It’s a crappy day out. Rainy, with a forecast high of 13 degrees. My friends back home are all talking about melting in the heat. The weather here is so changeable, even from hour to hour, it’s no wonder the meteorologists have a hard time telling us with any kind of accuracy what tomorrow’s weather will be. Apparently, we’re going back into the 20s in the next few days, so I can keep the heat off. But I still think I need to bake something to make the kitchen warm.
Speaking of warm (cheap segue, I know…), we went to Spain early last month! Dr. Thingo was asked to give a talk at the university in Granada, and since seeing the Alhambra has been a dream of his since he started his work with Islamic Art, he jumped at the chance. We decided the rest of us should tag along. So we took the kids out of school for a week, even though this was the middle of shortest half-term in the year.
It was wonderful! Exactly what I needed to lift me up after a bit of an emotional ride in the last couple of months. The weather was warm. Hot, even. One day, it even went up to 36, but I didn’t really notice (the only reason I took note is because I was feeling kind of warm, so I looked at the displayed temperature in one of the squares, and was shocked at the number). It’s dry and breezy, so it always feels good, and sitting in the shade actually makes a difference. Due to low humidity, as soon as the sun goes down, the air cools down too, so the nights are pleasant. Central Spain does hot better than Southern Ontario does, that’s for sure!
My high school Spanish class seemed a distant memory, but we managed ok. I’m fine to read things, mostly, but not so good with rapid-fire spoken Spanish, especially in the lispy Spanish accent, so we got by with a lot of miming and good intentions.
We found ourselves a flat via Air BnB*, and were super-lucky with the results. We were on the street looking out on the Rio Darro, the river that runs along the base of the hill on which the Alhambra sits. So this was the view outside our bedroom window:
Bedroom window wide open, listening to the activity happening outside (there was a restaurant terrace and a small square with a fountain just outside our window. Street performers would wander by and sing a few songs. Warm, with a breeze coming in through the window. It was absolutely lovely. I realise this was a pretty touristy part of the city, but it was nice to be there.
It took a while to get used to the pace of things. Stores do not open until 10:00, and then close for lunch (usually from 13:00 to 16:00) and reopen until 20:00. Supper is usually around 21:00 or 22:00. Some bakeries, though, open earlier. The flat also didn’t have any of the usual condiments that are usually available, as in the previous Air BnB places we’ve stayed at (oil, salt, pepper), so I didn’t do a lot of cooking at the flat, though we had a couple of lunches of bread, oil, cheese, fish and cold cuts, which were very pleasant. Which basically sums up the whole trip: everything felt very pleasant and slow.
Granada is in Andalusia, near the Sierra Nevada mountains (there was still snow on the peaks!), and was occupied by Moors until the reconquista in the 16th century. As a result, the architecture and food are both heavily influenced by Islamic culture.
The Alhambra, especially, was stunning. It started off as a walled town in the 11th century. It was occupied and built up by a sequence of Islamic monarchs (the first was Mohammed I ibn Nasr. I should have asked for the family discount.), and then the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. It fell into disrepair, and sometimes outright destruction in the 18th century during the French Domination (way to go, Napoleon!), and restoration started in the 19th.
It’s the most ornate place I’ve ever seen. I’m not usually a fan of too much busyness in buildings, but, somehow, this works. Maybe because everything is so huge, it never looks oppressive.
Another successful trip. Dr. Thingo’s talk apparently went well, and he was rewarded with a fabulous bottle of Spanish olive oil that we’ve slowly been consuming as a bread dip since we got back. Granada was our last non-UK trip as a family, though Dr. Thingo is heading to Berlin as I type to deliver another talk. We plan to go back to Canada on or around July 24th (if I can get decent flights. Someday, I need to get a non-bullshit answer as to why airlines charge almost as much (or more!) for one-way tickets as they do for return ones.) We’ll spend a few days visiting grandparents in both Ottawa and Montreal, before heading back to our Waterloo house. It’s less than two months away!
A lot more photos from this trip can be found here. A lot. Especially of Alhambra details. I went a little crazy.
* If you’ve never used Air BnB for finding travel accommodations before, I highly recommend trying. The prices are usually good and the facilities have been excellent.