Friday, November 9, 2012
Cadiz, Seville, and Granada, Spain
Although our ship arrived in Cadiz, my first visit to Spain began in Seville, as we traveled there by bus for a bullfight followed by a tapas dinner on the first day. The bullfight was a truly cultural experience and unlike any sporting event I've ever attended in the United States. The crowd is dressed up and is often reverent, calling for complete silence when the matador gets on his knees, says a prayer, and the bull is released into the ring. We were fortunate to attend the last bullfight of the season, with two of the most popular matadors in Andalucía. There were several intense moments, some dangerous, when the first bull pinned a picador to the ground, and some ecstatic, when the matador loved by the local fans was carried around the ring and out into the streets in a euphoric and somewhat crazy scene that was on the front page of the newspapers the next day. Although I didn't have a crazy Hemmingway experience, drinking with the matador in a tiny bar, the event was certainly memorable. After the bullfight we had what seemed like endless tapas at a restaurant near the Seville Cathedral. Brett, Kai, Jessa, Henri, and I finished the night walking around Seville, having a drink, and moving on to our hotels. We met up again in the morning and spent the entire next day in Seville, walking through the narrow streets, having breakfast, with jamon of course, exploring the beautiful Plaza de Espana, and viewing Seville from Triana across the Guadalquivir River, where we had tapas, drinks, and coffee. Afterwards, we walked back across the bridge and wandered through several more alleys and various stores, discovering flamenco dresses, bracelets, bullfight posters, pink shoes, attempts to convince the group to eat churros, and surprisingly grand entryways extending out into courtyards from the narrow streets. We finished the evening with yet more tapas and drinks, taking our time and enjoying each other’s company before taking the last train back to Cadiz. The next day Patrick, Henri, Jessa, Claire and I went out for a late breakfast in Cadiz, where we shared a delicious frittata and wandered through the market, where there were endless rows of various types of fresh fish. We took the long way back to the ship, passing along the coastline, where we were inspired to go back to the ship and change in order to sit out at the beach. We spent the afternoon on the beach, listening to music, reading, going out into the powerful waves, and falling asleep in the warm sun. Once the sun started to fade and the wind picked up, we went across the street for exceptionally sugary mojitos and then walked back into the city center for coffee and pastries. The night ended with surprisingly cheap cervezas y bocadillos, with others joining us from the ship and ending what was a spontaneously fun beach day and city night. The next morning Claire and I took a bus to Granada, and upon arriving at the hotel I booked using my secret librarian research skills, we quickly decided to stay two nights instead of one since our hotel was an incredibly sweet home away from home and Granada looked promising and inviting. The hotel was actually a large and charming two bedroom apartment in the middle of the city, in a narrow alley near a famous row of local tapas restaurants. We wandered this street first and continued along several others, developing a sense of each area of the city. Our wandering, or organized wandering since I read about the best spots, led us to the Albaicin, an old part of town that has maintained the medieval Moorish past, on the hill opposite the Alhambra. We walked through the maze of streets to the Mirador de San Nicolas, at the top of the hill, for a view to the opposite hill upon which the Alhambra towers over the city. We walked back down as the sunlight faded and we passed by the storefronts of Elvira Street, heavy with Moorish influence. For dinner we had our first experience with free tapas upon ordering a drink, an old Granada tradition. With each beer or mojito we were also given delicious tapas, and not bread and olives, but quality tapas. We took a long and slow route back to our hotel, stopping for coffee and desert at an inviting cafe, and stopping at one last bar where we had a perfect pairing of fried fish tapas, free of course, with our beer. The next day Claire and I were in heaven eating churros con chocolate for breakfast before going to the Alhambra, a truly impressive place, where we walked through Generalife and the Alcazaba, the former offering a peaceful walk and the latter providing a beautiful view of the Albaicin and the entire city below, where we sat on the wall and talked while enjoying the view. For the evening we had an incredible night of free tapas. Bodegas Castañeda might have offered one of my favorite bar nights of all time. The bar is well known and popular for good reason, as the interior is charming and the bartenders are moving around with high energy and a funny rapport with each other, and the food and drinks are exceptionally good. With our orders of red wine and sangria we continually received different tapas, for free of course. We ended the evening with coffee and dessert again. The evening felt as if we were locals embracing the culture and tradition of Granada. The next morning we had churros con chocolate for breakfast again, this time with a croissant con jamon to last us through the bus ride back to Cadiz, where I walked the streets with Bret, Kai, Greg, and Joe before boarding the ship. The trip to Granada was an unexpected highlight of my visit to Spain and our time together left Claire and I with great memories. For every lasting memory made during this voyage, another one seems to present itself only moments later. I am undoubtedly blessed to be traveling on Semester at Sea. What a unique experience, to say the least.
Posted by Jonathan Paulo