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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door, wall and garden has such ornate details to it, that it makes me feel as though every building in America is obsolete!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!

As promised in my last post, I am going to explain the whole Visa situation, since that was my main motive for going to Málaga in the first place. I should start from the beginning though, just so I don’t leave any juicy fiasco bits out!

First off, if you read my last post you’d recall that my trip wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, but I don’t think I mentioned the fact that the hostel that I stayed in (the only one I found that was remotely close to the bus station) cost €45 per night! I stayed in Paris for less money and that was a hotel! However, as I handed my arm over to the clerk behind the desk I thought, ‘don’t stress, Bree, you’re gonna get your Visa, see the town, and everything is going to be fine.’ Ha! That blew up in my face! Since the consulate is only open from 10am-1pm and my bus arrived around 3pm, I spent the afternoon/evening seeing what Málaga had to offer. I wrote all about that in my last post so if you feel out of the loop you should play some catch up!

After I got home that night, I was planning on getting everything set up and prepared for the following morning, but low and behold, the Internet refused to cooperate even under the pressure of intensely cruel torture conducted by yours truly. Anyways, since I wasn’t getting anywhere with the Internet, I decided to get some sleep and wake up a bit earlier to make sure I had directions and all the necessary documents. Again, that blew up in my face! When I went to enter the address into my locations app on my iPad, the map said the consulate was an hour and ten minutes away…from my current location! Apparently, Málaga is not only a city, but a province as well. I guess it’s true when they say you learn something new every day, but I don’t think it’s hard to believe that I wasn’t particularly excited about this discovery. I allowed myself about 10 minutes of freakout time, then had to pull myself together to make the big decision: do I buy another roundtrip bus ticket to Fuengirola (the actual city of the consulate), or do I pack up my stuff and head back to Granada and deal with it at the embassy in Madrid?

There were a few factors to weigh in my decision, but the ultimate deciding factor was dinero. Remember that my overnight stay in the hostel cost me nearly €50, that in itself was over twice the cost of both my bus tickets put together. If I hadn’t have had to spend that extra €25 on my room, I could’ve used it to get to and from Málaga without a problem. However, that wasn’t the case and I thought it too costly to spend more money on two more bus tickets and another night in a hostel. It just wasn’t worth the extra cost, especially since I will be going to Madrid in about 2 weeks anyways. With that decision made, and the fact that I had to be out of my room by noon, I packed up my things, had a quick breakfast at a café downstairs, and booked my bus ticket back to Granada.

Although the whole trip may have been pointless in terms of obtaining my Visa, I still enjoyed seeing the city and being near the water. I was also happy of the fact that I made my decision smartly, efficiently, and without the help or council of others. Even though it may or may not have been the right decision, or one that you agree with, I know it was the right decision for me at the time and will stand by it completely. I’m finding that I’m learning to trust my own judgement and am gaining confidence in my ability to make the tough decisions on my own. These are characteristics that I’ve struggled with especially the last 4 years and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in myself for finally growing up and taking productive steps forward in the adult world. I know I can do it, and this is just proof that no matter what happens, or what gets thrown my way, I can get through it and out the other side on my own without breaking down or giving up. I can finally depend on myself with confidence.

To end on a much higher note, next Friday I am going to visit La Alhambra with my friend, Antonio, and will also be making a drastic change in my appearance! Keep checking back to find out what that will be!

