My favorite excursions have always been to places with interesting nature, like our CEA excursion to the town of Sacromonte and our weekend trip to Lagos, Portugal. Seeing buildings and studying the history behind the architecture got a bit tedious for me (only because I prefer a good hike over an architectural tour), so I planned an independent trip to Alpujarras with one of my friends who wanted to go as well. What turned out to be an attempt to visit Alpujarras ended up being a day trip to Jaen during one of their largest fairs.
The reason we ended up going to Jaen instead of Alpujarras was because there was no round trip ticket to Alpujarras-- just a one-way. Five minutes until the row of buses left, we decided to go to a place called Jaen that we had only heard about, but didn't know a thing about. As we were on our way to Jaen, we joked that it would surprisingly be an awesome day and we'd have a great time. Little did we know, we actually would!
Almost every woman was wearing these types of flamenco dresses and there were horses and donkeys everywhere. The food was wonderful, the people were so different from those in Granada, and the atmosphere was so colorful and the total opposite of touristy. My friend and I were probably the only Americans there.
The funniest moment of this entire day was when we asked a few people if we could ride a horse or at least go for a ride in the horse carriages. Many people chuckled and said, "You don't have to pay to ride them or to take turns, because these are our horses." As they rode away with a smile, my friend and I realized that it's just common to bring one's horses and donkeys to a big fair like this.
Though it was an unexpected trip, we kept a positive attitude, laughed about it, and let it be what it was going to be. All we wanted was to explore a new part of Spain, and we did. Luckily, we did it during Jaen's biggest fairs. Here are a few photos of the food we got to try.
Many of the restaurants in this fair were unique in their own way. One restaurant was dedicated only to seafood, one to Greek food, and others stayed true to the traditional Spanish meal (paella, potatoes, chorizo, eggs).
It was completely different to go to a place we hadn't Google-searched in advance. It was so refreshing to take it in for what it was, without a hint of expectations (as we had no clue what Jaen would be like!). It was such a great adventure, and I was so happy to have done it with a spontaneous soul like myself. Happy Travels! :)
Stephanie Khio is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO in Granada, Spain. She is currently a senior at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
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