Spotlight on Spanish Autonomous Regions: Andalucía

Not one to make travel goals, I did make one when coming to Spain: travel to all 17 autonomous communities at least once before going home. While Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the stars of the tourist dollar show (and my hard-earned euros, let’s not kid around here), I am a champion for Spain’s little-known towns and regions. Having a global view of this country has come through spending ample time in Andalucía, Galicia and Castilla y León – vastly different in their own right – plus extensive travel throughout Spain.

I often get asked what my favorite part of Spain is, and it’s really a loaded question. I’ve drunk wine in La Rioja, hiked through Asturias, considered a move to Madrid. A piece of me can be found in each part of Spain, to be honest, and there are very few places that I’m truly iffy about (I’m looking at you, Barcelona and Santander). 

Spain’s long history means it’s a country waiting to be discovered, and I’m going the break it all down for you in my new feature, Spotlight on Spanish Autonomous Regions.

And how fitting is it to start with the one I call my hogar dulce hogar, Andalucía? And on the day that commemorates its independence (thank you, Journalism School 101, for reminding me that dates and anniversaries are great story ideas)?

Name: Andalucía, named for the Moorish Al-Andalus

Population: 8.4 million

Provinces: Eight; Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Maálaga, Sevilla.

When: 6th of 17 regions, July 2005

About Andalucía: This southernmost region (also home to the largest population) is the Spain you imagine: bullfights, tapas, sun, flamenco. I could write a love song to how much I adore this part of Spain, despite the mañana, mañana attitude, the heat and the immense size that has made it difficult for me to see everything there is to see here (though maybe that’s a good thing).

Must-sees: As this is a region I know well, heaps of places come to mind. In fact, this blog is loaded with six years of bus, train and car trips around Andalucía. From ferias to festivals to road trips to romerías, Andalucía is also known as the sailing point for the discovery of the New World, the epicenter of tapas culture and the birthplace of flamenco. A trip to Spain must include Madrid and Barcelona, but no picture of Iberia is complete without Andalusia on the list (and other areas, don’t attack me quite yet!).

For ideas, check out my Tourism category.

If you’re into the historical aspects of Andalucía, you can’t miss the Alhambra of Granada, wandering the streets of Santa Cruz and Córdoba and being witness to the Moorish influence during their seven century reign, and the Roman city of Itálica. Also of note are the small churches, other Roman relics and ruins.

For eats, you’re in luck – thanks to its varied geography, you can get everything from fresh fish to fresh game meat, olive oil to fish oil, wine to sherry. Andalusia has been known as a  traditionally rural area, and strawberries are grown in Huelva and Almería is known as Europe’s greenhouse. Fried fish and cured Iberian ham is practically a religion in my neck of the woods, and winter fruits like oranges populate the street’s of Andalucía’s great cities. 

Other great cultural sites include flamenco, the city ferias, bullfighting, Holy week, ceramics, fine arts, El Rocío…the list goes on and on (and, again, I’m biased). What seems to define Andalucía is its boisterous love for the folkloric and the traditional. 

My take: As the flamenco group Amigos de Gines sing, Andalucía es mi tierra, yo soy del sur, my personality is clearly best matched to an Andalusian. As one of the largest comunidades in Spain by land area, the region has far more to offer than I could ever write about on SandS. The regional pride and deep cultural patronomy, along with its gasronomic scene and spectacular architecture have me constantly excited to explore.

Each month for the next 16, I’ll take a look at Spain’s 17 comunidades autónomas and my travel through them, from A to, um, Valencia. I’d love your take on the good and the bad in each one, so be sure to sign up for my RSS feed to read about each autonomous region at the end of each month!

What do you love (or not) about Andalucía?

Molly Sears-Piccavey: An Interview with a Counterpart in Granada

Blogging can be a strange thing – you often find you ‘know’ people without having met them face-to-face (and when you do meet them, you don’t have to fumble through the awkward introductions). One of those people is Molly Sears-Piccavey, a British resident in nearby Granada. She and I have been reading one another’s blogs for years, and we finally got the chance to meet at the annual Writers and Bloggers About Spain meet-up earlier this month.

Read more about Molly and Granada, and be sure to check out her great blog about her adoptive city, Piccavey.com.

Tell us about yourself …

I’m a British girl living in Granada, Spain. I have been here since 2006 and know the place well. This city has a rich historic background, many fascinating buildings and traditions. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are a breathtaking sight to see. On a warm spring day you can still see the snow on the peaks of the mountains just a few miles outside the city. The beaches are a 35 minute drive from the city and the area along the coast produces tropical fruit such as mangoes, bananas and avocados.

What does Granada have that can’t be seen in other places?

Most people know of Granada because of the Alhambra palace. This monument and the typical Albaicin quarter are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. But reaching past the city, the province of Granada really is a land of contrasts. You can see beaches, rivers, mountains, deserts, lush valleys and historic sites within a 30 minute drive of the city. Most of the year, you can see snow on the mountains and in summer we have red-hot temperatures. Because of the diverse geography, it is great for outdoor sports such as walking, climbing and cycling.

What is the best time to visit Granada?

As Granada has a ski resort and beaches 30 minutes away it’s a wonderful place to visit in all seasons. May is my favourite time because at the beginning of the month there is a popular celebration known as the crosses of May. This time of year the orange blossom is in flower around the region and the plants and flowers are particularly bright and colourful.

Can you recommend somewhere to eat in Granada?

Granada really is a heavenly place for foodies. It has lots of local produce and a large selection of seasonal dishes. It you want to sample the local tapas the most popular area is Calle Navas right by Granada town hall.  There are bars and restaurants packed in one after another. In Granada Spain’s only revolving restaurant gives views of the city and of the snow-capped mountains, too. Panoramic 360 is a good option for a romantic dinner with views.

The Hidden secret about Granada:
Granada is often affected by Earthquakes and tremors as it is in a seismic region. On 26th December at the Virgen de Angustias church in Granada a special service is held. The idea is that the Patron of Granada, the Virgen de las Angustias, protects us for another year from a large Earthquake such as the disaster back in 1884.

Tell me something else about Granada…

There is a saying about Granada: Dale limosna, mujer, que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.

In English this translates as:   “Miss, please give a coin to the beggar, there isn’t anything worse than being a blind man in Granada¨

Come to Granada and see if you agree!

Interested in Granada or Molly? Check out her blog with recommendations on what to see and do in Granada: piccavey.com and see her interview about me, too!

A trip to the Pomegranate

My dentist, Dr. Clinton, is the type that has pictures of his kids right in front of the chair, so I get cavities filled looking at all of them. There’s no shortage of years-old People magazines that one can enjoy while listening to Muzak, and Carol, the hygienic, chats you up while sticking instruments in your mouth.

The only reason I don’t dread the dentist’s office is because of Dr. Clinton’s obsession with Spain (ok, and Wally’s milkshakes next door). More specifically, he loves Granada, a city he has a vacation flat in and returns to once a year.

A mid-sized university city, Granada was the last stronghold of the Moorish Al-Andalus kingdom, which fell to the Christians in 1492 (same year Columbus claimed the Americas for Spain. Big year, I’d say). Nowadays, it’s famous for free tapas and majestic Moorish palace, the Alhambra, which stands high above the city.

My best friend in the whole world finally made it to Spain, and there was only one weekend trip I would allow. Not Madrid’s museums, not Gaudi’s Barcelona. I took her to the Pomegranate, one of the most beautiful places in the south. I think she and Dr. Clinton have some words to exchange.

The streets shooting off Plaza Bim-Rambla, near the Cathedral
Frederico Garcia Lorca, Granada’s prodigal son, shot during the early days of the Spanish Civil War 
A study on Moorish arches: The Alhambra
The Lion Court, considered the most intricate and complete example of Moorish art in the world
Sewer cap: the pomegranate city
Give him money, woman, as there is no greater injustice in life than being blind in Granada
Gypsies at the Mirador de San Nicolas, Barrio Albacin
Graffiti that characterizes this southern city

Out on my Own in Spain

Well, it´s here. Helen left at 4:45 this morning to catch a plane to Madrid to London to LA, leaving me to fend for myself. Heaving my 20 kilo (aka 45 lb) pack onto my back, I took bus #10 to my new hotel, more or less, despite getting lost in what was kind of ghetto. The hotel is four stars with a VERY cute desk attendant (did I mention how gorgeous Spanish men are?!). From there, I had to catch two more buses to go to Carrefour, like a Walmart, to buy a comforter and sheets since I won´t be in Seville until VERY late tomorrow and more shampoo and toothpaste. Then, I figured I needed a cell phone and the only place in the mall complex was Movistar. So I now have a movistar number! if you need to call me, the number is: 34 646580518. You dial the 011 prefix before that to call to Spain from the US.

The last few days have been extremely relaxing and wonderful. From Toledo, we came down to Granada and the hostal lost our reservation, so we walked around for a while and tried to find an empty couple of beds on a saturday night after midnight. Not fun with a heavy pack. The following day was gorgeous in Granada – 24º and sunny. We took our time eating lunch before heading up to the Alhambra. I forgot just how stunning it all is – the Nasarid art, the views of the Sierra Nevada and the pubelos blancos and the gardens of the Generalife. We found a super fancy four star hotel to eat at. I chose gazpacho and veal from Avila. Half a bottle of wine later, we went to this really intimate flamenco place in a cave where only one singer, one dancer and one guitarist were playing. Though it was extremely crowded, I could watch the shadow of the dancer on the wall and her facial expressions. They were passionate and almost anguished. Her feet moved about a thousand miles a minute. It was intense. Spain is a passionate country – everyone argues their point and has an intense love for La Patria. Ask any Spaniard what his or favorite city is, and they will undoubtedly tell you the very one you are in. It never fails.

I have my orientation course tonight at a fancy hotel. I’ll head back to Seville late tomorrow and report at 1030h on Wednesday to IES Heliche to meet the other teachers. I really am happy I’m starting. Last night I met a girl at the flamenco cave named Erin. She’s been in Malaga for the past nine months, having met a Spaniard two years ago on the Camino de Santiago. They’re getting married this weekend. She told me this experience will undoubtedly change my life.

The first visit here certainly did, or else I wouldn´t have moved seven time zones away. I can´t wait to get to Sevilla and really settle in.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...