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

Well, it has been an eventful week to say the least! As I mentioned in my last post, I spent all of Saturday playing in a tennis tournament at Rafa’s club! I played 4 or 5 games…I lost track after 3…and lost every. single. one! Haha I even lost to an 8 year old! No it is NOT SAD!!! It is very hard to be consistent when the balls are lobbed and not hit with force! Even though I didn’t win a single match, (I won some games, albeit not very many haha), I had so much fun! I have never had so much fun losing in my entire competitive career! I know…who am I and what have I done with the girl who yells at herself and breaks/bends her racket?! It wasn’t that I was terrible, the points that I won were very much earned, but I literally have touched a tennis racket like twice in the last 4 years, and let’s face it, I was never the consistent partner in high school. What I am very good at though, is paddle! It’s like the Spanish equivalent to squash in the states. It’s played outdoors but the court is much smaller and enclosed with plexiglass walls and cage fence stuff. It’s so much fun and soooo much easier than tennis! Haha plus, seeing as how the net game is my forte, it’s more conducive to my style of play! I got to play with Gloria, Brooke, Sarah, and one of Gloria’s friends and daughter, María (who is the number one girl in the entire club! So she’s obviously terrible). Gloria and María’s mom were more comedic relief than serious players, which reminded me of my mom and dad. Mostly when Gloria would miss the ball and yell at the other players that she wasn’t ready, or the way they hit the ball was cheating! It was so much fun and I hope we get to play again very soon!

On Sunday, we took a day trip out to the country to visit another one of Gloria’s friends. And when I say country, I mean out in the mountains, where they have a farm with goats, a wild hog that reminds me of Pumba (but I guess it’s not wild since they have it penned up), chickens, and dogs up the yin yang! It was a complete 180 from the city to say the least! Oh, and did I mention that they live in a cave?? It was totally awesome! They don’t live like cavemen, the house is just literally built inside the mountain! Everything looks normal from the front, then you walk around the side and BOOM! there’s mountain where the side of the house should be! It’s so crazy! I guess it’s the best living situation with the climate here though, because it stays cool when it’s super hot outside and it’s really easy to heat the house with a fire and keep it insulated in the winter! It’s a really cool concept, although I’m pretty sure Mom would freak out! lol Now that I think about it, it was a lot like how Don’s house is back in Washington…(that was more for mom and dad’s reference for those of you who don’t know who Don is). We had really great food too. I got to eat blood! Hahaha seriously…I ate fried blood with onion and it was delicious! I also ate lamb and found out when we were petting a baby lamb that we ate won of his brothers…so that put a damper on my opinion of lunch. Although it was a good time, it was also a tough day for me. It was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and it was also the first time that I’ve seen live footage and explicit pictures since the attacks themselves. They don’t sensor anything here, so I have now seen each plane hit from every angle possible, each tower collapse with the screams from the aftermath included, and literally watched hundreds of people jump to their death. It really shook me and I couldn’t help but think if the families that lost a mother, father, brother, sister, you name it, and feel emotionally attached. I don’t know if it was seeing all the footage for the first time in 10 years, or if it was being out of the country, but it brought me to tears. I still remember walking into my 7th grade class and watching the 1st tower fall, I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I will never forget that day.

Looking toward the future, I have officially booked a weeklong stay in London to visit my very good friend, Anna Swicklik, from college! (I will refer to her as Swick from here on out, just a heads up). Not only do I get to visit one of my very best friends from Eugene, I got a roundtrip flight for under €50!!! What a deal! I’m also flying in and out of Madrid, which marks the first step into unknown territory as far as my trip and housing goes…exciting yet scary/terrifying at the same time! My former teammate, Newty, is there now and has offered up her housing for a bit, and I also have an old tutor that is living there as well that I could call up, so that at least gives me some comfort. My goal, however, is to get my butt to wine country and start learning more about Spanish wines! Living here has been great, but I haven’t truly tested myself, nor have I really seen the country which is what I came here to do. I’ve spent a month here, and I think that is enough time in one place in this stage of my trip. I am no longer allowing myself to make excuses for staying, I’m going and that’s that!

