Free Tapas in Granada

Free Food!  Free Food! Well almost… the price?  A cheap glass of wine or beer!  And some of it is even good food!  Wine + Greasy Food = Happy Liana.  And that my friends is my summary of Granada dining.

Tapas, a food that was designed to go with drink, is sadly no longer free in most places even in Spain.  One exception is Granada and they vary in range and quality.

Our Airbnb host mentioned a street we should walk down for the best tapas but sadly that went in one ear and out other another in our traveling daze.  Instead we just wandered around.

The first place we hit was a snazzy little small bar with lamps and curtains creating a small Moorish haven.

With a small beer that I think was a euro each Tony walked away with a fajita while I munched on a hummus, olive and ham platter.  Although not the highest quality of grub, it motivated us to continue on our tapas bar crawl.

On our next stop we hit Bodega la Antigualla, a tiny Medieval style bar along a street in El Albayzín.  Aside from a ton of armor decorating the walls the place was cozy and warm on a cold even that was all we could ask for.  Tony and I decided to get a mojito with our tapas.

Yes that my friends is not a tapa, that is a meal!

A toasted ham, cheese and tomato sauce sandwich sprinkled with oregano and some yummy fries with not one but two sides of sauce.  I wasn’t into the creamy tartar like one but I appreciated that tomato one.

If you want a more proper meal, I recommend checking out one of the many Middle Eastern restaurants in the area.  We went to Teteria y Restaurante Marrakech (I think) with my mom.  A hookah tea cafe with yum yums.  After a week of living off tapas it was nice to get a hearty warm meal.

I forgot the official names of everything we ate so you’ll get my own names for stuff.  Lentil soup!

A soupy vegetable dish with mild flavor.  I kinda wanted to bask it in Tabasco sauce but then again I think everything tastes better in Tabasco

A delicious chicken dish!

And Moroccan meatballs that I thought would be awful but were delicious.    It was Tony’s selection but it was a good one.

For the most part between food, Alhambra, and living in a cave, I feel like I experience most of what I wanted in Granada.  The only sad part was that all the bath houses were closed on Monday.  I guess it’s good to leave something in each city to come back to.  And I hear there’s a ton of other pubs with free tapas to test out!

A Visit to Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Exploring the grounds of Alhambra

Alhambra is a palace and a fortress built during the mid-14th century for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty..  After the Moors were driven out of Spain in 1492 (Same time as Columbus sailed the ocean blue), the Christians continued to use it as a palace.

Palaces back in the day were built as whole cities that house markets, shops, and homes.  However, currently, outside of where royalty lived, the rest are just ruins.

Surrounded in luscious greens with breathtaking views.

Generalife

Unlike others, we started at the end with the Generalife, summer palace and country estate of Granada’s royalty.

I didn’t think I could be nearly this impressed with a garden but with each step, the next part was more glamorous than the last.

We continued to just wander around the grounds, getting lost until it was our allotted time slot for the Nasrid Palaces.

We had 4 hours to enjoy ourselves during the visit and sometimes taking a nap on top of the world is what is needed.

And yes I rock Mizunos wherever I go, because I never know when I’ll feel like running 😉

My mom hasn’t perfected her photo taking skills, so all my shots with Tony might be a little (okay a lot) crooked.  I guess we can’t all be as talented as me 😉

Now it took me a while to remember what the circular structure below is.  It is not another Plaza de Torros (bullring), but instead is the Palace of Charles V. He wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. Although the Catholic Monarchs had already altered some rooms of the Alhambra after the conquest of the city in 1492, Charles V intended to construct a permanent residence befitting an emperor.

As we walked around the structures of what remains I was amazed by the beautifully carved ceilings.

The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra.  It is thought that before it was built and before the Muslims arrived to Granada, there were already several constructions in the same area dating back to the 9th century. It is believed that it was then built by Sawwar ben Hamdun during the fights between Muslims and muwalladins [Christians who converted to the Islam and lived among the Muslims].

One of the towers, Torre De La Vela, gave some of the most amazing views of Granada if you get past the stair hike to the top.

Palacios Nazaries

Alhambra wasn’t built in one time, nor planned so trying to organize yourself on a point to point tour isn’t really worth it unless you’re following a tour group; however, your visit to the Nazaries Palaces is schedule at a specific 30 minute interval.  Don’t miss it, because you will lose out on the jewel of Alhambra.

The royal palace consists of three sections: royal offices, ceremonial rooms, and private quarters.

The walls are jaw-dropping with carved wood ceilings, stucco “stalactites,” ceramic tiles, molded-plaster walls, and filigree windows from top to bottom. The colors red (blood), blue (heaven), green (oasis), and gold (wealth) as suggested by the Qur’an.

To be honest? As I walked around I pictured myself on a rich rug smoking a hookah as the walls are covered in rich fabrics from around the world.  None of the rooms are furnished but you can let your imagination run wild.

The first building you enter is Court of Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes). Moors loved their patios as open-air courtyards in the palace feature fountains with bubbling water like a desert oasis, the Quran’s symbol of heaven. Women, who rarely went out, stayed in touch with nature here.  One theory is that the jealous men even with all the women they can maintain (as Quran suggests) kept wooden screens that allowed the cloistered women to look out without being clearly seen. The other theory is that the upstairs was for winter use, and the cooler ground level was for the hotter summer.  My personal bet? Jealous men.

