On my last trip, I was reminded that magic exists – and it’s all around us. For ten days last December I travelled through Spain for the first time, finally getting a glimpse of the country I had wanted to see for many years, especially since I started learning Spanish in school.* The cities I visited had their own flirtatious charms, effortlessly courting my wide-eyed heart, but the three days I remember most vividly were the three days spent in Granada.
From the fog-veiled dawn that welcomed me, to the fading pastel sky that bid me farewell, there was not a moment that passed without wonder. It was different in every way possible to home, yet something in the air felt like I belonged there.
The first day was spent walking around, as I always do in new places when vacationing. It sounds pretty boring and unexciting, but for me, the opposite is true. The most interesting way to get acquainted with a place is on foot. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the people and (most importantly) the food – everything is boundless and unrestricted, waiting to be discovered. After a few hours of getting delightfully lost, I somehow found my bearings and managed to make my way back to my hotel.
Neighbourhoods with their distinct façades, narrows alleys thick with colour and scent, whitewashed walls adorned with pottery and paintings, conversations en Español fluttering through the air, trapezoid courtyards fountaining with vendors, cobblestone roads that seemed to want to trip me at every opportunity, the pace of life that moved far slower than I’m used to – all the unfamiliarity of these things faded away and became less foreign as I immersed myself in my surroundings. I was under a spell.
Taking advantage of the fact that Granada is situated at the foothills of a mountain range, the following day was spent at the Sierra Nevada Ski Station. After a short and scenic bus ride to the top, I could hardly contain my excitement of actually being on the white-tipped peaks that I could clearly see from the city, thanks to the lack of tall buildings. To my dismay (but later to my relief as I tumbled around clumsily in the snow), it was strangely warmer than I had expected – 13°C and blazing sunshine called for a couple of layers to be shed. Now that I was there, there was only one thing left to do – ski.
You’d think that learning how to ski at the age of 4 and being able to do it independently by age 7 is something that would remain with a person for their whole lives. But apparently and (very evidently) it’s something you will forget if you leave a decade between your ski sessions. Despite multiple falls and several crashes (I was convinced I was the worst student my very amused instructor ever had), I actually had a good time. I found time to grab a little bite and go for a mini trek through the snow, and before I knew it, it was time to make my way back down to the bus station.
On my final day in the Andalusian town, I visited the Alhambra – a palatial fort overlooking the ancient city, described as "a pearl set in emeralds” by Moorish poets. A slice right out of history, saturated with architecture and design dating back to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The last refuge of the Muslim rulers on the Iberian Peninsula, this crowning glory was built towards the end of the thirteenth century, and after the fall of the Emirate of Granada, Christian influences were overlaid on Islamic structures, giving rise to its telltale legacy. Palaces, courtyards and gardens, the Alhambra is breathtaking not only in it’s scale, but in its scrupulous attention to every little detail that makes it what it is. Plain as the exteriors may be, the interiors are equally ornamental.
I can confidently say that I have discovered one of my favourite places, not only in Spain, but also in the world. An air of tranquility hangs through every harmonious space, making it more than easy to spend an entire day (as I did) wafting through corner to corner, from the Puerta de las Granadas to the Peinador de la Reina, from the Patio de los Arrayenes to the Patio de los Leones, from the Sala de los Abencerrajes to the Palacio de Generalife. This was definitely the highlight of the trip and will always hold a special place in my life, for I have left a piece of my heart there.
The rush I feel when seeing things I’ve never seen before or don’t get to see often is what keeps me fueled every morning, continually inspiring me. Words can never fully do my experiences justice**, so I hope the photos that I’ve taken will suffice. Can’t wait to be back in here again, the city definitely warrants a second visit. Granada, te amo.
* Touring South America – now that’s the next dream.
** Unless I had the literary capabalities even slightly comparable to Diane Ackerman.