Road trippin’ in Mallorca

Spending the majority of my life in Florida, I knew I always wanted to live near the water. Than after living in the mountains last summer, I found myself in a rut. I needed both! To my surprise, I found both on a beautiful Spanish island, Mallorca, in March. Mallorca is one of the 3 Balearic islands off the coast of Valencia. A few classmates and I flew into the capital of the island Palma de Mallorca on the 22nd of March. I was especially excited because I was meeting my best friend, Abby, here in paradise in a few hours! In the mean time Jacie and I rented a car, and it was just as easy as buying a pack of gum. We were ecstatic to be able to move around the island at ease, tiempo de la isla. We were headed to the airport to pick up Abby in our new car when we got a call.

Me: “We are coming to pick you up in the car!”

Abby: “I missed my flight and there are no flights until Sunday, I can´t come.”

This news was really disappointing, but luckily I was with my friend Jacie so I wasn´t alone. Our next problem was that we had already rented the car, and the cost that we thought was going to be split between 3 was now down to 2. We couldn´t do anything but embrace it, so that´s just what we did. Since it was already getting late we decided to stay around Palma and head out to the mountains the next day. If you are in Palma at night make your way to Ave de Argentina for the majority of the night life (which we did after we parked our car).

MA-2141

MA-2141

Our next destination was Sa´Calobra and no trip to the island is complete with out coming here. We began driving on MA-10 which is a coastal highway that stretches North to South on the West side of the island. On the left all you can see is miles and miles of ocean and to the right all that is in your view is the majestic Serra de Tramuntana mountain range that covers a majority of the West side of the island. In order to get over to Sa´Calobra we had to go over a mountain via MA-2141.

Wild sheep

Wild sheep

We saw dozens of wild goats, sheep and even a huge ram casually grazing on the side of the road. Unlike deer that are common road kill in America, these animals stayed on the grass and in the rocks, just observing the people passing through. The traffic that comes through this road is minimal, just tour busses and the occasional bunch thrill seekers like our selves. This was the most intense road I have ever seen, literally winding through the mountains and at some parts this two-way road would randomly turn into one lane. Infinite applause to Jacie for driving this road like a champ! I didn´t take this video, but here is one I found of the road we were on for Sa´Calobra.

cFWUy2gQFm7zxmpjkCLLhF3F_9vHJ2xWohpK9QtYKW4S-FmjjSwjTt_DEkqquWjesmscXjgzSqUfxFGsfdx438_zps31f2ef16We made our way to the main beach in Sa’Calobra unexpectedly, by following a sign that read “Torrent de Pareis.” The beach was amazing, discreetly tucked in between two huge cliffs where the Torrent de Pareis reaches the sea. The water was crystal clear and a deep turquoise blue that reminded me of the stones typical to the jewelry sold in New Mexico. After we walked along the water, we went exploring in the huge canyons that accompany the torrent and the valley in front of the ocean for miles. We were walking through shrubbery in between the canyons for about 10 minutes and were a little confused as to why there was no trail, but it had to be a hike, there was a sign that said 6 hours long, so we continued, in hope of a sign of another hiker or something to assure us we were headed down the right direction. 9S7pcVFhSepdkStRpWMEkczT8MG-MZ7tA2eN3_82AZYBZfCcfQnXEbi1uYbGZq0sJSt-5jR_GYMePvGeKjmzDc_zps20ce14c7Than we ran into a huge pool of water surrounded by dozens of boulders. As we continued to walk more natural pools of water appeared. It was a bit to cold to swim but we saw people in wet suits earlier who had been swimming all day!  I felt that I had been magically teleported back to the times when dinosaurs ruled the land. All that was surrounding us were rocks, more rocks, and water. Climbing, splashing and staring in awe is what consumed the majority of our day. Unexpected beauty delivered by nature, yet again. After our hike we needed to fuel up our car before it got dark, running out of gas on the dark MA-2141 was not how we would have wanted to end such a glorious day. 893899_10151538000427692_1234008909_o

