Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Spanish City of Granada

Passing the time at another airport waiting for a flight.  This is something we’ve done much of during our two years here in Europe.  It was the middle of February, another week long break from school, and this time we were setting off for southern Spain.  I had hoped we could leave the winter coats behind in cold, rainy England, but that was not to be for southern Spain was going through a bit of a cold spell itself the week we would be there.  Oh well – you win some and you lose some when it comes to the weather and travel.  If there is one thing we have learned living here in England, it is to take the weather as it is and carry on doing whatever you had planned to do anyway...

And always, always, always carry an umbrella! 

Our first stop in Spain was the city of Granada which sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Granada is a beautiful combination of old and modern, very Spanish and full of interesting history.  We stayed in the Albayzin district of Granada, the ancient Moorish quarter of the city that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We spent much time exploring the twisting, narrow streets lined with whitewashed buildings, not really following any direction, but you can’t really get lost as long as you have a map. 

You can get stuck though.  Some of the narrow passages are pedestrian only, but some allow cars and on more than one occasion we found ourselves stepping into a doorway or pressed flat against one of the old white walls as a car or van passed precariously close to us.   

Thank goodness we had left the car in a parking garage outside of this area and taken a taxi to our hotel in the Albayzin district, and we were especially thankful of this when we happened upon a car that was quite literally wedged between two buildings in one of these narrow passages, the driver shimming out her open window and scaling along the wall and her car to get free as there was no other way to extricate herself from her vehicle.  Ay yai yai!  She was okay, but her car clearly was not.  Why she thought to continue forward through this narrow gap is a mystery, as is how a tow truck was possibly going to make it through these narrow streets to extract her car.  

Our hotel was right within the walls of El Albayzin and every bit as Spanish as you can imagine.   

You enter into an enclosed courtyard ringed with balconies lined with hotel rooms.  Our room was very much in keeping with the unique family rooms we have experienced all across Europe during our travels.   

The girls had a sleeping loft with a spiral staircase that made us a bit nervous if anyone had to get up during the night.  In the dark, those steep slippery stairs would be hard to navigate.   

We had breakfast in a small, rather none descript room, but the food was delicious and interesting, and I might add decadent.   

We still aren’t sure what some of it was, but we did recognize the churros, long and thin pieces of fried pastry dough which we dipped in chocolate custard.  Yum, yum, yum!  And the coffee was like black syrup – very, very strong.   Lots of milk required. 

Since I’m on the subject of food, we ended up eating at the same little restaurant twice that was conveniently located just steps from our hotel.  

It’s called La Fontana and of course they serve tapas which are basically small plates of appetizers or snacks.  During our week in Spain, we would pass many bars that in the afternoon would have a table full of platters displaying delicious and colorful tapas ready for their patrons to enjoy.   

Tapas can take many forms, from simply being small plates of main meal type dishes, hot or cold, and sometimes just interesting combinations of ingredients places on bread, like little sandwiches, which is what La Fontana had.   

We tried a variety…

along with some paella because, come on now, how could we resist ordering paella in Spain…

and some dessert.  I don’t have to tell you it was all delicious.  The fact that we went back the next day speaks for itself.

Our hotel was just a block off this gorgeous cobblestone street that follows a stream that runs into town from the mountains.  One night as we strolled down this street, we happened upon a musician sitting in a doorway playing the most mesmerizing guitar music, a very classical Spanish type of music that seemed to soothe your soul as you listened.   

We stood there for some time, along with a small group of people who were equally as enchanted by the melody this man and his guitar were producing.   We would see other guitarists in Granada during our stay, and pass many Flamenco bars, Flamenco being a form of Spanish dance that is accompanied by a guitar and hand clapping among other things.  So it wasn't all that surprising that we also passed many guitar shops.   

Not far from our hotel there was a steep street that was lined with several of these small shops.  These were not the type of guitar stores we are use to seeing, you know the kind with various types of electric and acoustical guitars hanging from the walls inviting you in to play if you know how.  I’ve seen the inside of a lot of these as Eric has been playing guitar since he was a teenager.  In fact, one of his guitars even accompanied us on our move to England.  But these guitar shops in Granada were different from those we’ve seen before.  They were tiny in comparison and really were more of a workshop than a store.  Not only does Eric play guitar, but he has also built one, well he’s in the process anyway as there is an unfinished guitar sitting in our basement back in Indiana waiting for his return.  So you can imagine how much he wanted to enter one of these handmade guitar shops.  He was like a child looking in the window of a candy store.  The shops seem to keep strange hours though, which isn’t really surprising since most of them probably have one person on staff – the owner and resident guitar maker.  Easy to keep whatever hours you want when you are the boss and no other employees are depending on you.  It wasn’t until the last morning we were in Granada that his wish finally came true.  Before heading out of town, Eric made one more quick trip up this street even though it wasn’t the direction we were heading, and he got lucky.  One of the shops was open.

Inside he found a cluttered little workshop... 

and the guitar maker, hard at work on his next project.  It was a beautiful sight, the craftsman inside his cozy little shop creating a musical instrument with his hands, some tools, and wood. Such a sharp contrast to the modern commercialized world that was just a few blocks away.  

I have one more place to share with you from Granada and that is the mighty Moorish fortress of Alhambra that sits high on a hill overlooking the city, but I'll save that for tomorrow.  Today, I leave you with some more photos of the beautiful city of Granada.  Hope you enjoy!


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