Granada, Part II

On Monday, the Porter’s group boarded a bus headed for the Sierra Nevada mountains. At the base of the mountains lies the city of Granada, which is also the Spanish word for pomegranate. The students did some reading on the history of the city, The Alhambra, and the Albaicín neighborhood to prepare for the trip. In this second of two posts, you’ll see more from them about the overnight excursion! Make sure to read the previous post for more information!

Carolyn N: Most of the buildings have a red tint to them.

The Generalife Palace was the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers and featured a slightly different style and look from the other palaces on the hillside. (photo: Carolyn N)

This may be one of the reasons the complex was originally called “La Alhambra,” which comes from an Arabic phrase meaning “the Red One.”

Julia T: There were ponds and pools of different shapes, beautiful fountains, and waterfalls. All of the beautiful water features add a unique look to the palaces.

Morgan M: After La Alhambra became part of the property of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, it was altered to better fit the rise of the Renaissance style. In the palace, you can still see the last remains of Islamic art and details of the European Renaissance era. The conversion into a more Renaissance style demonstrated the power of the Holy Roman Empire.

The palace of Carlos V or Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, was absolutely stunning in its construction and grandeur.

Sarah Z: The view looking down on El Albaicín was beautiful! The neighborhood has its own culture and is considered somewhat independent from the rest of the city. We left the Alhambra and walked through the medieval Moorish narrow streets single file as we climbed through the neighborhood.

The morning views of El Albaicîn were picture perfect from La Alhambra.

Bella A: La Alhambra is pictured here in front of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The photo was taken from El Abaicín. The exterior of La Alhambra appears plain, but the interior is filled with water, trees, flowers and other elements of nature, making it more colorful and lively.

It was a morning of beautiful views as we toured the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Granada. (photo: Bella A)

Granada, Part I

On Monday, the Porter’s group boarded a bus headed for the Sierra Nevada mountains. At the base of the mountains lies the city of Granada, which is also the Spanish word for pomegranate. The students did some reading on the history of the city, The Alhambra, and the Albaicín neighborhood to prepare for the trip. In the next two posts, you’ll see more from them about the overnight excursion!

Julia T: After the bus ride to Granada, our whole group checked in to the hotel and went out to dinner together. We all shared many laughs and enjoyed mostly American food for the first time in a while. That night, there was nothing that I wanted more than to go shopping in the city with my best friends, so we had a blast!

A mirror selfie of the whole group! Granada wasn’t ready. (photo: Julia T)

Caroline M: In Granada, we visited La Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The inhabitants changed throughout history, but in the late 14th century, the palace was the seat of the emirates during the last 250 years of the Nasrid empire. During their rule, Granada became one of the richest cities in medieval Europe. The founder of the dynasty’s lavish lifestyle was evident in many aspects of the palatial complex, from the intricate architecture to the breathtaking views at such high altitude.

We walked through endless hallways with windows cut out on both sides, providing many opportunities to enjoy the city’s scenery from a rare vantage point or to enjoy the fresh air from an enclosed patio. (photo: Caroline M)

Of the rooms we explored, some contained high ceilings with painstakingly carved decorations; others had arches and open ceilings that allowed for fresh air and a slight breeze. The castle’s riches, both material and visual, reflected Granada’s prosperity during its golden era.

Jess S: While walking through the Alhambra, I noticed the geometric art and design and was amazed by the colorful symmetry. Since these geometric patterns were everywhere around the Alhambra and the neighborhood, I figured they must have some religious and/or historical significance.

Aniconism is the word for the rule against images of people or other sentient beings in Islam. (photo: Jess S)

From research after the trip, I learned that the representation and depiction of people is discouraged in the hadith. Instead, artists and craftsmen created simple geometric patterns as art.

Yeda M: The tiles actually have scientific and mathematic significance. It was very surprising to me that the color in each tile was made of different materials. What a delicate construction! For example, iron was used for green tiles and tin was used for white tiles. Tiles were also created with other materials such as cobalt, manganese, copper, and lead, depending on the desired color. I was amazed when I realized the science, mathematics, and chemistry behind the construction.

Each ceiling and archway had a unique design, as captured here by Grace B.

Meg C: Granada was an Islamic city until the 15th century when it was surrendered to the Catholic rulers by Emir Muhammad XII, the last Muslim ruler in Iberia. When we visited, I noticed that on the walls there was a lot of Arabic writing.

