By pure chance, as we were finishing our walk through a part of the narrow streets of the Moorish Albaicin district, and had almost circled back to Plaza Nueva, we bumped into our new-found friend Sunny who we had first met that morning as we started out for the Alhambra tour! He mentioned that he had managed to find a venue featuring a Flamenco dancing performance, starting at about 9 PM that evening and asked us if we were interested in joining him. Even though we had not yet eaten, the ladies were over the moon with such fortuitous circumstances and I had never seen a Flamenco performance before, so we immediately accepted.
It was starting soon and we needed to buy tickets, so we all headed off in the darkness along the Rio Darro as we made our way back to the area where the show was to take place. We stopped at a couple of bars to ask for directions and eventually found the auditorium, where we had no problem buying the three tickets we needed for 5 Euros each. Sunny already had a ticket in a good section at stage level but our last-minute tickets put the three of us in the balcony. We were quite happy with both our bird's eye view and the acoustics as the show got underway. The music was great and it was interesting to see how the performance played out with the different female dancers getting up from their chairs to do their bits as the show built to its grand finale of the male dancer on the left also doing a great routine. The other male performers were strictly musicians - and they too really knew what they were doing! No photos or videos were allowed but I did slip in this single shot with the flash 'Off'.
According to Wikipedia, Flamenco is "known for its intricate rapid passages, and a dance genre characterized by its audible footwork" but the origin of its name remains unclear. It is believed to have evolved from a combination "of native Arabic, Andalusian, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures that existed in Andalusia following its reconquest in the late 1200s and the dance form gradually spread throughout Spain over the following centuries."
We were quite pleased with our lucky turn of events as we made the late-night walk back to the Plaza, where the ladies retired for the night while I had a beer and tapas with Sunny in a bar before also bidding him adieu.
On a Friday or Saturday night in Spain you usually go out for dinner at 10 O'clock and then hit the bars or Botellon (street party) at 12 o' Clock (yes that late! The bars are empty before then unless they serve tapas too!). Then the people usually head to a nightclub at around 3 and stay there until they are thrown out (usually around 7 in the morning). Spain (especially Andalucia in the south) is a party country.
Remember portions of the drinks here are not measured so drinks are really strong. This usually causes problems for us Brits as we are not used to being able to drink all night so usually cram alcohol down our necks at a rate you wouldn't believe! We can't do that in Spain or we'll be in bed before the party's begun! Pacing takes time to learn, but can be done!
IMPORTANT: If you hear a bell toll in a bar don't worry this means someone has tipped the barman/woman and not that it is last orders. So you can relax!
The favourite drink in Spain is Whisky/Whiskey. You will see more types of it here than in Ireland and Scotland put together! Watch out for the brand called DYC too. you could never call a drink that in an English speaking country. If you don't get why try reading it as a word and not an Acronym. Hehe.
In addition to the excellent food and drink at our little bar on Plaza Nueva, we also had a great view of some buskers who were entertaining passers-by in a large open area of the Plaza (with the lead busker seen here in the distance with his red top and black shorts pulled up past his waist). I have always enjoyed watching buskers but had not seen one perform in quite some time, so was pleased to be able to laugh at his juggling, fire-eating and various other antics. The show actually was taking place in front of the old Royal Chancellery at the left, built in 1530 but now used as the High Court.
The guy worked non-stop and had quite a crowd gathered around to watch his show. Unlike him, there were other street vendors (all appearing to be African) who actually came to the various tables trying to sell CDs they were carrying. We did not bite.
I suppose this tip could just as easily be classified as a warning or tourist trap, but I found it quite a charming local custom. All round the centre of the city, especially in the cathedral area, gypsy women accost you with offerings of a sprig of something delightfully aromatic and offer ( ?) to read your palm. I was actually standing on a wall ouside the Chapel Royal ( posing for a photo under an orange tree - what else ? ) when a young girl reached up and shoved this sprig into my hand. My husband was jumping up and down with rage behind because she'd already asked him and he'd refused, but I quite enjoyed the experience. She told me I had excellent health and I told her she was wrong so she changed that to excellent head health and that I was very intelligent. Clever girl herself obviously !! Next she told me I had 3 children, all big now ( very observant ) . I told her I had 4 and without missing a beat she picked up my other hand and spotted one she'd missed. She was funny and in no way aggressive and I had no problem with giving her a few euro for her quick wit. We all like to romanticise the gypy connection with Granada so I think it's not too surprising that they are going to milk that for what it's worth in economic terms.
The pomegranate appears on the city of Granada's coat of arms and Granada is the Spanish word for pomegranate so I expected to see pomegranates everywhere but the pomegranate I found on the side of this building and these little metal posts that divided the street from the sidewalk were the only ones I saw. Well, except for the really, really, really tacky smiling pomegranate souvenir I picked up for my husband, it looks like someone has taken a couple of big bites out of his head, the poor little fellow!
