My A-Z of Granada

So, in honor of leaving tomorrow, I have made an A-Z  list of the bests to see and do in this city that I have called home for 3 1/2 months. Most visitors concentrate solely on the magnificent Alhambra, but if you explore further, you’ll find Andalucia’s hippest, most youthful city, with a “tapas gratiz” culture, that now has a piece of my heart. Some of this list includes places I have gone, things I have done, and highlights from this semester.

Alhambra- Beautiful and a must see when in Granada. The palace, the gardens, the history; it is all beautiful.

Baños de Japoneses. My roommate and I went here one night for a girl’s evening. We caught up on life and relaxed in the baths and hot tea. Oh and we got a massage.

Centro de Lenguas Moderno: my building that I have studied at through the University of Granada. Spent some good time in this building, sometimes even 6 hours a time.

Dancing- Flamenco dance originated from Andalucía I even had the opportunity to go to a show up in the caves with my program.

Elephants! My favorite animal and you can get almost any elephant souvenir you could ever want here! I may have bought a blanket, scarf, and pants with elephants on them.

Futból  Café futból is a classic café for chocolate and churros and with the free wifi it is a great place to meet up with friends. It is a café that both the tourists and the locals love.  Futból is a popular sport through out Spain,  I made it to a futból game with my program and it is an experience you don’t want to miss.

General Life Gardens in the Alhambra. The garden attached to the Alhambra is beautiful. We went here during our first week in Granada and in these gardens I bonded with many girls in my program and even had a photo shoot.

H&M yes, I know that we have this in the states, but how can you resist the 4 story H&M on your walk to class every morning.

Italianos  The best gelato you will ever taste, even Michelle Obama says so. And for only 1 euro what could be better than that! You have to be careful though because it closes from October until the spring. But my wallet was grateful.

Justín- my first Spanish movie I went to. This animation was written and designed in Granada. During my time here I went to quiet a few movies and they helped with my Spanish comprehension. My new favorite movie in Spanish is Frozen: el reino del hielo.

Kilometers of coastline. Granada is home to the mountains and the beaches. Enjoy some time at the Mediterranean Beach. Salobreña was my favorite beach, but Alemuñeca is good too.

Llano de la Perdiz- One of my favorite hikes in Granada. You can see the Sierra Nevada on one side and the city on the other. One morning I woke up early with two friends to hike it so we could watch the sunrise. It was totally worth it even though we got lost on the way down.

Mayerling- possibly my favorite café to study at with friends. My classic order was a café con leche.

Nightlife As a University city the nightlife is pretty great. Most people go out for tapas and then to the discotecas (camborio, an outdoor club overlooking the Alhambra, or GranadaDiez, very classy, were my two favorites) As most Americans leave a club around 2, most of these clubs don’t open until 2. I have learned that the stereotype that Spainards stay out until dawn is true.

Olive oil tasting: Our program went to Olvia to taste olive oil after an interesting class about the culture and how olive oil is made. It was so good and I had no idea there were over 200 varieties of olives. Well Alicia and I loved it so much that last week we went back to do the olive oil tasting and this time it included tasting Granada wines!

Parque Federico García Lorca. A beautiful park close to my apartment and is great for running in.

Quindici: one of the many Italian words I have learned in my Italian class this semester.
Río Genil, go on a beautiful run along the river or grab a book and find a bench.

Sierra Nevada. Just a short bus ride away.  Go trekking or skiing in the Sierra Nevadas overlooking the city.

Tapas. Granada is home of the free tapas. For every drink you buy, you get a free appetizer.

Unique geography. In the province of Granada you can ski at Sierra Nevada in the morning and drive 40 minutes to the coast to swim in the sea on the sameday. The amazing variety of climate makes for a fun place to live in.

Vegan cafe. Hicuri Art Vegan Restaurant and Café. It is the perfect spot for some café con leche de almendras (almond milk). I found it a little later in the semester than I would have liked, but it is brand new it opened just 3 months ago and the perfect place for breakfast or studying during classes.

Window shopping on Recogidas- who doesn’t love window shopping on your walk to school every morning.

Xcellent sunrise at a la Mirador de San Nicolas. Breathtaking views of La Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada  or as my professor would say “sexy sexy bomb” view. A perfect place for a picnic and a sunset, according to Bill Clinton.

You should come visit at Christmas Time! There are lights all around the city and it is beautiful at night, not to mention all the Christmas markets throughout the city.

