Enticed by the warm Spanish sunshine, in the 8th century the Moors extended their empire into Spain. If you look at a map of their territory it looks like they just kept going north till it got too cold. Having spent four rainy days in Granada in April, I can see why they halted their advance. The last time I was in Granada, I could have fried an egg on my chest and, as I recollect, I did. If you plan to perform this agreeable trick, ensure that you have depilated beforehand. When the white of the egg, the albumen, hardens, it tends to get stuck in your chest hair. It takes some gouging with a spatula to get the egg off and onto a plate.
Sorry, I digress. We flew to Malaga with Easyjet; Ryanair was a little less expensive, but their seat allocation policy (scam) is too annoying. From the airport we got a coach to Granada, as it was both cheaper and quicker than the train. Car hire was an option, but we were staying in the Old Town and parking would have been very tricky. Buses and Uber taxis served us fine. I had never used Uber taxis before and I have concerns about the employee’s rights. The drivers were well dressed; the cars were spotless, and the service was superb. If they’re being exploited (they are) then they took it well. I won’t be taking advantage again, though.
My two amigos and I last went on holiday together in 1981 to Magaluf, when we were in our early twenties. Alas, we were to have numbered four this time, but one buddy injured his knee and had to have surgery while we were away. He was in our daily prayers and we offered libations. Our plan for this vacation was much the same as back in 1981; brisk mountain walks, visits to buildings of historical interest, and perusing art galleries. We were like that in our teens. It was all about art and culture back then too. The weather forecast was dire, but we got lucky, the rain mostly held off during the daytime, and we did the things we wanted to do.
We stayed in a large apartment called ‘Genteel Home Ático Gran Capitán’ (I know, rolls off the tongue). It was well placed and very nicely furnished. There was air-conditioning but, given the cold temperatures, we needed proper heating and the units gave out precious little warmth. In nice weather, the apartment would be a great option, less so in winter. It was spacious and had a decent sized balcony with sun beds.
Utilising the services of ‘Trek Sierra Nevada’ website, we did one of their ‘short’ walks described as ‘medium and suitable for children’. We all thought it was quite hard and definitely not for kids. The many freshly dug, small graves that we passed seemed to bear this out. It was an engaging, if demanding stroll. The scenery was charming and picturesque. Sign posting was a bit minimal, but the downloadable map was fine. It is a circular route through a valley which leads to a gorge and then onto the slopes above. There were a few hanging bridges in the gorge, one of which was fairly long and was quite a thrill to walk over. At least I, with a fear of heights, got a thrill out of it.
After the day’s exertions an evening’s relaxation beckoned. Obviously, exercise can dehydrate one and we were keen to ensure we were suitably moistened. Many people claim water is good for this, often with added salts. These people are, in my experience, fools. Drinking beer is by far the wisest course of action, one to be pursued vigorously. There are some great bars in Granada. But beware, the old town is quite large and an easy place for the unsuspecting drunk to get lost in! Quite a few places offer free tapas and the portions can be quite substantial. Pick the right bars and you won’t need an evening meal.
It was at the blurry end of one of one of our rehydration evenings that the conversation turned to religion. Specifically, whether Jesus ever existed. On reflection I realised it’s something I’ve wanted to say for a long time, so I decided to write a book about it, it’s available here on Amazon. It’s called ‘Atheists for Jesus’, it’s quite short, 47 pages, and very cheap. It’s the reason this blog was delayed. Anyway, let that be a lesson to us all!
On our second day, we were booked to go and visit the Alhambra. If you plan to go here, then do book months in advance, as it’s a very popular attraction. The Alhambra is a collection of buildings, a castle, a palace or two, set in lovely grounds dripping with water features, ornamental lakes and fountains. You will be given a separate time telling you when to go in to tour the palace. The gardens are superb. I had a ‘moment’ by one particularly striking flower bed. I don’t know why, flowers aren’t my thing usually, but I was just moved by the beauty of it. I filled up. The picture isn’t too amazing and doesn’t explain why I was so taken aback. I guess you just had to be there.
