España: Verano 2016

Ok so I guess writing and posting personal stories in a timely manner is not one of my strengths. I left for Spain almost a year ago and in the time that I have been back I have only been able to post about the first week of our two week trip. My goal is to finish posting everything before the one year anniversary of getting back from the trip. June 28, here I come. Keep your fingers crossed.

Now back to Spain. Granada was the last city we got to explore as an entire group before going our separate ways for a week in Madrid. I fell head-over-heels in love with the city, so I hope this post conveys that.

Granada

Dia Cinco: Sevilla to Granada

We headed to Granada with excitement and sadness, know that the next couple of days were our last together as a group. At this point we had all grown very close and were nervous about living with different families in Madrid. Robin did her study abroad in Granada and arranged for her former advisor and one of his friends to give us a walking tour of the city as soon as we arrived.

The tours were great. Our guide used the right amount of Spanish and English to explain the rich history of the city. Granada is famous for its mix of Christian and Islamic culture. The city was held by the Moorish people for a very long time, and was actually the last city the Catholics won back when they reconquered Spain. Our tour included the open markets and squares spread throughout the main part of the city and the cathedral where Isabel and Ferdinand are buried (Isabel is the monarch who gave Christopher Columbus money to travel to the New World). We couldn’t take pictures in the cathedral, but it was beautiful. I really enjoyed the tour because it gave me a good idea of how to get around the city. Granada is a smaller city and I immediately felt at ease because I knew how to get around.

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An entrance to one of the many open open-air markets in Granada. June 19, 2016

After the tour we went to lunch, where I tried a squid-ink rice/pasta. It had a very interesting flavor and tasted similar to something I was familiar with (I still don’t know what the flavor is which is really annoying), but I enjoyed it and was happy to try something new.

Later that night, our group drove up into one of the neighborhoods on the side of the mountain and enjoyed a flamenco dance performance in a cave. It was very interesting and completely different from anything I had ever seen before. After the dance we walked to a look out spot that overlooked La Alhambra and the city of Granada below us. It was breathtaking. There was a fountain at the lookout that had pure spring water from the mountain pouring out of it. We were told that the water brings luck and love, so of course I had to drink some before we left. We had a very late dinner that night and ate at Kebab King, a fast food place that served gyro-like wraps. It was legendary and I miss it everyday. The food was so good that I had to go back and order seconds.

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Enjoying the delicious food at Kebab King the right way. June 19, 2016

After dinner Señora Richardson brought a small group of us to a famous helado place that Michelle Obama has been to. I had kiwi ice cream for the first time and it was delicious! We were set to tour La Alhambra the next day and I was beyond excited!!

Dia Seis: Granada

Today was the day we toured La Alhambra.

I have no words to describe how beautiful it was. It took my breath away. The Moorish architecture was incredible and unlike anything I had ever seen before, and the sweeping view of the city that sat below the mountains was magnificent. On top of possessing a grand view and other-worldly architecture, La Alhambra is also home to an interesting and important history that holds a special place in Spain’s past.

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The view from La Alhambra, looking out over the city of Granada. June 20, 2016

Once the summer home of the Sultan’s who ruled the area, it was transferred to Isabel and Ferdinand when Christianity came to rule Spain again. It was built to protect the villagers as a last resort in an attack and to bring peace to the rulers who looked to escape from the city below. It was able to operate as its own city within a city, and its ability to withstand both war and time is astounding. I was in awe of everything I saw and heard. I also realized that this was the oldest structure I have ever toured, as it is older than the entire history of Los Estados Unidos.

After the tour and lunch we had an afternoon full of free time and exploring. I decided to meet up with my friend from home, Becca Martin, who happened to be visiting at the same time (small world right). On my way to meet her I became lost (which was very unsettling for me because I never get lost) and had to ask for directions in Spanish. Luckily a kind woman was able to point me in the right direction and once I recognized where I was, I was able to navigate from there.

It was so nice to see Becca and talk as we roamed around the open markets, looking for tapestries and other items unique to Granada. After we had made our purchases, we went back to her room and I met her Irish roommate, Kate, before we headed back out to the famous helado shop I had visited the day before. I had pineapple sherbet this time and it was the perfect way to cool off from the hot summer sun.

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Outside of the helado shop with Becca. June 20, 2016

After saying goodbye to Becca and Kate, I headed back to the shops closer to our hotel where I met Tori and the rest of the group to do some more shopping. Tori and I each found really cool trinkets to bring home and circled back to one store more times than I would like to admit to see a cute shopkeeper.

After free time was over we headed out on our TAPAS HOP! Granada is the tapas capital of the world, and with every drink you buy, you get a free tapa to go along with it. My drink of choice that night was a rotation between Fanta Limon and Aquarius Limon. I drank a ton of each.

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At our second stop on the tapa hop, enjoying more Fanta Limon. June 20, 2016

Once we finished up at our third restaurant of the night, the majority of the group decided to go get ice cream. I thought visiting only three places was lame, considering this was a potential once in a life time experience, so Pablo, Francesca, Andrew, Señora Richardson and I wandered into one more place to try something “crazy.” We found a little bar that was serving “duck ham,” a meat similar to Spanish jamon, but made out of duck. It was delicious. We then continued on our way and stopped to get ice cream (where Pablo swore that the apricot flavor was the best he had ever had) before we made it back to the hotel.

I am so thankful I decided to try a few more foods and stay out longer because not only did I get to have more awesome food and ice cream, but I was also able to be a part of a smaller group, where I got to talk to Francesca, Pablo, Andrew and Señora Richardson one on one and have a very meaningful and authentic experience. This really capped off the end of our crazy week together for me and helped me calm down the anxiety I had over meeting my host family the next day.

Back at the hotel we joined the rest of the group on the roof and watched the beautiful city of Granada from above. It was peaceful and relaxing, and we all took a moment to enjoy each other’s company before we had to go our separate ways the next day.

That night I thanked God for introducing me to a place that was able to capture my heart with its unique quirks, and I thanked him for giving the Christians that took over La Alhambra from the Muslims the guidance and wisdom not to tear it down, but to preserve it and add their own culture to it. I also prayed for strength, safety, and love in the days ahead as I traveled to Madrid to meet my host family and live the next week on my own.

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.

 

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