Granada! I arrived yesterday afternoon. It’s a quick hour and a half flight from Barcelona. I put my bag down in the hostel and set off to explore. I got lost, climbing up and up, then found myself exactly where I wanted to be all along – at the Plaza San Nicolas with an incredible view of the Alhambra and the snow-covered Sierra Nevada in the background. I guess skiing on the mountain is an option until mid-April, which is amazing because it must have been 80 degrees in the city yesterday. Granada is so beautiful. I’m not usually one to take lots of scenic photos, but yesterday I couldn’t help myself. The blue sky, the flowers, the white walls, the cobblestone streets – it’s the picture of picturesque. There’s a strong North African influence – lots of tea, kebab, shawarma, and hookah. Granada is only a little more than 100 miles from Morocco.
This morning, I ate my free breakfast at the hostel (toast and jam) and set off with my laptop in search of a café with Wi-Fi in which to plug in and write. The woman behind the desk at the hostel suggested a café “just two blocks up on the right”. This is after she questioned my motives for leaving the hostel at all. “We have Wi-Fi here!” And it’s true, the hostel does have Wi-Fi, it’s also true that they’re remodeling and the entire place is a mess. (Last night I was sitting on a couch in the common room downstairs, talking with other guests, and pieces of ceiling were falling into my wine cup.) Of course, I wasn’t really aware of the scale of their remodel upon checking in. So, in an effort to spend as little time possible at the hostel, this morning I set off in search of the suggested café.
The old part of Granada is called the Albaicin. It is mesmerizing. I’m staying in the Albaicin, but I’m also quite close to the newer part of the city. The contrast is immense. The streets in the Albaicin are steep, cobblestone and so narrow, it feels like time stopped hundreds of years ago (minus the creature comforts of today like electricity, running water and a few cars). I walked around for almost an hour and never found the café. I’ll be the first to admit that my direction instincts are sometimes ridiculously off, but how hard can “just two blocks up on the right” be? In the Albaicin, it’s hard, I promise. To start with, there are no “blocks”. Also, when I set off on my search a little after 10am, almost no shops or cafes were even open. It seems most of them open at 11am, then close again for lunch from around 2pm – 5pm, reopen at 5pm and close at 8pm for the night. Restaurants are different, because they stay open for lunch, but they don’t open until around noon or 1pm. On my search for the Wi-Fi café, I passed another restaurant close to the hostel about ten times. The owner was mopping the floors and setting up outdoor tables when I sat down, defeated. He helped me plug in my computer. No Wi-Fi, but they have coffee and power. Bueno. So, here I am – writing, looking out on Plaza San Gregorio, inhaling coffee and floor cleaner.
Now, to backtrack a bit…the farewell dinner in Barcelona was delicious! (Can I say that? I was the cocinera after all, so I don’t want toot my own horn, but it was fun and yummy.) It was such a treat to have my new friends and roommates around one table. I’d spent a total of two weeks in Barcelona and it was starting to feel like home.
I went to La Concepcion Mercado in the morning and bought most everything I needed from the fresh fruit, veggie, fish and cheese stalls. I was sans cookbook, so I kept things simple. Here’s the menu I decided on:
• Tapas: Goat cheese from France, local sheep cheese, spicy green olives, bread, sliced tomato and avocado
• Salad: Spinach with strawberries and macrona almonds – Dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, coarse ground mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt
• Pasta: Bow tie pasta with cherry tomatoes, garlic, onion, white wine, parmesan and fresh parsley
• Dessert: Plum and strawberry crisp with vanilla ice cream
I had to go to El Corte Ingles, a big department store with a huge supermercado in the basement, to find brown sugar and oats. Spanish people apparently don’t eat brown sugar or oats. Que lastima! None of my roommates had ever had fruit crisp before. It was sitting on the counter, uncooked, while I was preparing dinner. They thought we were going to eat it that way, raw. Por favor! To their credit, I guess fruit crisp is an truly American dessert. Eulalia asked for the recipe, so maybe she will spur a fruit crisp revelation across Spain.
I’m off to the Alhambra this afternoon, then maybe the Arab baths tonight. Perhaps I’ll have a good soak before commencing my rustic farming life tomorrow.