Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

« My goals for this semester | Main | Cultural Differences »



Name: Maddie
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.


Tapas, tapas, tapas...
Once we got settled into the hotel we sought out a good place for tapas. The cost of nearly everything in Granada is cheaper and we were able to get a plate of 20 small tapas (pictured above) and 4 beers for 24 euro. Next we received a guided tour of the 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.



Cobblestone streets in the Albayzin
Streets of the Albayzin
Later on we met some local students who took us on a walk around the city and then out for tapas. This time we got 3 trays of tapas and 3 pitchers of sangria for 8 Euros split between 7 people. At this point I was already certain I never wanted to leave Granada. After finishing our feast we met up with the other groups and went to a bar where you drink out of a 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!



Guitar players and a perfect view of the Alhambra
However, the next day started early with a trip to the Cathedral and La Alhambra, so I didn't stay out too late. In the morning we walked to the Cathedral to see the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle (pals of Christopher Columbus), where they are buried. It was a beautiful space and had a space behind the altar that showed many stories from the Bible and even events that were going on at the time through sculptures and relief paintings. The chapel was in the plasteresque Gothic style, which meant that it had a lot of ornamental features, such as non-structural ribs along the ceiling, painted carved pieces on the ceilings, and whole lot of gold.


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).


Sketching at the Alhambra
When entering 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.


M7From 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.


Flamenco show in a cave
Later at night our group was scheduled to see a Flamenco show in the mountain caves of Granada. I didn't really know what to expect but soon found out that Flamenco in Granada is a much more intimate production with a lot of improv. Two small troupes performed while only one person danced at a time. Two men, one playing a guitar and the other singing, sat behind them. The group talked to each other even while on stage and cheered for one another with an ¨Ole!¨ or other indiscernible words.


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.¨


Terrace Restaurant for Tapas
We decided to continue the cave trend and went to a club further down the street (all of these places were on the same street!) called El Camborio. This club was unlike any other I've ever seen. Rather than having a singular room of sweaty bodies and alcohol the main spaces of this club was situated up on the hill with smaller, more intimate spaces leading up to it. The main spaces consisted of an outdoor terrace, a large dance floor, two smaller rooms, and a small room with a bar. They played both familiar American songs as well as Portuguese and Spanish pop and rap songs. Both kinds of music were equally fun to dance to and it was so awesome we stayed out until 5 am!


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:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment