Thursday, November 26, 2009

Adventures in the Albaycin

As my time here abroad is getting shorter and shorter, I have started to embrace a bit of a hurry up attitude, which is a good thing. This past week on Saturday, my program and I went to a Flamenco show at a locations called La Chumbera. The performance was an all female group, with a female guitarist and singer, as well as percussionist and others. During s a few of there songs a dancer came out and performed to the music, which was my first time watching the combination of both the authentic music and the actual dancing of Flamenco. On top of all of this was the fact that this location was in an area called the Albaycin which is the hill opposite of the Alhambra in Granada. As the performance began at La Chumbera, the curtains were raised behind the musical group and offered an unbelievable view of the Alhambra lit up at night.
Before La Chumbera, on Friday night, some friends and I went exploring around the Albaycin in search of some new tapas bars and anything interesting and new. We ended up walking near a popular discoteca, but instead of heading in we passed it up and kept walking donw the road. This was definitely the right move because we ended up finding a small local bar where an amazingly talented Flameco guitarist was playing and a few regulars would switch off singing to the music. The bar only had about 20 people in it and the room with the music was essentially a tiny cave with a few tables. This was truly an authentic experience that I really enjoyed, and the location of the bar was very beautiful with a great view and great music.
This weekend I head to Paris with a friend from Denison and his friend in Toledo. I've heard nothing but great things about the city, my only concern is that it is not very economically friendly for a frugal abroad college student! More to come...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Middle of the Road

So between having a few midterms this week and having just returned home from Barcelona, i've been a little hard pressed to write anything. Last weekend I ventured to Barcelona with my friend Richie who had already been there one time before. This ended up working out great because he was a free tour guide and new a lot of fun spots to go. Also, Richie traveled all over Europe, which is what most people in European hostels are doing, so that was an easy conversation starter. On Saturday in the afternoon, the 2 of us realized that the FC Barcelona game had gotten moved from Sunday to Saturday night. We ended up finding some pretty cheap tickets and going. My first European football experience was quite amazing, even though we were in the nose bleeds and it was pretty windy and cold. In the last 10 minutes Lionel Messi (they're Kobe) got a penalty kick on our side of the field and he scored which was pretty awesome considering I was sporting his jersey. Around Barcelona for the remainder of the weekend I did a little exploring and saw some amazing gothic architecture as well as some beatiful views of the city (standing inside of a giant tower with Christopher Columbus pointing out over the ocean on top of it).
Returning from Barcelona, I have a littel over a month left abroad (hence the middle of the road post title, not my best I know). Crazy. This semester has definitely gone by very fast, but I have been pretty fortunate to be able to do all the things that I have done in the last 2 months. Coming up on my docket are a weekend in Paris over Thanksgiving, and a cultural exchange program for 4 days in Morocco. But I can't lie, I will be excited to have Christmas in America with family and friends, (minus my brother Kyle who's teaching english to little misfits in Saigon). More stories to come, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Those About to Flamenco, We Salute You

Since I've been in Granada, I have been lucky enough to see 2 free flamenco guitar concerts at a small local venue. To say the least, this style of music is very soothing and nice to listen to, and to watch people play is truly amazing. The manner in which they actually strum as well as pluck the strings is insane, and when they get into these really intense sections of songs, its like their fingers are not even real, they are moving so fast. Alfredo Mesa is a local guitarist who is an absolute machine and who I was lucky enough to get to watch at one of the free shows. Go to this link and check him out.

now,being someone who has always enjoyed playing music and watching music be performed, I decided I wanted to dive deeper into this massive interest I have discovered in flamenco guitar. I was sitting in class and saw a girl with a sheet of classes that you can take at the University of Granada, like yoga and what not, and it turns out there was a beginner flamenco guitar class. I have since bought a cheap Spanish guitar, signed up and realized that the style of music is just as hard to play as it looks, if not harder. But the instructor is a fairly well known local artist as well and has already shown us some pretty cool things to start practicing. The nice thing is that much of the teaching is by showing things on the guitar and not by long verbal descriptions because the guy talks insanely fast and I'm one of only 3 english speaking people in the class. The language of music is much more forgiving than the language of Spanish! More to come...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monachillin in the Sierra Nevada's

This weekend I decided to stay in Granada with the hope that I would be able to experience something fun and unique about the area in which I live. A 45 minute, 1,10 euro bus ride and a 35 minute walk later I got to do just that. Monachil is a small pueblo at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains that is a fairly popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities that was actually recommended to me by my program director. The hiking trail that my two friends and I decided to take was called Los Cahorros and it consists of a huge valley at the beginning followed by a long suspension bridge that takes you into this thin sliver between two rock faces where you walk along a small river for the duration of the hike. My friend Richie and I went climbing around on several of the rocks that would go up into these little caves, and also some of the boulders that we found later on in the hike in some of the vast areas of the Sierra Nevadas. Also with us was our friend Lindsay who functioned as the voice of reason when we we're maybe being a little stupid with where we were trying to explore / climb, and she also took some very cool pictures. One gentleman actually started yelling at us in Spanish when we were going up into this small cave. The only thing we could make out was that some guy fell before and had to get carted out be a goat drawn gourney type thing. It was akward and hilairous all at the same time, even thought the old man was upset. After eating lunch next to the water, we headed down the side of a mountain where I completley ate it after falling backwards, but luckily the rump broke my fall. For how close and easily accessible our hike was today I am hopeful that I can make it back up to check out another close by destination. Then the next thing on the list is to go Snowboarding at least one time in December. But a wonderful use of a Saturday (it was about 75 degrees all day long) and a great first experience in southern mountains of Spain.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Germans Invade Spain (In Speedos)

