Spain could not have been any cooler if it tried. I am very (pleasantly) surprised to hear my self say that. I’m not sure if it was growing up in Southern California, but I because of the constant exposure to Spanish, I had no real desire to know it. That has changed.
I’m not really sure how I want to write this blog post, but I’ll try and just go chronologically. But there are some things that, in order for the flow of this post to work I want to get out of the way now. I went to Granada to go visit my friend Amara, who I worked with over the summer. She is teaching English at a school about an hour outside of Granada. She also just graduated from UCSB and is living with three Spaniards, two guys and one girl. She studied abroad in Chile when she was a Junior.
So I flew out of Paris on Tuesday morning. I flew out of Charles de Gualle, so it was pretty simple to get there. I had done that before when I flew home to the US for break, so I knew how to get there. I arrived in Malaga, a small town about a two hour bus ride away from Granada. Now, as I said before I never had any desire to learn Spanish, so as a result, I knew virtually none. I could say I have a large cat in my pants, but I couldn’t see how that was going to help me get from Malaga to Granada to meet up with Amara.
One of Amara’s friends from Chile is also living in Granada, and it just so happens that her cousin was visiting her and arriving about an hour before me at the same airport in Malaga. Thanks to the wonders of social networking sites like Facebook, Amara’s friends cousin and I met up at the airport and got the bus to Granada (all thanks to the Spanish that Christine, the cousin, knew).
When we got to Granada, Amara met up with us and since Christine and I hadn’t had much food that day, we went out and got a late lunch. Or what I would consider a late lunch, but more about that later. I got ham. The Spanish love them some ham. Huge shanks of ham were just hanging in shops, sometimes covering entire walls. God, it was delicious. While we ate our lunch, Amara had to go teach a private lesson. It only lasted an hour, so Christine and I just kind of sat around and hung out.
After her lesson, Amara walked us to Christine’s cousin’s house. Michelle lived fairly close to Amara and we hung out there for a little while. Then Amara took me to her place and I dropped my stuff off. Then we were off to explore.
Granada is a beautiful city. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I didn’t expect anything. I knew it was in the south of Spain, a region I now know is called Andalucía, and that it was going to be a heck of a lot warmer than Paris, but I didn’t know anything else. I wasn’t sure if it was a big town, or if there were things to do there or what. I was blown away.
On the walk from the Plaza de Toros (yes, a real bull fighting ring) to Amara’s house (Christine and I met Amara at the Plaza) we walked along this main street with a picture perfect view of a neighbor hood called the Albizine (sp?). It was situated on a small hill and overlooked the rest of Granada. Behind that hill though, were these beautiful snow capped mountains. Those mountains are part of a pretty small mountain range, but they certainly were pretty.
When we went out exploring, we went to Plaza de San Nicolas up in the Albizine. It was a kind of look out, and what it looked out on was breathtaking. Granada used to be a Moorish city, back in the day. Most of Spain was conquered by the Moorish people who came up from North Africa. As a result, they heavily influenced architecture, sometimes leaving behind their own buildings. Granada is home to one such building, called the Alhambra. It was an old Moorish Palace that was taken over by the Catholic monarchs of Spain and continued to be built upon.
The way they had the Alhambra lit up at night made it so I could have stayed there and looked at it for days. But there were more important things to do, like Tapas! Tapas is a traditional Spanish food, which is literally just a small plate of what most people would consider hor d’oeuvres. The cool thing in Granada, though, is that if you go to a Tapas place and order a drink, they bring you a dish for free. Michele and Amara knew of a place that had a Tapas buffet so we went there. It was delicious, and surprisingly filling.
A quick note, as I promised I would get back to it later, but the Spanish have screwed eating times. It is a late rising country (something I don’t mind) but their hours of eating are just messed up. I don’t really know when they eat breakfast, but they eat lunch anytime between 2PM and 4PM. It may be the American in me, but I just can’t wait that long to eat. Dinner is even worse. Most of the time they don’t start eating until 10PM, sometimes as late as 11PM. We actually did that for two nights and I now know that I will never be Spanish. I cannot wait that long to eat.
Anyway, on my first full day in Granada I actually left Granada. Amara decided to take me with her to school, which is about an hour car ride away. Amara carpools with a few other teachers, so we all rode together. Not a lot of them spoke English, but some did. I mainly talked to those ones. All of the people I met there though were incredibly nice to me.
The strangest part about going to school with Amara was probably the fact that it was the first time I had gone back to a high school since I graduated one myself. What was even weirder still (I guess making the last part not the strangest, but still very strange) was that it seemed like a typical American high school, like the ones they show on TV. It was a one building school complete with three stories, indoor hallways and lockers. There was a teachers’ lounge, and a small cafeteria. It was like stepping into the twilight zone, where I was in America, but everyone was speaking Spanish. Every stereotype (jock, nerd, tween wannabe slut, etc.) were all there. I guess that adolescents isn’t just limited to the US.
OK, so after school Amara and I wanted to lay low and kind of relax. We decided that we were going to cook dinner at home. We invited a bunch of her friends over and made some great chicken. It was really funny meeting all of her friends, again because they were almost all Spanish. We had the chicken, made guacamole and just ate and talked until around twelve. I was super tired and had plans to go get up relatively early the next morning so I was pretty relieved when her friends said they were leaving.
On Thursday, Christine and I went and did some exploring. The biggest attraction in Granada is the Alhambra, a morrish palace that was built (I want to say…) in the 14th century. It was then taken over by the Catholic monarchs after they kicked the Moors out of Spain and converted into a palace for them. The view from the Albizine was pretty enough, so I knew I was going to like it when I got up there, but I wasn’t sure how much.
