Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Paris with Courtney, Shelby, and Keegan

When students first arrive in Spain, the airports, trains, and buses are a big mystery. After a few weeks, they become experts and can go anywhere.

All of Courtney's pictures here.


This weekend I(Courtney) went to Paris with Shelby and Keegan. My cousin Taylor is studying abroad in Paris and so we were able to meet up with him on Saturday and he showed us around the whole city. We saw so much of Paris that day, even things Taylor had never seen, and we probably walked around 15 miles. To start off our day, as we were walking to Notre Dame, we saw Jackie Chan directing a movie!

The other amazing things we saw included Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Fountain of Innocence, Arc de Triomphe, and La Défense Grande Arche.

And of course we also saw the Eiffel Tower. We ate dinner at a café and then sat down on the lawn and watched the tower light up once it got dark. At 11 pm, the lights on the Eiffel sparkle and it is beautiful! Sunday morning we went to the summit of the Eiffel and were able to see all of Paris, and that afternoon we had a relaxing lunch eating croissants in the Luxembourg Gardens. It was hands down the most amazing weekend ever.

Shelby and I also found lots of examples of statics all over the Paris!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Málaga with Stephen

Last weekend eleven of the students from the Texas Tech engineering study abroad program in Seville spent the weekend exploring Málaga. There were no Friday afternoon classes so we left Seville after lunch and took the 2-hour train ride to Málaga. Málaga, which lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is a beautiful city and the sixth largest in Spain. During the weekend we managed to visit all the main cultural attractions while also enjoying the beach and delicious seafood. After a lengthy check-in process at our hostel (the front desk lady didn’t speak English or Spanish well) we spent the afternoon relaxing on the roof of the hostel and eating the local tapas.

Friday evening we ate at this amazing Mediterranean restaurant, which was relatively inexpensive.

Later that night some of the students checked out the Málaga nightlife. Going to bed required great fortitude because our rooms were insanely hot and we were soaked in sweat. Saturday we climbed up the hill in the middle of the city to the Gibralfaro castle built by the Moors. The climb was intense but on top you get an amazing 360-degree view of the city.

We had kebabs for lunch, took a siesta, and spent the rest of afternoon on the beach. That night we had another great dining-out experience, but it was the ice cream afterwards that I thought was the best. Sunday we explored the Alcazaba (the Moors’ governers palace) and the Roman ampitheater, which was built in the first century A.D. and directly in front of the Alcazaba.

From an engineering standpoint it was interesting that they had a small stream of water running throughout the palace. This not only watered all the plants easily, but also kept the Alcazaba surprisingly cool despite the fact that we visited during the hottest time of the day.

Afterwards, we checked out Picasso’s house where he grew up. There wasn’t much to see, it looked like a typical Spanish home, but it was cool to walk through the house where Picasso lived as a child and teen. Lastly we ate some Spanish pizza and hit the beach one more time for good measure before we caught our evening train back to Seville. Overall, we had a great time and it was my funnest weekend of the summer so far.

Sweet Side of Madrid

Daniel, Amber, Brandon, Kate, and Daniel found the sweet side of Madrid.

More photos are here.


While in Madrid we did quite a bit of exploring after visiting the well known Prado and Reina Sofia Museums. Our first adventure was a little off the beaten path in Madrid; to find El Jardin del Convento (dulces de conventos y monasteries). After weaving and winding up and down the narrow streets of Madrid, past the Basilica Pontifica de San Miguel, we had finally found a nice tiny alleyway and at the end we were welcomed by their lovely little sign and knew we had arrived at our destination. El Jardin del Convento is a pleasant little shop near the Plaza de la Villa which specializes in selling natural, old-style treats made entirely by hand by convents and monasteries in Spain. It was hard to decide on what to purchase amid their tasty looking selection composed of candy, jams, muffins, pastries, and cookies. In the end we decided on some of their famous tea cookies, which were delicious, and well worth the trek. We thought this was a really neat and fun way to explore some of the less touristy sites in Madrid.

After our search for Jardin del Convento, we all decided to stop for a well deserved afternoon snack at Chocolatería San Ginés. This was one quaint café, covered in green wood panels, pictures of well-known visitors, and marble tables. San Ginés is most well known for its chocolate con churros, so we split three servings of churros, fried batter almost doughnut-like, covered in powdered sugar which we dunked into two cups of hot thick chocolate accompanied by cold milk (yes, cold milk, much to the surprise of local Spaniards)and limon granizados. These yummy treats were hands down the best churros we’ve had in Spain thus far.

Lastly, the morning before leaving Madrid, we walked to the La Latina area of Madrid to check out the city’s weekly Sunday flea market, El Rastro. This market is one of the largest in the world, encompassing everything from t-shirts to leather bags to antiques. We had a great time exploring all the displays, as well as scoping out great bargains. El Rastro had such a variety of items to offer that we could have stayed there all day, but alas we had a bus to catch back to Sevilla.

Friday, June 17, 2011

more Sevilla sights

In Spain, the schools continue until the end of June. As I walk to the Texas Tech Center each morning, I am accompanied by parents walking their children to school. If I am headed back to the apartment at 2:00, I see the parents picking them up again. Although I can't understand what they are saying, there is always a lively conversation between the children and their parents. When our kids were young, we would pick them up and the conversation would be like this:

dad: How was your day?

daughter or son: Fine.

dad: What did you do?

daughter or son: Not much.

I don't know what we were doing wrong.? Maybe it is the language. Spanish seems to be conducive to lively and passionate discussions.

1st term coming to an end

It's hard to believe, but we have been here 4 weeks and next week is the last week of the 1st summer term. We have slipped into a very nice routine that allows us to cover the necessary material and still leave time to enjoy Sevilla. The engineering classes start at 9:00 AM with the presentation of new material and examples. At 10:30, we take a 30 minute break so that we can all go around the corner for a cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk).

