A day in Triana

On March 6, 2024, the UMass Lowell students visiting Seville, Spain visited Triana, a sector of Seville known for its history in ceramics located on the West side of the Canal De Alfonso XIII. Our first activity of the day brought us to the Mercado de Triana, an indoor shopping plaza located right next to the Plaza del Altozano. Inside in a repurposed fruit shop joined with its neighboring shop was a small theatre where we were set to see the Flamenco act. 

The first act began with the dancer on the stage alone wearing a black dress. With no supporting instruments, the only instrumentals was from her castanets and the rhythmic tapping of her shoes. 
The next act brought in a male singer, who preformed a duet with her slowly moving about him and the third act brought out a solo guitarist who was very talented. Throughout the show, the dancer went through three different costume changes and throughout the show, she preformed with the guitarist and then both him and the singer. I enjoyed how they brought on each performer one by one since it allowed us to enjoy each one individually before merging all three in the very last act. 

The next activity had us at the Flamenco academy down the street. There we got to learn about the history of the dance style from Professor Patricia Lozano. We learned that the origin of Flamenco is a bit foggy, but it came about sometime in the 15th century in Andalusia and its roots can be tied to the migration of the Romani people until the 18th century. They have a predominantly oral culture where stories are passed on verbally, with song and dance taking on a similar treatment. During the lecture, we also learned how to clap along to the different beats in the various style of Flamenco songs, which we would later on do when they had a very talented 17-year-old student dance for us in tandem with two other students, one singing and the other playing guitar. I really enjoyed the performance and was left in awe at how fast the dancer moved and how she seemed to set the pace for everyone else in the performance. 

After the activity, we were given some free time until the Semanta Santa tour later on that day. During my time, I shopped around the Triana neighborhood and the ceramic section. While I expected there to be more shops, I ended up stopping at two and ended up buying a garlic plate, oil dispenser, mug, and an egg cup, all made locally in the neighborhood as indicated by the stamp on the bottom of the pieces. Each piece looked to be hand-painted and hand-spun or cast, meaning that molds likely weren’t used in any of the pieces I bought, as they’re used for mass-produced ceramics, so I was pretty happy with my purchases. 

Later on in the day, around 7pm, we all met back up at the Plaza del Altozano for our walking tour to see the Semanta Santa preparations. The time had been moved back from 5pm since many of the churches would still be doing mass, but despite this, we ended up waiting around an hour for the first one to end, which was a bit disappointing. But once inside, we got to see the beginning preparations of the floats and what it looked like underneath where people would be carrying it on their backs. The floats boasted a lot of intricate silver posts on them, which supported a canopy that would protect the statues that would be set in the center of the float. Many of these statues have been around for 500 years and would be on display in the church, either behind the center altar or off to the side as they were moved around in preparation of the Santa Semanta festival that would be taking place later on in March. Overall, we toured three churches in total, and afterwards, a small group of us went to see the mall next to the Sevilla tower. Since we ended up getting there only 30 minutes to closing, we were under a bit of a time crunch, but managed to buy a rain coat, which would be useful for the rain we would experience the next day in Cordoba.

Overall, I would have to say that my favorite activity that day was shopping about the neighborhood and experiencing the Flamenco performance. Both allowed me to experience the culture of Seville and Spain’s history in dance.

Exploring the History of Cordoba, Spain

Today, I got to experience a different city of Spain, Córdoba; just as breathtaking as Sevilla, and needless to say that I loved it, and spending the day there was one of my favorite parts of the trip. 

To start our trip, we all met up at the student residence, where we took a bus that took us to Córdoba, since it is about two hours away. The day was not very promising in terms of weather because it was meant to rain the whole afternoon, however, before the rain started we had the opportunity to have a nice tour of Cordoba’s historic center, also known as the Jewish Quarter. The city has such an interesting history, because for a while Spain was under the Moorish rule, who are Muslims, and it wasn’t until the end of the Reconquista that the catholics and the Christians were able to take over Spain again, which was around the 1500s. This means that from 711 to the 1500s, Spain was under Moorish rule, and in city’s like Seville, Cordoba, Granada, etc, there are still historical places that you can visit that show what happened in history. Therefore, as you are walking through the historic center of Cordoba, the mixture of the Moorish influence shows, especially in the architecture, but at the same time it is also visible the influence of the Catholics/Christians. Due to this, as you walk through the center, it feels as if you are being taken back in time. 

We first started our visit with a guided tour through the small streets of the Jewish Quarter, where we even got to see what a typical house used to look like back then, with a small open center/courtyard in the middle that connected the whole house. Afterwards, we continued to walk and see the little details that showed the Moorish had once ruled that part of Spain, which we learned that even some of the names of people and things in Spanish come from that time in history and the Arabic language.

We also visited the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, which is also known as the Mezquita, and it is breathtaking how beautiful and well preserved it still is to this day. The outside garden is immense and beautiful, but the inside left me speechless. It is like teleporting back to another era of time. It is all shown through the arches, and the pillars that were carved to perfection and are still standing holding the place together. However, as you walk deeper into the Mezquita, you see that altars were eventually built in the back and in the middle of the church, showing when the Catholics/Christians took over during the Reconquista and tried to bring back their influence into the country.

