Monday, June 21, 2010

Vamos al Sur: Granada y Sevilla

For the weekend of June 11 through 13, three other Americans and I decided to take a venture down to the south of Spain to see Granada and Sevilla. Since we are all poor college students, we take the bus everywhere (screw RENFE), and the cheapest company that we have found is ALSA. To save money, we took the midnight bus from Madrid to Granada (an 8 hour ride, with one rest stop) and we had the craziest driver ever. As we board the bus, there is a passenger in the seat in front of me putting his small briefcase in the overhead area when the bus driver yells at him, saying "Don't put that up there! It will fall down and kill someone!" So, following the rules, I put my backpack underneath the seat in front of me when the driver yells at me for placing my backpack there, saying that it is against the rules; he instructs me to place it above the seats. I go to put it above the seat, saying "But you said it would kill someone." He glares at me as I sit down and place my feet on the footrests. This crazy driver then yells at me again, saying that it is illegal to put your feet on the footrests. I looked at him, completely baffled about the rules he enforces on his bus, when some random lady a couple seats back tries to translate in broken English what the driver said about the backpack rule. I explained to her that, thank you but I understood what he said perfectly (it just didn't make sense) but that this time he was yelling at me because I put my feet on the footrest. I think I left her just as confused about the rules of the bus as I was. Our midnight bus finally takes off and the bus driver cranks on a radio station with the most random music ever - first, Michael Jackson's "We Are the World" with Bob Dylan's voice cracking the middle of the song, then "Vogue" by Madonna, then some random song from the 1990s. It was quite the ride.

Upon arriving in Granada, we found our hostal (White Nest - I would highly recommend it); from the porch area across from our room, we could see La Alhambra lit up at night. Since our tickets turned out to be for the afternoon portion and not the morning opening, we toured the rest of the city and visited the magnificent cathedral (beautiful, with the sole exception of the gold sculpture of the conquistador and his horse trampling an African...). After the cathedral, we returned to La Alhambra and spent the next five hours climbing and exploring every single bit of La Alhambra and General Life (ticket was 13 euro, but it was worth every bit). The Palacios Nazaríes were amazingly ornate and you could literally walk through the foundations of old houses and factories before the palace was built. Granada is also surrounded by mountains and the towers of the Alhambra offer incredible vantage points of the city and surrounding countryside. We returned to the hostal to relax for a bit before going out for tapas at a restaurant close to our hostal in Plaza Nueva (Castañeda) - best Sangria so far. After dinner, we went back through the Arab neighborhood Albaicín near our hostal to find la Iglesia de San Nicolás, an incredible vantage point to see all of La Alhambra lit up at night.

The next morning, we woke up to catch an early bus (with a surprisingly normal driver) to head to Sevilla. After checking into our hostal (Sevilla Inn Backpackers - another recommendation, literally a block from Alcázar and the Cathedral (where Cristóbal Colón is said to be buried). Unfortunately, we did not check the times on the church and visited the Alcázar first; when we finished with Alcázar and the gardens, the church had closed. From there, we wandered to the river to see the Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold) and the Museo de Torros (Bullfighting Museum). The bullfighting ring in Sevilla is 240 years old and has bullfights every Sunday. In its entire history, only 3 people have died (only one matador/torreo, but probably lots of bulls). The one matador that died at the ring was gored by a bull whose head hangs on a wall by a huge painting of the torreo. Since the bull killed the torreo, the bull's mother was also killed and her head hangs near her son's. No torreos have been killed at the ring since.

Since there was no affordable way to travel from Sevilla to Madrid, we had to wake up early in the morning to go back to Granada to catch the bus from there back home. When we got to the bus stop, we were all excited to find a McDonalds nearby(I hate fast food, but we needed something cheap and I was getting tired of my American friends dragging me to four different Italian restaurants in two days). We gave ourselves a few hours in between buses to visit the Arab stores near Plaza Nueva, where we found some really cool things. Unfortunately, the vendors were probably used to tourists and did not go for the whole bargaining thing, despite some of them thinking I understood Arabic from a few "Ahlan wasahlan"s. No pasa nada, the prices were good anyway. After spending an hour or so strolling around, we had to taxi back to the bus station to return home. All in all, a great trip.


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