Street Art

Before coming to Spain, I spent plenty of time reading through travel books, so some things I expected. For instance, I knew about the tapas and the siestas in Andalusia, and the lack of tips in restaurants and cabs. I knew about the fascinating mixture of Catholic and Muslim influence here in Granada.  However, one thing I did not ever read about was all of the wonderful “street art” around the city.

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Now, I call it street art because that’s what it is. While in the States, graffiti most often consists of “stick-it-to-the-man” messages or curses, here it is actually artistic. It’s hidden behind every corner, every winding passage, every cobblestone nook.  Some of it is so far out of the way, you very literally have to be lost to find it. Much of it is small, taking up about as much space as a doorway.  And all of it actually looks like someone with artistic talent took the time to do it.

For some reason, this street art helps to define the way I see Spain; it’s the quiet, proud, and nonchalant that truly leaves the impression.  There are breathtaking sights everywhere in Granada, from one of the most visited monuments in Europe, the Alhambra, the impressive Catholic Cathedral, and even the Sierra Nevada mountain range that lines the sky.  However, all of those things you can see in one day here. It’s the rest of it that takes time, the smaller things that make a place feel like home, and perhaps nothing more so than the art that surprises and accompanies the city as it winds its way around your heart.    

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For now,

xoxo

Katie

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La Vida, the Life

I must say, I do think I could get used to many (if not all) aspects of the Spanish lifestyle.  It’s been absolutely fascinating to see so many similarities and differences between my life in the States and here.

WARNING: I am probably NOT going to dispel any stereotypes you may have about Spaniards.

This is because every day in Granada, the majority of shops, cafes, and businesses start to close down around 1:30. By the majority, I mean over 80% of the aforementioned, if not more.  At this time, everyone starts heading back to their homes for the large meal of the day, lunch.  This is usually a two course meal, much like what we have for dinner. Although the specific time varies, most families eat between 2:00 and 3:30pm.  This meal is followed by a siesta.  Now, not everyone actually takes a nap, and choose to just rest or spend some time with their kids (they all come home from school), but many, including Jesus, our “Padre”, do take a quick nap.

Unfortunately, my classes are from 4:00-8:00pm this month, so my siesta gets cut a bit short (this sentence even makes me laugh).  While this may seem like a horrible schedule to many in the States, it’s actually almost perfect.  The perfect schedule would probably be 5:00-9:00pm, so I could get more of siesta!! This is because after having the large meal during the day, “supper” isn’t until 9:00 or 9:30, and is very light, rarely consisting of more than soup, some bread, or another small snack-like meal.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Granada though is that all of the cafes/bars/restaurants serve complimentary tapas with the purchase of an alcoholic beverage.  No matter what time of day (until they are closing, of course), no matter what round your group is on, you get a delicious snack to go along with your drinks. How civilized!! So far, I’ve had everything from olives, to fried sardines (bones and all, actually delicious), to deviled eggs, homemade coleslaw with ham, breads, cheeses, meatballs, and everything in between.

Therefore, every night around 9:00pm the tapas bars start to fill with groups of friends and couples mingling and milling about the town. It actually feels a lot like Charleston to me, with everyone strolling the streets, stopping to chat with friends before heading into restaurants.  If it was up to me, and I hadn’t already paid for three meals at home, I wouldn’t ever worry about heading back for dinner! Two or three glasses of wine with tapas is more than sufficient to fill the smaller meal of the day, and you head back home around 12:00 (you’d be surprised how time flies!!).

But don’t worry, as the week goes on 12:00 (midnight) gets earlier and earlier.  The Spanish really are night-owls. I’ve never seen anything like it.  Families, young and old, everyone is out at this time.  The entire day is just shifted a few hours.  On the weekends, the night begins with tapas bars, switches to “regular” bars around midnight, then the dancing scene starts around 2:00 or 2:30, with people staying out until 5:00 or 6:00am on average.  But don’t worry, they usually stop for a breakfast snack on the way home!!

So as you can probably guess, I typically wake up between 9:00 and 10:00am (later on the weekends), and have time to do my homework, go to a café for a small coffee, and even grab a quick siesta before lunch.  It’s wonderful. Most of the time here (for locals and students alike) is spent wandering the beautiful streets, stopping in random cafes for a coffee, beer, or wine accompanied by some tapas when you feel like it. Like I said, I could get used to it.

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For now,

xoxo

Katie

Orientation, or Exploration

After arriving in Spain, we had a few days of “orientation” in Madrid and a stop in Toledo on our way to Granada.  Interestingly, the 6th (I arrived on the 4th) is the big Christmas holiday in Spain (El Día de los Reyes Magos). This is the day when the Three Wise Men arrived with gifts for baby Jesus, and so this is the day when all of the children in Spain receive their gifts as well. So, the cities were all decorated in lights and in Madrid we got to see the big and exciting parade on the 5th!

Other than the very fun parade, Madrid was BIG, had beautiful and impressive old buildings, and some great parks. All in all, not really my style. Of course this probably isn’t a fair assessment, but with only a very-brief tour and two whirlwind museum visits (it was cool to Las Meninas in person) I can only have my stylistic-impression.

Here are some pictures:

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And then we got to Toledo. The entire city of Toledo is a historical landmark, and you can tell. It sits untouched on top of a hill, surrounded by rivers, just as it has for thousands of years. Yes, thousands. The only changes have come as the city switched hands between religious groups and political powers.  Mosques were turned into churches, churches were turned into synagogues, and the history plays out before your eyes between the bridges, archways, and breathtaking buildings.

We had a fabulous tour guide who shared some of the history and secrets of the city, and we spent the entire day exploring the winding cobblestone paths that pass as streets. We joked that Toledo is the city of right-hand turns because you will have no idea where you are but if you turn right enough, you’ll eventually pop out somewhere that you recognize. Around every turn there was something new and wonderful, and as the sun went down the same sights took on an entirely new grandeur. Great food (I tried the traditional partridge), good wine, and hundreds of pictures of later added up to an unforgettable day. In Toledo, you just can’t help but feel as if you have been transported back in time, you just can’t help but feel a little bit magical.

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Although I was sad to leave the following morning, I also knew that we would be arriving in Granada and the real adventure was just beginning…

For now,

xoxo

Katie

Made it!!!

Well, as it turns out I picked the most appropriate name possible for this blog, aventura bonita!

I should start with I arrived in Madrid earlier today, Saturday the 4th.  However, let me tell you that was no easy task! What an adventure it has been getting here.

The first part of this story begins a few weeks ago when I realized I had been mistaken and I was not leaving on the 3rd of January, I was leaving on the 4th! Because I was leaving on Saturday…silly Katie. For my last week in the U.S. I had some wonderful plans of relaxed packing, final meals, and plenty of goodbyes.  So, you can imagine my surprise on Thursday at 5pm when I check my email and see a message from US Airways reminding me to check in up to 24 hrs in advance for my flight. After a moment’s hesitation, I realized that I actually had been correct – I was leaving on the third – as in tomorrow! All of my nice plans went right out the window in that moment. I can’t lie, there was some panic on my part, and because I hadn’t started packing ran upstairs and started pulling clothes off the shelves.

Well, I got all packed and calmed down after a glass of wine or two, and was able to enjoy my last evening with a delicious dinner, a favorite movie, and Dodger.  But all through this mini-packing adventure, snow had been falling. And it kept falling.

As (luck?) would have it, a nice winter storm came and left and beautiful layer of snow on the Northeast.  Unfortunately, this made traveling from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Madrid a bit more stressful.  Monitoring the flights carefully, Philly was averaging 3 hour delays on incoming flights. My layover was not three hours. Luckily, I have a good friend there who was willing to put me up for the night if need be, and at this point I was just going to roll with whatever punches came my way.

On the way to the airport, I got the first phone call  (of five?) from US Air saying that my flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. Not a biggie. I got to the gate, boarded, and everything seemed alright with the thirty minute delay.  However, upon speaking with one of the crew members, we would probably be on the runway for at least another half an hour.  Still okay.  About ten minutes later, turns out we won’t be taking off for another hour and so they are letting us get off the plane. Not good. I learned long ago and from countless stories, this is not a good sign. I wasn’t going anywhere until they called all of the passengers with connections to go speak to the gate desk (half of the plane got off).  After ten minutes of standing in line with some not-too-patients fellow travelers, they frantically called us all to get back on the plane, our flight time had been moved back up….like I said, an adventure.

In what feels like a miracle, the flight to Madrid has been delayed and I had time to get to the gate (a hike), grab some food, and meet my roommate Jenny. We boarded the flight on time and were in our seats for about 45 minutes or more when they let us know that we were going to wait for the connecting flights so we can get all of the passengers.  As a relatively frequent traveler, and one who was almost in the same position, I was happy to hear this. I never begrudge the airline for something like this.  But then we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally an hour and half later we  have all of the passengers, and push back from the gate. And sit there. For another thirty minutes until the pilot announces we will need to go to the de-icing station! *sigh* Another 45 minutes or longer (and without movies or air conditioning) sitting on the ground.  At this point, I’m starting to doze off because 1. I can’t stay awake on planes  2. It’s warm and 3. I have to be up in about six hours to start my tour of Europe!

Finally, at 10:35 the plane takes off amongst claps from the already weary passengers.  What was originally a 6:45 flight now is four hours late.  A great adventure! Some hostess-and-turbulence airplane sleep followed for me until we we landed around 11:15am local time.  Walked right through customs (just had to show my passport) and out the doors!  Although I was secretly hoping that my baggage would be lost and just meet me in Granada, it was all there.

A bottle of water and cup of coffee later, the ISA staff met us and we shuffled out in the rain (yes, it’s 50 and rainy bleh) and took the bus to our hotel, which is where I sit now after a nice lunch (with wine of course) and a shower.

Like I said, a beautiful adventure! Hopefully more to come.

For now,

xoxo

Katie