Of all of the cities we’ve visited in Spain, Granada is my favorite. It had a really special culture that was just so different from any other place. We stayed in a beautiful apartment with a view of the Alhambra.
Some special things in Granada:
- If you order drinks at the bar, they give you free tapas, which we tried out right away… They were great! We also ate out in Granada for almost every meal for convenience. The hot chocolate there is super thick to dunk your churros in and the tapas are so good that that’s all we ate for dinner!
- There are pomegranates everywhere; on the doors, sewer covers, sidewalk blockades, carved into stones, real ones hanging off pomegranate trees. Granada is the spanish word for pomegranate, so that would explain it.
- Flamenco dancing and its music was started here. We visited old gypsy caves in Granada which were remodeled by a small museum and you could see how they lived back then. It was well done, with the old furniture and explanations of the different uses of certain caves. The gypsies, who were originally from India, started up flamenco here. One night we watched real flamenco dancing, a small production put on by a band. It was amazing! They had an artsy film playing in the back, of a stream or the Alhambra. There was an old woman, who had the deepest voice, and she wrote all of the poetry, or song. There was another man who had a great voice, a pianist, guitarist, and a person who hit this box that sounded like it was full of beads. The flamenco dancer was a beautiful artist and really good. It’s a very emotional art… I just can’t figure out how they move their feet so fast!
- Cobblestone streets are the complete norm. Do not bring high heels! It is simply impossible to walk anywhere. Even in the modern part of town, everything is cobblestone; level streets are unheard of, nor are wide ones.
Buns from the nuns
This is something really special to Granada and a complete insiders secret, as is the free tapas thing. According to the map we had, there are 12 convents in the city. All of the nuns bake and you can buy these buns / sweets, but only if you know how. In the convent walls or little foyers, there is a small door and a piece of paper listing what there is to buy, which is limited. If you ring the bell and wait, a bit scared, you will eventually hear a voice through the little mesh grate… A chain rattles and you are allowed to open the door, which will show you a revolving circular shelf, like a lazy susan. You can order let’s say 1/2 kilo almond buns and the voice will tell you how much it costs, which you lay into the shelf and it slowly revolves, creaking creepily until it comes to halt and you can pick up the bag of buns, but not before it revolves again, giving you your change. The buns from the nuns turned out to be tasty!
The largest tourist attraction in Granada, with 3.5 million visitors a year, a world heritage site, and nominated for one of the Great Wonders of the World, the Alhambra was what we’d been dying to see in Granada, enhanced by the beautiful view from our apartment. The first thing you’d notice is that it is huge; it’s enormous actually. The history is as follows: the Alhambra was a fort used by the Moors, who were in control of Spain since 711. The first mention of it was in the 900s, so the oldest parts of the Alhambra are probably around 1,100 years old. Then it became a castle for the Sultan, who decorated the rooms elaborately and carved numerous pools and streams into the lush gardens. The Alhambra was expanded and intricately designed, the Nasrid Palace famous for its Golden Room and others like it. Unfortunately, our tickets did not allow us into the Nasrid Palace, thereby having us miss those beautiful rooms, but we’ll save it as an excuse to come again! The Alhambra was the last Moorish stronghold when the Christians regained control. Charles V, who actually wasn’t the fifth (he was the first), built his palace right in the middle of it, surrounded by Muslim influences, like the onion shaped domes, patterns, etc. We walked in and it was definitely different, with tall marble columns and a circular center. We also saw the Alcazaba, dungeon silo, and numerous watch towers, which each provided a view of Granada (we even found our own house!)
We walked through the gardens next, enjoying the mazes and fountains, hundreds of different flowers and plants and little paths. It was beautiful of course, but at one point you go a little crazy at the sheer amount of things to look at, examine, discover, and marvel at. I guess you could say the Alhambra is overwhelmingly beautiful. I think it was even Queen Elizabeth’s last wish to be buried here.
Granada was amazing and we are now back in Jimena de la Frontera, with my cousin and aunt. A couple more small day trips (maybe) will ensue. Paris is next!