After the church, we had free time to wander through the small streets, also known as the Jewish Quarter, and eat food. In smaller groups, we all wandered through this area, and by this point the rain had started, so we couldn’t fully go around without getting drenched, but since we had the tour at the beginning, we were not missing out on a lot. However, we were still able to appreciate its beauty while finding a place to eat and going into some local shops, because in this area, all the buildings are white and have a lot of flower pots hanging, and it is just beautiful. Each corner we turned had either a small shop, where you can buy handmade products from the locals, or small restaurants, and each would draw you in with their smell. After going to 2-3 shops and buying some souvenirs, I had an amazing lunch with the group I was with. I tried some new food, called “Flamenquines de Pollo” and which came with potatoes, it was really good, and it felt good to try something new in a new city.

To end our trip, we met again at the entrance of the Mezquita, where everyone reunited and we walked through the city of Cordoba one last time, before going back to Seville. On our way back, all I could think about is how Spain continues to mesmerize me with its beauty and history and each time I see a new place, I continue to fall more in love with the country and its culture.

Spending the week in Seville was amazing, and truly a learning experience, but spending the day in Cordoba was truly one of the highlights of the trip.

The Sevillano Experience

Another unforgettable trip to Spain in the books. Having traveled to northern and central Spain before, I found my experience in southern Spain’s Seville to be very different, with a sprinkle of similarities included. 

From the very first day it was evident to me that Seville was a unique Spanish city unlike others I had traveled to before. The stunning architecture of the city is what first struck me as a clear difference; a city so clean and vibrant that you would never guess many of it’s breathtaking structures were built over a millennium ago. During our time in Seville, we got to experience first hand many of these works of art with even more knowledge being gifted to us by our tour guides. The guided tours of both the Royal Alcazar and cathedral were two of the highlights of the trip for me, coherently connecting the history and identity of the city. Aside from the stunning architecture, the clear influence of many cultures can also be found. The synergy of Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim religions all can be found in the details of these buildings due to the presence of all three in the region during the time of construction over one thousand years ago.

Picture from inside the Royal Alcazar in Seville, which has palaces inspired by Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim religions.
Picture from inside the largest Gothic style Roman Catholic cathedral in the world, which holds the remains of Christopher Columbus.

The unique mix of cultures and the city’s history also provided another highlight for the trip: the food. Growing up as the world’s pickiest eater (if you don’t believe me, ask my parents), I never thought I’d be saying things like “wow, thank kangaroo meat tasted amazing!” or “this bull tail is so flavorful!”. The small portions of tapas for these unique dishes allowed me to try many more foods than I ever would have if ordering for myself. Many nights, we would go from tapas bar to tapas bar ordering a plethora of interesting-sounding foods to share, knowing if we didn’t like it we would only be having about one to two bites each due to the size. However, more often than not, we found ourselves needing to return to order larger portions of the food we were initially hesitant about. The main food highlights that come to mind include croquettas de jamón, kangaroo, ostrich, paella, and the aforementioned bull tail. 

Our favorite tapa of the week- kangaroo!
A traditional Spanish paella with chicken, ham, rice, and vegetables.

To further learn about the culture of Seville, we also had the opportunity to experience two of the iconic symbols of Spain: flamenco and bull fighting. The flamenco lesson was one of my favorite parts of the trip, learning from a flamenco teacher how a traditional flamenco show is organized, making the flamenco show we watched an hour earlier more meaningful. Award-winning students at the flamenco school we learned at then performed for us, with us clapping along to keep the beat. The difficulty we had simply clapping along really showed me how talented these dancers are, and talking to the students after taught me that many start learning from a very young age since it’s such an integral part of their culture. 

Flamenco show watched inside of the theater of Triana market.

Touring the bull fighting arena in Seville also taught me just how cultural this institution is. Despite its undoubtedly cruel practice, bullfighters grow up learning the art for an opportunity to be hailed by their country as one of the best and most talented fighters. Those considered the best are revered due to the cultural roots bullfighting has in Spanish culture, so many young men strive to become one of these icons one day.

Seville’s bullfighting ring, which holds thousands of viewers routinely during bullfighting season.

Another highlight of this trip for me was simply getting lost in the streets of Seville and seeing where the roads took me. It felt as if with every turn we took, a new breathtaking view was unlocked, requiring a stop for pictures. While the beauty of the city was not lost on me, I often found myself wondering what the locals in Seville think of the paradise they walk through each day; do they realize they’re living in a picturesque scene from a movie, or have they become numb to it? Furthermore, if these people were to visit New England, would they think the same thing about us? 

Just one example of the beauty found in Seville’s architecture

While the affinity I have for Spain creates a bias for me to believe they would never become blind to the city’s grandeur, I’m not sure this is actually the truth. After living in one place for so long, people tend to become used to their everyday surroundings, forgetting to be grateful for where they are. Especially as a part of American culture, I rarely find myself putting my busy schedule on hold to stop and take a moment to appreciate where I am and what surrounds me. While I would love to remain in Seville and continue to travel Spain to appreciate more of the beauty the country has to offer, I’m excited to return home with this new perspective and see how this change in mindset allows me to see my everyday life differently.

