After my last trip to Granada I felt an itch to travel more and more. I knew wanted to see new places throughout Spain and Europe, do some more self-discovery, and just go explore. Before I left Alicante for another weekend, the wonderful festival Carnaval came to town. Carnaval is a festive season that happens immediately before Lent, with the main event happening in mid February. The festival involves a parade, celebration, and a public street party. Las Ramblas, the main street in Alicante, was decorated with huge garnishing, had two stages for concerts, and vendors in the middle. It seems as if Spaniards, of all ages, love an excuse to dress up and light off some fireworks!
Carnaval is a time when everyone dresses up as well, comparable to Halloween in the states. My friend and I went to Don Dino, a local costume shop to pick up some masks and a vaquero (cowboy) outfit for me, and since we live on the Mediterranean I felt it was appropriate to ride a sea horse for the night. Before I left to my friend’s piso or apartment, I helped my host sister and her friend prepare their cat costumes and intricate face paint. My Carnaval experience was a lot of fun while I socialized and danced the night away. It is known that the Brazilian Carival is one of the best-known celebrations today, and the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. However, I was greatly satisfied with the Alicantian Carnaval.
The week after, a good bit of our USAC group signed up for an excursion to Morocco! We all had to wake up extremely early the day after class to catch a flight into Sevilla, where we had 8 hours to kill before the trip started. Luckily I had a friend who was studying there and he gave us an awesome tour of the city. After a very early Spanish Scramble breakfast, we went to the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world and the 4th largest Gothic cathedral (that had Christopher Columbus remains), the Mushroom, walked along the river, and went to Plaza de España, one of my favorite spots that was also featured in a Star Wars movie! Check out this picture, and then watch this video.
Then it was time to board our bus to catch my first ever ferry, cross the straight of Gibraltar, and check into our hotel in Tangiers. After resting up the first night after an extremely long day of travel, our first destination was Tetouan, which stands as a relic of beauty of Northern Morocco overlooking the sea. We passed through many markets with our guide Muhammad, through a tannery and past where the king of Morocco once lived. On our bus ride back to stopped along the coast for some camel rides, and at the Caves of Hercules. Truly an awesome place. During our lunch in Tetouan we of course at couscous with a wonderful show by a little band and a man juggling cups of fire!
The next morning started off as an eventful one. When we were riding to Chefchaouen a Morocco boy tried to hide in the engine compartment of our bus, thinking we were going to Spain. Sitting in the back of the bus I stared down at a pulsating floorboard, and luckily he got out okay. This was definitely a new and alarming experience for me! Once we got to Chefchaouen we had another walking tour of the city and had a chance to bargain in the markets. I got a chance to buy some Moroccan handcrafted slippers! The city was awesome, nestled between two mountains, houses painted all white with blue doors, which was all topped off with an amazing lunch. Some of the most common dishes are tagines and couscous. The lunch we ate at the Casa de Aladdin, which had an awesome interior design, was couscous with chicken, liver, lemon pepper, olives, and apricots. Delicious! The night in Chefchaouen was our last in Morocco and after a long bus ride, ferry, another long bus ride, and flight we made it back safely to Alicante.
After a week of class another day trip was in store for a few friends and me. We took the train to a neighboring city called Elche, where there is the largest concentration of palm trees in the world, around 200,000 to 300,000. We visited the Huerto del Cura which is a botanic tropical garden with many ponds, bamboo, and plants. At the center is the “Imperial Palm Tree” that is composed of about six palm trees supported amongst one another. We also saw the Basilica de Santa Maria and intended to climb one of the towers that overlooks the city, but it was closed. It would have been awesome to see all the palms throughout the entire city!
Aside from staying busy with my studies and a few trips, I also started a new Remo or rowing class. On the port of Alicante about 20 students and I enjoy an evenings worth of rowing, and we are progressively getting better. I have been designated as our leader who calls out “Chop! Fuera,” which basically keeps everyone’s paddle in rhythm when it hits and exits the water. This got old after about the fifth sentence, and now I am convinced chop fuera is a type of Chinese fare. Coming up should be some more relaxation and day trips around the Alicante area. Adios!
Side Note: So far my favorite city is Sevilla!
Some more Carnaval pictures.
Some more Sevilla pictures.
Some more Morocco pictures.
And some Elche pictures.