Class starts again at 11:00 with 4 to 5 homework problems. The students are encouraged to discuss the problems and work together. When they get stuck, the professors are there to answer questions. We are generally done with the engineering classes by 1:00 to 1:30 PM. The students go home for lunch, a siesta, and then come back for the afternoon classes at 5:30 PM.

It is an unusual class format that is made possible by this unique environment. The students are doing well and we are covering as much or more material than we would in an on-campus long term class. The relatively small class sizes of approximately 25 make it possible for the students to get individual help when they need it. No one gets left behind. More classroom pictures here.

Our finals will be next Thursday and several of the students will be headed home for other summer activities. We are planning a couple of evening outings for those students to see the Sevilla Cathedral, the Alcazar, and the Plaza de Esapana. They can't go home without experiencing those.

Statics and Bridges

We have covered enough material in statics for the students to appreciate the structural analyses required for three unique bridges that cross the Guadalquivir. Monday, we all took the city bus for a tour of the bridges. More images here.

Triana Bridge

The Triana bridge was completed in 1852. At that time, it was the only bridge to span the Guadalquivir from Sevilla to its mouth on the Atlantic at Cadiz, over 200 km. It replaced a wooden boat bridge that dated back to 1171 and the Moors. From an engineering perspective, the Triana bridge is interesting because of the combined use of an arch with braced, circular structural elements.

Barqueta Bridge

The Barqueta Bridge also spans the Guadalquivir and was completed in 1992 for the '92 Expo. The single arch over the 180m span and the cable stayed road bed form an aesthetically pleasing and structurally efficient design. Both artists and engineers can appreciate this bridge.

Alamillo Bridge

The 200m Alamillo Bridge is the most distinctive of the Sevilla bridges across the Guadalquivir. Instead of cable stays to a supporting arch, the Almallio utilizes a huge counterbalancing inclined column. This is visually distinctive but probably not the most efficient from a strictly engineering point of view.

Riverside Art

The walls along the riverside walkway have been given up to the graffiti artists. The creativity and quality of much of it is amazing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


As on the Texas Tech campus, we have two summer sessions in Sevilla. For our study abroad engineering students, we organize a weekend excursion for each session and leave a four day weekend between sessions for the students to plan their own trips. The planned excursion for the first summer session was Madrid and we took that trip last weekend. The second session excursion will be to Granada.

Madrid has not been my favorite place in Spain. Sevilla is just a big town, like Lubbock. Madrid is a really big city with just under 6 million people. But what has made it particularly hard for me to be enthusiastic about Madrid is that two years ago, with our first group of engineering students, I was pickpocketed two times in three days on our excursion to Spain. Evidently, I had a big target on my back. This was our first trip back to Madrid since then and I definitely had mixed feelings about it. But, I am happy to report that I had no bad experiences and in fact, actually enjoyed the visit, as did all of the students.

The sights, sounds, AND food are overwhelming and too much to try describe. Instead, I'll just share some photo collections.

Travel from Savilla to Madrid was by a 6 hr bus trip. The buses here are very nice, the scenery was varied and beautiful, and the rest breaks at the "truck stops" are amazing. Here is a photo collection.

On the way to Madrid, we made a short stop in Toledo which has been known since the time of the Romans for the high quality swords and daggers that are produced there. We left Toledo much better armed than when we arrived. Here are some photos from Toledo.

We spent half of a day in the Prado but could easily have spent a week. We were not supposed to take pictures in the museum. I only have this one to give an idea of the space.

The Prado contains 12th through 19th century art. Contemporary art is shown in the Reina Sofia. Some of the work shown there was a little strange (from an engineers point of view). More photos here.

The economy in Spain is in relatively bad shape and there is a lot of discontent with the government leadership. We had seen some political protests in Sevilla and there was a camp of protesters in Madrid. More photos here.

Food is a very important part of life in Spain. The do it very well and it is not terribly expensive. A typical selection from a "Topas" bar is about the price of a good hamburger in Lubbock. And they are unusual - this octopus. More food pictures.

Everywhere you look in Madrid, the architecture is amazing. More pictures.

Busy Weekend with Amber, Kate, and Daniel

Here is a story from Amber, Kate, and Daniel. There is also an online album of their photos from the weekend.


This past weekend we decided to take a complicated trip involving a total of six buses and one train ride to two small towns in Spain. Our first destination was Nerja, a small town with one of the best climates in Spain and all of Europe.

Nerja was definitely one of the most beautiful places we have seen yet with its white washed buildings perched precariously on the mountains that jutted straight out into the ocean. We visited the “Balcony of Europe”, swam in the Mediterranean, toured some caves, visited an endangered species of burrows, and ate the best paella ever. Paella is a typical dish of Spain that consists of rice with vegetables and pretty much whatever else is available. Ours was a wonderful mix of fresh shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, steak and chicken along with some sweet peppers, peas, tomatoes and who knows what else. We would all go back to Nerja just for the paella and the view of the ocean from our restaurant that was built underneath the balcony of Europe and had a panoramic view of the ocean and surrounding mountains.

On Sunday we made our way to Ronda by taking a bus through the mountains. It was definitely a good thing we had Dramamine or else there would have been some sick Americans on that bus with all of the winding and climbing on the extremely skinny and slightly terrifying roads. In Ronda we visited the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain (Plaza de toros de Ronda), the Puente Nuevo bridge, along with some exploring and hiking. Ronda was very picturesque and beautiful especially with the mountains in the background. We saw a Spanish version of Elvis Presley who was really into walking around with his 1990’s style boom box and taking up a pose to mimic Elvis’s leg twitching dance.