For the last weekend in January, all of the schools were given off on Friday. So of course a long weekend equates to traveling! I tagged along with my friends Kristen and Sarah on their planned trip to Granada, a city in the south of Spain known for the Alhambra (the famous Moorish palace), it’s Moroccan influence, and its tradition of serving free tapas when you order a drink. I went to Granada for a night three years ago with my study abroad program and loved the city. But one night wasn’t nearly enough, especially since all of my friends and I were working off of hardly any sleep (I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that we were dancing in a cave club until 7 in the morning). I just remember being exhausted the entire trip and not appreciating Granada or the Alhambra nearly enough because of it. I knew I needed to go back to give Granada the attention it deserves because it really is a one-of-a-kind city. Three nights was the perfect amount of time to relax and truly get to know the city, and to fully explore the free-tapas culture, of course!
We began our trip with a 5-hour bus ride after work on Thursday. We arrived to Granada at around 10 p.m. We checked into our hostel which was in a very convenient location: just down the hill from the Alhambra! At a little after 11 p.m. we went out to explore the tapas scene. At our first stop we ordered a few glasses of Rioja wine and enjoyed our delicious free tapa! It was so exciting only paying a couple euros for a drink and getting free food with it! We couldn’t wait to tapas-hop around other restaurants but by the time we moved onto another place it was already midnight and every place was closed! We awkwardly went back to the first restaurant in hopes that they would serve us. It turned out they were closed too. The waiter thought we went back because someone had left a scarf behind and he thought it was ours. We should have just said yes in order to make that situation a little less awkward haha.
Then next day we had ticket entrances to the Alhambra at 2 p.m., so we got an early start with the plan of finding somewhere to eat for lunch. Unfortunately there weren’t any restaurants to be found! We ended up settling on a pricey restaurant with a gorgeous view of the city. We were the only customers in the restaurant probably because we got there 5 minutes before it even opened. The whole experience was just uncomfortable. The sign at the entrance said that there was a deal for 5 tapas for 18 Euros, so we decided we would share it. The first tapa came out and there were 3 of each of the same tapa. We then explained to the woman that we wanted to share the 5 tapas, not have 5 for each of us. She said, “Oh…” and walked away. Things got really uncomfortable and we didn’t know what was going to happen. She ended up bringing out 4 more tapas, one of each. They were all DELICIOUS. There was seriously a gourmet chef in that kitchen. At the end I asked for one more coffee because I needed an extra jolt. The woman brought out 3 more. Looked like Sarah and Kristen were drinking more coffee whether they wanted to or not! This is when we just had to laugh about the miscommunication. The woman was really nice and didn’t charge us for those extra 2 tapas at the beginning.
We spent the next 4 or 5 hours touring the Alhambra. This place is MASSIVE. Seeing the Alhambra again was one of the main reasons I wanted to return to Granada. It is such an important landmark in Spain and I feel as though I just sort of glazed over it during my first time there (due to that previously mentioned 7 a.m.-night). I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to go back because this time I got to really see the intricate details of the Alhambra and got to really appreciate it.
The Alhambra is a Moorish palace that was built during the time that the Muslim’s controlled Spain (in the 11th Century). That is one of my favorite things about Granada. Since it was the last Spanish territory controlled by the Muslims, there is SO much influence left behind by them. It is one of the most unique cities I have been to. One minute you could be sipping sangria and snacking on some tapas, the next you could be walking down the “Moroccan street” bartering with the salesmen and drinking tea on pillows in a Moroccan tea room.
The next day we went on a crazy tour of the “Gypsy Caves.” The Gypsies are a stereotypical lower-class group of people in Spain that first arrived during the Muslim rule. There is currently a large community of them in Granada that live in homes built into the mountains nestled behind the Alhambra. It was amazing seeing these homes close-up because I couldn’t believe people are actually living like that. The homes were absolutely filthy and all without electricity. It’s one thing to see people living this way in a third-world country, but this community is in Spain in the middle of beautiful Granada! Some parts of the tour were a little nerve-wracking because it felt like we were trespassing on their territory. In fact, the second we got near the houses, a dog with razor-sharp teeth came out barking and showing his teeth at our tour guide, making it clear he didn’t want us to take any steps closer. All of us girls ran up the hill because we weren’t trying to risk our lives. But once the dog went away our guide insisted it was OK. So we followed and walked through the residences with precaution. Once we knew our lives were safe, I really liked the tour because it took us to a place that we NEVER would have gone otherwise.
That night we went to a Flamenco show because what’s a trip to Andalucia without some Flamenco? I also realized that that was my 5th time seeing a show- jeez! I guess I’m at the point where I can compare and contrast them now haha. It was a really good show but we were all soo tired that the music was sort of putting us to sleep. But I still really enjoyed it!
Sadly the next day was Sunday and it was time to head home to Madrid. We checked out of our hostel, had a leisurely breakfast, and did some shopping on the Moroccan street. That street made me feel like I was in Morocco again. Most of the shop owners are Moroccan and you can even barter with the prices like you can in Morocco. Then as one final stop, we had some relaxing tea and delicious banana Nutella crepes at a tea room.
Our long weekend in Granada was such an incredible trip and I’m so glad I got to re-visit this unique, traditional Spanish city. It was a bit of an emotional experience for me because it brought back so many memories of my semester abroad in Sevilla. Granada and Sevilla are so similar to one another in that they both represent Andalucía (the south of Spain) with its culture and traditions. It’s hard to explain, but Andalucía radiates a certain magic. Our weekend in Granada re-introduced me to this and reminded me why I fell in love with Spain in the first place. It made me so happy to be reunited with the part of Spain that will always hold a piece of my heart but it also made me sad to know I will never live there again. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Madrid, but for me the true magic of Spain will always be in Andalucía, and Granada is a perfect representation of that magic.