A few highlights plus a look at the organization that hosted me
Continuing in my current tour of Spain with REAJ, I have finally arrived in the Community of Valencia. Reflecting over my last few weeks, my thoughts instantly drive me to some great experiences all over the beautiful region of Andalucia, also known as Al Andalus. Andalucia is the southern most region of Spain and is home to a very rich and vibrant history. A history that is well connected with Spain’s flourishing past. Andalucia is a true blend of cultures ranging from true Iberian, to Moorish, even to the gypsy and immigrant communities who have left their mark in the arts and music. One can witness this rich mixture in the food, music, and lifestyle of the people in the region.
As a way of recapturing my stay in Andalucia, I thought that it would be nice to share a few of the highlights of my trip as well as talk some about the organization Junta de Andalucia and the work that they do through their hostels.
One of the things that I really loved about these two cities was that I got to learn a few things about home. It might sound strange, but Louisiana, most particularly the city of New Orleans, has a lot in common with Spain. I did not know exactly what, but I got to see a few things in those two cities that reminded me somewhat of home. I don´t have the time in this article, but I´d really like to write an article connecting Spain to Louisiana to teach people about the connection that we have. Some of the main things that reminded me of New Orleans were the Plaza de España and the architecture of Córdoba.
I was also very impressed with the hospitality that I have found in all of Andalucia which started in Córdoba.
Marbella and Málaga
Marbella and Málaga were two beautiful coastal cities in Southern Spain. Marbella is a big touristy town which draws in a lot of ex-pats. It boasts a very long coastline with few people. The old town is great for those who would like to do some shopping and site-seeing. Málaga is a slightly larger city with a more local feel to it. It has some beaches also, but the city portion is much larger. In Málaga there is a Moorish castle, which is well-worth the visit. I enjoyed the hike!
Granada, or Graná in local-speak, is the pinnacle Andalucian city. No one can mention Andalucia without talking about Granada. Granada is a large city in the heart of Andalucia. It boasts some of the Moors most vibrant historical monuments such as the Alhambra, which is was one of the most incredible places that I have ever been to. Granada is beyond worth a visit. I enjoyed everything there even down to just walking the streets both at day and at night.
Almería was the last stop on my visit to Andalucia, but definitely a nice one. Almería is more than just a stereotypical beach town to me as I found it had more to offer than meets the eye. From its old town area where I enjoyed tapas with a friend to its Moor castle, even the beach, all was quite nice. Almería will be a good memory for me as I got to experience my first Noche de San Juan there!
A look at Junta de Andalucia
Well, as many of you know, the current trip that I am on is a continuation of the Big Blog Exchange through Hostelling International. Hostelling International is a world-wide organization with hostels in nearly 90 countries. Each country has an affiliate organization with Hostelling International, then each region typically has a presiding organization as well. For example, Spain’s organization is REAJ, which oversees all of Spain’s hostels which are with Hostelling International. Then, each region is overseen by a region. This may be somewhat confusing, but it is mainly because there are so many hostels affiliated with the organization that it is too difficult for one organization to oversee them all. Therefore, it is necessary for them to allow smaller more local organizations to govern themselves, as local typically knows best. That being said, the organization for Andalucia is called Junta de Andalucia.
Junta de Andalucia is an organization, which has an interesting place in the community. Like many of REAJ’s hostels in Spain, the organization has a partnership with the community. They do offer beds and accommodation to travelers, but also do a lot to support the local communities in Spain. As I have mentioned in other posts, there are a lot of interesting projects going on at the different albergues in the region. Due to the current state of the economy some of the programs have been ceased until further notice, but there are still some which have continued.
To give you an idea of some of the things that Junta de Andalucia does outside of provide accommodation here is a look:
A.) Rehearsal rooms and exhibitions – In several of the locations that I stayed, rooms for rehearsals and exhibitions enabled both locals and foreigners alike to both practice their skill set and then showcase it before a live audience. In Córdoba for example, there was a huge art exhibition room for all students of the arts ranging from artists to poet. They also provided scholarships for Spanish students to spend time in the city and practice their skills.
2.) Creativity and art – Another aspect which compliments the first is that they were places that could help to inspire creativity and art in the mind of the youth. There were rooms for working, as well as libraries, not to mention being located in some of Spain´s most incredible cities.
3.) Bringing opportunities for youth – Many of the opportunities such as exhibition halls, sports facilities, and scholarships brought opportunities to Spanish students that would otherwise not have the opportunity to practice.
4.) Language courses – Lastly, nearly all of the albergues offered language courses for beginners on up to advanced level courses. They offered travelers the opportunity to study a language in a Spanish city with the ability to actually practice the language. Something not just for Spaniards.
All in all, that is a brief overview of the organization that I was staying at as well as some of the things that they do in the community. Furthermore, I have been asked by some what kind of places I have been staying at, so I thought that I would put up some links to all of the Albergues that I stayed at in Andalucia. Here they are:
That is it for now, you can continue to follow this trip through Spain until August 8th, then I will be doing some more independent traveling and bringing you more stories and adventures from around the world!