Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nicole and Friends in Malaga

At the end of June and into July and August, it is hot, REALLY hot in Sevilla. The last few days have been at 108-112F. As hot as it here, it is amazingly cool and comfortable on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Sevillanos frequently hop on a train for a quick trip to the nearby beaches and are often back home on the same day. Nicole and friends recently enjoyed a visit to Malaga.

Two weekends ago a group of five of us went down to Malaga for the weekend. Malaga is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast that is rich in history and also very modern. We intended to take the train from Seville on Friday after class, but unfortunately, we didn’t buy our tickets in advance so we had to wait until 8pm that night. After we arrived we wandered around the city for a while and came across Malaga’s shopping district. Calle Marques de Larioshas is a really cool part of town that has everything from designer brands to small boutiques. Intertwined with all the shops are nice restaurants and any type of ice cream you could imagine. All of the streets in that area end up dumping you out at The Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle. These are ancient Moorish fortifications and gardens that are now a huge tourist spot. At night everything is lit up with spotlights and you can walk through the gardens and look down on the rest of the city.

Saturday and Sunday we chilled on the beach most of the time and soaked up the sun. There are some great places to eat near the beach that sell tapas and are affordable. We were all surprised at how course and dusty the sand was in Malaga. The beach was packed with thousands of people and many fishermen. After spending a long day at the beach on Sunday we were walking near a park on our way back toward the train station, and decided to take a nice siesta in the park. We conveniently had our beach towel with us so we laid those down and fell right asleep. Once it came time to catch our train we walked back to the train station and came home to Sevilla.

Chris is a Foodie

Aside from speaking the Spanish language and dressing with Spanish clothes, the Spanish food is also a great way to integrate into the Spanish Culture. When coming into my host mom’s house, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t realize that I would be fed so much food! Honestly I can say that I have never left the dinner table without a full stomach. The first night we had Paella, which is a mixture of Rice, Lemon, Seafood, Peppers, Tomatoes, Chicken, Rabbit, Green beans, and a lot of other ingredients.

While staying at my host mom’s house, we also had some Pollo(chicken) and Patatas (Potatoes). It sounds simple enough, but it was very good. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the food, compared to the normal American food that we all eat, is actually pretty healthy. Usually there is little to no dressing and everything, if fried, is cooked in olive oil.

Throughout my stay my host mom also made a dish called “Tortilla de Patatas” which is basically a Spanish Omelette. This dish consists of eggs, onions, potatoes, and more ingredients. Even though this dish is very simple, I would say that it is up there in my list of favorites. Because of the amount of food that day, I’m almost sure that I was stumbling as I got up from the dinner table.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gibraltar With Sarah

It was a spontaneous decision; a three day weekend and nowhere to go. So, where to go? Barcelona? Malaga? Lagos, Portugal? It was a decision that took a while to make; there were many factors to consider: cost, time, what to do when we got there? Monkeys, a wondrous cave, and an English speaking territory eventually won my group over. After throwing together plans and buying bus tickets, we were set to go to Gibraltar.

Saturday morning. We dragged our sleepy bodies out of bed and got to the bus station to catch our 4 hour bus ride to La Linea, a small town on the border of Spain, not even 5 minutes from the Gibraltar border. After arriving a little after 2 in the afternoon, we found our hostel, dropped our stuff off in our rooms, and scurried over the border to Gibraltar with a quick flash of our passports to a security guard. With more than several thousand people passing through the border each day, they seem to be rather lax with their security.

Once in Gibraltar, we instantly ran into a tour guide, offering to drive us around “The Rock” and show us all the sites. We chose to cough up the 25€ rather than walk aimlessly for over 3 hours on the enormous rock that looked like someone had just dropped it into the Mediterranean Sea. Our tour guide had a quirky English accent and a dry sense of humor that managed to bring out chuckles from the group. I could tell we had already made a great decision.

