The last (very long) post about my trip...
We explored Sevilla all day. Wow, my host dad warned me that the city is brutally hot in July but he wasn't exaggerating. Sevilla is probably the hottest place I've ever been in. The temperature reached 100 degrees in the afternoon according to my phone. Also the sun was blazing down on us for hours. Luckily there are funny little water fountains in the streets so I was able to fill up my water bottle over and over and over again. We also got Aquarius, this yummy flavored water drink, and Magnum double chocolate ice cream bars. It was dripping down my arm within seconds because of the heat!
Sevilla was definitely my favorite place in Spain that I've been to. The architecture of all the buildings was magnificent. I love all the towering apartments above the shops in the narrow streets, with awnings draping in between for shade. Anna and I saw this beautiful, elaborate cathedral and then I went inside the Alcazar palace, which was a cool mixture of Arabic and European architecture. It was gorgeous! Back outside in the streets, we saw numerous horse-drawn carriages but when we asked one of the men how much it cost he said 45 euros. Um heck no. A few younger drivers were smiling and cat calling to us and we were almost tempted to see if we could flirt our way into getting a lower price.
We made our way along the river, where we saw the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold). My personal favorite spot in all of Sevilla was the grand Plaza de Espana. Ahhh this area was insane -- so big, open, and pretty. We sat there for a good hour just people watching and enjoying the scenery. It was a really nice, relaxing area.
On Friday morning we made our way to the meeting place for our tour to Morocco. It was an arranged tour with other international students, most of whom were studying abroad in Spain already. Anna and I met some cool, friendly girls from Finland and then a group of other girls who went to school in... UNC! We were FREAKING OUT because what were the chances of meeting some strangers in Spain who went to a college so close to our own?! It is such a great big world out there but also such a small world at the same time. A large portion of students on our trip were from various schools in California who were all in the same study abroad program. Oh man, were they something. I haven't been around stereotypical white, American sorority girls in quite a long time. The type who are obsessed with taking selfies, being loud, and getting drunk. They were very... amusing over the weekend.
We went down to the tip of Spain to a country called Gibraltar, which is actually English territory. Whoa that place was awesome. We briefly stopped at Europa Point, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet. The water was so blue and when we looked out over the horizon we could see Africa. Next we went to St. Michael's Cave, where inside were colorful, changing lights, music playing, and lots of chairs. The cave is actually a music venue for concerts. I can't even imagine what the acoustics are like in there. Outside the cave, we got to take pictures with wild monkeys. They would screech if we got too close to their babies, and would search our pockets for food.
We then took an awesome ferry to AFRICA! Once we arrived in Morocco we drove for awhile to Tangier. Along the highways, groups of men were just sitting around or hitch-hiking. They would cheer and wave as our big tour bus drove by. As we approached Tangier, it was interesting because the people's dark, African skin changed to a light brown and they looked more Middle-Eastern. Morocco is heavily Arabic -- they speak Arabic and Spanish, are mostly Muslims, and have Arabic architecture. I didn't know this before coming so it was a neat culture to experience! I expected a hot, dry desert in Morocco but was surprised to see many green mountains.
On Saturday morning we took a bus tour of Tangier and saw some palaces that the king from Saudi Arabia likes to stay on holiday. Then we drove to a pretty beach where we got to ride camels!! It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Since our group was so huge we unfortunately only got to ride the camels for a few minutes each along the beach but it was still so fun. I was a little sad to see so many impatient girls hopping onto camels and immediately taking out their selfie sticks, posing for picture after picture on the camel the entire time. They never even seemed to really enjoy the moment as it was happening. I know I can be guilty of this since I'm so obsessed with photography but there comes a point where you just need to BE in the moment.
Next we took a long bus ride to Chefchauen, the blue town. That. place. was. awesome. The streets and buildings are painted all these wonderful, vibrant different shades of blue. The town is re-painted 3 times a month! I never learned why the town is blue but I loved it. We got lunch in an Arabic restaurant and Anna made me try the chicken they served us. As we were getting ready to leave, we heard a funny little old man calling out to our group. He literally sounded just like yoda. We all thought he was crazy (he was snorting some green stuff on his hand) and were confused why he was following us out into the streets. Well... turns out he was our tour guide! It was actually one of the strangest times in my life because for the next hour this strange lil man gave us a so called "tour." We verrrrrrry slowly made our way past some blue alley streets, where Yoda wanted to stop and take a picture with each person every 5 seconds. He would blurt out random English like "Coca-Cola" or "hello blondie" and make us all crack up. We later learned that the green herb on his hand was to prevent him from wanting to smoke. I never learned a single fact about Chefchauen because he never once talked about the town. It was seriously one of the weirdest experiences I've had and he was one of the oddest people I've encountered.
