My first impression of Granada came via Ani. Ani was my AirBnB host at a flat she’d described online as “artistic.” I’m inclined to concur. The keys she gave me were attached to red castanets, there was animal-adorned wallpaper covering the kitchen cupboards, and I had a mannequin wearing a polka-dot flamenco dress at the end of my bed. It was muy extravagante, but muy bonita. Ani herself creates music videos from home for a living and danced a little jig in her hallway when she told me she’d achieved her life’s dream. Her parting message to me was an instruction to follow my dream, too. Ani’s great.
Travelling to a new place is never truly about the place itself. It’s not about the views (though Granada’s are BREATHTAKING, SPECTACULAR and ALL the superlatives), the streets (though Granada has plenty of chaotic, winding and wonderful ones) or the spots on the tourists’ tick-list (though Granada’s maze-like Albayzín and its buzzing bodegas and the majestic Alhambra(!!) are first-class).
It’s more about the people. It’s about Ani and her colourful home, where she provides croissants and air-conditioning. It’s about José, the Spanish gypsy whose girlfriend lives in Guildford and who called me a princess as he waited for me to leave the tapas bar so he could take my table. It’s about Damien, the French dude I befriended as we both took a wrong turn on our way up to the Alhambra and who stayed with me for the whole tour. We chatted in broken English, French and Spanish and he laughed at all my jokes. He pointed out ‘granados’ (pomegranate trees) and made fun of my factor 50 suncream, and I said “Je suis chaud” instead of “J’ai chaud,” which made him blush and chuckle a lot.
It’s about the shy waiter at La Parrala who served me paella and a selection of cheese that was way too much for one person as he told me that my Spanish was better than his English. It’s about the flamenco singer at Mirador San Nicolás whose clapping companion offered to take my picture with the unreal vista as my backdrop – and then held eeeveryone up as he took his damn time. A perfectionist, it would seem.
It’s about the group of carefree Spanish girls I spied as I was having tostada for breakfast… again. They’d just ordered chocolate sauce and giant churros. At 9am. I was impressed.
It’s about the guy who served me fresh juice in 40-degree heat and took an unsolicited photo of the tattoo on my arm, before showing me all of his own (well, the ones he could decently show me, at least).
It’s about Bei, who’s Senegalese but moved to a Granadian hillside, picked up the local lingo, and opens his cave-casa to a different tour group every week. When we arrived on my last night in Granada, which I’d warily dedicated to an “adventure tour” (turned out to be 25€ extremely well spent), he was listening to British pop music and drinking beer with some friends. He let us look around and take snaps of his self-sufficient home. He beamed and joked and showed off his Latin-inspired dance moves. We were in good spirits; right before Bei’s house, we’d climbed up shrunken streets and precarious dirt paths to San Miguel Alto and witnessed the most staggering sunset any of us had ever seen IRL.
It’s about all of those people, their openness, their exuberance, the way they are who they are because of Granada – and yet they make Granada the place that it is.
And, of course, it’s about the food, too. It’d be remiss of me to leave that out. The massive churros, the piononos, the post-midnight helado, the tinto de verano that comes with FREE FOOD!!! Granada is the city for complimentary tapas. Free food you haven’t even asked for = my idea of happy hour. One night, I had two drinks and three plates of food for 5,50€. Erm, hellooooo heaven.
Granada, you were rougher around the edges than Seville. Your streets seemed more bustly, your people a bit more brusque, your walls more gaudily graffitied. But good god, you were equally gorgeous. My three days with you will stay with me for a long time – and not just because you wooed me with free carbs. I’ll remember the conversational slip-ups, the heart-stopping views, the sensation of sweat-beads dripping down my belly. I’ll remember the insistent old ladies thrusting indistinguishable flowers in my face and the abrupt way of the waiters tied up in your teeming tapas bars, with their punters spilling into your cobbled alleys. It was fantastic, all of it. I can’t wait to come back.
Hasta pronto, preciosa. Gracias por los recuerdos.