I arrived in Granada after a short bus ride from Seville. While waiting to board the bus, a young woman named Laura approached me. She noticed my MEC bag and asked which part of Canada I was from. I considered telling her that stole the bag from some guy at a hostel in Norway, but I figured she might find that kind of mean, so I explained my story: from Toronto, spent time in San Francisco have left my few things in Calgary. She enjoyed the truth and we spent the three-hour trip chatting about her trip, mine and what to do in Granada.
When the bus reached Granada, Laura and I walked to her hostel where we arranged the next day’s exploration of Albaicin, a tangle of streets that constitutes one of Granada’s most interesting neighbourhoods. After parting, I made my way up (way up) the hill to my hostel, the Rambutan Guest House. Stumbling through the front door, sweat streaming from my brow – and flowing down my back – I was offered some cold water in an old plant pot full. It was then that knew Rambutan was going to be something special. Arriving was not unlike stepping into the cozy home of an absent-minded uncle who drinks too much, smokes furiously, has a fabulously enticing personality and lives among shelves stuffed with a sprawling, multi-lingual collection of literature and music. Besides the welcoming digs, I was greeted by fellow travelers who stretched languidly in the sun, reclining on benches, chairs and the floor. As I stepped over tanned legs, I was overcome with a feeling of family and reminded of similar navigation through a sea of felines at Hemingway’s erstwhile home in Key West.
After a languorous afternoon at the hostel, I fell into a deep sleep from which I awoke rested and excited to explore. I grabbed a quick breakfast and met Laura to explore the Albaicin. As we wandered through the bramble of alleys and narrow cobblestone streets, I delighted in being met by a cactus, supermarket or a tapas bar around each corner. With all the fruiting prickly pear available, some deft handiwork and a dollop of Greek yogurt was all that was required for a nice little snack. Laura was supposed to meet another friend for an afternoon at the Turkish baths – something that didn’t interest me – so I returned to the hostel and flopped myself on to the balcony with a book.
The next day, I spent most of the my time wandering around other parts of the city, sampling some food and reading an amusing collection of Alfred Hitchcock short stories titled Witch’s Brew. The evening saw the arrival of a lively pair of young women from Rome who seemed to bring a party in their wake. They arrived at the hostel from a commune north of Granada, queued up an eclectic collection of music and began preparing supper for the entire hostel. Their presence made for a really splendid night, though one that ended in a rather unusual fashion. My sleep was interrupted by a dream wherein I was being pursued by a dog. After a brief chase, the dog caught me, leapt on my back, knocked me to the ground and then began attacking me with vicious bites. I awoke shaken and found a small dog chewing softly on my foot (my brother’s dog often awakens me similarly). The last traveller into the room left the door open to encourage a breeze. Through the open door, a stray entered in search of a meal. After being roused, I hopped out of bed, guided the pup out the door and returned to bed for a few hours of more restful sleep.
On my last full day in Granada, I finally made it to Alhambra. Getting a ticket can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t carry a European credit card that uses the chip and PIN system. Without the PIN (not the same PIN you’d use to arrange a cash advance against a credit card, apparently), you cannot use the credit card machines to buy a ticket. Consequently, you must stand in the lengthy cash-only queue (unless you have reserved tickets online). Even at 7 AM, the queue was more than 200 people deep and the ticket windows don’t open until 8 AM. Ugh. Anyway, after getting my ticket, I spent about three hours wandering around the grounds, visiting the gardens and enjoying the view from atop the fortress ramparts. It was a interesting, but I think I am really suffering from palace/fortress/church fatigue. I left just after 1 PM because it was starting to get hot and it seemed like a perfect time for a cold beer and another afternoon of reading.
I enjoyed Granada a lot. It wasn’t as pretty as Seville, but the hostel made it more fun. Even after four days – the longest I’ve stayed anywhere recently – I was reluctant to leave. However, I have been looking forward to the beach in Malaga and to making my way on to South Africa.