Friday, April 27, 2012

Spain Part 4: From Barcelona to Madrid and Segovia!

When I left off, my mom and Martha were packing and on their way back to NY! Kristen and I stayed in Barcelona one more night before heading over to Madrid. We stayed in an adorable hotel called the Hotel Girona that had an old fashioned elevator (the kind that you have to slide the gate open), pink walls, and old furniture and paintings. We had a cute little room with two twin beds. The room had a TV (with CNN International!) and a SHOWER! Yes, that’s right, a shower right in the room. Too funny. There was also a really nice shower down the hall. The hotel made me feel like I was in a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The only complaint I have is that the walls in the hotel are thin and there is a window above your door so when anyone else gets up early in the morning, it will wake you up. But it was cute and cheap and I’m young so I can’t complain too much. Kristen and I were pretty tuckered out from all the travelling with mom & Martha, so we had a little siesta. After us sleeping beauties awoke, Kristen had an appointment at Barcelona University because she is interested in studying cognitive linguistics there. I went along with her to check out the campus while she had an interview. The campus is absolutely gorgeous. The university was established in 1450, making it twice the age of the United States. Amazing! The university is similar in respect and history to the Sorbonne in Paris, but the Sorbonne is not so easy to visit and Barcelona University (UB) is completely open to the public. The university technically has several campuses around Barcelona, but I believe we visited the original site of the university, and thus it is quite old and beautiful. The campus had beautiful trees, ponds, and plants for me to wander around in. When I was tired of the plants I went into the buildings. The halls are stone and have beautiful wooden doors, and in the hall where the president and other administrators have their offices there is beautiful art and architecture. The library reminded me of the library in Beauty and the Beast, with old books in wooden cases. After her interview, I showed Kristen the library. I think she could get comfortable studying in the leather chairs in this library! The next day we took the seven hour bus to Madrid. Arriving in the evening, I met up with my friend Matt who is teaching English in Madrid (just like I’m doing in Le Havre). We went out to dinner at restaurant called Casa Mingo. The atmosphere is stereotypical Spanish and I could tell a lot of tourists go there. The food to get is the chicken roast, chorizo, and cider. Delicious! The food was also reasonably priced and comes in a large quantity. The next day (International Women’s Day!) I met up with Kristen after Matt headed to work. We met at the Plaza del Sol and popped into a bakery called La Mallorquina. It is one of the oldest bakeries in Spain! I had a napolitana, which was an amazing pastry with cream in it. Before leaving, Kristen demanded I try a yemas. A yemas is actually a candied egg yolk. When you look at it, it’s pretty firm and yellow and you can see its sugared coating. They are super dense and delicious. They look small, but don’t be deceived by this traditional Spanish pastry: it’s very heavy, so only eat one! Afterwards, we met Matt and ate nearby at La Finca de Susana. It was a restaurant that had been recommended to Aunt Martha by a co-worker who lives in Madrid. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it with Aunt Martha, but I was still determined to find it and try it. It is known for being absolutely beautiful and classy but also really reasonably priced and it lived up to its expectation. I had a creamy tomato soup for a starter and shrimp, mussels, and cod with potatoes for the main dish. So, so, so delicious!!! Afterwards, Kristen, Matt, and I wandered through the Malasaña area to look at really cute shops and boutiques. Kristen knew some specific shops to look at and from there we wandered around. The shops ranged from reasonable second-hand shops to extraordinarily priced boutiques. They had some really interesting things and beautiful clothes. In the same area at the Plaza Dos de Mayo, Kristen and I then went to get our hair cut at a very well known hair dresser, called Corto y Cambio. It’s the same hairdresser where Penelope Cruz apparently got a hair cut! At night, we met Kristen’s friend Jessica at a bar called Richelieu. Kristen’s friend Jessica is teaching English in Madrid as well and it was great to meet her. Jessica is absolutely hilarious, and I loved that she pronounced Richelieu (a French cardinal that was very powerful, pronounced “rish-lee-oo”) as “Richie Lou.” The bar was really classy, with a lot of older men in suits sitting at the bar and well dressed women sitting on the leather couches. The drinks are a little expensive by Spanish standards, but they come with endless tapas. They kept bringing out more and more peanuts, sliced sausage, chips, and pinxtos (tapas on small slices of toasted baguette bread). Every time we finished one plate, a new one came along. Finally Jessica burst out, “WE NEED TO STOP EATING!” We looked around. None of the other Spaniards were touching their plates, which were all mostly full. A hilarious culture difference I find between western Europeans and Americans is that western Europeans see food as a decoration, meant as a courtesy and politeness to the guest, but in the US we are raised to eat all the food in front of us, it would be rude not to. Thus, without realizing it, we were going through plates of tapas, thinking that was polite and what we should do, and the