Beautiful Granada – May 24, 2017
We left Marbella this morning, passing by more incredible homes, but this time higher up on the mountain. To the north of where we were yesterday, you can see building after building crowding both the beach area and as you go up the mountain. This is actually one of many towns along the Mediterranean, mainly populated by middle class visitors, predominantly from Spain, France, the UK and Germany. It is less expensive than Marbella, but still has extraordinary views.
As we wind our way through the mountains, we see one olive orchard after another. There are supposedly over 50 million olive trees growing in Spain and about 50 different varieties. All varieties start out white, then green, red, and finally black. I am not an olive fan, although I do like olive oil. You can find soaps, creams, and lots of love their products, all made with olive oil.
Granada is very cosmopolitan. The downtown area has beautiful buildings, boulevards filled with flowers and streets with a fabric cover to keep the intense sun from cooking everyone. It can get extremely hot here in the summer. This trip has been blessed with incredible weather, sunshine almost every day and mild temperatures. May is definitely the month to go to Spain and Morocco. In any case, we had a couple of hours to wander until our visit to the Alhambra.
We meandered through town on one of many pedestrian-only streets. The shops were very enticing and, being the consummate shopper (although not necessarily a buyer), I wanted to stop and see what the fashion was in Europe. But instead, we found a shaded cafe and shared a pizza, always with a beer and a tinto verano for me. We met the bus at our hotel nearby and headed to the most famous site in Granada, the Alhambra.
This ruin is both a fort and an ancient city. It has several palaces, built by the Arabs in the 11th century, then taken by the Christians in the 12th century. There are the remnants of the military quarters, the aqueducts and, most notably, the magnificent gardens. Our expectations were that we would see highly decorated areas, as we did in Córdoba at the Mezquita Cathedral. Instead, we saw early Roman structures and a bit of what is left of the Arab influence. We had a very long walking tour that took us to see all the areas, leaving us exhausted and somewhat disappointed.
We finally checked into our hotel and had a little rest before our buffet dinner in the hotel. It was adequate enough. Good thing we had something yummy for lunch. We decided to see a different flamenco show starting at 10:00. It was touted as a unique experience because it is presented by gypsy dancers in a cave. They are not professionally trained, but have their own style of flamenco dancing. We weren’t sure what allure the cave part held, but decided to try it out.
We arrived to find the place packed with tourists who were just leaving from the previous show. We entered a long, narrow room, with chairs on either side of the room and about a dozen at the far end situated with risers to facilitate viewing, approximately 80 chairs in total. At the entry end, there was a man with a guitar and another with a percussion instrument, along with a female “singer.” The dancers came in and out of the room to dance a bit. Polka dots must be the gypsy fabric pattern of choice, because almost every outfit was in polka dots, even for men.
Well, having seen some of the best flamenco dancing in Seville, we were hoping to see another type of flamenco, as advertised. To say it was disappointing is an understatement. Actually, my four year old grandson can mimic the flamenco with finer skill. We found out after that there three of these “caves” (really basement rooms) filled with people, and at least three shows per evening. The dancers just move from room to room. And, the singing was more like a cat caught in a compromising position, howling for assistance. Even including one drink, at $32 Euros per person, the gypsies have found a great way to swindle the unwitting tourist.
The van took us away, but not before we stopped at a high point opposite the Alhambra, drenched in light against the midnight sky. That was something to see. We then made our way through the Almacen neighborhood, the oldest in Granada, barely wide enough to fit the van to civilization. We passed two ancient Arab gates from the 10th century into what was called the hippie section of town. With a population of 240,000 inhabitants in Granada, there are 80,000 students at the many universities and they seem to be in this part of town. There were some young people with dreadlocks and clothing that could have been from the 60’s. Been there, done that! (Actually, not me.) And, for the first time in Spain, there was graffiti everywhere.
We made it to the hotel quite late, not looking forward to our early wake up call. Sleep came very quickly.