So we skipped sunset on the beach and headed to civilization, we began heading up the MA-2141 and as we were doing this the sun was beginning to set. Colors of purple and orange filled the sky as the sun began to fall behind the enormous mountain moving along with us as we cruised along the mountain side. We finally made our way to Inca and got gas, but of course that came with obstacles. I inserted my handy visa into the pay station and waited a few minutes before we began to pump. Little did I know, after 3 minutes the payment becomes invalid, which I would later find out. So we asked the men next to us if they could give us a hand, and these men ended up helping us figure out what was going on with the gas. They had lived on the island their whole life and we began to chat, after we said we were from Florida the man told us his girlfriend was from Tampa, small world, because that is where Jacie and I are from. He was thrilled and was even more eager to talk to us and give us some local tips about the island.

Cap de Formentor

Cap de Formentor

After the gas was pumped we said good-bye and that we were going to have some dinner, they laughed at the idea of having dinner so early (it was 7) but said they were headed to a place where we could eat much better food than we were about to. Being food fanatics, we hopped in our car and followed them to a small restaurant Ca`s Puput in Mancor de la Vall, a pueblo we would have never run into with out these guys. We walked into the restaurant and our new friends greeted the man behind the counter in a way that made me believe they were long time friends. He asked what we would like to eat and we responded with what ever a local would get. The food was amazing, we ate Costillas de Cordero (lamb ribs) which were so tender they fell right off the bone. For dessert we had a traditional Mallorcan treat, Cardinal, which is a light, white cake that is very fluffy in the middle and tasted a bit like marshmallows. The majority of our conversations took place in Spanish and at one point they were speaking English and we were speaking Spanish, for practice. The culture exchange just from being at this restaurant for a few hours was through the roof. We got to laugh with local kids and joke around with, which was quite entertaining.

First sight of the day

First sight of the day

Our new friends insisted we spend the next day at the northern most point of the island, Cap de Formentor, we had no plans so we took their advice, said our good byes and headed North. The next morning we woke up before 9am and began to explore. We came to our first mirador (look out point) before any other tourist and watched the goats graze on the dew washed grass while looking out at the ocean. We could see a light house in the distance, so that was our next destination. We drove up another beautifully designed mountain road and made our way to the top where the light house was. The views here were phenomenal, we could see the road we just came up from and the land scape of the island.

lbcuvfMa3NKqs6PhVYZjHaAmeUvd83_CGe2FcL0HlUYPzJGzX35h7L4jI6DfHsPVlpoLBQEnZIbuw1jWFeZNx8_zps7395025dOn our way back down we stopped at a few cami de … which are different hiking trails off the side of the mountains. There were dozens of trails as we worked our way down the road. The one we went down led us down to a cliff overlooking the ocean and jet skiers in the distance. We went to a beach down the mountain, Playa de Formentor, which was completely surrounded by nature; pine trees, mountains, rocks. After we felt satisfied with our sights on the Formentor peninsula, we went to the neighboring peninsula, Alcùdia, and had lunch beach side in a port town. It was a pretty town but it was a bit to city for us, so we asked the waitress a recommendation for another beach nearby that she considered beautiful.

Photo by Jacie

Photo by Jacie

She said if we headed across the peninsula (just 10 minutes) we would end up at Mal Pas. So we did, we had tea at a restaurant that had a view that was like nothing I have ever seen, or imagined. It looked fake, like one of those back drops you take photos in front of on a cruise or something. Nothing but waves crashing in front of infinite mountains. The perfect combination of mountains and the sea! After we hung out there for quite some time, it was time for our final sunset of the weekend. We headed up a smaller mountain in Mal Pas and sat on a hill and watched the sunset. We knew this was the end to a surprising journey, we laughed and still tried to imagine how this was real life. The sky turned orange and the sun 536878_2941780279063_210771908_ndisappeared behind another mountain and all the was left was the ocean brushing up against the rugged mountains. The sound of waves crashing mixed quite well with the music of the Spanish club scene that was coming from a 90-year-old womans birthday party in a house just behind us. It was comical, viva la tierra, viva España, viva la vida. 

