Saturday, July 21, 2018

Advancing through Athens

It's worth mentioning that when you backpack/travel to a variety of places, it's essential to build in downtime between some locations. I'm not much of a beach-goer, so I'm entering new territory in terms of country and free-time activities. I had a red-eye flight to Athens and a 7am flight the next day to the Greek islands. There hasn't been much sleep the past few nights, but I took it easy while in Athens: people watching, a few quick strolls through the Plaka and Psyrri neighborhoods, and drinks from a rooftop café overlooking the agora. What a thrilling experience indeed it is to see the agora enhance the daytime views and then prevail over the city in the evening. I'll be back for more in a few days.


View from rooftop café
Athens, Greece

Psyrri neighborhood
Athens, Greece

Greek salad
Athens, Greece

View from rooftop café
Athens, Greece

Friday, July 20, 2018

Marvelous Málaga

In order to get to my next destination, I had to make my way to Málaga Airport along the Costa del Sol. After a farewell stroll through my favorite spots in Granada (see other post from today), I took a bus to Málaga city center to meet my old Spanish-English tandem partner from Vienna, Bea. It was a real treat catching up with my friend. We strolled the port and beachfronts before enjoying the marvelous tapas in the colorful city center. Many had said that Málaga was not worth a visit, but I have to disagree with this claim. Plus, Bea was the best tour guide, a local expert who showed me an authentic peak of what Málaga has to offer. No matter what, southern Spain will not disappoint!


Málaga Port
Málaga, Spain

Málaga Port
Málaga, Spain

Málaga beachfront
Málaga, Spain

Málagan salad with oranges and cod
Málaga, Spain

Tandem partner, Bea :)
Málaga, Spain

Málaga's colorful city center
Málaga, Spain

¡Granada es grande!

Southern Spain is more than wonderful. I loved Seville, and I did not know that I had any more city love to give, but Granada has carved out a special place in my heart. The much hillier landscape in Granada boasts a city with distinct districts, each full of great character. Upon first impression, this city feels much more Moroccan than Spanish when you land in the city center. The whitewashed and labyrinth streets of the Albaicín (the oldest part of town) sparked mystery and intrigue as it was easy to get lost during exploration. The Jewish neighborhood had a variety of "Carmen"-styled homes of different heights, and sweeping views of the city. The Roma area of Sacramonte filled in the gaps of the other views and added to the intrigue of Granada. With the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, Granada filled my inquisitiveness and curiosity and then some! The Alhambra was my reason for coming to Granada and did not ever disappoint. Additionally, I enjoyed a flamenco show in a cave in Sacramonte that demonstrated the fast, yet laid-back style of Zambra flamenco. The profound history and rolling cityscape will catch anyone's appreciation for this spectacular Andalucían city. I will certainly be back, especially for the tapas.


Sunset views of the Alhambra 
Granada, Spain

Granada Cathedral
Granada, Spain

Pionono pastry - typical to Granada
Granada, Spain

Zambra flamenco show (in a cave in Sacromonte)
Granada, Spain

Alcazaba (fortress) at the Alhambra
Granada, Spain

Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra 
Granada, Spain

Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra 
Granada, Spain

Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra 
Granada, Spain

Generalife Palace at the Alhambra
Granada, Spain

Carrera del Darro (voted one of the most romantic roads in the world)
Granada, Spain

Street art in former Jewish neighborhood 
Granada, Spain

Sacromonte Hill
Granada, Spain

Cave homes on Sacromonte
Granada, Spain

Cave home interior
Granada, Spain

View from Sacromonte
Granada, Spain

Tapa at Poë Restaurant - you order a drink and receive a complementary tapa
Granada, Spain

Federico Garcia Lorca - 20th Century playwright native to Granada
Granada, Spain

Albaicín neighborhood - oldest part of Granada and the former lower class section of town when Granada was a Muslim city
Granada, Spain

Albaicín neighborhood
Granada, Spain

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sevilla: El ritmo perfecto para el verano

I don't know where my time in Sevilla (in English, Seville) went. It just blew by with wonderful sights, mind-boggling tapas, and some delightful summer drinks. Sevilla is the capital of Andalusia and a cultural epicenter of southern Spain. I was rather lucky with the weather as it did not reach the typical summer swelter yet it was ALWAYS sunny. Wherever I went in this city, I had a sense of feeling relaxed and unrushed - a bit odd for this American from the northeast. The streets were each colorful and distinctive, but more notably, the Cathedral, las Setas Parasol, and the Royal Palace of Seville (el Alcázar Real de Sevilla) were out of this world. I even got to tour a bullring. I understand why everyone loves Sevilla and this flamenco hotspot. Oh yeah, I saw an epic flamenco show as well. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of my time in Sevilla.


Las Setas Parasol - largest wooden monument in the world 
Seville, Spain

Plaza de España - built for the Iberian-American Fair of 1929
Seville, Spain

Guadalquivir River and Tower of Gold
Seville, Spain

Watched a bit of a triathlon 
Seville, Spain

La Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (Bullring)
Seville, Spain

Tapas from heaven (technically Bar Alfalfa)
Seville, Spain

La Judería/Old Jewish Quarter
Seville, Spain

Seville Cathedral
Seville, Spain

Seville Cathedral with La Giralda Tower
Seville, Spain

Christopher Columbus's tomb
Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

La Giralda tower at night
Seville, Spain

The Royal Alcazar
Seville, Spain

The Royal Alcazar
Seville, Spain

The Royal Alcazar
Seville, Spain

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Is It a Mosque or a Cathedral?

When I was deciding on where to go this summer, my "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" daily calendar featured "La Mezquita" at the end of January. I saw and knew then it was time for me to explore Southern Spain. I learned about La Mezquita in college, so how about bring that leaning to life?


In Spain, it's important to book your trains in advance to save money and guarantee a seat. I wanted to give myself enough time in Córdoba (the city that showcases La Mezquita), and twelve hours was more than enough.


For starters, La Mezquita (in English: Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba) has an intriguing history of Christian and Muslim rulers who determined the religion that the building housed. Since the 15th century, it is a church but a great deal of Muslim design elements remain. I went into La Mezquita first for free during the morning and was completely mesmerized by the arches and the blending of religions and architecture. Other highlights from the day included the gardens and fort at the Alcázar, and the colorful flower pots sprinkled along the windy, cobble-stoned and whitewashed streets. Córdoba was rather quiet but very, very sunny - a recipe for an ideal Saturday. With my remaining time, I treated myself to another visit of La Mezquita, sort of a BOGO deal for me. It was even cooler the second time! If in Andalusia, be sure to pay Córdoba a visit!


Elements of a traditional Mosque and Cathedral coexist marvelously at La Mezquita
Córdoba, Spain

La Mezquita from above the bell tower in front of a courtyard with orange trees
Córdoba, Spain

Roman Bridge
Córdoba, Spain

Real Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Royal Palace/Fortress of the Christian Monarchy)
Córdoba, Spain

Typically floral patio/terrace
Córdoba, Spain

Dessert was heavenly!
Córdoba, Spain

Jewish Quarter (la Judería) near La Mezquita
Córdoba, Spain

Arches from La Mezquita
Córdoba, Spain

Arches from La Mezquita
Córdoba, Spain