Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cádiz: La Ciudad Que Sonríe

"I cannot stop shaking my head and laughing because I am in a continual state of disbelief over my life right now. I am currently sitting in a plaza of ancient cobblestone right outside my Universidad de Cádiz dorm room at a setup of small cafe tables, journaling in the fresh sea air, being serenaded by live classical guitar music, and it has to be close to 10:00PM with the sun still showing no signs of setting. Surrounded by a corroding gothic cathedral, terraced buildings and balconies graced with colorful potted plants, the gentle hustle and bustle of stylish European couples taking leisurely evening strolls. Palm trees softly rustle, tea lights flicker in the breeze, Spanish conversations float around. Not far off, the gentle crash of ocean waves lulls the senses back to a dreamy reality. Sounds overly dramatic, a representation that waxes romantic even. But the happy fluttering inside me (or is it the shaking effects of extreme sleep deprivation?) proves otherwise. I am in the midst of a dream that is genuinely authentic in every sense. Feels like a movie, but I'm caught in nothing more than what is delightfully real life."

Cádiz is the oldest city in Spain and it is no wonder it's labeled "The City That Smiles." Life is incredible here. Although several stuffy airports, lengthy layovers, and a few frantic close calls characterize our first day and a half of exhausting travels, Sierra and I both have otherwise fallen completely under Spain's mesmerizing spell of European enchantment.

Sierra and I, (along with about 30 other students from the different UCs) after a quaint meal in the campus cafeteria, were escorted to La Residencia, our dorms where everyone has individual fully-furnished rooms complete with air conditioning and their own personal bathrooms and showers, and which are (eat this UCSD) a one-minute walk from the sea. I know. Immediately after showers were taken, a group of us set out to explore the city of Cádiz; roaming the streets littered with shops and packed with humming apartments, navigating through the throngs of Gaditanos and tourists alike, eventually wandering our way to a stretch of breathtaking teal-blue waterfront. Dinner was served again in the cafeteria by workers who had already nearly memorized all our names. After filling ourselves with selections of fish, chicken, bread, verduras, and gazpacho, Sierra and I made our way outside of the courtyard of La Residencia, armed with our journals, cameras, and happy hearts, only to be further amazed by the glorious surroundings. [insert above picture and journal snippet]

Jet lag-influenced fitful sleep and vivid dreams brought us the next morning to Cada 2 Por 3 Cafe for the strongest coffee ever sustaining us through a three-hour orientation of the Cádiz program. At the end of the informational session, we took oaths to speak only in Spanish, to keep our rooms clean (speaking of which, as I look around mine, uhhh...heh), and to not buy drugs. At least during our month-long stay in Cádiz. Sierra and I then triumphantly managed to mutter our way through the ordeal of purchasing SIM cards for our cell phones. Fortunately, the woman helping us was exceedingly patient and helpful--despite being previously inundated with horror stories regarding hostility towards Americans, we have so far found the accounts to be largely untrue.

Siesta closed down the city from 14:00-17:30 and of course, rather than idle the time away, Si and I trekked for hours all over Cádiz. We danced through open plazas, adventured down narrow alleyways, admired the endless structures of beautiful architecture, awwwed at little children dressed in very European attire, drank in the delicious scenery of the sea, sweated pounds and buckets in the heat, recuperated in shaded parks, and refreshed with melted gelato. Then as if siesta had really been a restful time, we headed out with our group for a three-hour guided tour of the city (talk about sticking out like a pack of tourists!! eek). Exhausting, but incredibly beautiful. We seriously live extravagant lives. Our now-customary al fresco journaling/unwind sessions out in the Plaza de la Catedral rounded out the evening. We sipped on cappuccinos, laughed and reflected on our day, and enjoyed animated conversation with our fellow group members "late" into the night--life is a whole new ballgame when the sun doesn't set until 10 at night.
But enough of this rambling.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here goes...

We are clearly wallowing in utter misery here. Foof.


grace said...

oh my shnaps. i totally should have snuck into your suitcase. just so you know, i'm all smiles right now... y tambien algo celosa.


Jon said...

AHH oh MAN it looks SOO GORGEOUS!!! wow im really excited for you for your next looks incredible. nice blog too hehehe very interesting =D

Emily said...

Lauren!!! the pictures are beautiful!!! ah im glad you're off to an amazing start of your journey. =)

eunie said...

omg those pictures are amazing. cant imagine how you feel actually being there. :) beautiful!

glad you're having a great time
miss you and sierra :)

Mrs. Wong said...

Lovely photos! I can almost smell the sea and hear the footsteps on the cobbled streets.

Just remember this tip my friend shared with me when she traveled to Europe...tourist tend to wear white (bright/new) tennis shoes...stick with sandals. Ha ha.

Can't wait for your next entry!

Deb said...

BEAUTIFUL!!! Yay, I'm so glad you can chronicle your year for us to read ;O)

Jacqueline said...

ah! i am SO jealous! SO JEALOUS!
why am i not there?
continue to take more pictures, update more, so I can pretend that I'm there too :P
bueno, espero que tengan una semana marvillosa!

con carino, jackie :)

p.s. lauren: your writing is AMAZING!

Jess said...

OH MY GOODNESS!!!! WOW! It looks amazing!! I'm so glad you are keeping a blog. Have fun!
Lots of love to both of you,

tim said...

dangggg. you guys suck. haha. you forgot to write about the part where you guys had too much at the bar, and later were hit on by creepy guys. next time u post pictures, photoshop me in there somewhere k?
-Tim the awesome.

joanna said...

foof to you fartface. i like :)

ashley said...

YAH!!! Soo happy that you guys made it and have already began living it up!!! We're all thinking of u back home!

glo said...

everything is gorgeous!~
im loving it from here and i bet i cant feel even close to the amount of excitement you're feeling :]
simply amazing

jellee said...

ahhhhhhhhh i love the snippet from the beginning from your journal i assume? ahhhhhhhh soooo jealous but it's soooooooo good to hear of how well you and sierra are doing :) ahhh i'm melting to how relaxing and beautiful it all sounds just by reading. can't imagine how marvelous it is in real life. wee love ya thanks for the update!

Geoffrey Hui said...

Ur lucky to be in Spain. the pictures look pretty cool. Mum sez that you should call and/or write to us. Hope you are having fun!

Love, your brother & rest of the family

kissa said...

hey hey lauren!!! i know it's a little late.... but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!.... you are now old. i hope spain is all that you hoped and more!! the pics are loverly and absolutely marveeeloouuuss!!!

kathy said...

oh my goodness.
total vacation spot you lucky gals! but actually spain is the lucky one to get you girls :(
i miss you two!! :D

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