Editor’s note: You’ve stumbled upon our new column, Gauchos Abroad. Each week, a different student studying abroad in a different country will have a column sharing their worldly experiences. Olé!
Granada. A city that parties all night, loves its ham and smokes more cigarettes than there are stars in the sky. What is a current vegetarian, former RA and active, health-nut tri-athlete doing in this city? Taking an aventura — an adventure — and hoping that there are vegetables that will accompany his ham meal.
And so far, with a little adaptation, I have been having a blast in Spain. For instance, Spaniards give the expression “staying out late” a whole new meaning. On the triathlon team last year, a “late night” meant 11:00 p.m., and a really late night meant 12:00 a.m. Here in Spain, though, people do not even leave to go out until the clock strikes midnight–and then they stay out until past sunrise. So my first weekend here, I tried that. I left close to midnight with a group of friends, went to different Tapa — bars — where one gets a free meal with every drink, I danced the night away at a club and returned after sunrise. The problem was, I woke up close to sundown and still had to go for a run. So that old saying of “everything in moderation” holds true for partying like a Spaniard as well. I no longer get up at 6:30 a.m., but push it to 8 a.m., and therefore can stay out later as well — and still get up to run way before sundown.
Then there is the whole ham thing. Spaniards love their ham. In fact, they even have an expression when someone looks nicer than usual — estar jamón — to be ham, to look hot. So, I decided that instead of eating ham, I could at least use the expression to describe others and not have to give up my vegetarianism. And there are tons of fruit trees all over Granada that balance out the ham addiction. On one of our first excursions, we went hiking in Bohorros, 15 minutes outside of Granada. Along with the majestic Grand Canyon look-alike rocks, there were also wild fig trees and blackberry bushes being weighed down with produce. So I decided to single-handedly (or mouthedly, for that matter), eat as much as I could and help those poor plants out. A stained black shirt, 20 figs and a slight stomachache later, I learned that even fabulous fruit should be eaten in moderation.
And then there are the cigarettes — Spaniards smoke a lot — but there are also beaches, monuments and not every place has cigarette smoke. Granada is in a wonderful location being an hour from the mountains and an hour from the Mediterranean Sea, so catching some really fresh air is practical. The local beach to which we travel, Salobreña, has four-story high cliffs that peer out over the sea and make nature’s best diving board.
Also in Granada is the Alhambra. With its intricate designs and flowing water fountains, it is a sight to behold — especially on my runs when it is glowing red with the sunrise. And best of all, Granada is a student town.
The population in Granada goes through a Santa Barbara Halloween-like change from the hot sticky days of August when everyone is on vacation to the vibrant buzz of September and October. I live in a neighborhood called Plaza de Toros, which literally translates to “a plaza of bullfighting.” In the center of the neighborhood, there is an old bullfighting ring and circling it are apartments full of college students and Tapas. There are always people about, and the carefree lifestyle is contagious.
So I am learning to stay out a little later and relax a bit more — just as long as it works with my training for a half marathon in Granada, and I can feel jamón without having to eat it.