There is so much to be said about Granada. So much that it has taken me until the end of my program to get it written down. I was too busy living and experiencing to sit down and reflect upon it all. Alas, I have returned from my travels abroad so I feel better about hunkering down in front of my computer and getting lost in my memories of the past month of my life.
To put it mildly, my trip to Spain was spectacular. There are no words to fully explain what I experienced in Granada. By learning to adapt to a foreign way of life, I came to understand myself in new and deeper ways. I learned that I value the company of others more than the feeling of making an A on an exam. I learned the importance of using eye contact and body language in conversation. I also learned how to function on only 5 hours of sleep, with coffee as my trusty sidekick. Most importantly, I learned how beautiful it is to live la buena vida. The Spaniards love the simple things. They value their traditions, their food, and their people. So in order to best convey the beauty of this Spanish city, I have compiled a list.
What Makes Granada Wonderful
The Alhambra – A Moorish palace located on a mountainside overlooking the entire valley. Buses are available to take you up for less than 2 euro, but the walk takes you on an uphill hike through a glowing green forest. To imagine a once thriving society living within the walls of this city is captivating.
The Sierra Nevadas – The mountains never let you forget about them. At any place in the city you can look up and see them in the distance. Granada is the soup to a gigantic bowl of mountains, which are easily accessible for hiking, camping, horseback riding, and even paragliding. It’s an easy taxi or bus ride away, and the views are incredible.
The Albacín – A barrio (neighborhood) with heavy Moorish influences. Narrow streets lined with Moroccan markets and teaterías (tea shops) wind up the side of a steep hill, at the base of the Sierra Nevadas. From one plaza the Alhambra can be viewed directly across a valley in the city. Here you can find artisans selling jewelry, art, and playing music. It’s a great place to have a picnic and watch the sunset or the moon rise.
Street Musicians – In every part of Granada, there is a guarantee of hearing street music. While live music is hard to find in a bar, accordions, electric guitars, fiddles, didgeridoos and other instruments can be heard throughout the streets of Granada.
Corpus Cristi Festival – Every year, 60 days after Easter Sunday, a week long celebration is held to honor the body of Christ. The main event is a solemn procession through the street, while Tarasque, a more festive one, features the figure of a woman on a dragon. During this time, bullfights with horseback lancers are held. Specifically in Granada, the annual fair also happens to fall on this week.
Feria de Granada – A week-long fair with carnival rides and casetas, tents set up as restaurants, bars, and discos. Some have stages for traditional Andalusian dancing, and you can find Spanish women dancing in traditional flamenco dresses.
Marble Sidewalks – An unexpected feature, the sidewalks leading through the center of Granada are tiles of marble. It adds a beautiful touch for roaming through the city. Although if it has rained, they tend to become slippery so don’t walk too fast!
Sacromonte – With mountains come caves, and for some a place to live. In this neighborhood set into the side of a mountain, homes have been carved into the soft stone of the caves. Despite the rounded stone ceilings and low doorways, the homes are fully stocked with running water and electricity. This area is known for it’s artists and musicians (specifically flamenco guitar), and also for the local hangout spot San Miguel Alto. From this point you can view the entire bowl of Granada.
Siestas – It may be hard to believe, but all of the eating and drinking can cause one to become tired. So during the heat of the day, after lunch has been served, the shops close down and everyone goes home for their daily nap. Siesta is a time from about 2 – 6 pm when the entire city quiets down.
The Easy-Going Attitude – A main aspect of the Spanish lifestyle is the nonchalance. There is no need to be formal or punctual. Meals can take three hours or more, and the server will only come if he is summoned. To walk down the street eating a protein bar or drinking a coffee to-go is a sure sign of a tourist. Drinks are to be enjoyed, not consumed on the go or with the intention of getting drunk. Free time is rarely spent alone. The Spaniards love to be social, so going out with friends is how someone relaxes rather than sitting at home in front of the TV.
Tapas – A style specific to Granada, tapas are served whenever a drink is ordered at a tapas bar. This means that whenever you order wine, beer, or any alcoholic beverage, you will get a plate of food with a serving for each person who ordered a drink. This combination of food and drinks can only guarantee happy people and good conversations.
Gelato – Pretty self explanatory. It’s hot outside, and every person you pass is enjoying a waffle cone filled with creamy deliciousness, so you must have one for yourself. Then repeat. Every single day.
Tostadas – Breakfast in Spain is simple. Coffee or orange juice, and toast. A typical toast is served with tomaté (mashed tomato) and olive oil. I prefer butter and jam so all I need to say is: “Me pone tostada con mermelada y mantequilla.” It’s the best toast you’ll ever have.
Olives – Andalusia is a desert landscape, with dry, arid soil, which is perfect for the olive tree. Driving through the mountains, olive trees are visible from the roadside all the way up to the sloping mountainside. Sit down at any restaurant and you’ll find bottles of olive oil or be served a plate of olives. Many people who don’t like olives claimed to have liked them while in Spain. The olive oil has a sweeter flavor than any I had tried in the States, and as a lover of olives, I was in heaven!
Wine – Tinto de verano (summer wine) / sangria / granizado de manzana. The ways to consume wine are endless. Even the plain old red wine in Spain is fantastic!
Tortilla de Patatas – Or the Spanish omelette, is a simple dish of egg and potatoes. It is a classic tapas dish that became a staple in my diet while abroad. Americans love eggs and potatoes. Why have we never fused the two?