Death by Proxy

Granada Travel Blog

 › entry 21 of 47 › view all entries
A week on holiday will always sort out the happy and the sad. Until last Monday, my weeks had been fill of purpose - every day timetabled with study, lesson preparation or time just recharging my energy levels with the spirit of Granada.
With the study over, the rush of holiday adrenalin dimmed quickly. It was like a hangover without the pain.

Days ran into one another and siestas stretched from two hours to four in the heat of the afternoon. Is ‘being lazy’ equivalent to being on holiday? Hmmmm, after a few days of swanning around the pool at Alan’s Carmen and doing little more than bar-hopping to say goodbye to all the trainees leaving Granada ahead of me, it was time to get a grip.

I had to sort out a CV so got to work diligently on my prized MAC and created what I believed to be a brilliant 1-page masterpiece, selling my skills as an English teacher. I emailed it to my trainer, Alan but was rewarded with a ‘what the??’.
He was unable to open it on his PC so what ensued was a complicated series of to-ing and fro-ing between my place, the internet cafe and Alan’s garden to try and find out how to create a document on my MAC that is compatible with PCs.

I researched the web and changed software products from NeoOffice (an open office product, closely approximating MS Office - but not close enough apparently) to the MAC version of Word called Pages. My research all pointed to the fact that there should be no issue sending from Pages to PC so I continued to persevere. I removed all complex formatting, including tables and think that I am close to the final product.

I still have to test out my latest version but hope that the embedded photo (mandatory in Spain) will not bugger it up again! I thought I had left a life of never-ending new technology behind for a simpler life but it appears to be shadowing me, ever ready to sneak up behind me when I least expect it.

Oh well, at least I did not have to write it in Spanish - unlike applying for rooms to rent. With my imminent move to Sevilla, it is imperative that I find new home as soon as possible to minimise the amount of dead money spent on Pensions. And I need to unpack, get set up and start to find work. There is a fabulous website here called Loquo that is a great source of people looking to share or rent out apartments. The problem is that 99% of the ads are in Spanish and I need to respond accordingly. My new best friend is Babble Fish (a translation site) but I worry sometimes as it translates literally word for word. I have a strange feeling I may be asking for a room with a married man rather than a room with a double bed!

It will be much easier to find something when I am actually in Sevilla (later today). For the first few days I have booked what must be the cheapest Pension in all of Sevilla (22 euros a night = $45) without a bathroom but with wifi (Bonus!). You can bet that I want to be out of there as quickly as possible.

But back to Granada. The days passed in a blur of heat, rain and tinto de veranos, and as a subtle sadness sneaked up on me, I almost wished I was staying put. Perhaps I will return one day - after I have exorcised Sevilla and lived out my dream.

On Wednesday I had planned on visiting the Gitano (gypsy) area of Sacromonte to attend an evening of classical Flamenco (guitar, song and a male dancer). A friend had told me about it and suggested I take a walk up to the Gypsy Museo high in the hills to see it. In contrast to the Flamenco performed in the bars, this was the ‘real thing’ and attended mainly by locals - not the tour bus hordes occupying the nearby bars for their overpriced meal and ‘free’ Flamenco show in ‘traditional gypsy caves’ Ha!

It was 10.00pm and the show started at 11.00pm and I bargained on a 30minute stroll. Just as I turned the key in the lock, I had a call from David and (in my limited Spanish) asked if he wanted to join me. It is very strange but many of the local Granadinos have never visited the Alhambra or are in the least bit interested in gypsy culture. In fact, they have a distinct dislike for them - probably due to the fact that a lot of Gitanos do not work and make money from theft and other crimes.
Anyway, he agreed to come and so we I met him down off the Albaicin in Plaza Nueva where the roads actually take cars. Once at Sacromonte we climbed the steep steps to the show, settling in with Tinto de Veranos and Bocadillos de Lomo (‘pork sandwiches’) just as the show started.

Outdoors, under the trees, the small stage was dwarfed by the rising cliff-face bounding three of its sides. Night had settled, still warm and smelling of the hills. I glanced above me into the branches of a gnarled old olive tree. The tiny leaves reminded me of my struggling saplings back in Melbourne. I am not sure what was the trigger; the haunting gypsy guitar, the warm evening in the hills or the sight of the familiar steely grey leaves, but I shed a secret tear and grinned one of those ‘wow, how lucky am I?’ smiles.