The architecture of the place is brilliant, the ornate intricacy of the stonework has to be seen. It’s globally famous, and rightly so. One often comes across a tendency to look down on past civilisations and compare them unfavourably to our own. The Alhambra is stunning and pulls the rug from under such an ignorant attitude. Across Spain, the Moors founded universities which drew in children of wealthy Europeans. Their knowledge in maths, algebra and architecture paved the way for The Enlightenment.
The next day, the weather afforded another opening, and we duly trotted off to check out the gypsy quarter of Sacromonte and its cave houses. It was quite a walk, most of it uphill, and it takes you round the rear, north-western side of the Alhambra. Some very nice views to be had and there’s a large old monastery to have a mooch around too. The cave houses are interesting but, of course, you can only see the front of them.
Some modern Bohemian gypsy types have made their own cave dwellings on the hillside opposite where they enjoy an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. At least I assume they enjoy it. I’m guessing that the dreadlocked hippy buskers we saw around town were part of the community. Their homes certainly looked spartan. I made very similar dens on the railway embankment when I was a child. I admire their commitment to the cause. I like busking myself. I would join them at the drop of a hat if they were equally as committed as I to personal hygiene.
On the way back, we fancied a look around the impressively grand cathedral, but the charges were a bit steep, so we didn’t bother and went for a beer instead. Every little square sports the alfresco bars we all know and love. It’s always a pleasure to sit and chill with an Estrella and watch the world go by. I don’t know if the cathedral always charges. Preparations for Semana Santa celebrations were underway, maybe that explains it. The Easter festival processions are amazing, and I’d recommend them in any Spanish city. Book well in advance as they do put the prices for accommodation up.
After our four-night sojourn in Granada, we headed back for a couple of nights in Malaga to dry out. Our clothes, not our livers. It was sunny and hot a mere eighty miles down the road. I like Malaga a lot, but I’ve blogged about it elsewhere on this site, so I won’t say too much. Click here for the link.
Again, we stayed on the edge of the old town with its higgledey piggledy streets designed to bamboozle the inebriated. There were quite a few Sex Shops near our apartments. I wanted to go in to see what the hell it was that they sold, but I’m too shy. I’m assuming they didn’t actually sell sex. Their shop windows were full of impractical underwear and oddly shaped appliances.
Malaga is full of great bars and restaurants. What’s not to love? The guys visited the Pompidou centre and a Picasso gallery while I walked along the beach and had a look at the remains of the Roman amphitheatre in town. I wanted to cast an eye over a few old haunts and reminisce. We all went to the Van Gogh exhibition, which was just brilliant. It was basically a multi-screen, multi-projection extravaganza that featured his paintings and excerpts from his letters with backing music. Tickets were 14 Euros a pop, but I thought it was worth every penny (or cent).
Fans of extreme sports that we are, it was inevitable that the daredevil, white knuckle, electric scooter ride would tempt us. At speeds of up to, but not including, seven miles per hour, we hurtled along the promenade caring nothing for our safety, addicted only to adrenalin and thrills. Yes, crazy, I know. Trembling observers were aghast at our recklessness, but we cared for naught, living in the present moment, with no thought for tomorrow.
Displaying the same devil may care boldness I did go inside Malaga Cathedral, having missed the opportunity several times previously. It was okay and had some interesting paintings. Sadly, the atmosphere was tainted by the loud conversations of the staff, smoking joints and listening to rap music on their mobile phones. Naturally, this disturbed my recitation of the Angelus and I was forced to admonish them with pursed lips and several fierce glances. All to no avail. I’ve felt a greater sense of the sacred in Asda.
Should you go?
We had a good time and it would have been better if only the weather had been more clement. The little bit we saw of the Sierra Nevada was sumptuous, with views down to the southern coast. It made me want to explore it more. Granada is a cracking place with plenty to do other than the rightly famous Alhambra (make sure you book!). Malaga, as ever, was great, a genuine Spanish city with good beaches.
If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the comic novel I’ve recently published. It’s jolly funny indeed. I pissed myself writing it. As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.