Spain, Chapter 1: The Albayzin Quarter of Granada

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October 28th 2011
Published: October 28th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Note: All the events in this entry occurred back in April 13-15, 2007. For more updated trips and entries, please refer back to this blog at a later date. An updated trip or entry will NOT include a caption like this. Thanks and enjoy!

Spring break was approaching, as well as the end of my study abroad experience because I had one more month and then I would head home. I knew I wanted to travel outside of France for this trip because it was going to be my last international trip for a while, but where I wanted to go was the question I needed to answer. Even though I was interested in visiting Great Britain, I determined it to be too far away but also too expensive for my ten-day vacation, and the same thing with Ireland. At the time I was just not that interested in visiting Germany, primarily because I was in an unrequited love situation with a male friend of mine who was from there, however I will admit this sentiment has changed for me in the present day. I had mixed feelings about the Netherlands and it was difficult to convince my mom that I would be safe there because of the Red Light District and the "coffee houses." I had deemed Switzerland and Austria too expensive for now, therefore I narrowed my choices down to the following: Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, or Hungary because these were deemed to be cheaper destinations, however eventually travel to the Czech Republic and Hungary was deemed to be far too difficult since now I was living in Aix-en-Provence, which had limited Eurolines routes coming in and flying there was a bit pricey. Therefore, the choice was now between Spain and Portugal. Spain was very appealing because of my Puerto Rican heritage in which some of our family members did come from the Canary Islands during the 19th century to the Americas, my knowledge of Spanish but also my high school Spanish teacher's acclamation that Spain was "beautiful." I had heard mixed reviews on Portugal, however I began to notice that travel there was going to be complicated via bus or plane. I chose Spain because I found round trip flights for around 200 euros, it was close and there was more to choose from regarding what I could see and there were more choices of methods for internal travel.

Just like for my trip to Italy back in February 2007 (please refer to blogs entries entitled "Leather Jackets, Cappuccino and Gelato in the Rain," "The Glories and Wonders of the former Kingdom of Florence," "A Study in the Florentine Church and Cuisine," "Bologna and Parma," "The Piazza di San Marco at Night," "Venice's Jewish Ghetto," "Murano, Island of Glass," and "One Last Cappuccino (For Now at Least)" for more information) I purchased a Lonely Planet guide book at my local English language book store and began to study it in order to decide where I wanted to go. I picked the following three destinations: Granada in the Andalucia region, Valencia which is the capital of its namesake region, and Barcelona in Catalan. I purchased multi-destination tickets from Iberia Airlines from Marseilles with a connection in Madrid to Granada, and then upon my return from Barcelona with a connection in Madrid and then back to Marseilles.

My travel date to Spain, April 13, 2007 finally came. I took the shuttle from centre ville after my last class to the airport. On my way there I talked to a classmate of mine who was going to visit mainland Greece. We began to talk about our itineraries and I asked her what she was planning to see while there. I get my tickets, pass through security and find my gate fine, however my plane is 3 hours late! I do get on however, and arrive in Madrid 1 hour and a half later. At Madrid International Airport, I now had to find my gate for Granada, which was located at no. 34 now. In order to find its location within the airport, however, I had to ask the gentleman at Information in Spanish. According to him, I was heading in the right direction, I just needed to continue going straight and then take a left. Sure enough, I find my gate, and thirty minutes later it's time to board. Thirty minutes later, I arrived in Granada, which is a very small airport, but nonetheless my destination. I take a taxi to my hostel, which is the Makuto Backpackers Hostel located in the Albazin Quarter. The driver cannot drop me off right in front because it's located down a very narrow street, so he gives me directions to arrive there. I do as he says, and sure enough I find it.

Once inside the reception office I'm greeted by melodious "holas" from the staff as well as piping hot paella and homemade sangria, all for 10 euros! I then decide to spend a few hours walking around the Albayzin Quarter, which is the old Moorish part of the city which dates back to the 12th century. Apparently the architecture is a mixture of European Gothic/Romanesque styles and Islamic. It's located on a hill, so you get this gorgeous view of Alhambra, the famous Islamic palace and other buildings relevant to it. After touring the Albayzin's streets, I went back to the hostel, where I began talking to some of my roommates. First, I talked to two Australian girls who were backpacking through Europe before starting work at the BBC in Great Britain. Second, I talked to a Brazilian girl who was going to study at the university soon. She invited me to join her for a night out clubbing with a gentleman she had met earlier that day because she "was afraid he got the wrong impression of what she wanted from him." I agree to go with her because I wanted to be polite however I wanted to help her. So, we meet up with her male friend and we go to a few clubs. First, we go to a salsa club in the more "modern" part of Granada. My ability to dance salsa at the time was very poor and far in between because I took lessons briefly from my grandmother as a small girl. My new Brazilian friend showed us both how to dance the samba, which is when I first learned it was the national dance of Brazil. We then head over to another club for drinks, and continue our bilingual conversation (in English and Spanish) however it became obvious to me during this visit to this club that he was interested in my Brazilian friend sexually because he was consistently touching her all over and she was responding, despite her confession to me earlier that she wanted me there to send him the message this was not a date. I then made an excuse that I wanted to get home, so they escorted me back to the hostel.

I don't see her again until the next morning when she returns. I talk to her briefly, but I choose not to ask about what happened did after we parted ways because I felt that was her private business. Even though I woke up early, I could not order my tickets to visit the Alhambra as my guidebook advised because apparently they were all sold out for the day. Therefore, all I could do was really tour parts the Albayzin I had not seen yet and some of the local stores. However, before heading out, I began talking to some of my fellow guests. I talked to the Australian girls and another American who was there. Then I talked to a young Frenchman, who was with a local man who would come to the hostel to give him guitar lessons. I remember the three of us had a long, tri lingual conversation about Granada, Spain, France, the US the weather, music, art, architecture, philosophy, politics....I also remember talking with the Australians and the American about travel outside of Europe and North America like to India or Mexico. During my tour of the Albayzin, I remember talking to a local shop keeper regarding my thoughts on Spain so far, my experiences of living in France and traveling through Europe as well as my Puerto Rican heritage and life back in the US. I also remember having a wonderful late lunch of pollo con alemendras (chicken with almonds) which was this wonderful concoction made with chicken braised in broth with almonds, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and olive oil, served with fritas or fries-yum! I then remember in one of the streets that I went down I heard someone playing a classical guitar flamenco style, and also as I walked along the high way leaving the Albayzin I remember hearing a few cars pass by with their radios turned up playing pop-songs infused with flamenco style vocal ornamentation and rhythmic patterns. That night, I spent my time at the hostel talking to some of my roommates, this time to a young American who was studying in Dijon, France at the time. He and I talked for several hours just about France and we compared our experiences living in the city (for more information on my experiences, please refer to blog entries entitled "The Arrival," "Cathedrals, Dukes and Monasteries," "First Taste of Wine," "A Day in My Life," and "The Holidays in France-The Basics.")

The next day, I am still unlucky with getting tickets for Alhambra, so I spend the day touring more of the Albayzin and also of the newer part of the city, where Plaza Nueva was and also the cathedral. I eat a really nice lunch in a restaurant in Plaza Nueva of traditional beef stew and a custard, cookie dessert known as natilla. Then I go to sleep that night and prepare for my trip to my next destination, Valencia.

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