Week 13: In A Nutshell
6th – 12th May
Normally, I might have had the odd sarcastic comment about this week. However, its notability was somewhat engulfed by my past trip to Madrid and future trip to Granada (below). However, I did receive a pastoral visit from a lecturer from my university, which filled me with a lot more joy than it should have. We chatted amiably about life in Valladolid, and I smugly alluded to my 90% grade in Spanish. After conceding that Valladolid wasn’t the most exciting destination in all of Spain, I reflected that I scarcely would have been happier elsewhere.
Week 14: Falling in Love With Granada
13th – 19th May
Friday 17th marked my trip to Granada. This was a trip I had been intending to make for a very long time; the minute I realised I had no less than 4 friends living down in sunny Granada, I knew it would be worth the 8-hour journey.
Despite the painstakingly early time of 7.30, I hopped on the coach with unparalleled excitement. Throughout the journey, I bombarded Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr* with gratuitous images of my journey. The clouded skies were far from promising, but as we trundled through Jaén into the province of Granada, a glimmer of hope shone forth from the heavens to welcome me to my destination.
*I’ve started a new mini-blog on Tumblr: a more instant look at my life in Spain with pictures and quick updates.
A friend would then convey me to the Alhambra, where I instantly experienced some magnificent views:
First Impressions of The Alhambra
My initial awe at the beauty of this place was not lessened by prolonged exposure; despite being on my own, I spent a good 3 hours in there without any cause to leave. The Alhambra – a World Heritage Site comprising Arabic palaces and idyllic gardens – is a site of immense and enchanting beauty. The fact I was on my own only broadened my susceptibility to be captivated by its undeniable beauty: perfectly manicured gardens, panoramic views and formidable palaces delighted at every turn. The real magic, though, was in the atmosphere; despite a heavy footfall, I felt an internal wonder, and to my surprise, a tangible air of romance. The gardens of Generalife in particular inspired my all-too-dormant romantic side with the sight of lush greenery and the scent of fresh roses. But enough of that soppy rubbish. Let the pictures in this blog post speak for themselves.
Romance in The Alhambra
Banished early from the Alhambra by an oncoming downpour, I made my way back to the centre to meet my friends. After initial hugging and effusions of joy, we sat down to dinner. I was filled with immense happiness to see 3 of my friends from Manchester all here in one place enjoying each other’s company. “I’m laughing so hard I can’t even finish my dinner!”, I choked between mouthfuls. After dinner, we sat down to more drinking and laughter, playing Ring of Fire in a delightful mix of Spanish and English. I never settle to speak exclusively English in Hispanophone company, but sometimes the ease of addressing your peers in your native tongue is an irresistible temptation. Once we had successfully made fools of ourselves, we made our way to a nightclub called Mae West, which was sporting a Neon Night affair. Accordingly, me and my friends arrived in fluorescent wigs, much to the bemusement of our peers. The Spanish don’t quite share our unfaltering commitment to fancy dress, it seemed. Once there, I met another friend – a fellow Toulousain from my stay in France – and we spent the night as one party. It was unspeakably bizarre to see so many friends who I had met in different situations all together in one room, but incredibly satisfying. The night was passed out thus: drinking, dancing, and singing poorly-judged harmonies*.
*After a few drinks, my ability to judge harmony declines rapidly, until all I can be sure of is that I am definitely not singing the melody.
The Alhambra – Alcazaba
The following morning, the festivities continued with relentless aplomb: by one o’clock, we were to be in the town’s hilltop club, El Camborio, for its Festival of Colours. For those unaware, the Festival of Colours, or Holi, is a festival based in Hindu religion whereby the participants throw powdered paint at one another with reckless abandon. True to our British nature, we were eager to be punctual, as we were promised two hours of Barra Libre (open bar). The Spanish understanding of, or rather behaviour towards, an open bar differed notably from our own: we vowed to drink as much as humanly possible to validate the price of our tickets, whilst they allowed themselves to drink as much or as little as they pleased. Thus, after scarcely an hour, we were dancing boisterously in the middle of the dancefloor whilst our poor comrades lingered self-consciously on the periphery, staring in disbelief at the audacity of their economically-minded compatriots. “I think you’ve had enough”, cautioned the barman. “I think we paid 10€ for an open bar”, I thought in response.
View of The Alhambra from El Camborio
Thus, before the paint fight even began, we were in a state of unmitigated joy: indeed, we couldn’t believe our luck to be dancing joyfully in the South of Spain whilst countless others bemoaned their lot. Something about the spectacular views of the Alhambra from the club only added to the irony; tourists would no doubt at that moment be contemplating the site’s unquestionable beauty whilst we danced in carefree delight. After much indignance at the impuctuality of the paint fight and a free paella, it was time to collect our weapons: bags of brightly coloured paint powder. In a strike of pure luck, the sun had just revealed itself to afford us a pleasant temperature as we made our way out onto the patio area. With no apparent signal, the patio was shrouded in a cloud of multicoloured fog: we had begun. We threw our paint around and danced in a state of pure freedom; something about completely ruining each other’s clothes was incredibly liberating. There were no rules, and whilst we more or less reserved our attacks for each other, one boy was particularly adamant to cover me in paint – an unquestionable attempt at flirting. Luckily, we had chosen appropriate clothing – a symptom, yet again, of our inherent Britishness. I was wearing a white t-shirt and some small shorts which attracted rather more attention than intended: at one point, a Spanish girl came up to me, asking “¿Estás en bragas?”. Uncomprehendingly, I responded in the affirmative with insouciant glee. When I turned to my friend for a translation, I discovered that she had in fact asked if I was in my underwear. Maybe that was why I was getting some male attention…
That evening, my Toulousain friend was having a Eurovision party*. Before we could go though, we would have to endure the attentions of a bemused Spanish public at the sight of four youths caked in paint from head to toe. Indeed, as we trampled unceremoniously through the town, we garnered mixed reactions – from the cheering encouragement of a stag party to the disbelieving disgust of the older generation (“¡Qué asco!”). We were not to be fazed, however. On the contrary, we were in complete hysterics. The level of humour was further multiplied by stumbling past a wedding photo. “This is the most beautiful day of her life and here we are looking like absolute idiots!”, I noted amidst uncontrollable laughter. It just so happened that that day a large parade was taking place, and that we had no choice but to stroll casually down the middle of the parade route to the astonishment of spectators flanking us on either side. I cannot stress how ridiculous and hilarious the situation was, even regardless of our merry state.
*A gay’s perfect weekend, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The Eurovision party was jolly good fun: it had been a few years since I watched Europe’s concerted attempt to make a fool of itself and I enjoyed it thoroughly. There was a modicum of drinking involved, but after the previous two days I was reluctant to participate, to say the least. This evening was my first true experience of the culture in Southern Spain; after going out and coming back at 4AM, an Andalucian hailed: “¡Qué temprano!” (as in, “What are you doing back so early?”). I may have been a little less in disbelief had I not been so utterly shattered. The following morning, my fellow Toulousain took me for churros and tapas. I was completely oblivious to the fact that every drink bought in Granada (costing barely 2€!) warranted a free tapa* – a fact which I enjoyed thoroughly.
*Small meal or snack accompanying a drink – ranging from a bowl of olives to a serving of burger chips!
The trip was unquestionably among the greatest highlights of my time abroad: be it due to fantastic company, enjoyable events, or a beautiful city, I had had an unforgettable experience and immediately resolved to return some day. But I had greater adventures yet: in just 4 days time I would make my first ever trip to Portugal and the wonderful city of Lisbon…
Final view of Granada from the Alhambra
–Joe Rohde, 02/06/2013–