Thursday, June 10, 2010

Granada, Granada, Gone

There are supposed to be more pictures in this, but they won't load to save my life. Sorry. I won't have internet tomorrow, so no updates until Italy now.
Today is my last day in Granada, as my train leaves early tomorrow morning for Madrid (where I stay overnight, then fly to Firenze, or Florence, Italy).
Since my last entry, I had some weird food and weird experiences (and great food and great experiences too). The evening after the Alhambra, I tried a little restaurant in the triangle formed by Gran Via de Colon, San Juan de Dios and the Cathedral (which [a] isn’t all that triangular, but you don’t care, and [b] should be called the Bermuda triangle because I can’t go there without getting lost). I had the Menu del Dia (of the day), where you choose a first and a second and a dessert, and it’s a fixed price and generally includes bread and service (which aren’t always included here, btw).
Now, remember, if you will, how I raved about the garlic soup in Vienna. It was like a cream soup of really strong garlic taste with croutons on top and it was so, so, so good. So one of the firsts here was garlic soup. Awesome, right?
Yeah, not the same thing, apparently.
Here, it was a kind of vaguely orangely broth with bread and pieces of garlic floating on top. At first, it seemed ok if a little strange, and too salty. But when I’d eaten a bit more, I discovered that the bottom of it was full of pork (believe me, pork is the best option here, so I’m going with that). I continued kind of eating a bit of the top part, pretending like there was no pork in the part I was eating (don’t judge me), but when I found some sort of big white ball thing at the bottom, I was done. It had the look of a ball of mozzarella (a bocconcini en Italiano), which would have been fine, but I cut through it with my spoon and it had the texture of tofu or (more likely) some sort of assorted animal product. Yeah. I tried.
Second course was roast chicken, which was pretty normal. Then super awesome chocolate mousse.
Also, on another recommendation from my friend Rob who, I think, lived (?) in the south of Spain for a while, I ordered Tinto de Verano, not really knowing what to expect. I knew it contained wine, and I’m not at all a wine drinker, but all of his other recommendations had been so good that I gave it a shot. It looked like a glass of red wine with ice and a lemon slice in it, and I was super nervous that I was going to be forcing myself to drink it. And it was really good. It’s basically one part red wine, one part lemon flavoured soda (imagine taking half sprite and half carbonated water because it’s way less strong than our sodas), over ice. Yeah, I’m definitely trying to make that at home, and if I figure out how to make it, you’re invited to come hang out with me and try it. Good stuff.
And, as you may have guessed from my description of where I ate, I got lost getting home. I mean, like I ended up halfway across the city before I could find any of the streets around me on my map, since my “get myself un-lost” technique, is to just keep walking in the direction that feels right, and hope I find something useful. Best technique? Probably not.
The next day, I slept in, then headed out to see the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel, basically the tombs of Los Reyes Catolicos, the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel), the Catedral, and the Centro Jose Guerrero, since they’re all in the same block. The Capilla Real was pretty and kind of creepy. I saw the mausoleum pieces, and lead coffins for Ferdinand and Isabel, and some of their family members. The really cool thing, I thought, was the fact that in the stone sculpture, Isabel’s head is pressing harder and further into the pillow than Ferdinand’s, and my guidebook informed me that this was done because he was essentially a consort, and this symbolized that her head was heavier with knowledge and intelligence. Gotta love that. No pictures were allowed in there, and yet there was one brave asshole taking flash photos anyway.
The Catedral was a rather similar experience for me. I always feel a real need to act respectfully in places of worship, regardless of my personal feelings about religion. And I really felt like most of the people in there were just being completely flippant about the reverence a cathedral deserves. People were snapping photos right in front of the “no foto” signs, and talking pretty loud, and wandering around the front altar, despite the fact that, to me, these seem like things you just don’t do in a church when you’re there as a tourist. I think, if anything, being there as a paying tourist, makes me feel even more aware of the need to be respectful of that space because I’m not part of the congregation.
Anyway, I found this cathedral pretty unspectacular after having seen Seville, as well as Madrid and Vienna.
When I came out the doors, a man, who had just been standing there holding a cup, starts making false little crying sounds and begging in Spanish, and it was so rehearsed and obviously faked and targeted, I was struck by, um, absolutely no sympathy at all. Ok, that’s not true, but very little sympathy, anyway. Then, as I tried to walk by the steps of the cathedral to get to where I was going, I was chased around by a lady trying to do one of those press some herbs into your hand, bless you in Spanish, demand cash routines. I felt absolutely ill. I just kept saying “no, no, no, no” trying to be polite, and keep my hands out of hers, and she was grabby and wouldn’t stop.