Avery M: Most of the Islamic heritage of the site was covered up after La Reconquista and Islamic mosques were turned into Catholic churches. However, these carvings in the Alhambra show the true history of the palaces and other sites throughout Andalusia. (photo: Avery M)

After Granada was surrendered to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Moors still living in Granada were forced out, but the Arabic writing in La Alhambra reveals the true roots of the palace that even years of reconstruction couldn’t hide.


New Friends, Part II

Before our departure on Monday morning, the students went to the lower school at Laude and spent some time in classes with 2, 3, and 4 year olds! Here’s Julia T. on the experience:

“This morning our group had the chance to work with the little kids in the school. Jess and I worked with the 3 year olds! We helped them put their coats on, unpack their lunches, and then helped the teacher out around the classroom. Jess and I read a story to the class, and we also taught them a dance.

These moments were full of laughter and excitement, and it was one of my favorite moments yet!”

Weekend Fun, Part 4

Each of the students have shared a bit about their weekends. As we head to Granada on Monday and Tuesday, please enjoy the posts from the weekend!

Morgan M:

This Saturday, I spent time with Meg & Isa and Carolyn & Ana. In Jerez, we walked around the different shops and stopped to get churros and chocolate, which were excellent. During this trip to Jerez, I got closer with the Laude girls and bonded with Meg and Carolyn. I had an amazing night with all of them!

Morgan’s favorite part of town is the beach near her host family’s home. Walking along the beach is a regular occurrence.

Meg and Isa slept over and the next day we all had breakfast and watched cooking shows. Once they left, I went to lunch with Lucia and her mom. As we ate burgers, we talked about the differences between American and Spanish foods. I really enjoyed our afternoon together.

Caroline M:

Today, my host family and I explored Cádiz. We stopped at a local tetería (tea house).

Teterías are common in this part of Spain, where the culture is heavily influenced by its Arabic history and Islamic heritage.

The colorful walls were lit by small, intricate lamps, creating an intimate ambience. We sat on low, cushioned chairs around a round mosaic table.

The drinks were served in individual tea pots, and then Caroline and her host family poured the tea into even tinier cups.

Here, while sipping aromatic teas in the dimly lit, bohemian environment, I felt like I had been transported to a magical place.

Weekend Fun, Part 3

Each of the students have shared a bit about their weekends. As we head to Granada on Monday and Tuesday, please enjoy the posts from the weekend!

Avery M:

This weekend my host family and I went to a town in the mountains called Zahra, which was beautiful. We walked around the town for a while and had lunch at a place called Bar Josefi. We had deer meatballs as an appetizer, and I was a little nervous to try them, but they actually tasted really good!

Avery saw a rare endangered species of evergreen trees called the Spanish Fir or the abies pinsapo. The trees are only located in this mountainous area of Spain and northern Morocco. They are considered the Andalusian national tree.

We then went hiking to a castle in the area and the views were amazing. Driving around the mountains and looking down into neighboring towns was picture perfect!

Grace B:

One of the things I did with my host family this weekend was drive to Arcos de la Frontera.

As Grace walked around the town of Arcos, she was able to take in many panoramic views from the hillsides.

It is a beautiful town with an amazing view. There is a huge castle that I learned is over two hundred years older than the United States!

Julia T:

I was ready to take it easy by Friday, but my host family still made it such a fun night. I spent the night with my host mom’s friends, and we walked around Lebrija through the shops and churches, and sat at a cafe for churros with hot chocolate. They both got tea, not hot chocolate, and that’s when I found out they were also lactose intolerant! All 3 of us!

I slept in on Saturday and Carmen and I stayed in watching shows and eating lots of food until we headed to the Jerez mall with her parents! The sales, or rebajas, were crazy, and the mall was completely packed with people which made me enjoy the trip even more.

Carmen asked Julia to do a photo shoot and then then said that she wanted her to come back to visit this summer! Carmen’s parents captured the moment.

On Sunday, Carmen and I met up with one of her friends and we walked around Lebrija to take pictures and have fun. We then all came back to the house and ate paella with her family. I had a very enjoyable weekend and I got to meet new people and build a closer bond with Carmen!!


Weekend Fun, Part 2

Each of the students have shared a bit about their weekends. As we head to Granada on Monday and Tuesday, please enjoy the posts from the weekend!

Bella A:

This weekend I visited Vejer de la Frontera and Tarifa, where you can see Morocco from the top of a castle. The town of Tarifa contains the southernmost point in Europe and is known for its wind sports.

