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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Granada y Cordoba - Southern Spain!

This past weekend, we took a group excursion to... southern Spain! I officially have a new favorite city - Granada.

Royal Chapel
Churros con chocolate
On Friday, we left bright and early at 8 am and headed for Granada. It took us 7 hours (!) to get there. The bus ride was rather long and boring. Right after we got off the bus around 3:30, we headed for the Royal Chapel. It is the site where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are laid to rest. The Royal Chapel of Granada is built in Gothic style and is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.  After we toured the Royal Chapel, we had a couple hours of free time to explore the city. A few friends and I spent some time shopping around and went to a cafe called "Alhambra" and had churros con chocolate. We met back up with our group and went to our "Albuerge" which is kind of like a hostel but nicer. (Although not as nice as a hotel.) We ate dinner and then a few of us decided to go out. We ended up walking an hour to get to the center of the city, and then walked back a few hours later, getting back around 4 am. Still haven't pulled an all-nighter like the Spaniards!

Claire and I on the 'illegal hill' with the Alhambra in the background.
Saturday morning, we took a hike up a hill in Granada and where there was a nice view of the Alhambra. At the top of the hill, there were many people selling hand crafted jewelry and other things like that. I bought a bracelet from a lady, and about 5 minutes after I bought it, the group was getting ready to head back down. All of a sudden, a man and his wife ran right through a small group of us and kept running down the street, yelling. We looked around and noticed more and more of the vendors grabbing their blankets full of hand-crafted gifts and running. They all started shouting "policia, policia!" Apparently, the police were coming, and the vendors had been selling their stuff illegally. I'm sure glad I bought my bracelet before the police came. :)

Sierra Nevada
For lunch, three other girls and I ate at a small pub. We were supposed to meet the group at 12:40 to go to the Alhambra. We waited 40 minutes for our food, and I went up to ask the bartender if it was almost ready. She gave me a blank stare and then went back to the kitchen for a couple minutes ,then returned and said "dos minutos, dos minutos!" TEN minutes later, they brought out my food, then a couple minutes later, they brought out 2 more plates. Claire still hadn't received her meal, and we had 5 minutes to get to the "meeting point" to meet the group and we didn't know how to get there. We told them to cancel the meal, threw down a 20 and ran. We ran all the way to the meeting point because our director told us if we weren't there in 5 minutes, they would leave without us. We did NOT want to miss the Alhambra. So we booked it as fast as we could to only see the group was there still waiting for the bus. We sat and waited for our bus for ANOTHER 20-30 minutes or so.

We spent the rest of the afternoon touring the Alhambra. The Alhambra was by far my favorite thing to see on this trip. For those of you who don't know, the Alhambra is a palace/fortress complex constructed during the 14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate in Granada. It occupies the whole top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city. From the Alhambra, you can see all of Granada as well as the Sierra Nevada - it was the most beautiful site I've seen since I've been in Spain. The pictures don't do it justice.

Part of the Alhambra
After the Alhambra, we got on the bus and headed 2 and a half hours to Cordoba. The bus ride there was rather fun because 5 other girls and I invented "Back of the Bus Club." (Yes, we are in 5th grade again.) We were actually going to play Truth or Dare, but no one could think of dares so we played Truth or Truth. Let's just say we learned a lot about each other!

We got to Cordoba a little later than expected, and dinner at the hostel had already closed. Fortunately, they opened it back up for us. Unfortunately, they didn't have much to eat. For dinner, I had a piece of bread, yogurt, a package of almonds, and a juice box. Yum.

Medina Azahara
Since we didn't get much sleep the night before, we decided to call it a short night and went to bed early. On Sunday, we went to an archeological museum just outside of Cordoba, and from there, there were buses that went to the Medina Azahara. The Medina Azahara is the ruins of an Arab Muslim medieval town. The line to get on the buses was super long, so our group decided to walk. We WOULD be the only group that would decide to walk. It took us a good hour or so, and the drivers in the cars going by weren't too happy with us.

First pizza in almost 2 months!
After the Medina Azahara, we had a couple hours of free time again. THIS time, we decided we were going to treat ourselves to a nice, sit down restaurant after what we went through the day before. We found what I've been looking for for almost 2 months now... PIZZA. I had "Serrano" pizza, which is with serrano ham (very famous in Spain), tomatoes, and lots of cheese. I was 'muy contenta'. After lunch, we stopped for gelato before we had to meet the group to tour the mosque. As we were standing in line for gelato, we met some other Americans who were from Boston, California, and Minnesota. They are studying abroad in France and were vacationing in Spain for the week. After gelato, we toured the Mezquita (Mosque). This mosque actually does not face Mecca because the Syrians face south to face Mecca and so the founder of this mosque remained facing south even when in Spain to emphasize that the Umayyad dynasty never left its homeland. I thought that was interesting.

View of the mosque from across the river

After the tour of the mosque, we took a 4 hour bus ride back to Caceres, arriving around 11pm. It was a long weekend! However, I thoroughly enjoyed southern Spain and can't wait to return in May with my dad!

Things happening this week:

I decided to take up Flamenco dance lessons at the University, and on Monday, I had my first class! My teacher is actually the host sister to one of the students in our group, and she danced at the Flamenco that we went to a couple weeks ago at the Gran Teatro. I'm going to continue taking classes every Monday, and some Tuesdays throughout March and some of April!

Classes at the university are still going well, and I can finally tell my Spanish is improving! Tonight, I'm going with a couple of friends who are getting their cartilages pierced. They really want me to get something, but I got my cartilage pierced my freshman year of college and said that was it as far as piercings go. But who knows, maybe I'll give in to the peer pressure and next time you see me I might have a lip ring or something. Haha, I'm sure if my parents are reading this, they aren't laughing.

This weekend we're going to the big celebration of "Carnaval." Carnaval is celebrated all over Spain but the two places where it is celebrated the most is Badajoz and Cadiz. Badajoz is only an hour from Caceres, so a group of us are going Saturday through Sunday. Apparently people go all out for this 'fiesta' and we have to dress up from our head to our toes. Claire and I bought wigs and make up last week. Also, it's very uncommon to get a hotel/hostel while you're there so we're going to be very Spanish and pull an all-nighter! It's going to be another longggg weekend.


  1. Shea, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your latest blog posting. I am glad you want to return to Southern spain because after seeing your pictures I can't wait to go. I am looking forward to seeing Granada and Costa del Sol. PS: I am glad you did not get your cartilage pierced. Might be hard to find a teaching job with a hole in your lip!

  2. Haha oh, Dad. I already have my cartilage pierced. Cartilage is your upper ear! But don't worry, I didn't get anything else pierced last night. :)

    I can't wait to return to southern Spain with you and Jeannie! You will both LOVE it. Seeing it in person is 100 times better than the pictures. :)