It was probably the coolest single place I’ve seen in Europe. It was this huge complex of ornately decorated buildings. When I say ornate, I mean entire façades of buildings were hand carved with the most incredible detail, or that huge swaths of wall were inlayed with beautifully polished tiles. I took over three hundred pictures in two hours. To top it off, because we got there so early, there was barely anyone visiting it. Well, that may have been due to the fact I was a Thursday in January, but still…
After we wandered about the Alhambra to our hearts content we decided we wanted to go find the Moroccan market in Granada. Amara and Michelle had told us where there was one, and Michelle had apparently taken Christine past it the day previous so we had a vague idea of where we were going. On the way there we found a woman selling fresh tea (it actually looked like pot pourri). Now I have never been one to enjoy a cup of tea, because all it is is super hot lightly flavored water. But there was one tea that she was selling that smelled better than almost anything else I have smelled in my life. Anyone who has spent any time with me knows how important the smell of my environment is to my well being, so naturally I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to but this sweet smelling wonderfulness. It smelled reminiscent of those Troli peach rings, and was made from tropical flowers and herbs.
Anyway, moving right along. After we bought our teas, we found the market. For a long long time I had wanted a cool leather satchel/messenger bag, but nowhere in the US could I find one. Over winter break I went shopping with Nick and Nana and never found a bag that really worked for me. That changed in Spain. The Spanish love them their leather products. We walked down small corridors lined with purses and bags, all 100% Moroccan leather. Then I found it. It is a beautiful three pocket, double lock leather satchel. I was so tempted to buy it then and there, but I knew I was going to Morocco in a month with Dad and JoAnn. I decided to hold off, but I would just see how much it was.
Christine was actually going to get some purses for her and her sister so we hung around and the more time I spent looking at this bag I had been searching for the more I knew I should get it. But, no I could probably get a better bag/price when I was actually in Morocco. But I asked the man how much he wanted for the bag. He said forty-five Euros. There was no way that I was going to pay that much for this bag, as awesome as it was. I said that was too much for me, and right off the bat he lowered it to forty. Christine chimed in and said (in Spanish) that I “couldn’t” spend more than thirty Euros and thank you. He finally got down to thirty-five. I was still holding off. I kept saying thirty was my limit. He tried to throw in a free scarf (it was two Euros on it’s own). Since I had just bought one from another vendor, I didn’t need another one. Christine asked if he would just deduct the price of the scarf from the price of the bag. He said he could do thirty-three Euros. I wasn’t about to let him get away with that, so I said thirty-two Euros and a scarf. He said I could have it for thirty-two Euros and no scarf. Deal.
So now I have the most handsome mahogany brown leather bag. It is a tad heavy, but it works perfectly. I have two large pockets, in which my computer fits perfectly, as well as a small pocket and a zipper pocket. The white hand stitching shines impressively against the dark brown leather. Needless to say I am really happy for the purchase.
Ok, so after the market, it was almost time for Amara to get back from school. The Spanish were big on taking naps, so that is exactly what we did. We took almost a two-hour nap. Once we got up, we didn’t really do a whole lot. We were going out that night because it was Amara’s other friend, Nicole’s birthday. We went over to Nicole’s apartment around nine thirty. It was a five-minute walk from Amara’s house to hers. The weird thing though was that on the way over we passed a store that had police surrounding it. I noticed that the front door’s glass had been smashed in and was shattered. I didn’t think much of it but I was pretty curious.
We went out to a great Italian restaurant for dinner, but we had to pass that same store. Jokingly I said I wondered if someone had died, based on the amount of police that were there. Literally the minute after I said that, a hearse pulls up. We didn’t find out until the next day, but the owner of that store apparently beat his pregnant wife to death while someone else was in the store.
Not to change the mood at all, but after dinner everyone wanted to go Salsa dancing. Amara and her friends go salsa dancing every Thursday at a club in the Plaza de Torros because their favorite teacher goes there. So to recap, they took me to a salsa club in a real bull-fighting ring. It was awesome.
On Friday Amara and I were off to Seville. I had been told by my step-sister if I get a chance to go to Seville. Not knowing anything about Spain, I figured why not? Amara really liked the city and still hadn’t done a lot of the touristy stuff there. Plus I was going to stay at my very first hostel!
We got on a train from Granada to Seville. It took us about three hours to get there, arriving around 2:30PM. It took us a while to get to the hostel because I wrote down directions but literally they said “turn left before the McDonalds” and nothing more. Luckily Amara can speak perfect Spanish, so she just called the lady at the hostel and figured out where we need to go. It was a cute little place, and we had our room to ourselves. It was about a ten minute walk from our hostel to the Cathedral (which is the third largest in Europe). On Friday we kind of just walked around. By the time we got settled all of the tourist sites were closed. We did however get to go see a free Flamenco show that night. Man, I didn’t know how fierce looking flamenco dancers were. I thought this lady was going to kill me with her death stare!
I had to fly out of Malaga the next day at 5PM. The bus that was going to take me there was leaving at noon and the cathedral didn’t open until 11:00AM. So if I was taking this bus then we weren’t going to get to see it. We were both pretty bummed. Then Amara had the great idea of checking the train schedule. There was a train leaving around 1:30PM getting me into Malaga about an hour and twenty minutes before my flight. Perfect!!
Thanks to that we got to go and see the Cathedral and go up the Giralda (a tower built by the moors for their prayers). It had the best views over Seville and we got to spend our time up at the top!
From then on, the rest of the trip wasn’t exciting. Amara put me on my train and I took a cab from the train station in Malaga to the airport. Then I hopped onto my flight back to Paris. And that was Spain!
The best part was after going out (most of the night… I got home at 4AM) I was off to Germany to spend a week traveling with my Dad. More to that when I am back in the states though. Oh yeah, I am going back to the states for a week.