The winds and clouds did not obstruct the beautiful views from southern Cadiz.

Despite the weather, the view of Morocco was clear and very beautiful. There were hardly any people out at the time we visited, so it was nice to see everything without crowds, including several castles. It was a great excursion and I hope to go back eventually with my family.

Sarah Z:

After a busy week full of sightseeing, this weekend was very restful. Saturday morning my host family and I slept in late. When we woke up, we shared freshly cut fruit and orange juice. We watched some TV before my host sister’s tutor came to help her study.

Sarah took in the seaside views this weekend while her host student studied!

During our walk along the beach, I was able to enjoy the beautiful view while learning about the nature surrounding us. The dogs loved playing in the water and sand, of course! I enjoyed talking with my host parents, sharing stories, and getting some fresh air.

Jess S:

On Saturday my host family took me to Arcos de la Frontera, a small town on a cliff.

Jess’s host dad shared that Arcos was the very first “pueblo blanco” – white town. Every single building in the whole town is white because black paint absorbs the hot sun in the summer, while white paint does not, keeping the town cool.

We walked to the very top of the town where the Basílica Menor de Santa María de la Asunción looks out over the region. The building dates back to the 13th century. My host dad explained to me that it used to be a Muslim place of worship until a Christian church was built on top of it. The view was breathtaking. My host dad pointed out the Roman columns at building corners. It was so humbling to be surrounding by centuries worth of history and architecture.

Weekend Fun, Part 1

Each of the students have shared a bit about their weekends. As we head to Granada on Monday and Tuesday, please enjoy the posts from the weekend!

Meg C:

On Friday night, my host student, Isa, had a math class and needed to study for her finals, so my host mom asked me if I wanted to go take pictures at a concert. I wasn’t sure what she was really talking about, but I agreed. We walked over from the house to a concert hall where we found a hoard of 14 year old girls excitedly talking. My host mom explained to me that they were all there to see the winner of La Voz Kids, a boy named Jose María Ruiz.

La Voz Kids Season 2 winner, Jose Maria Ruiz, is now signed to Pep’s Music Group.

We met up with her friend and her daughters, and immediately walked downstairs to find Jose standing there! The girls and the moms took pictures with him, and we stayed for the concert after. Although I could barely hear him singing over all the screaming girls, it was a really fun bonding experience with my host mom.

On Saturday morning, my host mom woke me up to get churros for breakfast, which I will miss so so much when we leave!

After we ate, we walked around the center and went to a few museums to learn about Chiclana de la Frontera. She told me about the history of wine and salt in Chiclana and explained ancient artifacts to me. We also went to a market and bought a bunch of fish and vegetables. After a few hours of rest, we drove to their apartment by the beach for lunch. There, we made paella, which is a delicious Spanish dish.

Paella is a dish from the Valencia region of Spain and can be made with a variety of different add-ins. The color comes from the addition of saffron.

The one we made consisted of chicken, rice, and green beans. We also had mussels and chorizo. It was so good, and I’m really excited to make it at home (or at least try)! It had been raining for a while but the sun eventually came out just as we finished lunch, and we walked along the boardwalk. It was so beautiful and sunny, and it was great to bond with my host dad, as he works a lot so I don’t see him as often. Overall, this weekend was a great opportunity to bond with my host parents and learn more about where I’m staying!

Yeda M:

Maria’s family and I drove about two hours to Marbella, a beautiful coastal city that is famous for summer vacations (like the Hamptons, for example).

During the drive to Marbella, Maria’s mom pointed out various locations that surprised me, including Gibraltar. I could not believe I could see Gibraltar from the car windows so clearly! That was the moment that once more assured me that I’m at the very south of Spain, full of bright sunshine, despite abnormally colder weather this last week.

Visitors to Marbella can often find ongoing sand castle competitions.

The Golden Mile in Marbella includes Puerto Banús, which includes a luxury marina and shopping complex. Marbella faces the Mediterranean Sea and is part of the Costa del Sol, which is named for the yearlong sunny weather. Surprisingly, when we visited there was spontaneous rain in the early morning!

Walking around the beautiful coastline and having amazing conversation with María and her parents were great ways to spend the weekend.

For lunch, we went to a traditional and typical Spanish bar. It is very common in Spain to eat in bars, the same as eating in restaurants. Since Marbella is a coastal city that is well-known for seafood (and we all love seafood!), we ate different dishes of camarón (small shrimp in Spain). It was indeed very delicious and it was great to observe and be part of the energetic atmosphere.