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BURN, BABY, BURN!

Since I was extremely silent on here for the month of March, I need to explain why!

  • The first 3 days of the month were spent in Prague
  • Than the beginning of March kicked off the festivities for Las Fallas festival, the main events being from March 14- March 19
  • Mallorca road trip March 22- 25
  • Barcelona school trip March 25 – 28

Mascletás

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Las Fallas official start of day 1

Until I knew I was moving to Valencia, I had no idea what Las Fallas was. Although no amount of words and pictures will be enough to justify these 5 days, I will certainly try my best. Starting on the first day of March Mascletás go off in the city center everyday at 2pm, these are day time fireworks that are louder than any noise I have ever heard, but it is beautiful and every day is in a different symphonic order. Plaza del Ayuntamiento is completely filled with people everyday until the Mascletás come to an end on the last day of Las Fallas, March 19. As each day gets closer to the end of the festival more and more people fill the streets surrounding the launch site in Plaza del Ayuntamiento and it actually feels like you are swimming in a sea of people, usually I am not one for huge crowds, but it is amazing seeing the plaza fill up more and more each day with people from all over town, the country and even the world! Than stopping to think, I live here!

Espectáculo de luces

525313_10151539914862692_1629235700_nAbout a week before the kick off date of Las Fallas officially starts, el espectáculo de luces (light show) that happens, every night for 7 days in the district of Ruzafa! I have been to my fair share of raves and Disney world parades, but wow, Disney has nothing on Las Fallas. The light show would start at 8pm and reoccur every 30 minutes until 10pm to the beat of a few different songs, the funniest was “scream and shout” and seeing a little girl on her dad´s shoulders saying     “it´s Brittney bitch.” The first days of this were the best because we had free range to move and dance as crazy as we wanted, the last few days of Fallas it got pretty packed, as if there was actaully a live concert happening, nope, just the lights.

sds

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

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Fallas

Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

Fire spinning Falla! Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

It will happen almost over night, you are strolling through any of the 350 neighborhoods in Valencia (Fallas-communities in this case) and bam, there is a huge sculpture in front of your eyes that was not there just a few hours ago. Each Falla-community commisions two fallas-sculptures, a falla and a falla infintal. Each falla is made up of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. The bigger the falla, the more money that community has. The most expensive Falla this year was 600,000 Euros (x1.3=USD). The fallas are typically satirical, playing on political figures, movie stars, even Steve Jobs.

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enourmous Falla

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enormous Falla

The artist and teams who commission these fallas spend about 364 days working on them, the most fascinating part is on the last day of Las Fallas, every single falla (except the one voted best) gets burned to the ground!

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

Falla infintal These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

Falla infintal
These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

bu

It´s Jack!

Paella

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

The most typical dish to Valencia is the Paella, my favorite being Paella de Marisco (Seafood), the most typical one is made with rabbit and chicken. During Las Fallas, each Falla– community has their own tent to party, dance and make Paella! I ate so much Paella this week, before Fallas even officially started our class was invited to a multicultural desert competition which also came with all the Paella and Sangria you could drink! The following day our falla tent had a Paella competition between the teachers, which obviously also included all the Paella you could eat. It is really neat seeing this dish be prepared because when it is made for the masses they use these huge pan´s over an open fire. It is a science and also an art, things were heating up (quite literally) and the winner went to a FSU favorite, Professor BJ. I was sure to try all of the Paellas, my favorite being the one with snails, shell and all!

