It’s said Paris is for lovers. Spain, I think, is for those who prefer to dream.

After half a month of the frenetic pace of Madrid, I spent last week in Andalucia, visiting palaces by day and sleeping six to a room in a hostel by night.

Although I hadn’t spent much time there before, the trip felt like a reunion of sorts. In the southernmost tip of the country, I found the sites most of us hope to take back on film with us to the United States: long-abandoned Muslim palaces and sky-scraping Catholic cathedrals erected in response, narrow streets that slant in on themselves and plazas devoted to grief, triumph and patron saints.

The kingdom of Andalucia is situated in the shade in of the Sierra Morena mountain range, and Morocco looks so close on a map that I was convinced I could swim there, if I knew how. Though it’s been just a few days since I left, I already consider the place with the false simplicity of a remembered dream.

Visiting the monuments was probably the closest I will ever come to time travel. Biologists have tested the soil in Sevilla’s Alcazar palace to ensure that the seeds sown each spring will blossom into the same plants that took root hundreds of years ago. In the Alhambra, Spain’s biggest tourist attraction, modern-day craftsmen have kept pace with the slowly crumbling stonework so well you have to squint to see the line between the real and the restored.

But by the time we were in Cordoba, four days and half a dozen guided tours later, we were convinced eight euro was more than we could part with, even for admission to the third-largest mosque in the world. Besides, having learned the stories behind the creation so many other Andalucian monuments, I was convinced they all began and ended the same way.

“Children, look here,” I addressed my friends, imitating a tour guide in broken Spanish. I gestured to a series of thick wooden planks affixed to an outer wall of the mosque with a careful precision that reminded me of Lincoln Logs. “The great Muslim king who built this mosque planted a tree for his first son. He tended to the tree each day, and he groomed his son to be his successor. But then one day he found his son in bed with a member of his harem. So he killed the boy and chopped down the tree, giving life to these lovely planks we have here.”

I am almost positive it did not happen that way, though I can’t say for sure because I still have not sought the real story. But I invoked poetic license that day because each Spanish monument whose history I did learn seemed to serve as parable highlighting the beauty that sprang from love, lust, ambition and betrayal—hundreds of years ago.

I have not taken a history class at Duke, and I cannot visit ruins without a hint of remorse. Each site I visited in Andalucia was colored by the romantic notion that I can’t have this anymore—this place, where people do and say what they feel without apology is lost to history. It was never mine to have—it is dubious whether it ever existed, really—but the wound still feels fresh.

 This is the comedic paradox of traveling to places of staggering beauty on a college student’s budget, leaving a palace in a hurry to catch a bus back to your hostel. At the end of each day, I welcomed the return of my own routine, though the sightseeing took its toll. I ate bread for lunch and chocolate for dinner because I had spent all my money on entrance to the palaces. I couldn’t muster the energy to charm my way into a discoteca, so I slipped between scratchy sheets instead. A boy slid a note under my door to say what he was too shy to tell me in person.

Julia Love is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Wednesday, and today runs as an online exclusive.