Granada: I can’t stay away from the place. Being the site of my first time living abroad, it was inspiring enough to make me want to return to Spain, but sleepy enough to make that return five hours’ bus ride away firmly within the cold, neon embrace of a capital city. I was returning to my hayseed Spanish home with Ruairidh to meet Robyn and Samantha for a weekend of skiing, exploring, and wine. Ruairidh and I headed to Madrid’s Méndez Álvaro bus station to start the journey, which is basically a straight line down til you hit the Sierra Nevada.
We decided to use the time wisely and had just enough of it to watch the second Lord of the Rings, which is without any argument the best one (citation pending). The tedious Ent suplot is compensated for by the battle at Helm’s Deep (nerd!). And we got a stop at Spain’s Best Service Station (citation also pending), the Abades Puerta Andalucía. It’s a big flashy service station with cafés and shops to buy olive oil (of course) and on the doors of the men’s toilets it says “chevaliers”, which I love.
We arrived and jumped on another bus to the centre of town to meet Robyn and Samantha at our hotel, the Hotel La Casa de La Trinidad, very close to the Cathedral. They had been on an adventure to get here, starting early in Edinburgh, flying to Malaga, arriving into Granada, and doing a walking tour, and crashing out in the hotel before we showed up demanding wine and chat.
Reunited, we went out for a couple of hours to bars around Calle Elvira and Gran Vía de Colón so that Robyn and Samantha could experience the joy of free tapas, and I could ask myself why I ever left in the first place (oh yes, the lack of wifi). It was really cool to be back and walk around in the shadow of the massive Cathedral and hooky streets again.
We had been sagely temperate, knowing what was coming next: for Saturday was ski day! We awoke early, taxi’d to Granada bus station, and piled onto the 8am bus with all the skwankers in their salopettes. These were the views that awaited us at the resort:
In February, no less! We then had to do a lot of tedious queuing and collecting of tickets, skis, poles, blah blah blah (man, skiing has a lot of equipment!) before finally getting breakfast at a Pans. Ruairidh and I had a lesson booked (I having never skied on real snow, and only having had a block of lessons on a dry slope at age 10 – oh, state school woes!) and so we headed up on the goldola to the slopes to do that.
It was chaos at the top as the whole of Spain was on top of the mountain (give or take), and it was a big rammy for chair lifts and finding groups and general milling around. The lesson was really good, albeit fettered by how busy it was, and all the basics actually came back quickly.
Once the lesson had ended, we found Samantha and she convinced us to do some blue runs with her as it was a lot less busy the higher up you went. We hopped on a chair-lift and headed up. It was warm and sunny and we were feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Being together made the queues less annoying.
It was all going great: we made our way down a blue slope and stopped at the bottom to work out where to go next. What ended up happening was that we mistook a red slope for a blue one, and it turned out to be as steep as balls. We started struggling to get down it and falling over, and then all of a sudden this massive fog came over us and we could hardly see the bottom of the slope at all. It kind of wasn’t going to plan at all.
We had to walk/fall to the bottom of the hill, and try to work out where to go next. Having a map was helping way less than you might imagine. Plus our skis kept coming off and it was getting harder to stick them back onto our feet because of all the compacted snow and ice. We had ended up with two options: to try and ski down an enormous run to the bottom and just hope for the best, or to ski/walk back to where we needed to be, which was designed for cross-country skiiers… going the opposite way. So it was a long flat road, a hill, another long flat road, and another hill.
We stopped within sight of the part of the resort where you could get back on the goldola to Base Camp, or whatever you want to call it, and just had a seemingly insurmountable hill to walk up, dragging our skis and poles and sorry carcasses with us.
I haven’t seen the film Everest, but I’m more-or-less sure that it was pretty much the same as what happened to us.
It look lots of team-work and motivation to complete the trip, and a fortnight later I still have welts (attractive) on my legs from where my boots were, and psychologically I don’t know who I am anymore, but maybe the experience was a positive one in that we’re all still friends and didn’t die.
