21.05.2014 - 21.05.2014
While Madrid was fun it is now time to head off to the real reason I came to Spain: the La Alhambra. This magnificent Moorish fortress overlooks the city of Granada. We asked around at the hostel for travel advice and were told that the bus is cheaper and can sometimes be faster than taking the train. Unfortunately, this added another mile to our morning walk. We wanted to make sure that we had tickets reserved, so we made another attempt at purchasing them online but like the other attempts to use a Spanish site it ultimately failed. Getting to the station early we still missed the first bus but only had to wait a few hours for the next one. With a savings of €30 each it was worth the effort. The bus was comfortable and air conditioned while the Spanish highway was quite smooth. The scenery was composed of acres and acres of olive trees, covering the rolling hills. Other than the olives it did look like the drier parts of the Hawaiian islands. However, I took a video, which I cannot post from here but will try and upload it when I can.
The Alhambra is one of the most impressive sights in Spain and they recommend that you book tickets in advance as they only allow so many visitors a day. As we have been having constant issues with websites, we didn't bother as they keep a few tickets for direct sale each day. This meant another early morning, getting up and hiking a hill. Of course, once we got to the top, there was already about 150 people ahead of us who used the bus. It took about 2 hours before we got the tickets which include a specific time to visit the palace section.
As for food, Granada is home to tapas. These are small dishes served as an accompaniment to a drink to entice you to buy a full dish. People will just move from bar to bar ordering drinks and getting free food. As Ben and I don't drink, this was actually a issue for us. We had trouble finding a place that offered just tapas ala carte. After wandering around for a few hours we found a small restaurant that had 10 tapas for €13. Despite the lack of locals there, we decided to give it a go. What we got was a terrific set of 5 tapas (double portions) that were so good we came back the next day to try the other 5. We did get a sixth free since we had drinks.
This is a Mexican style chicken burrito with a drizzle of chocolate caramel sauce.
This next dish is the cold soup known as gazpacho. Cucumbers and tomatoes are purred then chilled to make a refreshing dish. Served with diced jamon.
A heavier dish of pork cooked with peppers and need onions. Rather sweet on the whole but the bread provides balance.
Calamari with lemons and garlic, an eastern coast staple.
Potatoes gratin with peppers and onions. Similar to the pork dish but better balanced on its own.
Cold smoked salmon, topped with cheese and served on toasted bread.
North African style orange and black olives salad. Nice difference in texture. The oranges provide the sweetness while the olives saltiness and meatiness.
Spanish tortilla with tomato served on bread. Confusing coming from a Mexican background but it is a frittata.
Bacalao (salted cod) salad. Similar to tuna fish salad.
Steamed potatoes with parmeson-like cheese. The sauce is a mix of chillies, tomato and vinegar giving it a hot and sour taste.
Lamb burger with a salted cheese on top of toasted bread. The cheese was overpowered but the lamb was cooked perfectly.
We tried another place for lunch that offered 6 tapas and a litre of wine for €8.50. Having had sangria, we opted for the red wine mixed with lemonade. This turned out to really be a few slices of lemon and, while refreshing, was to much for us. The tapas were influenced cuisine from around the world and showed more modern tapas.
Pastries are another common food that can be found on any street corner. We had dimple sugar doughnuts, apple tarts and another Andalusian creation: churros. These are not covered in sugar and cinnamon but rather dunked into coffee or thick, hot chocolate. These were perfectly fried, with a crispy outside and soft texture inside.
Like all Spanish towns it seems Granada had a local market to find food but as our days of travel included Sunday, we were unable to visit it. Our plan was to hit it first thing in the morning before we went to the bus station for the next town but despite opening at 8, only the fishmonger was set up for business by 9. Instead we went and purchased our tickets and decided to go the Burger King due to its proximity to the station. However, it did not open til after noon like most places it seems. Instead we headed into a local Target like store and at one of the ubiquitous sandwich shops found in Spain.