The lassie becomes a guapa…and heads to Spain!
Ready for the longest post yet?
The University of Edinburgh had “Innovative Learning Week” from February 15-25, a week dedicated to lectures, community events, and cultural discussions. So naturally, I skipped town and spent ten days in Spain! First stop, Barcelona! Me and six friends, all from Edinburgh, took a bumpy RyanAir flight that landed in Barcelona at nighttime. A great dinner and €42 worth of Sangria later, we hit up the “Dow Jones Bar” before settling back into the hostel. The next four days were a whirlwind of churros, Gaudi, and LOTS of Sangria.
In comparison to chilly Edinburgh, Barcelona felt a lot more mild despite some clouds. The sun came out at just the right moments–standing in line to enter Sagrada Familia, a beautiful church built by Gaudi that is still under construction; eating our bocadillos (packed lunches) in the open-air tiled park of Parc Güell; collecting sea glass on the Barcelona beach; and while stuffing ourselves with churros and fresh fruit in the boqueteria on Las Ramblas.
Our last day was my favorite because the weather was just so perfect. The previous three days had been jam-packed with visits to high-volume tourist sites like Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell and long nights down by the Barcelona beach. Our entire group was in need of some serious R&R. We revisited the boqueteria (outdoor market) and had a wonderful breakfast of fresh berries, dried meats, and home-baked bread. It felt so nice to eat fresh fruit and drink cold smoothies!
We wandered around the Old City for some time in search of the oldest synagogue in Barcelona (which also happens to be the oldest in Europe). Tucked away into a side street, almost indistinguishable from the other buildings, the synagogue was very small and no longer in use. We ended the afternoon with some sunny strolling on Las Ramblas (plus more churros) before embarking for Seville.
Meg met us at our hostel, a fantastic place called “Garden Backpackers” situated on a windy little calle in the middle of the older section of the city. I thought I was going to hold myself together when I saw her…I should have known better. Needless to say, it was a very emotional reunion.
All seven of us “Edinburgh girls” agreed that while Barcelona was great, Seville was heaven. Shopping was cheap, the buildings looked gold in the sun, and tinto de verano came in abundance and at only €1 at most places. Because Seville doesn’t have a lot of touristy attractions, there wasn’t any pressure to always be moving and “productive.” I can truly say that my first day in Seville was one of the best days of my life!
Meg picked me up from my hostel and brought me to an outdoor, family run cafe near the elementary school where she would be teaching that afternoon. After buying me a tostada and cafe con leche, she hung around for a bit before skirting off down the street to hang with her first graders. I stayed at the cafe, my chair directly in the sunlight, and took it all in. Life moves so slowly in the Mediterranean, and it’s a beautiful thing. I ate my tostada, tanned, wrote some letters, tanned, and then tanned some more. When Megan returned an hour later, she found a blissfully happy and extremely sunburnt gemela. (I should note that the sunburn was only on one side of my face…awkward).
After practically dragging me out of the chair, Meg showed me more of her neighborhood and I got a glimpse of what my sister has done in Spain for the past two months (aka, eating, sunbathing, and playing with first graders). Seville is all orange trees, wide sidewalks, and bright blue skies. After a fantastic (and cheap) lunch of montaditos, we embarked on the part of our day that I was most excited for: meeting Pepa and Jose, my sister’s host family.
I felt really nervous, so I came armed with some Scottish shortbread to hopefully charm Pepa into loving this lassie as much as she loves my sister. (Turns out they stock that same shortbread at the supermarket down the street…it’s the thought that counts). Pepa didn’t need much charming, I’ll tell you that! I immediately saw how much she loves Meg. Pepa gave me dos besos (two kisses) and a big hug, then grabbed my arm and dragged me around the apartment, showing me everything.
“These are my sisters,” she said, pointing to a picture from the 40s of two baby girls. (I should mention that this conversation occurred entirely in Spanish). “These are my kids.” “These are my parents….muy guapos.”
I nod reverently. “Si, si, muy guapos.”
She drags me across the tiny apartment. “This is me,” she says proudly. “So young.”
“Yes, yes, so young.”
I’m yanked out onto the balcony, and grabbing my wrist, Pepa points to a towel hanging off the railing. “This is your sister’s,” she says, grinning ear to ear.
This went on for several minutes, until I got the family run-down and already adored Meg’s host mother. After I met Jose, we all sat down for coffee and cookies so that Pepa could talk my ear off about everything that Megan does every day. She told me about skyping with Mom, she asked about Devon (“su hermana pequena”), and if I am eating enough in Scotland. (She didn’t seem satisfied with my answer on that last bit). It was wonderful for me to see how comfortable Meg is with her family, plus to hear her talk in Spanish! I was so impressed and proud. I got another tour of the house (plus entry to the rooftop), and after saying goodbye to the family, Meg and I headed off to visit her campus.
We ended the day with a stroll towards the main shopping area, a cluster of winding streets that looks nothing like the main shopping districts of most cities. It was a mix between an outdoor market, Forever21, and scene from Epcot. It felt quintessentially “Spain.” After a leisurely dinner with Meg’s friends, it was the end of a perfect day in Seville.
The rest of the week went pretty much the same way–waking up late, strolling around arm-in-arm with Meg, relaxing outside of cafes, and drinking lots of tinto. (Lots and lots of tinto!) I took many siestas while Meg studied or drank her Cola Cao, this Nesquick-like drink that the Spanish (and now Megan) are obsessed with.
We deviated from the “plan” on Friday to visit the Alhambra, a palace and fortress in Granada. Originally being Islamic palaces, and then conquered by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, the Alhambra was absolutely gorgeous. My favorite moment was when Meg and I wandered off from the group (it was cold, rainy, and getting late) and stumbled upon another palace. We later turned out it was where the kings would take their girlfriends…no wonder it was so beautiful! We wandered around the Morroccan-like markets before heading back to Seville.
After the Edinburgh girls returned to the loch, I stayed in Seville an extra two days. Meg and I laid on the steps of La Plaza de Espana and ate snap peas and strawberries and people-watched. We met up with Marietta (another study abroad-er in Seville and who will be joining us in Paris!) and rented a boat for 35 minutes. Despite growing up in a marina family, it didn’t go so well…but it was €5 very-well spent!
On Sunday, my last day, Meg took me to the River (the one that separates Seville) for more sun-bathing and cafe con leche bingeing. We crossed over to Triana just in time to see a fully outfitted Paso going by. A Paso is a float decorated with wooden religious figures that the people of Seville parade around during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Inside (or rather, underneath) the paso are about thirty grown men who support the structure throughout its entire journey. The men practice weeks beforehand to prepare, which is why we saw many of them during my visit. I was so excited to experience this part of Seville community, especially because Seville is known for its Semana Santa preparations, and I had felt disappointed about missing it.
We watched the sun set from the rooftop of the hostel, drinking peppermint tea as ten days worth of my laundry hung on the clothes lines behind us. (I couldn’t help myself). I couldn’t help but think of how amazing life feels.
I love to think about all the memories that Meg and I created during my six days in Seville, memories that we can laugh about when we are 80 and say, “Remember that time in Spain when….?”. In that moment, with the Spanish sun setting and mi gemela lounging next to me, I was burnt to a crisp but feeling so gloriously happy.
My return to Edinburgh felt very bittersweet. Meg and I have plans to meet in Paris in just a few weeks, so I knew I would be seeing her again, but I was already missing our sunny rooftop and cola cao and arm-in-arm strolls down the windy Sevillano streets. While I was sad to wave goodbye to Meg from the airport bus, I had something else to look forward to; or rather, someone else. My best friend from Fairfield was waiting for me in Edinburgh!
Hannah and I had a beautiful three days that included a climb to Calton Hill, many strolls down the Royal Mile, cafe-hopping, and lots of snuggling and tea-drinking while catching up. A lot of Fairfield friends are visiting Edinburgh this week as well, so it’s been jam-packed with familiar faces.
My next destination is Ireland, the temporary home of two of my best friends! Life feels busy and travel is picking up, but my favorite part of it all is that I can make these memories with my best friends.