We had enough time on our descent to collapse at a bar where Robyn had kicked off the après-ski, and join her for a (I think, well-deserved) glass of wine. The bus ride back to Granada was long and tedious because of all the skwanker traffic. When we arrived, we got in a taxi, I unfurled my list of bars, picked one at random, and we set off. Needless to say, the night ended in the hotel with a carry-out bottle of wine (spoiler alert) but we had a great time bar-hopping, being delighted by free tapas, meeting American study-abroad kids, and running between bars from the sudden rain.
On Sunday we rose late, checked out, and slowly headed over in the sunshine to Carrera del Darro, the little winding cobbled street which takes you into Albaicín. We had mahoosive breakfasts and then wandered over to the Alhambra. The Alhambra was built by the Romans, ignored for a while, then tarted up massively to become the stronghold of the Emirate of Granada under the Nazrid Dynasty, until the Ferdinand and Isabella showed up and threw them out in 1492. Luckily they didn’t knock it down or stick crucifixes everywhere, as Catholics like to do, and it’s now preserved as this crazy beautiful set of fortresses and palaces and gardens. I visited a bunch of times when I lived here, and despite it being the most popular tourist attraction in Spain (I’m pretty sure, anyway) it’s always been a very calming and peaceful place.
That said – and I won’t bore you with all of the details – there was a ridonculous system in place where even if you had bought tickets in advance, which we had, you still had to queue for ages to collect them, which meant that our seemingly-perfect timings for getting to the Nazrid Palaces (the highlight of the visit which you get a time slot allocated for) were now way off. Usually there have been no issues of this sort, but we passed the time chatting to some Americans in the queue with us about the state of the world and the Presidential situation (which admittedly overshadowed our having to wait in a queue in the South of Spain on a lazy Sunday). As we were now long overdue our entry to the Nazrid Palaces, we decided to give it a go anyway, seeing as I was feeling suitably geared up for a scrap in Spanish. Miraculously, once we got to the front of that queue, she just waved us through. If there were rhyme and/or reason going on here, I think I shall never know.
The Nazrid Palaces were as wonderful as I remembered them:
After heading back via the Generalife gardens, and stopping off for a cava or two for the road (“when in Spain”), for the third day in a row it was back to Granada Bus Station. Robyn and Samantha got the bus to Malaga, and Ruairidh and I settled into the long journey back to MAD. We watched Ocho Apellidos Vascos (which means “Eight Basque Surnames” in English, but they decided to translate it instead as A Spanish Affair, go figure). It’s a super popular film about a Sevillian guy who falls in love with a girl from the Basque Country and so heads up there to win her over and has to pretend that he is born-and-bred Basque. Hilarity ensues. After that, we watched The Martian, where I realised that I couldn’t survive more than a few days without human company.
Once we finally got back to Madrid, we headed on the way home to a new Asian street food market and had beer and noodles. This place- Cortezo Yatai Market – is very cool and I will need to give it its own post. For now, accept this humble Instagram as a taster:
In other news, having got my life back post-exams…
- I was true to my word and did actually make a potstand out of wine corks. Here are some photos of the process:
Here’s what it should have looked like according to Pinterest, and what it ended up actually looking like:
- We went to a dinner at my friend and her boyfriend’s place, and got back at 4am (as you do) because of a boatload of wine and an amazing Czech spirit called Tatratea. It was nice to know that one day, I too might own more than two bowls, and that I might even strive to possess a table runner (whatever that is).
- I had a ton of my hair cut off and donated it to a charity which turns it into wigs for kids with cancer and stuff. I needed to be charitable after they wouldn’t take my blood donation before Christmas in case I had Mad Cow Disease (despite me trying to explain that I never go to the countryside if it can ever be avoided).
- Oh, and Adrián had us round to his sweet new apartment and we had this epic feast: