Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday (Sevilla to Granada)...

The alarm rang early...too early...but nothing a couple of lattes couldn't handle. Pleasant morning temperatures and a sweet light breeze made for a leasurely walk around the cathedral and along the outer Alcazar wall. Shopkeepers rolled out their displays of fans and flamenco dresses, postcards, and pottery. Picked up a small antique tile from the 1880s in a tiny shop outside the cathedral...used my (very) broken Spanish to communicate with the elderly shopkeeper.

The street in front of the hotel was closed for a bit. Preparations for a short civic celebration for the return of pilgrims to the cathedral. Apparently they rented 30,000€ per week houses along the way...not quite the "visit the flock and find God" kind of pilgrimage-of-old.

The train station was busier than we had seen so far. Something was up. Tourists were joined by news cameras and protesters (we think). Several trains were listed as cancelled, while others (including ours) were delayed. Still, we boarded without incident...two facing window seats for the 3 hour trip through Andalucia.

Graffitti once again quickly transitioned to rolling hills of olive trees...lots and lots and lots and LOTS of olive trees. (The local tap water must shimmer with olive oil.) This leg was on a medium distance train (versus the high-speed AVE lines), so stops were frequent in smaller towns with "real" people. Caught up (finally) on my blog. Spotting a corral of donkeys... awwww, with two frisky baby donkeys... ain't that a kick in the head (go Dean-o). A tiny, dusty soccer field... vacant in the hot afternoon sun. San Francisco de Loja pronounced with a soothing "fran-thithhhhh-co" Spanish Cindy Brady lisp. New houses with satellite dishes...old houses with cows.

Arrived at Granada's sleepy train station on a sleepy cul-de-sac with a hoard of travelers and nary a cab in site. A slow trickle of cabs cleared the group bit by bit...and somehow we were last :) nothing else was sleepy. We passed busy city streets until we hit the narrow cobblestone lane in front of our tiny, historic, Spanish-style hotel. Just five rooms in the hotel...each with a balcony overlooking a babbling stream and the next-door church. A slight head-tilt upwards reveals a bit of the Alhambra... high above... tempting us. Our room has a signature feature we've noticed in southern Spain...enclosed second-story half-balconies jutting out over the street... ours is done up in dark wood, black iron, and wavy windows. They open so you can peer at the sights all around. How cool.

From our home on the edge of the historic Albanzin...the old Moorish section of the city, with its twisting single-lane steets and steep walkways weaving up the hill. We visited a popular perch overlooking the old city and the Alhambra high above. From this vantage, the Moorish palace and fortress look truly imposing complex of stone building covering a craggy hill. Mountains in the distance still holding onto their snow. The flat plains of Andalucia lay to the right. The scene reminded us both of a scene from Lord of the Rings. A guitarrist played up-tempo tunes and drifters/hippies sold handmade metal and leather jewelry. We visited the overlook twice this aftenoon to find the right light. Truly breathtaking.

Ducked inside the Iglesia de Santa Ana across the street from the hotel. Cool and dark and quiet, the 17th century church had its very own Weeping Virgin...not everyone can take first place.

Decided to embrace the Moorish influences in the town and dine on a sweet and savory mixture of dishes. Chicken backed tender in a tajin with plums and nuts. Couscous with chicken and raisins and sweet onions. Creamy hummus. A yogurt-based desert topped with honey, nuts, and cinnamon. And Arabic coffee with heavy whipped cream. What a wonderful meal... unexpected and new.

Midnight by the time we finished dinner. Had an after-dinner Alhambra beer at Six Colors. Packed full of late-night locals. Lady GaGa and Madonna were paired with quirky Spanish tunes. When we left at 2am, the streets were still teaming with women in hip fashion and men in stylish suits...just gearing up for an even later night. For us... bedtime... to the gentle rumble of tires on the cobblestones beneath our window. .

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