I’m sitting at our kitchen table in the Albaicín, the labyrinthine Moorish district of Granada, Andalucía. Light is reflecting off whitewashed walls next door and falling into our little apartment. There’s a cool breeze wafting gently inside and church bells are ringing across the city. It’s 12:36pm and Granada feels sleepy, as it wakes up later than I’m used to, but when it does it certainly feels alive…
Arriving in Granada has felt a bit surreal. It’s a place that’s been on my mind for quite some time and now we’re here and finally de-zombified – after getting over three planes, two buses and a taxi from Australia (don’t do it straight here like we did) – it’s been wonderful getting into the rhythm of this old and interesting place. Here’s a few of my first impressions of the city.
Granada is a delight to explore, as it’s easy to navigate and has many alluring pockets full of old-world charm. Down some alleyways, buildings close in upon each other, only to open into quaint courtyards coloured with tapas, drinks and pretty alcoves.
Walking further into the city, I noticed it has a distinctly dry feel around its edges and beyond its limits you can see the desert country sweeping into the vast hills of the Sierra Nevada. The air feels dry too, much drier than the humidity of Byron Bay (where I’m used to). There’s also a lack of grassland in the city, although parts of it are green and submerged in leafy shadow while water sprays onto patrons in alfresco courtyards.
After 9pm, when the city is still bathed in daylight, Granada comes alive and the weather is just perfect (at least right now). A cool breeze blows across the city, a multitude of birds swirl above the many whitewashed walls and musicians come out in spades. I’ve noticed the city has a few good sax players, which I haven’t seen in a while. The later afternoons/evenings are my favourite time here.
A beer is cheaper than a glass of apple juice and while you get free tapas here with alcohol, you won’t with a juice. Upon visiting a water park – Aquaola – on the outskirts of town, I noticed at the snack bar beer is served on tap and spirits line the shelves above packets of chips, soft drinks and ice-creams. Australia is such a conservative country in comparison yet we have such a problem with alcohol.
At my local corner store half-litre beers cost €1 and there’s a tapas bar downstairs from our flat that serves tasty bottles of 10% Black Chocolate Stout for €2.75. I’ll have to be careful here…
I feel a little overwhelmed here. After deciding to ride on the town’s tourist road train, which takes you to various sights and informs you of Granada’s history via headphones, my head started spinning as there was so much to take in. The road train bounced down narrow alleys at running pace, while the history of Nasrid kings, princesses and the like were leaping over my head in centuries as I struggled to get my bearings.
Suffice to say this is a good thing, although I’ll just need a little time to get my noggin around this fascinating place, which literally has stories springing from every fissure in town. There’s even Arab baths dating to Roman times on the other side of my street!
My first adventure
I was alerted to cries of despair after Olin dropped his toy truck from the Carrera del Darro into the banks of the Rio Darro, about 4 metres below. After some enquiries with my so-so Spanish, I discovered we could retrieve his truck if we walked up the street for 5-10 minutes. From here we could cross over to the other side of the river.
Heading down along the riverbank we passed people drinking, playing music and a few gypsy-looking folk basking in the sunshine. A little further, the people vanished and we encountered prickles, a lair of water rats, old ruins and bridges while I crossed the river numerous times (across stones) carrying Olin. We retrieved his truck along with an old soccer ball before returning home via winding alleys, a couple of hours later, playing soccer (or fútbol) all the way home.
On first impressions, Granada is a fascinating place, overwhelmingly ace in many ways and I couldn’t imagine getting even a whiff of its magic in less than a week.
Here’s some footage of us on our rooftop balcony, which, as you can see, offers a superb view of the Alhambra.