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Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2018, Newsletter III


In and out of the classroom

In CIEE we believe that the learning experience should be polyhedral and should not limit itself to two weekly sessions in class during the term. The acquisition and assimilation of ideas, opinions and content that is produced strictly in the academic setting must be extended into the other spheres of the life of a student. Said in another way: that which is learned in class should be complemented – and on occasion refuted – out of it.

The CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts Program in the UB has many tools to make this possible: spaces for open debate about current socio-political issues mediated by our professors who help contextualize the contents of the courses, the “Diálogos” (open classes to all students of the program where two of our professors have a dialogue about a subject from the perspective of their specialization), museums visits, art expositions, conferences, cinema sessions, or our Cultural Week are only some examples. But without a doubt, one of the best examples of this effort of CIEE to expand and complement the academic experience out of the walls of the classroom is the trip that we organized at the beginning of May to the North of Catalonia and to the South of France.

The first leg of our trip brought us to the Exile Memorial Museum (MUME), an interpretation center which recalls the exiles brought about by the Civil War in Spain, a conflict inseparably linked to the Europe of the ascent of totalitarianism and which was the prelude to the Second World War. This museum is located at the same border crossing where most of the exiles fled, and our students had a perspective that links the past with the present, since the conflicts that cause exiles have been a constant in the history of the 20th century and continue to be so today. Thanks to this visit, our students taking “Contemporary Spain”, “Masterworks in Catalan Art”, or “Literature & Cinema in Spain” could understood much better some of the content explained during the term in those CIEE courses.


Another leg of our journey was to the French city of Colliure, a beautiful place next to the Mediterranean Sea and which was the inspiration of great artists of the past century such as André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, James Dickson Innes or Tsuguharu Fujita. in Colliure, our students were able to walk along the cobbled streets and enjoy a pleasant day by the beach, in addition to visiting the cemetery that contains the tomb of Spanish poet Antonio Machado, who fled to Colliure to escape advancing Francoist troops at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, and where he died.

SP3-C(Colliure, France)
SP3-C(ALA students reading poems by Spanish poet Antonio Machado in front of his tomb at the Colliure cemetery)

This academic and personal experience that our students live during their stay in CIEE Barcelona would not be possible without the work and the solid commitment of our professors. The latest to be incorporated onto the team of professors of the ALA program has been Dr. Manel Risques, who teaches the CIEE course "Contemporary Spain".

Jack & Daniel about Dr. Manel Risques

When we first came to Barcelona and we were registering for courses, we both had not planned on taking the CIEE course "Contemporary Spain." Due to changes in our schedule, however, we ended up joining this class, and the experience more than exceeded our expectations. The ability to learn and understand the history of this beautiful country and the nuances of its government have been extremely rewarding. Taking this course allowed us to better appreciate the city we lived in and the sociopolitical climate its people are currently experiencing. Not only was the class itself an incredible immersion into Spanish politics, which allowed us to gain a richer global understanding that we can now apply to US/International Relations, but the opportunity to have met Dr. Manel Risques and been taught by one of the leading experts in Contemporary Catalan/Spanish politics was one of the best aspects of our study abroad experience. Having him as a professor inspired and motivated us, and although we now part ways, we are thankful to have gained Manel as a mentor and most importantly, a friend. 

SP3-3(Jack –Columbia University– and Daniel –Bowdoin College– with UB and CIEE professor Dr. Manel Risques)


Meet Our Faculty

Dr. Manel Risques has been a Professor in the History Department at the University of Barcelona since 1978. His research has been focused on the Catalan social movements, general Franco’s dictatorship period, and the Spanish transition process to democracy. He has published numerous articles in specialized journals such as "Recerques" and "L'Avenç", and he has curated important exhibitions such as "Catalonia Under the Franco Regime” (Universitat de Barcelona, 1985), "1939. Barcelona, Year Zero” (Museu d'Història de la Ciutat, 1999), "Franco’s Prisons” (Museu d'Història de Catalunya, 2003), and the international congress "The Concentration Camps and Prisons in Spain During the Civil War and the Dictatorship Period” (Museu d'Història de Catalunya, 2002). Among his extensive bibliography are remarkable titles such as “The Civil Government of Barcelona in the XIX Century” (1995), “History of Contemporary Catalonia” (1999, with Àngel Duarte, Borja de Riquer and Josep M. Roig), “Process to the Civil Guard: Barcelona 1939” (2001, with Carles Barrachina), “Amnesty Time: The Demonstrations of February 1st, 1976 in Barcelona” (2001, with David Ballester), and “Democratic Identity or Spanish Unionist Tradition” (2003).



Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2018, Newsletter II



Exchange is one of the cornerstones of any experience abroad. The American students that participate in the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program exchange with the local youth: ideas, languages, conversations, moments, food, class notes, dances and kisses… Ultimately, they exchange diverse ways –yet always complementary– of understanding life. 

The cultural and academic clash that our students experience is considerable. Even though we try to pave the way during orientation, when we warn them of the most frequent difficulties that a person will always encounter while living in new country, it is only first-hand experience of this new reality that may permit assimilation and incorporation into our cultural background.   S2-2

(Adam –Columbia University–, CIEE and UB Prof. Mar Forment, Cecilia and Lilla –Tufts University–,  Marcella –Saint Edward's University–, Eva –Williams College–, and Quinn –Vanderbilt University–)

Acting on professional bias –and why not admit it as well, a certain ethnocentrism–, we tend to focus on the perspective that American students have of the country and the chosen city and of its people so much that we forget the other variable of the equation: the local students. How do the University of Barcelona students perceive the CIEE students? What do they think and feel about them? What do they learn about and from them? Do the friendships that emerge in these months help to better understand the United States, its people and the values that they represent? These are difficult questions to answer. We know that some of these friendships that begin through these exchanges endure in time and that is when mutual comprehension between young American and Spanish students grow and become profound. We know this because the friendships –and many times also love relationships– that develop in these few months in Barcelona are translated in various two-way visits. For example, it is very common to find local Spanish students who have just come back from visiting their friends from CIEE in the United States or CIEE alumni that, years later, come back to Barcelona to solidify a friendship that distance has obliged to make virtual.


(Robert –University of Barcelona–, Jane, Nick and Sydney –Vanderbilt University–, and Daniel –Bowdoin College– taking a selfie and eating "churros")

For ten years now, we have had a tool at CIEE Barcelona that helps us respond to many of the questions that University of Barcelona students might have about American students and the United States. And it is for this reason that CIEE Barcelona started to collaborate with the Language Scholar Program at Reed College. Thanks to this extraordinary linguistic, cultural and academic program, every year a student from the UB is given the opportunity to live, study and work on an American campus. Thanks to Reed College, we can better understand the other side of the exchange between American and Spanish students. It is an honor and a source of pride for CIEE Barcelona to be able to contribute to and strengthen this exchange.

María and Lizara, two students from the University of Barcelona, tell us in first person what their experience in the United States has been like.

(María and Lizara, UB students, with Owen, Reed student and former participant of the CIEE ALA program in the UB)

University of Barcelona students at Reed College

We are María and Lizara, this year’s Spanish Language Scholars at Reed College, Portland. Now that we are at the end of this adventure, we look back and we find it difficult to put into words just how beautiful this experience has been. Studying abroad implies many complicated decisions; the most obvious one is the willingness to be far away from all things familiar as well as your closest ones. Nonetheless, in retrospect, we feel extremely lucky to have been granted this opportunity.

Since the day of our arrival, Reed College made us feel at home. The faculty, the students, and especially the Spanish Department introduced themselves and helped us discover the genuine details that make Portland such a special city. “Keep Portland Weird” is a motto that made us fall in love with this rainy but charming place since the very beginning. We will have a hard time forgetting Reed’s campus, with the canyon that divides it, the Greek amphitheater, its gorgeous nature, magical red buildings, moss-covered trees and even its squirrels.


Furthermore, this experience has also been an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. We have developed a set of skills in a demanding but supportive environment. It has been a pleasure and a challenge for us to bring our language and culture (the Balearic and Aragonese, in particular) to America and be able to share it in an atmosphere as special as the one created in La Casa Hispana. We will hold dear good memories: movie nights, cultural parties, game board evenings, Cafecitos… with all the residents and reedies; and of course, we will remember all the classes where we have seen our students surprise even themselves with their growing knowledge of Spanish.