So anyone who is closely following this blog can realize that I haven't posted anything in two weeks, but I have some valid reasons. I have essentially been in Germany the last 2 weekends. The reason I say essentially is because I did in fact go to Munich Germany 2 weeks ago for Oktoberfest, yet, this past weekend I went to Mallorca, Spain which, if you went there knowing nothing about this island off of the east coast of the country, you would think you were in a different version of Germany with a beach. Let me slow down.
Oktoberfest in Germany was an unbelievable experience. The atmosphere of being in one of the beer gardens is unbelievable in the sense that you are surounded by 2,000 people from all over the world who want nothing more than to be in good spirits and drink very good beer. I went to Munich with a large group of friends from Denison which really made it a blast because it is probably very easy to be overwhelemed at Oktoberfest if your with a small group, or people you don't know, since everyone is drinking and screaming out songs such as "Heeeeeey, hey baby (ooo ahhh) I wanna know....if you'll be my girl" and others all day long. A very fun weekend overall that left me wanting to go back before I even got on my flight back to Madrid.
Now to Mallorca, where I just returned home from yesterday. This island off of the east coast of Spain is absoultely beautiful. However, it is a VERY popular tourist attraction for Germans, and not even in the sense that a lot go there, but literally restraunts and stores that advertise their sales in German, have menu's primarily in German, and German songs all the time. But the location was beautiful and our hotel was 200 yards from the beach in Palma de Mallorca, so everything was just fine. I guess the only annoying part was trying to use Spanish to order things and being answered in either English or some German accented English Also located there is what is renowned as "Europes finest aquarium" which actually turned out to be a lot of fun on our last day there, with some enormous sharks and a giant sea turtle.
The last two weeks have been very busy, but both were a great opportunity to get outside of Granada for a little bit and see some very interesing and beautiful parts of the world. However, I'm pleased to say that I am still reminded of how great this city is whenever I travel because I there are really so many awesome things about where I live (maybe #1 is how inexpensive it is here). More to come, and thanks to whoever has been following, I will attempt to be more consistent!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

As I walked away from the ticket counter outside of Plaza de Torros last Friday, I couldn’t help but think that I just bought a ticket to see 6 bulls killed in a ring in front of a bunch of people. That was mainly due to the fact that a Corrido de los torros is just that. A bullfight is a bit conflicting. It was a very interesting event that had some performance type things involving cool moves that the Torreros would do to lure in the bulls, most of which got an applause from the audience. But after wounding the bull several times the final thing is that stab an entire knife right into its spine and then the animal slowly dies. It’s a bit odd to be in a stadium and watch a giant animal slowly die, but I did think that it was a worthy event…
The event consisted of 3 torreros and 6 bulls; each one gets 2 bulls. The gate is opened and the bull runs out into the ring where there are multiple guys attracting the bull with these huge pink curtains. After a while, two men come out of the gates on horses to spear the bull, which where the initial bloodshed begins. After this, the Torero takes 2 stickers and attracts the bull to him. While charging at the guy, the torero runs out of the way and sticks the bull mid stride, which is pretty impressive. One of the things I didn’t fully realize is that there is a long process of wounding the bull and, once it is much more bloody and injured, the Torrero begins to do his little performance. One of the guys actually fell backwards during his solo thing, and the bull had him pinned down. It was insane to watch because I immediately thought “this guy is toast.” However, the torero got up, tied a string above the wound on his leg, and went on to deliver probably the best performance of the night that got the audience pretty jazzed up. This is because the bull died immediately after the torero finished the bull with his knife, where as all the other ones involved the bulls taking a long time to die, which is pretty hard to watch, and a little discomforting.
Overall, I am glad that I experienced this part of Spanish culture because it is a very common event, and the toreros do work hard to put on a good show and earn the respect of the crowd. But the killing of the bull is anything but fun to watch, and actually kind of weird to see when it takes a lot longer to go down. My host mom absolutely hates them and has never even been to one, but some of my friends who went said that their host dads like them a lot, so maybe it’s just more a masculine event, not so much a good idea for a first date. I’m off to Munich this weekend for Oktoberfest… until then…. Hasta luego

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend in Madrid

This past weekend I got on a 5 hr. bus to Madrid for La Noche en Blanco to experience big city life in Spain and see my friend Tanner from Denison. The one thing we tried to do the most in Madrid was save money where we could, which explains the homemade turkey and cheese sandwiches that we inhaled in our hostel both nights before we went out. The first night was quite an experience going to club Kapital, which painfully cost us 18 euro just to get into. However, the club had something like 7 stories, all with a different theme and music, It was pretty unbelievable. During the day on Saturday a few people went to the Prado art museum and we saw some unbelievable paintings from Goya, El Greco, Frenando Velasquez, and Rafael. It was cool to see a lot of these works up close because I’ve seen / done projects on several of them in Spanish classes in the past. The second evening in Madrid was Noche en Blanco where the majority of streets were absolutely covered with people, literally building to building. The group we were with was rather large and a lot of the night consisted of attempting to find people which was a bummer, but overall a fun experience in the countries capital. However, I did walk away realizing that Granada is definitely a lot more fun and MUCH more inexpensive….I’m happy with my location choice still and am looking forward to my friend Tanner from Denison coming down with some friends this weekend so I can play tour guide and attempt to show off the NADA the best that I can. More to come!