Spain, with its vibrancy and rich history has quickly become one of my favorite places. During my senior year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to embark on a month-long study tour to Spain, Morocco, Italy & Greece. Prior to the study tour, I didn’t have any real interest in Spain outside of visiting Barcelona and Madrid. Our journey began in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain and ended in Athens, Greece. I’ll be sharing stories from some of my favorite locations as well as good tourist-y spots to check out.
After a long afternoon of driving from Sagunto, we (41 students and 2 professors) checked in to what became one of my favorite hotels during the trip, Hotel Carmen located in the downtown area of the city of Granada. I was eager to stretch my legs and see what it’s nightlife had to offer. After dinner, my friends and I ventured through the city on the hunt for some good sangria and a good time. We found a bit of both but quickly realized how exhausted we were and the busy schedule we had for the following day. And so after a few drinks, some laughs and innocent fun, we made our way back to the hotel.
We began the day walking through the busy streets of San Matias Realejo. The sun was shining and the slight morning breeze cooled us as we set out on our activities for the day. Arriving in the Albacin Quarter, we trudged up a small hill. From the top of the hill, the Mirador San Nicolas, the most fascinating view splayed out before me. Our professors began explaining the history of the city and its Arabic/Muslim roots. Directly across from us, there was a luscious hill with cascading green grass that contrasted the pastel blue sky. Seated atop it, was the grand Alhambra Palace, which we visited later in the day. As I took numerous pictures, two men began setting up their instruments. One man played a beautiful tune on his guitar, while his partner started to sing and play the maracas. It was a beautiful song. Profé explained that we were listening to traditional flamenco music. I was shocked to hear a distinct Arabic sound that I probably wouldn’t have known or recognized had the professors not explained some of the area’s history. Unfortunately we had to leave and quickly began our decent down the hill.
The further into the quarter we went, the more aware I was, of some of the islamic influences. Old thruways and archways, roads and abandoned/converted mosques were all remnants of an old almost forgotten tale of the plight of the crusades and its effect on the Andalusian region. It was fascinating and admittedly a bit overwhelming.
Afterwards, we headed back to our bus to visit the christian area of the city or the Bib-Rambla. We made our way to the Granada Cathedral where beautiful gothic-style architecture coupled with the beautiful sounds of music and conversation flowed through the streets.
After touring the Cathedral, my friends and I walked around the square. We stopped at various street vendors until we found ourselves in front of a souvenir store. As we stepped through the door we were welcomed by the owner, an older man who had a huge smile on his face. As we said our hellos, I looked at the different knick-knacks, shot glasses and key chains against the front wall and middle area of the shop. As we walked around, the owner asked about our trip and whether we liked it here. It was in that moment that I saw what I was looking for. Hanging behind him was a large brightly colored red and yellow Spanish flag. Excitement bubbled up in me and I looked to my roommate, a Spanish for Interpretation major, and asked in complete Spanglish, “Como se dice flag?”. He heard me and immediately started laughing as he pointed behind him. He shook his head, exclaiming “You need the Granada flag! It’s much better!” I laughed in response as he continued. “It’s Granada or Nada Baby!”
I laughed and nodded my head in agreement. It felt amazing to witness how much pride he had in his community and his city/province.
As we exited the store, a huge grin on my face and Spanish flag in hand, for the first time since we landed, I felt at home. Although we had only been in Granada for a day, I truly loved it here. The pride, the love, the smile that was on that store owners face. The stories shown in the buildings, heard in the music, all brought together this sense of belonging. It was in that moment that I was reminded of my love for traveling. It’s about enjoying the moment, the adventure, the thrill and experiencing life outside of my day-to-day U.S. bubble. Finding a home in a place I have never been, yet can’t wait to return to, priceless.
Stay tuned for more stories of my adventures in Europe!
Hotel Rating: Hotel Carmen 4/5
Sights: The Alhambra Palace, Granada Cathedral, Bib-Rambla, Albacin Quarter
Activity: Flamenco Show
Souvenirs: Drawing of the Alhambra, My name written in Arabic, the Spanish flag & Fan with Flamenco dancer designed on the front