server kept bringing us more, because he thought that was polite. The next day (Friday) I went to Segovia. Segovia is a beautiful medieval town with a castle that is rumored to be what the Disney castle was based off of. After arriving by bus, I headed to the tourist information office and was floored by the sight of a massive Roman aqueduct. My first thought was, this is the aqueduct I have seen in all my history textbooks in high school, I’m sure. Its unbelievably huge, I can’t even fully describe it. It cuts the main square and makes the bold statement that the Romans wanted it to make: permanent power and strength. Despite thousands of years passing by, the aqueduct still stands tall and strong. I walked up the stairs on the side to reach the top and look out over the aqueduct and into the distance to see beautiful snowcapped mountains. This was my favorite moment in Segovia I think. I then proceeded to walk through the city. Unfortunately it was very cold that day. I paid to go into the cathedral, but it was even more cold and, after seeing the one in Toledo, a bit lackluster. Continuing through the town, is walked through the Jewish quarter, which was essentially wiped out during the inquisition and is more nominal (in my opinion) than anything. There was a church that had once been the site of a Jewish temple, but that was all. This part of Spanish history is very depressing and upsetting. When I made it to the castle, I was a little disappointed. There is a lot of hype about the castle at Segovia, so I had a really high expectation for it. But in the end, all I could think was, Cinderella’s is better. Inside there isn’t a great deal to see. There are some nice views of the brown countryside from the windows in the castle, and some armor and art in the exhibits. There was some kind of military history museum inside as well, but it was mostly all in Spanish and, to me, very boring. The best part is going up the tower. The tower is a stereotypical Rapunzel tower that makes you feel like prince charming might just be below, or perhaps knights and their army are rushing towards you at top speed in attack. From here you have a breathtaking view off the city at the foot of the beautiful mountains. I then headed out of the castle and walked on a footpath that follows beneath the walls of the city. Yes, they still have the old fortified walls! Crazy! It was nice to do a little hiking outside of the city- in many ways, all of this city seeing, I was starting to miss the earth! I then had lunch at a restaurant called Le Tunnel that was not so good, but I had a beer at the bar while waiting, and for only €1.30 I had a small beer and a slice of Spanish tortilla. Finally returning to Madrid, I met Kristen and Jessica at Jessica’s apartment. It turns out that Jessica has an amazing apartment with a balcony! We sat and had wine in the warm sun with a beautiful view of the city. In the evening, we met up with Katie, a friend of Kristen and Jessica, and had drinks at a work collective that she interns at called The Hub. The Hub is a really cool concept that started in the US (surprisingly), where they collaborate on new ideas and help (mostly young) entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. I was speaking with one guy who wants to start a social network that is around books. It was interesting to see, and I really liked the concept. My last and final day in Spain was sad. Kristen, Matt, and I wandered around the Chueca area of Madrid. The area is famous because it was the spot where a lot of gay culture in Spain takes seed, and is apparently the largest gay community in Spain. We stopped in the Mercado San Anton which was similar to the Mercado San Miguel. This seemed a bit more upscale, as it was indoors, though on the roof there is a bar with couches and chairs, so we stopped to have a drink and enjoy the sun. After, we ate at a trendy restaurant called Ojala. In the basement, there is sand and at night it is open and you can enjoy your drinks in a beach-like setting. During the day, however, the basement isn’t open, though the upstairs is also quite cool, with neon pink and yellow lights and yummy food, such as guacamole and a yummy wrap. In the evening we ate at a new restaurant called Mérimée, which has the slogan, “Fancy Food & Cocktail Club.” Funny slogan! The food was quite fancy, and yummy, and the atmosphere was definitely on the fancy side as well. We then wandered through the Malasaña area, checking out all the fun bars they have there. Because it was a Saturday, a lot of them were so packed you couldn’t really have a drink or anything. But what was great about them is they were all so different. There were bars with old toy memorabilia on the walls, a books and wine bar, and a bar with all repurposed materials that were made into new furniture. The next day, I returned to France, completely exhausted from this epic two week adventure. It has actually been about two months since this all went down. Since then I have visited many other places, but this Spain trip was by far the most exciting and action-packed, so I wanted to take the time to write about it fully. I will update soon about some of the other things I have done and the places I have visited, but this Spain trip was one of the highlights of my year. I hope you enjoyed and I didn’t drag it out too much!!! Also, I’m sorry I have not posted more regularly. I have started working on a friend’s blog, Sensible Reason, where I help write and edit posts. Please feel free to check it out at It is an anything blog, though it is mostly about music and the arts. Hope you enjoy! Pictures:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Break Part III: Barcelona!