First stop, the Pillars of Hercules. It gave an amazing view to the Mediterranean Sea with the numerous boats moving in and out of the port, and out of the misty fog covering the Rock, we could barely see the top of a mountain in Morocco. It was breathtaking. And cold, really cold. After having our fill, we filed back into the van and made our way to the next stop, and my personal favorite, St. Micheal’s Cave. A large network of limestone caves with numerous stalagmites and stalactites, and even a concert hall nestled into one of the sides. It was indescribable and amazing. All I could do was stare in awe at the high ceilings and just imagine.

The next stop on our tour was the most fun, the monkeys. The trick to getting them to interact with you is sweets. A few peanuts and a trusting face, and the monkeys were jumping all over you and posing for pictures. It was scary, but also a whole bunch of fun. You were standing there one moment instantly, and then the next moment, you had a monkey launching itself onto your head! After spending nearly 30 minutes interacting with these playful creatures, our guide ushered us back into the van. Funnily enough, the monkeys didn’t think it was time for us to go, and proceeded to jump onto the van as we slowly pulled away; one even attempted to climb into the van! Eventually enough they jumped off and we drove to the other side of the Rock to visit the historical Great Siege tunnels.


A bit of history behind Gibraltar: the Spanish attempted several times to regain the Rock from the British during the 1700s, but with the Rock on the side of the British, it was near impossible. The British hand carved tunnels into the limestone, now known as the Great Siege tunnels, and placed cannons inside, using it to stop the Spanish from crossing over the only land that connected Spanish and the Rock at the time. Even today, the Spanish are still attempting to recover the Rock. However, in a recent poll, 99.8% of the Gibraltar community voted “NO” to Spanish sovereignty. Personally, I like them British.

After the Great Siege tunnels, we agreed to be dropped off at the Moorish Castle, which had a nice garden with a small pond full of goldfish, and a great view of the town of Gibraltar. Afterwards, we headed into town for dinner and found a pleasant plaza that served a delicious plate of fish and chips. Spontaneously, we decided we wanted to watch the sun disappear on the horizon over the Atlantic, so we paid the bill, in pounds, and scurried to the west side of town. Luckily, we got there about 30 minutes before the sunset and found a pleasant spot along the rocky coast and dipped our sore feet into the cold, clear water and watched the day grow old. It was a great time spent laughing about the day and enjoying each other’s company in a foreign territory. Anyplace feels at home, as long as you’re in good company. After watching the sunset, we dragged our lazy butts back across the border to our hostel, thoughts of what the next day would bring for us running in our heads.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Casey in Paris

When we found out that the professors were kind enough to give us a three day weekend to travel, a group of seven of us decided to take a trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris, France.

We found tickets for about 130 euros round trip through Ryan Air and stayed at a decent hotel for 30 euros a night. The flight was only about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Seville. We arrived at an airport about an hour and a half away from Paris but they had easy bus transportation that ran every 30 minutes and it cost 15 euros one way. We found that the language barrier would not be a problem. Almost everyone we talked to was very nice and spoke decent English.

Once we arrived, we immediately went to our hotel and found something to eat at a local restaurant. The downside about Paris is that the food, especially in the center of Paris, is very pricey. On average, it was about 10-15 euros a for each meal but the food choices were incredible.

After the meal, we decided to start heading toward the main tourist areas. We found that the easiest way to get to the center of Paris was by the metro train which was 2 euros one way. Along the way, we stopped at an old church which was very incredible on the inside and watched a choir sing.

After that we went to Concord Square which is close to the Louvre and many other amazing monuments. Although we spent a good amount of time near the Louvre, we never actually went in. The line was really long and the size of the building was too massive to attempt in the short amount of time we had there. However, the outside was truly a piece of art itself. As you approached the Louvre, there are gardens with statues which are jaw dropping. After the gardens we continued to admire the architecture of the building itself and the famous glass pyramids outside.

We walked along the beautiful Seine River as we headed to the Eiffel tower. We grabbed a nice dinner near the tower and went back for a good night’s rest.