In the near future, however, I’m working on getting my travel visa to extend my legal stay for the entire 6 months I plan to be here. So far they have been really lenient with my entry and travel within the country, but I’d really like to avoid running into any issues in the long run if I can help it. So, I willing be traveling to Málaga to pay a visit to the Spanish consulate. It’s the nearest one, and I heard the city is beautiful (what’s new right?) so I figured I could kill 2 birds with one stone! No actual birds will be harmed during this trip, I promise. That is my plan for Monday, and speaking of Monday’s…yes, prepare yourself for a segue!..this past Monday I worked as I club promoter! Haha Rafa co-owns a club called Chicago here and got me an “in” with one of his associates. The club itself is designed like an old time saloon, but it can’t decide if it wants to be western or jazz era, and the music is all techno and top-40 haha it’s kind of ironic, but a really cool place! As I was saying though, I, along with 5 other girls, walked around to different bars and restaurants trying to convince people that it’s ok to start your week off with a mojito or two! Haha I didn’t really get to do much talking, except when they came upon a group of people that were American and quickly called me over. I felt like the secret 3-point shooting weapon that you bring off the bench in the 4th quarter, I was the clutch player and I definitely played my role! By the end the night though, my feet and legs were killing me from being up on my feet the whole time! I was even wearing flats, the other girls were all wearing heels! And by heels, I mean HEELS! I don’t know how they did it without their feet falling off! (At this moment I can hear my mom saying, “because they’re used to it! You would be too if you wore them more often!” haha) On top of that, I had no idea what a promoter wears for this kind of discoteca, so I thought I would keep it classy and dress a bit on the sophisticated and practical side. I wore my black jeans, ok jeggings, but no judgements they fit me perfectly! A greenish top that was loose around the shoulders, and my black flat boots, they’re super cute the silver buckles matched my jewelry :) Needless to say, I looked very nice, but one look at the other girls and I realized I overdressed, and by overdressed I mean I was covering too much of my body! Haha I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I tried to make up for it with my charm lol I’m supposed to work again tomorrow during the day and again in the night, because there’s a bunch of young Americans around here right now with school starting, but I haven’t gotten the actual call yet so we’ll see.

My night life has definitely picked up lately which has been a lot of fun! I quickly made friends with the two kids of Rafa and Gloria’s friends from the tennis club, María and Antonio. They are both the number one players at the club for men and women at only 16 and 18 respectively! They remind me of my own family what with Kelyn being the soccer prodigy he is and Baely being so amazingly crazy at gymnastics…don’t worry, Kelyn doesn’t read so this won’t go to his head lol. I went out for tapas and dancing with them and some of their friends and had such a great time! I got to exchange some more jokes and show them some of my super sweet dance moves so you know I had a great time! They’re really great kids and I look forward to seeing them again. A couple nights ago, I went out to the only bar I really know (the one that I came upon by sheer luck last time) by myself and had a mojito while chatting it up with the bartenders. They’re both friends of Marta’s and remembered me so it was nice to see some familiar faces. They had the most quizzical look when I came in alone though, asking me where everyone was and why I was alone. Apparently, it’s really strange for people to do things solo at my age lol. Afterwards, though, I met up with Brooke, Sarah, and what seemed like the entire exchange program at the local dance club, Granada 10. It was a lot of fun going out dancing and drinking, meeting more people, and getting to dance up on the DJ’s stage! I haven’t been able to do that since college haha!

This week has been a lot of fun and full of day trips that leave me exhausted at the end of each day! Just 2 days ago, I was out in the mountains again with Gloria and Rafa and got to see the milky way in all its glory along with the big dipper! It was beautiful and so quiet out there, mix that with some Pink Floyd and a really good bottle of wine and I couldn’t have asked for anything more! I hope you guys are all doing well as school starts up, or already started if you’re my dad and sister, and I will do my best to shorten my gaps between posts! Love and miss you all!