Nowadays, being so close to the end, we just have words of gratitude. Thanks Reed College and CIEE for making this dream come true.


El sur de España: Sevilla, Córdoba y Granada

Name: Lena
CIEE Barcelona Program:
Architecture & Design
Spring 2014
Home School
: University of Colorado Boulder

 Southern Spain was absolutely gorgeous. I traveled to Seville on Friday, Cordova on Saturday, a modern section of Seville on Sunday morning, and Granada until Monday. 


After we dropped our bags off at Fernando III (our hotel) we met up with a Guardian angel from CIEE, Seville. She showed us around a few sites including the Seville CIEE study center, Placa España, the University of Seville, and a walking tour of the city.

Lena1Seville used to be the capital of Spain, way back when. Catedral de Sevilla was enormous; in fact it is the third largest in the world! We climbed to the top of the bell tower and were welcomed with a breathtaking, 360-degree view of the city. Christopher Columbus's tomb is there, so neat! His burial place is located in this cathedral because he sailed from Seville in 1492! Lenanew
Lena3Outside here the building was lined with horse and chariots. There were horses all around the city, it was so cool.


Probably the most impressive thing to see here was Placa España. There were canals running around a semicircle of walkways filled with columns. This building was extremely colorful. I loved it!



Early Saturday morning we took a 1.5 hour bus ride to Cordoba, east of Seville. This city was very prosperous during the Middle Ages and was at one point the largest city in the world!  We saw the Córdoba Mezquita in which encompassed Catedral de Córdoba —a famous mosque, absolutely incredible. The mosque was very well preserved with the addition of a cathedral inside! There were 1000 columns in the mosque originally, where as the cathedral knocked down 150. Surprisingly, with the Catholics help, the mosque was in close to perfect condition. Unfortunately we had a tour guide that rushed us through the entire thing, but I made sure to take some good shots-of course!

  Lena-6Afterwards we saw a synagogue and had lunch. We made sure to get some typical dishes from Cordoba, such as a battered eggplant with honey- Berenjena Con Miel. I feel very fortunate to go to Cordoba. I feel like it is a city in which I would have never visited if CIEE did not take me. I am so happy I went!

On the way back to Seville we stopped by Madinat al-Zahra, a modern archeology study and museum. After exploring the building and its artifacts we took a bus to another site in which had mosques that were built a few hundred years after the ones in Cordoba. In contrast, these were not preserved at all! Lena16
At 6 o’clock we took a bus back to Seville. Next on our agenda was watching a flamenco show. It was absolutely incredible. The dancers feet moved so fast as if they were vibrating!Lena8

I finished my day with my friends eating some tapas, some of the best I have had! Southern Spain is known for their goat cheese. This only made me more excited for the tapas in Granada!


The following morning we had a Contemporary architecture tour of Seville. We saw this super modern sculpture/building that looked like a giant waffle! Its purpose was to hold and display roman ruins on the bottom floor and if you took an elevator up you were able to walk over the sculpture, with a view of the city and cathedral especially. This building was super curved, which I loved, of course!!! Lena9On Sunday afternoon, 5 of my classmates from the architecture and design program joined me on a trip to Granada. Sadly we had backtracked from being in Cordova the day before. This city was a 3-hour bus ride northeast. The bus was super easy to find!

Our hostel there was really cool, hostel Vita. The gentleman working the front desk was really nice and took us to a great tapas place. In Granada every drink you buy you receive a tapa, ranging from 1.5-2 euro, a great deal! The idea of a drink with food came from King Alfonso X (the name of my metro stop!) He made a law that with every drink a person would buy at a restaurant they would receive food. Granada keeps this tradition, which I absolutely loved! The drink of southern Spain is called Tinto de Verano -a mix of fizzy water with wine. This is the drink of the south in oppose of Kalimotxo where they mix coke with wine (gross)!

We went back early to our hostel in order to get a good nights rest before the Alhambra.


