Two weekends ago my friends and I went to Cadiz, a small beach town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the oldest city in all of Spain that was founded by the Phoenicians in 1104 B.C.We saw some gorgeous old buildings as well and their famous gold-domed cathedral. We spent pretty much all day at the beach and just walked through the city buying souvenirs in the evening. We tried the local food - tons of fried fish. We had squid, dogfish, and a few other types of fish that I had no clue what they were - we told the waiter to bring us his favorite dishes and it was all really good. Our hostel was really nice too, we shared the room with 3 other people that we didn't know, but they were very friendly. It was a really cool building - four stories with a roof-top terrace that had a ton of super comfortable hammocks and the entire place was decorated with beautiful Spanish tile. It was a very relaxing weekend and it was nice to have time at the beach to work on my tan and get away from the stress of schoolwork! We took the AVE (high-speed train) back to Sevilla Sunday evening and it was a quick 1:30 ride...so much nicer than the buses we've been traveling on lately!
This past weekend a group of my friends from the program and I went to Gibraltar (a British colony in the very south of Spain) for a day trip. We went with a planned tour group so it was nice not to have to worry about planning anything for once and to just be along for the ride. It was a 2 hour bus ride but our tour guide illegally downloaded the new movie Hangover 2 for us to watch so that made the time go by much faster. When we got there we had to get our passports checked and go through customs since we were technically in the UK and had left Spain (unfortunately no passport stamp, just like in Portugal!).
It was definitely one of the most interesting places I've been - it was so strange to see everything in English, use the Pound, and have the typical red phone booths, fish and chips, pubs, and British flags everywhere. The population of Gibraltar is pretty mixed - there are a lot of British people that live there but there are also Spaniards who moved there. I wasn't expecting it to be so beautiful - Gibraltar is the southernmost point in Europe meaning that its the place where the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans collide (Europa Point), the water was gorgeous. You could also see Africa from there (Morocco) - it was so close! We started out the trip with a bus ride up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar (its huge!) where we toured St. Michael's Cave, a huge cave with tons of stalactite formed by dripping water. We hiked through it for almost an hour, there was so much to see and we got lost several times. The coolest part was the auditorium at the very bottom of the cave - apparently the acoustics are amazing and they hold concerts there a lot during the summer. After the hike through the cave I saw what I had been waiting for - the monkeys. They were EVERYWHERE, and so adorable yet sneaky. The first monkey experience we had was a tiny monkey clapping his hands and dancing around us to distract us while his friend stole Erin's apple! Such tricksters. We took the bus down to a part of the Rock where a bunch of monkey families live/hang out during the day and we took tons of pictures - one monkey even climbed on my back and started eating my hair.
After this we had 3 hours of free time in the city where we got some amazing Indian food - I hadn't had it in forever and it was just what I needed, something very different from Spanish food. We then walked around the old city to do some shopping and sight-seeing. We saw a lot of the old British buildings like the governor's mansion and the royal chapel, all of the houses and buildings were very colorful and had tons of flowers all over. It was so strange to still be in the Iberian Peninsula but not be in Spain or Portugal, I literally felt like I had hopped on a plane to the UK without realizing it. It was such a great experience, its one of those places you'll probably only go once in your life and it was definitely worth the trip.
Sadly, Gibraltar was my last trip before the program ends. But I am SO excited for my parents to get here on Friday and I can't wait for the amazing trips we have in store for us - a few days in Sevilla then Granada, Ronda, Malaga, Barcelona, and Madrid! It is going to be a great two weeks :) Its supposed to be an average of 102 degrees this week, so hopefully that cools down by the time they get here! Hasta pronto