It’s official, everyone, I have been mistaken for a local TWICE! So, in my books, I’m no longer “the foreigner,” “the American,” or ” the girl that doesn’t understand anything so speak super slow and in laymen’s terms so she can have a chance at knowing what we’re talking about.” Ok, so maybe I’m still a bit of the third one, mixed with the second, but I have definitely made leaps and bounds with my understanding of the language! Marta even excluded me from her grouping of “las Americanas” when referring to the other two Americans living with us! I’m pretty sure it’s because she can’t remember their names, let alone pronounce them lol (it’s really funny to hear the family try and say Brooke and Sarah with their accents, they make such known names sound so very foreign!), but I’m not ashamed to say that was one of the best moments of my trip so far! Plus, two strangers, on two separate occasions, have asked me for directions within the city! I wasn’t able to help either of them, but that is completely besides the point and doesn’t even come close to raining on my parade! Ha I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since! It’s helped a lot that my confidence had a major boost after I moved in with Marta 9 days ago, spent a couple days/nights with some of her friends, and have had to play translator between Marta and the 2 American girls, Brooke and Sarah. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned an obscene amount of vocab/expressions specific to Granada and Spain. Having the other two girls in the house has been a nice taste of home though. Being able to have a complete conversation where I always know how to say what i want has been a bigger relief than I’d imagined and hadn’t quite realized I needed. They are my connection to home, and I am they’re very own personal translator. We’ve each called each other our saving graces lol Even as I’m writing this, we’re sitting in a cozy, vegan cafe with Brooke writing a small paper for her classes using me periodically. It’s a give and take relationship haha Seriously, these girls are great though. Rafa and Gloria got lucky with 2 well-mannered, nice and fun American girls (you guys know how that can be hard to come by these days, especially from the states). 

As for my daily activities, ever since I’ve moved in with Marta, my exploring has changed dynamics. I can now be found walking with Marta, one of her friends, or both :) running errands, meeting people for coffee, tapas and/or drinks. I’m no longer wandering around aimlessly with a map attached to my nose, now I’m following someone who knows where they’re going without a single clue as to where I am! But it’s ok as long as they know right? Haha Even just the other night, I was determined to go out for a drink or two at a bar and tried to find my way from memory (a very vague one based on the Single time Marta took me there after zigzagging through all the small streets of the town). So, needless to say, I got a little lost lol but after about a half hour of walking, trying to find something I recognize, I came upon the pub by sheer chanc–I mean luc–I mean I totally knew where I was the whole time I just wanted to see more of that part of town! Shut up, it’s my blog and what I say goes! Anyways, I ended up running into 2 of the girls I met when Marta took me to watch the Granada game! So I went from being the loner girl searching for a bar (yeah, I know, that’s the first step to AA right? Lol NO, not me!) to just another one of the girls talking about anything and everything. It was a wonderful turn of events, and I was extremely grateful to have had the company, even if I really didn’t understand much of anything they were talking about. Honestly, if I guessed between boys, plans for the night, or other girls, I had a 1 in 3 chance of being right. The girls were really great though, letting me stay with them, including me in their convos, and even paying for my drinks, which they did without my knowledge. The people here are truly nice and really know how to make a stranger feel welcome. After that night, I think Marta started to see a bit more of my personality come through and we became more like roomies than two people who happen to share a room. We started talking all the time, exchanging funny videos on YouTube, painting our nails, even telling each other ‘yo mamma’ jokes! (That was my favorite part :P) Over the last 9 days that we’ve lived together, I went from not being able to understand her (the Spanish youth has slang too…makes it real easy to understand with a bunch of kids talking nonsense) to having conversations, talking about boys, how our days are and making plans for when I go to Barcelona. Even she said that even though I have to have a lot of stuff repeated to me, I’ve learned so much since the beginning and have improved significantly. Yes! Score one for Breester! Unfortunately, my roomy has up and left me to study in Barcelona where her mother lives…so I’m hoping that her friends will continue to let me tag along with them as their token American even though Marta won’t be there. This should be interesting lol As for what the weekend has in store, Rafa mentioned something about a tennis tourney at his club and the beach. I’ll keep you posted but looks like it’s gonna a pretty fun-filled weekend! Hope you all are doing well as the leaves start to change!