It was a wonderful night and even though the Flamenco dancing was a male dancer, it was with such stirring passion that I forgot about twirling skirts and instead focussed my gaze on the rapid movements of his feet. Reminiscent of tap dancing but with chaotic rhythms, the passion becomes percussive and takes you to another time and place - perhaps a time when the Moors ruled this land between the sea and the mountains. I was transported in my imagination - lulled by the power of the strings, the vocal wailing and the beating heart of the male dancer’s steps. Thank you again, Granada. You have gifted me more Golden Box memories.

The following day was spent up at the Alhambra with my friend Victoria. Unfortunately we got there too late to get a ticket to the Palaces and were relegated to the fort, the Generalife gardens and Carols V. As I have already visited the Palace last year, I was not too disappointed but it really is the jewell in the crown (bad pun!) of the Alhambra and must not be missed.

The trouble is the method used to buy tickets - in typical Spanish style, it is rather complicated. You can purchase tickets over the web but they are sold out weeks in advance. You can also get tickets from one of the cash machines at the Caixa bank but again, you are limited with dates and still have to get your ticket validated when you arrive at the Alhambra. The ultimate option is to queue up at the ticket office up at the Alhambra on the day you wish to attend as 2000 new tickets are issued for a full (general) visit every day. Problem? To get these tickets you may have to queue for up to five hours, getting in line from 6.00am for an 8.00am opening time.

I had risen very early on Tuesday morning and volunteered to buy the four tickets for us but after waiting for an hour, the queue had only moved about 5 meters. It also happened to be the coldest and wettest day so far in Spain and my flimsy sundress did not cut the mustard. So I abandoned the plan and Vic and I returned on Thursday at noon, only to have missed the general admission tickets. Not to be deterred, we purchased the cheaper garden visit tickets and then proceeded (accidentally) to find our way into the back entrance of the winter palace, sans the correct ticket and in danger of being booted out altogether if we had been caught! Oops.

Later, in the afternoon sun, I decided that we needed a little respite and led the way to the Parador. Spain is full of Paradors, very old buildings that were originally Monasteries or Hospitals; now converted to glorious five star hotels for the travelling wealthy. I discovered the tranquility and beauty of these wonderful places when I walked my first Camino in 2003. Every Parador has a cafe, usually set in a divine patio or luscious courtyard. I make it a habit to stop off and avail myself of a steaming cafe or glass of cool refreshment. Last Thursday, I treated us both to an icy glass of Cava, the Spanish equivalent of Champagne. in the tranquil garden patio. After all, we deserved it!

The rest of the afternoon blazed hotter and hotter and about 4.30pm we departed the Alhambra for a siesta in our respective abodes. My cool Piso (apartment) was welcoming and I think I slept for two hours, waking up to a very unattractive dribble from the side of my mouth. A dim memory after a cool shower and change into a summer frock and sandals.

It was a strange weekend. I started off early on Saturday morning with the intention of getting a blog up in the early opening wifi cafe. On my way, at 8.30am, I was walking alone down one of the small laneways off Plaza Nueva. A few people were stirring but only the occasional restaurant worker or street cleaner. A young man was approaching me wearing gym gear; shorts, t-shirt, runners and carrying a gym bag. Blissfully unaware of anything abnormal I continued closer and closer to him with my laptop bag over one shoulder and my handbag criss-crossed over the opposite (safe and secure). At about 5 or so paces, the ‘nice young man’ suddenly turned into a pervert and removed his male appendage form his gym shorts in the mistaken belief that I would be remotely interested. After years of travelling mostly alone, I did the only thing appropriate and used the foulest language I could at the highest volume, thus simultaneously shocking and scaring him! He darted into the nearest alley and made a quick exit. Not to be harassed quite so easily, I spent the next 10 minutes of wasted time searching for a policeman to point in the direction of said alley. Unfortunately, they are as rare as hens teeth so I got on with the important dealings of the day, only slightly shaken but treading a little more carefully. I did see him again in the distance and when he saw me, he again high-tailed it down a side street.

