I must admit, I felt a little bit like Nina did on entering Granada. I had my doubts. Nina stayed two weeks here. I have stayed just one. Yet it only takes one afternoon to fall in love with Granada. Everywhere there is beauty. In the simple white houses that dot the hillsides, in the honey-orange walls of the Alhambra, in the gipsies singing and dancing and in the buskers playing traditional music in the streets and laneways. Other cities are known for being cities of love, Rome, Paris, Venice – for me it is Granada for here I have found love.
Nina wrote “If psycho-analyst were to demand your thoughts in response to the mention of Granada I think it would almost certainly be the Alhambra. But there are other things besides the Moorish palace to see there …” Nina pokes fun at the travellers that whiz about on tours, one day here, two days there. She asks herself if they would “be aware of the small, delicious things that make all the difference between travelling and globe-trotting”. She answers herself my musing on how mush they miss “the globe-totters who are too hurried to notice or remember the things that make a foreign place for every your own!”. In Nina’s time these globe-trotters would buy postcards to remember where they had been and what they had seen. Now it is the selfie stick, camera, mobile phone and go-pro to ensure you remember what a great time you had. Then again, there are those travellers who stay too long as evidenced by their dreadlocks and their dirty feet poking out of the bottom of their Vietnamese fishing pants.
I remember little things from when I walked the Camino – little things that I took no photos of. A line of caterpillars on the track or the butterflies flying in front of me like I was in a Walt Disney animation. In Granada, I will always remember the art and taking the time to go slow. I will remember sitting on the terrace and looking out over the landscape to the Alhambra. I will remember sitting in the shade of a garden on a seat – Princess Diana like – and simply staring at buildings, at fountains, at tiles, at views, at trees, and oranges and flowers. I will remember how hard it is for a single traveller to travel alone – even though it is way beyond 1934.
Nina found the “Spanish stare” disconcerting. Spanish men would stare at her being a single woman alone. I don’t get the “Spanish stare” but I do get the looks. I will walk into a restaurant or a café – alone – and the service staff will ask me “how many?”. “Uno solo” I will answer holding up one finger, they nod and find the most inconvenient table, where one can hide a solo traveller. On my tour of the Alhambara – there were 29 of us – I was the only single traveller. On my day trip to Morocco, there was a nice equal ten of us – thanks to the British couple who brought along their 12 year old grandson. Restaurants and cafes have ‘paella min personas 2” chalked up on their black boards. Today I went to the hammam for a wash and a bathe – I was the only single there. The baths were full of couples who had come to experience something, that I believe is more pleasurable alone, together. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling alone, I simply wish travel was more suited to those of us who do travel alone.
Frankly I roll my eyes at those that travel together. The other night I was in a café and two couples of Brits sat at the table next to me. The conversation went something like this:
Man one: Should we just get some beers to start with?
Thin lipped wife: No, let’s just look at the menu first.
Both couples nod and agree and talk about what food to order.
Waiter (in broken English): Are yous r-r-r-ready to order now?
Thin lipped wife: Could we see your drinks menu?
Waiter: No drinks menu. We have sangria, we have vino tinto, vino blanco, cervezas, agua ….
Three of them order a beer. Thin lipped wife, who looks as if she slogs out ten ks on the treadmill at the gym every night, orders a white wine. I am certain she would have asked for ice if not too scared she would get sick of drinking the water/having ice in her drink.
Saying that, I have met some lovely couples on my travels. The other afternoon I was up on the terrace of my accommodation and a Spanish woman came up with bags and also, bags of groceries. She was attractive, thin and muscly, with some pretty good tattoos. Her bleached blond hair was fashionably cut pixie short, she had a pretty face and a smile to die for. She could not work out how to open the door of her room. Having been through this two days before, I explained it to her. “Muchas gracies!” She introduced herself as Monica, I told her I was ‘Genobeba’ (the Spanish pronunciation of my name). She replied “encantada”, enchanted. I did the same. She told me she could only speak a little English, I told her “Yo hablo Espanol, muy poco” (the same, just a little). Through our Spanglish, I understood that her girlfriend was arriving that night, the she was very impressed with the shared terrace and the fantastic views and we should get together for food and wine up there. We did the following day when I met her girlfriend, Gabriella. Gabriella is a vivacious, beautiful, intelligent Canadian from Montreal. We spent some time speaking English/Spanish with Gabriella translating when Monica or I talked too fast and we were missing the whole conversation. I asked how they had met. Both broke out into huge smiles and virtually giggled, looking intensely at each other. They had met in Spain just in the last few months. Gabriella had to go off to meet friends and travel a bit as plans and accommodations had already been made. She was supposed to go back to her job in Montreal but decided she could not. “We are in love and you must take that seriously. Yes?”. Yes, I confirmed, “es verdad”, it’s true. Both were totally shocked to find out that Australia, which they thought was a very progressive country, still did not have marriage equality. “Si, si, si. Es muy triste pero es verdad”, I replied. Monica gave me a really good tip on where to find the best tapas bars before we said our ‘hasta luegos’ – see you later. I still don’t think the tapas here are as good as they are in Burgos and Santiago, but the tip helped a lot.
Taking things slowly has shown me love. Looking around and enjoying differences. Seeing, smelling hearing. I remember in Prague Joe told me not to give money to the buskers that do nothing. The ones that stand there painted in metallic paint not moving for hours. He told me I should give to the people that do something, musicians and artists. This is what I have been doing in Granada. I stop to listen to the buskers and give them some change. I bought a poem for 60 cents from a stand. It was in Spanish and a beautiful love poem. I now have it in an envelope to give to Monica and Gabriella with all of my wishes for their love. I stopped by a gipsy boy today, not much older than my son Joe. I stopped so that he, with the use of his tarot cards, could tell me what he foresaw in my present and my upcoming future (it was good advice) and well worth the few euro donated to him. We ended up talking until the sun got too hot and he needed to find some more customers. Here in Spain, this time, I sit on my own in cathedrals and churches, not to pray but to simply sit (and try not to ponder the bad deeds of the Catholic church) but to see the beauty in the building and look at the art. I cried at flamenco for goodness sake!
Granada is a very easy city to get around. The buses are simple and everything is in walking distance – if you like walking up and down some very steep hills and stairs. The Albaicin is not so easy to get around. It is very easy to get lost in its white walled mazed passageways, where all the house are called Carmen. The Carmen houses have gardens and all their names begin with Carmen, there is Carmen Victoria, Carmen la Nina, Carmen … you get the idea. It originates from the Arabic word for vine – as the Carmen gardens provide food, shade and beauty – which equals love in Granada.
I left Granada this morning. I waited for a taxi on the corner of my street Cuesta del Chapiz and the Paseo de los Tristes. Paseo de los Triestes, is the street of sadness. Traditionally funeral processions would go along this street (sometimes with professional. paid mourners) up to the cemetery near the Alhambra. It seemed fitting to end my stay on this corner – one street where I found so much happiness in simply staying there – and the other so much sadness to be leaving.
If you do one thing in your life. If there is just one place you go in your life – go to Granada. You will never regret it.