On day 7 (Saturday) we had a flight from the tiny little Grenada airport to Barcelona. The flight was only about an hour, but there really doesn't seem to be any other way to go between the two cities.

This time, we didn't stay at a hotel, but in a private apartment. I really liked the freedom of this. Obvious draw backs are that you only get one set of towels for your stay, so no fresh towles every day. But it had a cute little balcony and two twin beds and a futon, so it fit all of us comfortably. The freedom was really great as well. We had a full kitchen! And next door was a cheap little grocery store, so we kind of went to town on the food. Kristen's a great cook as well, and I enjoy cooking with her, so we did a TON of cooking, as you'll see.

Mom had bought a beautiful tapas recipe book in Grenada, and the first thing we did in Barcelona was take advantage of it. The first things we made in Barcelona (because there is a lot more cooking to be done) were: york ham and Manchego cheese (cheese from the La Mancha region) tortilla; stuffed red peppers with crab meat and cream cheese; a dish of garbanzo beans, chorizo, onion, and bell pepper (which I loved to call a salad, and Kristen continually pointed out that it is not, in fact, a salad); and sauteed zucchini.

To curb our wino appetite, we drank cava on the side. Cava is a sparkling wine from the Catalonia region, which is the region where Barcelona is found. Even the most expensive cava is cheaper than the cheapest champagne it seemed. And it was delicious! I'm starting to question why I chose to study French and not Spanish...

It was already night time, so we figured we would go out for a bit to see the town. We walked down a large boulevard just at the corner of our street, called Las Ramblas. In the distance ahead of us, hovering in the sky above the city, we could always see this lighted church that looked kind of like a castle; I couldn't take my eyes off it. We stopped in a cool lounge for another glass of cava, though after getting our order, we watched the bar tender making another drink that was sangria made with cava and fresh fruits. Definitely should have gotten that!

The next day (day 8 of our trip), we slept “in” (9am). For breakfast we had strawberries, left over tortilla, oranges, and coffee. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, many museums were free. We went to the beautiful Catalan museum (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) which was located in the National Palace, which was built for the 1929 World's Fair. The museum covered art throughout history from the Catalunyan region. In it there was a gorgeous exhibit on Romanesque church frescos. These frescos had been isolated in the Pyrenees which caused them to be cut off from the Spanish style and take more from the south and central French style and they were similar to a style used in manuscripts. All of the art was found in old churches and what makes the exhibit unique is how they try to recreate the outline of the churches so that when you look at the frescos you can try and envision how they were meant to look.

There was also a great Gothic and Renaissance art collection. There were beautiful altar pieces and artwork from these time periods. We were all astounded by the attention to detail in the pieces. There were some paintings where the fabric on the clothing looked so real, you could almost touch it.

The view from the museum was also great. It’s up on a hill overlooking the city. It’s also located near the metro stop Espayna where there is the city’s bull ring.

We then hopped back on the metro and headed to the gothic quarter. There was a cool little market selling organic and locally produced products. Some of the things they sold were marmalades, jams, artisanal chocolates, organic cava, bees wax, and honey. The market was located in a pretty little square under the Basilica del Pi.