Going back a bit, the whole thing just compounded onto how I was feeling about respect for holy places. It seemed to me that none of this showed any respect for “god” or belief or religion. And regardless of my beliefs, I think it’s wise to show some reverence. Besides, shouldn’t you be able to walk by the cathedral without being accosted? If someone says no, I think it should mean something. I know they’re just trying to make money, but especially in Granada, I feel like there are plenty of ways someone could do that without making tourists feel violated. I don’t know. Do I sound like a bitchy, snobby twit?
(big sigh) So, anyway, I was in kind of a weird place when I got to the Centro Jose Guerrero; I’d just spent 7euro in religious buildings to be pretty much unimpressed and then followed. The Centro Jose Guerrero has free entry on Wed., so I just wandered about, but there was a group of schoolkids there, so it’s wasn’t very peaceful, plus I wasn’t really sure what the deal was with this place. I guess Jose Guerrero was an artist? and a collector? I don’t know. Anyway, I was glad it was free.
Then, I bought some souvenirs, including a pretty silver pendant in the shape of the Granada pomegranate, and had lunch (with a tinto de verano) before coming back here for a break.
By 5, I headed back out, off towards the Parque Federico Garcia Lorca (FGL, for short, fyi) and the Huerte San Vicente. It’s a decent walk from where I’m staying, so I was actually glad for the cold weather. I was actually comfortable in pants and shoes and socks, and I had a hoodie that I intermittently put on and took off.
The tour through Huerte San Vicente wasn’t until 6 (you can’t go through alone), so I killed some time writing and contemplating on a bench (as so much of my best time in Europe has been spent). Huerte San Vicente is one of the houses once owned by FGL’s father, and FGL would have lived there for some time during the middle of his childhood. The tour was all in Spanish, but, especially because I already knew so much of his biographical details, I was able to follow much of what she said, and just look around. I saw FGL’s certificate from the University of Granada, his writing desk, some early drafts of his work from his journals, etc. It was neat, but not worth a trip for most people who haven’t been fascinated by FGL.
The park around it, dedicated to him, was kind of a sad place for me. It’s basically a rundown park full of signs showing runners how to stretch properly, and a fountain where half the spouts don’t work. It’s, apparently, the largest rose garden in Europe, (so says Wikipedia), but it didn’t seem like much. Maybe I was just in this mood, but it just seemed like a pretty irreverent tribute to a writer who’s considered to be a Granadino (though technically, he was born and lived his early years in Fuente Vaqueros, but I won’t get started on that because you know I could go on and on)
By the time I started walking back toward the centre of town, it was raining a bit, and it was too early to eat, so I hit the hostal again. Unfortunately, in the time I was there, raining a bit turned into pouring, but by 9pm, I really did need to go find food and it wasn’t letting up. Shit.
I wandered in the general vicinity, but by the time I found a place that looked ok and not too expensive, I was soaked. My little black “rain” jacket? Well, in Vienna, I’d discovered it’s not even a little bit rainproof. Still true, but I don’t have anything else with me. I ate greasy pizza (and another tinto de verano), and then came home to try to dry off.
Today, having done all the tourist-book recommended things that sounded interesting to me, I had to find something to do. (Note, I gave up on the idea of taking a bus out to either the village where FGL was born or died. It sort of makes me want to have a heart attack, taking random buses that may or may not actually bring me back)
So, I wandered up through the Albaicin, a really old part of Granada built on a big hill/small mountain. Yes, that means I climbed, and climbed and climbed. And when I got up there and saw the view of the city, it felt so good to have made it. I stared at the Alhambra from across the valley, and looked down over all of Granada. I know I’m not in great shape or anything, but man, I am in way better shape than when I left Canada. My legs are like different legs. Having a car again is going to be plain weird.
I started on down, and ended up at a little terrace cafe right in the shadow of the Alhambra. I really loved just sitting there, having lunch, staring up at the Alhambra and writing and drawing. It was entirely antithetical to yesterday’s experience. I didn’t feel like such a stupid tourist there
View just over from where I had lunch, and some really lame little sketches I was doing of the Alhambra and a fountain in front of me. Obviously, you can see the perspective was a little different on the Alhambra where I was sitting, but I didn't take a picture when I was sitting.
So, I guess that's about all for now.
"Tell It Like It Is" by Aaron Neville has been stuck in my head since I saw the end of Pirate Radio, so go listen to that a few times. It's the only Aaron Neville song I've ever heard that wasn't irritating as hell.

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