It is a very special day today as it’s my 65th birthday.. how did I get here? I have no idea where the years have gone. In my heart and head I feel about 40 but it is obviously fibbing to me.
After leaving Cordoba we made our way through mountainous scenery to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. A truly beautiful place, clear blue sky and crystal clear views welcomed us to the next camp site. Camping Alto de Vìñuelas in Beas de Granada (approx 18k from the city), the welcome at reception was lovely and we are happy to be able to stay put for a few days.
We have chosen a lovely pitch on one of the terraces, with uninterrupted view of the mountains. The pitch is large and relatively level, although we have put the ramps on the front offside to help.
There is a restaurant on site which serves not just the site but the local community and boasts of wood fired slow cooked local cuisine. It appears to be well attended, so we will try later.
Time for walk, as we have run out of milk, but have fallen foul of the Spanish holiday (1st November), so nothing is open. As the site is at the top of the hill, the walk back to it from the village is long and arduous, but good for the steps and stairs tally on the fitbit watch.
Tonight we try out the restaurant and see what it is like.
The food is excellent, but we eat earlier than most of the Spanish, so there are not a lot of people in here. However, we try the ‘black pudding and chorizo croquettes’ core starter, then Mike has a wood fired pizza and I try the lamb cutlets. The meals were excellent and worthy of the phrase home cooked and yummy.
Next morning we arise early after collecting the bread from reception we make our way on the bus (caught at the entrance of the campsite) and travel about 20mins into the city. The cost is only 3.60€ for both of us.
We were drawn by the allure of the Alhambra, but was unsure what to expect. What we found is a gritty, compelling city where serene Islamic architecture and Arab-flavoured street life go hand in hand with monumental churches, old-school tapas bars and country’s culture for graffiti art.
The city, lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, and was the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors. Their legacy lies all around: it’s in the horseshoe arches, the spicy aromas emanating from street stalls, the teterías (teahouses) of the Albayzín, the historic Arab quarter. Most spectacularly, of course, it’s in the Alhambra, an astonishing palace complex whose Islamic decor and landscaped gardens are incomparable.
We manage somehow to get caught up in a fiesta. They celebrate long and hard over here, lots of fun, music, singing and joining in is compulsory.
For my birthday Mike had bought tickets to see a flamenco show and a meal. Normally with these type of venues the shows are pretty touristy and the meals are usually mediocre, however, this evening there was no such disappointment. We were welcomed upstairs into Faralá, a classic restaurant where the waiting staff were passionate about the food they served. From the design of the crockery and dishes, which were made from marble and stone, wood and glass, to the food they served. It was the most memorable meal exceeding all expectations.
We had the choice of 3 starters, 3 main courses and 3 deserts. Mike chose the chilled green Salmorejo soup flavoured with anise and served with mozzarella and granite of vermouth, drizzled with a lime and sun-dried tomato dressing; for mains, he decided on carpaccio of bolette mushroom accompanied by wheat-berry stew with mushroom and garden asparagus.
I opted for the mixed leaf salad with sea-weed and marinated mussels in an escabeche sauce; then for mains I went for slow cooked seereto iberico pork lacquered with bitter orange sauce served with a parmentier of avocado and potato.
For desert there was only one choice and that was the different textures of chocolate (panache, flexible chocolate, ganache montada de chocolat blanco y helado chocolat con pimientas del mundo) don’t know what it was but it was blooming lovely….
In the words of Chef Javier de Bordon, “Art and Passion, it is these two words, these two adjectives, that unite flamenco with gastronomy.”
Soon it was time to go downstairs to the intimate theatre (housing about 50 tiered seats), we all watched and listened as the tempo increased, the crack of the dancers feet and the clapping of hands charged the room, you felt the emotion of the guitarist, Fermin Fernández, as he closed his eyes and made his fingers dance across the chords. The singer was Juan Angel Tirado whose voice resonated throughout the room, then came the dancers Raquel “La Repompa” and Coral Fernández , their feet became a blur and was full of passion and power.
We left the theatre and walked around the streets for a while as we were so charged after such a performance, before getting a taxi back to site.
What I will take with me from being here is that there’s an amazing energy to Granada’s streets, packed with bars, bohemian cafes, intimate flamenco clubs, street performers as well as the more traditional sights and it has left us with a lasting impression, different from any other city we’ve visited.