Sacromonte: the Mecca for Flamenco

sacromonte

Sacromonte, which is actually known as Sacramonte by those who live in the area, is a famous neighborhood in Granada whose most important characteristics are the cave houses you can find there. The real origin of these caves is not clear, but they are definitely there and have served as homes to inhabitants since the 16th century, coinciding with the expulsion of the Muslims and Jews from Spain, a population that subsequently united the nomadic gypsies who arrived in Granada.

This ethnic variety is still clear to see today. Flamenco was a highly developed art form in Sacromonte, more than anything because of the gypsies, where improvised parties were common, along with the impulse toward new artistic currents which attracted bohemians and those interested in art in general.

Today, Sacromonte still has its reputation as the “Mecca for flamenco,” even if the parties for fans and followers of flamenco are less frequent, since it is now more common for shows to be put on for tourists in the city in order to make money, than to have a traditional flamenco party with fans who come to the caves to enjoy a night of rhythm.

Even so, it is still possible to enjoy the best flamenco in the caves of Sacromonte. Some, like the Cueva de la Rocío have adapted to the times and offer the music and dance show along with a dinner menu so that visitors can spend a complete, enjoyable evening there.

The Cuevas los Tarantes is another location in Sacromonte where visitors can enjoy food and gypsy shows like flamenco. However, as many tourist experiences have shown, these places are much more expert in dance than in food. So it’s a good idea to go to the city center to enjoy better quality, traditional food from Granada.

Furthermore, the fame of the caves of Sacromonte is adapting to new times. There are now some that are also hotels that cater to tourists who want to live the flamenco experience from the inside out, spending a few days alongside their neighbors.

Those who have the opportunity can also take flamenco classes which are given in many of the caves in Sacromonte. The most outstanding students even get to perform at parties with a big turnout.

Mallorca is the Best Place to Live in the World

mallorca-sea

2015 has been a noteworthy year for the Balearic Island of Mallorca (Spain), since it was officially considered, the best place to live in the world by the publication The Times. It certainly has enviable weather, an exquisite quality of life and many cultural and leisure activities that make it a preferred tourist destination for people from around the world. But is it good enough to want to live there year-round? We’ll take a look at the five main reasons why Mallorca is the best place to live in the world.

Based on the analysis completed by The Times for considering Mallorca the best place to live in the world, the first thing to take into consideration is the climate. The average temperature on the island is 65ºF; with an average low of 46ºF and on very few occasions it drops below 41ºF. Or in other words, it has a mild climate all year, with highs in the summer that don’t exceed 86ºF except on hot Mediterranean days. This allows for very agreeable visits at any time of year, without the dreaded cold winters of other coastal areas, or the suffocating, hot summers of some of the other most famous tourist destinations.

Another one of the most important characteristics according to The Times is its international connectedness. It is important to take transportation into consideration when looking for a new place to live, and the Palma de Mallorca Airport connects the island with a large number of countries year-round. This means that both receiving visitors as well as traveling to other destinations is cheaper and easier than in other places in the world; something to take into consideration, most of all on an island where mobility is a vital factor.

The diverse social atmosphere is another aspect of Mallorca that stands out. Almost half a million people live on the island and the expat community, far from being mere visitors, has established itself.  With stores and businesses of their own they have grown both the economy and the cosmopolitan diversity of the island.

We should also value the island’s historic center which is just as impressive as those in other Spanish and Mediterranean cities. Its history has been perfectly conserved since the 13th century. Although they display more recent history, it is also recommendable to see fishing areas with architecture that is typical of Mallorca, and exclusive to this area of the world.

Finally, Mallorca stands out for its cultural character. Because people from so many different places visit the island, the multicultural influence there is like no other in the world. This fact has made Mallorca an international place of interest for art without precedent. Museums, art exhibitions, theater, concerts… There are cultural activities to highlight on Mallorca almost every day of the year, making the island an irresistible place of interest for art lovers in general.

The Machu Picchu You Haven’t Seen

macchu-pichu

The lost city of the Incas, the mysterious and emblematic Machu Picchu (Peru) attracts millions of visitors every year. Some are history buffs, some are adventure seekers, many are looking for inspiration. Because of this we have chosen a few interesting facts that will grab your attention for sure.