On the next day we got up and had breakfast at a local bakery which had huge assortments of chocolate and bread in any combination you could imagine. We felt like we were in heaven. Afterwards, we went to visit the Arc de Triomphe which was incredible. As we looked at this monument we also became very interested in the way people drive through this huge roundabout with no street lines or anything. It looked like a mad house to us but appeared to be very easy flowing.

As we were walking toward the tower again we decided to stop and grab some lunch at a Subway because it was cheap and filling. Once we got to the tower, we got in a line to go to the top. After almost 2 hours of waiting in line we were getting close to going in. When we were within 10 minutes, they decided to shut down the Eiffel tower due to a security issue and we all had to evacuate the tower. We were furious but weren’t going to let that ruin our day. We found a nice patch of grass in the park nearby and laid down and relaxed as we looked at the monument and listen to some street performers play their music.

After that we went to go find a restaurant for dinner and to watch the soccer match between Spain and France in the Euro Cup quarter-finals. As we were walking there, we saw several very nice exotic cars. If you like exotic cars like Ferrari's and Lamborghini's,this is the place to be. During our time in Paris, we saw at least 20 exotic cars and it was pretty cool.

Later, we ate dinner and watched the game in which Spain ended up beating France 2-0. We decided to go see the Eiffel tower again lit up at night. On our way we witnessed a very big riot of the losing French soccer fans which was crazy to see. But we got to the Eiffel tower and the police had everything under control. After the Eiffel tower we headed back to the hotel and the next morning headed home.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carbon Capture & Storage

After our regular engineering classes this morning, the students received an invited lecture from Professor Vicente Cortés on carbon capture and storage technologies.

Since 2007, Professor Cortés has served as the director of the CO2 Capture Programme of the Spanish Fundacion de la Energia, a state-owned foundation which provides a world-wide reference center for carbon capture and storage development and validation projects in northern Spain. His research and development activities are directed towards solving technological issues in coal combustion and gasification systems for better performance and NOX/CO2 emissions reduction. Most of his research is performed under contract to a number of European utilities and/or the European Commission. In most cases, the research is conducted at pilot scale units or industrial plants.Over the last 14 years, Professor Cortés has directed or participated as senior researcher in more than 20 projects involving a total support of 16 MM Euros.

A great discussion of carbon capture and storage technologies is contained in the Wikipedia Reference linked here.

Professor Cortés' lecture lasted for almost an hour and was followed by 30 minutes of questions from our students. The lecture was highly informative and very interesting. We felt honored for Professor Cortés to visit our classes.

Olive Oil

If you shop for olive oil at your local grocery store, one brand that you are likely to see is Ybarra, direct from Sevilla, Spain. The world leader in olive production is Spain and 75% of Spain's olive production comes from the region of Andalusia with Sevilla is its capital. Last week, our students were invited to visit the Ybarra food processing facility on the outskirts of Sevilla.

The family owned company was founded in 1842 by the first Count of Ybarra, José María de Ybarra y Gutierrez de Caviedes. International success came quickly as the company's olive oil was granted the quality award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. In addition to its own line of products, Ybarra also provides mixing, bottling and distribution services for other companies such as Heinz Corporation. We were amused to see Heinze Bar-BQ sauce bottled for distribution in Germany.

The tanks below are used for mixing the various products. Every part of the processing is fully automated.

The packaging lines really appeal to our engineering "geeks." Without a doubt, the star attraction for the trip is the "box flipper." The mechanism works with a clever spring mounted arm - no motors. Its great to be an engineer!

Click on the image for the video.

From Ybarra

The "box stacker" was a close second in popularity.

From Ybarra

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art and Madrid

The summer in Sevilla, as it is on campus, is built around two sessions. At approximately the midpoint of each summer term, the students travel as a group to visit some of the more famous locations in Spain. Last weekend, the students visited Madrid with an emphasis on it's world famous art museums: the Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen, and CaxiaForum. In our short time in Madrid, it was impossible to see them all but most of the students visited 2 or 3 of their choice.

Our travel was by a very nice tour bus. It was a long drive and along the way we stopped in one of Spain's extremely nice "bus stops" for a coffee.

