El Shawarma

 El ShawarmaThere’s no denying it. We’ve all been there; alone, pissed, stumbling down the street, when suddenly that matchless and unmistakable whiff mercilessly hijacks our nostrils and sends us trotting along in a desperate mission to locate its source as quickly as possible.

Next, a good fifteen minutes is spent swaying in front of/squinting at an otherwise remarkably easy-to-read menu, before an order is finally placed. Further waiting ensues until eventually, after what has seemed like an eternity, you are finally handed your piquant prize. The first bite is heavenly. And the second, the third too, and before you know it, it is gone. Devoured in all of ten, hazy minutes.

Then, the guilt sets in; ‘I’ll go for a jog tomorrow’ you tell yourself, or ‘It’s ok because I got lots of salad’. ‘That diet wasn’t working for me anyway’ etc. If truth be told, there is no way of justifying your actions, just as there often seems to be no way of avoiding the lure of what is arguably the middle-east’s greatest ever export after a skinful.

In fact, one will often go to great lengths to ensure that they are able to lock lips with the one they call the King of all Kebabs. Some, it turns out, will even go so far as to risk imprisonment

No joke. Last week, a man in Tel Aviv decided that he was so hungry that he walked into his local Kebab house and threatened workers at gunpoint, demanding to be served a Shawarma. Fortunately, the crazed kebab thief was granted his wish, topped with extra cheese, chili sauce and a fried egg, and nobody was hurt. Shortly after the incident, the man was arrested by police, who confirmed that they were able to identify the culprit due to excessive amounts of egg on his face. Ahem.

 El Shawarma

Two happy punters chowing down

But this story got me thinking- what is it about this delectable indulgence that drives the human senses so wild? I mean, how can something smell that good?

Ok, we all know that they are desperately unhealthy, and if you’re perfectly sober, and it’s daytime, then the thought of sinking your choppers into one of these may not seem overly appealing. Blind drunkenness aside though, surely there is another reason for man’s unwavering affection toward this mouth-watering treat?

Feras, my local Shawarma merchant, was kind enough to share with me his thoughts on the matter:

“At the end of the night, when people are drunk, there is nowhere else open, so they have to come here. There are no secret ingredients. We just open the doors, the smell drifts out onto the street, people come in and that’s all there is to it”

Not exactly the myth-busting answer I was hoping for but an answer nonetheless. It is what it is: a bulging, piping-hot, meaty snack, intended for drunkards. And long may it continue to be.

img 4722 El Shawarma

The ever-forthright Feras, in Primavera Shawarma

img 4721 El Shawarma

Totally worth it.

rainy-spain

Spain and Rain

Unbeknownst to many, it actually does rain in Spain sometimes. Granted, it doesn’t happen very often, at least not in the south anyway. This weekend in Granada, however, proved to be one of those rare occasions. Normality resumed later on Sunday, but for three days, it absolutely chucked it down.

The effects of such an unrelenting downpour on unsuspecting Spaniards are often excessive:

Exhibit A) Rain starts as pressed for time English Teacher, iPod in, head down, hands in pockets and yet to register the barely noticeable pitter-pattering descending from above, is hurriedly walking to work. Man in front, upon sensing first drops, stops dead in tracks and holds out both hands, palms facing up, to confirm what he thinks he has just felt. Unaware English teacher awkwardly crashes into back of man in front, but still apologizes.

“It’s raining!”, man in front exclaims.

This would not happen in Britain, thinks English Teacher as he offers a feigned smile (except the apology of course).

Exhibit B) English Teacher arrives at work, spends forty-five minutes planning the perfect lesson, rife with rain-themed song exercises with useful ‘rain’ words and fun-filled games, only to find that only two of a possible ten students have bothered to turn up.

“It’s raining!”, exclaims one of the students when asked why he thinks this is.

English Teacher decides to save rain lesson for another rainy day.

Exhibit C) Soaked-to-the-bone English Teacher finally makes it home after a twenty-minute squelch along the river-bed that was once a pavement, and is thankful to be able to remove his sodden socks from his icy-cold feet. English Teacher doesn’t care though, because tonight he and his friend’s are going to his favourite club to listen to his favourite type of music. Twenty minutes later, English Teacher receives text message from Spanish friend saying “Staying in tonight. It’s raining”. Incensed English Teacher responds by suggesting it’ll be raining more than just rain (though he is not sure what this means he feels it successfully conveys that he is angry) if they don’t go but Spanish friend is unmoved by threat (that he later confirmed was indeed unclear). English Teacher is less than impressed when Spanish friend later jokes that they should take a rain check- an expression taught to Spanish friend by English Teacher.