The next grand building is The Hall of the Ambassadors (Gran Salón de Embajadores) where you would meet the sultan.

What I heard from a nearby tour, the writing are scripts from the Quran repeated over and over again. Muslims avoided making images of living creatures — that was God’s work. But they could carve decorative religious messages. One phrase — “only Allah is victorious” — is repeated 9,000 times throughout the palace.

It was also here that Columbus made his pitch to Isabel and Ferdinand to finance a sea voyage to Asia.

The final building is the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) where 600 years ago, only the royal family and their servants could enter.

The fountain, a gift from a Jewish leader celebrating good relations with the sultan, has 12 lions that represent the 12 tribes of Israel. During Moorish times, the fountain functioned as a clock, with a different lion spouting water each hour. Conquering Christians disassembled the fountain to see how it worked, and it’s never worked since.

The Hall of the Kings (Sala de los Reyes) is probably my favorite part of the whole palace.  I love staring up into the enchanting ceilings.

Although our ticket to enter was at a specific time we were free to take our time in the palaces and then wander a little more around the grounds and get a photo of all three of us taken!

TIPS FOR VISITING THE ALHAMABRA

  • Book your ticket in advance.  Tickets sell out and are limited!  If you want to avoid paying a hefty fee for going through a guide, buy your ticket in advance.  I brought mine a month in advance and already the time slots of the Palaces were limited. I wanted to start with the palaces but only time available for a party of 3 was 1:30. If you know which days you’re going to be in Granada, get your tickets and bring the credit card you ordered with you if you used Ticketmaster   There are machines to the side that are easy to use and avoids a long wait time.
  • You can walk or take a bus from the city center.  The walk is a long, uphill walk in potentially hot sun.  Once you get to Alhambra, there will be lots of walking in side the grounds.  The bus ride is 1.20 Euro.  You can decide what you prefer.  I personally am more into downhill walks and uphill buses.
  • Examine your ticket for your allotted time.  Your Alhambra ticket is good for 4 hours and 30 minutes of that at a very specific time is allotted to the Palaces.  Don’t miss it.  As we sat there and waited for our shift, we watched many disappointed faces who were not allowed in because they missed their scheduled time. Being old, being young, being confused, or any other excuse in the world, won’t let you inside.
  • Take your time – Certain parts of the Generalife, and the towers, you can only enter once so make sure you take in everything with whoever you’re traveling with because there is no reentry.  Tony and I ran into the tower without my mother and we couldn’t go with her when she was ready.
  • Get a written guide – You can share it, and sometimes I really wish I knew what I was looking at without having to eavesdrop on tours or goggling my photos after the fact.  It costs extra but I think knowing more things about this enchanting palace is worth it.

That One Time I Lived in a Cave

Adventures in Spain – 2 Days in Granada

When I told my mom that I was renting apartments through AirBnB on our visit in Spain I don’t think she knew what she was getting into.  The last thing she expected was two nights in a cave in Granada.  Yup a cave, furnished but still a cave.

The photo makes it look cozy but it lies because sleeping in a cave, although warm and toasty, is still a cave.

Our cave like all the others was in Sacromonte  a neighborhood in Granada that was about 15 minutes away from city plaza. What it lacked in modern conveniences and other nuisance such as barking dogs, it made up with a view.

The towers of the Alhambra at night.  I’ll have a whole post devoted to our visit eventually =).

Our train ride to Granada was probably one of my favorite during the trip.  We passed mountains and valleys and as sleep deprived as I was I kept staring out my window wide awake.

I could tell that my mom and Tony felt the same way as each of us took up our aisle so we could get the window view.

After a short introduction to our cave, we decided to venture out for food and a little exploring

Immediately we passed by this garden and amazing fruit trees

I believe those were Loquats.

With a long list of things to do, we kept on walking down the steep hills as I begged my feet to not trip me.  I have a long history of being clumsy.

We walked through El Albayzín, a neighborhood that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It is filled with shops of trinkets and scarves and full of delicious North Africa eateries.  There were also Arab bath houses but I think the few we passed were closed on Mondays so we missed out on that part.

By the time we got to finding a place for lunch it was around 4 PM and like the rest of Spain, our options became limited with many restaurants closing down for the break before dinner.  We settled on a tourist friendly place of being large, moderately overpriced for the quality of food but still open past 4PM.

Tony got himself a meat platter with ribs.  I guess he wanted something a little more American?

I got a paella like rice dish that was delicious.  It would have been better if snails were not included and I didn’t have to pull them out as I crunched on one or two.  Oops guess I missed that part of the description.

And a potato quiche to keep things boring.

Granada has been settled by Arabs, Jews, Christians  Gypsies and anyone else so the architecture and beauty of the streets are unlike any other city in Spain.

Granada Cathedral

Plaza de Isabella Católica

The front of Granada Cathedral

The mountains surrounding Granada create a much colder climate at night then we were used to while in Seville.  Solution?  Warm up with some hot chocolate and churros (a Spanish donut).