Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Las Cruces de Mayo in Andalucía

At the beginning of May, Spain has a “Puente”, meaning bridge where the last or first days of the week are holidays for extended weekend travel. My roommate, Caitlin, our friend, Melissa and I decided to take a spin around the south of Spain in the hopes of finding good weather. Strangely enough, Madrid is still pretty chilly this time of year. Taking advantage of the train system, we mapped out our route through some of the major cities in Andalucía: Cordoba, Sevilla, Granada, and Malaga.  Unknownst to us, this was a very good week to travel in the southern region because of the cultural festival of “Las Cruces de Mayo”. The Red Crosses of May is exactly that; crosses of red flowers set up in the city squares with green and white tents serving beer and other beverages while playing what can only be assumed as traditional flamenco music. So basically, like so many other festivities it is an outdoor drinking party, aka  “Botellón” (but with long historical and cultural significance. I don't want to downplay these events. I just describe what I see...) It all feels very local, and plenty of people were out in Cordoba the first night we arrived, voting as to which cross was the best display (or maybe the best party). We spent the next day seeing the cathedral that was built on top of a Muslim mosque. The Christians built a Catholic cathedral right in the middle of the mosque, which they left standing, creating an interesting mix of cultures and religions inside. The walls are lined with row after row of red and white striped arches that are truly amazing. I will show you the pictures.

The Cordoba Mezquita
The Catholic part of the church inside the mosque
Cruces de Mayo in Cordoba
 Alcázar and Gardens, looks sort of like Eden, right?

From Cordoba, we continued on to Sevilla, the considered capital city of Andalucía. Sevilla has a very unique vibe, and it feels nothing at all like Madrid. The architecture and the vegetation are distinct. In Sevilla we could see the incredible gothic Cathedral (the 3rd largest church in the world) where Christopher Columbus is buried. We took a paseo by the bullfighting ring that runs along the river, spent the afternoon in the mindblowing royal gardens, and then stumbled upon what we mutually agreed might be the most impressive building in Spain: the Plaza de Espana. To describe this set-up?? Well have you seen the second of the new Star Wars movie? Remember that scene where Natalie Portman and Anakin were battling strange alien creatures in an arena? That arena was filmed at Sevilla’s Plaza de Espana. A semi-circle of connected buildings surrounds a mini-river where people can rent paddle boats to cruise under little bridges. On the buildings are tile murals of every major city in Spain. Definitely a must-see in Spain. One night we went to a flamenco show in some underground theatre. Lots of stomping and wrist-flicking. We’re so cultural.

View of the Cathedral from inside the The Giralda, the bell tower where we climbed 34 ramps to the top.

Sevilla's Royal GardensPlaza de España

   Malaga was rainy and mostly a disappointment. Having no beach days, we tried to see what there was so see, which was not much. But hey, I’m always up for checking out new Spanish cities, so no biggie.

Only pics I could find of Malaga...

But the most fun we had this trip was our stay in Granada. Not only did this city surprise me (I’d been twice before), but we met some super fun locals. Granada is intriguing because of its Moorish feel. We stayed near this cool part of town that was full of spice markets and tea shops. Then of course there’s the Alhambra, the massive Islamic fortress and palace. I’m assuming most people are somewhat familiar with this so I won’t go into detail, but see for yourself from the pictures. One memorable night we went to a happening Cruz de Mayo gathering and met some funny characters. Being in Spain long enough, we knew to buy wine and sprite on the way there, to mix our own spritzers at the party. With one cup between us, we were ready. Not long after arriving, 3 university guys approached us in typical fashion; asking us the time or where we were from or something like that. We struck up a conversation with them that lasted several hours wherein they told us the rich history of Granada and taught us how to “properly” flamenco dance (Ha. Ha.) They were quite entertaining and showed us foreigners a good time. Half the night I found myself thinking, “is this really my life right now? How lucky are we to have these kinds of experiences”. And it’s the truth. By being here a year, we get to see the sides of the country most people don’t and that is exactly why I moved abroad in the first place. J

The Alhambra

Making botellón with our new friends at The Cruces de Mayo in Granada.

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