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granada: la alhambra and the boy with the crazy eyebrows

April 28, 2009

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I started writing about my journey in Spain back in March but didn’t get a chance to finish because I got distracted by… well… Spain.   If you are curious, I recommend reading part one before continuing.  Otherwise, carry on, as you were.

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March 11, 2009

Every day at the Oasis Backpackers’ Hostel, you can partake in any number of activities, whether it be a quick Spanish lesson or a tour of gypsy caves tucked in the hills surrounding the city.  This morning, they are offering a guided walk of Granada.  Usually, I invent my own tour with little more than a map, a sense of adventure and perhaps a guide book.  But a bunch of people from the hostel planned on taking the walk and I thought it might be nice to join them.  By the time the tour guide arrives, however, everyone has bailed and I am the last one standing. So it is just me and this tour guide, Eric, standing in Plaza Nueva and I assume he is going to cancel the tour since I am the only one there, but instead he says: “Screw the tour, do you want to have a picnic and see my favorite spots in Granada?”

My answer?  Yes, please.

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The one thing you should know about Eric is that he has the craziest eyebrows I’ve ever seen.  He told me that a homeless man once stopped him on the street in Barcelona and said “I’d be able to pick you out of a crowd because of those eyebrows“, to which Eric replied “Thank you, homeless dude“.  It’s true, his eyebrows are very Jason Schwartzman circa I Heart Huckabees.  And it is of absolutely no relevance or importance to this story, but it helps put a face to the name and gives you  insight into his whimsical personality.  Eric reminds me of Buck 65 – a story teller, a troubadour, a song and dance guy, most definitely of the quirky variety.   I have a feeling we are going to get along very well.

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Our first stop is Café de Bocadillos where we buy omelette sandwiches and coffee to go.  We then slowly weave our way up the mountain, stopping at his favorite view points, sipping coffee, chatting, then moving up further until we eventually reach the cemetery at the top of the hill.  It is here that we spend the remainder of the morning and early afternoon.

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Have I told you about my love for/fascination with cemeteries?  Because I do.  Love cemeteries.  And this one, is heavenly.  Overlooking the entire city, overshadowed only by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.  We eat our corn chips and bocadillos with the dead and talk about all sorts of things. Life, mainly.  He explains to me that the reason they plant cypress trees in cemeteries is because they grow tall and thin, like a finger touching the sky, pointing towards heaven.  When I die, I want my ashes scattered under a cypress tree.

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Eric is 23 years old and started making a documentary years ago for his unborn grandchildren.  He goes around with his video camera asking people to share advice, life lessons, stories, truths.  He points the camera towards me and asks me to say something in French.  On the spot, all I have in my head is a refrain from this Thievery Corporation track and so I say “Vie ta vie, elle est si belle, c’est la tienne“.  Translation: live your life, it is beautiful, it is yours.  It seems appropriate as we are surrounded by death.

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We eventually part ways at La Alhambra and will meet again later, by the fountain under the clock tower in Plaza Nueva

La Alhambra sits majestically atop a hill overlooking Granada.  Once the residence of Muslim rulers and Moorish kings, it is a palace and fortress, an extensive group of buildings built chiefly between 1230 and 1354.  It is the epitome of Islamic architecture.

moi, la alhambra

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If Washington Irving said, in the face of La Alhambra’s beauty “How unworthy is my scribbling of the place“, I fear my words would never do it justice.  I spend the next 4 hours walking, in awe.  The beauty is, indeed, astounding.

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As the sun starts to set, I take the 32 bus back into town, enjoy a double scoop of ice cream (chocolate picante and menta) then head to the hostel for a short siesta.  For someone who has taken only a handful of naps in her adult life, I sure am getting used to this siesta thing.  One quick nap, sweet dreams and a shower later, I enjoy a hostel meal with backpackers from England, Canada, the Netherlands, Mexico and the US.  4 Euros (5 if you want a beer with your meal) and pretty much all you can eat avocado, tomato and iceberg lettuce salad (the closest thing to green I’ve had since arriving in Spain) and pad thai cooked in a giant pan set over a fire.

I leave the hostel, walk the dark alleyways to Plaza Nueva to meet Eric under the full moon as the clock strikes 10 times over the Sierra Nevada. From there we go tapas bar hopping.  We start at The Loop – a really cool spot that doubles up as a record shop during the day.  It is a small smoky dive but the music is fantastic.  As soon as I hear this song by Broken Social Scene (Canadian band), I know this is the place to be.  The wall is plastered with record covers – Spoon, Fleet Foxes, Bob Dylan (the famous cover).  We stand at the bar, have a couple copas of wine and talk about music.  The great thing about Spain is that most bars offer tapas for free when you order drinks. There you are enjoying a glass of wine and out comes a plate of bite-sized munchies.  I’m usually all over that, but tonight I’m so full of pad thai, I just can’t muster another morsel of food.

From The Loop, we go to Yamato, a Japanese restaurant.  The restaurant is empty.  And by empty, I mean there is not a single soul there except for the waitress, Eric and I.  We sit low to the ground in a giant room and order 1 carafe of saki and 4 cervezas.  It’s all very random and strange and 20-something, yet, wonderful.  It makes me feel about 10 years younger when I used to go out for drinks at Peel Pub, where the beer was cheap and the food cheaper.  Ah!  The poor University years.

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We end the night at his favorite flamenco spot.  Some underground bar, off the beaten path  in a dark remote corner of some dark remote alley.  There is no sign, the door is black and it almost feels like you need a secret knock to get in.   We walk in, it is dim and cave-like but alive with music.  Two guys sit at one piano, someone plays a guitar, another man sings and the entire bar joins in with the infamous flamenco clap.  We sit by the piano, share a glass of wine, listen to a few songs then head out.

Back at the Plaza, in the wee hours of the morning, he kisses me.  And I think why not?  When am I ever going to kiss a 23-year old boy with crazy eyebrows under a full moon in Granada again in my lifetime?  Wouldn’t you have done the same?

The next morning (or that morning, as it were) at 6:30am, I hop on the bus back to Malaga.  Smoky clothes, unbrushed teeth, greasy hair, sleep in my eyes, Granada under my belt, smile on my face.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2009 11:35 pm

    yes, I so would have kissed him….and what a beautiful tour through your eyes. gorgeous shots.

  2. safstar permalink
    April 29, 2009 3:30 am

    wow, just wow. everything, wow.

  3. April 29, 2009 10:49 am

    I think you might belong over here. 🙂

  4. April 29, 2009 12:49 pm

    🙂 so fabulous, all of it … xo

  5. April 29, 2009 2:58 pm

    that first photograph. so incredibly beautiful. like something out of a dream.

    sigh..

  6. April 29, 2009 4:29 pm

    Absolutely amazing pictures. The sunset one is breathtaking! I love the first one, but really I think I love them all! beautiful!

  7. April 30, 2009 2:38 pm

    Yum! Yum! Yum! To my eyes and heart….

  8. May 3, 2009 1:10 pm

    The first shot is my fave in this set. The muted tones of the background make it seem like an ancient japanese print. Nice capture.

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