Exploring… Granada!

About a month late, but here is an update on my adventures in Granada.

So I headed to Granada a few weeks ago to visit a friend (who had the exact same placement last year as I have now, but has since moved) and to explore the city, as I’d never been before. After a 5:30am start, a car journey to Córdoba, and then two bus journeys to Granada’s centre (the Spanish public transport system more than sucks…), I finally arrived.

So, to begin with, Shelly gave me a little tour around the centre of the city, which had a few really nice streets for shopping, mostly made up of little boutiques etc., before we stopped off for a quick tapa at a cervecería. At pretty much any place in the city the tapas come free with a drink, so you get a pretty good deal at only 1.50€ for a beer and a snack!

Granada is a city steeped in history and culture, and one thing I particularly picked up on was how the city has a really cool vibe to it; all of the streets are old and cobbled, and everyone there seems to have a very free and liberal kind of attitude towards life. There’s even a huge population of people who live very naturally, making homes in the woods down by the river and making a living by selling jewellery, handmade from recycled materials.

So we decided to take a walk along the river and ‘hike’ up the hill to Sacromonte, an area famous for being home to a substantial Gitano community, who built their homes in the hillside caves, excavated from its soft rock. The area is also famous for its deep history of flamenco culture. Although some claim that flamenco was ‘born’ in these hillside caves, nobody is sure of the exact origins of this cultural phenomenon; however, there is a strong flamenco presence there nonetheless (eg. see the statue of Mario Maya, below; one of Spain’s most influential flamenco dancers, who grew up in Sacromonte).

It was a really picturesque little cluster of whitewashed cave houses, with amazing views; far enough from central Granada to overlook the city, as well as facing opposite the Alhambra, on the other side of the valley. I was actually surprised that there weren’t many other tourists up there, considering the cultural and historical merit of Sacromonte, but I was really glad that there weren’t. It made it easier to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and the raw history of the area that ‘belongs to’ what is, generally speaking, a very private community. Plus these are actually people’s homes, that have been passed down through the generations, not just tourist attractions (even though I was one really).

On the way down we stopped off at a cool little ‘gift’ type shop that had been built into one of the caves, and sold cool jewellery and pottery, etc. as well as some pretty original handmade tshirts. So I had to pick myself up a nice plate (because why not?) and a hair spike thing that was actually from Morocco (a lot of places in southern Spain, particularly Granada, buy their stock from towns in northern Morocco as its cheaper, and ship it across by boat to sell back here). After all the walking we had to then grab ourselves another tapa to keep us going- 2€ each for a beer and this veggie feast!

As the day was drawing to a close we decided we had to head up to the famous Mirador de san Nicolás to watch the sun set over the city. (From the pictures you can probably see that you get a similar view to that from the hill of Sacromonte; it’s up that hill on the same side of the city, just a little further along, so the views were even better.) I didn’t realise that so many people make it an event to turn up at this time of the evening, and once the sun started setting you could easily see why, as it was pretty incredible! The atmosphere was also really nice; people were lined up along the wall to watch out over the city, there were crafters from the local ‘hippy’ community (hate to generalise but I don’t know how else to describe it!) selling their handmade, recycled jewellery, and a couple of guys playing flamenco guitar and singing just to top it all off. All in all a definite highlight of the weekend.

my new swirlies!

On the way back down to the centre we made our way through one of the main shopping streets, where they sell all kinds of cool things, I think mostly shipped in from Morocco. It reminded me a bit of Camden actually with all the same kinds of things for sale; incense and burners, sequinned and embroidered throws and cushion covers, and of course lots of mini Buddha statues. But it was a really nice atmosphere, with a couple of cute teterías nestled amoung all the shops (here they serve you Moroccan tea using really cute silver tea sets, and you get to sit in cool little booths with cushions and drapes and shisha pipes everywhere; we didn’t have time to go in but they looked pretty nice). And then of course I saw the henna ladies on their stools and the sides of the street and couldn’t help myself:

One of my favourite things about Granada is that, because there is such a big ‘hippy’ community, they cater really well for vegetarians and vegans, as there is such a big demand. So pretty much every bar in the centre will have veggie/ vegan tapas options (yes! finally) and we actually managed to find a couple of really cool specialist vegan restaurants, where I feasted on random selection of mini vegan tacos and pasta bolognese from the tapas menu. Beats my usual plate of potatoes anyway… We ended the night with a couple of glasses of wine before hitting the hay as I had a very early start planned for the next day.

I had to be up at the crack of dawn the next day because I had booked in to go and see the Alhambra. For anyone that doesn’t know, the Alhambra is a huge, mostly Arabic, palace and fortress complex, made up of palaces and churches and museums and all kinds of cool, ancient buildings, that sits atop the hill on the other side of the valley, overlooking the city. But you have to book tickets way in advance if you want to stand a chance of getting in, as it’s so famous and popular with tourists, and you need to book a particular time slot for certain palaces because only a limited amount of people can go in at a time. And of course I booked late and the only slot left for the palaces was 8:30am… But it was a really incredible place so was definitely worth it. There was so much to see you could easily spend all day walking round and exploring, if you really wanted to see everything; I was there for over four hours and I still didn’t manage it all! I don’t really know how to go into detail about the awesomeness and intricacy of the architecture, the gardens, the artwork, and most of all the views, so I think it best I let the millions of pictures I took speak for themselves:

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The views are of the city on both sides, as well as the hill where Sacromonte is and the Mirador de san Nicolás

I ended the weekend with a quick bite before struggling back to Puente Genil on the horrendous Spanish public transport system (which I’m sure you’ll hear me complain about in more detail in posts to come).

My next travel post will be detailing my first time venturing onto the African continent ( :O ), as I tell you all about my time in Morocco!







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