The Alhambra. I was so excited for this, I have learned about it countless times since freshman year in my architecture classes! My friend and I had tickets to the palace at 2. God was it amazing! The details on the walls are absolutely remarkable. When I got to the fountain of lions I literally started crying. I just could not believe I was there!!!!Lena10Throughout the palace and Alhambra site there were breathtaking views of the city. All of the houses were white stucco with tiled roofs. It made me really feel like I was in Spain! After the palace my friend and I enjoyed exploring the gardens. The coolest thing we had witnessed was the water stairway; the way in which they moved water around the site was incredible. The gardens were spectacular.Lena11Afterwards, around 6, my friend Meg and I went to the Catedral de Granada. This is the most unique cathedral I have seen yet. Everything in there was white! I would imagine it was to match the city.Lena12

Subsequently we met up with our other classmates and went on a quest to see the caves with gypsies in them--in the mountains. Unfortunately we did not find the caves but we were welcomed with more breathtaking views, especially during sunset. It was cool exploring the neighborhoods.


When we were finished with this adventure we were starving and went to go get tapas, of course! We went to Babel in which it was all our outright favorite; it had 20 options of tapas to choose from, in oppose to the night before where there was an assigned tapa for the drink you got.  The food here was absolutely amazing and such big portions! 

All in all this was by far the best weekend of my life, especially considering my major. Spain has so much to offer!


Park Güell

Name: Martine
CIEE Barcelona Program:
Language & Culture
Spring 2014
Home School
: University of Colorado Boulder

Going to Parque Güell was one of my favorite times in Barcelona.


I had only been in Barcelona for a week and was still trying to make sense of everything. Although I had met some people in my program I had not had the time to get to know everyone. After our orientation activities were over we had some free time to relax and acquaint ourselves before we started school.


On one of our days off, someone in my program suggested that we all go to Parque Güell.  We arrived around five and had about an hour before the sun was going to set. It was the perfect time of day to be there. The color of the sky was a fusion of blues and pinks. The sky created a dreamlike background for the stunning architecture of the park.


Aside from the breathtaking scenery, the visit to Parque Güell allowed our group to get to know each other in more casual terms. Every other setting we had been in so far had been organized by CIEE and therefore we were busy with different events for orientation week. It was nice to laugh and get to know one another in such a beautiful park. Everyone was enjoying him or herself and exploring the park.


Afterwards we all decided to get a quick bite to eat at a cute restaurant by the park and then head home. It was fun to talk to everyone at dinner because we were all from different parts of the country yet we were all studying in Barcelona. Since then I have continued to make friends with people from all over the world and it has been my favorite part about being abroad.


Liberal Arts, Spring 2014, Issue II


IMG_2801Service Learning Project

“Why do you eat turkey at Thanksgiving?” asked a 10 year old boy during a presentation by Amelia, from Barnard College, on the American festivity. Amelia explained that there were a lot of wild turkeys in America so they ate the animals that were available. Amelia and six other students participated in a service learning project in an elementary school, Escola Collserola, with children from 3 to 12 years old.  Sarah, of University of Colorado Boulder, read the story The Big Enormous Turnip  to the 3 years old kids. “You missed my picture with all the kids hugging me” Laura from University of Minnesota Twin Cities, told me after she read The Wheels on the Bus story to first graders who also sang the song and drew their own busses.

LA Service LearningSarah, University of Colorado; Alisha, Brandeis Unviersity; Makenzie, University of Colorado, and Amelia, Barnard College at English Day in Collserola school.

The service learning project is part of the CIEE Advanced Grammar, Composition and Conversation II class, and after volunteering the students interviewed the school principal and the Academic Committee to learn about the educational system and compare it to the US. After the event we had an in class discussion about it and it and will base some composition and a cultural oral presentation assignments around the visit. This project is also part of the intercultural competence component that we are using to enhance our CIEE classes.

LA Service Learning-001Erika, University of Wisconsin Madison and various photos of the students at the Collserola School.

L'escola Collserola millora el seu anglès amb universitaris nord-americans - Mozilla Firefox 12032014 110416.bmp

The visit even made the local newspaper! You can see the article “Collserola School Improves Its English With American Students” here: “

Phonetics Laboratory

Students in the Spanish Linguistics class visited the Phonetics Laboratory at the Universidad de Barcelona.  They learned how different sounds are made and they practiced with the lab's software that analyzes sounds. Students recorded their Spanish and compared it to the sounds produced by native speakers. They also found out about the work the phonetics laboratory does with speech therapy and forensics.



