Category Archives: Spain

Cathedrals and Palaces in Spain

Author: Amy

All of these sites deserve their own blogs – they have so much history, character and personality of their own.  Unfortunately, we are heading out of Spain and it’s time to get these blogs posted.

The Giralda and Cathedral of Seville – There is a mausoleum with the remains of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral.  Part of his DNA was sent to Huston, Texas and it was confirmed that his remains are here.  He is held up by 4 Heralds representing 4 Kingdoms, it’s an amazing display. The Giralda is the Minaret – built between 1184-1198 for the Mosque of Seville.  Minarets provide a visual focal point and are used for the call to prayer. The muezzin would ride his horse up the ramps of the 98 meter tower to call for prayers, 5 times a day.  I would consider this to be the center of Seville, we passed the Cathedral countless times during our stay in Seville.  One evening we saw the 8pm bells toll – it was a magnificent sight and sound that we all will remember.  The Seville Cathedral was built over the Mosque of Seville and it is the biggest “Gothic” temple in the world.

Cathedral of Seville


Christopher Columbus rests here

The Alcázar in Seville is a gorgeous site – it is a group of palaces mostly Arabic style but throughout there is some Gothic influence.  It is filled with mosaic tiles and one room is more beautiful than the next.  Kendal felt she was a princess in another life and hoped this was where she lived.  The gardens here are beautiful.  There is a huge labyrinth of 6 foot tall shrubs that the kids ran through for more than an hour.  We went here with my brother and his family and sent him and his wife to the Cathedral – we stayed back with the kids and let them enjoy the outdoor gardens.  It was a fun day.


Fountain at Alcázar

Hiding in the Labyrinth garden at Alcázar

Gardens of Alcázar

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain.  My understanding is that this location was the last stand for the Moors before the Christians invaded and took it all over in 1492. It is also where Christopher Columbus received the support of Isabella and Ferdinand to sail to the New World.  It is a wonderful retreat.   We took a day trip by train with my brother and his family.  It is a very busy place and they only allow people to enter morning or afternoon.  We arrived at 11am but were not allowed in until 2pm.  Visiting the main palace is dependant by the time they give you.  We were given 4pm, our train left at 5pm.  We considered trying to get a peek and running to the train but people were in line at 3:30 – a lot of people!  Rather than be rushed we skipped it.  The Alhambra is really an estate with multiple castles and gardens.  The scalloped windows frame the beautiful views of Granada and the snow-capped mountains.  A huge part of the Moorish influence is the gardens and their water features.   Water was the purest symbol of life to the Moors.  It’s truly a beautiful site and even more are the views of the surroundings snow-capped mountains.  Hope you enjoy the photos

On our way to Granada

Beautiful water features at the Alhambra

In the Palace of Charles V

Gorgeous view from Alhambra - snow-capped mountains

Inside the Roman Baths at the Alhambra

We always love the ancient water systems


Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Spain


Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza– Sevilla, Spain

Author: Steve

Unfortunately or fortunately it is not bullfighting season in Spain, it typically starts up around Easter and goes through to the end of summer, with a few exceptions throughout the year. This time of year the bullfighting moves to South America and Mexico.  We did however take a walk over to the main bullfighting ring here in Seville, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, for a tour.  This ring was constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries.  It was very interesting to learn more about this deep Spanish tradition of bullfighting, like how it was a sport that took place for Spanish Kings and Royalty back in the 8th to 15th centuries, it changed during that time from a fight on horseback to a fight on foot. Before the bullfight came to Spain it’s history originated from the sacrificing of bulls in ancient Greece through Roman times.

We weren’t allowed to run around the ring like I wanted to so that was a little disappointing.  I always thought they had locker rooms, so I was hoping to check out where the matadors get psyched up but they have no locker rooms . . . they get dressed at home or if they are visiting, at their hotel room.  I think if it would have been bullfighting season Keegan and I would have gone to see one but I doubt we would have enjoyed the long brutal process.

