Flamenco & Free Food = Fun!

Granada Travel Blog

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Of the 3 Southern cities I visited, Granada is definitely my favorite. I love the spirit there, it´s relatively easy to navigate, and the Sierra Nevadas provide an awesome backdrop to the city (though I didn´t take the hour trip out to see them). Also, they really do give you free tapas if you order a drink - and good ones, too!

Even though the guidebook said so, I wasn´t sure how the free tapas would work or if you´d have to ask for them (which I bet anything I wouldn´t do - I´ve noticed my voice becomes incredibly small when I try to speak Spanish. It´s a wonder people can hear me at all sometimes. . . still working on that), but yeah, if you order a beer or coffee or something, the bar will inevitably bring out a plate of something for you to eat. Some things I ate for free included humongo olives, tuna and tomato sandwiches, fried anchovies, and patatas fritas. The best place I went gave me and my friend from the hostel a huge plate of fries and 2 bagelwich type things with jamon y queso when we ordered our first drinks, and then another huge plate of sandwiches and chips with our second. We´d planned to go to dinner afterwards but didn´t even have to! Yum.

So in Granada I stayed at a place called Backpackers Posada de Colon, sharing a room with 5 others, 2 of whom I never met. The first morning I checked in, about 30 men completely decked out in traditional Spanish costume came in about 5 minutes after me and started full out singing and playing guitar and stuff in the open courtyard of the hostel. It was amaaazing, and I wish I´d taken a short video instead of just a picture. Turned out there was a conference for them in Granada that weekend, and several performers were staying in the hostel.

Another reason I liked Granada so much was there was music everywhere I went.  People were constantly playing guitar and singing in the plaza outside the hostel, and the first night I walked up a hill and found a group of kids with dreads hanging out around a fountain, doing random things like juggling, and also singing with a drum and acoustic guitar and flute. Assorted people would come and join them, like an open air jam session. Flamenco music was often playing in restaurants and bars, and many of them also played Guns n Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.

It turns out a lot of those kids from the first night live in caves in the hills, though I heard there are efforts by the city to kick them out. By the way, I´m not sure why I call them ´kids´, since most of them are probably from their late teens to early 30s. My second day in Granada, 3 of my roommates and I wandered up the mountain to where the caves are and saw some of the same musicians from the plaza living there. I wonder exactly how the bathroom situation works, cause it didn´t look like there was any plumbing around, at least for those caves. From what I´ve read, some modern caves come equipped with everything from a/c to satellite TV! cuhrazy. Looks like a dusty but interesting lifestyle. We were there before noon, and already heard drumming and singing from somewhere in the hills. You can rent rooms in hotel caves if you want, too. It´s not that expensive if you have a couple people staying together.

Later that day, we wandered through the Albaicin, which was the only Moorish neighborhood to survive the reconquest of Andalucia by Christians in the north, and met up with 2 others of my roommates´friends, who are all from the States and studying Spanish in Valencia. We ate Moroccan food and ice cream and saw the Capilla Real, where Isabel and Ferdinand are interred. The chapel itself wasn´t the impressive, but it was more interesting than I thought it´d be to see their actual tombs.

At night, this super friendly girl Nicole (the one I ate huge free tapas with) and I went to see a flamenco show that our hostel owners recommended. It was in a tiny bar cave type thing, and I was glad it was a Sunday, because I imagine the other nights would have been tremendously crowded. The room was already full when we went. The atmosphere was really dark and beautiful, there was minimal lighting, and the singer in this case was a woman, which was an interesting change from the last show I´d seen in Sevilla. You could tell the guitarist, singer, and dancer had been working together for a long time. They communicated amazingly well onstage, and the singer was so passionate. As you can probably tell, I liked it a lot.

At the end of the performance, they invited a few of their friends who were in the audience to come onstage. I think they´re maybe more fledgling performers, and it was really fun to see. A woman and a man sang, and the third man danced. Also, we sat with a girl who turned out to be from Berkeley. Small world.

On my third and last day in Granada, Nicole and I went to the Alhambra. It´s huge, and we stayed there for about 3 hours, but others we talked to who purchased the audio guides said they easily stayed like 7 or 8. The Moorish parts of the palace were really beautiful but all the Charles V stuff was kind of eh. I´m trying to take pictures but of course there´s no way to really capture how awesome the structures are - a lot of the grandeur comes from the place´s sheer size, and how incredibly detailed every single wall and column and arch is.

That night I took an overnight train from Granada to Barcelona. The trip was roughly 12 hours but really not bad at all. I was lucky because I got a seat that faces another pair of seats, so both I and the man sitting across from me had more leg room than we would have otherwise. Trying to sleep comfortably was quite an exercise in contortion though. I spent a bit of time in the empty dining car, where it was quieter and the seats were nicer. Checked in yesterday morning to my hostal in Barcelona, where I splurged (again) on my own room and private bathroom hooray : ) Will write more about Barcelona later. I´m off!


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photo by: Chokk