Fuegos Artificiales

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One thing that can always make me lose my breath is fire works, in Spanish, Fuegos Artificiales, I have spent countless holidays at the beach, New Years on the bay and 4th of July at  Epcot (Disney park) but no fire works show I have ever seen in my life can come close to the fire works I saw in Valencia during Las Fallas, even my friends mom who has seen a lot more years than we have agreed. Every night for 5 nights at the amazing river bed park at 12 (or 1) fire works would go off for 30 minutes, 45 minutes honestly I have no idea, forever! Each night topped the last, with what seemed like cannons of golden glitter exploding in the sky, everyone was going crazy. The entire park was full of people screaming and hollering for these explosions in the sky!

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Desfiles

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Fitting right in

A very important part of Las Fallas is el desfiles, the parades. Whether it is the falleras and falleros or just people dressed up with their fallas tent, people are always going to be marching with the tradational fallas pasodobles. While you can see parades at any given time during this 5 day fiesta, it is important to note 2 imoprtant parades during the week:

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The start of the virgin

The start of the virgin

Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados This is when Falleras big and small march to the plaza de la virgen (right near where I live) with bouquets of flowers they present to a towering statue of Virgin Mary. The streets are blocked off and it is an obstacle course making it a few plaza´s down town, but so entertaining it´s worth the wait! It is a nice change of pace, the whole week you are bombarded with the smells of fire and smoke but during la ofrenda the plaza is filled with scents of flowers.

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Fallera picking flowers for la ofrenda

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The Virgin composed of flowers

The Virgin composed of flowers

483781_10151594595295439_1843818022_nCabalgada del fuego was the craziest parade I saw during the week, or maybe during my life! This parade is a prelude to la crema bringing 300 hell fires out to play. Ladies in firey red costumes, men dressed up as el diablo and fire, fire, fire! The crowd was out of control on Calle Colon but luckily my class mate Alex managed to snap some awesome shots!

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The battlefield

In the middle of the city stretching for miles is a park, where a river once was, but has now been converted to an enormous stretch of land where there are different kinds of exercise equipment, play grounds, museums, everything! But during Las Fallas the riverbed turned into a war ground. It was impossible to walk through here at night without a constant suspension of a fire cracker coming down from above. The first night that the boys in my program found the pyroshop we had a battle. Some of us were on a bridge overlooking the river bed and the rest of us were down below. Tossing firecrackers back and forth, drinking and playing with fire… not a safe combo, but no one lost any body parts (from our program) which shocked me a little.

Nit de La Crema

Nit de La Crema 2013 View of the city from the top found this photo online

Nit de La Crema 2013
View of the city from the top
found this photo online

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The highly anticipated crema happens on the last night of Fallas, by this time everyone’s bodies are drained from the constant boozing, lack of sleep and infinite walking. Even though we were on day 5 of constant fiesta the fact that is was all coming to an end was quite sad, but the show must go on, and that it did. Nit de la Crema, night of the cremation, is what all the partying leads up too. A spring cleaning some say. I got to see 3 different Fallas burn and it got hot! As each falla goes up in flames fireworks accompany it.

Fallera very sad it´s over

Fallera very sad it´s over

Falla infintal are the first to go

Falla infintal are the first to go

Next, our Falla goes up in flames!

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Tent hopping and ran into this!

Tent hopping and ran into this!

Ciao bella

Ciao bella

Las Fallas can never be put into a perfect description no matter how many words, photos or videos I use, but I hope this gave yáll an insight on how unique Valencian culture is. Alex Tellez made an awesome Fallas recap video i´ll post on here!

School trip to Andalucia

January 28th 88 students and I groggily boarded a bus and headed south to spend a week in Spain’s southern region of Andalucia. Our first stop was Cordoba and a visit to the breathe-taking Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba. This mosque began construction in 785 in a time when Cordoba was the capital of Al-Andalus.