Then, we went for Basque tapas at a place called Irati that was delicious! I ate crab and mayo on bread with shredded hardboiled egg whites, red sweet bell pepper stuffed with cod and breaded and fried and served on toast, and shrimp wrapped in melted cheese and ham and breaded and deep fried and served on toast. For drinks we had Txocoli, a sparkling wine from the Basque region.

Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment to rest up. Kristen and I used left over crab and creamcheese with mixed pepper mixed in from the night before and, inspired by the tapa I had, we boiled eggs and sliced and chopped them and pan fried some bread and served the crab on the bread with the egg on top. So delicious and very, very easy!

We tried to go to the Picasson Museum but since it was free the line was massive so we couldn’t go in. So instead we headed to the marina around sunset. There was another street market where we got to try really yummy handmade candies (kind of like the Haribo candies, but much, much nicer). It was jelly-like on the inside.

We then walked down to the beach. I put my toes in the Mediterranean Sea for the second time!

We then walked to the gothic quarter. There is a cool little bridge in this quarter on the Carrer del Bisbe Irurita. The buildings also have gargoyles coming off of them and the streets are winding, so you really do get the feeling the area came from medieval times, which is when many of the buildings were built.

Randomly, we stumbled on two male opera singers who were just unbelievable. There was a whole crowd around them, filling the tiny narrow streets surrounding the small square they were singing in. With the stone buildings and gargoyles hanging above them, it was quite an unbelievable sight.

We then continued to wander through the gothic quarter and headed back towards the apartment. On the walk back, we passed the Basilica del Pi, where we had seen the food market earlier. There was a line outside the church, so we asked a young Spanish guy at the front what was going on. Apparently there was going to be a concert in twenty minutes. The musician Xavier Coll was to be performing on several different classical Spanish guitars. I convinced everyone to go, even though there seemed to be some uncertainty. Well, it was absolutely amazing!!! It was in a small gothic chapel in the church, so it was a very intimate setting and also very cool, with stone walls and high vaulted arches. Coll is apparently a very famous classical guitarist. He played on four different guitars from four different time periods: Vihuela (Renaissance), Guitarra barroca (Baroque), Guitarra romantica, and Guitarra modernia. The whole thing was so wonderful and spur of the moment. We were all so glad we decided to do it! How lucky!

The ninth day of our trip, Monday, was a more relaxed day. Just to make you jealous, I’ll tell you what we had for breakfast: fruit, scrambled eggs with brie and ham, and toasted baguette with salmon and cream cheese. We then headed to the Sagrada Familia (“Sacred/Holy Family”). This basilica is the master work of Antoni Gaudi, the great artist and architect of Barcelona. You can see many apartments and parks done by Gaudi, but the Sagrada Familia is his most ambitious work.

Gaudi began working on the Sagrada Familia in 1883. Gaudi died in 1926 and less than a quarter of the basilica was actually completed. After his death, there was some dispute about whether or not to complete the basilica at all or to leave it as is. Finally, after the Spanish Civil War, building began to recommence. The pretty expensive fees you pay to enter are “donations” to the construction and completion of the cathedral. The cathedral is built through private donations only and it is believed to be completed in 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death. We took a tour that was very interesting, and the guide explained to us that while it may seem that the progress has thus far been very slow and therefore it is not possible to complete the basilica by 2026, in fact thanks to findings of Gaudi’s drawings and new technologies, they are able to build at a much faster rate than Gaudi was able to build it.

Gaudi had a very unique and interesting style of art. The Sagrada Familia was both gothic and Art Nouveau. The outside of the building is quite cool. The oldest part of the basilica is my favorite- it looks as if the structure is made of wax and is melting in the sun. Inside, the massive columns spread out above you, like giant trees. In fact, Gaudi was greatly influence by nature and the columns are meant to look like trees and give the impression that one is inside a great forest.

There are many interesting and great details about the basilica, and if you do go, I greatly suggest getting an audio guide or taking the tour. There is a video in the crypt/basement of the church, where you will also find an exhibit on Gaudi’s method and the science behind his architecture. If you don’t have a tour, I would suggest going straight to the movie and watching it first. It gives a lot on the history of the basilica and Gaudi’s methods.

