As you all know (or should know, by now!) I am studying in the city of Granada. For our excursion with ISA, we took a 3 hour bus first to Ronda, toured the city, and then took an hour and a half bus ride to Málaga.
Matt and I decided to meet at 7:45-7:50am and walk together to the bus station in the morning and up to that point, I had been feeling relatively good. About halfway to the bus station I began to feel bouts of nausea and stomach cramps, my old morning friend from back in the States. Most of the bus ride I spent curled up in my seat, trying to sleep it off, so I unfortunately don’t have much to remark about the countryside along the way. I started to feel worse the closer we got to Ronda and this probably could have been fixed by drinking the juice my señora sent with me, but it wasn’t allowed on the bus and I had to wait until we arrived at Ronda’s bus station. I was wobbly-legged and very nauseous getting off the bus and immediately popped the straw into my juice box, not wanting to have to camp out in the bus station café while everyone else went on the walking tour. The juice helped substantially but I still had some stomach pains well into the tour, but they too eventually went away.
What snippets of the hilly countryside I did get from the bus ride, I could see that the countryside simply could not absorb any more water. It cascaded and galloped down the hillsides and gullies in a jaundiced taupe sort of colour; in some places water just oozed through the yellow earth and clay, forming giant, wet scars across the landscape. As much as I dislike all the rain and moisture and being perpetually wet (and unprepared for being thus!), I do have to remind myself that I should be appreciating it. This much rain in Andalucía, at least in the last decade, is unusual, and I am able to see a verdant countryside here that any other year I may not have been able to. The green of grass and weeds popping up between rocks and gravel is a mind-boggling emerald– the green I forgot existed in nature since coming here. It reduces all the mountain brush and olive trees to an almost dull and unimpressive grey colour–the best way I can think to describe it is seeing someone wear striped pants with a polka dot top. It’s a stark contrast and in a way, almost confusing.
Stepping off the bus in Ronda, we were all fearing a very cold, wet, and miserable tour. It was cold and dreary at the bus station with a steady drizzle and our breaths coming out in thick clouds. I encountered my first restroom in Spain where it was expected you pay for the service, though this was understandable: if you weren’t going to purchase something from the bar, then you had to pay 50 cents to use the restrooms. Not unreasonable. Especially since the line at the bus station restroom was ridiculously long. My choices at that point were to either stay at that café for several hours and meet the group at a designated meeting point later, or to try to go on the walking tour. By the time this was proposed to me at the station, I had tapped into my juice and managed to get rid of my nausea, so I agreed to go on the walking tour. Sitting in a café for hours, especially when I wasn’t allowed to get my book out from the below compartment of the bus, seemed much more miserable than a wet walking tour with stomach cramps!
I accompanied the group on the walking tour and we met our guide at the Plaza de Toros in Ronda. We didn’t go in to the Plaza de Toros but it is the oldest bullfighting ring built specifically for that purpose in Spain. From the outside it appeared very quaint and there is a statue of a very magnificent bull that I will most certainly get a picture of the next time I go! From there we proceeded to a viewing point, which for all of us was a completely unexpected and very pleasant surprise: a sudden drop over the edge of a cliff, where the valley below is 600-700 feet down! And of course on the account of the rain everything is swathed in clouds and mist and fog and it’s all so green and romantic… I really am just torn up about not being able to get my camera out from under the bus!
The guide ambled a little further and pointed out to us an old bit of the Muslim wall and one of the old gates that is still standing. Funnily enough I had pointed this out and explained it to one of my ISA groupmates a few moments before, when it was still visible. By the time the guide got to where we were standing, the wall and gate in the valley below disappeared into a thick swath of white clouds. We continued walking with our guide and around the corner we were given another impressive view of the gorge– and theamazingbridge that was built to cross it. It was a Baroque bridge if I remember correctly, either 16th or 17th century. Absolutely stunning.
We crossed this bridge and headed into one of the old districts of the town, I’m not sure which, but we went down a street named “Tenorio.” The tour guide asked us about the origin of the street name and I correctly answered with “Don Juan Tenorio.” The guide joked that Casanova learned all his tricks from Don Juan, and Rosanna, one of our ISA directors who is Italian, naturally begged to differ. On this street we visited a house and its garden.
We continued our walking tour through the neighbourhood, visited a plaza, received an explanation about fruits and their symbolism in Islam, but I forgot to take notes so I will have to look into that for another time to share with you all. We were taken to more breathtaking views from ridiculous heights, we saw another old Muslim wall and gate, and we visited an archaeological site with Arabic baths and a short film about how the baths at that particular site operated. Me, being the nerd that I am, found that all very interesting of course.
