Granada: First Impressions

Max Nathanson is a student at University of Colorado, Boulder and an ISA Featured Blogger from Fall 2013. Max studied abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

Lunch in Granada

Arriving in Granada following a tour of Madrid and Toledo was certainly a blur. Miles, my roommate, and I moved into our house for the semester, and it is certainly an interesting setup. We live in a spacious family house on the first floor; our host parents, JuanMi and Angela, live on the bottom floor and are surrounded by their family in other flats in the building. There is a gorgeous courtyard in the center of the complex, with laundry lines strung carelessly across the top, and in our homestay, we eat lunch and dinner together as a family.


JuanMi is a specialty guitar maker, and his shop is on the bottom floor of the building.  Angela is a retired social worker who now paints homemade abanico fans, and she spends much of her day running the house. Neither of them speak a word of English, and their work schedules are extremely relaxed and laid back. Breakfast is small, lunch, the largest meal of the day, is at 2:45 pm, and dinner usually falls around 9:45-10 pm. Their lifestyle is one of comforts, simple pleasures, and is centered around relaxation.

Our house is located in the Realejo neighborhood, the old Jewish quarter, and is very close to my classes, the Alhambra, and the center of town. The streets surrounding the house are narrow, cobbled and wind in twisting obliviousness until one reaches either the Alhambra or the city center. The walls of Realejo are dotted with street art from El Niño, a Banksy-like figure who does most of his damage at night. It is a pleasant, central, very convenient location to have a homestay. I can run for ten minutes and be at either the Alhambra, the River Genil or the Arab quarter, the Albaycin. The great outdoors are also quite close, as many hiking and running trails rise above the Alhambra and through the surrounding valleys, including one that I explored one day going to an abandoned monastery. The city presents many opportunities for all sorts of exploration.

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The Alhambra

Following my first day of class, JuanMi and Angela convinced me (without too much effort) to go with them to the beach.  Miles wasn’t feeling well, so the three of us drove down to Playa Granada, a rocky stretch of beach that was absolutely gorgeous. The water was rough but a perfect temperature, and the surrounding landscape, with the imposing Sierra Nevadas looming over hills dotted with endless rows of olive trees, was phenomenal. The three of us talked for hours about adjusting to Spanish customs, American life, and strategies for living in general. Following free, unlimited tapas at a nearby bar (you read that correctly) we drove home under the setting sun full and extremely content.  I am extremely lucky and grateful to have found such a nice, welcoming, inclusive host family.

Also, school has begun, and for the month of September I am completing an intensive Spanish language class consisting of five hours of class a day, five days a week. I am still finalizing my schedule for the semester, but it appears as if I’ll be able to take a regular class at the university with Spanish students in addition to my classes with foreigners.  I feel confident that come the end of the semester my Spanish will have improved immensely.

Granada, for the two weeks I’ve been here, has turned out to be a beautiful city. The old town is very easy to get lost in, one of my favorite characteristics that a city can possess, as baroque Catholic churches, monasteries and squares give way to Arab-influenced architecture, eventually topping out with the Gypsy caves of the Sacromonte. Life in Granada serves as a constant reminder to relax, prioritize family and enjoy life’s pleasures to the fullest.

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