Food Frenzy Free Day in Seville

After six days of a guided journey of Spain, with events and lectures that covered its history, architecture, and cultural elements, it was on day 7 that we were left with a daunting blank space in our itinerary. The entire day was ours to mold however we saw fit, to emphasize and take the deep dive on any aspect of the Spanish way of life. To me, when it comes to immersing myself in a foreign land, there is no better way to go about it than a proper restaurant rush; a day of scoping out the ideal spots for some of Spain’s signature dishes that capture what sets the cuisine here apart from any of the ones I’ve enjoyed throughout my entire life. These are just a few of the dishes and restaurants I tried on my day of Sevillian gastronomic exploration.

Bull’s Tail Croquetas

Stationed near the edge of the Los Remedios district in Seville on C. Monte Carmelo Street, the roasted-meat-specializing restaurant Ruta 2 (Route 2) stands tall with glowing online reviews that I could not afford to ignore. I headed straight over there around lunch time and was enticed with the idea of a peculiar sounding meal: croquetas de cola de toro (croquettes of bull’s tail). While I am by no means a stranger to meat dishes (with beef and pork being very common in the cuisines I frequently eat), I had never had the meat of a bull’s tail, nor had I ever even considered the idea of cooking and eating a bull’s tail prior to today. However, it is a very typical dish in Spain that can be found in many restaurants throughout the country. After our tour of the Plaza de Toros from Tuesday, it is very interesting to consider how the popularity of such a dish could be related to Spain’s long-standing tradition of bull fighting. Even if the origins of the meal date back to before bull fighting, there could still be a causality in terms of the dish becoming a staple of the food culture or spreading throughout the country the way it did. This historical context made the dining experience feel much more unique and authentic for me. The fried croquette shells were perfectly crispy and well-seasoned, housing a very rich and brothy bull tail stew that was piping hot. The flavor of the meat was immaculate, noticeably different from any other meat I’ve had but not to an outlandish degree. It was a hearty and surprisingly filling meal that made the thirty-minute walk to the restaurant worth it, eaten alongside an order of yuca frita (fried cassava), a tuber whose flavor profile wipes the floor with that of french fries.

Pringa and Garlic Shrimp Combo

Most of the restaurants I went to today were ones I had not gone to earlier in the week, but there was one exception that I just had to return to: El Favorito. It was here that I decided to try not one, but two more of Spain’s signature dishes. Pringa is another very commonly found Spanish dish that involves slow cooking meat (typically pork or beef) and spreading it on bread to create a warm and savory sandwich. The bread was nice and toasted with the most tender pork spread inside. It was an amazingly satisfying tapa that left me wishing they had a much larger portion size. Along with the pringa, I ordered a full serving of a dish I kept seeing recommendations for called gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). I expected and received the intense flavor of delicious shrimp meat tossed in a strong but not overbearing garlic sauce, working together in perfect harmony. What I did not expect was the amount of kick to it completely coming out of left field. I did not think a dish like this would be made to be spicy and was pleasantly surprised. I personally love spicy food, so I am glad it was able to be incorporated here in a way that was not solely the patatas bravas, whose spice levels pale to what the gambas al ajillo made me feel. Perhaps it was just this restaurant’s special way of preparing it. Regardless, it was an absolutely addicting meal that involved two very traditional elements of Spanish cuisine (seafood and pork) in exciting and stimulating contexts that balanced with each other well.

Sweet Treats from Spain

Pestiños de Miel

Tasting dinners and tapas is not enough. I wouldn’t dare to leave Spain without at least trying the sweeter end of their food spectrum, and from what I found in my research there were two that really caught my eye. The first was a fried and honey glazed pastry known as a pestiño. These are considered a Christmas or Semana Santa treat and are particularly popular in the Andalusian region of Spain. I wanted to make sure to try something that is special to the region we were in, something that I would struggle to find an equivalent to in America, and pestiños were definitely the way to go. There was even a store in Seville that sold boxes of them handmade by nuns as they have done for years and years. I also tried another Spanish sweet treat known as a polvorón, an almond cookie that was dusted with sugar. They are also a part of traditional preparation in Spain, though they exist in other Spanish speaking countries as well. Between the brittle texture and strong, unique honey flavoring of the pestiños and the almost cake-like, sweet and subtly nuttiness of the almond cookie, I would have to give the edge to the polvorón.


As someone who puts food at the top of my list of enjoyment factors in a foreign land, I can undoubtedly say that Seville passed with flying colors. The variety of succulent flavors even when using the same ingredients and the dishes that are so embedded in tradition make it an experience one must have at least once in their life. The Friday free day allowed to me the opportunity to explore the extent of gastronomy in the Andalusian region of Spain. I can now say that some of the best meals I have ever had have come from my trip to Spain. I am so glad I was able to participate in this study abroad, a program that perpetually bombarded me with fun after fun and never relented. Views of the vibrant city, lectures and deep dives into the culture, and interactions with incredible people all sandwiched between unforgettable food trips. I have a sincere appreciation for everyone who made it possible, and I have a plan to one day return and continue the hunt for deliciousness.

