Europe

Granada, Spain

It’s New Year’s Day. My heels are untarnished, my clutch bag secure and my head free from the fog of a hangover.

Instead of my usual partying antics for NYE (the kind where I traipse around London in a mini skirt, or down consecutive Sambuca shots until all I want is to gorge myself on chicken nuggets and chips – I’m a vegetarian) I spent last night cosied up on the sofa with a blanket and naf TV. It was fantastic.

The reason behind my sensational evening alone? My flight back from Spain meant that I didn’t get home until 6pm (that’s not nearly enough time to get ready to go out out) and after four days of non-stop adventuring, all I wanted to do was relax.

I actually had a really good time in Spain. Despite Pops being a recent tee-totaller, and my incongruous need to be in control of all situations at all times, the three of us had a lot of fun.

Granada is a beautiful city. It’s the kind of place you actually can get lost in. With narrow cobbled streets, aligned with pert trees awash with ripened oranges; and delicately carved stone buildings decorated by elegant balconies, sitting on a backdrop of mountainous silhouettes. But it’s not a peaceful place – the city reminds you all hours of the day of its vibrancy, its alertness. It’s a city that doesn’t want you to forget about its beauty, constantly shouting to be admired.

And admire it we did. We spent our first day in Granada exploring and familiarising ourselves with the local area. Our hotel, the Fontecruz, is located right in the city centre, directly opposite the Cathedral and amidst a catalogue of cafes and restaurants. My dad really came through here, giving me my own room/ suite – stunning! – with a king size bed, his-and-hers sinks and one of those walk in showers that was so big you could do lunges in. It’s a wonderful hotel, its only drawback being that the windows let in a lot of noise so getting to sleep at night was a bit of an issue.

I think my first full day in Granada was my favourite, even though we technically weren’t in Granada. We hopped into our hire care after a quick breakfast (Ah, breakfast…apparently the Spanish think a loaf of bread with a topping of marmalade is a good way to start the day. Now I’m back home I’ve been overdosing on berries and bananas to make up for four days of carb-overloading.) and we took a forty minute drive up to Sierra Nevada. We’d planned to do a bit of skiing but after looking at the Sierra Nevada webcam’s a week before our trip we knew that there would be a slim chance of hitting the slopes. With only 4 of 117 runs open, we made the most of our journey and did a bit of hiking. The stunning views were somewhat overshadowed by my aching back, groin strain and inability to breathe like a normal human being, but I assure you that I was having fun. I felt a bit like a mountain goat actually; hopping its way to the top and navigating over rocks and grassy knolls. After a brief Malteaser break at the top we began our journey down, stopping off at a restaurant for lunch on the way down.

There’s something very special about restaurants that provide fluffy blankets whilst you eat. It’s as though they’re giving you permission to nap post-meal (I truly believe that a snack and a nap is the secret to eternal happiness). A tomato, avocado and mozzarella salad was my first non-carb meal of the week, and I was in my element. With the sun on my face and at least three of my five a day under my belt, I was re-fuelled and rested enough to continue my descent and journey back to Granada.

During our evening drinks we researched where in the city we could find the best tapas – our previous night saw us picking at a freebie of processed foods that looked sweatier than I had in our earlier mountain adventures. So in a bid to find something a bit more… well, just something half decent, we took to TripAdvisor to seek out some advice.

Standing outside Los Diamontes, the second best tapas venue in the whole of Granada (I know you should never settle for second best, but number one was miles away), we couldn’t help but feel a bit confused. There was a crowd of around twenty people stood patiently staring at a tiny, worn down building. It could be no bigger than the average Brit’s living room – how is it possible that some of the best food in Granada came from something that resembled my Nan’s front room? But we waited. And waited. And as the minutes ticked by the crowd grew, filling the narrow cobbled street, swelling to the point of enormity. Some thirty minutes later, as the owner arrived to lift the metal sheet for a front door, the crowd surged towards the opening, scrambling to find a place inside.

There were tables, but no chairs. Plates, but no cutlery. Walls, but no paint. The place was simply barren.

Yet bodies had already filled the room, yelling their orders at the two barmen. Somehow we found our place at the far end of the bar and managed to get our drinks order in quickly. A beer a wine and some water. Moments later these were joined by our first plate of free tapas: cod, fried but not greasy. It was delicious. Now I think the concept of free tapas a bit bizarre. You buy a drink, you get a free plate of food. Fantastic. But no wonder the Spanish economy is suffering, they’re giving away all of their revenue in the form of small platefuls of deliciousness – and they’re actually not that small either. And no sooner had we finished our first plateful had they passed us the next: this time a large plate of prawns, still fried but still not too greasy. We decided to buy a couple of items, partly to lessen the guilt of taking all their food but also to gain some control over the food we would be given. So we ordered some vegetables (fried) and some calamari (obviously fried). Which were both followed by a free plate of mushrooms and a free plate of clams. As soon as a plate was cleared from in front of us was another plate put in its place. We were stuffed, but very content with our mostly free feast. Thank you TripAdvisor, for we would never had found this gem had it not been for this recommendation.

Our second day found us back in the car and headed to Motril. Whilst out of season, this beach resort has a fantastic climate – even at the end of December. It was significantly warmer than its neighbouring city Granada, and as we found a place to park and meandered along the coastline we were entranced by the sound of the sea and the gentle warming of the sun. Although the trance was somewhat short-lived as my desperation to pee grew with every passing moment. Disaster had struck as we passed building after building, taking note of each ‘Closed’ sign before continuing down the road. At this rate I thought I was going to have to squat behind a palm tree.

Thankfully we managed to sneak into a camping site and borrow their onsite loos – massive relief- and a mere ten minutes later we found the only restaurant open in the whole of Motril (typical). An afternoon of relaxing by the sea ensued, before heading to a small nearby town for a bite to eat (more free food, alongside a couple of paid for sandwiches). We then headed back to the hotel for a Siesta then went out for a late dinner of vegetables, salad and cheese (at this point we just wanted anything but bread).

Our last full day in Granada saw us marching up to see the Alhambra – a Spanish fortress/palace dating back to 889, but was re-built in the 1300’s, and is one of Spain’s main tourist attractions. Enchanted by its enormity and extravagance we didn’t realise quite how popular this palace would be, and so after forty minutes of queuing we were informed that the tickets for the day were completely sold out and we would have to try again tomorrow – except we were flying home the next day. Disappointed but not defeated, we admired the exteriors before heading down into town for an afternoon of coffees and shopping. Our evening meal was a pre-booked dinner at Restaurante Vegano, a vegan restaurant filled with healthy and wholesome treats. After overdosing on vegetables we made sure to have an early night before our flight home the following morning.

Overall I would say we had a successful few days of scenic views, impressive history and carb-induced coma’s, and one day I would love to re-visit the city of Granada. Although maybe next time I’ll bring some snacks along. Oh, and I’ll ensure to book tickets in advance for popular tourist destinations.IMG_0812IMG_0802IMG_0803IMG_0775IMG_1602IMG_0804IMG_0785IMG_0810IMG_0783IMG_0774

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