As it turns out, I’m starting this whole backpacking adventure in the country that made me fall in love with traveling in the first place: España.

My first stop in Spain was the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, a place that I called home for two years. After revisiting my favorite beaches and seeing my best friends, I decided to take a trip to the classic, undeniably beautiful region of Andalucía.

The cultural richness in Spain’s southernmost region comes from a mix of centuries of history and tradition. The first stop on this spontaneous tour of Spain starts in Córdoba, a city in which I admittedly knew little to nothing about before visiting, but I had plans to meet up with a friend of mine who’s traveling there.

After the flight from Ibiza to Sevilla, I waited awkwardly at the corner of the drop off/pick up zone at the airport. I laughed silently to myself as I realized this scene is extremely reminiscent of “Taken”, a movie about an American girl being kidnapped in Europe. Only I decided to go one step further by offering to hop into a stranger’s car and hope for the best. This is the idea of Blablacar, a ridesharing company I decided to use for the hour-long trip to Córdoba from Sevilla. Here goes nothing, I thought, as my new Spanish friends Antonio and Luis helped put my backpack into a tiny, bright blue European car.

Half an hour into this adventurous excursion, we’re passing white washed villages and rolling fields of endless olive trees. Flamenco music is blaring on the radio, and I’m trying to keep up with conversation over the music and through their thick Andalucian accents. It went something like this:

Incomprehensive Spanish is directed towards me

Slight anxiety kicks in, so I laugh uncomfortably and pray it wasn’t a question 

“Em, otra vez?” I ask Antonio politely.

Antonio repeats exactly the same thing in the same incomprehensive way

“Si, si, claro” I respond as anxiety sky rockets.

We make eye contact through the rearview mirror. I quickly drop the act and admit that I had no idea what he is talking about. We all laugh and thankfully he turns the music up, cruising through the countryside with flamenco singers telling stories of the region’s ancient history. Life is good.

ARRIVING IN CÓRDOBA

My initial impression of Córdoba is that it’s just as charming as one imagines a small city in Andalucia would be. Narrow alleyways, tapas, sangria, cobblestone, old stuff everywhere. Córdoba has all of those things.

I unpack my bag at the hostel and take a stroll through the city. One of my favorite things is taking in a new city by foot, choosing the day’s destiny at each crossroad. Left or right? And in this case, vino or una caña? Can it get any better than this? A good friend of mine has a motto, “The better it gets, the better it gets.” That certainly seems to be the case with southern Spain.

After an hour of aimless wandering, I take a lunch break in the cozy Plaza Jeronimo Paez. I choose a café with outdoor seating. In true Spanish fashion, there’s un cortador profesional de jamón (professional ham cutter) at this café, awaiting requests for the most precisely cut jamón you’ve ever had in your life. With the two solid legs of ham all propped up on his stand, it all looks very Spanish. Not to mention, there’s a guy in the corner of the square playing classical Spanish songs on guitar in the hopes of selling his latest CD. I look at the menu and feel inspired to try something new, something Cordovan. I opt out of trying the fried oxtail because life is short…but not that short. Instead, I try salmorejo, a cold tomato soup of sorts with jamón and egg. Simple and refreshing. After taking in the scenery one more time, I use my best Andalucian accent and say “grathiahh” to the waiters. As I leave the café I remember, the better it gets, the better it gets.