I committed the biggest travel fail yesterday. It’s almost too frustrating and embarrassing to say, but I’m so mad at myself I have to share: I visited 3 beautiful cities outside of Granada and forgot my…..wait for it…..my camera!! I know, I was kicking myself the entire time! And of course these cities had the most beautiful views and buildings, (one even had a castle!) and I only have my memory to account for it! Ugh I’m sooo mad! I’ll try and make up for it by describing them in finite detail so by then end of this post you’ll be able to say you were there with me! I should start by saying that I met 2 Belgian guys who are visiting for a week (one of them studied here last year so there was Spanish involved!) and they rented a car for the day and invited me along! Super nice, I know you don’t have to tell me twice. So I jumped on that bandwagon faster than Kelyn takes to eat any meal and met up with them the next day for our day journey!

The first stop was a city that I can’t remember (and could never pronounce in the first place), but it was a very quaint and had a carnival in town! The word that I would use to describe it is dry, it was very warm, at the edge of the mountain terrain, and everything just seemed dry. It was really cool though because a lot of their buildings were built mostly underground or in the rocks. It was very cool and had a speakeasy air to it! After walking downtown and seeing the church (which was huge and looked like it might have some ghosts inside) we wandered toward a mirador (it’s a lookout spot overlooking the city and beyond) and that was my first of many moments where I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera! The view was awesome! We could see the entire city below us, including an entire castle…that’s right, you read correctly…CASTLE!…and the valley/mountains behind it as well. Add in the comfortable silence and it was just perfect. I could have sat there and just read, wrote, or even play my guitar in total peace and with inspiration. We were on a bit of a tight schedule since we had to fit in 3 cities in one day so we didn’t linger for very long. The best part of this city, besides the view, was el barrio de las cuevas (neighborhood of the caves). This city had houses built literally into the rocks of the mountain! It was sooo cool! You could see the front part of the house when you look straight at it, then as you drive by the rest of the house is inside or under the rocks! So creative right?! They’re practical too, the houses stay warm in the winter and stay cool in the summer, which is perfect for them! Seeing all the little chimneys sticking out of the rocks was so funny and reminded me of the Flintstones!

Our next stop was Huéscar, which was a much smaller and quieter town. Although there wasn’t any large tourist attractions or views of the entire landscape, it was very quaint and its buildings were very beautiful. In fact, I discovered my favorite building so far in all of Europe! Of course, I didn’t bring my camera so I’ll have to try and explain its greatness, so here it goes: when I first saw it, I automatically thought of Beauty and the Beast. It was only a three story building, and tucked between two others, but this one was just snuck out and grabbed me! It had short terraces for each window that rounded out and had iron bars caging them that protruded out as if impregnated, and swooped in and up to cover the windows. That was my favorite feature by far. The rest of the building was no less amazing, with ornately carved stone along the edges of the building and all the windows and doors, and a deep grey color giving it a stark contrast to its surrounding buildings. There’s no way my description does it any justice, but every time we walked by it (all of twice) I had to stop and just soak it all in as much as I could! It even surpassed all the buildings in Paris, which is a pretty tough feat due to the fact that I loved Every building in the city of love! Haha We also found a church that had its side door slightly cracked (which is the first time any church I’ve seen has done that) so, naturally, my curiosity took over and I had to peek inside. Now, this wasn’t a normal door, it was very old, very thick, and literally made out of wood (I know most doors are, but think back to castles and those kinds of doors…that was this one), it was very cool! However, given its age, when I pushed it open, it gave the creepiest creak I’ve only ever heard in horror films right before the stupid blonde girl goes down to the basement alone! It scared the crap outta me, but I continued to push it in and peek inside. What I saw was a tiny room with a door at each of its ends (super creepy right?!). That’s not the creepiest part though, the very moment I took my first step in, this old, marching music came on! I jumped so high an booked it right back outside so fast you could call me lightening! Haha Turns out it was nothing and the music was on the whole time, but I didn’t hear it till I stepped into the mysterious room, because two seconds after my freak out a man stepped around me and went straight into the church without any reservations…so we followed him in and the church was pretty cool. The best part was that old, creepy door though. After exploring the church and the rest of the city, we stopped for drinks in the courtyard where I was introduced to the equivalent of a mimosa with red wine. It’s red wine, with soda, and some lemon…I was skeptical at first but it’s actually pretty good! I forget what it’s called exactly, but it was vino tinto or something like that.

