Well, we've just arrived in Granada and it seems like we need to leave already :(
I believe that Granada will win the prize in every category on this trip; the people; the food; the scenery; the school; everything has been magnificent.
On the first day (Sunday), we set out in the afternoon and all took a walk around Granada in pairs or groups of four. Straight away you could feel the difference between here and Seville. Seville is amazing, don't get me wrong, I loved the city and will definitely return. But Granada is a lot smaller, it’s clean, safe, young, alternative and it has a backdrop of a mountain that still has snow on it even though we are wearing shorts and t-shirts.
The city: Granada has 300 000 people, 100 000 of whom are university students. It was the last Arabic city in Spain. Well, not technically Granada. La Alhambra was the last Arabic city in Spain. La Alhambra is considered by the Spanish to be one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. It is thought of as a castle, but it was actually a city in its own right. It is built like a castle, inside a fortress-wall. It had its own self-sufficient economy. It is a masterpiece of engineering, built between two rivers on a levitated area of land, all of the water running past runs through the grounds of the Alhambra first. The trees and gardens get watered, the wells get filled, the dozens and dozens of fountains run 24/7 under gravity and it is cool, green and tranquil. Granada itself was originally quite a few kilometres away on the side of the next lot of mountains. But the incredible wealth that was invested in, and generated by, La Alhlambra meant that the town of Granada slowly expanded on one side and contracted on the other until, like the world’s slowest caterpillar, it made it’s way to surround the Alhambra and make its centre in the valley below.
Granada, itself, is one of the very few places in the world one can go snow skiing in the morning and swim in the ocean in the afternoon. That is not a metaphor for a year, the slopes are open right now, today, and so are the beaches. Some people are swimming and some people are skiing in the same provincial area. The Almacen is the highest mountain in Spain (mainland, there’s one bigger in the Canary Islands) at 3400 metres and the local mountain range has more peaks over 3000 metres than any other mountain range in Europe. When one considers the Italian, French, Austrian, Czech Alps and so on and so forth, that’s pretty impressive. It is also the cheapest snow skiing in Europe (apparently, but I’m dubious).
We did a Ghost Tour of Granada yesterday, where the kids all got information about people that had been killed in some ghastly way, true people from history, and they had to go out into the plazas and ask the locals (in Spanish) about the history of the Ghosts of Granada. Now I must admit I thought this was a silly exercise, but the people here at the school said it was great fun and all local Granadinos (people from Granada) are extremely friendly and happy to help. All of the kids found their ghosts, had a ball and met the locals. Yay!
Today we are going to the Albacin. I’ll try to post before we leave. Viva Granada!!!
On Friday we went to the Plaza de EspaÑa in Seville. It was mind blowing and also used in the 2nd Star Wars movie.
Last Thursday we had Cineforum at the Enforex school. We watched a fantastic movie called "8 Basque Surnames". It was about a Basque girl falling for a boy from Sevillia and vice versa. It was hilarious and very much enjoyed by all students. It gave a real insight into the differences between the cultures of Spain. You may or may not be aware that there are 4 very different languages spoken in Spain; Castellano (Spanish), Catalan, Gallego (Galician) and Basque. Catalan is a mixture of Spanish, French, Italian and a bit of its own stuff thrown in. Galician is a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish. Galicia also has Celtic roots and a long history of trade with Ireland. The traditional folk music of Galicia is the bagpipes. Basque is completely unique. It is half in Spain and half in France and is not related to Spanish or French in any way. It is like they were just dropped there out of a space ship. I think the most famous thing about the Basque is the ETA separatist movement, but that is a bit unfair because I think it should be the food and the landscape. It is stunning.
Anyhoo, before the movie we took a trip to the cathedral, climbed the Giralda (tower) and saw the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The Giralda was the tallest tower in the world when it was built, but that was in 980AD, so it got overtaken a while back.
Check out this little dude crossing the street. Watch him go from a lope to a sprint as the time counts down.
Yesterday we went to 'plaza de toros' bull fighting ring here in Seville. Bull fighting is pretty big business here in Seville. I didn't know there is three sections to the fight and each bull fight requires three matadors who all have different roles to play and it's still a horrible, bloody, one-sided, ridiculous sport. I don't like getting all judge-y about other cultures, but bull fighting is a pointless and cruel waste of time. Anyhoo ...
Now we have been in Seville for a couple days and we are finding it pretty good. It was 27*c yesterday, the kids were stoked. We did a tour of the old centre of Seville and had a look at the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Seville is the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world. It started as a Mosque in the 12th century AD when Southern Spain was an outpost of the Arabic empire. It was added to in the 13th and again in the 14th centuries and has been quite impressive for quite a long time now.
Parky and I caught the last of the Feria de Abril. It is a huge festival in Seville every April and has lots of ladies in their Flamenco get-up and people riding in horses and carriages. It’s pretty fantastic.