Coastal Cádiz – My Free Day

The Plan

Friday showed a weather forecast of rain everywhere in Southern Spain, but we weren’t going to let the weather rain on our parade. When someone suggested we take a trip to Cádiz, a coastal city south of Sevilla, we went ahead and bought our bus tickets for 11:30am on Friday morning. The forecast for Cádiz showed there would be rain in the afternoon with cooler temperatures than we had experienced before. With no plan but to see where the day took us, we got ready for our trip to Cadiz.

Friday’s Start

The day began with me missing the 11:30am bus to Cádiz, on which my friends were already seated. Despite this hiccup, I approached the ticket counter who gave me a ticket for the next bus to Cádiz at 1:30pm. Finding myself with about 2 hours to kill, I headed to the closest cafe for breakfast. There, I ordered “tostado con aceite”, or bread and olive oil, and “zumo de naranja”, or orange juice. After eating my Spanish breakfast, I headed back to the bus station and waited for my bus to arrive.

The Journey

I boarded the bus and settled in for my 1 hour and 45-minute ride to Cádiz. Since I had nothing to do but kill time, I decided to read up on Cádiz and the history of the city. The city is over 3,000 years old and is regarded as the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. The Phoenicians established a port in Cádiz in the 7th century BC, and the city became a trading hub for metals like gold, silver, copper, and iron. Over the years, it fell under the rule of the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. Later, Christopher Columbus set sail for his first voyage from the port of Cádiz. I found the history behind the city really interesting and got even more excited to get there.

The City of Cádiz

I arrived in Cádiz around 3:00pm, when my friends were having lunch. As I took a taxi to where they were, I looked in awe at the beautiful coastline of Cádiz and the sea green water. Since they finished their lunch already, we all decided to find a gelateria nearby for a sweet treat. After treating ourselves to gelato in a plaza, we headed to Playa de la Galeta, the main beach of Cádiz.

The beach was a bit cold and it was a little windy, but that didn’t take away from the beauty of it. The sand was wet from the rain earlier in the day, and we walked along the coastline. From the beach, we noticed a bridge starting from the mainland and ending at a tiny piece of land with a couple of buildings on it. Curious, we decided to find out what was there and walked along the bridge. Along the bridge were stairs leading down to rock formations on the side of the bridge in the water. I ended up going down to one of the rock formations, and just stood there, watching the waves move back and forth. Just standing at the beach in Cádiz watching was so calming and therapeutic. I could feel the ocean spray on my face from the waves and smell the salt in the air. On the bridge, there was a small enclosed room with a glass window. Looking into the window, I could see a a plaque on the floor reading “Instituto Geografico y Catastral”, meaning Geographic and Cadastral Institute. There was also a cross in the room and a statue. Once we reached the end of the bridge and the piece of land, we realized that it was gated and turned back.

Once we reached the mainland around 5:30pm, we realized that we should start heading back to the bus station and find a place to eat on the way back. We ended up ducking into a restaurant as the rain started again. There, we ate shrimp croquettes and shrimp with garlic and olive oil, which was delicious, as Cádiz is known for it’s fresh and yummy seafood. After, we kept walking until we reached the bus station and headed back to Sevilla at 8:00pm.

I am so glad that we chose to spend our free day in Cádiz, as despite the bad weather, the beauty of the city shined. From the beaches to the delicious and fresh seafood, Cádiz is a perfect vacation destination and I’m so glad I got to visit and experience the city. I had so much fun, and can’t wait to visit again!

Kangaroos and Nighttime Scooter Rides: A Week in Spain

There is so much to discuss, I don’t even know where to start. When I first arrived in Seville, I felt I had so little time to explore, but I was wrong. The thing with traveling is that you have to make the most out of your time there, whether it be a day, a week, a month, or more. Once you stop worrying about the amount of time you have, you start to take in the experiences more and they feel more meaningful.

A week in Seville

One of the first activities we did as a group was a bike tour around Seville. This was a great opportunity to not only view the beautiful places in Seville but to be familiar with the city.

Bike tour around Seville

The next thing we did was visit the Royal Alcázar. It was a guided tour with the study abroad program and after we had time to explore most of it on our own. It was fascinating learning about the blend of cultures and religions that is embedded into the Alcázar. As a Muslim, it was nice to see the influences and contributions that were made by my ancestors. The next day was a visit to the Catedral de Seville which was also extraordinary, it is the biggest Gothic church in Europe and it can be seen throughout the whole city. We climbed up to the top of the Catedral and got a view of the whole city.

One of the biggest things Spain is known for is the bullfighting. Plaza de Toros (Plaza of Bulls) was another guided tour that we did. Each bullfight results in 6 bulls dead (which I did not know) and is considered an art in Spain. The season for bullfighting is coming up and bullfighters will go to arenas around the country to fight the bulls which is a big part of Spanish culture and history. Personally, I don’t think I would watch a bullfight mostly because I didn’t grow up with it. It’s also very controversial, every year more and more people are against it for moral reasons. The tour guide explained how the bull is injected before the fight so the bull doesn’t feel any pain (I have no idea if this is true, I hope so for the bulls).

