Some of my favorite shots from Monachil, Granada, Spain. Who would’ve thought that this is only 40 minutes away from the city?!
For once this weekend, I decided to get up out of my warm bed, and get out on the town. Since I am a huge Hunger Games fan (team Peeta!), the new Catching Fire movie of course had to be a part of my weekend schedule.
On Friday, a couple of my other Hunger Games fanatics and I decided to go and see Catching Fire in the cinema. We searched long and hard to see if we could find it in English with Spanish subtitles, but to no avail. Really wanting to see the premiere, my friend Gena and I got some people together to go see it in Spanish. Hoping for the best, we set out to the theater inside the mall by one of the discotecas.
We purchased our tickets and after a merienda of Burger King ice cream and fries, we went to go take our seats. We only had about 7 people in the group all together, so we grabbed a row in the perfect spot to be able to see all the action. However, little did we know, that in Spanish theaters, the seats are assigned, like in a play or concert. What. We stayed in our spots however, to try our luck and hope that no one came to take our (or rather their) spots. After a bunch of rearranging, Gena and I went to go sit in our actual seats because we were lucky enough to get our tickets together. We settled in excitedly to watch the movie, while many of the girls ooh’d and ahh’d over Gale and Peeta relentlessly.
Having read the book, it was nice to be able to know what was going on throughout the whole movie. But I surprised myself this time. I was actually able to understand 95% of the lines even though they were in Spanish. I mean I do oftentimes watch a lot of Spanish t.v. and movies with my senora, but I was so surprised that this had actually improved my listening abilities! I am happy to say, that I can really see a difference in how much I understand in Spanish. While my speaking may need a little work every now and then, it seems like being abroad has actually helped me a lot with my fluency.
I absolutely LOVED the movie and was really impressed by how well done it was. Jennifer Lawrence played her role amazingly, and Gena and I had a lot of fun watching the movie together. Even though at times it was rather gory and suspenseful. Overall, the night was a success, and even though I’m sick with a cold, it was nice to get out and see one of my favorite books put into a movie in one of my favorite languages.
Today, some friends and I decided to brave the cold weather, to go do some mountain hiking in Monachil, a little town and huge nature park only 40 minutes outside of the city of Granada. We bundled up and met at the bus station early this morning. It ended up just being Rachel, Gena and I, because our dear friend Kyla accidentally overslept her alarm (oops).
We hiked through the most gorgeous mountains for about 2 hours today, through some of the hardest passages I’ve ever hiked. There was an awesome swinging bridge over a waterfall, like those bouncy swinging bridges at parks. At times we had to crawl under a huge rock wall on a 10 inch path, where if you lost your balance, you would fall into the rocky creek below. It was absolutely beautiful, and such a nice escape from the busyness of the city.
We came at the perfect time of day, with the sun peeking around the mountains and trees, and we were lucky enough to have the most perfect blue sky after the rain and fog from yesterday. We had such a lovely time being able to hike and talk about our favorite movies (The Lucky One!) and future goals and what not. All in all, it was a perfect time to relax after the busyness of last week, and with finals and projects and papers right around the corner.
I’m honestly going to miss being able to see the mountains everyday and being able to just go hiking for less than 3 euro in the Sierra Nevada whenever I feel like it. Granada is just so beautiful, and if you are ever in Spain, I HIGHLY recommend that you make the journey to Granada, because in all reality “No hay nada como Granada” (There is nothing like Granada). I only have about 3 more weeks left before I go back to the States, but I must say that my time in Granada has been the best of my life, and I have been so blessed to spend this semester here. I hope one day I can come back, because I know for a fact that I’m going to miss this place ever so much.
Here’s to hiking, little victories, and making the most of every opportunity.
