Granada

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Monday, October 14, 2013

We touched down in Granada around 6:30 p.m. and to my delight immediately noticed the air felt much warmer. Despite being a tiny airport and our flight was the only arrival, the baggage carrousel remained lifeless for quarter of an hour. I found myself a nice little spot on the floor with my newly discovered Granada tourist map.

The belt started to move and everyone frantically shuffled to the front row. A young asian man nearby started laughing and shouted to his girlfriend, “Ha, want some new shoes?” James turned around, scrunched his eyebrows at me and then pointed to the baggage carrousel which was coompletely empty, except for my neon pink Asics cruising down the runway all by themselves.

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I think the baggage claim man was trying to make a point.

Anyway, the rest of our belongings made it and we jumped on a bus to the city center. We found our way to Granada Inn Backpackers, which is right near Placa Real off of Acera del Darro. It was a quick walk and we checked into our eight bed dorm, which was the cleanest, most comfortable dorm I have ever seen.

The place actually had real pillows and duvets. It wasn’t even cold, but I used it anyway because it was so comfortable. We didn’t have much time to get to know Granada so we quickly asked staff for the best tapas place.

The man at reception recommended a place just  around the corner, Bar Avila on Veronica de la Virgen street. If you go to Granada, this is absolutely the best place to have tapas and drinks. They serve €2.50 sangria or even cheaper wine or beer with a huge tapas plate that you get to pick from a long list of options.

The tapas choices ranged from eggs with blood pudding, snails, octopus, to meat and salsa or grilled ham on bread (jamon asado), spicy potatoes, or cabon adobo. We ended up staying for two drinks. I absolutely loved the place. It was cram packed full with people oozing out the side door, not a single person spoke english, and there was not a chance you were going to see another tourist. This is exactly what I wanted from Spain.

Well, unfortunately James wanted an actual meal (I say tapas is a meal) and a seat. I don’t blame him, since we had been walking for 6-8 hours daily for the past week. So we made our way down Navas street off of Placa del Carmen. Navas street was our favorite tapas street where we ended up staying out until only midnight as we decided we needed the entire next day to explore Granada.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy two year wedding anniversary to Dani and Tim Sams!!

I was out the door by 9:30 a.m. off to find a market while James did some work. I found my way past the cathedral to Placa San Augustin. I usually adore markets for their own quarky reasons, but this one was a bit sad. It was nearly 10 a.m. and nobody was even done setting up their stalls yet. Plus the only thing they had was meat I couldn’t bring myself to look at, much less fake an interest in. So it was a record breaking quick market experience for me, which made it so I was back at the hostel joining up for the walking tour before 11 a.m. Yep, another walking tour. The third of the week.

We walked first to Plaza Nueva where we waited for more people to join, and then we headed to the old Arabic baths before climbing to a viewpoint to see Alhambra from a distance.

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Our guide explained to us why everything incorporates the word Allah, including the “skyline” of Alhambra. He also explained the impact (both positive and negative) that UNESCO has had on the town.

We then visited the gardens and house that is used for Spanish teachers taking a year off or teaching in Spain. He told us what we should already know – that commonwealth countries drive on the left side of the road (assuming everyone on the planet is right-handed) so you can shake hands (or kill someone) with the sword/lance in your right hand. He also explained why the steps are at annoying, varying distances – so that attackers all suited up in heavy armour had a hell of a time climbing them. Cool stuff.

We wrapped up the walking tour by 1:30 p.m. and James and I decided to figure out how the heck last minute planners get to see Alhambra in a 24 hour time frame. Despite the fact that tickets are sold out through the end of October, James and I somehow managed to find a third party vendor that had tickets for the following morning at 8:30 a.m.

Since Alhambra took over 150 years to build, we were warned there was no way to cover the sprawling place in two hours. Fortunately it turns out there are plenty of free areas and gardens to visit, and we decided to visit those immediately so that the next morning we would only have to sprint through the paid entry areas – Palacios Nazaries and Generalife.

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We stopped at the most confusing grocery store on earth, El Corte Igles, and bought picnic supplies before hauling our butts up the steep hills of Alhambra. We walked around the gardens and admired what we could before finding a fun spot to have a picnic.

Just before 6 p.m. we walked through the winding streets as we made our way back down the hill to Plaza Nueva.

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We were doing another tour, this one a little different from the others. We were doing a gypsy tour. There are tons of gypsies in Granada. Some live in the caves on the lower hills. They actually pay taxes and have electricity and other utilities. But the ones we were visiting, the real gypsies, live in caves on the upper hills.

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Their homes are carved into the hillside with elaborately decorated patios and front yards with gardens. These people are off the grid. They have thousands of dogs and cats and brightly colored decorations adorning their front lawns.

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Our tour guide led us straight up the hillside and into the “real gypsy” neighborhood. It’s not exactly something I would recommend doing on your own. Especially if you have a camera hanging around your neck and you are admiring how these people are living. But the guide we were with actually “housesat” a cave for five months, so he felt fairly comfortable leading a group of young backpackers through the hills.

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In regard to his house sitting assignment, he told us that if you own a cave and leave for a few days without a house sitter, your cave would quickly be occupied by somebody else.

After winding our way through the neighborhood we finally reached a cathedral at the top of the hill with incredible views.

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It’s ironic how these people don’t make any financial contribution to society, but are sitting with the best views of the entire region. It’s also interesting that a billionaire who wants to develop the hillside simply cannot because he knows the extent of resistance he would face from the hundreds of gypsies calling the hillside home would be insurmountable.

From the hill top we made our way back down to the bottom of the hill by going down the opposite hillside just as the sun was setting.

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After another ten hour day of walking, James and I spent a good 15 minutes deciding if the sunset was going to be worth the walk back up the hill. We decided it wasn’t, so we retreated down the hillside. Well, as soon as we got back to town the sky lit up with neon reds and oranges, so we of course turned around and ran back up the hill.

Thank God we did.

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Okay, you get the point.

But seriously…

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Even this peanut watched the show:

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After witnessing one of the most dramatic sunsets we had ever seen, we walked back to the hostel, showered and got ready for another night out. We decided to return to our new favorite spot, Bar Avila, since we felt so cool being able to successfully order everything in Spanish. Well, one drink turned into a few and it was past midnight before we went to Calle Navas for a real meal. It was late and we were to be up early for Alhambra, so we finally sank into our comfy bed around 2 a.m.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We were up at 7 a.m. and I think I could finally understand why a midday nap was going to be absolutely necessary to survive this one. We were pumped about seeing Alhambra, so I am pretty sure that is what carried us again up the hill to Palacios Nazaries. There was already a line before 8:30 a.m. and we patiently waited for the doors to open.

Now this place is one hell of a palace.

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We spent an hour running through the place before we booked it over to Generalife.

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By 10:30 a.m. we were running back to the hostel to grab our things. With our train to Seville departing in 15 minutes we had no choice but to get the third cab of our trip to the train station. We made the train with about two seconds to spare and ended up sitting next to a couple from Seattle. The three hour train ride took us through miles and miles of olive trees and into the even warmer air of Seville, where would I be making my second visit to this southern city!

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