La Mesquita, Córdoba

Hello! This week my adventures continued as the group headed south to la Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucía (Spain is divided into 17).  Our first stop was the city of Córdoba.  We had some free time to get lunch and sit beneath the orange trees, simply enjoying the warmer weather (the south is much more “Mediterranean” in climate), before our tour of the cathedral.

This cathedral was once an Islamic mosque, and is also called la Mesquita. It is beautiful!  The mix of the Islamic and Christian cultures are especially noticeable in Andalucía because that is the area the Muslims held the longest, before being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula by Los Reyes Católicos (Granada is the last city, and our next stop).

The mosque is so unique with double arches striped red and white, but then you consider the chapel in the middle, which as added by the Catholic kings, and it becomes even more unique. This mix of cultures would continue to be a theme of our excursion.

View of La Alhambra from La Plaza de San Nicolas, Granada

After our stop at Córdoba, we continued on to Granada.  I loved Granada!  It was everything I had pictured as being “typical” of Spain: white houses with red roofs and guitarists serenading us as we walked through the streets. That night most of us were really tired from being on the bus all day, so Domenica and I grabbed some yummy froyo and called it a night.

The next morning we were up early and off on a walking tour through the city with Carlos, our awesome tour guide.  We walked all around, seeing the Plaza Nueva, la Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), la Alcaicería (silk quarter), some old Islamic baths and of course just seeing and experiencing the city.  As we walked through the city, which is set somewhat in between two hills, we could see the Arab quarter rising on one side and the Alhambra (huge complex of palaces and gardens) sitting on the top of the other, overlooking the city, guarding it.

The sunset! Simply gorgeous!

After our tour we had the afternoon free to relax and grab lunch, and then the whole group decided to walk up to La Plaza  de San Nicolas, the plaza outside of the church, to watch the sunset.  Apparently, Bill Clinton made viewing the sunset from that point famous when he studied in Granada (kind of funny!); anyways, either way, we had heard that the sunset over Granada was one of the most beautiful in the world.

Now, I’m a sucker for sunsets, so they’re all simply stunning to me, but this was definitely something special.  As we sat, feet dangling over the wall, listening to someone singing in the plaza, staring out at the Alhambra directly across the way, seeing the snowcapped Sierra Nevadas in the distance and watching the colors of the trees and the Alhambra change with the lighting, the sun began to set.  It truly was a sight to see.  The colors were magnificent!

And just when the night didn’t seem like it could get any better …or any more “Spanish”…  we headed back to grab dinner before going back up to see the Alhambra lit up at night and watch a traditional flamenco show!  I am amazed at how fast they can move their feet! It was so fun to see it while in Andalucía, where it originated.

Domenica and I on the wall at La Plaza de San Nicolas

The next morning we headed to the Alhambra with Carlos.  All I can say is wow.  The Alhambra is unbelievable.  It is huge!  It has several palaces and beautiful gardens.  Once again the mix of cultures is evident: Western and Eastern gardens, terraces brought by the Arabs, an Italian palace and absolutely gorgeous Islamic architecture within its other palaces.  I love gardens, and getting to see familiar plants was a nice taste of home: magnolia trees, wisteria, lantana, orange trees, roses.

Aside from the beautiful views from the top, the Islamic architecture within was one of the highlights for me.  Each arch and wall with its minute details is a style of architecture I have seen only on a couple of occasions, and it really is something.  I could go on and on about its uniqueness.  Within one of the courtyards surrounded by beautiful arches is a lion fountain given to the king by a Jewish family; this is one of the only places where you will see all three cultures mixed: Christian, Islamic and Jewish.  I loved seeing the mix of cultures, something we have been learning about in our Spanish Civilization class (Las Tres Culturas), and something I’ve begun to realize is very unique to Spain.

El Palacio de Carlos V in La Alhambra

From the Alhambra, we boarded the bus and headed back to Madrid.  Our final excursion (hard to believe!) was fabulous, just as the other two have been as well.  I feel so blessed to have been able to see so much of this amazing country — from the north to the south —and to experience several different cultures within Spain.  I hope my thirst for learning and seeing more of this beautiful world will never cease!