms, dedicated to different saints and the stain glass had been redone with more of a modern 20th century feel. It mad the columns and walls of the church all different colors.
The bridge of Saint Paul was built in 1533 over the gorge of the River Huecar, aiming at connecting the old town with the St Paul convent. The original bridge eventually collapsed and the current one was built in 1902. Its made of wood and iron which was the style dominating in the beginnings of the 20th century.
Albarracin was my favorite of the three. The city is in the process of becoming a national monument site by UNESCO and for good reason. The hill side village is overlooked by beautiful castle remains.
It started raining as we arrived which made the visit all that more memorable. We visited a pottery shop and talked with the owner for awhile about the history of the town and his small local shop. we then finished the visit off eating some of the best food I’ve ever had in Spain and playing in the rain.
Valencia, famous for its paella and horchata was one for the books! Our first day was started at a fancy restaurant famous for its massive portions os paella that it serves. Ive had a lot of paella here in Spain and back in the U.S and it was the best yet! It didn’t disappoint. Our bus driver sat next to us after we invited to dinner and we learned a lot about him and how he became a bus driver.
We finished the group activity by going to the aquarium! Which was a random surprise. Never thought that it would have been something I would do on a study abroad but it was so fun and educational. All the animals speak Spanish too.
After dinner we had free time to roam around the city . On my walk around town I found the Art District! The buildings were beautiful and all lit up. I enjoyed having that time alone to roam and enjoy the city at night.
The morning of day two in Valencia was spent a the Lladro museum which was another fun surprise that I never thought I would go to in Spain. I learned about glass and left with a greater appreciation for those pieces of art.
The rest of the day we spent wondering around the city, headed to Valencias famous market and enjoyed the beach! Valencia was one of my favorite trips we’ve been on…. I could’ve spent weeks there.
El Escorial was started with King Philip ll in 1563 and finished in 1584. The king wanted the building to serve as a burial place, monastery and palace. There were two architects, Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera. El Escorial Monastery is huge! With four stories, several towers at each corner and beautiful gardens. The building includes now a church, monastery, a college, the palace and one of the oldest libraries.
Today, El Escorial is a UNESCO world Heritage Site and is one of Spain’s most visited landmarks. It contains famous artwork by El Greco and Luca Giordano. It was a great experience, a place I’ve had on my bucket list for awhile. The library was one of my favorite places. It was interesting to see all the different globes from each era. They gradually changed, becoming more specific and geographically correct with an increase in resources, time and discovery.
Valle de Los Caidos
Valle de Los Caidos is a Catholic basilica and monumental memorial place in the Valley of the Sierra de Guadarrama close to Madrid. It was built under the order of the Spanish dictator, Fransisco Franco in memory of of the fascists who died in the Spanish Civil War. It was designed by Pedro Muguruza and Diego Mundez, creating one of the most important and prominent examples of Spanish Neo-Herrerian architecture. The building of this memorial began in 1940. After 18 years it was officially inaugurated in 1959.
Valle de Los Caidos was an interesting experience, almost eerie though. The memorial itself is very controversial. There are some that refer to the place as a “Nazi concentration camp” (James Bosch). It was said to be compared to one because the memorial was built by many Spanish Republican Army war prisoners who traded their labor for a reduction in time served. At one point in 1943, there were over 600 prisoners who were working at the site. An overall 20,000 prisoners were used in the overall construction of the monument and were forced to labor. The official number of workers who died as a result of accidents during the construction totaled fourteen.
Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso
One of my favorites things we’ve done this whole trip. I wish we had hours to wander the palace and its gardens that fill more than 5,000 acres. The Palace is actually a copy of the Palace of Versailles. So though we wont make it to Paris to see that palace, we did get to see the second best.
Córdoba was a quick trip! Just enough time to grab some gelato and see one of my favorite architectural pieces of the trip.
El Mezquita-Cathedral de Córdoba es uno de los monumentos mas singulares del mundo! la arquitectura islamica, con helenisticos, romanos y bizantinos, se funde con la cristiana es una de las expresiones mas impresionante.
After our short visit to Cordoba, we got to Sevilla. It was everything that I imagined and more. The river that flowed through the middle of the city was so cool. We got there late that night so we all just got dinner and went straight to bed.
Thursday we saw the Cathedral de Sevilla.
They say that Christopher colobus is buried in this cathedral.
Los castillos son construcciones hechas de piedra, sin presunción y sólo se preocupaban de la seguridad de sus habitantes y una alcazar realmente preocupaban de la armonía, estética y belleza arquitectónica.
Our last stop was Granada! My favorite city we’ve been to in the program. Theres just something about it. The streets felt different with the vendors coming from northern Africa and the influence of the muslim culture. AND THE ALHAMBRA – the most magical place ever. The Conquest of Granada really highlighted the the impact of the Muslims on Spanish life, traditions and the colonial legislation.
It was interesting to analyze the difference and similarities between the muslim religion and my own. The one thing that we have in common and both put at the foundation of our testimonies is that God is real, He is present, He leads and guides us and is all powerful.