Weekend trip to Madrid and Toledo

This semester we visited Madrid and Toledo for our weekend trip. Students toured the Madrid of the Habsburgs, downtown Toledo and were able to admire some of the most important paintings in the art history such as Guernica by Picasso, Las Meninas by Velázquez or El Entierro del Conde Orgaz by el Greco.  They also enjoyed taking pictures with a matador in Plaza Mayor and dipping a churro in a hot chocolate in the  famous Chocolatería San Ginés.LA MadridYou can read more about the food in Spain in Christina’s, from Colby College, blog post:



Global Architecture & Design Newsletter, Spring 2014, Issue I

(1) Alternative, nontraditional form of learning & teaching

The 5 teams at Global AD BCN Design Studio just began building a first set of water property based prototypes. The lab involves working with new digital tools, CNC machines and data design scenarios. The students work week by week to build a shared dynamic and flexible syllabus, each week registering the current studio production and setting out the agreed tasks for the following week. This is how we are proceeding through a sequence of practices, attempts, trials and prototypes while discovering the architecture of future cities.001_fablab showcase

FabLab showcase from Global AD Studio
002_drilling besos river
Drilling Besos River. First prototypes.
003_Syllabus under construction
Syllabus under construction. Interactive presentation.

(2) Contemporary Architecture in Bilbao and San Sebastian

In the first weekend trip for the Global AD program, students visited Bilbao and San Sebastian, where some of the most interesting examples of the contemporary architecture in Spain are. Bodie, a student from the University of Colorado Boulder, explained how Bilbao "was like an architecture playground" and that "every turn, every street, had something new and intriguing paired with the traditional architecture of the city." Even though he thinks that the whole city of Bilbao is an amazing architectural spot, after our guided visits to Palacio Euskalduna and the Guggenheim, Bodie explained his thoughts about the inner and outer structures of these buildings.

"The Palacio Euskalduna was an intriguing place; stairs, ramps, paths, elevators all over the place, leading the user through the layers of the building. Each space was not only one, but could morph larger or smaller to accommodate any event. Not only was the program well thought out, but the materials spoke too."

And, surely, the Guggenheim Museum was one of the most exciting visits. For Bodie, the most significant was the "beautiful tin and stone panels form geometric shapes that curve and sway over the river. The exterior calls so much attention that is so well complimented and just as complex on the interior," where one of the highlights was the permanent exhibition of the walls by Richard Serra, that fits perfectly with the building.

Palacio Euskalduna, photo by Bodie

  006_Ernesto Neto hanging space

Ernesto Neto work’s are hanging in the Guggenheim main lobby space.

007_serra materiality

Models and sculptures of Richard Serra. Close to the art process.



Guggenheim Museum, picture by Bodie

 (3) Le Corbusier Exhibition in Barcelona

 The master architect of Modern Style is an infinite source of architectural knowledge. From January 30th to May 11th 2014 there is a wonderful exhibition of his work happening in Barcelona. The exposition is designed by MOMA and produced by Caixaforum and is a good opportunity to discover the personal universe of Le Corbusier, the artist and the architect.

012_Le Corbusier in Caixaforum
Opening party of the Le Cobusier exhibition in Barcelona.



Name: Jenna
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Johns Hopkins University

IMG_1675Supe que Montserrat sería una montaña bonita y me sentí emocionada por subirla.  Sin embargo, cuando llegamos, la mayoría de nosotros decidimos subir y la vista fue más increíble de lo que podíamos imaginar.  A la hora de volver al autobús tres amigos y yo decidimos que queríamos subir a lo alto.  Esta ha sido una de las mejores decisiones que he tomado desde que estoy aquí en Europa.  

    Subimos a la cima y durante el camino paramos para escalar algunas piedras, admirar la vista y tomar fotos.  Cuando estábamos casi en la cima de la montaña había una vista increíble.  Paramos para tomar una foto del paisaje.  También decidimos escuchar música, beber cava y disfrutar de la experiencia. Fue un momento increíble e impresionante.  Finalmente, subimos a lo alto y pudimos verlo todo.

