Friday, July 1, 2011

Not Your Garden-Variety Gardens

This is part 3 of a ¿_?-part series on my experience earning my CertTESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] in Cádiz, Spain in the summer of 2011.

When Jordon and I backpacked through Europe two years ago, he met up with his friend Laura in Seville. Unfortunately, I was unable to join him on that part of our adventure and I never got to meet her.  But, on Thursday, June 23rd, I finally did! As Jordon later commented, "this pretty much completes our European trip."

Laura and I had planned to meet at the Seville Cathedral (Spanish: Catedral de Santa María de la Sede), which is the largest Gothic cathedral, and the third-largest church in the world.[1]

Laura and I had never met before, so neither of us knew whom/what to look for. I didn't yet have a cell phone, so I wouldn't even know what to do if I couldn't find her. (How on Earth did people survive before cell phones??)

She eventually found me, and greeted me in English. I responded in Spanish, which became the working language for the next few hours. We were both quite hungry, so she took me to a bustling local bar/café.

I got another chicken sandwich (I feel so guilty...going to defer this again, I promise I'll explain at some point) and at Laura's recommendation, ordered a tinto con limón (red wine and lemonade). It was delicious, and has become my new favorite drink. I also tried gazpacho for the first time. I'm not a fan. It was cold, spicy, and disagreeably bitter.

After lunch, Laura took me to the Royal Alcázar of Seville (Spanish: Reales Alcázares de Sevilla). The site was initially a Roman settlement, and when the Arabs conquered Seville in 712, it was converted into a palace-fortress.[2]

Laura studies architecture in school, so she taught me about the different styles, and gave me a crash course in Spanish history. It was quite hot, but a refreshing breeze ran through the palace's immense hallways, so we weren't too uncomfortable.

The palace was incredible, and its enormous accompanying gardens were breath-taking.

My favorite part of our visit to the palace was the labyrinth: a colossal web of narrow walkways walled with towering hedges snaking around the center of the gardens. For you Harry Potter fans out there, it was totally like the third task in Goblet of Fire. Yeahh.

We got our fill of the palace, then cooled off with some ice cream. It was only my second day in Spain, and speaking Spanish was wearing me out, so I reverted to my mother tongue for a while. Laura seemed anxious to practice her English anyway, so it was good for both of us.

I'd worked up an apetite exploring the palace, and wasn't sated by our ice cream, so she took me to a nearby tapas bar. We ordered more tinto con limón, and I tried swordfish for the first time. (I knowwww... I'm a horrible person.) It was tasty, but my ethical uneasiness detracted a bit from the experience.

After a great day together, Laura and I parted ways. By the time I returned to my hotel, showered and played some piano, I was hungry again. Determined to find a vegetarian meal, I approached a promising-looking restaurant just down the block.

The tomato slices topped with a hunk of cheese weren't bad, but the creamed spinach with garbanzo beans was quite disappointing. The salad with Russian dressing wasn't great either. Spanish food is nothing like Latin food, and I definitely prefer the latter.

Packing up at my hotel, I turned on the TV, and was surprised to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, dubbed in Spanish. I chuckled to myself, then flipped through a few other channels: news, sports, and American programs were about it. I finally settled on a channel playing classical Spanish guitar music, which was quite nice.

Making sure to set my alarms, I settled in to bed, content, but slightly nervous; tomorrow I would travel to Cádiz, where my TESOL* program would begin on Monday.
*Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages