Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Gain in Spain, Part II

Free Walking Tours in Granada

"I got off the bus this morning wondering what place I had managed to travel to now. I am so happy I ended up in such a strange place, unlike anywhere I have ever been before."

It was 8:00 AM when I arrived in Granada, a place I decided to go to only because people had thrown the name around and I happened to like its description in my guide book. The train station was dirty. I went to the information counter to ask where to get the No. 3 bus, which would take me near my hostel - apparently, there were no buses. No buses? Yeah, okay. I poked my nose outside and took a good look around. Up the street were at least three buses lined up. No buses.

My room wouldn't be ready until 12:30 PM, said the slightly snippy hostel man, but I didn't care. I was certainly in the coolest spot in the city, up steep stone streets, through alleyways that smelled like incense and leather, so I took a free walking tour led by an Australian hippie with a feathered hat. He took us to gardens,views, told us history, inside an old bathhouse, etc. - though I found out unsurprisingly at the end that it wasn't free...(I only had 4 euros, sorry OZ!) By that time, I was exhausted. I passed out in my bed at 1:30 and didn't live again until 5.

I woke up to find everything amazing. I made a friend just by waking up at an abnormal time in my bed (Have you been sleeping this whole time?!) I walked down the street to a Moroccan restaurant and treated myself to a three course veggie meal (because boy do the Spanish like their meat and bread.)

The restaurant had awful service. I wasn't surprised, because I have been to zero restaurants on my trip so far with good service, except for the pub I ate fish and chips at in London (but besides her cheery attitude, all she did was bring a plate to my table.) You can't even transition from course to course without having to flag someone down and point out verbally and physically that you are hungry and now finished. And of course, water is not free. Its not free and it's expensive. Well shoot. But this restaurant peaked my interest because of an old man sitting in a corner at a RESERVED table. After about an hour, four men ran into the restaurant and carried the old man, who had either had a heart attack or heat stroke or a stroke stroke out into the street. It didn't make sense until I realized that ambulances can't drive in the Albaicin. I hope he's okay.

Two Scandinavians named Hanna and a German named Jutta later, I was conversing in international style. Add several bottles of 1 euro wine and it became even better. Girls are not usually my forte, but apparently I'm not as bad as I thought at making friends.

I spent a day at the Alhambra, the famous (perhaps one of the very most famous) Moorish palace in Granada. It was nearly a tourist trap. I waited 3 hours to get in. I paid 12 euro for my ticket. I walked in and unless you shelled out another 4 euro, you had absolutely no explanation of what anything was, so I made it up. "If this was my garden, I would have had my harem women sit with their legs exposed in this fountain.." etc. and so forth. I did this for two hours until I was finally allowed to go into the real palace (the rest was all military fluff and summer houses), which was okay. But to be honest, the Alhambra is much more beautiful as a view from afar.

It wasn't hard to leave Granada. I'm not exactly sure why I didn't stay longer in a place I loved except that instinct told me not to. This instinct has continued to guide me even to today.

Learning Park Etiquette in Sevilla

Sevilla is a college town. And the college is inside of an old cigar factory, so you know it has to be good. Sevilla also has no known maps that accurately show where streets lead in the old city, so you know there's bound to be trouble. This is why I ended up in a dark unknown plaza with nothing to defend myself but a bag of bread and brie, but also how I got to use some guts and Spanish to ask a nice looking woman to find me on the map.

Getting lost was the fun part, especially in the daylight. Streets wind in and out of plazas filled with people drinking beers in front of their neighborhood church at dusk. Each street has a different tiling/flooring, and all tourists love to peek into open doors leading to gardened courtyards in the middle of these charming apartments. White lofted tents cover the shopping district streets to shade teenage consumers. I (finally) found a bookstore where I could get something English to read - at the end of the day, I do not want to translate my literature for fun. The bookstore was the top floor of a music/movie store, and I bought a Call of the Wild/White Fang combo. Some people will know why that is.

Sevilla didn't do it for me people wise, especially not for old people. One evening I set off to find the Plaza de Espana, which was the MOST impressive building/fountain combo I have seen so far on my trip. I took some photos for some tourists and then went on my way, only to find an equally as impressive park with tropical plants and beautiful fountains. I was having the most wonderful time when an old man asks me for directions to a part of the park. I say, sorry, I don't know, I've never been here before. He proceeds to spend the next five minutes trying to walk with me, hold my hand, and give me a hug. Of course, this old bastard was A) a pervert and B) probably trying to rob me since he kept asking if I was going to take a picture of this or that (like this non-functional waterfall filled with garbage. Beautiful.) Luckily, much scolding in English and Spanish, some physical pushing and some quick walk/running later, I was happily on my way and possessing a whole new set of tools for fending off bad old men. Steer clear of bad old men.

Needless to say, I left Sevilla the next day.

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