1. The city was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors. A testament to this fact is that there are no references to Machu Picchu in accounts from the time.

2. The mysterious ritual stone Intihuatana, may be a sophisticated sundial…  But it was almost destroyed when a crane fell on it while filming a beer commercial!

3. The city was not only inhabited by the Incas, remains belonging to inhabitants of villages on the shores of Lake Titicaca more than 300 kilometers away were also found in the city!

4. Why did the Incas abandon Machu Picchu in the 16th century? There are a few different theories… It could have been because they interpreted divine signs telling them to do so, or because of a dispute between King Viracocha and his son Pachacuti, or the fight between the Incas and the Antis (inhabitants of the Amazon Region)… but recently the theory that says Machu Picchu was abandoned by the noble Incas who, after the Manco Inca rebellion (1536), decided to establish themselves in Ollantaytambo is becoming more popular.

5. How did the Incas manage to move those huge stones and work them with such exactitude? There’s no shortage of people who talk about extraterrestrials, but we should keep in mind that the three main buildings in the complex were constructed very close to the quarry and stones like hiwaya that is harder than granite have been found, which could have been used to shape the gigantic blocks of stone.

6. In Machu Picchu, you can get your passport stamped with an image of the city… an interesting memento from your trip!

We hope you liked these interesting facts about the mysterious city. But we hope even more, that you love this magical place as much as we do!

Museums to See in Madrid

museo

People are increasingly drawn to Madrid. The capital of Spain is starting be a city that can hold its own against other cultural capitals, in terms of both cultural interest and important museums. So what are the most essential museums to see in Madrid?

Museo del Prado: Don’t miss the chance to stroll through one of the best art galleries in Europe. The Museo del Prado was inaugurated in 1819, and in its almost two centuries of history, it has compiled over 27,000 referential works of art within its walls. It also includes an amazing collection of works by Spanish artists like Goya and Velázquez.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: More commonly known as the “Reina Sofía” it has an amazing collection of modern art including works by Dalí, Juan Gris, Joan Miró and of course, Picasso. In fact if you want to see Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, you’ll have to come here.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: This museum houses a wonderful private collection that allows visitors to stroll through different periods in art history. Flemish and Italian masterpieces and modern art stand out among the collection.

National Archaeological Museum of Spain: Recently reopened after remodeling that took six years to complete, this museum is all the rage this season. Its biggest draw is that it knows how to mix modernity into its exhibitions and technology with some of the most ancient pieces in our history.

Museum of Romanticism: This small, charming museum is home to a nice collection of works, furniture and decorative pieces from Spain’s romantic period, a tumultuous period both politically and culturally.

Of course there are many other museums in Madrid that we encourage you to see. A trip to the city dedicated to seeing its art collections, natural history and even geology museums can keep you more than entertained for the whole trip.

The lesser-known Sagrada Familia

sagrada_familia

The Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous monuments in Spain and the most important one in Barcelona. It’s world-renowned, everyone wants to see it, and everyone knows its story. But there are some details that only a few people know. Want to know what they are?

1.As you know the Sagrada Familia is still not finished; but did you know that Gaudi planned to let his work be adapted by new architectural styles that would arise after his death?

2.Initially it was going to be a neo-gothic temple. In fact originally the architect was going to be Francesc de Paula Villar, who ended up rejecting the project because of a disagreement with Barcelona’s city hall. And that’s how the project ended up in Gaudi’s hands!

3.Some of the ideas for this great monument were originally from a different project Gaudi was working on… a hotel that was never built, which would have been located in NYC!

4.Have you noticed that the Sagrada Familia barely uses any straight lines? Gaudi hated them; he said, “in nature, straight lines don’t exist”.

5.There are no original plans or mock-ups for this work of art. All of the sketches and notes that Gaudi made were burnt during the Civil War.

6. Perhaps for this reason there is a certain amount of controversy when it comes to the Sagrada Familia. Some critics think that the works being carried out are too “stylized” and would not be to Gaudi’s liking.

