Smak Guide | Granada, Spain.

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no pasa nada en granada.

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Nestled at the point where the Sierra Nevada meet the plain is Granada, a city steeped in history and tradition that holds a special place in my heart. In the fall of 2008, I lived in Granada, Spain, while I studying at an international university. Coming from Libertyville, Illinois the adjustment to Spanish life was quite intense. A quick tour of the city and sites was not in the books - I had to adapt to the language, culture, and way of life. Don't worry though, it was not that difficult to live in the south of Spain. Upon my departure from Granada, I was torn between wanting to stay and wanting to go home. Throughout my time abroad I denied the fact that the city was becoming a second home to me and I had built relationships with people and made lasting memories around the city.

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Madrid. Barcelona. Sevilla. Granada. These major metropolitan cities span the country and offer very different viewpoints of Spanish culture. Granada has been long known for its deep roots in Spanish tradition - the sounds of flamenco echo throughout the streets and the people speak a Spanish that takes a while to completely understand. Spurred by the booming presence of international students, Granada has had to remain competitive in the tourist market.

The city offers a unique combination of architectural and cultural influences. For 250 years Granada was the capital of the Moorish kingdom. Evidence of this history can be seen throughout the city, but the crowning jewel sits atop a ridge, overlooking the city. The Alhambra and Generalife is a maze of royal palaces, gardens, and patios that are now open to the public. Over the years, the impressive complex has undergone extensive restoration, returning it to its former glory. The best view of this  fortress comes from across the Darro Valley, in the Albaicín neighborhood. There, from the Mirador de San Nicolás, you can see panoramic views of the Alhambra against the vast silhouette of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Amongst the narrow streets below lies buildings and cathedrals commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs. The juxtaposition of architectural styles makes for an undeniably beautiful city.

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Food. Food, food and more food! My biggest piece of advice for anyone who is looking to travel, whether to Granada or other destinations, is this: do not be afraid to try new cuisines and dishes that you may not normally eat. After all, isn't the point of traveling to experience a different culture and surrounding that you are not accustomed to? Food plays a huge part of shaping a culture and society. Everyday, in my humble opinion, must start at a small café on Plaza Bib-Rambla or Plaza Pescadería. With a glass of coffee, and perhaps churros con chocolate, you cannot go wrong. Forewarning: do not expect Starbucks when looking for coffee in Granada. There are none, and for good reason. The greatest aspect to the Granada food scene is the fact that the city has kept the custom of free tapas. Many a nights, I would finish classes and walk to a nearby restaurant or bar to buy a drink. These tapas range from manchengo cheese and jamón serrano to small portions of paella.

After filling up on drinks and tapas, a night in Granada wouldn't be complete without a little song and dance! For the most traditional of options - flamenco - go to Sacramonte, a neighborhood deep with Gypsy culture. This district is extraordinary, even without factoring in the appeal of flamenco. The streets wind along the hillside and are dotted with whitewashed cave dwellings. Enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the beautifully elaborate art of dance, music and dress.

No one article can ever do this city justice. There is simply too much to see, experience, eat, hear, and enjoy. For more information, go to your local bookstore to pick up a travel guide or browse the internet.