Mistakes can be conversation starters. I learned that after I blurted out (in Spanish) that ‘It must be 14 degrees (Celsius) outside!’ to a Spanish tattoo artist in my hostel in Seville. She giggled a bit, and I laughed too once I realized my mistake (it was 40, or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that day). We both agreed that that would make more sense in the winter, and instead of fizzling out the way small-talk conversations do, she continued to let me practice. However, after showing me the Princess Mononoke “I hate humans!” tattoo on her forearm, she emphasized, in English lest I misunderstood, “I don’t actually hate anyone!” I can’t imagine anyone who loves Studio Ghibli films (and possessing a really pretty smile) hating anyone though.
Sevilla, full of brightly painted buildings lining narrow alleys in its old section, had my favorite palace, the Real Alcázar. While the city itself has few signs of its former Moorish inhabitants, the intricate plaster work, the brightly colored tiles, and the expansive gardens combine the best of all worlds into a single royal residence.
Córdoba, with its hilly lanes of white plastered houses, reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of Morocco. The Mezquita, a huge mosque turned cathedral, retains the warren of red and white double arches of its original design while expansions made over the centuries make it feel endless. I also enjoyed strolling around Mercado Victoria and sampling traditional Andalucían dishes.
Granada has the sneakiest old section since it gradually fades over several blocks into the modern city. Given that tickets to the Alhambra are notoriously difficult to obtain (needing a few days advance notice), I found it disappointing compared to similar sites in Zaragoza, Málaga, and Seville. Then again, my Alhambra ticket did not include the Nasarid Palace, arguably the most impressive part of the complex, so it’s a bit like complaining about a boring wedding after skipping the reception. The Mirador de Carmen, an accidental destination (the signage to the Alhambra was confusing), was much more enjoyable with its quiet atmosphere, docile birds (some fat ducks waddled right past me), and great views of the city.