When One Alhambra Closes, Granada Opens (Part 3)
Are you into ancient ruins? Do you love chilly mountain towns with stunning views? Does the smell of fresh, buttery olive oil make you drool, but not in a gross way? Then, my friends, Granada is for you.
To be honest, I’d never heard of Granada before my mom mentioned it as a “must see” on her Spain wish list, solely because of her desire to see the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a stunning stone fortress/castle/complex thing, dating back 1200 years or so. It was a prominent muslim palace, but then the Christians came in and ruined everything, and a long history of taking and re-taking the palace ensued. Sitting atop a giant hill, the Alhambra is a commanding presence in Granada, and definitely the number one tourist attraction in the area. That is, if you can get tickets…
PSA to book those tickets early, folks!
Because guess who didn’t get tickets? The Hughes Brady Bunch. We looked at it! And it sure was pretty. But no Alhambra tour for us. Where one door closes… you know the rest. And we certainly made the most of our time in chilly Granada, after taking a nice, long gander at the Alhambra from afar.
look ma, the alhambra!
Our stay in Granada was short. A meager 24 hours, after making the three hour drive from Seville. To be honest, I don’t advise 24 hour stays anywhere. You barely unpack and get a feel for where you are, before you have to pack everything up again. However, we had 24 hours, endless rain, and chilly weather and Granada STILL left a lasting impression on all four of us.
For starters, I have to give a wonderful shout out to the Eurostar Catedral Hotel, where we enjoyed the best hotel room I’ve yet to encounter for four people. We had two rooms, a lighting panel for every time of day, and incredible views of the cathedral across the street. Another major perk of staying in a hotel? Hotel gyms and spas! In Europe, most decent hotels have a gym and sauna, which seems like such a treat after hours in a car. Go get those endorphins, and open your pores!
And yes, we did actually leave the hotel. On a cold, rainy October night, the whole gang headed out into the streets of Granada for a proper tapas and wine evening. THANK YOU to every person who sent messages telling me to check out the tapas scene in Granada. After google maps-ing our way to an establishment that was one hundred percent closed, we decided to “wing it” and walk down a dimly-lit winding street, to what would become our most memorable family dinner, at Puerta Del Carmen.
If I could write an entire post about the service, food and atmosphere at this tiny gem of a tapas place, I would. But I’m trying to increase my traffic, not watch you all drop like dead flies, so I’ll spare you the ingredients in the endive salad, and leave you with a few good bits. We walked in to a completely full restaurant, besides a cozy gap at the bar with two stools. I’d been sitting all day, so no stool? No problem. Over the next two hours, we tried local olive oil, local beer, and local pigs (for the non-vegetarians) all at the recommendation of the bartender, and translated through my floundering Spanish. The people at Puerta Del Carmen have such pride in their city, and there’s nothing cooler than listening to a local’s stories over a craft beer, surrounded by the people you love most. Oh, and I should mention, none of this would’ve happened if we said “no thanks” to sitting at the bar.
Sit at the bar! Do it!
Bartenders don’t bite, and they normally have some pretty great tales to tell… and drinks to pour.
As much as I was tempted to eat tapas for the entirety of our stay in Granada, there are, in fact, more things to see besides food. Like the cathedral, the remains of the ornate moorish architecture, and the family-run spice shops. I recommend taking a walk to one of the popular viewpoints (starred on google maps) and taking detours down as many side streets as possible. The further you get from the main road with its tacky mass-produced souvenirs, the more treasures you will find. Oh, and if you need a coffee, grab one at La Finca (hello oat milk!). I wandered in for a flat white, before hopping in the car for the next leg of our journey.
Bye Granada and hello Tavira!
Never heard of Tavira? That makes two of us. But if you’re searching for a little stopover somewhere along the Algarve, I highly recommend an afternoon stop in Tavira. In my completely unprofessional opinion, you don’t need more than an afternoon in this sweet, coastal town. Grab a coffee, check out the castle ruins, and go for a stroll over the bridges while taking in the view. Why? Because that’s what the Hughes fam did, and it was de-lovely. If you like nice people selling hipster, local products, stop in at the Ozadi Concept Store. Mariah and I picked up a travel-friendly bottle of olive oil here for our old man, and enjoyed a coffee with the wonderful marine bioligist/concept store employee.
Tavira has all of the “small town goodness” you’d hope to find in a beautiful, old Portuguese town. Everyone we encountered, from the baristas to the policemen, were as warm and kind as the weather. After some rainy, chilly days, it’s safe to say Tavira was the bright spot in the middle of our trip, and the perfect place to soak up the sun before heading on to Lagos!