Amanda Martinez, BSBA ‘2016, is studying abroad this summer in Madrid, Spain. She sent us this virtual postcard recounting her first adventures beyond the capital city.
I‘m back from my first weekend of traveling in Spain and it was amazing! Definitely a bit hectic, as I’ve seen the major sights of three cities in as many days (plus a day for travel). Our class of 20 students went to Granada with our professors on Thursday. We stayed overnight there and took a bus to Cordoba the next morning. Some returned to Madrid, while others of us went to Sevilla Friday night and stayed until Sunday morning! It was a whirlwind tour of some really incredible places.
Thursday we got an early start by meeting at 6:45 a.m. and we were scheduled to leave for Granada at 7 a.m. However, some people slept through their alarms, so we ended up waiting an extra hour on the bus before we even left…it wasn’t pretty. Luckily, I pretty much slept the 5 hours to Granada and was ready to see the city when we arrived at 1:00.
One of our professors is from Granada, so he gave us a walking tour of the city before leading us to the Alhambra. Granada was the last Muslim stronghold before the Catholic expulsion in 1492, and the Alhambra was the last grand palace. Luckily it was preserved and now serves as an amazing historical and cultural experience. Honestly you could spend days exploring the Alhambra because it’s not just a palace, but also a collection of buildings and gardens, the royal city. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
After four hours of walking and crowds everyone was exhausted. We went back to the hotel to rest before dinner. For dinner, a smaller group of us decided to try some of the different restaurants and bars within walking distance of our hotel. The Spanish way of doing tapas is to bar-hop, ordering a drink and tapa at each place. Some places even give free tapas with a round of drinks–very cost effective for us. We tried a few varieties of bocadillos (sandwiches) and I also tried alcachofas y anchoas, which are marinated artichoke hearts and anchovies. It was delicious, and we felt very Spanish. It was a fun night hanging out with our classmates and experiencing a new city together.
Friday we checked out of the hotel in Granada in order to make the hour-ish bus ride to Cordoba. Once there, we spent the afternoon at the Mosque of Cordoba, the second largest mosque in the world, second to only the mosque in Baghdad. However today it is owned by the Catholic church, so Muslim prayer is forbidden.
The mosque was so important in the 15th century that instead of destroying it (like they did most mosques), the Catholic inquisition built a cathedral within the mosque. It still functions today as a church. The building itself is beautiful and very well preserved. Both the mosque and the cathedral are impressive in themselves, but the building is so unique because it’s probably the only one in the world that contains such important spaces of two faiths.
After we toured the mosque, we had time to get lunch in Cordoba. I tried some more traditional dishes like calamari and fried eggplant with honey. The eggplant was one of my favorite dishes so far. After lunch the bus driver was nice enough to drop the 15 of us who were Sevilla-bound off at the train station so we could catch our train to Sevilla (a two hour trip)! So, Friday I was technically in three cities in one day.
After arriving in Sevilla we figured out the bus system and crammed all of us and our luggage onto a bus that dropped us off close to our hostel. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel before, but it was a cool experience. The girls had an open room with 6 bunk beds and a bathroom which was nice. Our arrival wasn’t completely drama-free; one girl realized when checking in that her wallet had been stolen on the bus from the train to the hostel. Luckily she noticed it right away and was able to contact her parents. She had also kept her passport and some cash in a different place, which was smart. It definitely made everyone that much more wary of their possessions. We got more tapas for dinner and that night we explored the city a bit on our own before turning in.
Saturday we went sightseeing! First we made our noon time slot for the tickets we had bought for entry into Al Alcazar, another palace. This one has been used by a variety of different royal families and had more gorgeous gardens.
The weather is so consistently nice in the south of Spain that all of the palaces and historic buildings had courtyards and extensive gardens, there wasn’t a concrete distinction between outdoor and indoor space.
Right next to the Alcazar is the Cathedral of Sevilla, a grand cathedral. We explored there and climbed the 35 flights to the top of the bell tower, giving us some amazing views of the city as well as the architecture of the palace and cathedral.
Around 3 p.m. we had lunch on Spanish time. Some of us found a small hole-in-the-wall bar we thought would be pretty cheap…it ended up being the best meal I had on the trip. I got a plate of their house-made paella (delicious), patatas bravas (a traditional Spanish dish of potatoes prepared like home-fries with spicy tomato sauce, (read: even more delicious), and a soda, all for less than 10 euros! We were extremely happy with our day.
We decided to take a siesta at the hostel, which ended up being about a 3 hour nap, but hey we were tired from all our traveling. However we made sure to wake up for the European soccer finals at 8:45! It was a huge deal because Madrid’s two teams (Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid) were playing for the championship. The game was very exciting, with Atletico leading 1-0 for almost 90 minutes, but Real winning 4-1 in overtime. While I personally was rooting for Atletico, a good percent of the bar went crazy for Real’s win.
This morning we took the AVE, a high-speed train, back from Sevilla to Madrid. It goes about 120 mph and reduced the 6 hour trip to about 2.5 hours! I realized how happy I was to be back in a homey apartment with clean sheets and a shower (and awesome home cooked food). After two weeks I’m definitely settling in to my room here and Madrid feels more comforting than the other cities I was in. It’s a cool feeling. Anyway, time to go work because I have an essay and a presentation to do for Tuesday…back to classes. I can’t wait to see what this week brings!