Autumn in Spain is a fleeting and climatically confusing period, particularly here in Granada. It creeps in unnoticed, seizing one degree at a time, while we all cling desperately to the vestiges of our beloved summer. ‘Is it still beach weather?’ beach bums cry. ‘I heard the Sierra’s getting some snow tomorrow!’ exclaim winter sports fans. Truthfully, both scenarios are equally as probable, which, for those of us who embrace all weather types, is a rather agreeable set of circumstances.
Better still, autumn yields gorgeous amalgams of colour in the trees, a truth perhaps best observed in Granada’s epitomical Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. Since starting this blog, I’ve posted nothing on the Alhambra; I’ve always felt the post would be too predictable and I wanted to wait until autumn to take my pictures.
Well I’m glad I did. Last weekend the weather was perfect for it: crisp, clear and brilliant. So up I went, armed with a ticket (€14) and my modest camera. Here are (the pick of) the results:
(click to view as slideshow)
Puerta de las Granadinas (Gate of the Pomegranates)
View from Lower Generalife Gardens, Alhambra
Generalife Auditorium Theatre
Green still winning
Torre de las Infantas (Tower of The Princesses)
Courtyard in Lower Generalife Gardens
Fountain in Lower Gardens
If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of some nice colours…
Granada seen from the Torre de la Vela – the highest point of The Alhambra
Patio de la Acequia (Court of The Water Channel)
Amazing architecture in lower generalife gardens
More amazing architecture that in no way indicates that we are in autumn…
Patio de la Sultana (Court of the Sultana)
View from above patio de la Acequia
Autumn colours in Upper Generalife Gardens
Patio de la Sultana
Arched walkway leading from generalife back to the pavilion
Round the back of the palace…
View from the public viewing area
El Albaícin seen from the window of the Mexuar in the Alhambra Palace
Patio de Arrayanes (Court of The Myrtles)
Miniature archway in Patio de Arrayanes
Patio e los Leones (Court of The Lions)
Patio de Lindaraja, Alhambra
Outside Palacio del Partal
Palacio Yusef III & Alhambra Gardens
Autumn colours in Alhambra Palace Gardens
Granadinas losing the battle against the cold, Alhambra Palace
Torre de la Cautiva (Tower of The Captive)
Alhambra Palace Gardens
Torre de la Vela (Watchtower), Alhambra
The lower reaches of the albaícin seen from La Alcazaba
Alhambra Palace Gardens beyond public viewing area
Unlike its onset, the end of autumn couldn’t be more perceptible; temperatures plummet, hats and scarves abound, wheelie-radiators clutter people’s living rooms and it gets dark at 6pm. That transition is currently in its early stages, and this year I’ll be sure to refer back to my guide on how to survive a Spanish winter for when the big chill really sets in. Should be ok though; this year I’m actually allowed to use radiators at home!
You can buy tickets for The Alhambra either from the shop along the street leading to Plaza Nueva or from ticketmaster.es.
I’m still unsure as to whether it was only us who saw it – i.e. might it have just been an IP address thing, or something – or, if on Sunday morning millions of other web users woke up to the Google doodle of Granada adorning the Google homepage.
I’d love to hear from you if you live on the other side of the world and you saw it. It would settle a bet or two put it that way.
The image showed Granada’s resplendent Alhambra Palace perched atop the city’s winding and historical labyrinth barrio, The Albaícin, whose streets were formed to depict the famous search engine’s letters. While technically this is not an accurate representation of Granada’s actual layout, it did manage to include what are perhaps the two most prominent features of the city, and in some style.
The doodle was displayed in celebration of the creation of ‘El Reino de Granada’ a thousand years ago. June 16, 1013, according to the history books, was the official date that Granada was founded by one Abu Mozni Zawi Ibn Zeire Ibn Balkin al-Zanhegi of the Zirid dynasty.
What an absolute belter of a name that is. I’d love to go around saying I was of the Taylor dynasty, or that I’ve got five ‘Z’s in my name. My mum always used to call me by my full name when she got cross with me. I wonder if his did the same. Must have been a right mouthful. And his signature must have been ridiculous. But hey, at least he didn’t have to write it on forms an infinite amount of times in Spanish governmental offices.
Anyway, despite the anniversary being on Sunday, no celebrations actually took place in the city. WHAT!? An occasion as momentous as this and there was no fiesta to commemorate it?
Relax. We operate on Spanish time here remember? The celebrations will in fact commence this Thursday, with live concerts and various educative exhibitions happening all over the city, and all the usual street parades thrown in as well.
The celebration – named ‘Milenio en las calles’ is scheduled to carry on through the summer with further live events in some of the city’s most emblematic milieus, and will complement the staggered ’13 del 13’ events program – thirteen separate cultural events that have been in the works since January. Should be good.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.