7. Legend has it that during the construction of the Sagrada Familia famous architects such as Gropius went to visit Gaudi to learn the secrets of his construction. But the genius didn’t have time to receive them! Could this be the reason his style is so unique?

As you can see, everything has come together perfectly for this monument to be completely unique, and it’s a monument you can’t miss if you’re passing through Barcelona.

Why Menorca is One of the Best Places in the World

Recently, Mallorca was declared the best city to live in in the world. But, this island’s little sister, Menorca, doesn’t fall far behind. It is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and it’s not only an ideal place to live, it’s also a great place to visit, satisfying the tastes of all kinds of tourists, regardless of what they’re looking for.

menorca

Menorca is known as one of the most relaxed islands in the Balearic Island chain. But in reality, this notion comes from comparing it with the louder, neighboring island of Ibiza. La isla blanca (the white island) is known internationally as one of the epicenters of electronic music in the summer, and by comparison, the almost nil party atmosphere on Menorca may make it seem “boring.” But it definitely is not.

Menorca offers many different exciting activities. The most well known among them, without a doubt, is snorkeling, a sport that anyone can take part in, and which can be enjoyed anywhere on the island. You can explore the underwater world with the help of a snorkel (although you can’t dive very deep) while you take in the rich abundance of sea creatures living close to Menorca’s beaches. Snorkeling anywhere on the island makes for an absolute visual spectacle, even if you’re only a few feet from shore. Many tourists have only had to get half of their bodies wet and dunk their heads under water to see huge shoals of fish swimming all around them.

Beach lovers will also find unique routes on Menorca. The most popular tourist beaches are accompanied by others that are less well known, or that are slightly more difficult to access since they don’t have access roads and getting to them can require long walks. Because of this, some of these beaches have maintained their status as unspoiled. Those great photos of white sand beaches surrounded by low mountains that can only be accessed by sea were taken precisely on this island.

Menorca also offers a unique cultural experience. You can visit the taulas (meaning “table” in Catalan), architectural concepts built by the Talaiotic Culture, originating on Mallorca and Menorca in approximately 2,000 B.C.E, or in other words, more than 4,000 years ago.

Lastly, Menorca, as we’ve already mentioned, is an island that has been unjustly categorized as “boring.” Its village fiestas and many tourist attractions give color to almost every day of the year. Furthermore, the disco Cova d’en Xoroi sits atop one of the islands cliffs, and offers one of the best views to tourists in a real cave in the mountains that has been climatized. There are morning, afternoon and night sessions, and music practically from Monday to Friday during the entire season. It is one of the most lively and beautiful places to see the sun set high above the sea.

Latin American Cities Accredited as World Heritage Sites

Quito (Ecuador)

Quito (Ecuador)

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized organization of the UN. Its objective is to promote world peace through education, science, culture and communication. The organization is also carrying out an ongoing plan designed to protect “World Heritage”; cultural elements that are considered to be of value to the world. The following are the Latin American sites and cities that have been accredited as World Heritage.

Quito

It was recognized as World Heritage in 1978. The city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century over the remains of an old Inca city. Located at an altitude of 2,850 meters, the city’s historic center is the best preserved in all of Latin America despite the fact that it was shook by a devastating earth quake in 1917.

The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, along with the Church of the Society of Jesus, display an artistic example of the baroque school of Quito, in which observers can see Spanish, Italian, Mudéjar, Flemish and Indigenous influences.

Mexico City’s historic center and Xochimilco

This has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. It makes up the original base on which today’s capital city of Mexico was developed by the Spanish in the 16th century. It houses architectural treasures such as the Metropolitan Cathedral (the biggest on the continent), the National Palace, the Zócalo and its Constitution Plaza (the third largest plaza en the world).

Just 28 kilometers from the capital, Xochimilco represents one of the most attractive sites in Mexico, with its series of canals and artificial islands built by the Aztecs in pre-Colombian times.

Oaxaca’s historic center and Monte Alban’s archeological area

The Olmecs first lived here and later the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs over 15 centuries. The canals, embankments and artificial hummocks excavated on Monte Albán’s base are a symbol of a sacred topography.

