Backpacking life (10) – The uniqueness of Granada

Granada!! Finally!! I decided to include Granada in my travel plan after discovering how popular the town was among people who go to Andaluzia. Alhambra seemed to be an unmissable attraction, with all that heritage connected to the Arabs, Islam and medieval times. I had to go there, definitely.

To reach Granada, I took a bus from Seville on a sunny morning, and from my window, I could appreciate the picturesque landscape and understand why people enjoy the south of Spain so much.

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Already in town, I had to take another bus to get to the centre. The problem: to ask that in Spanish. My solution to avoid that: find someone who speaks English. Yeah, I was lazy. Shame on me. In a shop, searching for English speakers, a woman made a frown and replied she couldn’t use English well. Oh, goodbye comfort zone. I gave it a try and, to my own surprise, I asked my simple question in Spanish with no mistake. Perfectly. She stared at me, almost amazed, and said: “Your Spanish is much better than my English”. In other words, she wanted to know what was wrong with me looking for English speakers but being able to speak Spanish. Weird, I know that.

Anyway, I followed her directions and quickly I was in the centre. I found my hostel easily, as the accommodation is close to one of the main squares. I left my stuff in my room, which would be shared with three nice (and messy) French girls, and headed to have a look at the town. First I had to eat something because I was starving, though. I stopped in a restaurant, a simple one, and order a dish called “cocido de garbanzos a la española”, made with meat and chickpeas. It was tasty and a promising beginning. From the restaurant, I began to stroll around with my camera to take as many pics as I can (I swear I look at all the photos I’ve taken from time to time).

The casco antiguo (the way people call old centre in Spain, as I recently discovered) is marvellous. Exactly the small towns you expect in Europe, full of historic buildings, churches, fountains, narrow passages, shops, walls much older than the official history of my own country.

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I was particularly struck by a market beside the central cathedral, Alcaicería. There was little movement in the morning, some tiendas still opening, and I wandered through the place thinking how many things happened there along centuries. The place was not original, though, as I discovered later, but a wonderful replica – the first was destroyed by fire in 1843. I could imagine people buying flavours, clothes, accessories and objects for countless reasons, and each reason would contain a story.

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I also loved the channel by the centre, which transports you to other times as the town is so well-preserved.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to visit Morocco while in Europe, but at least I went to Granada and somehow you can envisage how awesome must be the Arabic countries. There’s a whole Arab district, Albayzín. I walked to and fro during all that afternoon, trying to absorb the unique atmosphere.

From a belvedere, San Nicolas, you can have a look at Alhambra (at that time I had bought my ticket for the next day, as some rumours indicated that they run out quickly). Additionally, some shops have their names in Arabic to turn Albayzín into the second best quarter I visited in Europe (Alfama is still number one in my heart). Really, what a place.

I had dinner at around five o’clock – these delicious churros con chocolate that you see in the picture below and for THREE euros. I barely can afford a sandwich in Sao Paulo for a similar price these days. And it goes without saying that it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had. To tell the truth, I was quite embarrassed in the café because I didn’t see anyone else alone eating that much, but who cares?

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After treating myself and my stomach, I went to the hostel. I was shattered, and I stayed there just lazing around and talking to some friends on Facebook.

In the morning, after my sacred breakfast, I joined a walking tour in the centre. I still remember the guide’s name, Maria, a friendly and chatty local girl who knows a lot of her hometown.  We basically walked around the old town and headed for Albayzín to finish our stroll. Looking at her and the work of her company, “Feel Granada”, I wondered that being a tour guide must a fulfilling experience. A tough one, as some travellers make an effort to be annoying and picky, but pleasant at the end of the day.

I had lunch in a Turkish bar while waiting for my Alhambra tour in the afternoon, Everyone I knew talked so much about that I was already excited. I went up the hill to access the property and, little by little, I felt I was in one of those TV programmes where the guys travel around the world to show you unbelievable spots to make you envious and quite quit your job and house and everything else.

Alhambra is one of these pieces of marvel that somehow remained untouched. Civilisation changed, but the palace is there.

A bad aspect? Flocks of tourists, and precisely those unbearable kinds who want selfies in front of any vase they come across. They don’t read anything, but they want pictures. If I were rich, surely I would book that place during a whole day just to study it. Read inscriptions, observe details, all the ins and outs of architecture. Perhaps to invite a historian and an architect to point out hidden secrets and curiosities, you know, this sort of stuff. As I don’t live in the lap of luxury, the remedy was to breathe and try to appreciate that wonderful construction ignoring awkward people.

I loved everything, but the garden, my gosh ❤

Back to the hostel to take my backpack, I wandered around for a while more and stopped at a bar for tapas and beer. Then I decided it was time for tea. With so many Arab houses on those streets, it would be ridiculous leave Granada without popping in one of those mysterious cafés. I saw many young people with huge narghilés, almost hidden behind tons of smoke, laughing among themselves. I ended up in a dark and decorated tea house. I ordered Egyptian tea for three euros. I wouldn’t drink a decent coffee in Dublin for that amount of money and in Granada, I got a jar of delightful tea.

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The place made me a bit sleepy, so I should move on and say goodbye to Granada.  My next destination? Madrid!

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Alhambra in the evening 🙂

I took a bus to reach the bus station and I had some trouble to find the right stop to get off, but eventually, someone helped me and I found it. My sense of direction is really terrible and I wonder how I can travel alone without getting lost forever.

My bus would depart at one o’clock and there was nothing to do apart from waiting, so I grabbed my backpack and I leant my head on it. Some guys were sleeping sound, but I barely can doze off in public spaces, so I just closed my eyes. Next day would be full of new things, as all days in that November.

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