Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Grand Granada

For the first time without our car, we made our journey to our next town. To Granada, by train. No arguing about how fast one is driving on the highway, about the need to actually slow down so that I can actually read the Spanish signs. And of course, no getting lost. We were only on the clickety clank regional train, but it was glorious. 

We arrived in Granada around 2PM and took a taxi through the twisting, narrow streets of Granada to our hostal. Again, we were so glad to not be driving. 5 Euros later we paid our taxi and walked down the narrow alley to Hostal Lima, where we met "La Madre." La Madre was an adorable middle-aged Spanish woman who runs Hostal Lima. She does not speak English. However, she had no trouble getting her messages across to JCB and me. 

This little woman carried our bags up two flights of stairs to our quaint room. She schooled us in the use of the heater, and then instructed us to have lunch at Bodega de Antonio. She drew a map, and essentially said, "Now go." By then it was almost 3PM, and Bodega de Antonio was surely closed for siesta. We never ended up finding it. But we did have luck scarfing down a few bocadilllos and beers.

We wandered around town, noting how many snowboarding shops are in Granada. Spain's highest mountain range is pretty close by, so it makes a lot of sense. And yet again, JCB and I looked at each other thinking, "I think I could live here."

Our feelings were only further confirmed after we stopped into a cute bodega for a glass of wine and were served our first FREE tapa. Yes, Granada is the last city in Spain in which the tradition of serving a free tapa with each drink is alive. And it is awesome. We enjoyed our wine and free food, and then headed back back to the hostal for siesta.

We slept well, almost too well. Happy to again be in a double bed instead of two singles pushed together, we found it almost too hard to wake up for dinner when 9:30 PM rolled around. But then we remembered all of the free food that was headed our way, so we got dressed and set out for Plaza Nueva, one of Granada's main squares. 

Our first stop, Bodegas Castaneda, was packed with locals yelling for drinks and tapas. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and some basic tapas (tortilla de patata, jamon y pan) before wandering over to Antigua Castaneda. This bar was less crowded, which surprised me, because the food was far superior. In fact, Antigua Castaneda served up the best spinach and garbanzo beans we've had on our entire trip. We stuck around for a couple more drinks, then headed back to Hostal Lima to get a good night's sleep.

The next day, we made our way to the Alhambra. Atop a hill overlooking Granada, the sheer size of this Muslim Castle was impressive. We toured both the Generalife (gardens) as well as the palace and castle. JCB took an audio-guided tour that fed him all the facts about the building and city's history. I opted to simply walk around and take pictures and have JCB fill me in on the good stuff. It's kind of difficult to describe the Alhambra, so I'll just leave it up to the pictures...

After our trip to the Alhambra, we visited a Hammam for an afternoon bath. Baths, actually. We visited an Arab bath house! We spent two hours soaking in different pools of cold, lukewarm, warm, very warm, and hot water. And in between baths, we received massages with aromatherapy. It was a warm relaxing way to end our day. 

Free tapas, the Alhambra, and Arab baths? Granada has definitely edged out Sevilla to become our second favorite town of the trip, just behind Barcelona. I wonder what's in store during our quick stop in Madrid followed by two nights in Valencia?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dad asks ... Did you try any Bodega or Bedegas wines? I hear that they are excellent.