Friday, June 25, 2010

If You Find Yourself in Granada...

Here are some travel tips to make your trip unforgettable!

1. Alhambra Alhmambra Alhambra
If you haven't toured the Alhambra, you haven't been to Granada- some people will go as far to say you haven't even been to Spain! It was originally a palace/fortress built by the Moors when they ruled Spain, then the Christian rulers used it after the Reconquering by the "Catholic Monarchs." It is the perfect representation of Spain's history, from the Moors to Catholicism. It's beautiful views and architecture are simply breathtaking. In my opinion, nothing in Spain tops the Alhambra.

2. El Mirador
This one is about the Alhambra. El Mirador is the lookout for a complete view of the Alhambra (see picture). The best time to go is at night when the Alhambra is all lit up and the city below is as well! Its beautiful, and its a treasured favorite among Granadans (sp??) as well. When we did our cultural interviews many said they loved to just go up to El Mirador and think or relax.

3. Flamenco
Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance that is really difference from anything I've seen in the States. It is a lot more passionate and almost angry. The woman is very fierce as she stomps her feet and raises her arms, and there is always a spanish guitar and a man singing to accompany her. In Granada, there is even a place where you can see one of the most authentic Flamenco performances - in a cave! You are literally right up close to the dancers, so it is an amazing experience!

4. Tapas
Tapas are kind of like appetizers. While some people go bar hopping, in Spain you can go tapas hopping. You go to different restaurants, mingle and socialize with everyone, order a drink, and they give you complementary tapas - they range from different potato variations to meat to little sandwiches. But beware, not every tapas restaurant will give you the tapas for free, and especially in touristy areas, they can really overcharge. However in Granada it is customary to not charge for the tapas- just the drink.

5. Paella
If you're in Spain, you just gotta do it. Even if you don't like paella. It's just too traditional, and in my opinion, you just can't go ALL THE WAY to Spain and NOT eat paella. It should seriously be a crime. Anyway, paella is a huge family dish with many variations. It's on a bed of rice and can be all seafood or with meat and vegetables. It is flowered with a special spice called azafran.

And those are my tips if you ever find yourself in Granada!

And that's my two cents.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It got Turbulent: Stuck in JFK

So you think that your trip and all the adventure is over once you arrive to the airport. That from there it's just long lines and sitting on planes for hours, but besides that: you're headed home.


From the beginning, our epic journey to TRY to please, Lord, just make it home was one event after another that you just have to look back on and laugh at.

It started off in the Granada airport where for some reason some of our boarding passes for our 3rd connection - JFK to Dulles, Washington DC - were not printing, as if we had not been booked for that flight.

Oh, JFK, if that were the only problem you had given me...

The best way to summarize what happened and every problem that arose after that was: it got turbulent (we even considered writing a rap!)

While we were landing into NYC, the plane was shaking and bouncing all over the place, and all of us were seriously worried we might crash. Once we are all waiting at the baggage claim, the Spanish airline Iberia informs the flight (only in Spanish) that they are having trouble opening the door to retrieve everyone's luggage because of the strong wind gusts.

"Give me a crowbar and I'll pop that bad boy wide open!" Pete responds jokingly.

Because Iberia was only giving their announcements in Spanish, it only increased the confusion, and tempers escalataed when they finally announced that it was "ABSOLUTEMENTE IMPOSIBLE" for them to get our luggage for us. Our entire team just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, but one guy, awesome New York accent and all yells, "This is America! Speak English!"

Oh,'s good to be home.

Also because of the inclement weather, and let me say, inclement seems like such a soft word to describe how bad the weather was, they cancelled our flight to DC. It was a stressful process to try to get us all booked on another flight to DC, and I applaud Pete for being able to keep his cool during this entire, crazy adventure of getting home.

THEN they kept cancelling our alternate flights to DC! It felt as if we were truly stuck in Terminal 4 of JFK: never to get out. The word "trapped" comes to mind.

So there we were, looking like a bunch of vagabonds, camped out in Terminal 4, sitting next to a Verizon in Spain ad nonetheless. But we tried to make the best of it. I was so proud of my team, it is definitely hard not to just be upset and complain during this whole situation, but instead they just found the humor in everything. Pete even had us perform our skits and the Cupid Shuffle for Terminal 4! We earned 27 cents! So now we're Terminal 4 of JFK at least.

After cancellation after cancellation, one of the moms of a student on our team generously offered to drive all the way from Northern Virginia to NYC to pick us up at JFK. We were so grateful!

I was finally on my way home to my family, and when my dad picked me up looking tired and a mess, he commented, "You look like you just came off the boat."

True. But I was home. With a whole new Spain experience under my belt and memories to last a lifetime.

And that's my two cents.