For months now, I’ve been meaning to get involved with Marianne’s (of East Of Malaga) monthly photo challenge. I suppose I hadn’t until today because I don’t really fancy myself as a great photographer. I take pictures of what I like, edit them, stick a few in a blog post slideshow and that’s about it. My thought process rarely extends beyond that. This month’s theme though – ‘Street Art’ – got me interested. I mean, how couldn’t I participate, given that we in Granada are fortuitous enough to have El Niño de las Pinturasamong us. This guy has been smearing Granada’s dull, lifeless walls with his vivid and magnetising imagination for 20 years now. Exactly 20 years, in fact; a documentary about him was made and premiered last weekend in a local realejo bar (my neck of the woods). He has daubed countless pieces in that time, and to choose my two favourites has been virtually impossible! So I chose four instead. Is that cheating? Marianne? In any case, I absolutely adore the style and depth in all of them, and particularly the interpretation in the one of the giraffe. For a look at other examples of his work see my original post here.
But the CBBH Photo Challenge is more than just an opportunity to show off your camera skills; it is a blog hop as well. The first ‘C’ and ‘B’, after all, do stand for conejoblanco (white rabbit). So each post posted in response to Marianne’s original post must include two links to two other blogs that the blogger has visited and commented on in the last month, so that his/her readers can ‘hop’ over to some unchartered corner of the frankly enormous blogosphere. It’ all about helping each other out you see. And we’re good at that in Spain.
So I will take this opportunity to direct you to Clare of Need Another Holiday. Clare’s blog, much like my own, new blog, focuses on part-time travel, as opposed to those that celebrate a nomadic and often vagrant existence. She has been all over. But mostly Greece. She absolutely loves Greece.
Secondly, I’d like to shout out to a blogger who has really wowed me with her vlog series recently. Jess, of HolaYessica!, blogs about Barcelona and various Spanish escapades. Her output rate is frankly unbelievable and her style and writing standards never falter. She’s also – fittingly – excellent with a camera. So go and say hi, and tell her that I sent you!
If you want to take part in the CBBH Photo Challenge, just head over to Marianne’s blog and read on. It’s fun and gives you a chance to share those pics that deserve to be seen!
A couple of months back I posted a long, rambling piece expounding my ongoing frustration at not being able to decide where I would call home next year. My options, as far as I could see, were fairly straightforward:
Give up my life here in Granada, go home and begin looking for a job – any job – that would pay substantially better wages than those of an English teacher in Spain.
Move elsewhere within Spain and continue teaching English while attempting to pursue other, hopefully profitable avenues of interest.
Stay put here in Granada, where I had begun to feel quite attached, and continue teaching English while attempting to pursue other, hopefully profitable avenues of interest.
Option 3 always had its nose in front; it was by far the easiest way to go. Yet ‘easiest’ – at least for a while – amounted to ‘laziest’ and ‘most irrational’ in my mind. I kept convincing myself it was the wrong choice to make – that I’d be effectively relegating myself to a career in teaching English if I stayed, which, needless to say, is not what I intend to do with my life.
Many of you left comments and offered me sound and heartfelt advice, which was received with enormous gratitude. Thank you. I even received a longwinded, matter-of-fact email from some guy who’d stumbled across the blog via my couchsurfing profile. I never got back to him, but if he’s reading this, then thank you too.
But even after all that, I was still unable to make a decision. And that’s how it stayed, until the penny finally dropped on one gloriously sunny afternoon on Cantarriján beach, as I sat back with a mojito in hand. Moments before, I had been sunbathing in 27° heat, and 3 hours prior to that I’d been strapped to a snowboard hurling myself down the hoary peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
How, in the name of jamón Serrano and tinto de verano, could I turn my back on that sort of lifestyle?
Well, ‘lifestyle’ may be putting it somewhat optimistically, but the point is that there was virtually nowhere else in the world I could’ve pulled off a feat quite as awesome as that. All of a sudden, any lingering uncertainty in my mind had vanished, and all I could think about were the plentiful reasons why I was undoubtedly going to stay. Here are five of them:
One: The People
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly excellent people since my arrival in September 2011. Initially, forming friendships with non-English speaking Spaniards proved tough, as my own level of Spanish was low and I hadn’t quite begun to feel settled. Moreover, I was determined not to slip into the confines of the ‘guiri bubble’, so duly tried my best to keep away from the typical hangouts. And by ‘hangouts’ I obviously mean ‘Irish pubs’.
These days, I’m as big a guiri as you’ll ever come across. I can often be found watching football and glugging back pints of tapa-less lager in Irish pubs. Well, one Irish pub to be exact. But I’ve absolutely no shame in admitting that; it’s here where I have met people who I now regard as best and closest friends.
Of course that’s not to say I haven’t neglected my Spanish-speaking social life – I am the undisputed intercambio king of Granada don’t you know. And the hippie vibe in Granada is very special, as can be seen in this shot below, of a huge, spontaneous party that took place in La Huerta de Carlos in el albaicin not long ago.
Two: The City
Chances are if you’ve read this blog before you’ll probably have gathered that I am rather fond of my enchanting abode by now. And if you haven’t, or even if you have, allow me to explain why/refresh your memory…
Granada, as a city, is totally unique; its matchless combination of Spanish, Moorish and modern European cultures is worth staying for alone.
Each day on my way to work, I walk past Plaza Nueva, where I can see the lower reaches of the Alhambra Palace looming over the tourist trafficked square, on to Calle Elvira, where the brightly adorned Moroccan-style clothes stalls and cramped, smoky tetarías line the cobbled cuestas leading up into El Albaicin. Later in the evening, I walk home back along Elvira to the accompanying soundtrack of various Spanish bands or Flamenco artists ringing out from the tapas bars either side of me, and eventually arrive in my own barrio, El Realejo, which used to be the old Jewish quarter, to a scene of lively guiri bars and various wallworks by the eminent El Niño de las Pinturas.
I’m still discovering new and amazing things about it every day.
One of El Niño’s best pieces in El Realejo, Granada
Three: The Sierra Nevada
The locality of one of Europe’s prime ski resorts (despite its comparatively uninteresting terrain) was the initial reason for my coming here. I’d never heard of it before someone mentioned it during a chat regarding my future whereabouts when I was living in El Puerto de Santa María. It just so happened that the February Puente was right around the corner and I still hadn’t made plans. One week later I was standing on top of the SN’s summit telling my friend that I absolutely had to move here. Seven months later my goal had been fulfilled.
If truth be told, I have not visited anywhere near as often as I would have liked to since the cost for one single daytrip is so despicably high, but when I do visit, I am always reminded of how extremely lucky I am, no matter what the conditions. I love snowboarding, and I’m not about to give up my local ski resort just yet.
Four: The Music
My first year in Spain amounted to the dullest ever in terms of decent, live music on offer. Before leaving the UK, music had been a huge part of my lifestyle. I didn’t play any instruments, but I could often be found flailing around dimly lit, subterranean nightclubs to the sound of thrashing guitars or earsplitting drum and bass, and I also wrote about it when publications were interested.
Here in Granada I have been lucky enough to rediscover the music led lifestyle I left behind in the UK, thanks to clubs like the reggae reverent Booga and the bass buff haven Sala El Tren. I’ve also seen a good amount of cover bands since moving to Granada, the most recent and outright best being a Nirvana tribute band at Plantabaja. They rocked it!
The one thing Granada does lack in this category is a major music festival, but it really isn’t that much of a big deal; Sevilla and Murcia are only a couple of hours’ drive away after all…
Five: The Weather
This year has been distinctively wetter and colder than the last, but I believe much of Spain has suffered the same miserable fortune. At one point I began to wonder whether there really was that much of a difference between here and back home. Then it got sunny, and I felt like an idiot.
December through February is tough – especially if you live somewhere where your housemates don’t allow you to use the central heating – but after (what is normally) a brief spell of rain and dreary skies in March, we are swiftly rewarded with months of bold, blue skies and increasingly hot temperatures until around the middle of October. July and August are especially sizzling times of year, and I do not stick around, but May and June are perfect for beach weather, hence my impending trip to Las Negras in Cabo de Gata this coming weekend
Special mentions: tapas and the girls
No list of reasons why I’m staying in Granada would be complete without paying justified homage to the city’s unrivalled culinary scene – sorry – free culinary scene. Well, perhaps not everything is free (certainly not in restaurants), but any tapa served in Granada comes gratis with your drink 99% of the time.
Then there are las señoritas. Meeting girls – Spanish girls – as a young(ish), single, foreign and dare I say dashing fellow has been a subject I have never visited on this here blog of mine. Let’s just say that being king of the intercambios seems to yield various benefits, and I’m not quite ready to give that up either…
If you’re planning a trip to Granada, head over to It Rains In Spain where you’ll find oodles of handy tips…
Last year I posted about Granadino graffiti artist El Niño de las Pinturas. He’s something of a local hero round here, owing to his trademark and instantly recognisable style that adorns the city’s walls, particularly in my bario, El Realejo.
Each piece I have seen is extraordinarily well done, and I insist on taking any friends on a tour of his works each time I am visited. Neither they nor anybody I’ve met here in Granada has ever had a bad word to say about the mystery man’s cultured contributions. Often he is invited by local businesses to come and jazz up their dull and colourless walls, and a couple of the local museums in town even feature him in their brochures. It gives Granada an urban edge that it would otherwise lack.
So it came as a shock when I happened to walk by one of my favourite pieces near the infamous, el niño-fied house, to find that it had been scrubbed away. Well, nearly anyway. Whoever had been assigned the task hadn’t done a very good job of it; there was still half of it left, as if to suggest that the design had been defiled out of pure spite.
What is the point?
Fair enough, at the end of the day these walls are somebody else’s property, and el niño, among other urban artists (some of whose works are admittedly a lot uglier in comparison) probably don’t have permission to use them. But what’s done is done, and as a matter of fact they (el niño’s contributions at least) actually brighten the place up, and bring an extra element to Granada’s cultural side.
I desperately hope that this isn’t the start of a mass graffiti-ridding project. There’s good graffiti and there’s bad graffiti, and el niño de las pinturas is unquestionably of the former sort.
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.”
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…