After responding to emails, I was no longer in the mood for blogging and thought a relaxing morning wandering the Parque Lorca (home of the famous Granadino poet - look him up Mish). I took the bus there and was contemplating walking back - only about 3km or so. The park was a cool haven as the morning heated up - quickly reaching low thirties by 11.00am. There were many elderly couples, resident on shady park benches and young suburban families, kids on bikes or trikes. The park is laid out with separate garden enclaves bounded by high hedges so there is plenty of privacy. I wished I had brought a book after spying a couple of other people relaxing with either the Saturday paper or a good novel.

I was enjoying my meander and noticed a man on a bicycle who had appeared seemingly from nowhere. I decided I needed some space and ducked off a side exit, finding myself in a children’s play area full of happy kids and their charges. There was a small cafe and I was tempted to stop for a cool lemon but noticed another garden area and made my way towards it. No sooner was I walking alone again than the ‘man on bike’ was also slowly pedalling about 10m behind me. Getting creepy now! I was frankly not prepared to play his cat and mouse game - especially after the start I had earlier in the day. He continued to smile and follow, and although very handsome and possibly with no mal-intent I really just wanted to be alone.
A solution was at hand in the guise of park worker. I went boldly up to the gardener and said something innocent about the park and the gardens and then I pointed at the ‘man on bike’. At this, he did a quick u-turn and exit-ed my space. Woo-oho, alone again.

The walk back home was a mix of frustration and confusion. After five glorious weeks in Granada with no issue whatsoever, why was I being exposed (again, excuse the pun) to these inappropriate advances on my last weekend.

I decided to have a very relaxed day on Sunday and spent it trying to get my internet connection working again - after the gremlins attacked overnight and changed my proxy settings! On Saturday morning I did not even know what a proxy setting was, nor did I care. When Sunday came around and I could not get my transfusion of emails and news, I felt my life flash before me. It was now imperative that I DO find out about damn proxy settings. This was not an easy task when I had no internet access. God, what did we do before the internet?

Death by Proxy averted and I was online again.

I decided to spend a quiet afternoon with Vic before she jumped on the plane back to UK. We found a gorgeous old Bodega for tapas (no chairs, just a rustic old wooden bar, huge wine barrels, sherry galore and food to write home about). It has to be one of my favourite places to eat in Granada and frequented by mainly locals.
Goodbye to Vic was followed by my final ice-cream from Los Italianos. Oh wow - I will miss that place.

As last night was my last evening for this visit, I could not leave without one more trip up to the Mirador (the Alhambra) viewpoint. I took my place alongside the French, American, German, English and Spanish tourists, astride the low wall, camera strapped to my arm. It is my most favourite place in Granada and only a few minutes walk up the Albaicin from my piso. At about 8.30pm the gypsies are already playing their regular tunes, followed by a circuit with their upturned guitar for tips.

From 9.00pm, the Mirador is thick with people awaiting the sun to slip away and the walls to glow their customary yellow and red. Once the last rays disappear, the up-lighting pushes through the trees and again lights up the walls of the fort and palaces, creating what I believe to be one of the most romantic views I have in memory.

I own that view!

I sat there for an hour at least, letting the various idioms wash over me, at one point even pretending to be Spanish when some young American girls asked me (with dreadful Spanish accents) to take their photos. At least I can con the foreigners for a second!
Literally tearing myself from the Mirador, I wandered home down the steep steps, last lingering views of the Alhambra from every corner. I was floating on a mixture of sadness, fear and excitement. As my friend Alexander said to me earlier: ‘the key is in the ignition’ and I am on my way to an entirely different adventure.

I am sure the old world will continue to be part of my daily routine and the new world will also continue to sneak up on me when I least expect it but at least I am able to make choices now. I love the stimulation of the unknown so look out Sevilla. I’m on my way.
margotmortland says:
Hi there baby - finally skimmed my way through yor blog. Sounds liek you are having a riot - nearly cried myself when I read about Sumi's passing - what a faithful loving friend she ahs been to you.

Hope life makes you laugh all day - good luck with the teaching - lots of love Margot & M...
Posted on: Aug 17, 2009
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photo by: Chokk