We made a three hour stop in Toledo, the capital of Castile-La Mancha and the land of Cervantes' Don Quixote. The city has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and was an important city or regional capital under the Romans, Moors, and Spanish Christians. While under the control of the Moors from northern Africa, Spain experienced a unique period of La Convivencia (the Co-Existence) of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in relative peace from 711-1492. With this history, Toledo provides an interesting backdrop for the engineering students who are currently taking philosophy. We visited the Sephardic Museum which is located in a synagogue that was founded in 1336. It was converted to a church after the expulsion of the city's Jews in 1492 but was restored as a historic site in 1910.

Our stop in Toledo also gave us the opportunity to see one of the best known works, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, of the famous Spanish renaissance painter, El Greco (1541-1614).

The first order of business in Madrid was to check-in at the hotel. Getting 43 students assigned to rooms was accomplished with a minimum of chaos. The hotel had a roof-top deck with a great view of the Royal Palace and the old city.

After everyone had unloaded their bags, we took a short walk to the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida which was built in 1792 on the orders of King Carlos IV. The king also commissioned Goya to decorate the ceiling and cupula with frescoes. Goya (1746-1828) is referred to as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the Modernists. The chapel was declared a national monument in 1905 and in 1919, Goya's remains were transferred there. In 1928 an identical chapel was built alongside the original chapel, so that the first one could be converted into a museum.

After the bus ride, a stop in Toledo, and arriving in Madrid, it was finally time for dinner. We all enjoyed a fantastic meal of roast chicken with a hard apple cider.

On Saturday morning, all of the students visited the Reina Sofia art museum where they had the opportunity to view a wide variety of contemporary art, the most famous of which has to be Guernica by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The giant mural was created in response to the bombing of Guernica by Germany and Italy during the Spanish Civil War and was displayed at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.

On Saturday afternoon, the students could choose between the Prado and the Thyssen Museums. The Prado Museum of Art was started with the Royal Collection and opened to the public in 1819. The museum contains over 2,300 paintings from the 12th-19th centuries. Students could see the work of Rembrandt (below), Velázquez, El Greco, Raphael, Rubens and many, many others.

The The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection began in the 1920's with the private collection owned by the German-Hungarian entrepreneur and art collector, Heinrich Thyssen. The collection was expanded by his son, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Hans Thyssen married a former (1961) Miss Spain, Carmen Cervera, who encouraged him to cede/sell the collection to Spain for the museum in 1993. The Thyssen collection is interesting in that it spans the periods shown separately in the Prado and Reina Sofia. The students could see paintings by van Gogh (below) and many other great masters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Background on Toledo from Luke

Toledo Spain has been home to some form of human civilization since around the Bronze Age. However, the city did not come into power and influence until the time of the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans realized its importance based upon its easy to defend natural location and the location of the town relative to the rest of the Iberian peninsula being roughly situated 70 km south of Madrid. This places Toledo almost directly in the middle of the peninsula. During the Roman Empire, Toledo served as a commercial and a head base of operations of sorts for the Roman province of Tarraconens. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Toledo (then known as Leovigild) became the capitol city of Visigothic Spain. It would remain the capitol until the Moors took control of the majority of Iberian Peninsula.

This brings us to the period of history where Toledo was under the control of the Moors and influenced by their culture. During this period Toledo was known as Tulaytulah. During this occupation, Toledo would became a constant starting ground for insurrections against the conquering Moors. This was widely encouraged by the Christians who dearly wanted to drive the Moor’s out. With Toledo’s central location in Spain, it became very important in the constant Muslim and Christian power struggle that would continue until the end of Moorish occupation of Spain. Alfonso VI of Castile eventually conquered Toledo back from the Moors on May 25, 1085. Toledo was the first major city in Iberia to be reclaimed by the Christians. This would prove to be the tipping point in the struggle for control against the Moors leading to their eventual departure from the Peninsula.

