¡Hola Granada! After only a few weeks I am already in love with the culture, the architecture and the people of the Andalusian city. Surrounded by towering mountains of rock and snow for hiking and skiing, with the beaches of the Tropical coast only an hour away, Granada really offers the best of both worlds. The city itself is an amalgamation of both modern Spain and its historical Islamic heritage. You can spend days at a time walking from plaza to plaza (public transport exists, but isn’t really necessary) admiring the fountains and architecture, along with hidden gems hinting at the past of the city, such as the statue of Yehuba Ibn Tibon in the old Jewish Quarter.
My favourite area has to be my own, the old Moorish quarter called the Albaicín. Unlike other places in Granada it has retained the narrow, winding, cobbled streets of the medieval past. These streets are lined with Moroccan Teterías (or tea shops) and bazaars selling silver jewellery, incense and brilliant coloured blankets and throws, embroidered with sparkling sequins and luminous appliqué. Truthfully, this area was the reason I chose to come to Granada, as it combines my love for both Spanish and Arabic- my whole degree summed up in a labyrinth of twisting roads and scented air. I count myself incredibly lucky that I managed to secure a job at Escuela Delengua, which is situated in the heart of the Albaicín. Along with this, they set me up with a room in an huge old house with rooms set around a central courtyard and a terrace which looks over to the Sierra Nevada and the world famous Alhambra (which of course will feature in a later post)!
Another incredible and unique aspect of Granada is their tapas. It is one of the few places left in Granada which offers FREE tapas with a drink. As a result you can pay a couple of euros for a glass of wine and be given anything for tempura prawn skewers to a Shawarma pita; from piri piri chicken curry to pesto tortellini; or from calamari to a mini burger! There have been many days where me and my friends have gone on ‘Tapas Crawls’ from bar to bar, resulting in a cheap, varied and delicious dinner. Some of my favourites have been at Poe (owned by a lovely English man), La Chanterela (amazing tempura prawns) and Om-Kalsum (an Arabic place named after a famous Egyptian singer who featured in many of my classes at Durham!). I think it will be a culture shock returning to England and finding I don’t get a free nibble with my pint…
Another great thing about Granada is the number of students, both from Spain and from all over the world. In my first month I have not only made friends with English ERASMUS students, but also Spanish students from China, Norway, America, Germany, South Africa and so many other countries. The aim of most is to study Spanish, meaning that whilst the majority can speak English, Spanish is the first point of call when starting up a conversation. The city also hosts a number of language exchanges, meaning that when I feel I been neglecting my language learning, I need only check on Facebook for the next event.
All in all, my first impression of Granada is that I feel that I could have been here for months and could stay for the rest of my life. A perfect mixture of modernity and history; natural and manmade beauty; amazing people; amazing food, all in a city which is the ideal size for strolling around without need for buses or trains or taxis. And if you don’t believe me, I’d challenge you to sit at one of the Miradores (viewpoints) on the slopes of the Albaicín at sunset and not fall in love.