On January 1, 2012 a ban of bullfighting in Catalonia took effect.  Barcelona, which resides in the Catalonia region, saw their last bullfight at the end of this last season on September 25, 2011.  A lot of controversy surrounds this topic in Spain; some believing with great passion in preserving this deep tradition and others want to eliminate the barbaric nature of this sport. The fight to ban bullfighting in Andalucia (Sevilla falls within this region) will be a tougher battle due to the much stronger support of maintaining all their deep traditions and how they view this has a pure art-form. Only time will tell . . .

The entrance to the Plaza de Toros

Kendal in the museum

In front of the area reserved for royalty, that's as close as they'd let us non-royals get.

The ring just begging us to run around on it

This beautiful chapel is located right before the matador enters the primary door to the ring. It's the matadors time to say his prayers.

Here is the "Puerta Principle" the principle or main door to enter the ring. We tried to lose our guide so we could sneak in the ring but she was watching us too close.

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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Spain


Jamon, Jamon and more Jamon – Spain

Author: Steve

It is uncanny the amount of ham that is not only eaten but displayed in this country. It is truly a religious icon of staggering power.  To not eat ham in this country I believe would be social suicide. Spaniards are the largest consumers of ham in the world, it’s estimated that each Spaniard eats about 5 kilo’s of cured ham per year, that’s over 11 pounds!  The last few days as we went out for tapa’s I imagined myself with my head face down on the table raising my hand in the air mumbling, “no más jamon, no más jamon”.  I definitely appreciate the intense curing process involved, the many different types of ham and how differently the livestock is fed.  Most of it is really great tasting, in fact I’ve read that Spain’s ham is some of the best and nutritious in the world . . . but every meal?

In any case I researched what the great fascination is between this country and it’s ham and sure enough, it dates back to some religious origins.  The history of ham dates back as far as 1300 B.C. when the Celts arrived in what is now Spain and ham was so important to their survival that they had granite statues of pigs made and used as territorial markers and tombstones. The Muslims ruled Spain between 711 A.D. and 1492 and in the Quran it is strictly forbidden to consume pigs. However, when the Christians regained control of the region and kicked out the Jews and Moors, it was again popular and symbolic to eat pork to display openly that you were not a Jew or a Moor. It was another way for the Spanish Inquisition to monitor who was not converted to Christianity because they refused to eat pork.  If the convertor did eat pork they sometimes still didn’t believe you really converted and you were arrested for questioning and many times worse.  This is a symbol of cultural strength, defiance and fortitude over hundreds of years and so proudly displayed throughout the streets of Spain.  So basically some five-hundred years later and Spain is still shoveling down ham like there’s no tomorrow.





and more Jamon


Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Spain


Calle de San Jacinto – Triana

Author: Steve

As I’ve mentioned before in past blogs, our street, Calle de San Jacinto, is a very active pedestrian location. A couple Friday’s ago we were heading out the door to catch a bus for a day trip to Jerez and as luck would have it they were putting up a stage in the middle of Calle de San Jacinto for a flamenco show.  We decided to forgo the Jerez trip and do it the next day so we could see the show. One of the main pastry shops was setting up a big table outside to sell some great pastries.  After listening to the flamenco for a while we decided to buy a treat.  I got in the semi-long line and right as I was about to ask for a cookie, a man (I believe he was the owner) comes out with a large pan of, what looked like custard with cookies crumbled on top. The crowd, all with lustful smiles, became slightly aggressive and I was pushed out of the way.  Before the man started to spoon it out a news reporter came up with a cameraman to interview the owner regarding this desert.  Needless to say I was quite curious as to why these people wanted that custard dish so bad.  After doing my best to stand my ground I looked over at Amy and the kids, they were sitting and talking to a grandfather-type gentleman and they were all looking at me (laughing) with a euro in one hand and holding it straight out.  Okay I guess that’s the trick, so I started holding my euro up high to get what I wanted.  I got one for us to share and it was very good. We think it’s a warm flan, which made the dessert the texture of pudding, the gentleman Amy was talking to rubbed his large belly and said with a big smile, “it’s just a lot of sugar and flour”.

Keegan in front of the stage right before the performers came out. It would be hard to count how many times they had a stage on this street while we were there.