The city of Oaxaca itself represents Spanish colonial-era urban planning and is one of the richest ensembles of Mexico’s artistic heritage.

Havana’s old town and its system of fortifications

Havana was founded by the Spanish in 1519. Although today it’s a large metropolis with 2 million residents, its old town is made up of baroque and neoclassic elements. It’s a mix of historic periods and a wonderful architectural ensemble where remains of the old city wall continue to stand.

Havana’s old town is one of the most touristic areas of the city given the restoration of many churches, fortresses, and historic buildings. The most notable fortress is San Carlos de la Cabaña, a military complex that defended the city from attacks.

The historic district of the port city of Valparaíso

Given its rich architectural heritage, Valparaíso’s historical center was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003.

Geographically, Valparaíso is naturally framed within something of an amphitheater that faces the Pacific Ocean. The urban fabric of the city is woven into the hills that surround it, while the flat areas follow a geometric pattern. An attractive variety of bell towers rise above the landscape. Valparaíso has also effectively preserved infrastructure from the industrial age, such as 15 cable cars.

Which Balearic Islands should you choose for your vacation?

Cova d'en Xoroi: Menorca's most spectacular night club

Cova d’en Xoroi: Menorca’s most spectacular night club

The Balearic Islands of Spain are made up of four main islands: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. They also include Cabrera and several other islets. This Mediterranean archipelago is a highly valued tourist destination and the capital, Mallorca, has recently been recognized as one of the best places in the world to live in by the British journal The Sunday Times.

If you’ve chosen these islands as your vacation destination, you may be wondering which one is the best one for you to visit. That will all depend on what you’re looking for during your Mediterranean getaway.

Mallorca, the best city in the world

The city’s ranking as “the best place in the world to live in” has attracted many tourists from around the world to see for themselves what makes it so special. In essence it’s an enormous island that encompasses all the comforts of a city with the appeal of an exotic island, which is what most attracts attention.

It’s important to keep in mind however that Mallorca gets crowded throughout nearly the entire summer season. This makes it an ideal place for vacationers looking for a destination with many extensive beaches and many other visitors like themselves. This is reflected in the price of the accommodation, which is sensibly more economic than the rest of the islands. The entertainment options here are quite varied as they are on Ibiza.

Ibiza, the white island

Ibiza has been considered an island paradise since the mid 20th century, where alternative social and musical trends have originated and expanded across the small surface area which is characterized by scenic white-sand coves.

The period between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st saw the height of Ibiza’s youth tourism, which concentrated on partying that lasted all night and all day. Despite the current legal restrictions on the opening of night clubs, and although the island also offers scenic coves and natural landscapes, it continues to be a destination recommended for those looking for a place to party.

Menorca, the wild sister

The island of Menorca is a nature paradise with many large coves where tourists can go snorkeling and diving among all types of fish and mollusks. The protection given to natural areas makes this a lush and scenic island; many coves can only be accessed after a long walk. Nightlife is not as active here as Ibiza: there’s only one large night club on the island and it’s tucked away in caves overlooking the sea, which gives it a magical ambience. This island is clearly the best destination for nature lovers.

Formentera, the little island

Finally, Formentera (like Cabrera) stands out as an ideal destination for a different type of vacation. It’s extremely small, the entire island is protected from external contamination and only naturalists and lovers of the most primitive islands find the vacation of their dreams here. If you’re one of them, this is the destination for you.

Granada – the best Kasbah in Spain – Alhambra

La Alhambra

La Alhambra

A Kasbah is a type of Islamic city or fortress, which in past times was used as a defense against an attack, and as a home for the leader of the city. It was often built on a hill as a better means of defense, which is true of the Alhambra in Granada, considered the best Kasbah in Spain.

