Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Becky and Qtym come - Granada and Seville

This past weekend, I spent I spent in Granada and Seville with two friends from university. We took the bus from Madrid to Granada on Friday night. Granada, like Porto and Lisbon, is a very hilly city. The Alhambra is built on the top of one hill and the old Moorish neighborhood is on another hill with the main plaza in the valley in between. Despite my pension for planning ahead, I did not read the section about Granada in my guide book until we arrived. Well, that was a mistake. It is highly recommended to buy Alhambra tickets ahead of time. They only allow a certain amount of people in every half hour and in total they pre-sell 6,000 tickets and sell 1,800 day of with the box office opening at 8 am. Considering the main reason we went to Granada was to see the Alhambra, my friends and I decided to get up early on Saturday to be there when the box office opened.

The Alhambra is a complex of gardens, two palaces, and a fortress. We spent about 6 hours touring the entire site. The main palace is gorgeous with tons of Moorish architecture. Unfortunately, I am in Arabic architecture overload and while I really enjoyed the Alhambra I was not in complete awe. The carvings are beautiful and I love the way arches frame everything. One of my favorite parts about the Alhambra was a hot air balloon that we watched in the country side. At one point, it was really well framed by one of the arches. In the Alhambra, there were a lot of stray cats which were pretty friendly and fun to watch. In addition, I really enjoyed the gardens.

The Moors (muslims from north Africa) really value water because in northern Africa and Spain water is a scarce resource. As a result, they have tons of fountains and gardens with flowing water which is really relaxing. In one of the patios, the moors built a fountain with twelve lion heads. The fountain also functioned as a clock with one fountain head going off each hour. The funny part is that the Christians disassembled the fountain when they reconquerred Granada in 1492 and tried to figure out how it works. However, they were unable to put it back together properly so it has worked since then.

On Sunday morning, we did a really cool walking tour through the Moorish neighborhood. Our tour guide was a twenty four year old from Oregon who had moved to Spain and started his own walking tour company. He lived off of the tips he made and ended up working about two hours a day. Granada is also known for amazing tapas. With a beer or glass of wine you get a pretty generous tapa for free. Two to three tapas can definitely fill you up and only cost 6 or 7 euros and include two to three drinks.

On Sunday afternoon, we took the bus to Seville. I think Seville is my favorite towns. The weather is warmer, people seem friendlier and more laid back, and there are orange trees everywhere. We didn’t do much in Seville because I only had half a day on Monday to explore (but I had already been there so it was okay). We spent the morning in Plaza Espana and walking around by the river. It was just so relaxing I had no urge to return back to Madrid. However, I guess I can’t complain, I only worked one day this week and I currently in Andorra Wednesday – Saturday for Fulbright conference that is paid for.

As I was sitting on the bus back to Madrid, I came to the startling conclusion that I basically have three months left in Madrid. I leave June 7th and February is practically all gone. In the next couple of months, I have trips planned to the north of Spain, Munich, Barcelona, and Italy. Plus there is still a lot I want to see in Madrid. I am definitely going to be pretty busy these next couple of months.