We also did the climb up to the top of the basilica. It is also extra, but well worth it. Up there, you have an amazing view of Barcelona and an up close look at the top of the basilica. You can also see just how high the builders go to continue the construction of this massive piece of architecture.

After, we headed to the apartment for lunch. We made some shrimp and had leftovers. I don’t think I’ve talked about shrimp yet. Apparently we Americans eat our shrimp very differently from the rest of the world. We like our shrimp without the shell, the head, the legs, and the intestines. If you’re having a meal that has a need for small shrimps (such as the Basque tapas I had had earlier in the week), they will already be all cleaned up. But, for the most part, when you buy shrimp, they have the whole thing, and if you get a seafood platter, it will also generally include the works. It’s quite messy business, and I have friends here who tell me “sucking out the brains from the head is the best part!” It makes eating shrimp quite a bit of work, but it’s still just as yummy! Besides shrimp, we also had the chickpeas and chorizo “salad,” stuffed red peppers (still more!), hand cut potato chips with an aioli sauce that Aunt Martha bought at the market. Oh, and we topped off 2 bottles of wine!

Feeling happy, we decided to walk towards the water by going down side streets instead of Las Ramblas. There was a cool market similar to the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, except a little more “grungy” and less high class. There were some cool and yummy things there, like fruit drinks, gelato (I had a gelato with cookie and Kinder egg!), and cool candies. There was also a meat stand with very strange/different kinds of meat: bull balls, penis, and tongue!

We continued down the side streets, passing the statue of Columbus, heading towards the marina for sunset. We then headed back up to the apartment to have more wine and to pack. So sad to leave Mom and Aunt Martha! There is still one more part of my trip in Spain to come! Kristen and I spend two more days in Barcelona and then head off to Madrid, where I do a day trip to Segovia.

Photos of Part 3:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spain Trip, Part 2: Madrid and Grenada

When I left you guys off, we were on day 4 in Toldedo. I’m sorry it’s take so long for the update! I’ve been having problems with my computer. Part 3 will be up soon, I’ve already gotten a jump on it.

The next day, Thursday, we were back in Madrid. First, we headed to the Templo Debod. This old Egyptian temple was given to Spain in 1968 after Spain had helped to salvage many Egyptian artifacts that were to be lost as a result of the creation of the dam Aswan. It’s a really cool feature of Madrid. You can go inside and see old hieroglyphs (though all the information was in Spanish). If you go around the back of the temple, there is a beautiful view of the west side of Madrid and if you look to the left you can see the cathedral and palace.

We then headed over to the Malasaña area of Madrid to look at cool boutiques, such as Kristen’s favorite, Biscuit. We had lunch at a restaurant right nearby called La Musa. This was our favorite restaurant of the trip by far. For a starter our choices were either a delicious salad or lasagna. For the main course Aunt Martha ordered the spinach and fish with a creamy pea sauce. Mom & I ordered the curry on skewers with vegetables. Aunt Martha and I looked at each other’s plates and immediately wanted the others’! So we ended up sharing. Both options were excellent! Then, for dessert we all split three things: fried banana with chocolate drizzle, tiramisu, and arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding). Soooooooooo good! And the atmosphere of the restaurant was excellent as well. Would highly recommend.

Afterwards, we walked around for a few more hours, went back to the hotel to rest, and then at night we went out for tapas and drinks. We passed a giant protest in the Plaza del Sol, thought I’m not too sure what the protest was about. Then we headed to Calle Baja and Alta and one of the streets (I think Alta?) was pretty dead with no bars, but the other had tapas bar after tapas bar. The best one we went to (can’t remember the name) was delicious. We had a bunch of tapas there, but one that sticks out in my mind is the goat cheese with grilled veggies on a slice of toasted bread. After, we had more tapas at a bar where there were pictures of bull fighters all over the walls. Our server was very sweet- he was from Latin America and had moved to Madrid many years ago and was not engaged to an American girl and was going to move to Texas with her! So sweet.

On the walk back we stopped at Malaspiña for a final drink before heading back to the hotel to meet with Kristen!

