Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Andalusia, etc.

Last weekend, all of us from California went on a road trip through Andalucia. On Friday we all hopped on a huge tour bus and drove to Cordoba; Rocio came with us, and we also had a tour guide (Pablo) with us for the entire weekend, which was nice because he pointed out things on the bus that we could see through the windows. Anyway, Cordoba! What a beautiful city. Whitewashed houses, narrow streets, olive trees and mix of 3 cultures - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Our hotel was on the same street as the Catedral Cordoba/Mezquita (it used to be a mosque, but then was taken over by a Christian king), we just opened up our hotel window and there it was! They hired another tour guide for us there, a really sweet guy dressed up in his best suit to show us the Mezquita and the rest of the city, including the Jewish quarter. I roomed the whole weekend with a really nice girl I sat with on the bus, Vianey, and after the tour her and I found a little cafe to eat at - I had a Flamenquin (fish fillet with ham in the middle, all battered and cooked, YUMMM) and some vino tinto :) Later that night we all went to a Flamenco show around the corner, it was spectacular! The dancing is incredibly powerful and sensual, beautiful to watch. A lot of people went out afterwards, but we went back to sleep lol.

Saturday we got up early, had a hotel breakfast (meats, cheeses, croissant, yogurt, coffee) then headed back on our tour bus. Saw more countryside! Tons of low, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Then it changed to olive trees, literally thousands of them as far as you could see. This region is famous for olive oil (aceite). As we approached Granada, we could see the magnificent Sierra Nevadas of Spain. Pablo told us that it is Europe's southernmost mountain range that receives snow - and it was covered, about 9 feet or so. Coming into the city was really cool - Granada is such a unique place. It is a big city with a small-city feel, full of beautiful architecture, wide plazas, little pastry shops, etc. We couldn't see the Alhambra from where our hotel was, but we did go up there to tour for a few hours... Wow! The islamic architecture and art was so fantastic, so intricate. Of course, the Alhambra was later taken over by the Christians and there is also a chapel there, and the mix of design is astounding. Islamic this, baroque that, gothic that. Crazy! I have tons of pictures and will be posting them soon :) After a few hours there with a really wonderful guide, we went back down the hill with Pablo and walked through the city a bit. Then after a break, we had a buffet dinner at the hotel. Everyone went out after that, to bars and a discoteca that Pablo showed us, but Vianey and I crashed - I hadn't slept too well the last few nights, and I wanted to see Granada through fresh eyes!! I seriously fell asleep at 10, it was fantastic.

The next morning after a yummy hotel brekky, we went on another walking tour through the city and saw the cathedral (forgot the name, but its the largest in Granada) and then went on a brief tour through the adjoining royal chapel. Philip and Juana la Loca (Joan the Mad) are buried there!! I was prancing about (on the inside), the history major in me going absolutely mad. It was a great weekend of historical moments ;) After the tour we had a couple hours to walk around and get food, so Vianey and I walked around the main part of the city, occasionally ducking into pastry shops. At one 'pasteleria' I got an eclair type thing with maple frosting on the top (oooooer). The next one we went into was also a cafe, so we sat down and had some "sangwiches" (I had a beer with mine!), then went to the pastry counter to try more things. I got a pastry traditional to the area, the name of which I couldn't understand when she said it. It was some moist breaddy thing with custard in it, it tasted like cinnamon and burnt marshmallows. I also got an empanadilla (small empanada) filled with sweet gel stuff. Quite yummy, all of it! The ride home I slept quite a bit, occasionally peering out at the lovely countryside. We watched "Monsoon Wedding," a really great film by Mira Nair. A swell way to spend a weekend - but I am also glad to be back!

Yesterday and today I pretty much just went to class. Came back for a few hours yesterday to nap between classes, and went to bed early last night (yayy, I love sleep). Tomorrow I am meeting Rena in the city again, this time at Principe Pio. Should be fabulous, as usual :)

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