            Muchas de mis experiencias favoritas de mi tiempo aquí han sido fuera de la ciudad.  Soy monitora de actividades de tiempo libre y quería hacer cosas como subir montañas, hacer kayak, y otras actividades que hay en España o en Europa.  Aunque soy monitora de kayak en aguas rápidas y no he podido practicarlo aquí, he subido a Montserrat, he hecho una Via Ferrata, y he hecho kayak (pero no en aguas rápidas).  Estas actividades han sido las mejores experiencias de mi estancia en Barcelona.

    IMG_1702 IMG_1706


los partidos del Barça

Name: O'Neill
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Vanderbilt University

¡El tiempo está pasando demasiado rápido! Es difícil creer que ya he vivido en Barcelona durante dos meses y que solamente me quedan menos de dos meses aquí. Está ciudad es increíble y ya he tenido muchas experiencias fantásticas que nunca voy a olvidar. En particular, me ha encantado ver los partidos del Barça. Este equipo local es uno de los mejores equipos del mundo ahora y tiene unos de los mejores jugadores de fútbol. Es muy divertido verlos jugar porque ellos juegan como uno solo.


El mayor rival del Barcelona es el equipo Real Madrid. Muchas personas están de acuerdo en que es la rivalidad más grande de todo el fútbol. Además, el fútbol es el deporte más popular del mundo. Por lo tanto, según mis cálculos, la rivalidad  entre Barça y Real Madrid es la más grande de todos los deportes (se llama “el clásico” por una razón).  Además, recientemente ha habido un gran aumento en el deseo de independencia de Catalunya, y es cierto que esto ha aumentado la animadversión entre los dos equipos/ciudades más grandes de España. Por eso, este fue más que solamente un partido de fútbol, y por algún milagro tuve la suerte de conseguir entradas para ir a verlo con mi amigo Stuart.

Cuando llegamos cerca del estadio (el estadio más grande de toda Europa), se podían oír los gritos desde fuera aunque el partido no había empezado.  Encontramos nuestros asientos porque eran los únicos dos asientos libres en todo el estadio—aparentemente  los espectadores habían llegado muy temprano. Nunca he visto tanta gente en un estadio y los gritos eran increíblemente altos. Cuando el Barça finalmente marcó su primer gol, el estadio estalló en ruido y toda la gente lo celebró.  Me sentí como si estuviera en una arena de gladiadores… no parecía un partido de fútbol.

Durante el juego, una bandera catalana enorme fue desenrollada sobre nuestras cabezas y cubrió por lo menos 5 secciones de asientos. Los espectadores no pudieron ver el partido durante ese tiempo. Sin embargo, eso no fue un problema porque se trataba de un acto reivindicativo.


El Barça ganó el partido dos a uno. Todo el estadio cantó la canción del equipo mientras salíamos del estadio. Mi amigo y yo tuvimos una experiencia increíble.



Córdoba y la Mezquita

Name: Mary-Lloyd
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Vanderbilt University

Fuimos con el programa de Liberal Arts a las ciudades de Sevilla y Córdoba para ver una parte del sur de España. El día que me gustó más fue el sábado, cuando fuimos a Córdoba para ver la Mezquita.

En primer lugar, me encantó la ciudad pequeñita de Córdoba. Durante la época árabe de Andalucía, Córdoba era una de las ciudades más pobladas y una zona importante para los musulmanes. De hecho, era la capital de Al-Andaluz.

Entramos a la ciudad por un puente encima del río Guadalquivir.

Tan pronto como pasamos por el puente, comenzamos a ver la gran influencia de los árabes que se puede ver mucho en la arquitectura de los grandes edificios de la ciudad. Primero, visitamos la Mezquita de Córdoba, una de las más grandes del mundo. Durante el periodo musulmán, existían alredor de 3000 mezquitas en Córdoba pero esta es todavía la más grande. Entramos por un patio precioso, lleno de naranjos de naranjas amargas, que son muy típicos de Andalucía y llenan toda Córdoba y Sevilla. Image



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.

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