This is a draft I wrote after coming back from my most recent trip to Spain in October of 2009. It’s been sitting around in my drafts folder for an embarrassing minute. I guess I just never got around to publishing it…until now.
Was I really chowing down a falafel from Maoz in Madrid just over two weeks ago? Did I have to board the bullet train of time back to the daily grind?
Southern Spain. Beautiful…and…cheap(er). This marked my 3rd time being in Spain (other times being when I studied abroad in Valencia and when I backpacked through Western Europe during the 2006 World Cup). So, I didn’t exactly experience that “wow” factor that most folks do when witnessing the opulent splendor of a country as historically significant and aesthetically breathtaking as Spain. Plus, the fact that I’m proficient enough in Spanish and that I’ve previously lived there (in Valencia) probably helped me acclimate quicker this time around. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but I didn’t exactly feel like a foreigner there.
We started our journey in Madrid and drove down to Granada to meet my sister up (who was studying the classical Spanish dance of Flamenco in Granada for the past 2 months). My sister lived in the Albayzin barrio in Granada. The Albayzin is one of the most unique areas/districts I’ve seen in Spain. Granada was one of the last cities of the Islamic stronghold that gripped Southern Spain for over 800 years. The Albayzin area is a unique testament to that. The Albayzin is known for it’s narrow alleys and winding streets. The Albayzin area is the area around the La Alhambra (what Granada is most known for). It was odd seeing an area of Spain inundated with Brownies. It was reminiscent of India in some ways. Wherever I turned in the Albayzin, I saw some shop selling leather sandals, saris, and kurta tops. Hookah shops and cafes were literally EVERYWHERE.
Free tapas with any drink. Only in Granada. Need I say more? I was floored by this concept. Another thing that I loved about Spain (and especially Southern Spain) was their offering of canas – which are the equivalent of 8 oz. beers (I think). Anyone who knows me knows that I borderline loathe the taste of beer (except Belgian White Ales), so the less beer…the better. Nevermind the beer…the thing that I loved was the free tapas. Essentially, many tapas bars offered primera, segunada, and tercera (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) orders of tapas – each one being free with the purchase of any drink. And, many canas of the local brews (such as La Alhambra in Granada) cost less than 1.5 Euros. Why hasn’t this idea become more commonplace in other parts of the world? Shit…it’s the ONLY city in SPAIN that does this. Regardless, I cannot even begin to explain how gratifying it felt to wash down 3 tapas with 3 brewskis for under 10 euros. Giggidy, indeed.
What is up with the Spaniards and the MASSIVE ice cubes they jam into their cocktails? However…I was able to overlook this oddity because of the way they served their cocktails. Every time I ordered a rum and coke in Spain, they would place 3 enormous ice cubes in my glass and then fill the glass halfway with rum. Then, they’d pop open a glass bottle of Coca-Cola and hand both to me. A fresh bottle of soda pop to go with half a glass of rum? For 5 Euros? Not too shabby…not too shabby at all.
Bendy straws. What is up with Granada’s affinity for serving nearly every drink with a bendy straw? Believe you me, that doesn’t bother me one bit though…I am ENAMORED with it! I love how California Pizza Kitchen allows you the opportunity to sip on soda pop with a bendy straw. This may be the most underrated beverage accessory in the entire world. Folks…the bendy straw is where it’s at.
After Granada, we made our way west to Seville. Seville resembles the larger cities in Spain (think Madrid and Barcelona). What was amazing about Seville was the fact that a massive cathedral is situated right in the heart of the city. Seville is known for their traditional history and for it’s large college population – both of which were pretty apparent during our stay there.
The Plaza De Espana in Seville was immaculate. The only Plaza that I can recall that I’ve seen that I’ve been more in awe of was St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Wow.
The lasting memory I have in Seville has to do with the best half hour I’ve ever spent in a bar (no joke). Bar Alfalfa in the Alfalfa district in Seville. 15 mins after entering this tiny bar inundated with locals and tourists, one of the bartenders gets up on the bar and starts singing along with the song (click here to see the video I took – it’s a bit grainy and dark…but it’ll paint a sufficient picture). I then went up to the other bartender to ask for a drink and she tells me that they will be closing in a few minutes and that “everyone will go in the streets”. In the streets? Minutes later, I found out what she meant. Everyone emptied out of the bar and started hanging out in the alleys and streets outside of the closed bars. Hundreds of folks were lined up outside the bars hanging out, talking, and finishing their drinks. A sight to be seen. That is why I love Europe. They know how to have a good time.
After Seville, we headed to Tarifa (which is on the Southern tip of Spain). From there, we debated about going to Tangiers (Morocco), but then decided against it. But, you could literally see the coast of Africa from Tarifa. Tarifa itself is a lazy beach town on the Southern coast of Spain. Tarifa is frequently touristed by those interested in kiteboarding because of it’s windy conditions. On the way to Tarifa, we saw hundreds of windmills that used the strong winds of the coast to generate energy.
From Tarifa, we took a day trip to Gibraltar. Now, Gibraltar is a peculiar territory. It is connected to mainland Spain, but is a British overseas territory. So, from the Spanish city of La Linea de Concepcion, you can literally walk across the border into Gibraltar (which we did). Soon as you enter Gibralter, everything is in the King’s English. I know that the territory is British, but my top was popped by the abundance of Brits that lived in Gibraltar. I half expected it to be at the most 50% British – but it was more like 90% British. We even sat down at a fish and chips pub and had a few cold ones.
Did I have to come back?