//So let your heart, sweetheart, be your compass when you’re lost/ and you should follow it wherever it may go / when it’s all said and done you can walk instead of run / cause no matter what you’ll never be alone //
I apologize for how long it has taken me to write another blog post, but life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once and a while, you could miss it. So I have been taking Ferris Bueller’s advice and have been trying to enjoy what little time I have left in this beautiful and amazing city.
But let’s rewind about two weeks ago when I took a trip to visit my dear friend Olga in my favorite city in the entire world. London. If you know me pretty well, you know that for as long as I can remember I’ve had a passion for all thing London (and England). This means I own more than one copy of Pride and Prejudice, buy tea in 100 ct boxes, and often watch my favorite British drama on Masterpiece Theater. So when I crunched the numbers and figured out I was indeed able to take a 5 day trip to London, I bought my plane ticket immediately, invested in a wind-resistant umbrella, and started a countdown. This trip, as you can imagine, was much anticipated.
However getting to London was more of a hassle than I could’ve imagined. I took 5 different forms of transportation, just to reach my lovely Olga, the friend I stayed with for the week. Granada is a great city and all, but not the most practical to travel to and from. So here’s a litle layout of my journey. I took: a bus to the bus station, 5 hour bus to Madrid, taxi from the bus station to the airport, plane to outside of London, and last but not least yet another bus to central London, where I met up with Olga in the form of a body slam hug of happiness. I literally traveled from 9 am Spain time, until 9 pm London time. Needless to say, I was exhausted, but ever so happy.
Since it was already so late, Olga and I walked around a bit and settled in to her cozy dorm on Hoxton Square. We spent the night planning out the next day.
The next morning we woke up early because Olga had class, and instead of wasting 4 pounds on the metro (!!!!) we took the scenic route and walked a little over an hour to the University of Westminster. However, it was POURING rain. Honestly, I don’t understand why it always rains when I’m in London. Olga mentioned how before I came it was sunny every day and only rained about 3 times throughout the whole 3 months she was there. But such is my luck, it was pouring. Olga and I cozied up under my fabulous umbrella and talked while we walked to class. While Olga was in class, I was happy to have the time to read my favorite find of Spain, the Spanish version of Pride and Prejudice, while I waited. It was nice to relax even for a short while.
When Olga finally finished her class, we struck out to explore the area. After a lunch of Polish sandwiches and sparkling grape and elderflower soda (YUM) she took me to the coolest department store called Liberty, which was decked out for Christmas. It was so nice to see what I would come home to for Christmas, since Spain doesn’t have the same traditions. After we browsed around, we went to the National Gallery to start checking off the things on my Must-See List.
The National Gallery is situated on Trafalgar Square in the Heart of London. It is absolutely MASSIVE and filled with art from every century you could possibly imagine. Thankfully though, Olga and I have close to the same taste in art, and decided to skip through all the boring paintings of white faced people looking ever so bored. After a lot of searching (seriously, why are art museums always so difficult to navigate through…) we finally found the art from the impressionists, one of my absolute favorite types of art. After finding my doppleganger by Goya,
We looked at paintings by Monet, Degas, and Renoir all in the flesh. It was so amazing and for me, a dream come true.
We then walked around central London some more and saw a lot of the famous attractions of London. We must’ve looked like we fit in very well, because as we were walking, someone stopped us and mistook us for real Londoners. We were having the time of our lives, talking, bonding and enjoying this nutella, banana, white chocolate and nut filled crepe. It was heavenly.
The following day was an important day for the both of us, for it was the first time we were able to go see the one and only Platform 9 3/4. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you understand how important and awesome a moment like this is. And if you get the chance, GO. JUST GO. I know you’re thinking this is a little cheesy, but I grew up on Harry Potter. I started reading the books since I was in 2nd grade, and let me tell you I was devastated when my Hogwarts letter didn’t come when I turned 11. But being able to see Platform 9 3/4 made feel as if I had finally received my letter and was off to catch the Hogwarts Express to that magical castle.