This was the first stand they put up . . . oh my gosh how they love their churros!! They even add additional stands throughout the city during the holidays. A favorite treat that we've seen is dipping their churro's in chocolate sauce.

Here's the cameraman and news reporter interviewing the owner with his dessert. I'm in the background after being pushed back. When the dessert was only half gone the owner would just grab a spoon full and eat from the pan, a quadruple dipper - true story.

Got my euro and ready to buy.

Another day we headed out I was very nervous for the safety of my family . . . the last few days prior to this they had been remodeling the facade of a building for a new bank a few doors down. As I walked out the door I looked up and saw 2 snipers on the roof in front of our apartment and there were people blocked off from the bank and that section of the street with police tape. Amy thought immediately that they were probably bringing money to the bank especially with all the police cars everywhere you looked.  I told them to hold still I would go check it out.  As I got to the line I saw a man walking out of the bank with his hands semi-raised and then I saw another man behind him. The man behind him had his jacket open and under his jacket you could clearly see a vest of EXPLOSIVES!  All I’m thinking at this point is these people are crazy and my first thought was to yell to Amy and tell her to run and save the children. But as I looked around everyone was smiling.  Well they were shooting a movie and the guy in front was the Director giving the explosives guy/actor direction.  We stayed and watched for a while since we had never been so close to a filming like this in our lives. We got to see everything it was very interesting.  We always felt we were walking on a movie set as we walked down our street and seems like we were.

Snipers on the roof.

The blocked off street used as a movie set.

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Spain


School in Tomares – Spain

Author: Kendal

While in Sevilla we were able to experience a Spanish school in a town called Tomares. We went with our American friend Alex, who had invited us to some of his classes. At the school, all the kids are learning English. Keegan and I felt like we were celebrities because all the kids wanted to talk to us.  They had me stand in front of one of the classrooms and give a small presentation about the trip that we are on. I had to use simple words though and talk a little slowly because they weren’t all very good English speakers yet. Some of them even asked questions about things like; what’s my favorite color, what do you like to do in your free time, and the most common one  “do you like Justin Bieber?” Keegan went to a music class and was able to play an instrument (they played the Star Wars theme song). It was all very fun and most of the teachers there spoke some English so that was nice. The town was really cute, and since it was only a short bus ride away we went back during the weekend to watch a soccer game. The town had a special Christmas area with little rides and an ice rink (ok it wasn’t really ice more like hard plastic, we skated on it though). While there we ran into some of the kids from the school and we talked with them for a little while, hung out at the “ice” rink and went to a restaurant with them as well. One of the girl’s moms is American so she spoke perfect English with us; the girl’s grandma was also in town visiting from Virginia.  I do miss my girl time with my friends so it was nice to “hang” with some girls and have some laughs.  Special thanks to Alex and José Manuel for letting us visit their school.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!!  Kendal

Here is the soccer game we went to in Tomares - I think they were a semi-pro team. It was fun because when Tomares would score the players would run and hug the little kids watching from the side of the field.

Keegan and I had lunch with a couple of the girls from school that we ran into while we were there on the weekend.

Keegan skating on the eco-friendly ice rink.

Tomares is a beautiful small town, we loved going there.


Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Spain


Feliz Navidad! – Spain

Author: Amy

Feliz Navidad! One of the customs in Spain is to have an extravagant nativity scene or Belén.  Yes, Mary, Joseph and little baby Jesus but then add on the whole village of Bethlehem; the shops, the farms, little fires roasting meals, whole neighborhoods, etc. They are fun to stop and look at as we wander about town.  Our Flamenco teacher’s family has one of the best we’ve seen and they open the doors to their home for two showings per day for anyone who wants to take a look. As Kendal and I left one day from one of our classes there were three classes of very cute five and six year olds waiting patiently in line to go in and see the Belén, they had walked over from a nearby school for this field trip. In the center of town, right behind the Cathedral, there is a large market specifically for selling the little figures that make up the scene.  Another tradition is that the Three Kings; Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior (Steve made me add their names, thought someone might be curious) bring gifts to the children on January 6th.  Christmas is for family celebration and the sharing of a large meal, not presents.  Some families are slowly changing and give gifts on Christmas but most hang on strong to the tradition of the Three Kings.  As we walk about in the evening the streets are filled with lights – each street has a different design  – we all have fun searching out these different designs.

