Tag Archives: Granada

the Alhambra

I wanted to put up some photos of the Alhambra, before it gets too late and they are inevitably buried in the myriad of photos that seem to accumulate while travelling, only to be unearthed by a rogue slideshow when we finally return home.

It was a breathtaking visit. We woke up early, heeding the advice of many other travellers that we had asked. It was still dark, and as we sat in the little bus that wound its way up the mountain we all watched each other, everyone trying to size each other up. Is she a tourist? Will they run ahead of me, seizing my rightful place in the line?

It was a funny ride, full of hostility, defensive shoulders and yawns in the early morning. But it was surprisingly easy, and after a short wait in the line and some stellar advice about a secret ticket line we made it, and we were free to run around the enormous grounds.

The Nasrid Palaces were amazing, the amount of intricate detail was almost exhausting to look at. Those carved and geometrically tiled walls spoke of pure devotion in their painstaking application, or less romantically, at least of slave labour. We wandered for hours, heads constantly flipped back on our shoulders, always looking up, at the pillars, the ceilings, the amazing carving that was everywhere.

Outside the gardens were wonderful, lined by thousands of metres of hedges, all trimmed as though with a slide ruler, green and smooth and perfect. The history of a fortress so old was amazing. We walked around the parapets of the rough stone roof, so at odds with the delicate carving of the interior.

And as we looked out into the expanse of buildings that is now the city of Granada, we inhaled sharply, marvelling at the fact that once it was all just fields, arid and dry, stretching out until they met the mountains.

adventures in Granada

We were laden with backpacks and hungry one afternoon, and the rain was beginning to fall. We were heading for Los Diamantes, apparently a famed locals dive, with exceptional fried fish tapas. The street was hard to find in the Moorish labyrinth of Granada, but we found it just as the rain came sheeting down.

Inside the light was greasy, and Spanish drinkers stood back to back at shiny tabletops, a toothpick with some variety of fried food stabbed onto the end of it in a wildly gesturing hand, a wet beer glass in the other. They were all smiling, enthusiastic, drinking and eating and laughing, and I wanted to be one of them. The smell was amazing, like Friday night at a local fish and chip shop, but with beer and wine and peeling lettering on the windows. Okay, perhaps the peeling lettering wasn’t so unfamiliar.

We ordered, trying our best to speak in unaccented Spanish, so that the entire bar didn’t turn around to stare at us, before kicking us our of their secret. It worked, and two beers were slapped on the counter, the foam frothing over the sides as they sloshed towards us. A plate of paella followed within seconds, and we stabbed at it with our bent forks, giggling at each other, unable to believe our luck at acquiring free food. It was delicious.

We watched hawk-eyed as people were given their second and third drinks, to see which plate would follow. We tried to intercept the yells back to the kitchen, but they were too quick and sibilant for us to decipher. So we just drank. We ate quickly, and then sipped our beers happily, impatient to order the next. It was like a game. After a few plates we realized that we were laughing a little too often, leaning a bit further over the bar counter that we leant on.

It is just us, or does everybody stand like that at a bar? Next time you’re at a bar, try it for me. As soon as you put your elbow down on the counter, like an instant reflex your leg suddenly bends, your hip juts out, and you are perched, dapper and casual, putting out the vibe at the bar. I swear it happens every time.

We stayed long enough to try the fried prawns, and then, suddenly, like a surprise, realized that we were both full and sufficiently tipsy. Happily we paid, gleefully accepting our change like schoolchildren, so happy with our deal. The barman watched us amusedly, one eyebrow raised as he wiped down the bar, and we skipped outside.

The rain was still falling, and it was a second or two before we realized and took cover, squawking with hilarity at this foreign water falling from the skies. A street hawker ran over to us through the rain, a black umbrella already stretched open, ready for us to buy. He wanted six euro, we gave him three and he waved us on our way. The umbrella was too small for the two of us, and it was a while before I noticed that the entire right arm of Oli’s shirt was soaked, which I found to be the cause of much more hilarity. I resolved to buy one for myself when we saw the next street hawker.

The rainwater flowed in rivers below us, and we lurched contently around street corners, getting lost and twirling our new purchase. I found another hawker standing beside a tall iron gate, and offered him the last of our change, about €2.50 for another black umbrella. He was insulted, turning away from my outstretched hand, but as another woman approached him he snatched it from me, pushing the umbrella at me before turning and offering the woman a much more stylish plaid number. I twirled my umbrella smugly, asking Oli how much his had been, inviting him to admire the lovely wooden handle. It broke before we reached the next road. This was, quite clearly, the source of much more hilarity.

I trudged along with my broken umbrella, which looked somehow like a big black crow perched atop of my head, all sharp angles and spiky lines, flapping in the wind. As we crossed the wet cobbles I listened to Oli’s advice on how I should go for quality next time, that you get what you pay for, and would I like to share his one?

We walked past a little teashop, hiding quietly on the main corner just before the steps. The windows were fogged, and we could make out people sitting around low tables, holding glasses of hot liquid to their mouths. We were immediately drawn, and pushed open the thin glass door with a tinkle, shaking off the drops in a confusion of umbrellas and beanies as we entered.

We ordered mint tea, and sat giggling in the corner, staring out at the people rushing around. The décor inside was Moroccan casual, curved arches, painted glasses and Arabian teapots, like the lamp from Aladdin. I loved it immediately, and envisioned buying a set and serving Moroccan tea for my friends back home, arranged on cushions around the coffee table, while New Zealand rain lashes at the windows. I had to check myself, remind myself to live in the now, appreciate the moment as it is happening, Eat, Pray, Love style.

The tea arrived and it was hot and sweet, and grew stronger with each glass, the longer it brewed in all those mint leaves and herbs. We tried a Moroccan pastry each, a delicious, nutty, biscuity thing, and sipped slowly at our tea, smiling at each other. It was all in all, a perfect afternoon, combining tapas and tea, rain and shopping. My new broken umbrella is now tucked safely in the side pocket of my backpack, ready for it’s next adventure.