Columns in the mosque

The Moorish architecture is heavily present throughout the Mosque-cathedral.What caught my eye the most were the 856 columns made of red brick and limestone; that gave the mosque a never-ending look.  What I found to be most interesting in this place of worship was the middle. In 1236 Cordoba was conquered by Kind Ferdinand III and the mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral. About 200 columns were knocked down and an extravagant catholic church was put smack dab in the middle complete with lots of gold and giant saints. People still worship here today! Although it took the place of worship for the Muslim people and completely altered it, the reason it is still standing today is because during the Spanish inquisition it was pardoned of being destroyed because it was not solely a Muslim worship te

mple but a catholic one.

Our next stop was Sevilla, Spain, home-town of my amazing friend Lucia!

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

My schoolmates and I felt like royalty (which is only appropriate while in Andalucia, right?) when we entered our hotel. Before dinner we made our way up to the terrace and got an amazing view of Catedral de Sevilla, the largest Gothic style cathedral and 4th largest overall cathedral in the world!

Taking in the view!

Taberna Coloniales 

For dinner in Sevilla my friends and I took Lucia’s advice and had dinner at Taberna Coloniales. This was the best meal I ate the whole Andalucia trip, and maybe even during my entire trip in Spain thus far! If you ever find yourself in Sevilla put this place on your list! At dinner I ordered  berenjenas rellenas (stuffed eggplant) filled with shrimp, which was a delightful surprise! Our table also ordered Roquefort dulce con moras (cheese and sweet berry jam spread) this combination was fantastic, I am a huge advocate for cheese and berries! For dessert we got Tia Pepe (Spanish cheesecake).

Plaza De España

Panoramic view of the plaza

Panoramic view of the plaza

This famous Plaza was used as a filming location for Star-wars episode 1 & 2, I have never really seen the movie but my roommate, Alison better known as Rosada, is a HUGE fan so she was pretty thrilled about this. A neat feature of the plaza is the tiled covered walls that feature each province of Spain. I really could have spent hours here observing the fine tile and bridges throughout the plaza.

Viva Valencia!

Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (Royal Alcazars of Sevillethe oldest royal palace still in Europe!

Hall of ambassadors

Check out that detail!

Check out that detail!

It’s very typical for artist to come to the ancient palace and work on paintings,etc.

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

After we toured Sevilla we were off to Granada to visit the Alhambra. Never have I seen architecture so fine before, I was taken aback by how small the detail was here. I tried

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

to imagine my self back in 889 when the Alhambra was first constructed as a fortress using tiny tools hour after hour to create a huge piece of what would be one of the most amazing buildings in the world. In 1333 the fortress was converted into a royal palace. Of all places, my camera died mid way through the Alhambra, but I was able to snap a few photos before it died. Since Alhambra is a bit higher on the mountain than the rest of Granada we were able to get a spectacular view of the white washed city from above! We were also able to see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, a mountain very popular in Andalucia for its skiing. It was a bit surreal being so hot and then walking up and seeing snow! Especially being a Florida native.

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

Their were many royal cats in Alhambra, not a shabby spot to live if you ask me! I could go on for days about Spanish tile, the tile in the Alhambra is probably my favorite so far. Covered in star patterns and geometric shapes of yellow, green, blue and white the tile could almost tell a story. How is it that something so old is still so appealing to the eye after all of these years? IMG_3731Walking through the Alhambra where most of the palaces walls were covered in carvings like the photo seen below literally sent chills down my spine. This palace is so well-preserved (although new pieces are sometimes added) it is almost like time travel thinking about the royal families that once lived here.

Intricacy at its finest

Intricacy at its finest

Ceiling detail

Ceiling detail

After so much sight-seeing (although I could have stayed there for hours longer) I was ready to eat! One thing I loved so much about Andalucia was the free tapas! This is most practiced in Granada. Order a reasonably priced beer or wine (or soda but no thanks) and get a free tapa, rice, bocadilla, or any other concoction the bars come up with. After 3 drinks and 3 tapas I was full from tapa hopping (and my wallet was still pretty full too!)

The weather, food, architecture and nightlife were remarkable in Andalucia. If you ever end up in Spain put this region on your to-do list!