Grenada Por Nada

Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
Trip End Oct 10, 2006

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Friday, October 6, 2006

MOOD: A wee bit drunk, a wee bit lonely.
TIME/PLACE: Oct 6, 1:06am, sitting on the floor outside room 6 of Pension Venecia. I would be sitting on the nice bench with the comfy pillows, but this stupid computer didn't charge last night, even though I left it plugged in all night. But now it's plugged in and seems to be charging. Meanwhile, the owner just came in with his small dog who's standing near me while his master is cleaning the toilets and muttering to himself in Spanish.
FOOD LAST CONSUMED: Ooh boy, where to start? After not eating a proper dinner the last two nights, I had sangria at the flamenco place, followed by Lamb Tenjin with Prunes and Almonds at Restaurante Arrayanes, a Moroccan restaurant, followed by a bottle of Alhambra Negra at Cafe Bar Elvira that came with a tapas, so I chose albongigas (meatballs), followed by a small bottle of Voll Dam beer at La Riveria which also came with tapas, so I chose pulpo de fritto (fried squid). Holy crap I'm stuffed. Next time I decide to drink I'll skip dinner!

I arrived in Granada at 10:30 last night, a half hour earlier than the bus driver predicted. As I'd been on three buses since 5:45 with only 10 minutes in-between, this was a good thing. As the hostel that I called ahead to stay at, Pension Venecia, is a mom-and-pop affair that's "muy tranquillo" and the owners seem to close up shop pretty early, it's very good that I arrived earlier rather than later.

Pension Venecia is incredibly well decorated. There's lots of homey touches, and the couple that owns it are darling. Since a single is only 15, the cheapest I've had to pay for a bed in Europe, and I thought it was going to be 20, it feels like nothing. I only had one roommate last night in a room of four beds. His name was Rodolfo and he was from Chile. He spoke no English, but we managed to have a conversation with my pidgin Spanish for a bit before he went to bed and I stayed up reading.


I didn't sleep all that well as it was cold and the noise outside in the morning was terrific, and I was even using my earplugs. Pension Venecia is right off of one of the main squares, Plaza Nueva, as well as the main road up to the Alhambra, the number one tourist attraction in Grenada and the reason I'm here. Tonight I've already closed the window and the shutters, hoping it will alleviate the cold and noise, but we'll see.

I got out of here around 11am, had some fresh squeezed OJ and a chocolate pastry at a bar where the server behind the bar didn't seem to want to believe that I didn't want coffee, went online to see about getting a cheap flight to Barcelona tonight (no such luck) and then trudged the 800 meters up to the Alhambra, stopping at a mini-market to get a big thing of vanilla flavored milk and a "tortilla patatas" for later.

The guide book warned about there being a need for reservations due to a limited number of tickets sold each day, and it wasn't joking. The place was thronged and I think tickets were already sold out by the time I got there at 1 or so. In fact, I was told that reservations for the next day were impossible, and that I'd have to come back at 8am the next day. Shit. But tickets for the gardens were available for 5 Euros, though the ticket for the palace, if I bought them the next day, would include the gardens, so it would be like paying twice. Double shit.

Well then I went to the Information booth where they gave me a map of Grenada, and in the English portion of the map it mentioned that there was a tourist card. I asked the man at the info booth who spoke no English about a "tarjeta de turistica" and he had no idea what I was talking about. So then I got back in line and spoke to the lady who did speak English and she said that not only is there such a card, a "Bono Turistico," but that it would enable me to make a reservation for the next day at any time I chose meaning I wouldn't have to get up at 8am. Plus it includes free bus rides on both the local and double-decker tourist buses, and free admission to the Cathedral and other sites! Sounded good to me.

So I once again got back in line and listened to Mike Watt's "Contemplating the Engine Room" in its entirety. (I've been using the iPod's album shuffle function on this trip. Pretty good way to listen to albums I haven't heard in years.) At the window it took quite some time for them to produce this Bono Turistico for me, but I got it and was given access to the gardens at that time, included. And that's what I did.

The Generalife gardens were nice, and I really liked the use of water, falling in love with one of the fountains, but it didn't hold a candle to the Alcazar's gardens. I'm not sure anything ever will.

After about an hour and a half of garden viewing I trudged up this big ass hill, hoping to exploit my card to take the bus back, but no suck luck. I was waiting for awhile, reading the guide book, when a security guy on a moped came up to inform me and others that there would be no bus coming. So I followed the others back down the road and it turned out that the correct stop was right by the exit. Sonofabitch.


Back at the Pension Venecia I asked the Senora if there was a kitchen, showing her the tortilla patatas that I had purchased. I had intended to eat it for lunch, but realized too late that it needed to be pan-fried, otherwise it would be pretty gross cold. She said, no, there wasn't a kitchen for guests, but that she would cook it for me. I was moved, embarrassed and delighted, all at the same time.

A few minutes later she brought it to my room, all hot and crispy brown. It was a whole lotta food -- like three eggs and two potatoes worth. But I ate it all (slowly) and decided it needed a beer. So I walked back up towards a section I stumbled into last night while trying to find the Pension, the old Muslim quarter of town, and went to a hotel bar that looked good last night. I asked if they had "cerveza negra" (dark beer), and it turned out they did -- La Mezquita Premium, which was a whole 7.2% alcohol. I fell into my first tapas trap of the day when the bartender asked me, "Que tapas?" Not knowing what to say, I said in English, "Whatta you got?" and she said to me in English, "Whatta you want?" I laughed and said, "Your choice," and she later brought me a piece of toast with canned tuna fish, roasted red pepper with oregano sprinkled on top, paprika on the side of the dish, and some olives, which I'm sad to say were my only olives in Spain thus far. It was all great, but I was really full.

The bartender was playing this CD which had two songs that struck me. One was in English mostly that went, "Welcome to Tijuana. We have tequila and sexo and marijuana." The other took me awhile to figure out, but it was a cover en Espanol of The Clash's "Police On My Back." I asked what the name of the band was and she told me XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, and they're from Grenada.

After that I visited the Cathedral, which was quite nice and had not one giant set of organ pipes but two so they mirrored each other, and the Capilla Real, where you can see the crypts of dead rulers past. I was underwhelmed.

I walked down the street to try and find the CD that I heard in the bar, but none of the five albums at the "venta de discos" had either of those songs.

It was then that I noticed the large masses of young people outside carrying beer and sangria. At the liquor store next to the CD shop there was a line 20 people long. I was amazed. I was trying to figure out where they were all going and what was going on, and so, after the line had died down at the liquor store, I asked the Asian owner and she said, "They're students. It's like this with them all the time. They go all over." I bought a large bottle of the same beer I had seen the kids drinking and went back to following them.

All over actually turned out to be this square nearby, and there must have been a thousand kids there, all drinking and smoking pot. There were cops, but they weren't doing anything and the kids ignored them. What a scene.

After that I got online, updated my TravelPod entries, went back to the pension, changed clothes, consulted the guide book and went out looking for three things: flamenco, food and booze. I found all three, though I only caught the last 20 minutes of the flamenco show and it cost me 20 Euros. Oh well. The restaurant with the lamb was the same one mentioned in the guidebook, though it's amazing that I found it as it was well hidden. And the booze... it's done it's deed. I'm ready for bed.

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