11.04.2016 - 16.04.2016
Monday's walk was a postcard. Absolutely the only way to describe it. The views of Trevelez as we climbed the mountain away from it got increasingly impressive, and were accompanied by the now familiar sound of cow bells and goat bells and the scurrying of lizards. As the views became more impressive, the wind became colder and more ferocious. We actually needed our jackets, and even then I wouldn't have said I felt warm. It was a steep climb for 7km or so that culminated in views of Africa to the south. Or would have, if it wasn't so gosh darned cloudy. The thought was there. Further on, we found a slightly more protected but still magnificently picture-skew spot for our picnic (featuring bananas and cupcakes that may or may not have been acquired at breakfast). The picture-skew-ness continued all the way downhill into Berchules, and we avoided several potential navigational mishaps that would have fooled mere amateurs. We arrived at our hotel, holas at the ready, only to be greeted by an English woman. A fairly eccentric English woman, at that.
Dinner was cooked by her Spanish-English son and served by her Hungarian daughter in law, and unfortunately for me, the meal of the day was fish. I had avoided it so far, but tonight there was no escape. The whole room smelt of fish, and there it was on my plate too. Until it was suddenly on Simon's plate and my pile of rice had grown somehow. It is definitely worth travelling with a fish-loving companion (and I know Simon appreciates not having to share his pescados with anyone).
The next day was only a small walk - a mere 10km, with hardly any ascent or descent. Time to start winding down. No mental or physical challenges, just a pleasant walk along the river. The hardest part was finding El Mirador for lunch - and even that wasn't too tricky. Menu del Dia took a bit more guesswork here - the waitress had less English than anywhere else we'd been, and the menu contained fewer recognisable Spanish words. But as usual, we muddled through and scored a delicious meal. It was the first time I've had boiled egg in a soup, but may not be the last. The egg was accompanied by chicken, carrots, corn and noodles, and Wheel of Fortune. But not just your average Wheel - no, the Rueta de la Suerte is an all dancing, all singing, flashing lights and fancy camera angles affair! And it was promptly followed by The Simpsons, dubbed into Spanish. Most of the vocal characteristics were fairly close approximations of the American version. Except for Bart, who sounded like a 40 year old with emphysema.
After lunch we had time for a cuppa with our eccentric English friend, who told us about Gibraltar and life. We caught the late bus back to Granada with a bus driver who couldn't understand us and who seemed to say "pluffa pluffa pluffa" to anyone who would listen. Four hours (and a successful Spanish interaction with the SN1 bus driver) later we returned to Hotel Reina Cristina. I had to drag Simon away from the Real Madrid game on tv to go to our tapas bar (La Clausura) - I think it was the promise of Alhambra beer that finally did the trick.
On Wednesday we finally had the chance to spend a whole day exploring Granada. We saw another side to the city in the daylight - beggars, street performers, women trying to give out rosemary sprigs, and, worst of all, tourists! All of these aspects were largely hidden at night but came out to play in the daylight. There were people selling all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs, including boomerangs - not sure where they fitted in... My favourite shops to walk past were the tea shops - oh the smells! We successfully avoided buying any 'stuff' and found some stunning views of the city - some by accident, and some with intent and purpose. The Mirador de San Nicolas was breathtaking: Alhambra, snow capped mountains, city laid out in front of you... but so many people. The plaza 100m away had the same view, but without the people. Win. It also had the exercise equipment that seems to be compulsory near every viewpoint. Love your work, Spain.
Lunch (menu del dia from the cafe down the road from our tapas joint) was accompanied by some rocking tunes -everything from Electric Six to the original song from the Carlton Draught ad. I embraced the siesta strategy while Simon found some gardens and a museo. And then (after charging up the camera batteries) we headed off to La Alhambra! <cue trumpet fanfare>
Some people catch the bus, some people catch a taxi. Ninks walk. And we're glad we did, because it meant we got to explore the park and forest and paths around the Alhambra precinct. So peaceful in comparison to ththe city centre! When we found an open gate, we went through it, putting ourselves in possession of views of the city as the sun was contemplating going down. The palaces and the gates were intimidating, and then we somehow ended up where all the posh hotels were, which was even more intimidating. We found our way to the more welcoming gates, and awaited our entrance time. By the time we went in at 10pm, it was properly dark. The lighting gave a certain ambience to the gardens and summer palace that the camera pretty much failed to capture (until I found a strategically placed ledge with strategically placed lights). It was certainly a very relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an hour of the evening, and I'm glad we went up in daylight as well to experience the views under both natural and artificial lighting conditions. We finished the cultural experience off with a kebab from Shawarma King (who may or may not be sued by Burger King at some time in the future), and it would have to be the tastiest halal kebab I've ever had. Highly recommended.
Thursday morning found us on the move again - back on the SN1, back to the bus station and back on the bus, this time to Cordoba. We found our AirBnb pretty quickly, and Simon enjoyed a free workout carrying our suitcase up the stairs. Honestly, who needs to pay for gym membership when you can just travel?
