Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have visited some of Spain’s most famous and most beautiful cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Salamanca, Valencia and Malaga, to name a few.
One city that we try to visit each time we visit the south though is Granada. Located south of Spain’s Sierra Nevada, in the region of Andalucía, it is- for me- one of the most interesting and enchanting cities I have visited. Its history is a rich mixture of Christian and Islamic, illustrating the influence of Spain’s Moorish rule on the culture of the area.
Now, I don’t have any formal training in architecture, but I think you can see for yourselves why I love pottering around this city.
My mother lived here during her time as a student at University, whilst Spain was still under the rule of Franco- in itself no easy task. She was one of a small handful or so of English students to reside in the city at the time; but together with her classmates, she made Granada her home for the remainder of her studies. Whenever we have a chance to visit, mum relishes bringing us back and showing us around her old haunt.
As we have visited the Alhambra countless times and as mum and I were recovering from heat exhaustion, we decided to venture elsewhere in the city on this trip. You really need a good couple of hours to appreciate the stunning architecture and the history of the palace.
For a change of scene, we decided to visit the Cathedral which houses some of the most beautiful garments from the time of Ferdinand and Isabella’s rule in the 15th century, as well as the elaborate craftsmanship and stonemasonry of the cathedral itself.
With each page standing at roughly 1 metre tall, the illustrated gilt manuscripts are worth the €4 entry alone.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get many snaps as pictures aren’t allowed inside and I am not one to disrespect rules of a religious house, so I will leave you with a few shots of the outside and you’ll just have to take my recommendation that that you should definitely pay is a visit if you’re ever in the area!
Both Al and I adore walking around Granada and eye-spying the different cultural influences everywhere: houses painted warm shades of oranges and yellows, adorned with blue and green tiles, dark wood and white marble, all offset against dusty stone archways. The streets are alive with colour.
At its height, the Moorish empire ran from modern-day Turkey, through the Middle East, down through Asia and the whole of North African, back to Gibraltar and up in to mainland Spain. Fast forward over 500 years since they were ousted and add in to this the large gypsy community, which still has a massive hold on the culture of the region, and you have a unique vibrancy that exudes from the region.
I love a city that shows me something new each time I visit. And you know what, Granada doesn’t disappoint.
After being culture vultures for a good couple of hours, we decided to do something that we love the most: eat. Just off Bib Ramblas we ventured to one of our favourite seafood bars, Cunini, for cañas and tapas.
Naturally, like all tapas bars in Spain at lunch time, it was packed. Once inside, waiters bustled past as they hastily made their way from bar, to table, and back to the hungry customers again.
I entertained myself by people watching, listening to stories and ogling at what was in the tank…
We ordered a few rounds of cañas and tinto de veranos, and were brought a couple of dishes of Spanish rice with fresh-water crayfish to share. The rice was peppery and al denté, the crayfish- sweet and full of flavour. Jn keeping with our family tradition, Alex decided that she would wear half of her meal by spilling it down her (silk) dress. Honestly, you can’t take us anywhere.
Following the fashion disaster, we swiftly ordered another round to relieve ourselves of the stress. Naturally. The accompanying tapas this time was a plated of lightly battered hake, cooked to perfection and drizzled in lemon juice. In the near 40 degree heat, the salt is gladly welcomed…as is a chilled tinto.
We decided to amble down Alciacería, ‘The Silk Market’.
Walking down the street, your senses are hit by a mixture of smells: spices, leather and heavy incense fill the busy street. Each shop is packed with both Cathoilic and Islamic souvenirs, jewellery, nic-naks and trinkets that shimmer in the sunlight.
Although we don’t need anything, Alex and I are notorious for acting like magpies so naturally, we love this street. Like most women, if something is shiny, you can bet we are drawn to it! However be warned: the busy narrow paths make this place a pick-pocket’s dream, so make sure you keep your hand on your bag!
Again, we were getting a little bit thirsty and so decided to pop in to another one of our favourite bars in Granada, ‘Puerta del Carmen’.
The bar itself offers is clean, cool and refreshing, especially since it is still brilliantly hot outside (I made it 38 degrees at this point). We order a couple of drinks and are treated to another plate of tapas; this time, calamari a la plancha.
One of their lunch time treats was ostra y copa de cava (a glass of cava and an oyster to you and me), all for the princely sum of €5.90, roughly £4.00. I know… amazing, eh? Seeing as we are on hol, we figured we would push the boat out.
Alex was super keen but I hadn’t eaten oysters for years. I remembered them for being an overrated food that I felt didn’t hold much flavour. How wrong I was.
They were delicious! Served ice cold with a squeeze of lemon, they were fresh, light, salty and sweet; the crisp, dry cava accompanied them beautifully- I am converted!
Following this, Pops decided that he wanted something a little more substantial, so we ordered a few raciones to share.
Our first choice, was a medio raciones of the Surtido Gourmet: Iberian cured ham, cured beef, manchego cheese, Iberic ham and dried salted tuna.
However, the real showstopper was the racion of beef carpaccio and foie grass, complete with olive oil ice cream. Normally, I don’t eat such rich foods like foie gras due to the high fat content… But every now and then, you gotta let yourself enjoy these things! The way I saw it: a) I’m away on holiday; b) it’s a divine restaurant and c) it’s a treat to enjoy with my family.
The dish was completely indulgent, completely not ‘diet food’, but completely delicious; each component complimented the other perfectly and the carpaccio simply melted in the mouth. Totally worth it.
Once the heat of the day had died down (it was now a mere 35 degrees…) we decided to go for a wander through the streets to walk off our lunch; with each corner we turned, mum would entertain us with another anecdote of her previous life.
The day was only made more perfect by a serving of one of our favourite treats…