After a five hour bus drive we arrived in Granada eager to find our hostel and head out exploring. Hit by a wall of heat we knew we had definitely arrived in the South and were definitely not going to need our jumpers, let alone our coats! We headed off in search of our room, only to be led into the suburbs- defined here exactly the same as the Spanish ‘suburbios’- with tower blocks of flats looming above us, the place had a rather gypsy feel to it, topped off with a horse tied up in the middle of a grassy verge made up more of sand and broken glass than it was grass. We started to wonder whether Granada was really what it was all cracked up to be. According to Google Maps the hostel was just around the corner leading us to a school surrounded by high walls resembling that which should stand guard around a castle. A refresh of Google Maps, another 2.5km walk, some intense map reading and a desperate call to the hostel owner and we found our room, albeit 2 hours later than expected!
We headed into the town to explore and in search of food. It became easy to understand why Granada is a much loved and visited destination amongst Spaniards. The city is made up of winding streets that branch off of Gran Via, the main street that cuts through the city and graces it with modernity, space and grandness. We spent our evening visiting the local bars which exceeded our expectations with free tapas accompanying each of our cañas of Alhambra. No two dishes were the same, ranging from cheese and spinach wraps, to warm dishes similar to ratatouille, to prawns and pineapple skewers, to cod and tomato salsa with bread. We were not disappointed! We had our first experience of a procession too which were to be a continuous presence throughout our holiday.
(A paso in one of the processions in Granada)
Our second day led us to explore the Albaicin of Granada. With its strong Muslim influences, this Arab Quarter is like another world within the city. Its buildings sprawl down the hill of San Cristobal and are characterised with white washed walls and terracotta tiled roofs. They are adorned with a view of the Alhambra situated on the top of the opposing hill and providing the centre point of the city. We wandered along the cobble-stoned streets of the Artisan market which were lined with shops selling arabic tea, wall hangings, glass tealight holders with intricate patterns and harem pants in an array of colours. We were amazed that they could all survive as the shops all sold the same things, with very little variation between them. Clambering up to the top of San Cristobal, the Mirador de San Nicholas provided as with the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Alhambra with its backdrop of snow covered mountains, that seemed slightly out of place in the 30° heat. Due to our late planning of the holiday we were unable to buy tickets to visit the Alhambra itself, however that didn’t stop us from exploring the free areas open to the general public. It was impossible to ignore the Islamic influence and the beauty of the place.
(View of the Alhambra)
Our first impressions of this city seemed like a distant, almost sinful, memory, as its centre had overwhelmed us with its quirks and character. After seeing all the sights we took to simply wandering the streets, of course with frequent stops to sample more tapas alongside our beers and do some people watching. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves sitting on another bus waiting to explore a new city, leaving with a true appreciation of this beautiful city.