Whenever a student is in high school or goes to college, it almost always seems like work, work, work, and go, go, go. Well, here is the real news: studying abroad is that, multiplied by about three, and in a different language. Don’t get me wrong, it is loads of fun and extremely interesting; however, when one is in another country for thirteen weeks, one has to make the most out of it.With that in mind, I have recapped below each of the weekends I have spent here in Spain. Please feel free to imagine yourself in any of these places, or you can just start booking your vacations now.
El fin de semana uno: 3/10-4/10
As you may recall, we arrived here in Granada to meet our host families on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009. I mentioned beforehand to take advantage of anything possible because in the case you don’t, time just slips by. Por ejemplo, while we had only been in Granada for two days or so, my new found friends (we had known each other for about a week and a half now) and I decided it would be fun to make up our own excursion and head out into the wild frontier of España. By wild frontier I of course mean that we wanted to go to a Bull Fight.
After doing some research into nearby towns with fights that weekend, we decided to head up north about an hour by bus to a small pueblo. The traveling party was my roommate, Andrew from Ohio State University, Brian (Denver University), David (Seattle University), Margaret (UCLA), and myself (the one, the only, UNL).David and Andrew are totally fine with sleeping outside in the case we don’t find a hostel (cheap dormitory style hotel) or hotel for the night, and the rest of us would like to come back in the case we don’t.No problem at all, we can all just buy open ended bus tickets. So here is where the fun starts to happen.
We get up around 9:30a, on a Saturday morning, to walk to the bus station. Sidebar: everyone here walks. There are a number of cars, and a lot of motorcycles and motor scooters, but the common mode of transportation is andando. The bus leaves at 10:30a and we are meeting Margaret at La Plaza de Isabel la Católica since we live near each other, and Brian and David will be meeting us at the Estación de los Autobuses.So we get on our way to walk toward the station, which has been estimated for us at about a half hour walk, and it seems like it is taking the three of us forever.Note to anyone studying in Granada in the future: Bus station is NOT a half hour walk from Plaza Isabel.After walking for some time, we find ourselves nowhere in sight of the station, and approximately 15 minutes from bus departure. We call Brian, let him know we are grabbing a cab for the last leg of our journey, and ask him to buy our tickets.All is good, right? Wrong!We arrive at the station to see Brian and David sitting outside the building, by themselves, with no tickets.Apparently there is a festival going on in the small town to which we were headed and the buses to this town are full. ¡Que lastima! So what are we to do, after an hour walk, at 10:30a on a Saturday?
We head over to the bus board, thinking we can head somewhere else for the day.There is a bus leaving at 11:15a to a little place called Almería, which, according to Brian’s European guide book, is right on the southern coast of Spain.So to the beach it is!We have a heck of a time getting our tickets purchased at this little self-services machine, but we do and board our bus to the beach as scheduled.
We arrive in Almería near 1:15p, so about a two hour ride, and book it straight for the Mediterranean Sea. We get there and start walking down the beach/boardwalk region, hoping to find a hostel in which to stay for the night. Luckily we run into the Delfín Verde after about a kilometer and book our night there. The place is pretty nice, save for the view from our window:
So, there we were, away from our new hope being true Europeans. The only problem: we have each packed for a day trip to a bull fight, not an overnight trip to the beach. Our next task was to find lunch and trajes del baño. We asked the Delfín Verde caretaker if she knew of a place we could go to buy swimsuits, and she sort of just told us to look nearby, which was our Plan B.We headed into the main district of town and sat down for some lunch, but due to our then limited Spanish communication abilities, we each ended up eating only, what I like to describe as, a salsa con pollo. It was good, but that was all we had because we were expecting more to come out.As of this point we are all hungry, cranky, and want to go swimming.We walked around for a solid two hours, not finding anything open because it was a Saturday right in the center of siesta time, so we headed back to the hostel to ask again if the caretaker knew of any other places.
From there, the weekend ended up being a breeze.There was a small convenience shop open no more than two blocks from where we were staying with swimsuits and sandals, we were about 100m from the sea itself in our hostel, the hostel was connected to a restaurant, and we were next to not one, not two, but three Heladerías.After 4:30p that day, everything was fantastic.On top of that, we woke up early on Sunday and grabbed some Churros con Chocolate for breakfast.You can imagine this being basically a funnel cake, cut into sections, served alongside a coffee mug of melted chocolate for dipping.It was fantastic.You can even see some of the pictures below of “our weekend at the bullfight,” as we like to call it.
El fin de semana dos: 10/9-12/9
So after a great weekend on the beach, what are we to do in the next week? We decided that we ought to head to the beach again.No, not that same old lame one in Almería.Something new and exciting, at a different point on the Mediterranean.