The next morning we took a bus to Granada. The ride was about 5 hours or so, but it really went by quickly. We stayed at the hotel Alixares right near the Alhambra (will talk more about that later, but what you need to know now is that it is a beautiful palace that had been built by the Muslims when the had conquered Spain). The hotel was super comfortable with a delicious buffet breakfast.

After settling into the hotel, we walked down the foot path past the Alhambra towards town. We walked a bit through the beautiful town and walked up the hill to try and get to the vista, Mirador San Nicolas. It was a bit of a hike up a steep hill, but the view was totally worth it. Because it is the end of winter, the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance behind the Alhambra were snowcapped. We got there before sunset, so we were able to get both photos of the Alhambra during the day and light up at night. We went to a nearby terrace café with a view of the Alhambra for some drinks and patatas bravas (yummy French fries with a spicy tomato sauce).

We then headed off to the Plaza Nueva for some more drinks and tapas. At one amazing tapas bar (if you ever go, you’ll recognize it because there are actually two of them across the street from each other) we had ship in a garlic sauce and tortilla with ham and lima beans. We finished off at the end of the plaza in a really gorgeous restaurant for dessert. Here we had a nuts and raspberry “cake.” This wasn’t a regular cake (it did not have dough or anything). Instead, the nuts were used as“dough” with yummy raspberry on top. It had a very unique texture and flavor and was delicious!

The next day we visited the Alhambra. Here is some quick info on the Alhambra, thanks to Wikipedia. The Alhambra, “is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada,Andalusia, Spain. It was constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in al-Andalus… After the Reconquista (reconquest) by the Reyes Católicos ("Catholic Monarchs") in 1492, some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of Charles V, built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was "discovered" in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the inspiration for many songs and stories.”

The actual visit includes a ton of stuff and can easily take the entire time you have there (you MUST reserve a time slot in advance online). I think our time slot was something to the tune of 9am to 1pm. And then you also get a time slot to visit the palace, which is the highlight of the trip. Our time slot was 10am. You need to arrive to the Alhambra gates at least half an hour before your palace time slot so you have enough time to walk to the palace and everything. I would also DEFINITELY recommend the audio guide, since there is pretty much no information on the entire visit. The audio was great too- I really liked how they used the American writer Washington Irving’s “character” to guide you through. Irving had lived in the Alhambra and wrote Tales of the Alhambra, and the audio guide used quotes from his book as well as other quotes, music, description, and facts to give you a great sense of how awe inspiring this palace really is. The Alhambra palace is also interesting because, when it was taken over by Queen Ferdinand and Isabella, it was where it is believe that Columbus was sent to discover the Americas. We pretty much took the entire hour and a half you get in the palace. Afterwards, we saw the gardens, fortified wall, and palace that was used for when the king and his family wanted to have a little vacation from their regal roles.

We rested for a while and then headed out to lunch. We took a little shuttle bus down to the Christopher Columbus statue in the town. For lunch we had a salad with hard boiled eggs, corn, white asparagus (apparently very popular in Spain), heart of palm and more. Then we split a lima beans and ham tortilla, croquettes (round, small, fried rolls containing potato and vegetables), and slicked and fried eggplant (called aubergine in the UK!).

After, we headed off to the cathedral of the city. The cathedral was built over the main mosque of the city to show that the Reconquista was done in honor of God and Christianity and not for the personal glory of the king and queen. The cathedral took 180 years to build! It is absolutely massive. While we were in the cathedral, there was a study abroad group being led by their teacher on a tour. Most of them weren’t even paying attention to the guide and were just off to the side. Meanwhile, we tried to stand off to the side of them, snooping in on the information. I learned that the two giant organs that are there are done in the Spanish style and that you can tell because the organ pipes stick straight out. I also learned that it was built as a Renaissance style church, but there are gothic arches. Either way, it’s so embarrassing to me when you see American study abroad program. Usually they couldn’t give less of a damn about the culture or language of the city they’re in and they have no shame in being completely ignorant about their country of study.