Once the new Spanish state was restored, Toledo would once again serve as the capitol of Castile and would do so all the way till the Spanish court would be moved to Valladolid and then later to Madrid. Pryor to the moving of the Spanish court however Toledo’s cultural and Economic impact was massive on the province of Castile. Toledo would serve as a haven for Spanish, Jewish and Arab scholar’s who busily translated the extensive libraries located in Toledo into their respective languages. This would lead Toledo to be known as a great source of culture and learning.

Once the Court had moved out of Toledo however; its cultural and economic influence dwindled severely until about the Twentieth century. The population of the modern city is 82,489 according to the last count in 2010. The Modern City of Toledo has an immense tourist business being one of Spain’s great travel destinations due in part to its rich history. Toledo is also known for its Alcazar, a famous military academy. In recent times at the beginning of the Spanish civil war Alcazar was well known for being besieged by Republican forces in 1936.

Toledo’s Economy has always been very well known and dependent on its amazing metalworking. Toledo is especially known for its weapon manufacturing such as swords and knifes. The quality of such weapons made in Toledo would become world renown. This world recognition of fine weapon making would make Toledo a powerful and precious resource in the seemingly never-ending power struggles of the medieval time period. The production of swords in the City goes all the way back to roman times. It would also prove to play a large part in the conquest to take back Spain from the control of the moors. During the Medieval Ages weapons from Toledo were often regarded as being the best in Europe and often times what was known as the modern world.

In the later part of the 18th century however weapon manufacturing began to rapidly decline. Realizing the need for Toledo to keep producing the valuable weapons, King Carlos III directed the Royal Factory to be built in Toledo. The Royal factory brought each of the sword making guilds together into one place. This would allow them to work together for a single goal and purpose. The Royal factory was constructed in 1761 and would later be expanded in 1777. The Royal Factory produced weapons for the Spanish military all the way up to the 1980’s where it would eventually be shut down and then converted into housing for the Technological University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo.

The culture of Toledo is directly reflected upon the magnificent location of the old city, which is located on a mountaintop with a 150-degree view. This Mountaintop is flanked on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River. The old city contains many of the cultural attractions of Toledo including the Alcazar, the Cathedral and the Zocodover (central marketplace). Toledo has a significant Christian background that dates all the way back to sometime around the fall of the Roman Empire. The rise of Christianity and the influential role it would play on the Culture of Toledo and Spain itself. Has helped to shape the Modern day Toledo. Toledo has always been known for its religious tolerance of both Muslims and Jews; the aforementioned groups having significant populations in Toledo following the Spanish conquest of Toledo from Moorish hands. This well known tolerance was unusual for that period of time and would eventually come to an end. The end however would not come until the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 followed by the Muslims in 1502.

The City in Modern times still contains reminders of these groups of people and their cultural influence on the city of Toledo. There remains the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, the Synagogue of El Transito, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and the church of San Sebastian. All of which predate the expulsion of both the Muslims and the Jews from Spain. The Cathedral of Toledo was constructed between 1226 and 1493 and is a shining example of the rich and diverse cultural heritage seen in Toledo. The Structure is modeled after the Bourges Cathedral with a touch of Mudejar design giving it a unique glimpse into Toledo’s diverse past.

Toledo also has two very famous bridges granting access to Toledo spanning the Tajo. These are the Alcantara Bridge and the slightly newer bridge San Martin. Toledo also was the home of El Greco for the later part of his life. He painted some of his most famous paintings in Toledo such as the popular “ The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” painting. The old City has unfortunately never been the same since the Court of Spain was removed in the year 1561.

The food in Toledo derives directly from their fast cultural history. The food is generally set on the tradition of hunting and grazing. There are also a lot of Moorish and Christian influences seen in the foods they consume. Some of the more well-known and famous foods found in Toledo include lam roast, lamb stew, cochifrito, alubias con perdiz (beans with partridge), perdiz estofoda (partridge stew), carcamusa, migas, gachas manchegas, and last but not least tortilla a la magra. Toledo is very well known for its Manchego cheese as well as its marzipan.