Plaza de Toros

One of my personal favorite parts of Spanish culture is the Flamenco. Flamenco is an old traditional style of music and dance that originated in Andalusia (South of Iberia). Flamenco consists of 3 elements, the singer, the guitarist, and the dancer. The first thing we did was watch a private Flamenco show in an old theater. It was a fun experience but what really was memorable was the lecture that came after it. Up to this point, we have had lectures that discussed specific parts of Spanish history. They weren’t many and I’ll be honest, they were kind of boring, but the Flamenco lecture was different. First of all, it was more interactive than the other lectures, the professor encouraged us to learn and clap/stomp to the rhythm of Flamenco. During the lecture, the professor explained how the singer, guitarist, and dancer are all improvising and they all are connecting with each other through the music. The guitarist starts then the singer, and then the dancer waits for a queue. After the dancer is in control of everything, everything flows so perfectly that you would think it was rehearsed beforehand. At the end of the lecture, the professor brought three students and did a demonstration of flamenco, it was like a show but it was more interactive because the professor had everyone stand up and participate in the rhythm. It was more difficult than a lot of us thought but it was cool to not only see but to experience flamenco.

Private flamenco show

The amount of free time we had allowed us to do so much, I have done more in one week in Seville, than a lifetime in Boston. Getting around Seville was easy, there was the metro, tram, bikes (both electric and regular), and electric scooters. Up to one point, I would only walk and take the tram to get around. But one of my classmates showed me this app that allowed you to rent a scooter for a very cheap price. After that first night of riding the scooters, we (as a group) went crazy with it. We used to get everywhere that was more than a 30-minute walk. It was so convenient because there were scooter stations everywhere. Part of the reason that I enjoyed the scooters was because it was easy to get around the city (there are bike lanes everywhere) and also the vibe. Riding the scooters late at night allowed us to experience more of Seville from a different perspective. I wasn’t too worried about catching the best photos while on the scooters (because I didn’t want to fall off) and it allowed me to take in more of the city.

People along the way

First of all the study abroad group was good. Everyone was social and always willing to do something. Before this trip, I promised myself that I would travel and visit all the places I wanted to see regardless of what the others wanted to do. Although I did a lot on my own, the group that I was with was very social and always down to do anything. One place I was planning to go (alone or with the group) was Setas de Seville which is an eco-friendly wooden structure that looks like a bunch of mushrooms in the middle of Seville, at night time you can go to the top, and view the whole city of Seville and watch the structure light up. The structure was amazing and it was a vibe that made me feel like I was floating above the city.

At Setas de Seville I met 2 Muslim brothers for the first time, they were from the UK. They heard me speaking English so they approached me and we ended up talking for a while. We ended up exchanging socials and taking photos with each other. After this, I thought that was just a nice interaction with two strangers. The next day I was walking and I ran into them at a Moroccan restaurant. I sat with them and decided to eat with them. This was crazy to me, I met these people yesterday and then I found them eating at some random restaurant down the street. We ate and then went to a Lebanese/Egyptian cafe and just chilled and talked for the rest of the night. I ended up having a really good time with them. Before I ran into them I was planning to go alone to the river to have dinner, but god had other plans.

I didn’t know a single person before the trip, and in the week we spent together, I managed to make a lot of new friends. The people that I met made me more open-minded to trying new things that I never would have done if I was alone.



I had never thought of eating kangaroo before this trip and for the week I was in Spain, I had it almost 4 times. During the trip, some of the students tried kangaroo and made it seem like the best thing ever. After some of us decided to go to this restaurant and try kangaroo for the first time just to see how it is. We also ordered ostrich just for fun. It was honestly delicious, It tasted like a very good juicy stake, for the price of chicken. I don’t know what it was but the idea of us eating kangaroo made us like it more. After this trying kangaroo was the theme of the trip, most of us ended up going to the restaurant (some more than others) to eat the kangaroo. I think the entire trip, we collectively ate the equivalent of an entire kangaroo.

Besides just the kangaroo, the food was delicious in Spain. I had Spanish Paella for the first time prepared by Spanish people. I grew up with Moroccan Pealla, but I didn’t even realize that it originated in Spain. besides the kangaroo, Paella was one of the best things I tried while I was over there.

A Last-Minute Trip to Paris

The heading seems a little misleading but it’s true, I went to Paris for a day. The last 2 days of the trip were our free days where we could go wherever we wanted. I was planning to go to Córdoba for a day, but some of the plans changed and we ended up going to Córdoba before the free day. This meant that I had a full 24 hours to myself, where I could go anywhere, and I was in Europe. I don’t know when I came up with the idea and I don’t even think I was thinking 100% when I booked the tickets, but I decided to go to Paris for my free day. I made the decision to spend my free day in Paris about two days before and I do not regret it. Honestly, it has been one of the craziest things I have ever done, but I will never regret it.

