Granada – Exploring Sacromonte

November 9, 2015
I’m experiencing one of those surreal moments in my life again where I’m looking around me wondering how life could be this wonderful. It’s like bad things couldn’t possibly exist up here – there’s nothing but the sun that perpetually shines, flowers that bloom on the sides of houses, birds making music, and plants that look like someone pulled them out of a picture book. I am in Sacromonte – also known as Gypsy territory.  My host dad told me not go here because it can be dangerous but I think he meant at nighttime, being a girl by myself. So far I haven’t come across anything remotely scary.  I haven’t even seen one gypsy, let alone have anyone approach me trying to sell me things and rip me off. When he told me to be careful of gypsies, I kept imagining poor Harriet Smith in Emma being attacked by them, but I reckon that was just my imagination running away with me.  I’ve only seen tourists so far – like the kind Spanish couple who became my photographers as we climbed up the winding cobble stone path, past pristine white houses dabbed with streaks of blue, shingled roofs, and those odd looking plants. We heard the pleasant sound of flamenco music drifting out of someone’s open window – that was really nice.

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I’m sitting on a bench right now with a perfect view of the Alhambra and it’s so warm I’ve forgotten what winter feels like. It’s November 9th and 25 degrees. I never want to forget how beautiful the world looks right now. How I can hear a dog barking somewhere in the distance. How blue the sky is. How bright the colours of the flowers are. Oh geez, a random black cat just scurried by.  I  hope that doesn’t mean bad luck for me.  There are a lot of random stray cats in Spain. They jump off roofs, climb on fences, and sulk around corners. Every time I see one on a roof, I think of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof . 

Anyway, I just saw a man come out of his house and it made me wonder what it would be like to live here. Oh, he just dropped off his trash in the garbage bin.  Maybe it’s not that different than living anywhere else, except you get to look at a palace every day and bask in sunshine in November. Another man in a motorcycle just rode by and said ‘hola’ to the Spanish couple talking to my left. Life is just really beautiful sometimes. This is one of those times.

Like ~ 20 minutes later
Well, I found the gypsies! They live in caves – caves!! And have random furniture scattered everywhere – maybe odd bits they found because no one else wanted them.  When I found the hill and could see the caves with the gypsies, I stood at the bottom staring up at it for about 10 minutes.  I was debating whether or not I should go up, because I have to admit that I was wary due to its reputation.  Then a tourist couple from Germany came down and I asked them if it was safe. They assured me it was. So I made the ascent up the dusty, winding hill, past the gypsies who all smiled and said ‘hola’ and directed me which way to go.  They stood outside of their homes, played music, and simply looked happy to be alive.

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Now I’m sitting in front of the church (which I’ve come to call all churches Enrique Iglesias’) and it is probably the best view of Granada I’ve ever seen. The Alhambra is standing in all its glory and the white houses with their reddish-brown roofs look perfectly arranged as they hide the hundreds of people roaming through the hidden alleyways within.  I just heard this guy beside me say “Muy bonito” and I couldn’t agree more.  The mountains in the distance remind me of home.  They surround the city in a protective sort of way.

Oh, I just looked at my arms and they are getting nicely tanned again! Did I ever tell you I love the sunshine? Because I do. Anyway, I’m getting rather hungry now so I shall make the descent and find a nice place to have tapas. Then I’m going to find someone to write my name in Arabic since I haven’t been able to find any other artwork, and I think that would be pretty cool to have. Sadly, I have to leave Granada at 6pm tonight. The weekend went so fast. Next time I come (because there will be a next time!) I will have to come here for the sunset. I think this will be the best spot to watch it despite what Bill Clinton thinks. It’s twenty minutes to one – time to keep exploring!!

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Later – 1:51pm
After making my down the dusty hill, past gypsies carrying naked babies, I wandered down unknown streets in pursuit of Mirador San Nicolas but I never did find it again. I was essentially trying to find the busy street with all the restaurants and market stalls and thought that would be the easiest route, but no matter. I found it anyway and I’m at a restaurant with a glass of beer and a tapa in front of me. The tapa is a weird vegetable dish – darn. I was hoping for something with meat. Oh well. Anyway, it’s sweltering!! I think I’m getting a sunburn. Also, I’m a little bit concerned because I don’t see people selling Arabic names anymore. There were all here yesterday…where are they now?!

Later – 4:22pm
I am officially 1.5 hours early for my bus. I suppose I underestimated my ability to get here in 20 minutes since it took me an hour to get from the bus stop to the house. (Though this time I had a personal escort to the bus stop which means I had no chance of getting lost on account of google maps lying to me). The bus driver who took me from the bus stop to the main station was the same driver I had last time. I said hi to him really enthusiastically when I recognized him but I don’t think he remembered me because he only looked at me strangely. Oh well. To kill the time, I’m on a bench outside in front of the stream of taxi cabs. An old man is smoking beside me but thankfully my nose is so plugged that I can’t smell it. Still, I think that the amount of second hand smoke I’ve gotten in Europe is enough to leave my throat permanently black. Maybe it also explains why I’ve been coughing so much. I never used to cough,  unless I had a frog stuck in my throat or something.

