I have finally reached the end of my stash of tea purchased in Granada, which is cause for reflection and remembrance. Granada was a major highlight. That says a lot, as we were in the country for a month and went pretty well everywhere. Excerpt from my missives while on the road below. (Feel free to listen to this MIDI version of Recuerdos de la Alhambra while reading for enhanced atmosphere.)
The drive to Granada is lovely, long rolling hillsides of yellow and red soil (you begin to understand why Sevilla’s buildings were all the same colors), covered in perfect dotted rows of olive trees. As you approach Granada, the Sierra Nevada rise up dramatically in the background.
Our arrival in Granada was frustrating and irritating. The streets are not well marked, often contradictory, and we had no inkling of where our hotel was. We eventually made it to the right area, but were still at a loss. Our hotel is in an area called the Albaicìn, which is the old Moorish quarter. It’s a total maze of tiny streets and whitewashed buildings, most streets too small for any car to go in, much less our mini-minivan. We stopped and called the hotel, who sent a staffer to assist. He got in the car, and 20 twisty, windy minutes later we were at the hotel. No one could possibly be expected to find this on their own.
But what a payoff. Our hotel is a charming old Moorish building, and our room looks out on the Alhambra, over the whitewashed walls and terracotta tile roofs of the district. The rooms are gorgeous, with nice amenities. Check it out.
The food in the past several days has been lackluster. The Spanish are evidently afraid of spices, or even salt. There have been some pleasant surprises along the way, a good tapa here and there, but generally bland as all get out. Last night, however, we went to a place here called Pilar del Toro, and the food was fantastic. Gorgeous salads (vegetables! What a concept!); lovely mixed appetizer plate with stuffed peppers, salmon, souffles; Paul had the Iberian pork, made from a type of black pig here that roam the forest and eat only acorns. Quite good.
Our last morning in Granada we had tickets for the Alhambra, the palace/fortress that looms over the city. A remarkable place, immense, rich with history and luxury. Granada was the last Moorish kingdom in Spain, in no small part because it was coerced into assisting the Catholic kingdoms into crushing the other Moorish kingdoms. They were successful, and a long period of peace and prosperity reigned after that. But of course they were saddened, having had to fight against their own kind. Throughout the Alhambra, repeated in tilework over and over, is the Arabic inscription, "Only Allah is victorious." It is a poignant sentiment, now more than ever.
(Note: This was written October 18, 2001 — barely a month after 9/11 and just days before the anthrax scare would hit.)