Thinking about going abroad

If you are thinking about going abroad, do it. Don’t think, just do it. The only reason I ended up going to Seville was just because I applied and put effort into it. I wanted to gain a new experience, something that I had never done before. I learned from this trip that there will never be a “perfect” time to travel. People think too much and wait too long for a perfect time and they end up never leaving the country. No amount of stuff can ever compare to the experience of going abroad.

Cordoba !

The day started off with a one and a half hour bus ride to Cordoba which was perfect for a nap to prepare us for the day ahead of us. Although it was cloudy and rainy, the city of Cordoba was still beautiful and enjoyable. When we got there, we met with our tour guide who took us on a walking tour of the city with the main attraction waiting for us at the end. We walked the streets of Cordoba which reminded me of the Old Medina’s in Morocco, specifically Tangier. The street sizes, colors, and layout are very similar to those in Morocco. This was no surprise to me as we had a lecture earlier in the week learning about Moorish influence in southern Spain. Being able to visit Morocco before coming to Andalucia was an amazing experience because I got to see first hand what we learned in class and notice these comparions myself. After walking the streets of Cordoba we ended at the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. When I first entered, my first impression was how big it was. I was also very impressed with the engineering of the building as brick and stone were used to make double arches, one Roman style and the other Visigoth style to support the building. The main alter amazed me as it was so large and very detailed. It was very interesting seeing the fusion between muslim and christian religion. Both styles in the same building was something I’ve never seen before. Before it became a Cathedral, it was a mosque that was later expanded and turned into a cathedral. The halls were very long and was evident that thats where Muslims would pray when it was a mosque. There was also tons of Islamic architecture and art from horseshoe arches to geometric patterns and arabic inscriptions. The center of the building is the main alter where Christian use to attend mass. The alter was massive and had many detailed and intricate designs. After visiting the Cathedral, we had two hours to eat lunch before heading back to Seville. Which was perfect timing because the rain started to come down on us. A few of us went to a tapas bar where we had Ternera and croquettas. When we got back to Seville we got ready to head back out because the day still wasn’t over. Seville is a beautiful city not only during the day but also at night. We went to Tabernas Sevilla where we all agreed to step out of our comfort zone and try new foods. We ordered Kangaroo and Ostrich and it was unbelievably god. So good that we got a second round of it. Spanish dining is different from the US as you are not rushed to leave. So we sat there for a good minute ate and socialized. After dinner we strolled along the river down Calle Betis which is known for its night life. We sat at another spot, socialized, admired the view of the river, and took in the amazing experie we’ve been having so far .

A run against the rain – in Cordoba!

On Wednesday, the news came in… We couldn’t avoid Will’s rain power. Nevertheless, the fact that our plans had changed didn’t mean we would let our day go to waste. 

Due to the unpredictable weather, we had to change our plans for the day. Instead of going to the Grazalema mountains, now we were heading to the golden city of Cordoba. I knew what was coming, so the night before I went to buy a rain jacket for our trip and the next day woke up early to prepare myself physically and mentally for the upcoming rain.  

In the morning I went down to eat in the lobby for the first time. I had a brief breakfast, and as I was eating, I met a few other college students from the U.S. (North Dakota, to be specific) who were also visiting Sevilla for their spring break! It was exciting to meet other people who were also going through a similar experience, and we could connect to one another in such a spontaneous moment. Such a beautiful reminder of how magical and memorable experiences can be while studying abroad.  

Our Trip to Cordoba

We took the bus to go everyone took a window seat so we could fall asleep next to various landscaping across the way. When we arrived at Cordoba, we were welcomed by an ancient bridge from the 15-16th century that led us to the center of the city. 

We met our guide, Luis. He led us across the city and walked us through different alleys in the Juderia, or, in English, the Jewish Quarter. Later on the day, we headed to the famous Mezquita-Cathedral. 

Just by crossing the gates, you could notice why it was so popular. The garden filled with trees brought a calming sensation as you walked over to the main entrance of the Mosque-cathedral. Among these, the tower provided the perfect background for group pictures. 

As we headed inside, I couldn’t stop going in circles so I could see all the architecture. I was perplexed by the columns and as I looked at my fellow travelers, I could see the excitement in their faces and how captivated they were with the whole place as we would try to take videos and pictures for the memories. Every room we entered and every sculpture we saw amazed me more and more. I probably took a few hundred photos in the span of an hour and of course, and made my friends and professors take pictures of me. 

Rain vs. Us

While we were heading out, we met our foreseen destiny; It was raining. You could see the sadness in almost everyone and how, almost immediately umbrellas were opened, and rain jackets were zipped all the way up.  

However, the rain didn’t stop our day nor our voracious appetite. We prepared ourselves for going outside and spontaneously started running through Cordoba’s streets to find a place that would fill our empty stomachs.

Food Adventure

Sadly, the first two places we found were either fully booked or didn’t have enough variety of food to satisfy our group. Thus, our running streak kept got higher as we kept running trying not to step into a puddle because I can almost completely assure no one likes the feeling of a wet sock.  

