Friday, 17 October 2014

tapas and palaces in granada

After my "experience" in Seville I was looking forward to getting to Granada to see if it was as good as I had heard. It certainly didn't disappoint.

The Alhambra
I did my usual get lost as soon as I got there, completely missing my bus stop and going all the way to the end of the bus line, but I eventually made it to the Granada Inn Backpackers, which was a million times better than my previous accommodation. It is built in the traditional moorish style with a courtyard in the middle. My 12 bed dorm was actually 3 separate rooms which meant I only really shared with 5 others, bonus!

I was starving so off I went to find some food, stumbling immediately across several tapas bars. Thus began my love affair with tapas, which meant that I never actually ordered a meal in Granada, only beer and then the occasional extra tapa if I felt like more food than whatever was offered for free.
Mmm olives, my favourite!

Cana + tapa for €1.50? Yes please!

My first night out in Granada involved unlimited sangria, paella and dancing crazily to spanish music in a local bar with a bunch of other people from the hostel, it couldn't have got much better!

I spent much of the rest of my time (when I wasn't eating tapas) following Nick, who runs the Tour Guru Granada around. The 11am walking tour is recommended by the hostel and it was definitely worth it. Nick is from London but has lived in the area for around 5 years now, so his tour in both English and Spanish was entertaining and covered so much about the area it was awesome. We got to go into gardens and other areas we couldn't have on our own as well. As with these free walking tours generally, you could tip at the end and most people did, considering the tour lasted for around 3 and a half hours and was so good.
Inside an old bathhouse from Moorish times

Decoration on the wall inside an original house

Narrow streets of the Albyzin

A traditional house, open in the middle

Views of the Alhambra

Looking down on Granada

Houses in the narrow streets

More awesome views of the palace

Of course I followed this up with eating some more tapas with people I met on the tour before heading back to the hostel for a siesta (another thing to love about Spain) and heading out to follow Nick around again for the evening Cave Tour. This was one of many highlights of Granada. On the hills above the Albayzin, the old Muslim quarter, are various cave houses. Many of the houses lower on the hill are actually traditionally caves that have house fronts built on them. Further up the hill the caves are more of a hippy type commune area, where people who do not own them, but just occupy them and chose to live a lifestyle with no running water or electricity.
Walking up towards the caves

Best views in the city
As we walked up the hill some of us joked about how much you would have to be paid to live there, after actually being able to see inside them, we all wanted to! These caves have the best views in the city, encompassing the white buildings of the Albayzin and looking directly over to the Alhambra, the old moorish palace of Granada. Every now and then they are demolished by the government, in a bid not to encourage settlement there, and eventually they will probably be bought out and the land sold for a high price due to the development oppotunities.
Outside one of the caves

Looking into a cave house

Walking up near the old city walls

Caroline overlooking Granada

On the other side of the city wall that runs along the top of the hill are caves owned generally by gypsies, in the famous Sacromonte area of Granada. These caves are generally much more run down, as if someone is renting them they would not want to do them up, because they have no real rights and the family could then come back to occupy a cave nicely done up for them, or they are owned by the families returning and realising the potential of the land and cave they own. It's likely that as time passes these will all become down up and sold, or turned into airbnb type places when people realise the potential of it all. I would stay there if I could!
With the city behind me

The view just 15-20 minutes walk from the city centre

Another cave house

Lesser established gypsy caves in Sacromonte

It looks like Hobbiton!

More established cave houses made to look like actual houses in Sacromonte

Storm clouds coming over Granada

During the tour Nick recommended a place to go and see flamenco if we wanted something cheaper and more intimate. Fred and Caroline and I went and had tapas and then went to the 10pm show. It was amazing. In a tiny narrow room lined with tables we were treated to a show with a woman singing, a man playing the guitar and then finally a flamenco dancer joining in as well. I can't even describe the power of the vocals alone, let alone when the dancer comes out and dances with such passion that you forget there is even someone singing.
Night in Sacromonte

The Alhambra at night

Patatas Bravas? Hellz yes

The singer and guitarist - crappy iPhone photos

I wish I could have got a decent video!

Trying to capture the crazy foot movements
Fred and I planned to get up the next morning to try and get the elusive Alhambra tickets. This palace on the hilltop is so popular you need to book before you even get to Granada, otherwise you need to be up super early in the morning to try and get the limited number of tickets available that day. There may generally be some available for just the gardens, known as the Generalife, or just the greater part of the Alhambra but not including the Nasrid Palace, which in my opinion is the thing most worth seeing. We woke up before the daylight and headed up at 6.45am, managing to get right near the front of the sneaky credit card only line (tip, avoid the big line and head to just past the bookstore where there are multiple machines you can buy your ticket from). It also happened to be the time when they were releasing the results of the Scottish Referendum, which for personal reasons I was pretty invested in, so I was glued to my phone from the moment I got up and spent most of the time in the line txting for updates.

I got a golden ticket!

Inside one of the courtyards

The view from the fortress

More of the inside of the fortress part

Looking over towards the hills with the caves

Selfie stick with Fred and I! The front camera on my iPhone is awful...

Fred at the top of one of the towers of the Alhambra

The lack of sleep and early morning wake up call was 100% worth it once we got inside so early and were able to be one of the first groups through the palace, which I would recommend as it just gets busier and busier. Another time I wish I wasn't just using an iPhone 4 camera!
The beginning of the stunning architecture

Inside the Palace

Moor style on a larger scale

Islamic influence

The whole place had this design like nothing I had ever seen

The whole walls and roof decorated

I've never seen anything like this anywhere else so it was stunning

Another courtyard

They are restoring a lot of this to the original colours and where birds have got in

Unfortunately my pictures don't do it justice!

Looking out to one of the gardens

A smaller older style palace

In the Generalife, which wasn't so impressive

Stair fountain with water going down the sides

Me in the Generalife

Outside one of the lower entrances

I had a well deserved siesta that afternoon before heading out on my last tour with Nick, to see the street art around Granada. Sadly as Granada becomes more touristy and commerical much of it is disappearing, but there are still some great pieces, especially those by El Nino, the Banksy of Spain. In any case the tour goes through the old Jewish Quarter and student area of Granada which is interesting in it's own right.
The cog is El Nino's sign

Most of the art is about Spain or Granada

Trying to bring back trams

People have paid El Nino to graffiti their buildings

A lot if more like murals

Next to Strummer Square

On someone's house

I finished off in Granada with a pub crawl run by the hostel, which was so much fun since I had made friends with some of the people working at the hostel and staying there.
Drunk me is pretty decent at darts
I had high hopes for Granada, having chosen it as pretty much the one place I would go in Spain other than where my HelpX was the following week, and it exceeded all my expectations. I can't begin to recommend enough this place to anyone. The scenery, the food, the people, it was all awesome, and I will definitely be back.


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