If I was ever going to live in Europe again, I would definitely think about southern Spain. Having just spent another glorious week there – in beautiful Granada, Andalucía – I’ve been struck once more by its fascinating history, vibrant culture, and wonderfully laid-back atmosphere.
This time, I stayed with my good friend Paula, a writer who has a house in the very heart of the Albaicín, the old Moorish quarter of Granada. A perfect fusion of Spanish and North African cultures, the Albaicín’s rabbit warren of narrow cobbled alleyways, whitewashed walls draped with pomegranates, and dramatic views of the mighty Alhambra palace quickly recaptured my heart.
The Albaicín is truly an assault on the senses. In addition to its visual beauty, a cacophony of sounds punctuates the day. Pealing church bells jangle away periodically across the city. Laughing schoolchildren clatter down the alleys, calling to each other excitedly in high-pitched Spanish. Battered scooters vroom about intermittently, as residents expertly navigate the maze of steep narrow paths. Then in the evening, stillness – a soporific calm that envelopes the soul, broken only by the low strum of a flamenco guitar or clarinet somewhere close by.
Then there’s the food. This time, I tasted the delight that is one of Granada’s signature pasteles – the pionono: a thin layer of pastry rolled into a cylinder, infused with super-sweet syrup and topped with toasted cream. What a treat. It’s rich and indulgent, a guilty pleasure – just like Granada itself! Impossible to have just one, though…
And oh, the tapas! On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Paula and I sat in one of the Albaicín’s picturesque squares watching the world go by with ice-cold Alhambra beers. With every order came a plate of delicious tapas: prawns, white fish, risotto, lamb morsels, all beautifully cooked and presented. Even more amazing was the bill – the beers were a mere 2 Euros apiece and the tapas were free! God, I love this place.
This was a woefully short visit, but even as I boarded the plane to head back to Melbourne, I knew I would return. Soon. Very soon.