Following only two days of class (Wednesday and Thursday of the previous week), we were given an extended weekend due to Spain’s National Day of fiesta.One could compare it to an Independence Day in the US, but it is more like a day of unification since Spain was unified after expelling the Muslims and Jews on and/or near this day in history.When could it be you ask?Why it’s Columbus Day.Cristiból Colón sailed the ocean blue on October 12th, 1492.
So, Andrew, David, Julie (University of Arkansas), and I all made our way to the bus station on Saturday morning (this time we split a cab rather than running the marathon) to head out to a little place called Almuñecar.The bus ride from Granada was around an hour and a half and only cost about nine euro.Again, we kind of went in blind, más o menos, and did not book a hostel in advance, but we got to Almuñecar safely and then it was time for lunch.What do Americans like to eat in Spain?McDonald’s of course, and luckily there was one located next door to the bus station where I could get my McPollo (and yes, they actually have the McPollo, that is not something I can make up).
After walking two kilometers in one direction and two kilometers back to find out the only seaside hostel was closed for the weekend, David and Julie headed over to the beach while Andrew and I went into town to look for an open hostel.It was not very hard to find rooms for the four of us, and once we did we went back out to the beach to hang out for a while.The beach in Almuñecar is very nice, but in place of sand there are only large rocks, which can really get to you after a while.Once it got cooler we headed back in to change and explore the city.
Exploring the city proved to be quite interesting as we found an extremely old castle that was in ruin and a number of historic fish breeding ponds.Obviously at this point everything was closed, but we were able to look at the very least.
After our adventures through Almuñecar we decided to head back toward our hostel in order to find some dinner.We had about a 150m climb in order to get back to the height of our hostel, plus a 20 minute walk after that.It was rough, but by the time we reached this quaint little pizzeria, we were ready to eat.Dinner was good, and then we headed upstairs for bed, poised to sleep until our bus left for Nerja, the second stop on our beach weekend.
We got dropped off in Nerja after about a 20 minute, 2 euro, mountainside bus ride from Almuñecar.The interesting thing in this small town was that there was no bus station where we were let out, only a small ticket vending shack and a few bus stop shelters.
Now, if you know anything about our weekend adventures, then you know that we cannot to anything easy, or with advanced plans, or even with maps for that matter.Having said that, we started walking in an arbitrary direction hoping to get to the beach and running across a cheap hostel.Unfortunately we had chosen the wrong direction, but we only realized it once we passed the “Bienvenidos a Nerja” sign, indicating we were leaving the very place to which we traveled.
So, we turned around and made our way back into the town of Nerja and discovered a few nice looking hotels.After popping in and discussing the possibility of open rooms with the front desk (once in English because the Spaniard could somehow tell we were not natives), we were given two maps and ascertained the information that Nerja was having its annual celebration that week, and a number of the hostels and hotels were booked to vacancy.Of course this would happen.
Luckily we ran across a small hostel above a small restaurant that was free for the night, so we booked our rooms, dropped off our stuff, changed clothes, and headed right down to the beach.This beach was much nicer than the one in Almuñecar, a bit secluded from the surface streets behind all of the hotels that lined the seaside with some relatively soft sand.We splashed around for quite some time, explored the reefs to both the right and left of the main beach, and since we were had arrived so early we had the luxury of roaming around town in the daylight to find a nice spot for lunch.
We grabbed some lunch and Andrew and David order Paella in advance for dinner since it takes hours to prepare (look it up.It seems kind of basic, and maybe a little strange, but it is delicious.I highly recommend it), then we went right back to the beach for the afternoon and evening.Once the air started to cool off we headed back to the hostel, and since we had a bit of a balcony as you can see above, we all gathered in our room and enjoyed the evening air playing hearts on the patio.
At 9p we headed back to the restaurant for dinner (I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but meal times are much different here.Breakfast of toast and coffee/juice near 8a, lunch between 2:30p and 3:30p, and dinner between 9p and 10:30p) where the table was already set with paella prepared for the other guys.Julie and I ordered some seafood since we were adjacent to the Mediterranean, and it was fantastic.After dinner we decided to walk our way up to the bus stop so we didn’t get lost in the morning, and coincidentally, we found another Heladería on our way back toward the hostel.
The end of our long weekend had drawn to a close, after two beaches and a lot of fun, so we slept rather well that night in the hostel.We made it to our bus at 9:45a for departure, headed back to Granada on a two hour bus ride (which you really end up getting used to and it no longer seems like that much time), grabbed a cab to get from the station to home, and then dug right into homework.Even though we had only been in class for a few days, homework obviously was still a necessary evil, albeit we were in Spain.
So we had hit three beaches in two weeks, so what were we to do during the following weekend?I’ll bet you could guess…
Until next time!