Top 10 Tapas Bars in Granada

If you’ve ever been to Granada, or you are thinking of visiting someday, then you’ll almost certainly know that its thriving tapas scene is reason enough for making the trip.

Firstly, it all comes for free with any beer, vino or soft drink. Secondly, the culturally diverse nature of Granada as a city is palpably reflected in its forward-thinking gastronomy. Whether its traditional Spanish, exotic Moroccan, tongue-tingling oriental style or an inconceivable fusion of all of the above, Granada has it all.

Tapas, Granada, Spain, Poe
El pollo es salsa Thailandés (Thai Chicken Curry) and El Bacalhau á Gomes de Sá (Portuguese style salt cod), Poë

Recently, I entered into Expats Blog’s ‘Top Lists’ writing contest with an entry showcasing what in my opinion are the top ten tapas bars in Granada. I do hope you have a spare five minutes to click the link and have a read through. If you like what you see then maybe you’d even be so kind as to comment on the post and share via Facebook or Twitter!

That would help me lots.

Gracias a todos!

Spanish Breakfast

spain, breakfast, spanish, pan con tomate
A Spanish Breakfast (my version anyway)

This is what I make for breakfast most mornings. It looks time-consuming but after four or five gos you get surprisingly good at it. These days it takes me about fifteen minutes to have it all laid out and ready to eat on my terrace. It’s delicious:

Grated tomato, garlic and oil, with bakery-fresh bread and manchego cheese for dipping, and fresh fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice to boot.

I’m not entirely sure what constitutes the classic Spanish breakfast but I’m guessing this comes pretty close.

Where are you in the world and what’s your country’s typical morning meal? Maybe you’d like to post your own picture to your blog and link back to this post? Just a thought… J

Mistakes. And why they should be cherished.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

We all make them. We all wince with embarrassment the moment one inadvertently escapes our lips, or as we gradually fathom in the aftermath of making one just why exactly asking for a ‘coño de chocolate’ from an ice-cream vendor is so funny to everybody else standing in line. We curse ourselves afterwards, and spend the next few seconds muttering under our breath what we should have said in a slightly deranged and neurotic way, until we get it right.

“Idiot. Stupid, feckless idiot. How can you get that wrong? UN CONO. UN CONO for god’s sake!”

This clanger was indeed one of my own, back in my early, early days in El Puerto de Santa María. If you speak a little Spanish, then you’ll probably have already pictured the scene quite accurately. If you don’t, then let’s just say that I picked a highly inappropriate moment, and establishment for that matter, to request a female sex organ of a darker variety. Yeah. Now you probably get the gist of it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then went on to say

“Estoy tan embarazado”

This was neither the right word nor an actual word, as embarazada is exclusively feminine (notice the final ‘a’) and, contrary to logical translation, actually means ‘pregnant’ ­– not ’embarrassed’. So not only had I asked for a chocolate-covered youknowwhat but I’d also declared that I was prenatal afterwards. The latter of these, as I have recently come to learn, is not an uncommon mistake. Take this unlucky chap for instance. And Fiona, of Scribbler in Seville knows only too well the resulting agony of such blunders.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

But once you’ve made a fair amount of them, the pregnancy embarrassment starts to wear off a bit. In fact, with a little time, mistakes actually become the best reference points for learning a language, whether hilarious or not. If the making of them is contextualized and dealt with appropriately, then the chances are that that mistake, if corrected, will never be forgotten, nor repeated.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

This is a mindset I encourage in my students on an almost daily basis. Most of them don’t quite get it yet, but then making a mistake in a classroom filled with intently listening strangers is a very different matter. Adults, unsurprisingly, get the most hung up about it – nobody wants to look a fool. Kids, on the other hand, couldn’t give less of a shit. And I love it. Evidently, they love it too.

“Profe, profe! Puedo ir al baño por favor!?” pleads one as he wiggles before me, his crotch grasped by both hands.

“In English please.”

“Can I borrow your toilet please?”

I sigh.


Two nearby girls overhear and burst into fits of giggles, before summoning the strength to repeat the error to the rest of the class, who then join in with the giggling. The perpetrator has long since departed, but upon his return is met with yet another wild outburst of laughter, which I unsuccessfully attempt to put a stop to, for fear of having to deal with a crying child (not one of my strong points as a teacher).

So you can imagine my delight when the child, upon realising his error, laughs instead of cries. Actually, he laughs more than anybody, and goes on to repeat the mistake over and over again. This pleases the others, and “Can I borrow your toilet please?” has now become something of a running joke, which I have given up correcting.