Zakuro an amazing Japanese restaurant along río darro, because where else can you get fresh sushi and a tinto de verano.



The first of the Lasts

Today I leave for my last big trip. I am going to Norway with friends from my program. After this trip, the next time I get on an airplane it will be to come home.

It is weird to me that this is my last trip. Dreaming, planning, organizing, traveling, and taking endless photos has become a part of my life this semester. It is hard to tell myself that it isn’t normal to take off a weekend to travel around Spain, let alone a different country. But this was a big part of who I was this semester and through it was able to find my independence and use my planning, navigating and budgeting skills to the max. It also taught me how to go with the flow, get lost, and try new things that ended up making  me stronger as a person. I have learned that I can fly to a city with only 5 things on my list and have more fun than a list of 20 things.

I have loved each one of my trips so much and each one brought me joy in a unique way and taught me so much. I am sad that I have to start ending this chapter. The chapter of traveling and cultures. But after this semester I know that there are more chapters of traveling to come.

So for now I am off to Norway to enjoy a weekend in Bergen with a great friend. Did I mention that Bergen is home to the world’s largest Gingerbread CITY?!?!

A Thankful Heart

So as many of you know I am living in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Although as I think back to it, as a family we never did the same thing every Thanksgiving. We sometimes went to Las Vegas to see my paternal grandparents, other times we went to Southern California to visit my maternal family, and sometimes we did the “deadly triangle” where we did both in one weekend. My favorite Thanksgivings that I can remember have been the most recent ones: progressive dinner with the neighbors and renting out a house on Hermosa beach with family. I don’t know if it was my favorite because I don’t live at home anymore and Thanksgiving brought me to my family or if it was because we spiced things up and did something different. I think it is a mixture of both.

IMG_2246This Thanksgiving is different as well. I am living in a country that doesn’t celebrate this holiday. I had school today. And homework. There will be no cranberries, turkey or mashed potatoes. However, I will be celebrating thanksgiving with my “new” Spain family tonight by going out to Mexican food. It brings me back to last Thanksgiving where I ate the best Mexican food at Hermosa beach with my parents, aunt and uncle, and two great friends.

Despite the craziness of Thanksgiving, we always held onto one Tradition. We would go around and say what we are thankful for. Although I am almost 6,00o miles away from home, I realized I can still hold onto this Thanksgiving Tradition:

I am grateful for so much that words cannot express my joy.

I am thankful for a God that loves and cherishes me even when I mess up. I am thankful for the strength that he gives me each day to face new challenges.

I am thankful for a family that loves me who for I am.

I am thankful for my mom who always knows what to say to brighten my day.

I am thankful for my father that has taught me to be a hard worker, but also how to laugh at my mistakes.

I am thankful for my sister. She is one of the most caring, loving, and thoughtful sisters. I love how she shows her love for me constantly through her letters, emails and skype dates.

I am thankful for friends that I can laugh and cry with. Friends that I can share life with. Friends that grab a coffee with me and two hours later we are laughing sipping on our third cup.

I am thankful for my mentors who have helped shaped me into the women I am today through advice and sharing the love of Christ.

I am thankful for the little things in life that give me joy, like a letter from a friend in the mail, peanut butter, the smell of coffee brewing, and seeing the leaves change colors.

I am thankful for the constant but also for change. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be in Spain and travel around Europe.

I am thankful for a roommate that travels with me, listens to me, and always has a story for me.

I am thankful for this spiced chai I am sipping on as I write this post from a friend who sent it to me from 5,000 miles away.

I am thankful for the life I have been given.

In a weird way I am even thankful that I can’t be with those I love this Thanksgiving because it shows me just how much I love and appreciate the people in my life and how hard life is without them by my side.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Relaxing Weekend

I decided to stay in Granada this weekend and relax since I have had a very busy past couple of weekends: Madrid, Scotland, and Córdoba. And I have some more trips coming up in the weekends to come: Italy, Sierra Nevada, and possibly a trip to Portugal.

It was a great weekend. On Thursday evening I  saw the most beautiful sunset at the Mirador de San Nicholas in the Albaicín.  Then I went out to Tapas with friends.


On Friday Alicia, Christian, and I woke up early to go hiking and watch the sunrise. (Because there are so many mountains on the outskirts of Granada, you have to hike up the mountains to see a Sun Rise) It was on Alicia’s bucket list to see a sunrise and sunset in the same day, but we decided to do it the Spanish way and do sunset to sunrise. The sunrise was beautiful, however it was freezing and windy.


