Arguably the greatest thing about teaching (besides working with angsty pubescents, of course!) is that I get paid vacation leave whenever my students have a break. This winter I took full advantage of a 17-day holiday and visited four cities through new and familiar parts of Europe. First stop: my old stomping grounds of Granada, in sunny southern Spain.
Granada was my home for 11 months in 2011-2012, when I studied abroad during my junior year of college. It was an unforgettable time, and I’ve been itching to return since I landed in Bilbao in September. In my first hour back in the city, I was reminded of the beauty that makes this well-known quote ring true: “No hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.” (Roughly translated: There is no greater shame in life than being blind in Granada.) And the general population agrees: it’s not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain, but also THE #1 study abroad destination in all of Europe for inter-European exchange students. Here’s what makes the city so desirable, in my opinion:
- warm and friendly people: Andalucians are known throughout Spain as being especially outgoing
- the awe-inducing Alhambra, the palace/fortress with both Islamic and Christian influences
- the enchanting moorish neighborhood of the Albaicín
- the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains that provide an unbeatable backdrop
- free tapas with every drink!
- students make up 1/3 of the population
- cheap cheap cheap. Rent around 200 euros/month, beers around 1.70
- the impossibly difficult (but now my favorite) accent, Andalú–once you can understand it, virtually any other accent is a piece of cake
I stayed with my good friend Javi and his girlfriend Idoia during my visit, in a charming flat in the heart of the center, complete with a sunny terrace and views of the Cathedral bells. It was so much fun to see old friends after 18 months away from my adopted Spanish city. We visited old haunts and tried out fresh new tapas bars that opened in my absence. Some friends from Bilbao also met up with me in Granada, and it was fun to act as their tour guide and to hear their wistful sighs of “When can I move here?” Being back in Granada tugged at my heart strings a bit, and I was thrilled to visit all my favorite places, catch up with friends, and feel a bit of that Andalucian sun.
On Christmas Eve Javi and I headed to his parents’ house on the Mediterranean coast, in a mid-sized town called Almuñécar. I’d stayed with Javi several times before, so it was so fun reconnecting with his parents and brother again. We feasted like kings on Christmas Eve—five seafood courses, followed by two rounds of dessert, followed by one serious food coma. It was hard to express how grateful I felt to have been taken in by Javi’s family over the holidays, and how lucky I am to have made such a strong and lasting friendship during my year abroad.
And with 13 more days left of vacation, it was off to Edinburgh!