I realised after several tries that there was just no point. They were going to say it no matter what, purely to get a reaction out of their classmates. But that’s absolutely fine by me, because now everyone knows why it’s funny, and what the actual sentence should be. There’s no need for correction, because the mistake was contextualized and subsequently remembered by not just one student, but the whole class. Even if it has now become the most irritating thing in the world.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

If you’re a language learner, do you find that making mistakes is the best way to learn? If not, what is?

A Spanish Inquisition: La Tortuga Viajera

There’s not been a great deal of spanish inquiring going on recently here at SFP. None at all actually, since the first round with Marianne of East Of Malaga, so it’s certainly high time there was another. Step forward Erin, of La Tortuga Viajera, a blogger who has been shouting from Madrid for almost five years now, picking up plenty of well-deserved awards  – easyjet’s blogger of the month among them –  and blogging/featuring for the likes of Lonely Planet and Wild Junket along the way. Erin, or the travelling turtle, as her husband cordially nicknamed her, blogs about travel, food, drink and general advice for expats – particularly those living in Madrid. If there ever was a case of just how excellent living the life of an expat in Spain can be, then this is surely it.

Let’s get started shall we?

erin ridley, la tortuga viajera, spain

Name: Erin from La Tortuga Viajera

From: San Francisco, CA

Occupation: I head up marketing at OleiOlive and am also a freelance writer

Time in Spain: 5 years


1. Why did you move to Spain? Why Madrid?

I met my Madrileño husband at a bar while visiting Madrid. The rest is history.

2. What is one of Madrid’s best kept secrets?

These days I’m obsessed with Mercado de la Paz. It’s this traditional neighborhood market filled with some 60 stands – from fruit, to meat, and everything in between — and is completely hidden within a city block. I never stop marvelling at the fact that I have such a spectacular and largely unknown market-wonderland just steps away from my home.

3. How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?

People here live in the moment – for better and for worse — whether that be an eight-hour lunch, or an unnecessarily slow-moving line. Those who can embrace and appreciate these often-frustrating extremes will thrive.

4. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?

I’ll go with my wedding, my wedding and my wedding, simply because it’s too hard to pick just three!

5. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?

Leaving my life, friends and career behind in the US and then having to adapt to culture here minus those things. It made it hard for me to feel like I had a sense of identity.

6. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?

I was conversational, but not comfortably fluent. I always say the best way to learn Spanish is to tackle it with as many methods as possible. In the end, classes and conversation are fundamental – one without the other won’t get you to the finish line.

7. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?

No. And if someone has any, let me know.

8. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!

I’m going to have to go with this shot taken when I was a shepherd for a day up in Soria. I fell in love with those little lambies (and have refused to eat them since).

sheep, lamb, spain, la tortuga viajera

6 Reasons to go to Dragon Festival in Santa Fe, Spain

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia

It might be raining outside, but that won’t be stopping festival-starved merrymakers the nation over from flocking to what has arguably become Spain’s most legendary free rave, Dragon Fest, this weekend. The shindig will be held in Santa Fe, Andalucía for the third year running, after floods in its original homeland of Orgíva – a quiet, hippie town which can be read all about at all about at con jamón spain – caused irreparable damage in 2010.

The principle of Dragon is simple. Turn up, armed with booze, food, some sturdy footwear, a pair of trunks and a full-blown appetite for pounding pounding techno music, and run wild and free for however long you may wish to do so. It’s all in the spirit of spontaneity and good fun – free, good fun, might I add – something that is hard to come by these days.

I attended 2012’s event, and had an absolute blast. Here’s why:

  • Just in case you missed it, I’ll say it again: It’s free! No entry fee, no pitching charges and no moneygrubbing commercial stalls. It’s completely non-profit, and you can stay for as long as you want (that’s not to say that everything is free, however, so bring plenty of cash, food and water if you do go).
  • The music is surprisingly good, given that none of the participating DJs are paid for their efforts. It does tend to tilt primarily toward psychedelic trance, or ‘gabber’ as it is affectionately known, though if this gets a bit much (it can easily happen) then other dance genres and random/improvised/often quite drunk bands can be found just about anywhere.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Santa Fe
  • Its location is miles away from anywhere – perfect for a festival of Dragon’s nature. In order to reach it, if a car isn’t to hand, a bus must first be taken to local town Santa Fe, from where festivalgoers hoof it the rest of the way. While a two hour or so walk along a wide-open, dusty road in the middle of the day may not be the most appealing of thoughts, the prospect of reaching your ever-nearing, hippie-humming oasis drives you on with the utmost determination. Once you finally reach the finish line, it soon becomes clear just why it was such a good idea to come. My arrival beer last year – a no frills Día special – was possibly my best ever. Gone in seconds, but never forgotten.
  • There’s a hot springs. Yes, you read it right! Last year I spent an entire afternoon steadily recovering from a grueling hangover by this gently bubbling tarn. I was joined by many others, some clothed and some not so clothed. It was great fun, not too crowded and with the weather on our side made for an unforgettable day. Though I wouldn’t recommend coming if the sight of dense foliage and swinging manbits easily upsets you. This is a proper hippie festival.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe
  • The food is amazing, and extraordinarily cheap. Last year, there seemed to be endless supplies of fresh paellas, curries and other, miscellaneous home-baked (or campervan-baked, rather) food being flogged like it was going out of fashion. All of them delicious. Fortunately, ‘fashion’ is a senseless and decidedly ridiculous concept at Dragon so we had no problem devouring as much of it as humanly possible.
  • Go for the people. There is no trouble, heavy-handed security or any (well, hardly any) of the usual loutish idiots you find at most British festivals; just a bunch of peaceful, chatty and very friendly people looking to enjoy themselves under a (fingers crossed) bright, blue Andalucían sky.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe

Dragon has by no means lived a trouble-free life since its conception in 1997, and was looking slightly done for following a Guardia Civil led offensive on the alleged ‘organisers’ of the event back in 2009. More on that next week though – wouldn’t want this post to, ha, ‘drag on’ now would I eh?

Ahem. Hopefully see one or two of you there. Thanks for reading. J

* Click here to read my article on Dragon Fest published with Clash Magazine :)

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe

Ronda on a whim

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia

Of all the Puente weekends we Spain-residing workers are fortuitously bestowed, February’s is, in my opinion, the most prized of them all. While in most other parts of the world two working months without respite may not exactly seem difficult to endure, here in Spain, such a lengthy Puente-less period, once accustomed to, can prove rather arduous. So when this year’s finally came around, I intended to fully make the most of it.

Where to go and what to do? So many places unchecked on my list. Salamanca? One glance at the sorry-looking weather forecast and my decision was made for me. Valencia, perhaps? Nope. A €110 return bus fare pre-payday was out of the question. I faffed and ruminated for several days, before eventually deciding that I would go to Ronda ­– somewhere that had been on my radar for some time, yet had remained unexplored due to that omnipresent ‘I’ll save it for another time’ sort of approach. Well it would remain unexplored no longer! It was Wednesday, and I would leave the following morning. I booked a hostel for two nights, met with some friends and embarked on a night of unreserved binge drinking, pleased with my decision and looking forward to hitting the road, or train-track, as was the case in point.

“Ronda es una cuidad colgada del cielo sobre una montaña partida en dos por obra de los dioses”

– Walter Starkie (1894-1976)

Morning came, and despite the truly horrendous hangover I awoke to, I quickly packed a bag and left – on time. Half an hour later, I arrived at the train station to discover a hulking queue tailing back into the lobby. There were fifteen minutes to spare. Not enough, as it turned out. I heard the train whir away from the platform as I stood, helplessly, in third place. Bollocks. First night at hostel squandered and hangover for nothing. I bought a ticket for the next afternoon, trudged back home along the snow-covered streets (yes, snow in Granada!), and spent the day reeling in disappointment and physical pain.

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia
A Ronda backstreet
Ronda, Spain, Andalucia
Socorro Church, Plaza SocorroRonda, Spain, AndaluciaHercules and his chirpy companion

I’ll get on with it now. Next day I caught my train and successfully navigated my way to Ronda, feeling a damn sight chirpier about it. A ten-minute saunter down a dusty backstreet and I found myself leaning over a railing 750m above sea level, overlooking the capacious countryside in front of me. It was spectacular to say the least. I’ve climbed Machu Picchu, gazed out onto the Rocky Mountain peninsular and even been up the Sheffield Ferris Wheel at Christmas, and this vista was right up there with them. I hadn’t even got to Puente Nuevo yet and I was already falling for it. Twenty long, camera clacking minutes later and that’s exactly where I was, eyes fixed and jaw suitably limp. The stone bridge, completed in 1793 after taking 42 years to build and claiming 50 lives in the process, towers 120m above the El Tajo Gorge. It is a feast for the eyes, and almost impossible to turn away from.