Photo Credit: Alicia Huegel

The way down was an adventure, we decided to go down a different way on the opposite side of the Alhambra. We may have crossed on some private property and included a 14 foot drop to the street. But we successfully got back without any injuries. 

After a great Spanish siesta, I went to a tetería to get tea with a Spanish friend. We discussed everything from our families, to our favorite bars in Granada, to our Christmas traditions, to the differences of higher education in our countries over a nice cup of tea. I ordered “un té negro con leche” and it tasted similar to a chai, so I was very content.  

Alicia and I spent our Saturday morning the way you always should. We woke up went shopping on Recogidas and grabbed some churros and chocolate for a morning snack. After lunch I worked on homework and that night Alicia and I went to the Japanese Baths in Granada.Two hours of girl talk and relaxing in the cold and hot baths while sipping on tea was the perfect way to end the evening. Did I mention it came with a 20 minute massage. Let’s just say I slept well last night. 

This morning was a perfect way to end the weekend. I watched my church’s sermon online in my bed and finished my homework before lunch. Now I am sitting in my family room with my host mom watching La Búsqueda (National Treasure).

This weekend has been an accurate picture of all that my city has to offer. Now after a relaxing weekend I am ready to head to Rome on Wednesday and see the Pope and make a wish in the Trevi Fountain.

Officially Fall

The season has changed! Fall is in full swing in Granada. From wearing shorts and a T-shirt almost everyday, it is now acceptable for me to bring out my favorite seaters and boots. Last night I walked out of my class to pouring rain! At first I was excited because rain was my favorite season, but then I realized that I was unprepared: I had a laptop in my backpack and toms on my feet. Needless to say I ran home barefoot to protect my TOMS and may have slipped a couple times on the marble sidewalk.

It is crazy to believe that I have been here long enough to watch the days go from 90 degrees to 60 degrees. I have been in Europe for almost 2 months! It has gone by so fast, but I have been enjoying every minute I have had here. I won’t lie I am sad that fall begins so late here and it isn’t as beautiful as it is in Iowa or California. And I will miss the leaves changing, the apple cider, and pumpkin spiced lattes.  However, Granada has it’s own beauty to me! And luckily fall comes every year.

Hola. Ciao. Hello.

Buenos días!

Wow has time gone fast. I have already been in Granada for over a month and I have finished 2 weeks of classes already!

While in Granada, I am studying at the CLM (centro lenguas modernas) through the University of Granada.  I am studying with students from all over the world and all of my classes are taught in Spanish. During my 2 weeks of class I have learned so much.

  1. 2 hour classes are long. They make my 50 minute classes back at Central seem like nothing. Except most professors give a 15 minute café break halfway through and that really helps
  2. The textbooks are cheaper in Spain. Most professors write their own textbook and photocopy it and put it in a notebook and sell it for 5 euros. How great is that.!
  3. So, my professor told me that my group has to give a presentation pequeño next Monday in class. Apparently, pequeño means a 1 hour presentation. Not to mention this all has to be in Spanish!!! So please be praying for me.
  4. As I mentioned before all the classes are in Spanish. It’s still mind-blowing to me that I’m learning in Spanish material other than Spanish grammar, but amazingly I’m actually understanding more than I thought I would.
  5. It is a good day when the CLM coffee machine decides to offer café gratiz all day. I may have had 6 cups that day.
  6. No classes on Friday. Three day weekends are great and perfect for traveling.

I’m taking an Italian class while here. I know kind of ironic that I’m studying a third language while in Spain. But I’ve always wanted to take Italian so why not start now. It is actually really fun, since it’s beginning Italian. We spent the first day learning the phonetics,  by saying spaghetti, Lamborghini, capucchino, and bicicletta with an Italian accent and excessive hand motions.

But it is also really challenging. My Italian class is taught in almost all Italian and a little Spanish. Half of my classmates are from the U.S. and the others are adults from Spain. There is no room for my mind to speak in English, so I’m learning my third language with my second language.

Through this class I’m also learning a lot about Spaniards. Spaniards don’t tend to like things different from their way, including their language. It was so funny when my Italian teacher explained that there was only one Italian verb for the verb ser and estar in Spanish. They didn’t like that idea and wanted a second verb.  Although this class gets confusing sometimes, (more like all the time) it is also helping my Spanish and learning more about the Spanish language from the Spaniards point of view.

Well, I’m off to a nice three day weekend in Granada. Until next time.


