Sunday, 6 February 2011

Granada


It was January and already feeling the closing-in of the first month, we were in need of a jump-start; that is to say, a dose of travel.  The destination; Granada in the province of Andalucia, Spain.  In exchange for not having to navigate the tourist crowds of spring and summer (the Alhambra being the most visited attraction in Spain) – we had cooler temperatures, some cloud and a little rain – and we were alright with that.  Happy in the optimistic foresight, that the place would have bountiful warmth in the form of tapas, sherry, Cale flamenco and Moorish architecture. 
How to distil a city that gives the traveller so much?
The nomadic Cales (Romani gypsies) began to settle in Andalucia in the 15th century.  They have formed a community in Sacramonte, of whitewashed caves scooped out of the Valpara√≠so hill side, overlooked by the Sierra Nevada range.  The gypsies give Granada it’s very bohemian vibe, filling the air with music – like an acoustic soundtrack all around; on a healthy stroll along steep and narrow cobbled streets of the Albaycin neighbourhood are streams of semi-quavers floating out of open windows.   The Cale’s most fervent imprint is flamenco music and dance – a spirited artistic expression of their persecuted history and passions.   “You must see live flamenco at least once in your life” – was the advice– we agree!  As is the Cale way, performances can be spontaneous, when they are feeling the music, and happen to be in a bar, they will pick up their guitar or sing and you will feel rewarded for simply being at the right place at the right time.   But if serendipity should not be forthcoming, there is the excellent Pena La Plateria (home of flamenco in Granada), where the female dancing soloist is tremendously ferocious and gripping.

Tapas
The local food is tapas, small dishes of food served free (yes free) with the order of a drink at the bar – or larger racions (portions) can be ordered for sharing, as tapas is intended as a sociable way of dining and catching up.  Bodega Castaneda was a firm favourite and the place quickly fills up with the locals rolling out their evenings.  With dense oak barrels of sherry behind the bar and thick joints of Jamon hanging directly above the bar, colorful stain glass and evergreen wall tiles – there is no mistaking you are in Granada and in the kind of place where everybody knows eachothers' names. Try the regional Jamon Trevelez – slightly richer and heavier than the Jamon Iberico (pata negra), but delicious all the same if you are a Jamon lover – like us : )   Other favourites were the boquerones (anchovies) either fried or acetic pickled, the pulpo a la gallego (octopus garnished tastefully with paprika – a Galician signature)our mouth waters at the mere thought of it, and the patatas a la pobre (poor man’s potatoes).  Also the homely liver stew we were served as gratuity with our drink at Pena La Plateria was a delicious surprise in addition to enjoying their flamenco.
And the best thing after a day walking around the sites - a late afternoon with piping hot churros dunked in unadulterated chocolate!



 Moorish Architecture

The Alhambra "red fortress"is the city's majestic backdrop. 

Built towards the end of  Muslim rule in the 14th century - now an enduring architectural feat of the Moorish dominion of Spain.  Cool quadrangles flowing into courtyards, light and air passing between them, boasting imperial stone work and wood carving and vibrant wall ceramics.  And the gardens are a celebration of palms and bougainvillea - reminding us of how beautiful having some summer heat would be.

At our Etsy store: deluxe-persian-floral-large-cushion

All images © SisterBatik

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