Next, we headed to another part of the church, but there is a separate entrance way and entrance fee. It is the tomb of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. When Ferdinand ordered the making of this cathedral, it was intended to be the resting place of the bodies of all the subsequent kings of Spain. However, after his son Philip I and his wife Juana la Loca (Joanna the Mad) were buried there, the official burial place of all subsequent kings and queens became just outside of Madrid (And it still is! You can go there to see it, though I didn’t have enough time). Anyway, you can see this burial site of Ferdinand, Isabella, Philip I and Juana. There are the death statues (that’s not the correct term for them, I’m sure, but they’re huge marble carvings of the king and queen laying to rest peacefully). What is interesting about this is they say that the reason Isabella’s head lies deeper into the pillow (which you can actually see) is because she was the real brains of the royal couple. Beneath, you can actually walk down and see the coffins of Ferdinand, Isabella, Philip, Juana, and I think their child who must have died at a young age or even birth. Pretty strange actually seeing a 500+ year old coffin and knowing that famous kings and queens are lying in there.

The reason why Juana is called la Loca, FYI, is because apparently after her husband Philip I (known as “the beautiful” because of his fair skin and light hair)she was so in love with him and mourned for him so much that she had his casket carried around behind her until her death. Slightly romantic, slightly creepy. Her son found this more on the side of creepy and had her banished to a nunnery, which is pretty sad.

Besides this morbid stuff, there are also cool artifacts. There is the scepter of Isabella and the crown and sword of Ferdinand. You can also see Isabella’s bible and the case for it. And there are lots of nice paintings.

After leaving this, we stumbled on an art school (I think that’s what it was) that had its doors open and you can go in and see the only remains of the mosque that the cathedral was built over/the only remains of any ancient mosque built by the Muslim conquerors. We were so glad we stumbled on that- it was so cool, and Kristen had been to Granada 3 other times and had never seen that! Plus, they have a really nice, free art gallery by some artist named Vivaldi (I only remember his name because it’s the same as the music composer). Definitely a fun, cool find!

We then headed over to the Arabic quarter. This “quarter” is really just a street full of shops and tea/hooka houses. They all have this really cool feel that you’ve been transported to the middle east. Our first stop was a tea house. We tried some delicious middle eastern/north African tea some baklava. Baklava is a pastry known to be from North Africa and (according to Wikipedia) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.
We also ordered a hooka for the novelty of it. Afterwards, we walked along the shops, which had a lot of trinkets and cool hippie clothing. I got a pair of cool balloon pants (I don’t actually think they’re called that, but they are basically huge, wide pants that are cinched at each ankle).

We also find a ceramics store just a little off this street. Ceramics are big in Spain. Each area/ region has their own style. Kristen loves Spanish pottery, especially the style from Granada. The style is usually hand painted blue and white lines on white pottery, usually around a bird or a pomegranate (Pomegranate is actually what Granada means in Spanish and it is the symbol of Granada and can be seen all around the city).

We then rushed to the hotel, ate a snack, got dressed, and we were off to the races! Or really, a flamenco show. The show provided a shuttle that picked us up right from the hotel and a walking tour of the area the show is in, though we were so beat, we opted to go straight to the place where the show is to have a drink. The place was called Los Tarantos and it’s built into the rock wall of the hill. Flamenco, according to Kristen, was brought to Spain by the gypsies who migrated all the way from India (there are different types of gypsies, so not all gypsies are of the same culture and origin in different countries). Therefore, flamenco has a lot of hand motions that look similar to motions made in Indian dance. Also, the tones are in a different style from the traditional western style and are identifiable with Indian music. There is also a heavy presence of the beat and sort of syncopation that was not really seen in western music until the modern era. Anyway, we got to the show early and had a chance to chat with the public relations manager of the show. He was very sweet and had actually once lived in California. We talked with him and he offered us our first round of drinks on him!

Afterwards, we went inside to see the show. The place where the show is, is very tiny and has a cool intimate atmosphere. You also get a free drink. If you decide to go, get the strong liquor or beer- the wine they use for the sangria is super cheap and no bueno. The show was fantastic and they tried to get someone from the audience to come up on stage and give it a whirl. One person who went up seems to have actually studied it or something and was quite good (show off!). After the amazing show, we headed to the hotel to rest. Up next: Barcelona!!!

For photos, check out: