La Puerta de Acala

La Puerta de Acala

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Being classy at the opera

Throughout my time in Europe, I’ve actually been surprisingly adventurous and I try new things whenever I get the chance. Whether it be with food, ridiculous art museums, you name it. It’s one thing about myself that I want to try and improve and being in Europe gives me many opportunities to do so.

Last Monday, a bunch of us went on a UEM-sponsored trip to el Teatro Real to see an opera! Or what we thought was going to be an opera… It was actually a really great deal. I’m not sure how much tickets are normally but we paid less than 6 euros for ours. Someone told me that we got a 90% discount through our school, which is absolutely ridiculous. Needless to say, I was definitely going to jump on that opportunity regardless of how I feel about operas.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard an opera, except for those JG Wentworth “need cash now” commercials. I was definitely a little skeptical at first but again, I want to try and explore new stuff. And I’m pretty sure an opera falls right into that category.  

However, what we saw was not actually an opera, which was slightly disappointing. It was called C(h)oerus and was a mix between an opera, a ballet and a play. It was definitely...interesting. The singing was great of course but except for the parts where they spoke in French, there were no subtitles. So we had no idea what they were singing about. I also didn't really understand the dancing. I mean it was cool to watch but I guess I'm not a ballet kinda guy, so it was not that exciting for me. But there was also a lot of unnecessary nudity. But whatever. It was a cool experience and I paid less than I would for a chai at Starbucks to get in so I think it was definitely worth it. 
El Teatro Real!
The entrance to the theater
Our view of the stage! We actually had pretty good seats.
Here are some pictures from the opera house because I'm not really sure what else to write about haha. Although I'm in Zurich right now and it is amazing. I really love it and I'm going to be really sad leaving tomorrow morning! But enough about Zurich. That will all be in my next post :) 

Hasta la próxima

Monday, March 19, 2012

Conquering Andalucía one city at a time

Hello all!
So its been a while and I apologize. I always tell myself that as soon as I get home from a trip, I'll start writing a post and by Monday night I'll have it finished.'s been 2 weeks since that first Monday and here we are. 

Anyway this past weekend I went to Granada! Taylor, Carolina, Crystal, Jenna, Allan and I signed up through Villaviciosa's cultural center. The trip was 150 and included bus travel to and from Granada, one night at a FOUR STAR hotel, three meals at the hotel and guided tours of the city and main attractions (aka La Alhambra). Needless to say, it was a really good deal that I did not want to pass up, so I made all my friends come with me haha.
For those of you who don't know, Granada is the capital of the province Granada in Andalucía. The worst part about the whole trip was getting there (and coming back). I do not like buses. Even when I take the bus into Madrid, a 25 minute ride, I hate it. I get claustrophobic and I don't do well sitting in one spot for several hours at a time. The trip to Granada took about 5 and a half hours, which really isn't bad considering we stopped for 45 minutes in the middle of nowhere to eat but still. I was not happy. And for some reason the buses here don't have bathrooms, so that sucked. The other thing I didn't enjoy too much was leaving Villaviciosa at 7am. I'm glad I got to sleep a bit on the bus but I was really happy to arrive at our four-star hotel, the Hotel Carmen, around 1pm. 
Hotel Carmen! Cuatro estrellas :)
The view of the Sierra Nevada from the roof of the hotel
After some free time chillin in our rooms and a wonderful lunch buffet, we went on a tour of Granada. First, the bus took us around the modern part of town and through the university. Over the course of the weekend, we had three different tour guides for the various things we did and each one told us about how the University of Granada is the 3rd most important in Spain and then each one gave us a different number of students it has. So apparently there are somewhere between 60-100,000 students, which is ridiculous for a town with a population of 250,000. Anyway, afterwards we went up into the old part of the city. The bus let us off in the old Moorish neighborhood called El Albayzin. It was really cool to walk through all the old narrow streets and see all the old houses. Many of the houses in the Albayzin are original Moorish houses from the 14th century, which are called a carmens. Something I thought was really interesting is that the group of people who've been in Granada the longest weren't the Moors or the Christians, its actually the Jews. They first founded the Albayzin and then it was slowly converted into the most important part of the city (aside from La Alhambra). However, the coolest part of the Albayzin was seeing La Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas.
Me with La Alhambra in the background
Once we got back to the hotel, the people in charge of the trip told us that later that night we would have the option to see a flamenco show or espectáculo! It cost €17 euros and included a drink. I was super excited to go since Ive never seen a flamenco show and it was such a good deal! After doing some shopping and getting a delicious tapas dinner in Granada's shopping district, we headed back to the hotel to catch the bus for the show. The neighborhood we went to is called Sacromonte, or Las Cuevas. In Spanish, cueva means cave. And this part of town was full of them. The houses are actually catacombs, aka a big whole in the side of the mountain that someone could live in. The Romans started doing it and then was quickly taken over the gypsies and other poor groups of people who couldn't afford to live in a 'normal' house. I don't know but I think it'd be pretty cool to live in a cave. Just saying haha. So anyway, the restaurant with the performance was in a cueva and was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It was kind of choreographed but each dancer, the two guitar players and the singers were all incredibly talented. It was such an awesome experience. 

After the show, we went right back to our hotel to rest up for the next day. All Sunday was spent at La Alhambra y El Generalife! El Generalife is the old summer palace of the Nazarí dynasty. But along with being a palace, it was the farm of La Alhambra where they grew everything they needed.
Something that I learned on the tour is that a lot of people don't actually know what La Alhmabra is. Palace? Fortress? Farm? None of the above. Well, technically all of the above. La Alhambra was actually it's own little city that served the royals and nobles of Granada. It has El Generalife, the Alcazaba fortress, el Palacio de Carlos V and the Nazarí palaces. We spent several hours walking around the whole compound with our awesome guide Tariq.

My favorite part of La Alhambra was the Nazarí palaces. I just love how every single room was decorated with beautiful tiles and designs in the stone walls. It really is impresionante. The one thing that kind of sucked was that El Patio de los Leones (3rd picture below) was being renovated. And I guess I should be thankful because up until a month or so ago, the fountain wasn't even there. So it was still really awesome to see but I clearly need to come back and see it when the renovation is done. One of the coolest rooms of the Nazarí palaces was the Salon de los Embajadores (4th picture). At the time, it was the biggest throne room in Europe. All the 
decorations were really cool and it even had part of the original floor from the 14th 

 So Granada was awesome. I was always interested in the Moorish part of Spanish history but after seeing two of the main cities of Al-Andalus, I'm really starting to love it. And now that I think about it, this was my first real weekend trip in Spain :) Day trips are great but you get to see so much more over two days and the best thing is that you can take your time doing it. Even though I was only able to spend a day in Cordoba, I think I might still like it better... We also didn't have to spend 5 and a half hours in a bus going to Cordoba, so that probably helps my decision making haha.