Isabel G. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for our Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Loomis Chaffee School (CT). Read more of her work throughout the year here.
Before I even arrived in Spain, images of the south had filled my imagination and expectations. I was determined to see it all—from the modern and exciting Sevilla to the legendary mountainous region of Granada. It was a place, that in my mind, was the quintessential Spanish experience. People had described the breathtaking landscapes, to the youthful ambience, to the history that seemed to be in every little piece of the cities, and I knew that I needed to see it for myself.
Four months later, I found myself in the back of a van with my youngest brother passed on my shoulder and the other frantically searching his bag for a juicy drop pop that he was convinced I secretly ate. Was this the dream vacation I had originally envisioned? Definitely not, but it turned out to be everything I had hoped for. When my parents suggested that we go to Cordoba, Granada, and Sevilla for winter break, I couldn't have agreed fast enough.
We rented a car (I know, I know very American of us) and began our nine hour drive from Barcelona. I must admit, two weeks of English, laughing about inside jokes with my older brother, eating the best food I've had all year, and feeling American for a few days felt pretty nice. It was a welcome, and as I found out very quickly, a very much needed break from my daily life in Zaragoza. Our first stop was Sevilla. The city turned out to be my favorite of them all. The Plaza de España took my breath away, as it was filled to the brim with young people excitedly on the move and stunning historical buildings all around. During the day there was a multitude of activities to do: walk through The Alcazar, see an authentic Flamenco show, and marvel through the Barrio Santa Cruz. And, of course, the night was alive with spirit that I must admit Zaragoza lacked. There was an excitement, a palpable energy and youth in the air that made you want to jump in and feel a part of it.
Next stop: Granada. And you can probably guess what we did, spend hours exploring every corner of The Alhambra. From the moment I stepped foot into the gardens, I recognized I had never seen something quite like this in my entire life. I had never comprehended the extent of Muslim influence in the South until I saw it in person. Every wall, every window, every small, minuscule detail was crafted to perfection. Beautiful colors surrounded the fortress with carvings and architecture that made me question how it was even possible to create something like this. Or how there was even enough time in a hundred years to come close to the degree of work and mastery the castle required.
And finally Cordoba. It was in this quaint city that I ate the best meal of my Spanish career. After wandering through the jaw-dropping Mosque, my little brothers had complained of starvation so many times that food seemed to be the only thing on all of our minds. And if there was one thing we could agree on, it was that we had eaten our fair share of tapas and a meal with generous helpings would be preferable. It was out of sheer luck that we stumbled upon this hidden restaurant, decorated with vibrant vines along the entryway and an elegant, comfortable environment inside. When we sat down to eat, I couldn't contain my excitement over finally being able to order everything I wanted. From the best jamón of my life, to the signature lamb chops, to the sweetly cinnamon arroz con leche, it was the most memorable meal I have had in Spain. But, even more than that, being surrounded by my family in a place that seemed to be all ours may even be one of the best memories yet.