Next day, English Teacher spends afternoon sipping pints of lager with other expats in Irish Bar, lamenting the turn of events the night before.

“Playing football tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice”, one expat chirps.

“How nice?”, inquires English Teacher.

“Oh, well, around 26 degrees or so I expect”.

“In that case then no”, concludes English Teacher. “It’ll be too hot”.

Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

Throughout the 10 months or so that I have been lucky enough to call myself a resident of Granada, I have always been fascinated with the plethora of unrivalled Graffiti that adorns the historical city’s walls. Some of it, admittedly, is either of a shoddy or unremarkable standard, but a handsome percentage of this urban art is nothing short of awe-inspiring. There are, I’m sure, hundreds of would-be-artists claiming recognition for some of the city’s most famed pieces, but if you were to stop beside one and ask a number of passing locals if they knew the name of the artisan behind it, you would most likely hear just one answer: El Niño de las Pinturas (The Child of The Paintings). This guy is a proper legend. And I mean PROPER. For years he has been smearing previously dull-white walls with his unmistakable signature across the whole of Granada. Some of his pieces have featured in art magazines, documentaries and are now even considered a tourist attraction by the Granada Tourism Board, who will only be too happy to point art-ardent tourists in the right direction.

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.” 

Banksy, Wall and Piece

The best part is, he remains a mystery. Well, perhaps not entirely, as I’m sure there are plenty of locals who would instantly recognise him in the street, but  amongst us ‘giris’, the man’s face is as recognisable as a long lost aunt’s after two car crashes and several facelifts. A friend of mine was adamant that she knew the luminary’s identity, but after a terribly awkward yet hilarious (for me) conversation in a pub, the alleged master-painter (no, ‘painter’, not ‘bater’) turned out to be a full-time ice-cream vendor. Whoever he is, he’s supposed to be really nice anyway; another friend was lucky enough to have part of her garden wall painted by him, though the piece, sadly, has remained unfinished for years. Anyhow, I considered it not only a resident’s unmitigated duty, but a wholly gratifying experience to wander Granada’s streets and capture a selection of the legendary artist’s most stunning efforts. Scroll away…

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 Granada: Home Is Where The Art Is

 

Granada: A Stroll Through Town

As this is my first proper post, I thought it only apt to dedicate its contents to the enchanting abode in which I live. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s actually taken me over a year to properly get off my arse and have a thorough wander around the place I now call home. Of course I’ve always known what treats and feats lie inconceivably close to my doorstep, but it only dawned on me recently that while I may in fact live here, I’ve never really afforded the time and appreciation that such treats and feats undoubtedly deserve. So, this weekend, I abandoned all other plans (in truth there weren’t many anyway) and, armed with my camera, dedicated all my free time to exploring this glorious city; a very, very wise decision indeed.

Exploration commenced in my own hood of El Realejo. It is without doubt one of the city’s most visited areas and one is sure to find themselves stuck behind gaggles of ambling tourists along the narrow pavements at least once a day (if you live there of course). Having said that, the area exudes such ambience that such irks are less than frivolous. My walk took me along the bar-congested Campo de Principe, back along the sleepy Calle de los Molinos, onto the narrow Calle Sta. Estolástica and eventually to Callejon de Santo Domingo, where the grand church of the aforementioned saint towers imposingly above its surroundings. The square was typically packed with Spaniards, laughing and chatting eagerly to one another after afternoon mass.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

View of the steps ascending La Cuesta del Realejo

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Tourist-packed bus heading to The Alhambra

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Calle Sta. Estolástica Granada: A Stroll Through TownSanto Domingo Church

After the inevitable photographing of the fountain atop which sits the much-papped Isabel La Catolica, I found myself side-stepping through the crowds on Puerta Real, where there happened to be a 200-strong Brazilian themed drum band dancing their way along the road. It was cool, though not exactly something out of the ordinary for Granada. People seemed pretty excited about it anyhow, content to stop in the middle of the street and stare through the lens of their videocameras. Everyone was having a great time. Except motorists. They didn’t seemed impressed at all.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

La fuente de Isabel La Catolica

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

The Noisy Drummers

Further ambling led me past La fuente (fountain) de Las Batallas and down La Carrera de Genil, the pedestrianised concourse that runs parallel to Acera del Darro, where one can buy any piece of jewelry or adidas hoody imaginable. The passage culminated before yet another of Granada’s spectacular fountains, this time La fuente de los Gigantones. More frenzied photographing ensued before I wandered back up to Puerta Real and headed for the La Catedral. Unlike most other cities, Granada’s Cathedral is actually rather difficult to find, seeing as how it is tucked clandestinely away among scores of other buildings. As a result, one won’t actually even manage a glimpse of the face of the giant edifice until the final corner of the street running adjacent to it is turned. Sunset wasn’t long off by the time I arrived and the shadows of the facing buildings could be seen creeping up the front of the staggering monument.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Fuente de Las Batallas