The Alhambra was first built in 889 as a fortress, and later converted into a royal palace by Yusuf I, the Sultan of Granada, in 1333. The Alhambra was the stronghold of the Muslim rulers in Spain until 1492. It had survived many attacks before it was finally surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, after the War of Granada, marking the end of the Spanish Reconquista. The Monarchs began to change the Alhambra, as did the Christian leaders after them. That said, the Moorish architecture is evident everywhere you go and it remains to this day, very well preserved. It is in fact the best preserved medieval Islamic palace in Europe, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This Kasbah is the most visited site in Spain, and one of the most popular of the world, and you can come and visit all the different palaces and parts of this complex, built for the last Muslim rulers of Spain:

-          The Royal Palace of the Alhambra is divided into three parts; the first, the Mexuar, is fairly modest in decoration compared to other parts of the palace and was primarily used for business administration at the time. The Serallo is a collection of very beautiful rooms and courtyards; the most notable being that of Patio de los Arrayanes, Courtyard of the Myrtles. The Harem makes up the final part, and consists of the living quarters and bath for the wives and mistresses. It also contains the Hall of the Abencerrajes, with the most beautiful ceiling in the whole of the Alhambra. This room is famous, as legend has it that King Boabdil, the last Muslim emir, killed the whole of the Abencerrajes family here after inviting them for a banquet, as he found out that his favorite mistress was having an affair with the head of the family.

-          The Alcazaba is the ancient fortress of the Alhambra Palace; parts of which are in ruins, but it is still very much an important part of its history.

-          The Generalife is the Alhambra’s answer to a retreat; a place where the Muslim Kings could be surrounded by beautiful gardens, flowers and fountains. This really is a magical place and is most definitely worth the visit when going to the Alhambra.

With these different parts of the complex to offer; all so beautiful, and all so well-preserved, it’s no wonder that the Alhambra is the best Kasbah in Spain!

 

Top ten reasons to study Korean

south-korea

When most people think about learning an Asian language, they want to study Mandarin or Japanese, often overlooking Korean, the language of North Korea and South Korea. It is what’s termed a ‘language isolate’ – that is to say it has no relationship with other languages. There is, however, a wing of linguists who believe it to be part of the Altaic family (which includes Japanese and Turkish). So, here are ten of best reasons why you should consider learning Korean as a second (or third..!) language:

  1. South Korea is the fastest growing economy in northern Asia and is ranked thirteenth in the world with a GDP of $1.64 trillion. Some of the world´s biggest brands are based in Korea, like Hyundai, Samsung and LG. This translates to excellent opportunities for native English speakers with knowledge of the Korean language. As the economy continues to grow, so too will the demand for these foreign workers!
  2. Knowing such an unusual language will make you more employable. Most native English speakers can´t even speak any foreign language, so stand out from the crowd by being one of few who knows Korean. Even if you´re not applying for a job that requires Korean language skills, it still shows your ability to learn new things or could even just be a talking point at an interview!
  3. Contrary to popular belief, Korean is actually the easiest of the Asian languages. Unlike Chinese it is not tonal, and the language is based on an alphabetic system, so all you have to do is learn a new alphabet of eleven characters – simple!
  4. Once you have mastered Korean, you´ll be able to learn other Asian languages far more easily than before, since many of them share common vocabulary and grammatical structures.
  5. In many ways, Korean is actually simpler than European languages. What most westerners find tricky is the new alphabet system, but after that there are no verb endings to be changed or any difficulties with masculine and feminine nouns!
  6. The number of people that speak Korean is about 73 million, most located on the Korean peninsula. But there are significant Korean populations throughout the world, namely in North America and Japan. Just think, you´d be able to speak to 73 million more people than you can right now…
  7. Knowing Korean gives access to one of the oldest civilizations in the world a whole new culture, such as the intricacies of Korea´s system of respect or its famous World Heritage Site shrines, dotted around the country. You could also learn about Korea´s most famous sport: Taekwondo.
  8. See for yourself a greatly diverse nation. According to a 2010 census, some 31.6% of the population is Christian, whilst 24.2% is Buddhist – a little known fact!
  9. Korea´s capital – Seoul – is the largest city proper in the developed world, accommodating about half of the South Korean population. A survey by the United Nations placed Seoul´s quality of life higher than London, New York or Melbourne.
  10. Finally, research suggests that studying a language reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. What´s more, the more challenging that language is, the more the risk is reduced. So with the disease being the sixth largest killer in the US in 2012, what better way to stop it than by learning Korean!