Thankfully, it wasn’t raining in Granada when we set out from the hotel this morning. A bit cloudy, but clear enough and warm enough. We walked down the main road towards Alhambra, stopping to buy stamps (I know, who buys stamps these days? But my travelling companions are apparently in that demographic), and stopping into a busy restaurant for a breakfast of ham and cheese on bread eaten while standing at the counter. The place had the air of customers who come every day for years. The older man who shoved our juice at us took apparent umbrage at our misplacement of the olive oil bottle after using it. “Look at you, you’re making such a MESS!” I scolded Carlos in a mocking tone. Then we ate lemon pie.
The people of this city seem quite purposeful in their stride, or perhaps it was just mostly people going to work, but I sensed a bit of impatience in people making their way around us on the sidewalk. I noted a lot of dapper older men in swank hats and fashionably elderly ladies walking around with dogs. Perhaps Granada is kind of cut off from the rest of Spain? It kind of feels that way. It’s certainly cleaner, trendier and more grafitti-free than it was before.
We took a peek inside the big cathedral, decided against paying money to see the rest of it, and then ducked into a neighboring church that was free. Then we passed a young man playing metal drums in the style of Phillip Glass. We stopped and bought his album to show support, and he let us have a go on the drums.
The bus took us up the mountain to Alhambra, first carrying an elderly nun and then, after she got off, a group of muslims. It was a good thing we had reserved tickets, because that day’s tickets were all sold out, we heard people inquiring at the gate. Inside we followed a babbling brook up to the Generalife Gardens, tasting the water of the fountains as we went, and then down to the main part of Alhambra. We took in the hotel, formerly a Franciscan monk hangout, and then waited in line, dodging French would-be line-cutters, for the interior of Alhambra.
The last time I was here, in 2009, I was amazed at how eloquent and amazing this place was. But management has changed. The lovely audio guide telling the stories of Alhambra’s every corner has gone away, and the staff are no longer friendly, but rather imperious. Much of the interior is under construction as well. One self-important tourist was trying to boss everyone around. “Don’t touch that!” she yelled at Chenbl after he brushed against a wall. “Wear your bag on the front!” She yelled at me.
“But your bag is on your back,” I said.
“That’s my purse,” she said, though her purse was as big as a backpack. “It’s different.”
“Ah yes, arbitrary definitions; the spice of life,” I said. I was about to ask her why she really wanted to work as a nanny at Alhambra, but she’d moved on to yelling at other tourists, Spanish tourists who were much better equipped to tell her to fuck off in their own language.
The church was dark and boring, and the ramparts had closed once we were done fucking around and wasting time, so we made our way past the free-roaming cats, down through the magnificent gate and onto a bus back down the hill to downtown where the fountain was lit up.
We enjoyed a street flamenco performance, and then stuffed ourselves with hot and cold running tapas at a nearby restaurant, snatching a table from under the noses of a henpecked British couple.
We walked down the tourist streets looking at stupid shops and digesting the tapas. I bought some slippers, and got a snazzy hat for Carlos so he doesn’t have to wear that baseball cap any more. Then it was back to the hotel. I’ve enjoyed Granada again this time, though the experience at Alhambra was sorely disappointing after treasuring the memory of my first visit there for the last seven years.