On my first visit to Granada, I proudly proclaimed that "the city definitely warrants a second visit". A year later while touring Spain, I proved myself right. As often happens after you discover something great, when you experience it again and again, it seems to lose it's charm - it's never as good as the first time. An experiential desensitisation, if you will. However, it's definitely not so with Granada. Other than the 40 degree temperature difference from my previous visit, everything else was the same. The same ease of life lingered in the air, seducing you with every breath. The same levels of awe for what has remained from it's explosive history, juxtaposed with the repose of modernity.
When you're under the Andalusian sun, surrounded by so many gems waiting to be discovered, with Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, there is almost nothing that could make you feel any sort of tension. It's as if life itself in Granada is rose-tinted. I think it's now safe to say that it's one of my favourite cities to travel to and I look forward to these future visits. In the meantime, here are some snapshots from my brief return to a most magical place.
Wearing: Mango - Shirt // Acne Studios - Trousers // Gloria Ortiz - Hat // Bershka - Sneakers
As an illusory spring teases London with deceptively sun-drenched afternoons, it's only natural for me to yearn for those sultry days spent in the south of Spain last summer - wandering in earnest, trying different foods everyday and not having to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. It was an admittedly rushed trip and we found ourselves hopping from city to city like a butterfly with a voracious appetite. Seville was one of the places where I wish we could have spent more time in, not only to truly delve into its rich history but to explore its urban marvels as well. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be visiting again... but until then, here's a visual recollection of Sevilla.
Along the historic Madrid-Andalusia route lies this little blue gem of a town - a lapis lazuli, if you may. In the olden days, there were not many places travelers could stop for food and shelter on their journeys, but Puerto Lápice was one of them. Like those travelers, we too made a quick stop here for a meal as we left Madrid and began our tour of Andalusia and Toledo. Today, this quaint place is renowned not only for its striking cobalt accents on white buildings, but because of the fictional adventures of Don Quixote. Written in the 16th century by Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha is considered a founding work of Western literature. On one of Don Quixote's adventures, he was psuedo-knighted after he mistook an inn for a castle... And that inn is believed to be the Venta del Quijote, where we were having our breakfast and coffee.
In the three sweaty days spent in Madrid this summer, I came to the not-so-groundbreaking conclusion that I'm a city slicker. Always have been, always will be. Madrid lacked the usual features of a place I'd typically fall in love with, but I was drawn by the magnetic charm of a big city. And what a city, so unapologetically metropolitan. Characteristic of a capital, Madrid bustles at full force, vibrant with life, at any given time of day. And night. People who proclaim New York as the city that never sleeps perhaps have not seen the state of affairs along Gran Vía.
Whenever I'm in Madrid, I never feel displaced. I fit right into the hustle. It definitely does not feel like home either, but a strange familiarity looms overhead while, for example, I walk through Puerta del Sol, or indulge in some dessert and coffee at an industrially rustic cafe. Madrid is comfortable enough to make me forget I'm on vacation (I'm still unsure if that's a good or bad thing). My take is to not be afraid to let your instincts* guide you. The best way to experience this city is to get lost in her. Repeat after me, kids. Get. Lost.
Get lost in the history of her museums and galleries. Get lost in the beauty of her oases. Get lost in the elegance of her streets. Get lost in the intoxication of her food**. Take it slow and approach your holiday with no rigid agenda.
Except for San Ginés. The best chocolate y churros must always be on the agenda. Always. Thou shalt not resist.
Photo assistance - Claudia Naomi
Wearing: Zara - Shirt, jeans // Bershka - Shoes
* Hopefully it does a better job than mine, which left me in the middle of a political party's campaign, of which's official colours were coincidentally all over my shirt. But that's a whole other story for another day and time.
** While on the topic of being a glutton, make sure you visit Mercado de San Miguel on an empty stomach. You'll thank me for this after your nth gourmet tapas plate.
While ransacking folder after folder on my hard drive in pursuit of some self-portraits shot a while back, I stumbled upon photos from my 10 days spent in Spain. After gushing about the magic of Granada, I completely forgot to post about the remainder of the trip. These set of photos are from the historically rich city of Córdoba - the cultural heart of Andalucía. So I'm sharing these before I forget again, while you wait for more updates on Paris Fashion Week. Soon. I promise.
