Saturday, July 14, 2012

Granada

Granada is my favorite city in Spain. Some say Sevilla has culture, Córdoba has a pretty building, and Granada just has the Alhambra. But Granada has much more than just the Alhambra... Granada has an atmosphere that just leaves you wanting more. 


Take a look at mine and Robin's Flickr photostreams of pictures from Granada!


When Robin arrived in Madrid on Friday (July 13th), he took a nap in my apartment while I went to work for a few hours. We then took the 5pm train from Atocha (train station in Madrid) to Granada. Because there's no high-speed train from Madrid to Granada, the train takes the same amount of time as a bus would - about 4 hours. It even (who knew) stops in Córdoba on the way there. To get you situated to where Granada is in Spain:



It's in the south - which automatically means hot. The average temperature in Granada is 5-10 degrees hotter than Madrid, on average. But at that point you don't really feel the difference so it doesn't matter how hot it is. 


It was the south of Spain that encouraged the "siesta" tradition that everyone knows about, just because it was so hot during the day that it was unpleasant to be outside between the hours of 1pm and 6pm. Robin and I fully took advantage of this fact - you wouldn't believe how good you feel after napping for an hour each day.


Because we arrived in Granada past 10pm on Friday night, the train station information booth was closed and did not have any maps to give us, so we wandered down Gran Vía de Colón until we hit a hotel that was nice enough to give us a map. Then we frantically tried to find our hostal on the map (which turned out to be complicated because I didn't print out a GoogleMap of where we were supposed to go beforehand. Now I know to do that always...). So in all, the walk from the train station to the center where our hotel was was about 25 minutes. 

a bit of context

Granada was the seat of Moor power in Spain until the Christian Reconquista around 1492. Granada is a major city in the region of Andalucía, known for it's nice beaches, hot climate, and pleasant and laid-back citizens.

food

What else do you really want to know about? For dinner on Friday, Robin and I went to the  Calle de Elvira from the place we were staying and found a good-looking tapas place. Turned out to be quite tasty!
 To drink I had some kind of special "Granada wine" that tasted a bit like Vermouth... it was an interesting flavor. What you see in the picture is some classic queso manchego (manchego cheese, both mine and Robin's favorite type of cheese) and some albóndigas, which if you remember from my previous post about tapas, are meatballs.


Our next meal was breakfastish on Saturday. After an evening of walking around Granada, we rolled out of the hotel at 11am and went to the Plaza de Bibarrambla (a few blocks away from the hostal) to get coffee and churros con chocolate at a café we'd seen the day before. 


By the time we were done, it was clearly time to eat again, as it is always time to eat on vacation, but we decided we needed to make some progress in moving towards the Alhambra. In a break from traditional Spanish tapas, we walked around the main center and found a Doner-like place to get traditional Arabic sandwich things with fried potatoes. It was so cheap and yummy and filling that we ate half of them and saved the rest for later! 


The next food item in Granada was the other half of those Doner-like sandwiches in the gardens of the Alhambra when we got hungry. Nothing super exciting, except the sandwiches kept rather well throughout the course of the day. 


After the Alhambra we were exhausted so we went home for a siesta before going out again for dinner in the Sacromonte (described a bit later). We had classic Spanish tapas for dinner, with a nice class of red wine of course. We got the anchovies (boquerones), but they seemed to be fried in some kind of batter that wasn't terribly tasty. And for the life of me I can't remember what the other delicious thing we got was. 


The next morning we just had coffee and a pastry at the train station before heading off to our next adventure. 

sleep

Instead of staying at a hostel, we decided to switch it up a little bit. For the same price as a hostel (information on the differences between the names of various places to sleep in a previous post), we stayed at the Hostal Lima off the Plaza de Trinidad a bit south of the main cathedral of Granada, run by Manilo and Carmen, for 40ish euros a night. We had our own private bathroom and air conditioning! We even had a small balcony that overlooked the Calle Laurel de las Tablas, which was right off the Plaza del Trinidad. And Carmen was helpful in suggesting where to go on Friday night when we arrived in Granada. In 1950s-style, the rooms of course had separate beds.

the Alhambra

The Alhambra is so cool it deserves it's own post.

the albaycin

What a strange word. And it even has a few different spellings, based on the language, where it is written, and who you ask - Albaicin, Albaycin, Albayzín, etc. They all mean the same thing: the old Moorish quarter. The streets are narrow and winding, with lots of cool staircases that are really streets:
But the real charm is walking around at night, seeing the Alhambra glowing in the distance.
While we were wandering, we thought we stumbled upon the San Nicolás viewpoint from which to see the Alhambra, but we were in fact just on the border of the Albaycin. Walking around the Albaycin reminded me of what it would be like to live in a city without so much activity - the area is still a residential one, so there aren't people stepping on each other in the street and there isn't a ton of commotion. But there also is a feeling of "home" in a sense - the streets are welcoming and pleasant.

the Sacromonte and the gypsies

A lesser-known region of Granada, the Sacromonte is home to the Roma (or gypsy) population of Granada. While there are gypsies everywhere in Spain, in Granada they are more prevalent and obvious than anywhere else. The Roma women stand their ground on a corner or busy street, trying to thrust sprigs of rosemary into your hands. If you take it, they harass you for money, but a sprig of rosemary only means good luck! So watch out. 


Walking along the edge of the Albaycin up the hill a bit more and turning right through an archway leads you into the Sacromonte, the home of the Roma
The houses are basically built into the side of the cliff - the term "cave bar" must have originated here, because if you walk into a bar or restaurant in the Sacromonte, the ceiling is actually the roof of a cave. 


An art form developed by the Roma is the type of dance called Zambra. It's a flamenco variant danced by the Roma, and many bars in the Sacromonte have impromptu-Zambra dances in the middle. We did not choose a restaurant or bar with Zambra dancers, because we wanted food too much. Next time I go back to Granada I'm definitely not missing out on Zambra!

I want more!

Robin and I definitely didn't get to see the entire city by any stretch of the imagination. There are too many winding cobblestoned streets to wander, too many bars to see, too many buildings to appreciate, to be able to see in a day and a half. The atmosphere of Granada deserves more time. I want to go back to see the Alhambra at night, wander the area around where our B&B was to appreciate the food and atmosphere, wander the Albaycin more, actually go inside of a Zambra place in the Sacromonte, go inside the huge Cathedral, find the San Nicolás viewpoint, and much more. Granada, we shall meet again one day.