The places to see and things to do while in Toledo are numerous. Popular tourist attractions are the alcantrara Bridge (Roman bridge across the Tagus), Galiana Palace (13 century), Tornerias Mosque (11th century), Alcazar (located in the highest part of town it overlooks the city and contains a collection of historical items from armies long past), Puerta Bab al-Mardum (the oldest city gate in Toledo), Puerta del Sol (mudejar style and built in the 14th century), El Cristo de la luz (a small mosque-oratory build in the year 999), Castillo de San Servando (Medieval castle build near the banks of the Tagus river and was later converted into the famous military academy of Toledo), Cathedral (built in the 13th century), Museo de El Greco ( The house of El Greco which was rebuilt as a museum to house El Greco’s paintings). These are just a few of the great attractions that the town of Toledo has to offer. If I were to list off all of the historical and ancient buildings in Toledo I would be rattling about most of the old town. I believe that with Toledo, as with every great historical place, it can never be fully described to someone who has not seen such an amazing place with his or her own eyes. Pictures can never do justice to anything worth the time to travel and see.,_Spain

Soccer With Antonio

People that follow soccer know that the Spain national team won the recent World Cup in 2010 in South Africa and the past Euro cup in 2008 making Spain the world's best national soccer team. When I saw that Spain was going to play a friendly match against China in Seville at the "Estadio Olimpico" as a tune-up for the Euro Cup, my first thought was "I'm going!" I used my laptop to buy 2 tickets, one for me and one for my roommate. The tickets were only 15 Euros which is not bad to watch the best team in the world. I knew that going to watch Spain play was going to be a great experience, and it sure was.

To match the rest of the Spaniards, my friends and I went to the mall next to the stadium where the Sevilla professional team plays and bought the original jersey for 70 Euros.

During the game day, you could see people getting ready for the game, and everyone wearing red. The Spain national team is better known as "La furia roja." To get to the stadium, we needed to take the bus (C2). On our way, you could see people getting excited, waving the Spain flag, singing, and yelling "Viva España."

When we arrived at the stadium, there were already thousands of people waiting outside for the national team to arrive. The atmosphere was amazing. I have never seen people that excited for a soccer game. Entire families were there for the match. The stadium was incredible from the inside and from the outside.

As the time for the kick off was getting closer, the stadium was getting full. People were expecting a lot of goals. Well that didn't happen. Spain barely won 1-0, even though Spain controlled most of the game. During the game people were singing "Va por ellos oe oe," which basically means "is for them."

People showed their support for the entire game and the atmosphere was amazing. The opportunity that I had watching some of the best players in the world play like Iker Casillas, Xavi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Pique, Ramos, etc., was incredible. I am never going to forget the experience of watching this soccer game in Spain. Viva España!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feast of Corpus Christi

In 1317, Pope John XXII ordered that the Body of Christ should be part of a solemn, public procession and thus began the feast of Corpus Christi. The feast day was first observed in Spain sometime during the 14th century and in Sevilla, is second only to Easter as a public celebration. In observance of the city holiday, the University of Sevilla was closed and our engineering classes were cancelled for the day. Instead, many of the students were out to experience the Corpus Christi feast.

More Corpus Christi photos...

The feast includes a mass at the cathedral and a procession through the streets of old Sevilla. The crowds were huge with seating and standing along the curbs and sidewalks. The street for the parade route is covered with rosemary which can be seen in the photograph below. The fragrance was pervasive and very nice.

People of all ages participated in the procession and everyone was dressed in their "Sunday best." The procession lasted for more than 3 hours and it seemed that there had to be at least 2000-3000 participants.

Virtually all of the procession participants carried either ornate, decorated staffs or long, burning candles. These young marchers were preoccupied with their candles.

As the younger marchers went by, this young man held out his ball of wax for them to drip their candles onto. It was growing rapidly.

The main attractions for the procession were nine pasos which were tributes to the Christ child, the Virgin Mary and other saints. They were carried on the shoulders of 15-16 walkers beneath the floats. It is a huge privilege to be selected to be part of the team that carries a paso.