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Fuente de Los Gigantones

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Rio Genil

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Kids skateboarding in Plaza Gracia (I thought about asking them if I could attempt a kickflip but decided against it for fear of being considered a… well you know)

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

La Catedral de Granada

Ten minutes later, I found myself meandering through the bustling outdoor markets of Plaza Bibrambla, where, if I had wanted to, I could have bought just about any kind of cheese thinkable, all sorts of chocolatey things and joke-sized loaves of bread. There was also a lovely collection of masks with creepily-real-looking eyes glued inside them, even more jewelry than on La Carrera de Genil and lots of colourful Gypsy things, with no clear purpose. I bought and demolished a huge palmera in seconds. Lovely.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Plaza Bibrambla

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Cheese! And lots of it…

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Massive chocolate covered doughnuts.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Bread, anyone?

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Masks.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Next day, my afternoon was for the most part spent collecting samples of some of the city’s finest urban art (coming soon in next post ;)), but there was still much of Granada that remained unclacked. Having carefully made sure that I avoided peak tourist time, I strolled blithely into the perpetually remarkable Plaza Nueva, where the lower reaches of The Alhambra can be easily clacked. After some more aimless wandering about the square, I set off for El Mirador de San Nicolas, taking in the striking colours and unique character of El Albayzín as I went. The winding and cobbled streets are crammed with teterías and Moroccan Shops. You’d be fortuitous to pass through without stopping to buy anything. Unlike in actual Morocco, though, you are neither harassed nor followed en El Albayzín.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Plaza Nueva

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Plaza Nueva

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Bright and beautiful hand-sewn dowry fabrics.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

From whence just came

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Panting like a hound-chased fox with cotton-mouth, I finally made it to El Mirador. The views from the famed lookout never cease to amaze; The Alhambra looms emphatically on its green-shrouded hilltop; the rooftops of Granada glisten in the sunlight and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada emanate on the horizon to complete a magnificent sight to behold. That’s why I live here.

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

The Alhambra Palace

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

Granada

 Granada: A Stroll Through Town

The Alhambra Palace

Switching to WordPress: Why didn’t I do it sooner?

So here I am. Blogging. I must admit it all feels very modern and high-tech. And hugely exciting too. It’s not the first time i’ve delved into the blogosphere, mind. Not longer than a month ago I was happily rambling on about my 4-week trip along the Adriatic coast, albeit with a different name and a different platform. A platform, I might add, which eventually had to be abandoned due to ever-increasing unreliability. I won’t say which platform I am referring to, but I will say that it starts with a B and rhymes with ‘jogger’. Too much? Ah well. Screw em. If they didn’t want to answer my question about why all my fonts, colours and line spacing were coming out irrecoverably different to what they were supposed to be, then that’s their problem. I can just fix it myself. Move on. Get onto WordPress. Ever since I set up the previous blog people only ever said “Yeah great blog man, but why aren’t you on WordPress?” anyway, so I figured why not?

Ten minutes into my latest venture, and I’m astounded at how limited my previous blog had been in comparison to what was now only a few clicks away. At first, it’s a lot to take in; a good half an hour spent scouring WordPress’s ‘Freshly Pressed’ section results in some serious blog envy (some of my favourites include The Vibes, Temporarily Lost and The Life and Times of Nathan Bradley  and while eye-opening in terms of discovering the potential my blog could have, this process ultimately throws me into a mini state of fretfulness and uncertainty. What should I call it? Which (of the 211 available) theme should I use? And most importantly, who are my audience and how do I reach them? All these questions buzz about in my head for another, very indecisive thirty minutes. Eventually, I have my name (you can be the judge of whether it is a good pun or not) and plumping for a theme with a Spanish title only seems appropriate. I expect that my audience will come, over time. Just need some content first.

So why then, am I doing this? Well, in essence I suppose it’s because I love where I live and I want to share my experiences with anyone who’s prepared to read about them. I also love writing, and hope that someday I can call it work. So this, by default, seems to be the most sensible way of practising my craft. I only hope that I don’t come across as too self-indulgent in the process. That could be quite hard though.

 Switching to WordPress: Why didnt I do it sooner?

Me hiking in the mountains near Jerez de la Frontera