Hotel Don Paco

Melinda D. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Last week, students at SYA Spain were split into three groups, each traveling to a different region of Spain. To my delight, I spent this cultural trip exploring Andalusia, or the south of Spain: Córdoba, Sevilla, and Cádiz. This region is filled with what people from different parts of the world may think of when they think of Spain: sun all year round, the practice of bullfighting, the rice dish paella, and the entrancing dance of flamenco. By far, one of my favorite days of the trip was the first in Seville; however, it begins the day before, the very first day of the trip, with the group’s arrival in Córdoba. 

We arrived around 13:00 by train from Zaragoza, then we took a bus to La Mezquita, a mosque originally built in the eighth century when Spain was under Arab rule, later converted into a cathedral under los reyes catolicos. The mezcla of Arab and Spanish architecture just demonstrated the threads that make up the beautiful tapestry of Andalusian culture. Before the visit, we had a couple of hours free to explore Córdoba and grab something to eat. After going back and forth through the narrow stone streets and pathways of the city, weaving through little shops, cafes and restaurants, houses painted white, and settling down to eat, six other students and I returned by the mosque to make it in time for the tour. Sitting on the stone ledge of the building was a group of Spanish students enjoying sweets. Note, a close friend and I are known for reaching out to locals the most, so we play into it. We went to the other side of the street and began chatting with them. 

The four girls told us they were from Barcelona, on an end of course trip. Apparently, at the end of bachillerato (think of it as the last two years of high school), students usually take a trip together. I suppose it was no coincidence that our trip was scheduled the same week that Spanish schools were traveling as well. We kept talking, asking their plans for the day, and it turns out they would also be going to Seville that night. “Us too,” we eagerly told them, which was followed with, “we’re staying at Hotel Don Paco,” the girls froze and looked at each other with excitement. Qué casualidad, we were staying at the same hotel for two nights, little did we know so were about three other Spanish schools. After our visit to La Mezquita, and arrival by bus in Seville, my friends and I spent our evening free block mingling with other Spanish students by the center of the city and getting to know the girls we had met in Córdoba. There was even another group of students from Zaragoza.

The next day began in the lobby of Hotel Don Paco. SYA students gathered and we walked to the first cultural visit of the day, Casa de Pilatos, a breathtaking palace inhabited by wealthy Spanish families dating back to the fifteenth century. Then I returned to the center of the city to enjoy lunch with another student. I had olives and a refreshing half pint of gazpacho before going with my friend, Anaiz, to meet a few other SYA students by the river. On the way there we took a detour however, an alluring corner lined with orange trees and colorful flats called us, at the end was a local artist shop. There were artists painting and smoking outside and a kind woman organizing inside the shop. She told us about the local artists there and we chatted about what we were doing in Seville. With two pieces in brown wrapping paper in hand, Anaiz and I left the quiet shop and followed cheery flute music to the bustling part of the city by the river. We sunbathed, listened to music, and got cool drinks and ice cream before heading to the second cultural visit of the day: el Museo de flamenco. Before witnessing a stunning flamenco spectacular, we were patiently taught an entire flamenco routine, and then led through the museum. I never knew there were so many different styles of the dance, styles of performance, dress, and message. 

To cap off the day, students were left with a few hours free to find dinner before tucking in. Four other friends and I walked aimlessly through the dim and narrow paths of the city, chancing upon an open gate. The words of my experiential Spanish teacher came to mind, “If there’s an open door, walk through.” So, we passed through the gate and eventually found ourselves in an intense basketball game against some local chavales. We played until the gym closed down for the night and one of our new Spanish friends, which I’m now realizing happened to have the same name of my experiential Spanish teacher, led us to a place nearby to have good sushi before returning to Hotel Don Paco for the night. At the end, it was a beautiful day in Seville with some agreeable andaluces.

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