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia Ronda, Spain, Andalucia Ronda, Spain, Andalucia

My hostel, which, despite having charged me for my first night’s stay (my fault, mustn’t grumble), was in the most idyllic of locations. It faced the bridge, offering a view that others could only have drooled over, as they saw me clacking away from the balcony. Checked in and all that, I explored further afield in order to view the bridge from every possible angle, though not until after the shadow of a mountain somewhere in the distance had crept up the face of the giant edifice as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. Had I known better, I’d have hiked to the facing lookout point to catch the perfect snapshot. Unfortunately, I was too slow off the mark and missed it. Still, can’t complain with snaps like these:

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevo
Puente NuevoRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevoPuente Nuevo sobre El Trajo gorgeRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevo, josh taylorRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevoAt dusk

That night, random Indian guy from hostel and self headed out for dinner and drinks. Nobody else had wanted to come, despite the hostel being full.

“Ronda is a quiet place. No parties happen here, especially at this time of year”, explained the receptionist.

She was absolutely right. The place was dead when we left the hostel at 10pm. I wasn’t after a party anyway, just a wedge of a pizza and perhaps a couple of large jars to wash it down with. My wishes were fulfilled by way of an enormous bbq chicken pizza and (shoot me I’m a guiri) three litre-sized Weissbiers in a local Irish pub. God they were good. And the music was bloody good too! Live music, I might add, and the only sign of it along the cricket abounding promenade.

The third of our beers and a round of tequila slammers were proffered to us by the most affable of fellows: one Jack Boris Rodriguez García. The man’s driving license had to be seen to be believed. That really was his name – among the best I’d ever heard. Apparently his first name was given to him in owing to a long-standing family tradition (his father, grandfather and great grandfather had also been called Jack) that had started due to an American of the same name saving his great, great grandfather from execution during the Peruvian War of Independence in the early 19th century. Boris was the name of his mother’s father, who was Russian. He now works in the military and plans to spend the rest of his life in Andalucía. Smart guy. I was enthralled by his story. Well the first bit anyway. But as much as it pained me to bid Jack Boris Rodriguez García good night, I eventually forced myself to do so, for the next day was the only day I planned to spend in Ronda, and there was yet much to be done!

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia
View of the hostel from Puente NuevoRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevoView of Puente Nuevo from the hostelRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevoAt night

Breakfasted and showered, I headed straight to the tourism office to enquire about day excursions to some nearby Roman ruins I’d heard about. I was dressed too, in case you were wondering. Unfortunately there were no such excursions to speak of upon my arrival. I could have jumped in a taxi and paid the man to take me there but that was obviously not going to happen. Instead, I plumped for a leisurely stroll in and around the city’s Plaza de Toro, famed for being counted amongst the country’s oldest of bullrings.

I’m against bullfighting, but I’m not against learning about it. Until this trip I had never actually learnt the historical significance of the sport and how it came to be. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, as I don’t want this post to turn my blog into a debate forum, but a good half an hour spent reading plaques and brittle newspaper clippings proved incredibly educational. The bullring itself was equally as absorbing, though the added element of bull-imitating French exchange-students took the gloss off a bit. When they eventually disappeared, I was, for just a moment, completely alone inside the eerie dome, sort of feeling like Spartacus or a chained lion might jump out at any moment and chop me up into bits. I seized the moment to take my favourite (bridge excluding) photo of the weekend:

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia, bullring, plaza de toro
Plaza de TorosRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bullring, plaza de toroRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bullring, plaza de toroRonda, Spain, Andalucia, bullring, plaza de toro

After that, I wandered down to the lookout point for the second time, for a thoroughly good read. I’d say I picked a rather nice spot. Wouldn’t you agree?

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia, bridge, puente nuevo

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia, moorish door
Moorish gate that can be seen from the bridge

Eventually I had to be going, but not before I stopped off at Daver bakery to sample one of the city’s local sweet-tooth specialties. It was a grueling decision to have to make – almost as tough as the other one I’m currently faced with – but in the end, I went for La Miloja Chantilli. It was delicious. So delicious in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of it. This is what Google image search came up with, but it honestly doesn’t do the delectable treat justice.

Tarta de Miljoha (Source)
Tarta de Miloja (Source)

I’ll be back to Ronda for sure. It is without doubt one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have visited since moving to Spain, though next time I’ll take a car. There’s much to see within the city if like me, you don’t stay for longer than a night, but if you’re intent on visiting Roman ruins or off-the-beaten-path hiking trails then renting a car is by far the best way to go. It’s also a rather couply place, so be warned if you are easily annoyed by overexuberant canoodling and/or are going through/have just gone through a painful break up. Especially depressed/brokenhearted people and readily accessible, 120m tall bridges is perhaps not the most sensible of combinations.

Ronda, Spain, Andalucia

Have you been to Ronda?