Post #5: En un lugar de la Mancha…

Hi readers, sorry for the delay. After my trip to see Consuegra and Andalucía (which I will be talking about in this post), I kind of dropped the ball…because midterms….and life. In early February, our group had a wonderful trip to the southern-most autonomous community of Spain. While I wish we had more time to stay there, I will definitely try to go back either during my time in Spain or at some point in my life. It was one of the coolest places I have ever been. The entire weekend to Consuegra and then Andalucía definitely incited some wanderlust.

Before arriving at out first stop, Córdoba, we made a surprise pit stop in Consuegra. This city is home of the famous molinos del viento from Don Quijote (hence why the quote in the title of this blog post). Basically, our friend Don Q thinks that the windmills are monsters and he tries to fight them in Cervantes’ book. I loved the super medieval feel of the landscape and buildings and I felt like I could just hop on a horse and venture off onto a crazy adventure. Castilla-La Mancha, aesthetically, is definitely one of my favorite regions and (in a touristy sense) feels VERY Spanish.

While it was very cold in Consuegra, and the recovery process of my cold was very apparent, even though a little coffee helped, it was so warm once we arrived in Córdoba. Definitely foreshadowing of the weather to come up north in Madrid. What a pleasant surprise. From the high 30s in Consuegra to the low 60s in Córdoba – what a difference a few hours south makes! My mood skyrocketed. Now, I have a friend from Córdoba who I met in Madrid and I now understand why he is so happy all the time. He is from the land of the sun, fruit trees and gorgeous buildings. The Mezquita de Córdoba is so beautiful and it was so nice to walk around the winding narrow streets and feel the warm sun on my face, smell the air that had a twinge of orange fruit smell, and the cobblestones beneath my plimsolls. Then, later in the day, we left Córdoba and headed straight for Granada.

Our hotel in Granada was legit. Hotel Melia Granda was supper accommodating for food allergies and really close to the city center. While we did not see much of the city itself, were were there to see La Alhambra. This is one of the  most impressive and incredible sites I have seen in Spain so far. Like Paco (our program director) said in class, it literally affects all five of your senses. The smell of the fruit trees, the touch of the cool tiles, the sound of the water, the list goes on and it is too beautiful to even justify with a barely-decent iPhone picture. It was a little chilly because we were so high up, but in the summer, it must be beautiful in a different way. This is a place that has different types of beauty throgh the seasons. I loved taking pictures in front of the Carlos V summer palace and the view of Granada below was stunning. After some free time for lunch, at the worst and SLOWEST restaurant ever (and this is for Spanish standards), we tolured the Capilla Real which is the final resting place of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Joanna (their daughter) and her husband, King Ferdinand. this magnificent cathedral was built after the final stage of the Reconquest – which meant the end of Al-Andalus with the capture of Granada. It is full of Renaissance and other religious artwork and artifacts.

After our visit, we made our way to our final stop in Seville and our group’s fave hotel, Hotel NH Plaza de Armas. I feel like our AU program has become the NH brand ambassador at this point. However, I must say, it is very inconvenient that there is ZERO hair conditioner. Yet, the hotel was within 15 minute walking distance of downtown. The first night, I immediately went to bed after dinner. At one of the local restaurants (I will post the name once I remember), we had amazing bacon wrapped shrimp drizzled with salmorejo. The next morning, we had a good breakfast which was nice because typically we do not eat breakfast at our homestays because it is not the custom to eat before lunch.

The streets are purposefully zigzagged because it was harder for other attacking armies to move around in the city during times of war. After our walking tour, we visited the largest Gothic church in the world – the Cathedral of Seville – and La Giralda. Some cool facts: 1) only the Royal Family and the Ducal Family of Alba can be married in front of the grand altar (trust me, it’s really grand) & 2) they are also the only people that can ride a horse into the church and up the ramps in the bell tower (La Giralda) which was a former minaret during the time of Al-Andalus. The view from the top is truly remarkable. Then, we went to tour La Maestranza – the bullfighting ring. Bullfighting is outlawed in many parts of Spain and is condemned by many other countries globally but it was interesting to see the building, the museum inside and how this practice has had such an impact on Spanish culture.

After the tour, we had a massive lunch to celebrate Valentine’s Day and walked through the Parque de Maria Luisa and the Barrio de Santa Cruz. That night, and one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, was seeing a flamenco show at the Casa de la Memoria. FYI, flamenco isn’t just dancing! the singer, guitarrists and dancers all play a crucial role on creating the experince. The music is so unique and defies the traditional standard of “western music”. The very present Arabic influence and style infused with Spanish influences captures the true essence of this region of the country. Those who say that flamenco represents the whole peninsula is wrong! All autonomous communities are so different and each have their own wonderful and unique traditions. The male dancer, according to our program directors, was the best they had seen in their life! Lucky us! After dinner with some amigas at a great cafetería (patatas bravas with jamón and a sunny side up egg on top), we went back to the hotel.

The next morning, and the final one that we spent in Seville, we saw the Reales Alcazares and the Plaza de España. The plaza de España has rowboats you can take around the little man made canal through the plaza and there are tile benches with each of the autonomous communities in Spain. Fun fact – the Plaza de España was where part of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was filmed (remember Naboo when Anakin and Padmé arrive?).

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word of the day: Demagogos (Demagogues) – used by certain Spaniards when describing members of political parties who are participating in the upcoming regional and general elections.

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