Thursday, June 14, 2007
Granada and the Alhambra
I had planned to skip Granada since I was tired of hopping around every few days and doing the touristy stuff, but it ended up sort of being a necessary stop between Tarifa and Alicante. I arrived and was fortunate to get into the Alhambra (a Moorish fortress and palace) despite not having an advance ticket--my understanding is that only a set number of people are permitted in each day. The Alhambra lived up to what I had read about it. The gardens were full of beautiful rose bushes and other plants I cannot name, and there were fountains and streams of water everywhere. The interior of the buildings were ornate and gorgeous. I cannot imagine how much work went into building such a place. Unfortunately I was tired, hungry, and grouchy from a morning of early travel and just general annoyance (you know it is about time to come home when you start having the sort of internal dialogue that I am having), so I sort of rushed through it and did not soak it up like I should have. I am sort of over the "should see" stuff and am sticking to the beach now, which is convenient since my next stop after Granada was Alicante.
Otherwise Granada was a very pretty city with a striking cathedral, lots of doner kebab restaurants and pastries, and with nice places to walk and relax. On a scary note, I was awoken by a thud and loud voices in the room below me around 5:30 a.m. I thought a drunk had just returned to the hostel since people here routinely stay out until 6 a.m., but I later learned someone had crawled into a first floor window and stolen a girl's backpack with all of her money and important documents. The thief had used a car as a prop to scale the wall and then jumped and ran. Scary.
Yesterday was a most lovely day. I slept until I woke up, went to an outdoor cafe and had cafe con leche and toast, wondered in some shops and took in some sights, and then I headed to Playa San Juan, which is about 6 kilometers from where I was staying in Alicante. It is a huge, peaceful beach with enough sand that you are not too close to anyone. The Mediterranean was warm enough that I actually enjoyed being it the ocean for once, and I read a good book I got at a swap and pay sort of cafe in Tarifa. The book is called This Book Will Save Your Life, and while it is a bit ridiculous at times it reminds me of what Americans can easily become if we are not careful. And it reminded me of the sort of book I think Ozzy would enjoy.
Speaking of Americans, it is interesting to see what others' perceptions are of our nation. I have gotten several comments of surprise that I speak Spanish--as if no Americans are bilingual. Note: Australians do not seem to be bilingual very much either (and unlike college prep students in Georgia are not required to take a foreign language at all), but I do not hear people ragging on them....perhaps the cool accent helps. Some people seem shocked that I learned Spanish in an American school. Several people have commented on how so many Americans are obese and our fast food consumption, but I have pointed out to them that eating healthily in America is easier than it is here if someone wants to do so. They look at me like I am crazy, but then I explain all of the options we have. For example, the only salads I have seen here are iceberg. Skim milk is hard to come by. Wheat bread is rarely an option in restaurants. But they always come back to how Americans are so overweight, and of course, they are right. Although I must say that I have noticed many more overweight people in Spain on this trip than I did ten years ago. Of course, that could be southern Spain versus central Spain where I was before.
This afternoon I arrived in Valencia, and the owner of the guesthouse where I am staying gave me a ride to the beach. He swam and then wanted to discuss Al Gore with me, explaining how important he was in Europe. He also offered to make paella for dinner tomorrow night, so I am excited about that. I hope everyone has a super weekend!
p.s. I am thankful that I get to see my nieces next week.
Oh and one downside to traveling alone is being at the whim of others for decent photos...hence these less than perfect photographs. Oh, check out my third new pair of sunglasses (which are huge). I keep dropping them.