The tour finished and we were all given free time for lunch. We went to a café where I had an excellent hot ham and cheese sandwich. I sat with Phil and he got the patatas club sandwich, which looked like the most amazing sandwich ever. It was eggs, bacon, ham, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce… a doubledecker… Then the girls at the table next to us got these amazing waffles slathered in chocolate… then Phil got some amazing apple pie… We had a heck of a time ordering (there was only one waitress and the café was quite full) but the food was delicious! After lunch we met back at the plaza de toros, made the short trek to the bus station, and hopped on board for the quick and painless ride to Málaga.
I must’ve slept most of the ride there, because I don’t remember much aside from arriving in the city itself. My first impressions of Málaga were not spectacular and probably unfairly for the city, they didn’t improve much from there on. The hotel was very nice and upbeat; I shared a room with Kristen and for some reason we had three beds. One of the best parts about that hotel room was definitely the shower. Ahhhh. Yes. Hot water when you turn the dial, good, hard water pressure… oh yes, and the bathroom was both warm and spacious so I wasn’t dancing to stay warm/avoiding tripping over the toilet…
Some groupmates and I got together in another room later that night to “celebrate” Valentine’s Day. This mostly consisted of eating chocolate, chips, pastries and other unhealthy Spanish treats while occasionally glimpsing at the Olympics. We played an epic and dangerous game of spoons. Afterwards the group thinned down a little and those of us left played some other games, getting to know each other better and so on. It was a fun evening. :)
The next morning we had our walking tour of Málaga. It was drizzly and we were all fearing the worst, but thankfully the rain cleared up and things stayed dry for most of the day. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and nice, but he also had a handlebar moustache, which for me was a throwback to home. You can see mullets on a regular basis here in Spain but it’s not everyday you see a handlebar moustache! He led us through the city center and to a place in the Jewish quarter with a fig tree, explaining that fig trees were popular with the Romans and whatnot… as you can see from my pictures, I got very distracted in finding that there was a lone leaf on the tree.
With the guide we visited the RomanTheatre, which was really neat. We also got to visit the Alcazaba, which I loved, but I was being a poor listener and running around and taking pictures instead of listening to the guide, so unfortunately I don’t have any fun facts or history to share. You will notice a picture of a headless Virgin Mary and a picture of a guy (Evan, an ISA groupmate laughing). The guide had told us a superstition that if you look into the eyes of the Virgin, in three days’ time you will die. So Evan was the brave soul who went down to look into her eyes and lo and behold, she had no head at all! Noelia and I joked that they must have removed her head so nobody would die!
I spent a lot of the time on the walking tour getting to know Meryl, Kristen, Matt, Phil, Alaina, Kayla, Priti, Lauren and Michelle better. We ate döner together at a place called Don Kebab and my döner was amazing– but then again, I have yet to have a bad döner! It was my first döner since 2006 and indisputably divine.
I was awake for most of the bus ride back to Granada that afternoon. In the mountains just outside of Málaga, all the almond trees were in bloom–at times it seemed that the mountains themselves were lost beneath the black fingers of the tree branches and the white and pink blossoms. They dotted (or dominated) the hillsides along with the odd number olive trees, clustered on rocky slopes that dove down into tumbling brooks and rivers. These rollicked through the gullies at a wild pace, much like the excess water in the countryside surrounding Ronda. However, unlike the runoff elsewhere, this water had a very beautiful colour I can only describe like this: if you were to take the colour of sage and olive trees, mix it with a hint of blue, and make it liquid,thatwould be the colour of these little rivers.
As the hills began to thin out, there would be occasional rocky peaks that would jut up, and one that I noted down was absolutely giant, and its upper half was completely obscured by white clouds. Nearing Granada, the Sierras lined the far horizon, also cloaked in clouds. In fact the mountains are so high and so white with snow, at times I was easily confused as to what was really mountain and what was a wisp of cloud.
Matt and I walked back to our neighbourhood together, taking a different route than before. I stopped at a handmade shop and bought a pretty green scarf for 3 euros. Unfortunately I forgot to commit to memory where this place was, and now I’m not sure where to find it if I want to go back.
But anyways, that’s that. Sorry that update took so long. Now I have to work on compiling something for you all about my weekend in Seville with Katie and Deanna!
Oh. You might have noticed that I have started to take quite a few pictures of flowers and pigeons. Flowers are pretty, so I think you can understand why I take pictures of them, but pigeons? Here is why I love taking pictures of pigeons (or sparrows, or in the case of Seville, ducks): they are the inhabitants or be-humblers of all of these great monuments, castles, cathedrals and historical treasures. They build nests in what was once the princess’s tower or in the windows archers used to defend the fortress… or they take a crap on the head of a statue of a very important and noble person. I find them immensely amusing and a very subtle reminder that all the things we consider important or holy, they don’t really give a peck about. :)
Click the below link to see my pictures from Málaga!