Traversing Southern Spain

World travelers Kirsten Erwin, manager of image and design at Blue Nile, and Ricardo Kozuchowicz, senior finance manager at Microsoft, are often jetting off on envy-inducing adventures, from scuba diving in Malaysia to making homemade pasta in Brazil. Recently, the couple spent time in Granada, Sevilla, and Malaga — cities in southern Spain — where the culture is rich with dance, architecture, and good food. If Erwin’s name sounds familiar, that’s likely because she was the art director at 425 magazine and was with our company for seven years. We still love hearing about her adventures, and this trip is sure to inspire one of your own.

What sent you on this adventure?

I (Kirsten) studied in Granada in college and always love to go back. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. This was my fourth visit, and I love to see how the city changes over the years.

What airline did you fly, and where did you stay? 

First we flew from Seattle to Paris on Air France, then took small planes and buses within Europe. We stayed at a combination of Airbnbs and hotels.

What was most surprising about this adventure? 

Southern Spain is super-affordable, especially for Europe. The quality of food for the price is unreal — especially for wine; seafood; and jamón ibérico, a type of cured ham.

Can you tell us a little about the culture?  

The cost of living is still relatively low compared to the rest of Europe and, as a result, there is a bustling student population and a lot of artists, particularly in Granada. Things move slowly — businesses close each day from 2-5 for siesta. Lunch is big (around 2 p.m.), and dinner is late and small, usually tapas (small, savory bites, usually served at a bar).

If others go, what should they absolutely fit into their itinerary? 

The Alhambra is a must-see in Granada. The cathedral in Sevilla is one of the largest in the world. Throughout southern Spain, the tapas are amazing, and bar-hopping your way through a snack-y dinner is a must. Granada is the last city in Spain where tapas are still free as in the old tradition — order a drink, and a little treat will be brought to you.

What was the best thing about your trip?  

Food, wine, architecture, and flamenco music.

What else should we know?

Southern Spain was the last part of Spain to preserve Moorish and Jewish culture during the Spanish Reformation (a period of intolerance and violence toward non-Catholics led by King and Queen Fernando and Isabella). Muslim and Jewish culture, food, and architecture are preserved much more strongly in the south — you can see it in buildings and hear it in the mix of sounds in flamenco music. All these influences are what most of us think of as “classic” Spain.

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