Lunch was in a small cafe and featured a Tortilla of Supreme Excellence. When we spoke to the chef at the end and complimented him on his prowess, he asked where we were from. Australia? Australia! Not sure he'd cooked for Australians before, judging from his reaction. We could hear him telling everyone in the kitchen before he returned to have a chat with us - him with next-to-no English, and us with a bastardised Spanish-Italian-English mix. And yet it worked. The language really doesn't matter, as long as both parties to the conversation make an effort. Such fun. We eventually left him, still shaking his head and muttering "australiani" under his breath as we walked away.
The afternoon focused on absorbing the vibe of Cordoba - Simon did not feel 100% so we wandered a while, sat for a while, talked to some other Aussie tourists for a while, wandered to the Mezquita, sat at the Mezquita, walked across the bridge, sat by the bridge, watched children having photos taken post-communion in some pretty incredible outfits, and then wandered home. All in the glorious Spanish sunshine.
Friday was another glorious day in the weather department, and we managed to do an entire free (donations welcome) walking tour without getting wet. Triumph! Our Cordoban guide, Ana, spoke fluent English but with a thick accent and some unusual stress patterns. She was a passionate and enthusiastic guide - but my favourite word of hers was 'inDEPendent'. Our Aussie friends from yesterday, Kim and Graham, happened to be on the tour too, so together we all learned about the Muslim, Christian and Jewish influences on Cordoba's history. After the tour, our newly formed Team Australia had lunch together in what used to be the bullring.
The afternoon was spent washing and drying clothes - a dull but essential component of any holiday. Suitcase restocked, we headed out for tapas and scored a free wine + tapas combo at some slightly shmancy place, using our voucher from the walking tour. The waiters then asked if we wanted more tapas - sure, of course we would. We were then told that the restaurant was booked out (nothing but empty tables and chairs to be seen), but that we could go upstairs. Sure. Unfortunately, the waiter upstairs said that we could not eat tapas there, only downstairs. Which was booked out. So we left, feeling hungry and confused.
We walked along the river and appreciated the Beauty and the Excellence of the bridge in all its nocturnal glory, and found another tapas bar. More confusion ensued. We pointed to the sign on the blackboard that said "beer + tapas - €2.50" but got served a beer that cost €3 and no tapas. Hipster waiter fail. Buccheri Spanish language skills fail. We managed to get ourselves enough tapas to constitute dinner before making our way back to our Airbnb home for the night.
Saturday started early (by Spanish standards, at least). We were at the Mezquita by 8.30am in order to absorb the spectacle of this cathedral-within-a-mosque for free. If you go after 10am, you pay eight euros. 8.30am? Zero euros. Ninking at its best. The Mezquita was a forest of mismatched columns and red and white archways, surrounded by some of the goldiest, blingiest, gaudiest chapels in existence. And right smack in the middle is a whopping great cathedral. I just love the way the religious buildings of this city were repurposed - upcycling on a grand scale.
After the freedom ended, we had breakfast and then returned to climb the bell tower for €2. Except that the man said it was closed, because of the rain. Except that he the sold tickets to two other tourists. So we went back, pointed up, and he let us in. But it was obviously a huge inconvenience to him. Poor dear. From the bell tower we had vast views of Cordoba, as well as a smug view of all the people queuing up to pay to enter the Mezquita. Suckers.
Next job on the list - buying tickets to the Orkney Folk Festival. It involved a bit of e-queuing and a bit of re-entering passwords, but we got there in the end. That sorted, we embarked on an epic quest - 4 museums in four hours. You'd think it couldn't be done - but you'd be wrong.
First stop - Alcazar. A palace and beautiful gardens that unfortunately brought on hayfever in a big way, and the wind probably didn't help our cause. Next - the former Arabic baths. Conveniently located across the road from the Alcazar, and with information presented in English. For our third trick, we went to the Museo de Julio Romero Torres, and appreciated the portraits of Cordoban women and oranges. And lemons. This was my favourite of the four stops, so kudos to Julio for his excellent paintings. Final destination was an extremely brief look at the Museo Taurino, focusing on the aspect of Spanish culture I enjoy the least - bullfighting. In amongst the bravery, the costumes, and the drama, it seemed to gloss over the utter cruelty and pointlessness of the 'sport'. And fifteen minutes before closing time, the exhibits all got shut down, so that was the end of that.
Next was the quest for food - we just got settled at a nice cheap tapas bar when it was invaded by noisy senoritas on a hen's party. We moved on pretty quickly and ended up at a noodle box type establishment, and ended up with the spiciest 'mild' fried rice possible. Mouth on fire stuff. Phwoar. Time for helado after that, to cool things down. I ended up with a lemon flavoured icecream that was supposed to just be choc chip, but managed to trade it for Simon's Kit Kat icecream because he felt sorry for me having to eat such spicy rice. Best husband I've ever had.
Our final night in Cordoba was planned to include a free flamenco show that our host, Sofie, told us about - but unfortunately it was cancelled on account of rain. Damn outdoor venues. So instead we went for a drink with Sofie and shared stories about how the world is a strange and beautiful place.