CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Miami University
This Friday I packed my bags for the Architecture + Design and Economics trip to Granada in the south of Spain. We had received an itinerary a couple of days before, and I was so excited for planned activities that included a tour of the neighborhoods, meeting locals, seeing a Flamenco show, and, of course, visiting the Alhambra.
Albayzin neighborhood, an area dating back to the Roman period. Albayzin, like most of Granada, we found out, has winding narrow streets that are only about three people wide and meant to be 2-way for cars. It's also up in the mountains and only a small valley separates it from La Alhambra. So, when you aren't in your car worried about stalling out on a steep hill as another car is approaching you from the other direction, you have a magnificent view of a beautiful palace. The area is a little bit easier to navigate for pedestrians, but it was still a little scary to be walking in the street and hear a car's engine and see its approaching headlights from around the bend. Whenever this happened (and it happened quite often), we all ran around in the middle of the street like ants, unsure of where to go, before finally choosing a side of the street to run to and plaster ourselves against the wall.
porrón. We had no idea what these were called at the time, so which just used the gesture for using a porron whenever we talked about them. A porron is commonly used for drinking wine, but this bar had mixed drinks. To drink out of a perron, you hold the smaller spout above your mouth without touching it and pour whatever it is you're drinking. The goal is to create a long stream of beverage either by holding the perron as far away from you as you can or by having someone else hold it from higher up. It was really fun!
After going to the Capilla Real we got on a bus to go to the Alhambra, where we were greeted with a bagged lunch. Now, I made a detrimental mistake when packing and I didn't bring my iPhone charger or my camera, so I wasn't able to take pictures at the Alhambra. I know, bummer. But instead of frantically snapping pictures of all the overwhelmingly detailed walls, ceilings, and courtyards that is Alhambra, I was able to really look at and appreciate everything. I also tried to sketch a lot (quickly, however), which also allowed me to study some of the details of its design (at least this is what I'm telling myself so I don't feel awful about not having pictures of La Alhambra. If anything, I learned to always have a backup method of taking pictures or at least an emergency charger).
La Alhambra, you go through a long outdoor passageway lined with bushes formed into thick arcades. These bushes separate the passageway from delicate courtyards to the right, which house beautiful beds of roses, intimate arbors, and the tall, piercing cypress trees. Ancient ruins from 700 years ago lie on either side of this passage, which eventually brings you to a more open "city" area. While the palace is the main attraction of the Alhambra, there are a number of other buildings and monuments throughout the area that span between the 13th century when the complex was built to the Renaissance era, when the site was turned over to Catholicism.
From here you make your way towards the palace, which is truly a harmony of architecture, landscape, and interior spaces. You never truly know if you are inside or ouside bacause you are constantly fluctuating between these spaces as you travel through breezeways, courtyards, and rooms. Inside, outside, and the spaces in between are ornately decorated with Arabic inscriptions, colorful patterns, and lacey designs. While this was a little overwhelming at first (especially when trying to draw everything), the repetition of the same patterns, features, and colors in each room made the palace more visually manageable. There was also a wonderful gentle breeze coming through the open patios and intricate windows, while La Alhambra´s complicated irrigation system allowed water to trickle peacefully throughout the spaces. Although we were only able to be in the palace for a short time (the tickets are timed), it was truly a beautiful and inspiring building to be in.
However, the day had only just begun. Me and my friends Emily, Kelly, and Ali had made plans to go to the Hamman Baños Árabes, baths that date back to the 13th century and have been restored. These baths, which included a cold room (with tea!), a hot room, and a warm room, look just like the baths of the Alhambra, and because we had just come from there it felt like we bathing IN the Alhambra. For 25 euro, we also used the steam room AND got a massage. It was my first time ever being so pampered and I felt great afterwards.
After the show some of us decided to stay in the mountains for the night. We walked along the street looking for a place to eat while dodging cars and came along a small bar up the hill. While the owner, Antonio, said he didn't serve food, he recommended Casa Juanillo up the street. Jaunillo turned out to be a terrace-turned restaurant with excellent food. There was only one other group of locals there so we felt like we were really immersing ourselves with the culture.
After getting food we returned to Antonio's bar and had some drinks in the presence of the Flamenco guitar players and other locals. They seemed to be playing well known traditional songs, which made us all feel really immersed with the culture. The bar, like the restaurant and the Flamenco site, was also in one of the areas ¨caves.¨
It should also be mentioned that the entire night we had a continuous view of the Alhambra lit up in all its glory. The whole day was truly magical, not to mention the entire weekend in Granada.
*Check out more of Maddie's blog: http://fideosyalbondigas.tumblr.com/