Spring in Spain (Part 1)

Camille Smith
April 13, 2016

Hola! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated on Morocco, mainly due to the fact that I’ve been on Spring Break in España! I’ve spent the past 10 days practicing my Spanish, eating lots of tapas, and taking some time off to relax in and explore another beautiful new country.

I began my journey through Spain starting with our program-led trip to Granada and Cordoba. Our trip began the day after midterms when we hopped on buses bright and early up to Tangier and took a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar into Algericas, Spain.  So with a passport, $20, and just a couple hours of your time, you can cross over from Africa to Europe. I don’t think I’ve ever crossed continents so quickly and easily. The ride was really pretty too.

After a few more hours of driving, we finally made it to our hotel in Granada where we spent the night. Then, early the next morning again we headed out for Cordoba. This was about 7 AM. The sun was still rising, but to our surprise, we passed swarms of Spaniards still making their way home from the clubs. That’s when I think it first hit us we were certainly not in Morocco anymore. Part one of some minor Spanish culture shock.

After arriving in Cordoba we got a tour of the Medina Azahara, which is what remains of a medieval Arab city that was situation outside Cordoba during the Medieval Age. Though not much remains, it was interesting to draw similarities from what our tour guide told us about the city to our home back in Morocco, like the hammams, housings structures, etc.

Then, we headed out for a delicious tapas-filled lunch and some downtime to explore the quaint little city that is Cordoba. (Thanks, Ben, for the photobomb.)


And finally, at the end of the afternoon, we got to see the main attraction: La Mezquita.


This was definitely the highlight of the day.  I remembered studying La Mezquita in my art history class in high school, so it was incredible to finally witness first-hand. It truly symbolizes the rich and diverse history of southern Spain. It’s now a cathedral since the Catholics took the country back over, but it was originally built as a Mosque, which is pictured here. Islam was the dominant religion in Andalusia for over 700 years from about the 8th to the 15th centuries. The continuous arches represent unity, openness, and humility. This starkly contrasts with what’s just around the corner.

Extravagant, elborate Spanish baroque architecture. The juxtaposition of this bold, in-your-face Catholic cathedral and the quiet, more subtly powerful Islamic mosque make for an bizarre, but nonetheless spectacular sight.

And that concluded our first full day of exploration in Spain. We headed back to Granada that night to wake up early again and finally see the sights in the town we’d be sleeping in for the past two nights!

The must-see attraction in Granada is The Alhambra. The Alhambra is an old medieval fortress that also stands from the time of Islamic influence in Andalusia. We waited and walked in the rain for a good four just to see everything, but it was definitely worth it. It was breathtaking in the terrible weather, so I can’t imagine how incredible it would all be on a warm, sunny day.


Then, as one last stop before we let our exhausted selves rest of our final day together with the program, a few of us headed off to see the Cathedral of Granada. I was pretty tired and reluctant to make the trek in the rain, thinking, what’s another European cathedral? I was pleasantly surprised, though. It wasn’t like the typical gothic French cathedrals I was used to visiting. This beautiful boasting Baroque building is a hidden gem that you can’t miss if you’re in Granada.

After that, though, I finally let myself and my very sore feet rest as I prepared to head out the next morning for my independent travels. The first leg of the trip with my program was definitely a success—I got to see and learn about a lot of new sites I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to on my own. I was however, ready to finally take a real break and follow my own itinerary. And I have so much to share about it that I will continue my story in a new post! Hasta luego! 

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Camille Smith

<p>Assalamu Alaikum, Bonjour, Hello! I&#39;m Camille and I&#39;m currently in my second year studying Political Science and International Studies at Loyola University Chicago. I&#39;m thrilled to be spending my semester in Rabat, Morocco and hope you all enjoy hearing about my journey! Expect bad puns and lots of pictures of food.</p>

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