Southern Spain: A Cultural Adventure

Aug 28, 2019

by Pauline Selle '20
Edited for content and length.

Our junior journey trip to Spain began with a long day of travel from Lakeland to Madrid. A combination of tiredness, excitement, and maybe a little anxiousness filled the bus when we left the Branscomb parking lot at 7:30 am Saturday morning. I am from Norway and have been fortunate to be able to travel to a lot of countries in Europe, but I had never been to the mainland of Spain, so I was really excited for this trip.

The Royal Palace in Madrid.
"The Royal Palace in Madrid. The palace is huge and contains 3418 rooms. Although it is the official royal palace, the royal family does not actually live there." - Pauline '20

We arrived in Madrid Sunday morning, and spent our first day touring the Spanish capital. Although we were all exhausted from the long trip, the excitement was high. Madrid is a beautiful city, filled with historical buildings and characteristic narrow streets. The city reminded me of places like Rome and Prague, although it had many unique aspects. In addition to the magnificent Cathedral and the immense royal castle with 3418 rooms, one of my favorite spots included a market with Spanish tapas food that both looked and smelled amazing.

After the guided tour, a group of us walked through a beautiful park and the Prado museum. The first aspect about the Spanish culture that stood out to me was how late they eat dinner, and even more so that the restaurants would not get busy until 9:30pm and some did not even open until 8pm.

Monday we went to Granada, which would be our home base for the rest of the week. Granada is a beautiful city, surrounded by hills and a beautiful castle on one side, and on the other side snowy mountains can be seen in the distance. Tourism seemed to be big in Granda, as there were numerous souvenir shops located in the streets, we frequently heard Americans talking around us, and sites such as Alhambra and Sacromonte are prime tourist attractions.

We went on a tour of Alhambra, which is a large, beautiful palace that was the home of the sultan of Granada from 1333. In later years, it was taken over by catholic kings that conquered Granada. The palace is beautiful and is covered with incredibly detailed and astonishing artwork. The gardens of Alhambra are breathtaking and perfectly groomed.

El Retiro Park in Madrid.
"El Retiro Park in Madrid. The park was beautiful and full of life and people." - Pauline '20

The culture and architecture of Granada, and the rest of the Southern Spanish region of Andalucia, are influenced by both arabic culture, from the Moors of North Africa that lived there, and catholic culture, from when the catholic kings conquered the area. The merging of these two cultures is one of the aspects that make Andalucia so unique, and it was really cool to see it evident in the architecture, food, and traditions of the region.

The food in Granada was great. The group had two traditional Spanish tapas dinners in Granada. Instead of having one main dish, like we often see in the U.S., tapas includes many smaller dishes. Most people in our group agreed that the best dish was Huevos Rotos, or “Broken eggs”, which consists of potatoes, sausage, and eggs. A typical lunch in Spain consists of a baguette with slices of some sort of meat, usually a type that resembles prosciutto, which they call jamón. The meat was amazing, especially when served with cheese.

One of the aspects of staying in Granada and coming back there every day, was that we got to know the city. We went on multiple excursions and after a few days pretty much knew our way around. The prices in Spain were approximately the same as in the U.S. or even a little cheaper. And they had some stores that we have in the U.S., including Zara, HM, and Burger King.

One of the cities we visited was Sevilla. I know multiple people who have been on vacation in Sevilla and I had heard that it was a beautiful place, so I was very excited to see it. We started with a tour of sights, such as Plaza de España and Catedral de Sevilla. Plaza de España consists of a beautiful building located at one end of a park, called Parque de Maria Luisa. In addition to the beautiful structure and architecture, the plaza served as a site in one of the Star Wars movies. Catedral de Sevilla was strikingly beautiful. Inside the cathedral is the alleged burial site of Christopher Columbus, however, our tour guide told us that they are not 100% sure that it is actually Christopher Columbus inside. They only know for sure that the person buried was the same age that Columbus was when he died, and that based on dental records and other tests he must have been from the same area. After the tour we explored the city on our own. We found a small restaurant with delicious Tapas foods, and the best olives I have ever eaten.

View of Seattle from the top floor of the Space Needle.
"The Beach in Malaga. This was one of my favorite places, and was the best view during our lunch on the beach." - Pauline '20

Malaga was my favorite city of those we visited. I loved the beach, the architecture, and the atmosphere. During our tour we visited the fort Alcazaba and a Roman theatre, both with an interesting story. My favorite part of our day in Malaga however, was eating lunch at a restaurant on the beach. It was relaxing and really had the vacation feeling. We ate Paella, which is a traditional Spanish dish with rice and different types of meats and/or seafood. After lunch we walked through the small streets and into many souvenir shops. Malaga was more of what I have envisioned Spain to look like. Being from Norway, I have always associated Spain with summer and vacation. Sunny weather, the beach, and the relaxed atmosphere make Malaga a perfect vacation spot.

The last city we went to was Cordoba. There we got a tour of the Mosque Cathedral. As I am fascinated by the mixture of the arabic and catholic cultures that is so unique to Andalucia, I found the cathedral to be really interesting. The building used to be a mosque, and in structure and architecture it still is. However, after the catholics took over they made it into a cathedral. They decided to preserve the building the way it was, so it is adorned with catholic artwork and altars but the structure is still that of a mosque with characteristic domes and arches. We had a fairly short day in Cordoba, but after our tour a group of us went to a food market called Mercado Victoria. Recommended by my host family, I tried bull’s tail, which tasted similarly to beef from a stew. It was actually not too bad.

View of Seattle from the top floor of the Space Needle.
"Plaza de España in Sevilla. It was the site of one of the scenes in Star Wars, and was one of the most beautiful places we visited." - Pauline '20

It was an amazing trip and I definitely recommend going to Spain, especially Andalucia. In addition to having beautiful cities and nature, the culture and history makes Spain more unique compared to other countries in southern Europe. They also have a broad array of food that is worth trying, and I recommend finding a beach restaurant for a complementing view. Spain is a good vacation spot for sightseeing and tours, but also for relaxation.

The small cafes, shopping streets, beaches, and peaceful atmosphere make it a perfect place for calm days. Additionally, there are multiple cities located fairly close to each other, which all have unique sites and things to do, so there is little chance of getting bored. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go to Spain on my junior journey, it was an amazing experience.