Granada: the land of free food

Trip Start Dec 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 14, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Monday, May 30, 2011

We arrived here in Southern Spain on Thursday after an early flight from Barcelona. The Ryanair flight was remarkably good, and was perfectly on time. We had a 2 hour wait at Malaga airport before catching the bus through to Granada. Much to our delight, the bus was perfectly on time too and hardly stopped at all. The bus driver seemed in a mad rush to get there, which after South America, I find a very pleasing attribute in a bus driver.

We had no idea that here in Southern Spain there are snowy mountains (+3000m). We saw them as we flew into Malaga, and then approached them in the bus on the way to Granada. Granada actually sits right at the base of these mountains making for a very pretty backdrop and producing a gorgeous climate. The days were around 30 degrees, but temperatures dropped overnight to around 15 degrees, making for perfect sleeping conditions.

Granada is quite a small city of around 250,000 people. The city area is compact so everything was within walking distance of our accommodation. Our hostel was one of the best we have stayed in to date. We have learnt to look for guesthouses, as opposed to hostels here in Europe. They generally seem to be cheaper, less noisy, and of a much higher quality. This one was fantastic, with a lovely host who gave us lots of useful local information. It was so quiet I could finally sleep without earplugs (hallelujah!) which was a real treat. I'm soooo sick of noisy hostels.

We decided to stay here in Granada for five nights, so we didn’t feel like we had to rush around and do everything immediately. It has been a really nice place to relax and eat plenty of good food and good wine (yes, I’m feeling much better so have been able to totally indulge in the amazing Spanish food!). The most fantastic thing about Granada is that the food in the restaurants is essentially free. With every drink you purchase, they give you a free tapa. It is the most awesome concept. This means, that you can go out for dinner and literally end up having to pay nothing for food. Some of the free tapas were better than others – awesome ones included ciabatta bread with fresh tuna and anchovies fillets, a plate of prawns, and chorizo and cheese platters. We did this for dinner almost every night. It made for a really fun experience as you never quite knew what was going to be served up on your table. Typically, the more you drank, the bigger and better the tapa.

Aside from free tapas, Granada is known for its Islamic influence and the famous Islamic castle called the Alhambra. My knowledge of European history is shocking, so I have to admit that before deciding to come to Southern Spain I had no idea that this part of the world was under Moorish rule from around 700- 1400 AD. Although many of the Islamic buildings have been replaced by 16th century churches and palaces, there is still a lot of Islamic influence around the city. There are the old city walls/gates and the old Muslim district full of narrow, steep, cobbled lanes. Further up the hill was the Gypsy area, where people live in caves built into the hillside. We loved wandering around these areas of the city as the houses and buildings were so different to anything we have seen previously, and it was so peaceful and quiet.

The Alhambra was the opposite of peaceful and quiet. However, it is a must see when in Granada. In fact, the Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain. 6500 people go through this castle daily but the numbers are capped. What we didn’t realize is that only a few tickets go on sale at the ticket office everyday – the rest have to be booked online and are usually booked out up to a week in advance. That meant we were stuck with having to go to the ticket office at the crack of dawn to line up to be reasonably assured of getting one. As it turned out, despite having to get up early, we got the tickets easily (the awesome guy at our accommodation told us about a couple of machines that dispensed tickets, of which no one else seemed to know about, meaning queuing up was unnessacary).

The Alhambra is huge. It takes up an entire hillside and has wonderful views out over the city and the old Islamic district. It was built originally in the 1300’s as the Sultans palace and garden retreat, encapsulated by large walls and a military zone. The whole area was heavily modified though after Spain fell back into Christian hands i.e. mosques were turned into churches, and patios/courtyards were turned into royal palaces. However, one of the original Islamic palaces has been heavily restored and is absolutely beautiful. The amount of detail in the stonework was quite unbelievable. The gardens were also gorgeous, but the hordes of people really distracted from their tranquility – it was a battle to move at times. I guess this is what we have to get used to in Europe!

We had quite an unbelievable thing happen to us in Granada – we saw someone we knew. I was in the process of taking way to many pictures of a building while Sean was very patiently waiting for me watching the world go by. He happened to spot someone in a BHP Exploration T-shirt. I turned around to look and there was Nick Hayward, a friend and ex-colleague of mine from Perth. I ran over to him and just threw my arms around him! I think I was subconsciously so happy to see someone, or ANYONE that we knew. It was great to have someone else to talk to other than Sean (no offense my boy!). We met up for drinks that afternoon which was so nice. How small the world is.

From here, we move on to Sevilla. Again, we have five days there just to chill out, which will be awesome. Long may the good health continue!  
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Vivienne on

Mum and I enjoyed reading about Granada. We are pleased that your are feeling better and are able to enjoy the wine. Pam treated us to a bottle of Spanish wine the other evening. It was very nice.

Pam on

Fantastic pictures. Isn't Islamic architecture wonderful? How I would love to see the Alhambra.

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