Archives for category: Europe

After a month and a half here in Granada, I have finally visited La Alhambra! Not just been to it, walked around it, but actually been inside the walls and seen the house of Carlos V. Gloria told me it would have been an unforgivable insult to have lived here this whole time and never actually seen it, so to avoid that, I went with one of my Spanish friends, Antonio, this last Friday.

The whole structure/fortress/I’m not sure what to call it, is really impressive and has a strikingly beautiful, yet powerful feel about it. Every building, door, wall and garden has such ornate details to it, that it makes me feel as though every building in America is obsolete! The coolest part, was that every structure, house, and door has some sort of story or history behind it. There is even a legend about one of the entrances to La Alhambra, where a very large arc stands, similar to the Arc du Triumf, but with an Arabic influence in its structure. It is built around a set of doors, (and when I say doors, I don’t mean like the ones that we have for houses or buildings there, I mean a huge, wall-like structure that would take either a machine or 3 very large, muscled men to push open!) with a bunch of ornately colorful carvings surrounding the Virgin Mary, and above everything at the top of the arch is a hand, palm up, directly in the center of the arc. Now, the legend says that if that hand ever touches the doors, then all of Granada would completely disappear from existance. So cool right?! I don’t know why Granada would disappear, or where the legend stems from, but I do love a good, historic legend with a hint of believability that makes me wonder if it actually might be true :)

In addition to the legen…wait for it…dary entrance (that one’s for you Cush, and for any other Barney Stinson fans), all the buildings were truly awe-inspiring. The first and only building we were able to enter strongly resembled the Roman Colosseum but on a much, much smaller scale. The entire structure is a hollowed out, two stories circle with pillars every few meters and a wide open floor in the center. It was really impressive, and Antonio told me that they often hold concerts there in the summer. I wish I could have seen one of them, but I put on my own little show as I sung “Ain’t no mountain high” just to hear the cool echo from the center! Haha that’s right, I was THAT tourist and I loved every second of it! 

Unfortunately, because we weren’t part of a guided group who actually payed for a tour, our access was mostly limited to the main courtyard. It was a little disappointing, but I was still very happy just to see and touch the buildings, view some of the gardens, and overlook the entire city below us. La Alhambra sits on top of a large hill so you can imagine that every view is a good one, but at the top of one of its turrets is the best view of Granada in the entire city! It’s part of the restricted access, though, so I wasn’t able to see it, but the view from the courtyard was satisfying enough for me! If I ever come back here, though, I am definitely going to spend the money for a complete tour! People tell me that you could spend 3 or 4 hours there and still want to come back the next day and see something new that you hadn’t the previous day! Antonio said that between school trips, family trips, and showing around friends (such as myself) he’s visited La Alhambra over 15 times and still never tires of it!

After spending a couple hours walking around La Alhambra, we stopped for some lunch down in the city, then walked to a village called Sacramonte to try and meet up with Julia and the other girls I met last Sunday. We never actually found them haha but the houses there were so neat! It’s known as an Arabic neighborhood complete with gypsies and Flamenco restaurants, and the houses are built somewhat into the hillside similar to the cave houses. The main difference (that I noticed at least) between Sacramonte and Albycín is all its colors. There are paintings of flamenco dancers on the walls and buildings, the houses are painted blue, red and green, there are trees and plants everywhere, creating an almost animated scenery. It was really hard to be frustrated not being able to find the girls when all the buildings were so colorful and the views of La Alhambra and Granada were so gorgeous. I swear, I love this city and all its beauty!

Later that afternoon I met up with the girls at a pub for drinks and tapas and met 2 other Erasmus girls, one from France (almost as cool an accent as Tiffany, the girl from Kenya) and one from the US. They are all really nice girls, and when I hear where they’ve all traveled, lived, and how many languages they speak, I can’t help but feel as though the US is lacking in the cultured department. We boast about diversity and take pride in celebrating other cultures, but how many of us have lived outside our American bubble, or take the time to learn another language (besides taking two years of a required language in high school)? I’ve come to realize that what I’m doing, living in Spain on my own, learning the language and the culture, is so precious and rare, and it’s a real shame that it is. I know that traveling is very expensive, let alone living here, especially now with the crisis and the decking value of the US dollar, but these girls have seen so much of the world already and they’re not even 21 yet!

I guess a part of me is jealous, and another part is inspired to see and learn as much about the world as I can, while I can! In light of that notion, starting in 3 days, I’ll be turning my thoughts and intentions into actions as I head to Madrid and England shortly after! England will be a nice vacation from having to translate 24/7, and I’ll finally be able to see a familiar face from home without a computer screen and thousand miles between us! I’m so excited to see another part of Spain and Europe, but I’m also sad to be leaving this wonderful, beautiful city. I’ve grown attached to Granada and my family here, and have promised myself, Rafa, and a waiter at a local cafe that I’ve made my second home, that I will make a point to come back to visit! I’m not sure when or how, but I’ll be back! Yes, those words are meant to be read in the voice of terminator.

Well, as the title suggests, the drastic deed is done. (Like what I did there with the alliteration?! Haha) What deed is that might you ask? Oh nothing too big, I only just chopped off about 7 inches of my hair! That’s right, I am now dawning a pixie cut of sorts and soooo working it! It’s so much fun and much easier to deal with! My showers are shorter, (although I still tend to put the amount of shampoo and conditioner required for my longer hair, one of the many adjustments I’m having to make), it takes two seconds to dry, and requires minimal styling skills which makes my life ten times easier! All in all, I am in love with my new do!

Since last week, things have been looking up with regards to my move to Madrid, my trip to Spain, and my overall experience here. Last weekend, I accompanied Gloria and Rafa to a birthday party for one of their friends up in the mountains (ok so it was more like tagging along, but whatever). The house was really cool sitting on a hillside overlooking the valley, and the overall layout reminded me a bit of a ranch house with it’s wraparound porch, complete with a porch swing, outdoor family-size table, and huge open barbecue thingy that I couldn’t really describe even if I tried! The party was a lot of fun, all of their friends are super nice and act more like 20 somethings rather than the 40 something’s they are! As if to prove this, Gloria started a chocolate fight by dipping her fingers in the chocolate fountain and wiping them on people’s faces and bald heads! Haha she even got me, but I remained my practical self and just grabbed some fruit, wiped it on my smeared cheek and popped it right in my mouth! Why let good, melted, fountain chocolate go to waste?

One of the best parts of the party, however, was meeting Julia, a girl from Belgium studying translation here at the university. She studied in England last year for an entire year, so she speaks really good English, but we spent nearly the entire time talking to each other in Spanish! It’s a lot easier talking to her in Spanish, because there’s a lot less pressure to be correct and I feel less embarrassed when I can’t quite find the words to say. So, with exception of the 10 ten minutes we spoke in English (she wanted to practice and, quite frankly, I needed a pause from Spanish), we got to know a bit about each other through our second and third languages. She also speaks fluent French which is so Cool! It makes me want to learn a third language really bad lol

We kept in touch and met each other the next morning for churros con chocolate (I figure the more I tell people about their deliciousness, the more chances I’ll have of eating them!), then spent the next few hours visiting the Carmen de los Mártires. It’s a very large, very beautiful garden/park filled with a bunch of trees, ponds, fountains, statues, little castles with a moat, and peacocks, kittens, turtles, and swan-like birds! It was the epitome of beauty and I’m planning on going back by myself to take pics and just wander around and soak up the tranquility. There was one spot in particular that I felt I should sit down and read/write some poetry…it just tugged on my romantic heartstrings, it couldn’t be helped. As of right now, Carmen de los Mártires is my favorite site in Granada. This could easily change, though, once I visit La Alhambra on Friday…

After spending a few hours in the gardens, we met up with some other Erasmus friends of Julia’s to celebrate El Día de la Vírgen. Erasmus is a word that just means foreigners that are here to study. There was a girl from England, Megan, a girl from Austria, Ana, and a girl from Kenya, Tiffany! I have to say Tiffany is super cool and the easiest to connect with through our mutual love of sports and activities. The coolest part for me though, was even though we were all from different countries, we all talked to each other in Spanish quite naturally. I will admit, it wasn’t always correct, and there were some English words mixed in when we didn’t know how to explain or translate what we wanted, but it was very easy to talk to these girls! I’ve noticed that I’ve started thinking quicker in Spanish, even though I’m still translating from English first, it takes me a noticeably shorter amount of time for me to turn my thoughts into words.

As I said, we got together to celebrate the Spanish holiday for the Virgin Mary, and let me just say, Spaniards mean business with their Catholic holidays! We ate Torta de la Vírgen, a pastry type thing that is only made and sold during that specific weekend, and crowded in front of the church to watch the procession of the Vírgen. We spent hours standing, waiting for the procession to start (the Spaniards work on the same timeframe as Kruzner time, everything runs about a half hour late haha), but by about 5 o’clock, the streets were so crowded with devoted Catholics and curious tourists that nobody could move! Then, once everything got underway, there was so much excitement and enthusiasm that as the priest was reciting verses and as they  carried the statue of the Virgin herself, people were crying and clapping and chanting and rushing to the front of the crowd just to touch the platform of the statue! It was so crazy!

Now, I mentioned that the statue was carried, and I wasn’t exaggerating. This thing must have weighed a ton because it took literally half an hour to go about 20 meters! It took forrreverrrr! And the poor guys who had to carry it were sweating bullets before they even reached the street! The poor guys had to carry her for 2 hours! I don’t know if they exchanged men to share the load, but for some of the older men’s sakes, I sure hope they did! The entire experience itself was really cool to witness and I’m glad I got to be there in person, but after 3 hours of being on my feet and 2 hours of standing in the same spot, my legs, knees and feet hurt so bad that I wanted to cry! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m religious, but it was one of those things where I saw it once, and next time I’ll be just as happy to watch it on tv! Haha It was just too painful on my legs and, being that I’m not Catholic, didn’t really effect me like it did the people around me. So, basically, I’m good with sitting and watching from afar next time! Lol

After reading this, I think you can all agree with me that my week was significantly better than my last week, what with meeting new friends, talking more confidently in Spanish, successfully chopping off my hair, and visiting beautiful sites, but I have a feeling that next week is going to be the best of all. Why? I’ll tell you! Because next Tuesday I move out of Granada and up to Madrid. Then, on Wednesday, exactly one week from today, I fly to London to visit one of my best friends from college, Swick, for a week!!! I’m so excited to start this new chapter in my travels, and can’t wait to see London! Ciao for now! Love you all!

