We like to complain about the UC EAP Complutense University of Madrid program and how little they do for us (though, honestly, it’s for the better, because it’s called an immersion program for a reason), but they did do one thing right: a free trip to Córdoba and Granada! All right, not exactly free, because I’m sure it’s included in the program costs, but it felt free, and that’s what counts.
In November, the members of my program and the members of the UC EAP Carlos III Madrid program took a trip to Andalucía, the southern region of Spain, to visit Córdoba and Granada. I had previously been to both, but I knew I had to go back during my time here, so I was super excited EAP was taking us there. And don’t get me started on how thrilled I was to go back to Granada. Granada was the city I spent a month in the summer of 2006 taking classes and living with a host mother through Brighton, and, if you knew me between July 2006 and whenever I started planning my year abroad in Madrid, you know that I never shut up about that trip, because, until coming back to Spain, I considered it the greatest experience of my life. That’s where I fell head over heels in love with Spain and knew I’d have to come back one day, and here I am, living in Madrid for a school year! It’s hard to put into words just how much that month meant to me, but going back to Granada was kind of an epic Hajj to Mecca for me.
But first, Córdoba! The EAP Complutense kids met up just down the street from my apartment and took a bus to Córdoba, taking us through the rocky landscapes and toro billboards of Andalucía that I remembered so well from 2006. Upon arriving, we checked into our hotel, which seemed fabulously extravagant compared to all the hostels we had been staying in on previous trips, had lunch at a bocadillo (sandwich) place, and then crossed the street to the Mezquita (mosque), Córdoba’s most important landmark. In 2006, when we visited Córdoba for a day, we visited the Mezquita and spent most of our day walking around the square that surrounds it (we were given free time and didn’t know where else to go), so I was already very familiar with the area we were staying. The Mezquita is actually a mosque with a cathedral built around it. In 2006, we went to mass at the cathedral and then quickly walked through the rest of it, but, this time, we got a longer guided tour of the whole thing. I like the Mezquita, because it’s a perfect representation of the historic mix of cultures and religions in Spain during the conquests and reconquests (long story short, the Muslim Moors took over Spain in 711 and were expelled by the Christians in 1492, with lots of fighting and mixing in the meantime).
The famous arches of the Mezquita.
The tower of the Mezquita.
The same tour guide then took us through the Judería, Córdoba’s Jewish quarter, full of whitewashed houses, windy cobblestone streets, and quaint courtyards. Also during the tour, I ran into my friends Jessica and Tracy from the Carlos III program.
Me in a courtyard of the Judería.
A tiny alley in the Judería and a photo of the same alley in 2006.
After the tour, we were given free time, so I met up with Sara, who spent her fall semester in Córdoba. That was awesome to see her there, and she showed me her apartment and took me around the city. It’s a much bigger and more modern city than I previously thought, since I had only seen the historic part of town before. It was great seeing the “real” Córdoba, and it made me like the city a lot more.
I then hung out in the hotel room that my friends Ariel, Daisy, and Rances were staying, where we had girltalk (yes, Ariel and Rances are guys) before joining the rest of our group for a flamenco show down the street. Oh man, guys, the flamenco show was amazing. I love love love flamenco, especially authentic Andalucían flamenco, and hearing the music brings back all the wonderful memories and emotions of Spain 2006, the feeling of warm summer freedom and complete happiness, so, needless to say, I had a fantastic time, even though the Carlos III kids were embarrassingly loud, drunk, and disrespectful. Sometimes it’s very clear why foreign countries dislike Americans so much. But, anyway, still amazing!
We spent the night there in Córdoba and headed to Granada the next morning, but more on that in a future entry! You can see my Córdoba Facebook album here.