Córdoba was only meant to be a 24 hour stopover as I made my way to Madrid from Granada - little did I know how quickly I was about to be enchanted all over again. Completely unprepared and unaware of what to do in this city, I arrived by train under the shade of the stars. A strange sensation filled me as noticed the emptiness surrounding me on the streets, with the exception of the occasional fog rolling by. Being the clumsy character that I am, I struggled through narrow, cobblestoned streets with my trolley bag that clearly was made for far smoother surfaces. I reach my hotel and join the rest of the city's inhabitants in slumber.
The following morning I explored the vicinity on foot - a little bit of a habit I've developed while travelling. I pass gardens and plazas, still lush and green, giggling children chasing mariposas and horses waiting to begin their day's share of carriage-pulling. As I walked, the winter sun warmed my skin. But there was something about this light that was different. Filtering through branches, heavy with oranges, it scattered shadows in all directions and bathed the city in a dusty glow of gold - as though to acknowledge the antiquity of this once-great place.
Over a millennium ago, Córdoba was the most sophisticated place in Europe - ahead of great cities like Rome or Byzantium. As the capital of Islamic Spain, it boasted parks, palaces, schools, libraries and mosques. It was home not only to Muslims, but to those of the Christian and Jewish faiths as well - and they lived in harmony, albeit for a brief moment. Travellers of all sorts made their way to this Mecca of knowledge, adding to its stature as a melting pot of culture and creativity. Oil lamps lit up the streets at night, almost 700 years before the rest of Europe. For a twinkling flash in time, Córdoba flourished and glistened like a stream of liquid gold.
As María Rosa Menocal put it so eloquently, it was the ornament of the world.
Alas, in the face of hunger and greed for power, Córdoba's brilliance proved to be too fragile. Maybe it was just me, but I could feel the melancholy of the city's grim fate and the grief of the massacres. It lingered in the air, between shadows, like the bitter scent of orange blossoms.
If and when you do visit this city, I recommend some reading on medieval Spain (here and here) in order to greater appreciate your time there. And hopefully you'll make the smarter decision of staying longer than a day, unlike myself. There is so much more I've yet to explore, but hopefully time will bring me back there again. Here's a quick list of the things that I did get to experience and that I recommend you see or do.
1. Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba - Also famously known as La Mezquita, this church-turned-mosque-turned-church-again is reason enough to visit this city. The architecture, on a grand scale and in every minute detail, is simply breathtaking. You could do some extensive reading about this place before you visit. Or, if you're a little lazy and short on time like me, just rent one of those little audio-guide devices that speak into your ears as you explore the space. [Pictures 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 23]
2. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos - Another historical site, this severe-looking fortress features two towers, the Torre de los Leones and the Torre de Homenaje, from the tops of which you get a beautiful view of Córdoba. What you should really focus on when visiting, though, are the well-groomed gardens of fairytale proportions. I definitely need to make my way here again for some serious self-portrait action. [Pictures 1, 3, 8, 10, 14, 16, 19, 21]
3. Judería - Not exactly a specific place, but a neighbourhood. It's the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba, home to Jewish residents between the 10th and 15th centuries. Avoid the tourist-trap stores selling overpriced souvenirs and get lost in the narrow, winding roads. An ancient synagogue, tranquil courtyards, restaurants serving authentic tapas and so much more await you. [Pictures 4, 7, 24]
4. Salon de Té - Tired and cold, but still not ready to stop exploring, we wound up at the doorstep of this enchanting tea house. Nothing like some mint tea and Middle Eastern snacks after a long day on your feet. You'll find this little haven at Calle Buen Pastor n˚13. [Picture 15]
5. Guadalquivir - I'll be really honest - I'm a huge sucker for scenic sunsets, and I experienced a breathtaking one by the banks of the Guadalquivir river, on the Roman Bridge. It's the perfect spot for a breezy stroll and you'll find artisans and street performers along the bridge as well. [Picture 22]