My family and I had the pleasure of getting to know the southern region of Spain, known as Andalucia (see what I did there?). It’s known for its warm, temperate climate (though it still does not surpass the heat in Texas, thankfully), its sparkling beaches, and its unique architecture—the result of the diverse cultures to have inhabited the area at different times throughout history.
The Real Alcazar is a perfect example of the fusion of design. It features intricately carved arches that resemble lace, concentric geometric shapes, flush to painted tiles throughout the elaborate landscape. The surrounding gardens were equally impressive, and architecture and nature became one on the stunning grounds. Majestic and elegant, the Alcazar is a must-see. (See slideshow below!)
Another given plus is the food, of course! The seafood is amazing, as Cadiz and Malaga are both situated on the coast. If you don’t believe the fish is fresh, just visit the local marketplace, where each fish is easily as tall as I am. I took it upon myself to try some new foods, as well, since I figured one couldn’t go wrong. I ventured for a plate of pulpo a la gallega, or Galecian-style grilled octopus, which was very tasty (although it must be noted that the suction cups were a bit on the chewier side). Chipirones a la plancha, another beloved cephalopod in Andalusia, was even better in my opinion, as it was not quite as tough, and had a milder, buttery flavor. And, in Seville, I discovered a new personal favorite: vegetable parilladas, an array of vegetables grilled to perfection (a la plancha), topped with generous helpings of giant rock-salt hunks, and complete with a mighty slab of goat cheese (very fresh, as goat cheese is a specialty in the mountainous region) with a grilled layer of jelly on top.
Speaking of fish, however, we also made a trip to the Seville Aquarium. Not only did it display a wide variety of beautiful fish and habitats, but it was very informative as well. Its driving message throughout the exhibit was encouraging, as it provided statistics on how everyday human pollution impacts all sea creatures, how to reduce one's footprint, as well as information about the geography and history of the area.
Ren Koppel Torres has adored fantasy books since the dawn of time and started The Shadow in Her Pocket at nine years old. Ren was born in New York City in a Jewish-Mexican-American family and now lives in Austin, Texas. Ren is passionate about advocating for child literacy and is donating a portion of the proceeds from book sales to Bookspring, a nonprofit in Central Texas. Ren is also a freelance writer, a visual artist, a guitarist in a rock band, a succulent aficionado, and a high school student.