After the "tour" ended we had some free time in the marketplace. Anna, the Finnish girls, and I got some smoothies (mine was straight up chocolate milk). They were too tired and hot to keep exploring so I went off on my own for awhile. I heard loud chanting over a megaphone that cued everyone to go pray at the mosque. Curious, I followed them inside, quietly taking my shoes off and peeking inside for a few moments. Men were kneeling or facedown on the floor praying. One guy motioned to a spot on the ground for me but I shook my head, smiled, and left.
After Chefchauen we headed towards our snazzy hotel in Tetuan. Me and Anna's room hadn't been cleaned so they gave us a new room with a king size bed and an ocean front view. We did not complain at all. The hotel was awesome. We got there with an hour until dinner so while everyone else went to shower and get ready, Anna and I naturally did the opposite and headed for the pool. As we swam, we noticed lots of people sitting around at the tables staring at us. Even the waiters hovered around watching us. I figured it was my paranoia kicking in. Yet later on the bus, our tour guide Jorge commented how no one besides him went to the pool. Anna and I spoke up, saying that we went after he left, and he laughed and said that the pool had closed when he left! No wonder everyone was staring at us...
Around 11 pm we arrived at a palace for our fantasy dinner. Security escorted us through the streets since it was so late at night. It was absolutely crazy when we walked inside the palace. The atmosphere was so alive and the air was buzzing with energy. Loud drums were being played by musicians lining the hallway, welcoming us inside. In the main room there were tables set up for all of us and a pretty throne area with a couch and drapes. Our dinner consisted of many plates: the first was this red soup that smelled/tasted exactly like Chef Boyardee SpaghettiO's, the second was something that looked like chili which I didn't try, and next was couscous, chicken, and some unrecognizable vegetables. A woman was doing henna tattoos for 3 euros so I got one done on my arm. It was hilarious because many of the Californian girls arrived to the palace drunk (after drinking in the hotel beforehand) and they made absolute fools of themselves that night. Their henna was smeared all along their arms from dancing and hugging on each other. I hope they know that they'll have ugly, brown smears on their bodies for a week or two. One really sloppy girl actually sat on the lap of one of the old musician's and started playing his violin. She was holding it upside down. I was so embarrassed for her and really hope the people there don't think all Americans are like that! It was such a cool night and afterwards our group went to a club right next to the hotel. We only stayed for about 20 minutes because it closed at 2 am. Yet everyone still wanted to keep partying so we all went to the hotel pool (even though it was closed?!). We were suuuuuch typical rude, loud Americans there. Guys were cannon balling into the pool making huge waves that got water all over the nearby tables. The shocked, scared looks on the waiters' faces was priceless.
After a few hours of sleep, we left Sunday morning for our last outing: a tour of Tetuan. We walked through the narrow streets, spying skinny stray cats everywhere we looked. We did some shopping/haggling in a marketplace (where my poor Spanish bit me in the butt and I ended up getting so ripped off.. oh well). We went to a neat pharmacy -- a big room with tall shelves upon shelves of natural remedies, spices, and herbs. It felt like we were at a cooking show as this guy gave us a presentation, showing us all the different concoctions he was selling, what they're used for, along with samples on our skin. Half the group bought the oil he was selling that you rub into your temples to cure hangovers. I bought some authentic Moroccan Argan oil for hair, lotion, and blocks of Amber perfume that you rub on your wrists.
I was sad to leave Morocco but it was truly a very memorable, interesting, and amazing weekend. As of today, I leave to go home to the States in 9 days. It's insane everything that I've experienced here in Europe (and Africa!) over the past seven weeks. I'm not ready to go home but I'm also very excited for senior year of college. I have a strong, positive feeling that it will be a remarkable upcoming year. I have a new-found appreciation for the life and beauty in this world and I intend to carry it with me back to America. I miss everyone back at home so, so much and I'm thrilled to get to see your beautiful faces in just over a week! This European trip has truly been so refreshing for my soul and I can only hope that reading about my experiences has slightly affected you as well. Thank you to all who supported me during my journey by praying for me, remaining in communication with me (I've had some lonely days in Spain!), and reading about my adventures. It really does mean a lot to me. I hope someday I can return to Europe and see the other amazing countries out there.
Talk to you in America!