Padel, or paddle, was our afternoon activity on Friday! From Paco, a professional player who also coaches part-time at Laude, students learned the fundamentals including serving and scoring. They then played each other in doubles!

A Day in Jerez

Our walking tour of the city center of Jerez was filled with lots of descriptions of history and historical buildings, as well as sunshine! Carolyn N shared this picture from one of the many plazas in the city.

On Friday morning, we were joined by Concha, an English and CAS teacher from Laude, on a tour of the city. She helped us understand more about the layers of history that shape the city, including former Muslim rule. Since students spent the first part of Friday learning more about Granada for our trip on Monday and Tuesday, it was a serendipitous overlap in history!

The fish market, or pescaderia, in Jerez was alive and well on Friday morning! Vendors sold a variety of seafood items, totally fresh from the ocean! Photo cred: Carolyn N.

One of the first stops was the fish market. As you’ve probably noticed from previous posts, we are right near the ocean! The seafood available in the market was as fresh as could be with all different varieties, from ones in shells to ones with fins.

The still living creatures at the fish market were a highlight for some and shock for others.

We continued on through the outdoor market areas to a few different churches/former mosques and areas where we could see flamenco on a weekend night. Though a lot of places are still closed from the New Year/Three Kings holiday season, it was cool to get a sense of the cultural sites in the city.

Here, we posed for a picture near a now defunct church, which was once a mosque in the Moorish period.

Bodegas Fundador!

After a tour of the city center of Jerez, we walked to Bodegas Fundador!

Porter’s girls smelled (not tasted!) the different varieties of brandy and sherry made by Grupo Emperador.

Here, bodega is translated to winery (not the same as the NYC meaning!). Jerez is in a region known for its sherry and brandy production. The bodega we visited produces two brands of sherry, Harvey and Terry, and one of brandy, called Fundador.

Carolyn N. shared this photo of La Mezquita room, which is named to reflect the Moorish influence in architecture. We will have a chance to see La Mezquita, which means mosque, in Cordoba next week on an excursion.

Spanish brandy, now renowned, was an accidental discovery in 1874. A Dutch company reached out to the winery, asking for a large shipment, which led to a distillation process gone wrong after the company did not send the agreed upon payment. The result, it turns out, was both potent and delicious and thus, the first Spanish brandy was made!

The rooms where the barrels are kept are naturally climatized, rather than air conditioned. Up to 40,000 barrels are kept in one of the buildings at Bodegas Fundador.

During our tour of the grounds, we entered several different rooms, including one called “La Mezquita” and one called “El Molino.” In each, the barrels were stacked in layers where each layer represents a different step in the aging process of the wines. The brandy and sherry are extracted using a specialized process; because no barrels are removed or completely emptied, there are barrels at the bodega that date back to the 1730s! Solera is named due to its level on the floor (el suelo) and is the level with the oldest liquid. The two criaderas above are slightly younger (middle) and the youngest (top) in the bodega.

We learned that the barrels are made of American oak painted to help with the processing and temperature control. If they spring a leak, a specialized resin is used to reseal a barrel.

We also learned about the yeast and oxidation processes they use to create different drinks with a range of alcohol content. At the end of the tour, we visited the on-site museum.

The pisadores, the traditional wine stomping employees of a bodega, wore specialized shoes to avoid destroying the grapes as they stomped.

Sherry production is the main industry in the city of Jerez. The soils and climate are well-suited to the specific type of grapes and export of the wines represents a major economic driver in the region. This area is also known as Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, representing the Spanish, French and English names for the drink and recalling the Arabic name for the city. As a way of protecting the local product, the name “sherry” can only be applied to wines of that type produced in this region. The D.O., or denominación de origen, is a protected status for products associated with a specific region in the country.

Though now the wines are produced with machines and steel, in the past, individuals stood in tons of grapes and stomped to extract the juices from the grapes. The wooden lagar, seen here, sits in the museum at the bodega to call back to days past.

The Domecq family who once owned the bodega is no longer in control, due to changing finances and global market conditions. Since 2015, a Philippine company called Grupo Emperador has controlled the brandy and sherry production.

A Porter’s connection! Caroline Kennedy, former US Ambassador and daughter of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis MPS ’47, visited the bodega in 1972 and signed one of the barrels.

Its owner, Andrew Tan, signed one of the barrels in the “celebrity room” of the bodega with the phrase “A New Era Begins.” Here, too, we can see the layering of time in this region of Spain.