GRANADA, SPAIN - La Alhambra
I had the privilege of first visiting Spain in college to study the Spanish language. During my time abroad, I lived here and studied at the University of Granada for the summer of 2016. On weekends, I visited surrounding cities and towns, but my favorite in the region is still by far Granada.
The city is fairly large, but nothing like Madrid or Barcelona. Although a very popular tourist destination, Granada still has such a small town feel. There is so much local history specific to the area that the people of this region are proud of. The old Moorish castles and village are like nothing else in Spain. The Middle-Eastern influence is seen everywhere - with the food, architecture, bazaars and music. Street-side shops and traditional bazaars sell fresh mint tea, spices, tapestries, lanterns and leather goods from Morocco and Northern Africa. My love for both the Mediterranean and the Middle East goes almost unparalleled... so to experience this fusion of coastal Spanish and North African cultures in Southern Spain is a dream.
I spent most of my time here (after morning classes and siesta hours) strolling the neighborhoods and testing every bar and cafe for the best sangria and tapas. A few of my favorite spots:
San Matias 30 - for the very best drinks, and trust me, I tested thoroughly. Like most other spot in Granada, it's a small location with a cozy atmosphere. There's certainly no cozier of cafes and bars throughout Spain than in this city. They specialize in gin and sangria here, with a fantastic mixologist and an array of pretty and tasty concoctions. 4 pm - 6 pm is happy hour and the drinks are 2 for $6. *Side note for the cocktail lover: alcohol and wine is cheaper than soda water in Spain - so you're in luck (but I would pay a good $18 for the drinks here)
Any restaurant near the Alhambra - there are about 5 at the top of the hill adjacent to the property. Each have a different vibe and varying price points, but they all have the same spectacular view over the palace and the city. For a more memorable evening, we would walk up to this area for drinks and tapas around golden hour and enjoy the view at sunset. These would also be a good pit-stop on the way down the hill after a couple hours touring the Alhambra in summer heat.
Some days, I ventured out with my camera to capture all the pretty little corners and alleyways that are truly endless. Some of the cutest neighborhoods:
- i dont know
- shopping area
The Alhambra is by far the most iconic sight in Granada and an incredible property. To get there, walking is the most economical and rewarding. The route takes you on a well-paved (moderately steep) road through a lush green forest area with hiking trails and hidden ruins for the more adventurous travelers. Water runs down the hill alongside the road with the old water system used by the palace. Tickets inside are timed and do sell out each day, so it is important to plan and book in advance. Once inside, the grounds are very "secret garden" with a touch of Spanish countryside.
SEVILLE, SPAIN - Birthplace of Flamenco
A weekend in Seville - romantic and relaxing during the summer, the perfect destination for a mid-afternoon glass of white wine under a cafe umbrella with the soundtrack of horse and carriage trotting across cobblestones and bursts of sound from flamenco dancers stomping and clapping in a nearby square. A city-wide desert oasis, I spent a short weekend in Seville enjoying the sunlight and sangria from yellow sandy plazas.
Rambagh Palace - nice hotel, but not nice enough for the price. The grounds looked dried up and neglected, service at the restaurants was mediocre and drinks in the courtyard were actually terrible. The scenery is nice with roaming peacocks and rose bushes, however, and the historical aspect of a real palace-turned hotel made it a cultural experience. I give it a 6/10.
Amer Fort - the trek to the fort was long with traffic and crowds. If you can get past the hour and a half route from central Jaipur and the lengthy uphill walk, the views are worthwhile. You can see and walk portions of the wall that spans 20 miles long (it is the third largest wall in the world!) We had lunch at the famed restaurant, 1135 AD, where photos of politicians, celebrities and cricket players who dined there were documented all over the walls. The food and service were amazing - I had the best champagne that actually cured my headache from walking in the heat.
Monkey Temple - we heard and read horror stories about the Monkey Temple. We decided we were brave enough to go anyway, despite the alarming reviews of filth, scams and aggression. In our experience, however, the temple was so much fun. The property is dirty, of course, (with hundreds of monkeys taken over) but not so dirty to ruin the experience. The monkeys were absolutely hilarious, and we spent all our time recording them. These monkeys were definitely showing off for the camera. A local boy did demand about $3 from us to enter with our cameras and phones, which we're sure was a scam, but it wasn't worth a fight and for only a couple of dollars we gave him the money and didn't have any other issues.
City Palace - unlike in Udaipur, this palace is still inhabited by the prince, and is a true show of opulence and Indian interior design. We chose to pay for the private tour of the interior, including Chhavhi Niwas (the Blue Room), which was well worth the extra cost. We arrived when it opened at 9:00 am to beat the crowds, something that I always do while traveling. This allows for the best photos without crowds of people, cooler weather in the summer and enough time to do more relaxing non-touristy things the remainder of the day. We ate at Baradari, a modern oasis-style restaurant inside the palace with incredible Italian food and cocktails.
PREPARING FOR INDIA
India may be the furthest possible destination for some (like me) halfway across the world. Budgeting for airfare is probably the most important, although there are significantly cheaper airlines now offering roundtrip flights as low as $400 if you time it right. Beyond airfare, hotels are moderately priced and daily expenses like food, cabs and tuk tuks are quite cheap. Doing the research to create a rough itinerary for airfare, stays, food and other travel (even if it's based on average prices vs. actual bookings) is the best way to prepare and budget for a trip. Once you have those numbers in mind, the hard part is making sure you stick to them!
Eat at the best restaurants and hotels. Even if you can't afford the rooms, you can afford the food and the dining experiences are incomparable.
Narain Niwas Palace
Visit in September - November. The late monsoon season has fair weather, green countryside and off-peak season prices.
City of Amer
Outside Jaipur, India
Also: Garlic butter naan > everything
Eight weeks in Southern Spain honestly isn't enough time to enjoy enough salty tapas, cinammon apple sangria and the slow Spanish lifestyle. Lucky enough to spend a summer in this country soaking it in...