Today’s blog was going to be about Nina and me, but after the day I have had, it is more about me. As usual. Truth be known, I haven’t read the whole of She Travelled Alone in Spain as yet. I am reading it as I go. People have exclaimed “you’re mad!” – and that may be the case, yet Nina self-proclaimed herself as mad by travelling alone through Spain in 1934.
I have been reading Nina’s account of Granada, the gypsies, the Alhambra, the Spanish people, and the politics of the day. Comparing what was then to what is now. I have been making notes and underlining and making asterisk notes in my copy for this very purpose. Nina devotes a whole chapter to the Alhambra. I have been eyeing off the Alhambra since I got here. I have seen it through all times of the days. Sunset from the church of St Nicholas is extremely beautiful, made even more so by the still snow-dusted mountains of the Sierra Nevada. I have walked in the shade of its walls through the forest back down to the town. Until today, I have not gone inside its walls. Actually, I still haven’t.
I decided a Tuesday was the best to visit, slow tourist day and all that …. I was going to get up early and be one of the first at its gates. I woke, looked at my clock, it was 8:53 am – still plenty of time. By the time I breakfast, shower, read facebook and the local Australian and Spanish news it is half ten before I leave my room.
Yesterday, I bought a two day pass on the hop-on/hop-off train. It really is just a tractor with a fancy cover and a couple of cabooses behind. I walk down to the stop nearest to me, fearing another encounter with the ticket seller from yesterday, let’s just call her Bitchy McBitchface. Flash back to yesterday – I get to the hop-on/hop-off train station just as the train pulls in. The line for the train is long but no one at the ticket office. I think ‘ok’ as the ticket seller a.k.a Bitchy McBitchface walks off to load and off load tourists on and off the train. I wait patiently, smiling and happy in the Granada sun. The train takes off and the ticket seller, Bitchy McBitchaface comes strolling back with seven tourists in tow and tells me they are in front of me. I smile politely – but with clenched jaw and step back. The seven tourists, phaff about arguing about how many of them they are, how much it costs, who is going to pay … and here was me, waiting, one person with correct money in hand. Finally all their dilemmas were solved and I was told to come back to the front. I politely pointed out, that I was waiting and she should not have done that … needless to say, the customer is not always right, and a slight argument ensued. I got my ticket but my revenge awaits in a TripAdvisor review.
Back to this morning, I hop on the train without drama. The train drives up and down the narrow streets as tourists lea for their lives out of the oncoming train, taxis, cars and bikes. Finally, it is now after 11:00am and I reach the Alhambra. I get out of the train and the staffer in charge of stuffing the cars today, is Bitch McBitchface – who has the hide to smile and say hello. I nod and walk up to the ticket office. SOLD OUT – in English and Spanish. There is a line to ask the man behind the red rope questions about tickets. I wait patiently in line. My turn comes, and a queue jumper is before me asking a question at my turn. Well, we Australians hate queue jumpers, I told her go back and wait, I am next in line. I asked the man if I could buy a ticket for tomorrow, he tells me that I have to get on-line at midnight and buy one. He says “make sure you do, as they are all sold in thirty minutes”. I leave and go back to the hop-on/hop-off train line. I get out my ticket to show Bitchy McBitchface, who smiles and says “yes, I remember you from yesterday. You must wait until all of these people in front of you have boarded”. I want to scream ‘I AM NOT THE QUEUE JUMPER HERE!” I smile and wait.
When we arrive back at the bottom of the hill I start to walk home, a small laneway catches my eye. I walk up and suddenly am at a grand old Grenadian home which appears to be some type of museum. I wander in, merely to catch a glimpse of its typical courtyard. Tiles, a fountain, an upstairs veranda, shuttered French doors, plants … gorgeous stuff. An elderly lady calls to me and wants to know if I want to see the museum just three Euros. I nod my head, she asks if I speak Spanish, a little I say, “I speak English, I am Australian”. She shows me into a room full of reasonably good contemporary modern paintings of Granada, turns on the light and closes the door behind me. I look and love. Then a huge sculpture at the end of the room captures my eye. It is life sized. There is a Christian holding a sick/wounded person and surrounded by men from each of the continents, there is an Asian, an Arab, a native American and an African. I am thinking ‘w.t.f. what is this thing I am in?’. I exit the room and she shows me into another. Again turning on the light and closing the door behind me. This room is full of religious artefacts, gold, silver, icons, everything I used to see in church growing up – only bigger, better, more bling. As I am about to leave, thinking I have seen everything, the elderly woman rushes into the room, grabs me by the hand and takes me outside. She points to three people, waiting at the bottom of the stairs, “English tour”, she says as she lets go of my hand and punches me in the back towards them. So now, with an American couple, who seem to know a lot about history and art as I find out during the tour, we have our own guide and are taken through one of the most amazing tours I have ever been on.
We are in the Casa Pissa, a home owned by a wealthy Andalusian family, who were patrons of St John of God. The saint actually died in this house and we are shown where he died. The house is a devotion to St John of God, and I have never seen such (and I will use a word from Nina here) a ‘hodge-podge’ of art and artefacts from all over the world as I saw in this amazing house. Even a shrunken head. Yep, even a shrunken head. The ivory, the art, the silver, the gold, oh – and two boomerangs from Australia. If you are ever in Granada – put this on your list.
After such an amazing visit what else was there to do? Laundry. I needed to wash both the pairs of pants I brought over with me as well as my other clothes, so putting on my pyjama pants off I went. Across town with my bag of dirty laundry on the town bus in my pyjama pants. Here is a word of advice if visiting Granada, avoid the hop-on/hop-off train/bus and take the town buses they go everywhere for a tenth of the price and the bus drivers are just as helpful. You meet locals too, who are happy to talk to you and help you out. Spanish laundromats are great. Usually there is someone in there to help, be it a paid worker or another washer. Today there was no one. As a consequence, I washed my clothes in the washing-machine reserved for washing the clothes and linen of animals. Dogs and cats, or as the Spanish say ‘Mascotes’ …. I did live in Mascot. I noticed only seconds after I pressed the on button – there was no stopping it. Forty minutes till the end, the first five running around the laundromat crying “shit. Shit shit.”, another two trying to be Spanish and running around the laundromat crying even louder “oye, oye, oye!” before deciding the best thing to do, would be to go and have a drink. I found a bar sat down, the waiter came over – and it was a patisserie. No drink to be had. An Italian coffee later which consisted of coffee, ice-cream, whipped cream – and Frangelico – hey! – it was ok. I went back and waited for my dog-washing to be over before putting it through another ‘human’ wash before a dry. All of which made me late, for the next thing I had planned on my Nina itinerary. A flamenco show. Well that will just have to wait until tomorrow night.
I did find a way out of the midnight web visit to book a ticket to the Alhambra. I booked through a tour group on line. First up at 8:00am tomorrow. After all, Nina had a guide – which you will read about when she visited the Alhambra.
Interesting fact, the word Granada, means pomegranate, one of my very favourite fruits. Great for breakfast in yogurt. A pomegranate is a labour of love, you have to learn how to cut, to get to the sweet succulent inners of a pomegranate, to extract those ripe red seeds. Granada is just like that.