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Day 5 : Plaques, and Granada

We start the day going to the nearby grocery store for breakfast foods, eggs, milk, bread, cheese. Its a few turns down very clean alleys past historic buildings and we're there. Looks to be owned by a Japanese(?) family. The daughter is manning the till and there is always the whiplash seeing someone Asian speaking extremely fluent, rapid Spanish. There are so few ethnic minorities here. In Vancouver, it's about 50% Asian, so one is used to seeing someone Asian speaking fluent, rapid English. I am an (mostly) Asian who speaks fluent, rapid (some say too rapid) English. I guess what I'm saying is it's always jarring to go to another country and seeing the dominant language at work. 

Everywhere we go we try our best with the 3 or so words of Spanish we know. People are understanding, and with good will and lots of gesticulations we usually get to where we want to go. Most of the times there is no acknowldegment that our Spanish is absolutely horrid and they might be able to switch to English, we just blunder on through faking it and nodding. 

The grocery store was fine, but they had that European way of just selling their eggs off an unrefridgerated shelf. Yes, I know that has something to do with how North Americans process their eggs and thus HAVE to keep them refrigerated but it always has me looking around for a prank camera of some sort. 

Then we visited the market area, Alcaicería. The history of many things in Granada are more or less : Muslims created this thing, Christians demolished it and/or took it over for themselves, now it's this. Grenada being the last Muslim strong hold to be defeated in the Reconquista (Catholics driving the Muslims out of Southern Spain, or Andalusia, 800ish to 1400ish), it has many of these things. 

Not an oven mitt, but heat proof heat tile for things
hot from the oven doesn't exactly roll off the tongue
Muslims were allowed to sell silks and other precious things in the Byzantium Empire, Muslims called the markets al-Kaysar-ia (place of Caesar) as a thanks. Yadda yadda yadda, hundreds of years of trade, then strife, then war, then trade, then flourishing, more war, more strife and now it sells lovely Grenada themed oven mitts.

The lucrative market is no longer the far away and luxurious silks, but the naive tourist dollars that funnel through here like an undammed river. We made some purchases, looked around quite  a bit (that is to say, the misus and my daughter perused while my son and I resigned ourselves to staying in the shaded parts of the streets and wondering when lunch was).

It's glorious.

We did see some lovely sights, some cathedrals, and, the best part, Grendada really knows how to do plaques properly. Multi lingual, setup at any point of interest. It's great! 

We saw a beautiful cathedral, ornate and richly decorated as only something from the Renaissance could be, when hellfire was a real thing and artisans spent their whole lives building their craft so they could spend a few decades making that back wall facade absolutely breathtaking. Then we went outside, read the plaque, and realized this was only a chapel of Queen Isabella. What is true royal power without the ability to have your own chapel built which can easily be mistaken for a cathedral. Soon after my son asks "is this the sort of riches that lead to the Reformation", well, it didn't STOP it, that's for sure.

Plaques upon plaques upon plaques, this is a historical city done right, in my opinion. Near the end of our wanderings, we come across a lovely statue, of a man, with a donkey, carrying water. No plaques. NO PLAQUES!? I give it once over and shake my head in pity. A mystery for inquisitive tourists.

Then we got around to taking a free walking tour up to the Albaicin. You guessed, it another former Muslim neighbourhood since razed to the ground/reappropriated during the Reconquista. It was a little bit of a hike up the hill, but coming from the land of the Rockies, hills are not the things that wilt us (heat is, or it is for me, any heat. Damp and raining and overcast with a few hundred metres elevation, no worries. I have to wear SHORTS? Things are looking grim). 

Our tour guide has the infectious eloquence. Flourishes and endless anecdotes. Her mix of tenses and then the placing of emphasis on the wrong syllable at just the key word quickly wears me out but her enthusiasm makes up for it. Albaicin used to be where they studied falconry, to my dismay, not a falcon or hunted hare was to be seen. The area was raucous with school kids echoing off walls and down into the streets we were walking, from some unseen school. It's a community with a community.

They showed us their wells, which used to be fed by the mountain rivers, and how families would send their kids or mothers to fetch water. Sometimes there would be families that setup small business filling up water carriers on donkeys and delivering across the neighbourhood. 

A well

That mystery statue was of the last of these water carriers, mystery solved.  Still could've used a plaque, though.

Then it was off to the Sacromonte, the sacred mountain, where they found the remains of a saint and built an abbey. Or, around that area, the abbey was quite far away, but where we were was filled with houses and some cave houses. The history of the gypsy here (gypsy in this part of Spain is not considered derogatory) is one that sounds familar, one of suppression and oppression and survival. One really interesting thing I learned was that flamenco was brought by the gypsies. One of the most quintessential Spanish things was form the outside, as it were (I suppose no different than English and it's tea, or Canada and it's... mostly everything).

At the end of the trip the tour guide has us all clapping. Foreigners that we are, most of us seemingly from the more conservative, Puritan former colonies try our best to get in the spirit of it, but our natural reservedness gets in the way. But our tour guide is transformed, the spirit, the boldness was quite a thing to behold. We Canadians would never feel that bold about anything, I don't think? Maybe at a Tragically Hip concert? But that's mainly a bunch of drunken Canadians swaying to the music singing to the lyrics with our eyes closed, so that hardly counts.

A cave house

We decide to brave it and go to a real tapas bar. The sort with an impossibly high google rating, all the buzz, and, to top it off, was recommended to me by our taxi driver. You can't not line up. Even if everyone else is about 20 years younger than us and has that look that this is only the FIRST stop of the night (it's our very very last). The lineup is long (we've gotten there 10m before opening): down the street and around the corner and I'm thinking there is absolutely no way we are getting in on the first pass, maybe an hour wait? Something like that? But hey, not everyday you are in Grenada trying proper tapas, so we line up.

The place opens and it's not overly large, it honestly looks like it might hold 5 groups. But somehow, miraculously, we all fit in on the first try. There is the initial bar, then another room, then ANOTHER room. They direct us to a high, standing table made from a.. barrel? With one chair. I have to put my extrovert face on and start asking random tables if we can use their chairs. One table positively offers before we even get to them. The woman speaks in unaccented English, offers the chair, then proceeds to chat with her friends at approximately 1000 miles per hour in Spanish. I'm not sure how speed is measured in languages, and it'd likely be km per hour if we are honest, but it's fast, nonetheless.

The place is bustling and vibrant and loud. The music is some sort of Spanish trumpet, brassy, fortissimo, bold. The servers are sympathetic to our pathetic Spanish, and luckily, this bar follows the traditional tapas way: order a drink, get a tapas. Really takes any decision making out of it. The tapas are great, the drinks are great too. At the end  we order an item off the menu, fresh anchovies, which I've never had. My son and I dig in, rest of the family is stuffed; it's fresh and delicious; my kids all make Zoidberg references, couldn't be more proud.

We leave, replete, stuffed, and I'm just happy we solved that plaqueless statue mystery.


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