Would it have hurt to have a few dancing pomegranates in the Plaza Bib-Rambla? All we saw was an overheated Barney (you know, the I love you, you love me magenta dinosaur that seemingly rational adults loathe to the point of violence) and some really annoying mimes. Yes, I know annoying mimes is redundant.....
I don't think this is unique to Granada or even Spain but as I was wandering around Sunday afternoon I found that most shops were closed including grocery stores. I pretty much wandered the entire central district before finally finding a mini market where I could buy some drinks and snacks. And I found very few shops open although we did do some shopping in the touristy Alcaiceria district (Old Moorish silk market), just north of the Plaza Bib-Rambla and some of the tourist souvenir shops along the Plaza were open as well as the ones near the Cathedral.
Piononos are small pastries traditional in Santa Fe, a small town adjacent to Granada.
A pionono consists of a thin layer of pastry rolled into a cylinder, fermented with different kinds of syrup, crowned with toasted cream.
The creator of this pastry was Ceferino Isla. He was a patissier and a devout follower of the Virgin. He wanted to pay tribute to the Pope Pious IX (Pio nono in Spanish) when he proclaimed the dogma or the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1858. Then, he decided to create a pastry with such a shape that remind the figure of a Pope: cylindrical and slightly dumpy appearance (soaked cake rolled on itself), dressed in white as the Pope (paper basket containing the soaked cake), and crown of sweetened and toasted cream on top of the cylinder (the zucchetto the Pope covers his crown with). The pastry should have also the name of the Pope.
The Pionono is just delicious. Don't leave Granada without trying.
Granada's walled Alhambra was full of pussy cats. All over the place. Generally friendly and often hardly more than kittens. Especially around the snack bars - cats are certainly resourceful and not stupid :-)
There was a particularly strange looking grey one near the Alcazabar. I think she had some wolf in her genetic code.
Some of the older cats had their right ear clipped - maybe because they had been given 'the chop'
All are correct and you will see it spelt in either way all across Granada. I'm not sure where the spellings come from. Maybe one is the Arabic spelling and the other is the Spanish Spelling and another the British!
Don't be confused by it though!
The biggest celebration in Granada durring the year is a week long "party" near the busstation.
There were this year (2005) an amusement park and lots of tents (big ones) that was working as restaurants, bars and discos.
This is yet another avent where you will be able to see women and children dress up in the tradicional gypsy-flamenco-dresses.
Normally El Corpus Cristi is around the end of may or the beggining of june (it depends on when is easter!)
Here we saw a group of people that will be carrying the Saints during the Easter processions.
this takes a lot of practise, for months they try the itinerary so their night all goes perfect.
We can prove that that corner was not an easy one.
Seems everywhere I've gone in the past several years I've found graffiti aimed at the current President of the United States but I don't view it as Anti-American sentiment as much as Anti-Bush sentiment. I think people in other countries can separate the people from the US from the politics and leaders of the US.
I didn't personally encounter any anti-American sentiments while in Spain so felllow Americans, no need to sew those maple leaves on your back pack just yet ;-)
See what Spanish say: "Good or bad but always me". Well, they are really great people, very open and seem to be very happy too, not caring too much about tomorrow. It's not hard to experience the famous "manana" here but you can get used to it.
Sure, why do something today if you could do it tomorrow? ;-) Sooo relaxing...
So you thought you'd seen it all, huh? So you thought you'd be brave and try Granada? I approach a sign at the bus station clearly marked with English text stating "Tourist Information Centre," and ask the big fat lady working the counter in my fumbled-Spanish for a schedule to Malaga, please. She slams her open palm with all her might onto the counter, "No comprende!", throws two photocopies at me, and storms into the back room never to be seen again. Welcome to Granada, young man! This is a sign of things to come--from hotel staff, bus drivers, waiters, waitresses, store vendors, Alhambra ticket agents, shifty homeless guys. What the hell did I do wrong? Why is everybody so angry here? Excuse me for freakin' living!
Bonus Tip: Carry a baseball bat around in one hand. There's a small chance people might be polite and treat you with some dignity it they think you might give them a conk on the head. I wouldn't guarantee it though.
In Europe, dining is an experience that is meant to be enjoyed and not hurried through. This is reflected in the wait staff service. You may end up sitting for quite a long time after your dessert has long been eaten and your espresso quaffed. That's because your waiter will not bring you your check until you've asked for it. They don't bring it automatically because they don't want to seem like they are eager to rush you out of the place. So when you're ready to leave, simply get your waiter's attention and confidently ask, "La cuenta, por favor."
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