Even though it felt as if nothing could ever top this moment (EVER) we headed off the British Museum to bring us back down to real life. We walked around and saw some of the giant statues from Assyria and Greece and some pottery from China, but we were exhausted from the rain and all the walking, so we went home early to watch a movie and relax a bit.
The next day Olga had class again, so we spent our morning at the University of Westminster. Needing some more time to relax, we bought some pastries and spent the afternoon walking through Hyde Park and marveling at the beauty of fall around us.
We continued our journey through the central part of London to our destination of the day, Big Ben. We walked through many of the city’s gorgeous parks and passed by Buckingham Palace on our way. When we made it to Big Ben, it was like deja-vu all over again. 2 years earlier, I had come to London with my aunt as a graduation present and one of my goals was to see this exact spot that I had made a drawing of in my studio art class. Being able to see it for the first time in 2011 was a dream come true, but being able to see it for the second time, was even better. It really made me realized JUST how much I loved the city, which is really quite a lot. (Just ask Olga. Whenever we walked around, I just kept saying variations of the phrase “Man, I love London.”) So, I wanted to recreate the first picture I took here 2 years ago. Here’s the original, and the re-creation.
After my little flashback, the next stop on our list was one of the main reasons I wanted to go back to London: Twining’s. The first time I came to London, I brought back enough Twining’s tea to last me two years. Literally. I’m still trying to get through all those boxes. But unfortunately last year I ran out of my favorite blend, Lady Grey. Much to my dismay I found out that Lady Grey is ONLY sold in London and is a specific blend by Twining’s only. So of course while I was here I had to stop by and buy some. Even though I came in for one box, I came out with 6. Honestly though, I was not surprised. In my opinion, Twining’s is the best tea I’ve ever tasted, and of course, it’s British. After spending about an hour in tea ecstasy, we went off to see the Tower Bridge, where (of course) we found a red velvet cupcake as big as my face, only for 2.50 pounds. Talk about a bargain. I wish I had a picture of it, but we were far too eager to eat it and devoured it in 5 minutes or less. But this day in London had to be one of my favorites. It was filled with all sorts of lovely things like tea, nostalgia, friendship, and sugary baked goods.
My last day was dedicated to Camden Market, a HUGE flea market-esque place full of food, art and honestly everything you could possibly think of. We browsed a bit before we decided we were starving. So we stopped by some of the food vendors for a delicious meal of ethnic food. We ate Turkish pizzas for lunch, followed by a dessert of Dutch pancakes drizzled in Nutella. DEAR GOODNESS. Those pancakes were a gift from God. Especially coming from Spain where dessert is a banana or a strawberry yogurt. It was one of the best things I’ve tasted in the past four months that I actually considered going back and thanking the nice lady who made them. (Side note, if you ever make it to Camden Market, go get those Dutch pancakes. It’ll be one of the best decisions of your life.) After we finished though, it started pouring buckets, so we headed to one of the indoor areas to look at some art and browse a bit more.
However it was so cold and so rainy, that I unfortunately don’t have any pictures from Camden Market. But I absolutely loved it. I bought a gorgeous photograph of London in winter, from a Spanish photographer from Extremadura. Honestly one of the most talented photographers I’ve seen, and all his photos are original. If you get a chance, go check out his stuff, here’s the link from his facebook page if you’re interested. <https://www.facebook.com/Antonio.Duran.Photo>
Since the weather was so awful, we headed home early to enjoy a night in with some chips from the local kabob place in her area. They were delicious of course, and after watching a movie, I had to pack my things, because my bus to the airport left early the next morning. Packing up my things was so sad and very hard for me. I love London, and for the first time, I didn’t want to leave to come back to Spain. This trip made me realize how much I loved London, and how much I truly want to live there someday. I wanted to cry because I was leaving the place that really felt homey to me, where I really felt like I fit in. With the cold nipping at my nose and a heart reluctant to leave, I said goodbye to Olga and my favorite city, and started my journey back home to Granada.
