Ah, Granada, the historic city nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. That’s right, anywhere Spanish is spoken, a Sierra Nevada mountain range is never too far away. Granada actually comes from the Spanish word for pomegranate, representations of which can be found throughout the cobbled streets, tiled signs and just about everywhere else you look. Granada is known for its Moorish past, the expansive Alhambra, and for putting the tapas of Madrid to shame. Forget about that whole potato chip, olive bowl incremental buildup I wrote about in Madrid. In Granada, olives are a natural element to your table, like oxygen in the air. We were getting bowls of stewed carracoles (snails), plates of avocado bread with sliced sausages, platters of prawns, a halved and caponata stuffed eggplant…the list goes on. We spent the majority of our time in the city drinking cañas (tiny beers) and waiting in joyous anticipation for our next tapa to reveal itself. See some of the tapa highlights for yourself!
Aside from sitting in the patios of various restaurants eating tapas and drinking, we managed to pepper in a few notable cultural activities into our Granada excursion. We visited the mighty Alhambra and spent 5 glorious hours strolling through its vast and well maintained grounds. You can buy tickets for either a morning session of an afternoon session, and since it was important for us to drink cañas and eat tapas in the afternoon everyday, we went for the AM. The most stunning archeological component of the Alhambra is the Nasrid palace. In an effort to control the flow of visitors there you must choose a designated time to enter the palace when you buy your ticket. We chose the 9am entrance and it wasn’t too crowded at that time which was nice. The intricate details of the tiles and carvings on the walls are mind blowing. We tried to capture a few of the glorious details but pictures just won’t do it justice.
Though we rarely pay for tours of any kind, we managed to get a discount on the night tour from the company Play. I think the 3 hour tour is usually 25 euros but we paid 15. I really enjoyed this experience because it provided a great history and overview of the neighborhoods of the city. We were taken to two different viewpoints where we got vast views of Granada at sunset and then later at night. We also got a much more in depth tour of the illegal caves that people from all over the world have been inhabiting on the fringe of the Granada’s city limit. Jordan and I agreed we would have never ventured into the web of caves ourselves and were glad to have seen it. Some of the caves were a bit sad looking, bare bones, classic cave style. Others though had been decorated, tapped into the city’s electric and landscaped beautifully creating a very interesting community to explore.
We ventured back up to a cave to see a Flamenco show one evening. I hadn’t realized how explosively percussive and improvised flamenco is. It is a passionate display in which the dancers test the strength of the wooden stage as they slam their heels down in rhythm with their snapping fingers. The women wear expressions of strength, focus, and borderline anger. I believe the best dancers are judged by the number of bobby pins that burst from their hair during their un-choreographed maelstrom of moves. All the while, a man wearing tight jeans with long curly hair belts out tragic riffs alongside the flamenco guitarists. They are guided by the dancer’s rhythm. From what we’ve heard so far, classic flamenco singing should sound like you have a mouthful of marbles and are about to start crying, if you want to be really authentic about it. We were sitting in the front row and more than I few times a found myself holding my breath, totally wrapped up in the passion of the performance.
I took a video during the performance which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WK8AYjQDag&feature=youtu.be
We will most definitely return to Granada one day, it was just too good to say goodbye to forever.
Tapas Bars we Loved:
Bar Aliatar Los Carracoles: Plaza Aliatar, 4
Get the snails! don’t be afraid! also, get at least 3 drinks here because their other tapas we fantastic. In lieu of a cheap beer, ask for a glass of Vino de terreno (local wine), it was delicious.
Taberna La Tana: Placeta del Agua, 3
The tapas here were hearty and the wine selection vast, though we ended up sticking with the cheap beers.