La Alhambra


La Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex that is locatedin my city, Granada. It is located on a strategic point, with a view of the whole city. Also making it a beautiful place to visit with some great views.


On of the many fun things that comes along with my orientation is a tour of La Alhambra.  One of our professors, Aurelio, gave us the tour in Spanish. It is crazy to think that I am getting to the point where I can understand a tour of a huge fortress in a second language. I will do my best to show you La Alhambra, however first the pictures will not do it justice. It is so beautiful and is a must for all who visit Granada. Second, remember I was given the tour in Spanish so I might have misunderstood some parts of the tour.1231585_10151873395624063_1310882992_n

Our tour guide Aurelio Photo credit: Marissa

We started our tour at a side entrance, la puerta de justicia. There is a hand on the arc of the door that represents the 5 obligations of Islam.


We entered into the military area of the city, where we saw the foundation of what used to be the living quarters, and where they kept their food, water, and prisoners.1234731_10151873454134063_1031502331_n


view from La Alhambra looking over Granada

Then we headed to the palace. The palace was decorated with great detail and fun patterns much like the one below. 

After the tour, many of us stayed to have lunch inthe beautiful gardens, followed by a fun photo shoot.



Then we walked down the hill to Los Italianos, my new favorite gelato in all of Granada and a must go to when visiting this beautiful  city. Speaking of Los Italianos, I am now heading there to get one last ice cream with my roommate before we head to Morocco (we are taking a ferry to Africa, but don’t worry you will hear more in my next post). We just finished our placement exam, and decided that it is our celebration treat.


Put this in just for giggles, it is our tour guide and professor Aurelio. (He kind of has a crush on me so we took this picture just for fun)


La Semana Primera

I have been in Spain for exactly a week. It has been a crazy, inspiring, hard, chaotic, and relaxing week.

After a hectic week, some of my new friends and I were able to relax at Salobreña beach, about an hour south of Granada. The day was spent laughing, tanning (more like burning), exploring, and just enjoy conversations and company. While at the beach I had some great time to just sit and reflect over the past week.Beach

Last Sunday, orientation started and I felt like an anxious freshman.  I had feelings of uncertainty. I was unsure of my roommate, host family and if I would make friends. I quickly found out that Alicia and I were roommates and we met our new host mommy, Ana.  Though Ana is like another grandmother for me, she can be the life of the party. On Saturday night when we went to bed, she was still out. I found out that she is the same host mother that many of my friends had in the past, including my friends Patsy and Justine. She makes yummy food, my favorite is her paella, and tells us about all the best places in Granada. I am so thankful for my roommate and host family.

I met up with some friends for tapas on Sunday evening and Alicia and I found a beautiful park, Parque de Francis Garcia Lorca, which is close and is a great park for running. I also think its gonna be the perfect park for morning devotions. While running there, we have met a lot of other Americans who are studying abroad in this city.

On Monday, we officially started orientation learning about the culture and geography of Granada as well as taking a Spanish placement test. Veronica, our program director, is absolutely fabulous. She knows how to make us all laugh, and is teaching us so much.  This week we got to go on excursions around the city, the Hammon, Albaycin, and La Alhambra (more details to come).


My Program at Albaycin

We also started our review classes. I placed in Level 4 with 6 other girls. We have so much fun in that class and are learning so much. It is amazing how much different Spaniards teach, but they are teaching us so many cultural things about the language that my U.S. teachers were never able to teach me. I though that having Spanish class for three hours each evening would be hard, however my group knows how to make it enjoyable. Hopefully by the end of our review classes I can place in level 5.

Each day I am falling more and more in love with this beautiful city. It is a big city, but is small enough that you can walk to almost everything. It is a modern city, but has thousand of years of culture. It is a Spanish city, but full of Islamic studies. This summer my goal was to hit all the cities & counties on my bucket list during this semester. However, Veronica’s advice to us for every 1 week/weekend of international travel we should spend 1 week traveling within Spain and 1 week in Granada. As I am falling in love with this city, I understand her advice. Don’t get me wrong I am excited to travel, but I am more excited to explore my new city and my new country. One of my top goals this semester is to learn and experience the culture of Granada, including going to the Arabic baths and taking a Flamenco dance class, and finding my favorite café and becoming a regular there. Alicia and I have already found our favorite heladería, Los Italianos, and recommendit to any one we meet.


Well it’s bed time here and ready to start another week. Hasta Luego.