While I was sad to be coming back to Granada, this past week I realized that that wasn’t the last time I’d be in London. I love London, and truly have a desire to go back there. And because of how much it means to me, I know I’ll be back someday. And it may be a little later than I hope, but it’s a goal I now have for myself. And I’m excited and look forward to when that day comes.
The couple weeks before I left for London were specifically difficult for me, due to stress about schoolwork, the difficulty of communicating what I want to say in Spanish, and many other things. So when I left for London, it was with relief to be going somewhere familiar and English-speaking. It was a nice and well-deserved break from the daily grind. It wasn’t until this past week though, that I realized how much I also loved Granada. I have finally settled in here, which is great, except for the fact that I have 27 days left here and counting. The past 3 months have absolutely flown by and I’m sad that I have to go so soon, now that I have finally accustomed myself to living in a Spanish-speaking town. My Spanish has improved dramatically, my senora and I are good friends, I love the teachers and students at the school I volunteer at, and I know the city like the back of my hand. It’s so upsetting to think that I’ll have to leave so soon. But with this in mind, I’m going to try to make the most of the short time I have left here, so that when I leave for my friends and family back home, I’ll have no regrets.
It seems as if no matter where you go, you leave a little piece of your heart there when you leave. Be it Minneapolis or Madison, London or Granada, a little piece of me will always long for the people and places I have left in those places. But for now, I don’t worry. For I know I’ll back again soon.
Until next time friends. Sending you all my love.
Part of the procession that I saw today on my street, Calle San Juan de Dios. How cool is this?!
A peek of some of the activities that happened during Granada’s Noche en Blanco last night.
Hello again friends.
I know it seems like I’ve fallen off the face of the planet for the past two weeks, but in case you’ve forgotten, I’m still studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Actually, with all the chaotic events of the past two weeks, I’d pretty much forgotten where I was and what I was doing. Between dealing with being sick for a week and a half, catching up on all my schoolwork that I missed, working on projects and papers galore, and planning my next vacation (London, here I come!), I’d lost some of the awe that comes with studying abroad in a different country. But thankfully, this weekend was a wonderful wake-up call to the brilliant luster of Spain.
On Friday, my class jetted off (not literally…we took a 2 hour long bus ride) to Cordoba, for a jam packed day of culture. Cordoba is a city overflowing with Arabic and muslim influence, just across the largest river in Andalucia, el Rio Guadalquivir (that’s a mouthful!).
Since we only had about 7 hours in the city and so many places to see, our schedule was pretty packed. We started off the day with a tour through some of the most vivid gardens I have ever seen. There had to have been thousands of Spanish roses, which I must say, have to be the most beautiful roses in the world.
Yet again, I feel as if I could have contently passed the entire day here, wandering the rows of flowers.
After the gardens, we toured more of the city, and saw cute little winding roads with buildings covered in little blue flower pots. Honesty, Cordoba has to be one of the cutest little towns I’ve seen.
When we had finished our tour and our bocadillos, it was time to finally see one of the most famous buildings in all of Andalucia: la Mezquita de Cordoba.
In case you didn’t know, here’s a little history lesson. First of all, the real name of the mosque, is la Catedral de Cordoba. It’s called this for a couple reasons. 1. being that inside of the mosque is actually a cathedral built by the Christians when they conquered Cordoba during the Inquisition. 2. being that because the Christians took over Cordoba in 1236 and Spain is 99% catholic, of course they would change the name to “Cathedral of Cordoba” instead of “Mosque of Cordoba”. Even though the cathedral is in fact INSIDE of the mosque. But honestly who am I to judge the name. Just a little food for thought.
Anyway, the mosque was built in 785 back when the Muslims still had control of the city. More and more sections were added on throughout the next hundred years or so, making this mosque the largest in all of Europe, and the third largest in the entire WORLD. Yeah, it’s that big. Not only is it big, but it’s also devastatingly gorgeous. Covered in bright paint and filled with ornate detail, this mosque is bound to make anyone walk around with their jaws dropped. Take a peek for yourself.
Goodness these pictures doesn’t even do it justice. After we saw the mosque part, we ventured inside the cathedral. Even though it was designed in the baroque style, this was some classy baroque art.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the wonderful and cultural activities Cordoba had to offer, and I would definitely recommend a trip here if you would happen to be in Spain for a bit. It’s absolutely worth it.
Even though I felt ever so culturally enlightened after my trip to Cordoba, on Saturday was Granada’s Noche en Blanco, otherwise known as the night without sleep. So a couple of my friends and I decided to spend a night on the town exploring the streets of Granada.
La Noche en Blanco is not any ordinary festival. It occurs in popular cities all over Europe and the itinerary for the night is jam packed full of activities: all free. Free you say? Count me in! And Granada’s very own festival did not disappoint. All throughout the city in just about every nook and cranny, were concerts, magic shows, art exhibitions, flash mobs, tapas deals, poetry readings, tours in government buildings, the Alhambra, and ever so much more. The list goes on. Literally. It took me 15 minutes total to read the entire thing. The festival is so huge, that it seemed like the entire city was out and about exploring the activities and enjoying their time with friends. While I wish I had some pictures (sorry guys), I do have a fabulous video which will be posted above. It’s a classy concert featured right outside the gigantic Catedral de Granada. Oh, and it’s only a 5 minute walk from my piso. How cool is that.
So Sunday was designated homework day, and since I have a 40 minute presentation to give on Tuesday (yeah I actually DO study here believe it or not…), my partner Alla and I decided it was about time to get down to business. After a couple hours of struggling with technology and trying to decipher Catalan, we had had enough and called it a day. I walked on home to rest up a bit before dinner.
But right as I was about to turn onto my street, I came across a very large crowd of people, a marching band, and a giant angel on a float. Little did I know, but a procession for some archangel or another was taking place today. It seemed as if Granada was not done amazing me yet, as I watched the procession from one church to the basilica farther down the street from my front row spot. I could’ve touched it if I had wanted to. After I watched the procession as much as I could, I ran up to my piso so I could see it all from above.
I watched as the procession stopped in front of la Basilica de San Juan de Dios as the bells rung and the marching played and fireworks were shot off from the roof. I was filled with sheer awe and excitement as I realized how lucky I was to be here. Honestly, I can barely put it into words. And it makes me so sad to realize I have less than 2 months left, and the time is just going to fly on by. It reminded me that even though I’m really busy, I cannot forget to revel in all the little moments and let Granada leave me speechless. Because if I take the time to truly drink in all the experiences I have here and all the opportunities just sitting at my fingertips, I will really be able to make this a once and a lifetime journey that I will never, ever be able to forget.
Here’s to taking the time to smell the roses….literally.
Also, to make it up to you, here’s a video of our entertainer during one of our lunches in Morocco. He’s pretty cool, you should check it out.
So instead of writing a lengthy post about my trip to Morocco, I wanted to show you guys in pictures for once. One of the reasons is that it was not really my favorite place that I have visited. Two, being that the food made me devastatingly sick, and I am still dealing with the consequences a week later (yeah, I’m bitter I know, but it’s quite awful.) However I did enjoy being able to travel to Africa for the first time and seeing all the beauty that it holds. The mountains are huge and craggly and surrounded by cute white little cities. Seeing Chefchaouen was probably the highlight of the whole weekend, for it was absolutely beautiful. This is the blue city that everybody raves about and for good reason. It is separate from the busy metropolises of Tetouan and Tangier, and therefore much more calm and to my liking. It was wonderful being able to explore the nooks and crannies of the town and striking some good deals while bartering with the vendors in Spanish (yes, spanish!). I truly appreciate the opportunity I had to see another culture and how it operates. But I must say, it’s so good to be home.