So by the time the second weekend of April rolled around, spring was firmly here in Córdoba, and I was itching for a trip. Granada, perhaps one of the most well-known cities in Spain is only a two and a half hour bus ride to the southeast, and I have been meaning to get down there all year. This was my third trip to Granada: I went once in high school and again on a study abroad excursion from Salamanca, but both times were on a tour and very rushed, so I was particularly excited to get to know Granada on my own terms and my own pace. It is a beautiful university town, located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and an hour from the coast. A perfect location (granada means pomegranate in Spanish). So on Friday, my friend Kate met up with me in Córdoba and we caught a bus down to Granada for the weekend.
We stayed in a wonderful place called White Nest Hostel, located in the Albayzín quarter on a big hill near the Alhambra along the Paseo de los tristes (Promenade of the sad people); it’s a beautiful street that runs parallel to the river and behind the Alhambra; it gets its name from the fact that funeral processions used to pass through this street heading up to the cemetery. We had coffee under a wisteria canopy next to the river below the Alhambra and then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Albayzín, which was the medieval Moorish neighborhood of the city. A labyrinth of narrow, winding cobblestone streets, white walls covered in flowers, decrepit stairs, and quaint little plazas, maps are pretty useless here. Best to give yourself a couple of hours just to wander around and discover hidden spots.
We eventually made our way to the Plaza de San Nicolas, a well-known square that overlooks the city of Granada, with the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada in the distance. I wish this place was a hidden treasure, but unfortunately all of Granada knows about it and it’s generally packed with people. However, the view alone makes jostling elbows with tourists and hippie street vendors with their dogs worthwhile. We perched on the bench overlooking the city as the sun went down. What a great way to end the day!
After the sun went down Kate and I decided to take advantage of the famous tapas in Granada. Granada is one of the last few places in Spain where you can still get a free tapa with a drink in a bar. We basically spent the evening going from one place to another, buying a tinto de verano or sangría and getting a free tapa. Every place serves something different which makes it a cheap, fun and easy way to eat dinner! Granada has a sweet nightlife owing to all the university students, which makes it a really fun city to go out at night.
The next morning we woke up and had breakfast in the sun in the main square. We spent more time wandering around central Granada before heading up to the Alhambra-our afternoon there warrants its own post, which will come soon, I promise! We ventured into the cathedral and then in the Capilla Real, where Ferdinand and Isabella (Los reyes católicos) are buried. For me, a huge medieval history nerd, and of medieval Spain to top it off, to get to see where the Catholic Monarchs are interred is kinda like the Holy Grail for me, especially since Isabel la Católica figured prominently in my senior thesis. Incredible doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It is also morbidly fascinating because you can actually walk below the memorials to the crypt and see the coffins. Too weird?
Afterward we were wandering around a different part of the city when we came across a 500 year old convent. It was tucked away in a little square with no one around, but there was a sign posted outside saying that they sold sweets. We went into the entrance and rang the bell hoping to buy some home-made nun candy. In Spain many of the convents sell home-made things to support themselves, and I had bought sweets before made by nuns, but they were usually outsourced to a local shop; I’d never bought anything from the nuns themselves. After a bit a light came on behind a turntable almost like at a bank. Through the wall we ordered the sweets, placed the money on the wooden turntable and swiveled it around to the nun. After a second it came back around with our candy! Kate and I looked at each other and smiled. We didn’t see her face the whole time! Truly a cloistered convent!
On Sunday, our last day in Granada, we ate breakfast again in the sun and spent the morning exploring more of the Albayzín. Did I mention there is beautiful wisteria everywhere and the whole city smells like flowers? The whole city looked so idyllic it seemed fake. A common occurrence here in Andalucía. We had a lunch of tapas in a cute little square. We eventually decided to walk towards the Sacramonte area when we came across two little kids selling fresh lemons! A Spanish version of a lemon stand! So adorable. Under the bright blue sky and blazing Spanish sun we eventually made our way towards the barrio Sacramonte, a traditional Gypsy neighborhood, now famous for its flamenco venues and white cave houses carved into the hillside. As we headed back in to town to grab out things, I just couldn’t help but think how much I wanted to stay and to live here one day. A sign of a great city.