ANDALUCIA: al principio

A few days ago we returned from one week of bliss and citrus trees, largely found in Andalucia. It has definitely been a highlight of my time here in Spain so far. We spent 5 days mainly between three major cities: Granada, Sevilla, y Córdoba. Andalucia is the southernmost region of Spain and has an amazing history, especially with the Moorish rule and culture.  We saw some really amazing sights and learned loads about the different culture and history of the South. I absolutely loved it. By the end though, my body hated me. We walked everyyyyywhere, and even though cobblestone streets are adorable, after hours and hours of walking and being able to feel each rock beneath your feet individually, you wonder what kind of super-strength Dr. Scholl’s people were wearing hundreds of years ago. We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the trip--by the last day I felt like an old woman, hobbling around everywhere with my aching body...
There’s so much to tell about this trip...and I don’t want to overload you all, so I’ll lay it down in small doses. :)
It all began last Monday, around 8 AM. We boarded the bus and made our way to the first of several stops that day: Aranjuez. We were only here for about an hour, and mainly just to see the royal palace, which was built as a summer home for the royal family back in the day. We took the necessary jumping pictures and attempted breaking and entering the palace gates, and then were on our way.
 "Kill the Beast!" (Beauty and the Beast reenactment...:))
Next stop: Consuegra, the main attraction of which is the windmills made famous by Cervantes in Don Quixote. Before getting out to admire these windmills, we read (in spanish, of course) the part of the book where Don Quixote sees the windmills in the distance and is convinced that they are giants and races off to fight them, but in the attempt he ends up falling into a pit until his trusty sidekick shows up to save him. Originally there were 13 windmills, but only 12 stand today, and they each have names--adorable. I loved them. Katie, Megan, and I raced along the hilltop from windmill to windmill until we had seen them all. Then we boarded the bus again, stopped once more for lunch, and finally arrived at our first major city: Granada.
The bus ride was really beautiful--for the most part all you could see for miles and miles were olive trees. I didn’t know this before, but Spain is the largest producer of olives in the world, which is really interesting. It explains why Blanca is so obsessed with olive oil and cooks ALL of our food with it. :)
Back to Granada: we arrived in the evening, so rather than site seeing with our director, just us girls decided to hit the town and explore the streets. Here I was introduced to one of my latest loves: shawarma. This is a type of Middle-Eastern sandwich/pita/wrap dealio made with shaved meat and vegetables, similar to gyros--SO GOOD. Definitely one of the food winners for the trip.
The next day was súper long, but SUCH a wonderful day. It began with the Alhambra, which was one of my highlights of the trip. Quick history lesson: the Alhambra was built by the Moors in the 9th century as a fortress, and then was expanded to include a palace in the 13th century. Today it is the most famous example of Islamic architecture in Spain. It isn’t even 1/5 the size it was originally planned to be, which is hard to believe because it seemed huge! I really loved the decoration and art of this building--Islamic architecture is sooo beautiful. The walls, arches, floors, and ceilings are covered with really intricate carvings and designs and beautiful colors. Especially the ceilings...they are exquisite. I don’t have adequate words to describe them, and pictures won’t quite do them justice, so I guess if you want to get the full grandiose effect you'll just have to make a trip to Spain! It is really breathtaking.
Every square inch is covered in these super intricate and beautiful carvings.  The archways and windows are glorious. 
Mesmerizing honeycomb ceilings. 
Katie and I channeling our inner Arabian...
The adorable cobblestone pathways with whom I have a love/hate relationship. Mostly love...
We explored all throughout the palace, going in to the different rooms and courtyards, and then we climbed up onto the fortress wall to get a great view of the city. Then we spent a little time in the Genaralife gardens there, and one of my favorite parts was the amazing designs in the cobblestone. There is just so much detail in every little part of this place, which I loved.
Te amo, Granada.
Next we went to the Capilla Real to see the place where King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I are laid. It’s been really interesting through our travels so far to note the influence these Catholic Monarchs have had on the entire country. Most of the places we have been you can see their symbols, insignias, and initials everywhere. Their impact was huge, and is of vast importance in Spain’s history. Connected to the Capilla Real is a beautiful cathedral, which we walked around for a little while. my favorite part was this pretty blue ceiling with stars and tons of stained glass windows. :)
After a fabulous experience of getting free tapas at our cafeteria of choice for lunch, we headed out for our next major destination.......SEVILLA!


Katie said...

El Sur-how I love you so. Why must we be apart in this way?

Sarah said...

amazing architecture... the alhambra looks unbelievable. and great, now i'm craving shwarma. thanks.

Madison Bradshaw said...

MEG!!! it looks like you are having too much fun!! gosh i love the pics and reading what you are doing!! hope you are having the time of your life!!! te amo me sister... LOVES!!! im home too so lets chat soon!

rachelle said...

oh megz,
you are just wreeking of culture... :) i think i just got a little smarter after reading your post! seriously though, the pictures are amazing and i can't believe you're there representing... :) luv and schmuv my little spanish turtledove!