Anyway, I enjoyed my tapa and beer in the hot Granadian sun. (Is that a word? Canada = Canadian. Granada = Granadian? Seems logical). A very cute french family sat at the table beside me. They had two little blonde kids and when their meal came, the little boy happily exclaimed “Oui! Oui! Frites!!” It made me laugh out loud. The little girl had a salad and she was, maybe nine? Poor kid…Anyway, good news: the vegetables that I was complaining about turned out to be potatoes. PO-TA-TOES. I thought they were peppers (they actually looked more like peaches except I knew they weren’t) but nope, they were potatoes. Just imagine my surprise when I took my first bite. It was a very pleasant surprise.  When I was paying, the waiter said I had very big, beautiful eyes. I said “Gracias”. Oh yes, I almost forgot: we were serenaded by a man playing guitar while we ate and guess who I saw a few tables down from me: a man with a parrot.  I’ve actually been seeing him in the streets all weekend. People can get very creative in their attempts to make money.

After eating, I made my way down my favourite street, looking for someone writing names in Arabic. I was worried no one was working today but alas!  Luck was on my side. It took me forever to choose which background I wanted. (I really need to get better at my decision making skills. On a side note, this perfectly illustrates why we learned in marketing that having too many options can be a bad thing because it stresses people out). I finally chose one – blue, with moorish design.  A small part of me was worried he was going to write something other than my name but my doubts disappeared when a random person on the street called me by my name because he could read it. Phew! But then he kept calling me ‘guapa’ and gave me a kiss on the cheek – not the nice, Spanish kind. That was weird. I’m actually so happy with my Arabic name. Even a lady at the bus stop called it bonito. I said ‘gracias’ again. (I am getting very good at saying that). In my excitement at being handed my name, I started walking away without paying the guy! He had to call me back. Sometimes, I am really embarrassing.

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I keep seeing people who arrived on the bus from Madrid with me. Looks like we’re all going home together. Though actually, they’re probably catching the 5:00 bus and arriving for it at a normal time. I also saw an annoying English lady from the walking tour.  She kept thinking she knew the answers to all the questions and then asking questions when the guide was trying to explain something. Even he was getting annoyed.  Also, she hit me with her bag because she was trying to budge in front of me and didn’t even say sorry; I think that’s the main contributing factor to her being annoying. I’m glad I’m able to catch-up in my journal now so that I’m free to watch movies on the bus (YESS!). The old man is still sitting beside me and incessantly kicking his leg, but thankfully he’s stopped smoking.

After getting my Arabic name, I continued walking down my favourite street and then went to buy dried mango for my host family because they’ve never had it before. We had fresh mango after dinner the other day but they said they’ve never had dried mango. I hope I don’t eat it all on the five hour bus ride home. I already ate one..! Oh darn, I just remembered I forgot to buy Granada flavored ice-cream. Next time, I guess. Next time I must also go to a tea house. I wanted to go this time but I felt a little awkward going by myself, mostly because I don’t know how to use the hookah thing. So, I’ll add it to the list of things to do when I have someone to do it with.

I will really miss Granada. I fell in love with it almost immediately, as I think many people do. It’s just so beautiful and so…pleasant. All the streets have so much characters, the people are so friendly, the sun is so warm. I think I like it better than Madrid. Madrid is too ‘city’ and Granada is, well, Granada is something else entirely. I don’t believe it – the annoying English woman just walked by again!

On the Bus
In seat No. 1 – there is somebody beside me this time and there is no tv – ah! We are about to hit the road, Jack. The bus driver is very good looking. All the sad people who aren’t coming to Madrid are standing on the curb waving good-bye and a weird remix of Rude is on. Good bye, Granada! Good bye summer weather and purple mountains! Good bye Bill Clinton approved sunsets and gypsy caves and white houses covered in flowers.  It feels weird to be in the front row of the bus. I have such a clear view of the road that it feels like I’m driving – and that’s scary. Oh man, the sunset is so beautiful!! Darn, now there are buildings in the way…oh, here it is again! I love sunsets.

The driver is listening to Smack That by Akon. Haven’t heard this song in years! I forgot Eminem was in it too. The Spanish scenery is so darn beautiful. So many rolling hills and plants that look like tumble weeds (oops, I almost wrote ‘tumblr’ haha) and cows grazing. (I don’t believe it – Nickelback!) The time to drive is really nice right now too: dusk. What a beautiful time of day. Oh dear, I hope my cough doesn’t annoy people.  It always gets worse in the evening. It’s very dark now – scary.

Later – 8:29pm
I took a break from writing because I was starting to fall asleep. We just had the pit stop. The good-looking driver took us through this weird route and it looked like he was taking us somewhere remote and dangerous. I began to think that maybe he wasn’t the real driver (which would explain why he was wearing a plaid shirt and not a uniform) and was taking us all as hostages. Sometimes I really do let my imagination get the better of me. We all went inside the gas station and I ate my apple while other people bought food. I saw the good-looking driver with a glass of wine beside him and almost had a panic attack, but then I realized it belonged to the man beside him.  Why is he wearing a plaid shirt though? Aww the GLD just took out his own phone from the outlet and let some guy plug in his charger. My cough is so bad right now. I’m couching every five seconds – it’s horrible. Everyone is probably annoyed with me, including the GLD. I’m even annoyed with myself.

In bed
I made it home – good night!

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Kazandra Pangilinan

Kazandra is probably not that different from you. She eats, sleeps,and wonders about how to make the most of this life. This blog is dedicated to the trials and triumphs she has experienced in the process of growing up in her quest to find meaning, connection and happiness.

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