Nothing beats a day at the beach. Based on that logic, nothing beats yesterday! Ok, so maybe that’s a little extreme, but yesterday was most certainly the most relaxing day I’ve had since I arrived. Rafa, Gloria and I took a day trip to La Playa de Los Moriscos, the closest and, according to Gloria, the ugliest beach the Granada area has to offer! Haha I don’t much disagree with her, because it was more rocks than sand, but it still beats any beach in Washington by a long shot! We got there around midday and spent the next 5 hours napping in the sun, only taking breaks to swim in the sea or eat our little picnic. It was absolutely perfect and just what I needed after spending full days traveling, walking, working and exploring. Plus, my skin was beginning to look a bit pale so I also got my Vitamin D fix! BONUS!!

By the way, I had a fun time trying to explain to both Gloria and Rafa that my skin naturally goes red, then darkens in the next few days lol they were so concerned and positive that I was burnt! Gloria even offered to give me the bottle of 35 and 45 SPF, which I politely declined. They just don’t quite understand that I have my Dad’s skin that naturally has a redder tint instead of brown like the rest of my family…thanks Dad!! Haha just kidding…sort of :)

Today, on the other hand, was a bit of a stressful adventure. To start with, my alarm didn’t work this morning for whatever reason so I got a much later start than I wanted. Then, as I’m packing my purse for the trip I failed to transfer my passport into the I was taking (something I didn’t notice until after I walked to the bus stop of course), so I had to walk back to grab that. Then, I got on the right bus for the bus station…only to find out it was going the wrong direction! What should have been about a ten minute transit turned into 40 minutes! The fun doesn’t stop once I get to the station, though…oh no…I go to buy my bus ticket and the kiosk says the next available bus isn’t until 1:15. It’s 11 am by the way, and the internet said there were buses available every hour when I checked it right before I left the apartment. So I buy my ticket, then happen to glance at the kiosk next to me and see that there is indeed space on the 12 o’ clock bus! What the heck!? However, I did not let it dampen my mood any further and decided I would use the time to get a decent breakfast (I only had an apple as I ran out the door), a much needed coffee, and catch up on some reading while I had the extra time.

The bus ride itself wasn’t bad at all. I was smart and chose a seat towards the front of the bus, (Mom, I’m pretty sure your car sickness is rubbing off on me despite the distance. It has been getting worse and worse since I’ve been here), and spent the ride either playing solitaire or reading. I’m re-reading all the Narnia books and am currently on the third: The Horse and His Boy. I forgot how much I love these books! Once I got here and settled into my room, I decided to explore the city as much as I could since I wasn’t sure how much time I would get tomorrow after visiting the consulate. In comparison to Granada, it feels as though Málaga is a much bigger city, but I’m not too sure if that is actually true and I’m too lazy to look it up. Even if it isn’t, the buildings are much, much taller and have a much more demanding presence than those in Granada. I walked by a cathedral that I literally had to crane my neck to see it all, it was incredible. I felt the need to touch the stones just so I could to make sure it was real, and for some reason, I was once again reminded of Beauty and the Beast lol I now know where they got their inspiration for the Beast’s castle!

The rest of the city, from what I’ve seen today at least, is a unique mix of modern and antique. By antique, I mean more of an historic sence, but everything here has history behind it, even the more modern buildings, so antique is the best way I can think to distinguish the two. Besides the cathedral, there is also the ruins of a Roman Theatre (amphitheater), which was so cool to see and fun to imagine famous plays being performed there!  Got some pictures of both sites and will post them to Facebook along with all my other pictures in collage form. Everything is in the center of the city, so that’s where I naturally gravitated, and spent an enjoyable few hours simply walking and admiring the buildings, people, and overall atmosphere. It’s been a while since I’ve explored a city on my own and I think I rather prefer it. I go wherever I feel like going and don’t feel any need to arrive to any certain destination (unless you count hunger, because that definitely influences my sense of direction). Other than that, I love just being a tourist and soaking everything in; all the different smells, types of buildings, the history, it’s all so much more than I’ve ever felt even visiting monuments and historic buildings in the US…there’s just so much more impact here it’s hard to explain.

Well, after walking around for the last 6 hours and drinking two glasses of wine (I wanted to try rosada [pink] wine and actually found it better than some reds back home) and tapas, I’m beat. Besides, if I’m gonna be at the consulate office by 10 am, I’ve got an early morning ahead of me! lol Don’t hate the player, hate the game! In this case, the game = the Spanish lifestye :P I will let you guys know about my VISA situation tomorrow…until then, have fun at work/school! Hahaha

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.