We feel so blessed to be able to spend this holiday with my brother and his family.  My mom had to have an emergency open-heart surgery 2 days ago and all went well.  The blessings of coming from a large family where there are others there to look after my parents during this year is something I take for granted from time to time but I am so very grateful to my siblings for being there for my parents.

Wishing everyone a loving and peaceful Christmas. Merry Christmas to one and all!

We took a day trip to the city of Jerez and ran across this life-sized Nativity in the center of town.

They made everything very realistic in this Belén.

This Belén is close to our apartment and has a live mule, 4 lambs, 6 rabbits and 3 chickens.

This is the Belén in our flamenco teachers house, her parents put it together and are so proud to share it with everyone and anyone.

Here's another view, it's an L-shaped table and goes around to the left. They have a bright light up above on the ceiling that's on a timer. It dims on and off very slowly sending the scene from day into night and it's really beautiful. They have little lit up fireplaces and running water. They have to water the grass because it's real sod.

This guy comes every evening to the end of our street and plays Christmas music and displays his Belén from the back of his car.

Here's one section of the market that sells all the Belén figures and supplies you could ever need.

The Three Kings with their bags of toys of good boys and girls!

Look who's climbing up an apartment building with toys. . .

In Jerez Steve and Keegan got to speak with one of the Kings and he told Keegan to write down what he wanted and put it in his box. Then he gave Keegan a handful of candy.

This amazing display of festive lights is all throughout Sevilla.

That's my brother with my niece on his shoulders checking out all the sites. The blondie in the sea of brunettes.

Keegan and I under more festive lights.

Beautiful Christmas trees in front of the Cathedral.

Having a great night out with my brother and sister in-law before we headed to a flamenco show around the block.Feliz Navidad from Sevilla!


Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Spain


Advice for Parents – Sevilla, Spain

OK it is I the one who writes blogs (aka Keegan).

Parents do you have any trouble touring cities with kids??? Well I am writing this blog for you! Here is a list of steps you can do to keep your kids happy while touring!

The Happy Touring Guide For Parents With Kids!

Number 1. You have to identify the problem; are they tired, sad or mad.

Number 2. Give the kids their own money to spend for that day.

Number 3. Pass a local candy store on purpose but say to your kids “Oh look here a candy store. Do you guys want to go in here?” That will get your kids hooked!

Number 4. Once your kids have their OWN bag of candy they will most likely stay happy until they run out of candy.

Number 5. If they ever get a little cranky or mad or sad shove a piece of candy in their mouth!

I guarantee you that this method will work every time! If not, you did not do one of the five steps correctly, but if you did and they are still cranky or mad or sad then just get them home or… well I don’t know it has always worked for me.

The Glorious Sign - you have found the right place!

Ok so now that I have given you a list of steps to do I will tell you a story on how those steps worked in action.

My parents wanted to go to the Metropol Parasol in the Plaza de la Encarnacion ‬for the day, which is like a huge mushroom modern structure that was just built in the middle of town.  We went there and we took an elevator to the top. It was really cold so my mom and dad got a cup of joe and we got some hot coco to warm us up. Then we walked around on the top of it. After that Kendal and I wanted to go home but of course my parents wanted to walk around some more so Kendal and I looked at each other and knew what we had to do! We had to be cranky or sad or mad. Then our parents walked by our favorite candy store in Seville (Wonkandy) and then because we had some of our own spending money we asked to go in. We got some candy and then we were happy right until we got to our apartment! So that is one of the times the Happy Touring Guide With Kids has worked for us.

The elevator - going up!

A view from the top of the Metropol Parasol. They say it's the worlds biggest structure held together by glue.

Another view from the top. They say it's the worlds largest wooden structure. It's totally different than the buildings around it.

Once in a while my dad even likes to put a plastic glove on and grab candy too.

Oh how I love my WonKandy!


Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Spain


Castillo de San Jorge – Triana

Author: Steve

On a drizzling overcast day last week we decided to go to the Castillo de San Jorge Museum and it was well worth the 3 minute walk (it’s right down the block on our street, Calle San Jacinto, just before you head over the bridge into the heart of Sevilla) and free admission.  I personally loved this museum, it is laid out well with great information and because it’s free I can scoot over by myself and read about something that I didn’t quite understand the last time I was there.  You can see everything in less than an hour.  The museum is under the Mercado de Triana, when they started to renovate portions of the Mercado back in the 1990’s they unearthed some incredible ruins from the Castillo de San Jorge.  For almost 300 years, between 1481 and 1785 this area was the actual Seat of the Holy Inquisition in Spain. The Inquisition was an independent institution of the Church, supported by the Crown to prosecute false Christians and heretics.  The Inquisition was first implemented to remove the remains of Judaism and Islam but not only did they deal with heretics but also bigamous, blasphemers, usurers, sodomites, witches, wizards and clerics accused of sexual misconduct.  An ‘auto de fe’ was the ritual of public penance that took place on the condemned once the Spanish Inquisition had decided their punishment.  The punishment most notably was ‘burning at the stake’ but could have been a number of horrible sentences.  I looked up some of the torture and execution techniques used during this time and one can almost get sick just imagining it.  What is fascinating to me is that as I walk the streets of Sevilla I notice the areas where many of the ‘auto de fe’s’ took place, places like the steps of the Cathedral de Sevilla, the Plaza de San Francisco and the church of Santa Ana which is a few blocks from our apartment.  Places where people now gather to laugh, pray and have festivals; complete opposite reasons to gather than ‘auto de fe’s”.  As I stood there the other day in front of Santa Ana (we went to see a beautiful nativity scene with live animals in front of the church) I tried to envision the terrible atrocities that took place there (I don’t know why) and I imagined all the people that would come and watch these punishments/executions and cheer on the process . . . scary times.

I feel humbled to be in an area with such incredible history right outside my door.

As you start the walk in the museum they have a phrase on the wall that really sticks with you, “Value judgements, abuses of power and the victims of both have always existed in the past, and will continue to exist in the future. This place is part of you. This is part of your history”.

Castillo de San Jorge - Triana

This image became the sinister iconic symbol of the Spanish Inquisition

Inside the museum of the Castillo de San Jorge

A view of one of the Bodega's in the Castillo

Here's a shot of the Mercado on the left and as you can see the Museum entrance is straight ahead. The building behind the entrance with the ceramic dome is the Chapel of the Virgen de Carmen

Catedral de Sevilla - the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world

Iglesia de Santa Ana - build in the 13th century, its construction began in 1276. Santa Ana was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus


Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Spain


Parque Maria Luisa – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Amy

While in Sevilla we are getting around town by foot.  It is a condensed area and we are able to get around quite easily.  Every day we get out and explore, today we headed to Parque Maria Luisa.  After walking about 40 minutes to get to the huge park, which is part of the Plaza de España, we decided to treat ourselves with the four person bike.  It was a lot of fun and Kendal was definitely our motor.  It’s a great way to enjoy the park because there is so much to see.  There are statues, ponds and fountains throughout.  We even went into the two museums that were there; the Traditional Arts and Customs Museum and the Archaeological Museum.  Beautiful buildings one had all sorts of tools used throughout time and the other was full of marble statues from uncovered ruins. The park is just gorgeous. One of the ways to know you’re in Sevilla is the orange tree’s – they are everywhere! Our timing of cities is often in the “off-season” to get better rates on lodging, etc.  The weather really hasn’t been an issue as good locations are nice even in the “off-season”.  The afternoon was cool but very pleasant.  The streets are full of people enjoying the outdoors.  The parks always have an outdoor café that serves coffee, beer and snacks.  The cafés are full of well-dressed people enjoying themselves.  The Plaza de España has a waterway in front of it that you can rent rowboats and row around, it is an outing we have saved for another day but are looking forward to trying.

On a side note – you may have noticed the +follow tab that pops up on the blog.  If you are interested in getting an email each time we have a new post (so you don’t have to check the site randomly) just click on the follow button and it will tell you what to do.


A pretty hill with a gazebo on top.

The Traditional Arts and Customs Museum

Enjoying the ride!

Archaeological Museum

One of the MANY orange trees. We didn't really pick one - we don't know the rules but people don't seem to pick them.

Mother, daughter moment in the park.

The Plaza de España - see the rowboat behind us.

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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Spain


I Want To Be A Stuntman! – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Keegan

Hi it’s me again, today I am writing about an awesome stunt.  On Sunday after church we came back to our apartment and tried to open the door, then we remembered that the other set of keys was in the key slot inside the apartment so we couldn’t get in!  BIG MISTAKE!  The windows all have bars on the outside of them and were locked. Luckily we left the bathroom window open just a crack the problem was it was about 6 feet off the ground and the only person that could fit through the bars and maybe the window is . . . yes, you guessed correctly, me. We thought that might be our only option that we could do because everything is closed on Sunday and the locksmith would have cost a lot of money and who knows when he would have got there. Our landlord, José Manuel, was really nice but never heard of someone doing such a thing – crazy Americans.  He was going to try to contact a locksmith for us but my dad told him we had one more option, to see if I could fit in the window.  José Manuel told us to go for it and he would start looking for the locksmiths’ number.  It was our only hope – my dad wasn’t a big fan of the plan.  Wait before I start to tell you any more you have to remember that there are bars on the outside of this window as well. Once I got through the bars I would have to open a window that was about the size of a . . . um oh yes I know the size of 4 small toaster ovens 2 by 2 next to each other and on top of each other. OK on with the story, my dad helped me get up closer to the window and then he held my leg so I didn’t fall backwards. So I got to the window with only my stomach and up inside of the very tiny frame. Then I had to move a latch that held the window open and make the window fall down but still be attached to the window hinge. Then I had to turn my body all the way around (I was all tangled in a ball) so I was feet first and my stomach was on the windowsill. At that time I was holding on to the bars with my feet inside of the bathroom. Hopefully you will see some of the action because my sister video taped most of my Mission Impossible stunt.  My mom tried to hook my long sleeve shirt that I wasn’t wearing so I would have a hold but at the time I was really stressed so I didn’t get the message. Have I told you yet how scared I was! I was panting and I was crying inside of my head! BOY I was scared! But in the end I got inside of the apartment and let them in and from now on we will NEVER leave the other set of keys in the door while all four of us are out and about. I really hope the video turns out!

Note: the video turned out really good but we decided not to post it because we don’t want to teach people how to break into this apartment. If you want to see it remind me and I’ll show you when I get home.

Here's my dad helping me get started.

The space looks bigger than it really was.

Here's my first disguise in the next Mission Impossible movie.


Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Spain


Flamenco Dancing – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Kendal

Last week we went to the Flamenco Dance Museum in Sevilla. We were able to see the museum, take a flamenco dance class and watch a show. The museum was, well . . . a museum.  The class was really cool because our teacher was also the lady in the show; she was really nice and an incredible dancer.  She kept telling Dad to stop shaking his hips so much.  In Flamenco women move their hands a certain way and lead with their middle finger and men lead with their pinky fingers.  The show was really fun to watch because the sun had gone down outside and all the lights were off inside except for a few candles.  It was a very romantic ambiance.  It was really amazing when they were dancing, they got so into it and their sweat was flying off of them into the crowd – that was a bit gross! Sometimes it even hit you so the 3D for the show was a thumbs-up.

Mom and I started taking Flamenco classes this week with a nice lady, who I think used to be a professional when she was younger.  The classes are at her house which is also a cool ceramic store and flamenco studio, it’s right around the corner from our apartment.  We are learning the local folkloric dance ‘Sevillanas’ and it’s really a fun time . . . me, my mom and the teacher laugh a lot.

Bye and thanks for checking on us!

This was on our way to the Flamenco Dance Museum. There are so many cool streets and neighborhoods to walk through.

While we walked through the museum we didn't realize that this was going to be where we took our dance class but it was.

This was my favorite dress in the museum.

Our teacher was nice enough to take a picture of us, she told us to yell olé!

This is on our way back to the apartment . . . that's the back of the Catedral de Sevilla and the Giralda Tower. It was such a pretty night.


Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Spain


Clase de Español – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Keegan and Steve

Hola ¿Qué tal?  That means, hi, how are you, in Spanish.  As all may know we are now officially in España (Spain in Spanish).  We took some Spanish classes and for me they were difficult.  But for my dad he already knows Spanish pretty well because his parents would speak to him in Spanish when he grew up. Kendal, she should know Spanish because she took Spanish for two years in 7th and 8th grade but . . . she didn’t talk it much in 7th and 8th grade so she learned that speaking it is even harder.  My mom she knows Spanish (she took lots of classes growing up) but she just doesn’t like to speak it.  Even though my dad knows Spanish pretty well he didn’t teach me Spanish as a kid, why he didn’t I DON’T KNOW!  I probably would have done a lot better in this class so I guess I will blame my bad performance on my dad . . . no offense.  I wanted to learn . . . más o menos (more or less) and my dad said I did learn but I don’t think I did.  My mom told me we are going to keep learning on our own and keep doing study sessions at Starbucks in the city center (after class we would go for a tapas lunch and then go to Starbucks to do our homework, it’s a really cool area).  My mom says that when I take Spanish class back home I should do well because of this class . . . we’ll see.  My Spanish teacher was pretty awesome his name was Juan Carlos and we played some Spanish games with him to help us learn Spanish. We also learned that he doesn’t live far from us in Triana. Thank you Juan Carlos!

Here we are with our teacher Juan Carlos

View from our Starbucks study-hall window - they play cool American Christmas music

We finished our week of initial Spanish classes and it went well.  Kendal and Keegan definitely learned a lot and for Amy, because she was in that class with the kids, it was a great refresher course for her.

I took one Spanish class in 8th grade and most the kids in the school I went to spoke Spanish so I don’t recall learning much grammatically . . . let’s just say there was a lot of scary distractions in that school.  What I remember the most is strategically figuring out ways to make it through that class, not to mention everyday, without getting my butt kicked.  Surprisingly, Spanish was not offered in my High School. When I went to college my mother strongly recommended I take a Spanish entrance test “NO SEAS TONTO, TAKE THE STUPID TEST!!” and somehow I tested out of a number of classes (great money savings).  I ended up in a conversational class with a buddy, it was a long Thursday night class, we laughed from beginning to end every Thursday before heading out for a night of college camaraderie (ahhh the good old days).  So, not much to show for my classroom Spanish education and grammatically . . . I’d say I stink.  Jumping in this class, which was in chapter 7, (some students are here for up to 10 weeks) I felt over my head. Four hours everyday was . . . suficiente para mi cabeza!  One of the main benefits of such a small class is that you are forced to learn, your involvement is not a choice.  The little I know I completely owe to my parents who spoke Spanish to me growing up, I am so grateful for that . . . and yes, I definitely wish I would have responded in Spanish.  I hope to have that same determination to speak to my own kids in Spanish which is easier said that done.  The class consisted of 6 other students with various backgrounds – all interesting stories.  We were all happy with our classes and for the next 5 weeks we will just keep trying to get better by getting out there and talking to people.

This is the inside of our school - it was a very Spanish building

Here is my class - it was a great diverse group that allowed for interesting dialogue with very different yet similar opinions of current world events. We had a student from Japan majoring in Spanish; a retired professional from Italy; a linguist from the UK that just returned from Afghanistan; a clinical psychologist from the US; a South Korean student spending a year in Spain to learn spanish, a retired French military helicopter pilot and me. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to spent so much time with each of them that week.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Spain


Happy Thanksgiving from Sevilla, Spain

Author: Amy

Gracias, Thank you, Danke, Dankie, Ef Charisto, Grazie, Hvala, Merci

To you who read and follow our blog; on this Thanksgiving Day, which we will spend in Sevilla, Spain, we feel so completely grateful for so many things.  Thanksgiving to me is like a cozy hug of a holiday spent with family staying warm and eating good food.

With a humble voice we are thankful for . . .

  • our health – our family – our freedom – our friends old and new – the wonders of nature – random kindness of strangers – google maps – great food – virtual school – the Kindle and for excellent readers – teachers – Amor – clean water – historians and those that chose to preserve history so we can learn – Democracy – all the heroes that had the strength and determination to change history for the better . . . our list is endless.

We found our favorite tapa restaurant last night and it's only a block away. Taberna Paco España! The food is awesome and the service is even better. The owner ran after us as we were leaving to give the kids candy for the walk home. To live for a while in Sevilla walking everywhere within clean, beautiful cobblestone streets is truly something we are thankful for.


Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Spain


Has Anyone Seen Our Luggage?? – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Steve

We left our apartment in Cape Town at 6:30am on a Monday and got to our new apartment in Sevilla on Tuesday at 5:30pm.  That was a long 2 days of travel . . . which we are kind of getting used to (not that we like it all the time but; it is what it is).  The very frustrating thing was that for some reason our luggage never made it to Sevilla.  We called and called and sent email after email trying to track it down. We didn’t seem to be getting much response other than, “we don’t know where they are, but we’re trying to track them”.   Luckily we always take all important documents and electronic gear with us as carry-on so we were not as frazzled as we might have been since all we needed to replace was the backpacks and clothes that aren’t that expensive to begin with.  Thursday we were off to start the process of slowly buying new clothes.  Before we headed out we called one more time to check and they said they found them (not sure when they were going to call us) and that we could pick them up that evening when they arrived.  We let them know that we were told that our luggage would be delivered to our apartment; however, they said that because they came from outside the EU they would have to go through customs and a bomb detector and we would need to be present for that process.  A small annoyance that we were happy to accept as long as we got our backpacks back . . . and we did.

Now to some fun stuff . . . José Manuel, the apartment owner, met us at our apartment, he has spent some years in the US as an Educational Ambassador for Spain so his English is excellent.  He is a great guy that was gracious enough to take us out for dinner (great tapas) on our first night in Triana (the neighborhood we are actually residing while in Sevilla – I’ll get to our location in another blog).  José Manuel explained some of the many nuances of the area and if that wasn’t a nice enough introduction he also introduced us to Alex, a young teacher from the US that is here teaching English to Middle School level kids.  José Manuel and Alex (the only teacher at this school that teaches English as a specialty) have invited Kendal and Keegan to go and spend time with their students to help teach and also learn some Spanish.  Kendal and Keegan were quite happy with their invitation and are very excited to see another school setting.

Other than a bumpy first part of the week, uncertain whether we would ever see our luggage again . . . we couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off this leg of our adventure.

We are definitely in a traditional neighborhood and not a tourist area (which is exactly what we were looking for) but we now know that this really puts more responsibility on us to reach out and get involved.  We’ve learned that we need to take a day to get situated after long travel but as soon as possible get schedules worked out.  The issue that obviously makes things more difficult is the language barrier.  English in this area is not as prevalent as we have experienced in other European areas.  So, we are all signed up for Spanish classes this week.  Amy and the kids are doing a private lesson for 2 hours each day and I’m in a group of 7 students for 4 hours each day.  After the first week we will decide if we want to stick with this school or move on to another one for more variety or just try to wing it.  TIme will tell.

It’s been raining the last few days so it’s been hard to get the camera out and take some pictures but this week should be better . . . it really is a beautiful neighborhood with incredible history.  Our apartment is on a pedestrian only street, which was a nice surprise.  I was a little concerned with the location at first because as you may know they stay out until 3, 4 or 5 am here having fun (we’ve come home at 10:30 and 11:00 some nights and it seemed like things were just getting going – which wouldn’t surprise me if this was a vacation spot or if it was a holiday but it’s just regular week days).  However, as we walk into our courtyard and up to our apartment we hear absolutely nothing from the street, its amazing. So we get the great, constant action of Calle San Jacinto and the quietness of our apartment.

Thanks Amy for getting us in another great location!

Here is our street, Calle San Jacinto, we are half way down on the right side.

We are also a half a block away from El Mercado de Triana - it's very big and full of incredible produce and shops

Here we are with our new friend Alex and behind us is the Metropol Parasol. An incredible structure that was just recently completed. We plan to go back and not only learn more about this structure but walk on the top


Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Spain