DSC03469-1.jpg The past two weeks here in Spain have been quite eventful. As part of an SMU study trip, we visited the south of Spain, also known as Andalucia. We visited three of the most historical cities, which included Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada.

DSC03451.jpgBecause of the Moorish influence that dominated the south of Spain for eight centuries, there are remnants of their past. The Mezquita found in Cordoba, previously an old mosque, was turned into a Cathedral under Spanish rule during the Catholic Reconquest. We visited this great cathedral, which is surrounded by thick Moorish walls decorated in the mudejar style.

DSC03557.jpg In Sevilla, our two-day stay included a visit to the Reales Alcazares and the Cathedral of Sevilla. Our nights in Sevilla were spectacular, as we were treated to some Flamenco and learned how to dine the Andalusian way.

DSC03684.jpgOn our first night, a group of friends and I found an excellent local restaurant, which I stumbled upon a few years ago. Casa Paco, located in the Alameda de Hercules, offered amazing tapas ranging from swordfish in orange wine sauce to salmorejo, a cold tomato vegetable soup.

The second night, my roommate and I shared a plate of Iberian ham with quail eggs served on toasted bread. (I include details of the meals in Sevilla because they have been the best that I have had so far in Spain.)

As the final city of our study trip, Granada was our last stop. There, the most visited site is the Alhambra. This former palace and fortress under Moorish rule was the last major city taken by the Catholic Kings during the Reconquest.

We ended our tour of the Alhambra with a breathtaking sunset in the Generalife gardens. Although we spent only one night in Granada, most of the SMU students agreed it was one of our favorites.

After our return to Madrid, my roommate and I along with some friends decided to spend the following weekend in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Because of a Spanish holiday that weekend, we were able to extend our stay in Barcelona for one extra day.

Through a website recommended to me by a friend, we were able to rent an apartment at a reasonable price for four nights. Our apartment was located in the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona’s oldest neighborhood. Now a trendy restaurant and shopping area, the Barrio Gotico was definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods in Barcelona. Near the Gothic Quarter is the Rambla, a large pedestrian street which empties out into the Barceloneta, Barcelona’s port.

DSC03704.jpg Barcelona had beautiful weather throughout our entire stay. We visited the famous architectural works of Antoni Gaudi such as the Sagrada Familia, the Parque Guell, and the Casa Batllo. On our last day we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at a restaurant facing Barcelona’s beach. It had been two years since I had last visited Barcelona, so I tried to take in all that could that final day.

The Catalan language appeared so foreign to me, even though it was not my first encounter with it. I said “adeu” (goodbye) to Barcelona with a sense that I wanted to return once again, as it has become one of my favorite cities in Europe.