The cities of Granada and Sevilla are located in the autonomous community of Andalucía—in the south of Spain. Before this trip, I had only spent time in the north of Spain; even though it is the same country, these regions are very different from each other.
Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by warm weather. What a difference from the cold, rainy days I had had in Galicia. Throughout our weekend, we visited the key sites in both cities. May I say that both the cities are amazing in their culture and tradition because they have so much history. Spain was at one point colonized by an Arab king, and to this day the south of Spain still has preserved much of that history through its architecture and culture.
One of the main representations of this is the Alhambra, in Granada. The Alhambra used to be the royal palace of the Arab king. It is truly a work of art; it is beautiful. It sits atop a mountain and from almost anywhere in the city you can see its silhouette. The interior is mind-blowing. This palace complex is huge; there are gardens and smaller palaces. Regardless of how big it is, every single corner was planned to a “T”. The interior of the palaces are intricately designed with lots of colors and architecture that is heavily influenced by the Arab culture; not a single space is left untouched. The Arab influence pours out into the city as you walk through the Arab market and get to try some delicious tea and Arab desserts.
In Granada we also got to walk around the Albaycin—aka the gypsy town. The curious and beautiful characteristic of this town is that all the houses are located on the side of a mountain and they are all white. To top it off, some of these houses are actually caves.
I absolutely loved Granada. First of all, I am very interested in Arab culture, and I think it is a city that has preserved its Arab history very well. Secondly, I loved the FREE tapas! If it is free it is for me. With the purchase of a drink (did not have to be alcoholic), you would get a small plate of food. I even got to have a “Chinese” tapa- it was noodles, but the thought of a Chinese tapa was quite funny.
Sevilla, although still part of the same autonomous community, was very different from Granada. Sevilla’s atmosphere was more like what is the stereotypical image of Spain: the flamenco, the bulls, and the paella. We did all these things during our stay. We got to see a flamenco performance, got a tour of La Plaza de los Toros, and had paella (my very first paella in Spain). My favorite had to be the performance. From the beat, and if you have heard Middle Eastern music, you can tell that it is heavy with Arab influences with regards to the tone of voice and even the sounds of the guitar. There is also a deep expression of emotion on the faces of the singer and dancer as they performed; it is very emotional and about pain and suffering, but beautiful and amazing at the same time.
My other favorite site from Sevilla was La Plaza de España. It is the biggest one I have seen so far, and I also think it is the most beautiful. Each autonomous community is represented with a plaque and a painting or map representative of the community. There is a seating area in front of each community so you are welcome to take pictures, so of course the Holy Cross kids took their group picture. There is a fountain in the middle and a small river that goes around the Plaza on which you can take a boat ride. This was by far my favorite Plaza de España of the ones I have seen.
On the last night, we watched the soccer game between the two rival Sevillan teams. I know soccer is a big thing here in Spain and this was my first time ever witnessing the excitement first hand. Everyone yelled when their team scored a goal and one little kid even started to cry and throw a fit because his team was losing.
Excitement and passion for something is definitely a stereotype of the Spanish, and I have definitely witnessed it firsthand and feel it now as my time runs out. I am definitely passionate about the idea of one day coming back to Spain and getting to see all the other communities because they all have something unique to offer. However, for now I am so thankful for the opportunity to have visited the southern part of Spain; it was beautiful.