Finally, we found a restaurant in the middle of one of Cordoba’s narrow streets. The menu sounded quite interesting, and there was enough seating for us to sit comfortably. As we read the menu, a few of us, including me, decided to try Oxtail for the first time. I tried kangaroo’s meat (Which I really enjoyed) the night before, so Oxtail shouldn’t be an issue to eat.  

As the food came, the plates were placed aesthetically pleasing across the table. We recorded the memories of the first time trying some of the foods. The least I can say is that the food was nothing less than spectacular and mind blowing. 

Even though we couldn’t make our original plans, we still made our day as memorable as possible. This trip has made me realize that one of the benefits of studying abroad is to transform casual moments into unforgettable memories. I hope to be able to continue studying abroad in the near future and maybe one day in (very far away) several years be able to tell these stories and experiences to my children. For now, I would like to keep creating these memories as much as possible. 

Hasta Luego Juan! Gracias por todo <3

Day 5: Moorish Architecture and Historical Walking Tour

I am writing this blog post a couple days after the events herein described. My precision of detail may be effected due to a lack of photos in my phone gallery. I digress and will do my best to summarize the key events of the day.

On March 5, 2024, the UMass Lowell students visiting Seville, Spain received a lecture on Seville’s architectural history and various influences over many centuries, followed by a guided tour of the Plaza del Toros, a famous bullfighting ring. After 4:30 PM, all students had free time to explore the city as they wished.

Starting my day

I set many alarms with the intention of observing and attending either some morning organ music or a mass at the Cathedral of Seville. This largely depended on the alarm with which I would arise. I ended up attending a Catholic mass in Spanish and enjoyed trying to make out the readings and the order of mass being recited. I had never attended a mass in another country or language before and appreciated the experience. I observed that three priests concelebrated the mass (did the ritual together), a small men’s choir sang the psalms and other material during the ceremony, and staff ushered all attendees out before 11:00, when the cathedral was opened to tourists. I’m glad I made this solo trip in the morning because it gave me a reason to be up early and I felt greatly immersed in Seville’s Catholic culture. It was a gorgeous day, as you can see from the below photo of the Cathedral of Seville.

Puerta de Jerez and University of Seville

Leaving the cathedral, I picked up freshly squeezed orange juice from a shop across from the Royal Alcazar in the Plaza del Triunfo. Meeting up with the rest of the group at Puerta de Jerez, we took a short walk down the street to the University of Seville campus. Upon meeting our guest lecturer, a professor of Islamic and Arabic studies at the university, we received a brief but comprehensive background on the University of Seville and the building in which we studied. This main building, now housing history and other social science programs, used to be a tobacco factory where women would prepare cigarettes and other tobacco products by hand until machines made the demand for tobacco easier to manage.

Professor Jose Maria also has a background in architecture along with his primary study of comparative religions and Islamic history. He covered the various walls of Seville over many centuries of both Roman and Muslim rule, relating them to other notable wall structures of ancient and medieval Europe. Discussing the term mudejar in the context of architecture, the professor emphasized the Arabic and Islamic features present in both the Royal Alcazar and Plaza de Espana. Although the below image is not from this same day, it shows the “Neo Mudejar” style consistent throughout the whole of Plaza de Espana. Built for the 1929 World Expo, this iconic landmark features ample horseshoe arches which are on occasion in groupings of three and five, which are also seen in the Royal Alcazar. I also noticed when visiting that the back entrances are similar to the distinctly Moorish design feature of the Royal Alcazar in which the entrance doesn’t open up to an immediate view of the other side, but has the option to either turn left or right around a large wall obstructing the view.

Many more locations and architectural marvels throughout the city were discussed, but for the sake of brevity I will move on. Professor Jose Maria concluded his presentation by thoroughly explaining how to read the Arabic inscriptions in the entranceway to the Royal Alcazar. This phrase praises Allah as the one, true God. It is repeated and reflected four times when the below blue and white mosaic is viewed from left to right. Another major takeaway of the presentation was that Moorish architecture is characteristic of being geometric, patterned, and depicting animals. The tree of life is also represented in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish buildings throughout Spain and Europe.

Time with Kepa from API

Following a brief break for an opportunity to get lunch, students rendezvoused at the Puerta de Jerez to join our guides Kepa and Juan Calvo. Kepa explained the history behind some slightly hidden gems of the nearby streets. Most notable among these were the Torre de Oro and the Torre de la Plata. Tucked behind modern buildings, Torre de la Plata is a 13th Century storage space for silver. The wall connected to it also dates back to the Almohad caliphate. Torre de Oro, a much larger tower along the Guadalquivir River, was also discussed along the tour. Students also took photos by the 500th anniversary replica of the Victoria, the last ship to return from Ferdinand Magellan’s journey to circumnavigate the globe. I was shocked and expected the ship to be much larger. It was comparable or smaller to the size of amusement park pirate ship rides. Below is an image of the replica museum.

Until Next Time…

Great fun and memories with new friends, a tour of a bullfighting ring, and exploring Calle Sierpes (a well known shopping street) were among the highlights of my day following the tour with Kepa. I have treasured all my time here in Seville so far, the new friends I’ve been making, and the passionate staff at API who have made this trip so memorable.

Thank you to all who organized this excursion.

In lieu of further exposition, here are some images representing the remainder of my day.

Open photo
Entrance of Plaza del Toros, Photo taken during March 3 bike tour.
Open photo
1945 Bullfighting Advertisement for Plaza del Toros
Open photo
Image of the Virgin Mary and Christ child in a neighborhood north of the Plaza del Toros

Story of Spain – Moros y Toros [Moors and Bulls]

Brief Introduction: 

March 5th marks the fourth day of travels for UMass Lowell students studying abroad in Seville, Spain. This day took a detour compared to previous ones, being the first lecture the UMass Lowell students experienced in Seville. The students received a brief tour of, “El Universidad de Sevilla” which led to their first lecture speaking on Moorish influence in Seville. The students then took time to fellowship with their peers and explore the city as they took a lunch break. It was afterward, came together again to receive a guided tour of “Plaza de Toros” in Seville. Enjoy the following blog post!

Tour of the University of Seville: 

Following an incredible first three days in Spain UMass Lowell students were able to experience a guided bike tour of Seville, visit the Royal Alcazar, experience an API-hosted group welcome dinner, complete a Spanish [Lent-style] cooking lesson, and visit the “Catedral de Sevilla.” It was a fantastic start to our travels in Seville, Spain. 

University of Seville [Front Entrance]

Day Four of studying abroad led us to our first lecture in Seville. A lecture on “Moorish Influence in Seville: History to Present Day with Jose Maria Toro.” The day began with us meeting our lovely API Resident Director (Juan Calvo Salazar) at one of our main meeting points in Seville, “Puerta de Jerez.” Once we all came together we were guided to the University of Seville where we met our guest lecturer (Jose Maria Toro). He greeted us and gave us a brief tour of the university’s main building which was originally an old tobacco factory that was then converted into what we have today (the University of Seville). He pointed out many small details hidden within the architecture that showed the tobacco factory roots of the building. 

University of Seville [Front Entrance]

Moorish Influence Lecture: 

The lecture component of the tour spoke about Moorish [Arabic/Islamic] influence in Seville’s architecture. He pointed out examples mainly from the Royal Alcazar and other Christian buildings in Seville. One of the main points noted through the lecture was the beauty of Moorish architecture and how even though Moorish rule is long gone in Spain [Iberian Peninsula] the Christian rulers who took over appreciated and enjoyed the Islamic architecture so much that they built Christian religious sites that incorporated the previous Islamic architecture. 

Although the religious messages of the new Christian rulers and the previous Moorish rulers differ they did not cause any issues whatsoever when it came to designing cathedrals and palaces. Moorish architectural design incorporates geometric shapes and patterns which gives an aesthetically pleasing look. Since geometric/pattern designs leave a lot to be desired, the Moors responsible for designing the mosques (when they previously ruled) included many intricate and beautiful inscriptions on the walls and arches throughout the buildings. 

The remnants of the beauty that the Moors gave to much of Seville’s architecture are still present today as instead of being entirely eradicated they were appreciated and even sought after as templates for the Royal Palace in Seville. Overall, the lecture taught us that Moorish influence makes up a huge part of Seville’s identity as many buildings within the city attempt to replicate Moorish-era architecture, and even some incorporate old mosques and Moorish-style buildings into their own. 

Lunch break: 

After the lecture on Moorish influence in Seville, we had an approximately 2-hour lunch break where along with some students I went to try a traditional Spanish dish called “Arroz negro” (translates to “black rice” and it is a traditional Spanish Paella). This dish incorporated many types of seafood such as mussels, shrimp, and squid! The dish is called “Arroz negro” because the rice is actually black, this is due to squid ink being one of the main components of the dish. Along with helping to season the rice, it gives a rich seafood flavor that doesn’t overpower the dish but complements the seafood elements already present. Overall, it brought me closer to two students I am currently studying abroad with and I always appreciate the time outside of the scheduled events as it gives me time to socialize with my peers. 

Arroz Negro (Dish)

Plaza de Toros: 

Chapel (Plaza de Toros)

Our day ended with a guided tour of the “Plaza de Toros” in Seville. This building is where the matadors (bullfighters) come together to host the bullfighting events. Although controversial in recent years the building is still completely active with an award ceremony event coming up in the next two weeks hosted in Seville! When we entered the building we were given a glimpse into the history and preparations the matadors take before going out to perform. One key preparation that stuck out to me was the chapel where the matadors pray before performing (as bullfighting is extremely dangerous). Overall, although I do not support bullfighting personally, I can appreciate the history behind the activity and I now have a deeper understanding of how it became a part of Spanish society and continues to today. 

Main exit (Plaza de Toros)

Ending remarks: 

Although my time studying abroad in Seville is temporary, I will never forget this experience. Through these travels, I was able to make great friends and I am excited to be able to come back to UMass Lowell knowing that they all study at the same university I attend!

Study Abroad Students (With resident director Juan)