We definitely saved the best stop for last though! It started off great because I got to drive all 28 km through the valley on windy roads! It was super fun! (you all know how much I love to drive, plus the car was a stick! Bonus!!) The town is called Castril and it is the cutest, quaint little town I’ve ever seen! The people were a lot older, extremely nice, and lived up to every definition I have of a small town. The entire city sits about halfway down the mountain overlooking the valley, and has the mountains resting behind it as well. Needless to say the views were gorgeous! Looming above the city, sitting atop a high peak, is el monument del pena (there’s a tilde over the n but I can’t do it on this thanga thang). It has a statue of what looks like the virgin Mary, but it was closed so we couldn’t actually go up and see, which was a shame because the view from up there would’ve been spectacular! However, we weren’t shortchanged out of any views because there was also a river just below the city! The river itself is pretty small, but there were falls running down where we were at, and farther down the river as well. The locals told us to follow the river past the viewpoint and it would make up for the monument, so we did! And we definitely were not disappointed! We had to cross a couple very iffy bridges to get there (one of which was a loosely suspended metal bridge that swayed and bounced like the ones you see on kids’ playgrounds. Needless to say it was fun for me, but the guys didn’t like that I was jumping and swaying the whole thing with them still on it! lol) The best part though, was the small walkway that was installed protruding from halfway up the rocks! It was a windy, wooden, clearly manmade walkway that looked like it was going to fall apart at any second, but it was so cool being able to walk along the river while touching the mountain and look down between your feet to see the river rushing past you! So exhilarating! Then, once we crossed the fun, metal bridge, the path continued through a cave that seemed to just absorb any light. I wasn’t too happy about that, but I refused to show any fear around the guys. I must admit though, about halfway through the cave where we were completely engulfed in darkness, my mind started racing and I began to think, ‘my God, this is where they’re going to kill me!’ lol and started to look for ways I could escape! Haha never could be too prepared right? The cave did eventually open up to a small terrace, just big enough to fit us three, where there was a large waterfall. It was absolutely gorgeous and serene. We all just simply stood there and listened to the water crash at the bottom for a few minutes. Beyond the cave there was a bar with an outdoor area with foosball (all the characters were painted as Real Madrid and Barca players!) but it was closed :( so we continued on past it towards some agriculture fields and ate grapes straight from the vine! They were so good and the perfect snack! I don’t know why, but for some reason the guys thought that if we kept following the path, that we would end up back at the town, which never made sense to me because the town was above us the whole time and the path continued out parallel to the city, not towards it. So when I look up and recognize one of the houses at the end of the town above us I decide to start climbing up the mountainside through a bunch of different agricultural fields (it was pretty cook to see all the different types of food they were growing, but the entire time I felt as though we were walking through everybody’s backyards!) We eventually made it to the top and into the city, thanks to women’s intuition, and stopped to rest and eat at the restaurant in the middle of the square. It was the perfect end to a long and eventful day as we sat with our beers, great food (it was some sort of meat with a really good sauce…I hope that helps paint a picture for ya ;)), and watched the sun go down behind the mountains beyond the valley. Once again, I was kicking myself for not being able to show proof.

It was the most exciting day I’ve had yet, and even though I didn’t have my camera, I won’t ever forget any of my experiences or views. It was truly amazing and fun to be able to share it with people. Although there were times when I wanted to slam the two guy’s heads together, I was glad to have been given the opportunity to join them.

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