Monday, 23 December 2013

Gipsys and flamenco: final day in Granada

I think Granada is going to be my favorite Spanish city I went this trip.  After I wrote last, Simone and I went to a flamenco show after intense consultation with Freddy. We heard mixed reviews about the potential to be a tourist trap and how the gypsies can rip you off if you go to some of the caves in Sacra monte to view the performance.  On the other hand, Simone's friend said she was brought to tears by a flamenco performance in the caves so we decided to follow Freddy's advice and went to Le Chein Andalou "the andalusian dog".
Flamenco... pretty intense!
 Proceeding down a short, dark tunnel, we squished ourselves at teensy picnic tables and looked around to see if the 20 or so other people in the audience had any idea what we were in for.  Freddy had warned us that Granada was famous for gut-wrenching, tragic flamenco and if we wanted to see happy flamenco, we were better off in Sevilla.  And he wasn't kidding! For the first part of the show, it was the music.  The hunched-over guitarist looked like he was hanging onto his guitar for dear life, and his fingers flew over the strings in a strange strum, more similar to that of a harpist.  The skinny singer, wailed about rosas negras y notches obscures, almost dislocating his jaw with the raw emotion of the cancion.  And occasionally rocking back and forth with his eyes closed, adding syncopated claps to the instrumental.  About halfway through, a scowling back-haired woman with dramatic make-up rustled through the aisle with her polka dotted dress, flashing her fishnets.  She started sitting, just adding rhythm with her claps, snaps and taps but then she really got going.  She filled the small stage with dramatic glasses, sharp turns, and remarkably fast footwork.  From prior reading I knew the exact origin of Andalusian flamenco was highly debated, potentially influenced by Hindu music brought over from gypsies who originated out of the india, Jewish chants or the call of the Islamic muezzin.  Dancing on the wooden box (which she didn't do here but is also stereotypical) probably began later with South American or African influences. Watching it, I agreed flamenco was probably a combination of all above, and tried to imagine what life must have been like to inspire such raw emotion.  I'm definitely glad we experienced it, but a little of that kind of intensity goes a long way, so after being flamenco-ed out, we decided to obey our when-in-doubt-eat-tapas rule with our new friend Jesse.
A Colorado resident and recent college graduate, Jesse is still bright-eyed and bushy tailed after 2 of a 3 month European backpacking adventure.  A self-described "yes man", Simone and I instantly liked him, as someone who had the rare combination of being both interested and interesting.  We happened across a medieval themed tapas bar, where we drank sangria in front of swords and full suits of amor.  When our tapas appeared as bagel sandwiches with ham, both of them were exuberant, having being deprived of bagels in Europe/Greece for months.  Before coming to Spain, I pictured tapas as some bread and cheese, or something uniform across bars but in Granada, it's the ultimate lottery and you never know what you're going to get.  Earlier in the day, we met up with three locals at a global tapas bar Babel, where our tapas where cheese risotto, pad Thai, fajitas... Large, gourmet meals, free with your beverage.  The previous night, had been three courses of fried fish dishes.  And here, you can barely buy bagels if you tried, but they magically appeared under our noses!
Corn risotto and fajitas tapas- they don't joke around in Granada

Anyway, a finance and economic major, jesse entertained us with an update on the current status of marijuana legalization in Colorado.  Supposedly, you can call up delivery pizza places for marijuana-infused, custom-foods delivered to your house.  Although Jesse doesn't smoke much himself, he seized a business opportunity to as an advisor/support person for budding pot growers, sometimes earning $1000 per client.  Between being this business savvy and selling his car, he took off on this epic adventure, already having covered most of France, Germany, Netherlands, hitch hiking in Poland, Slovenia, Portugal (one of his favorite so far which makes me excited), Croatia and probably much more before coming here.  Next stop for him will be the Spanish Canary Islands where he's considering trying to find a gig working on a super yacht, which made Simone and I quite envious as we elected to stay bundled in our winter coats and scarves, even inside. Speaking of warmth, we decided bid goodbye to Jesse, who exited the bar with an exuberant "hasta Luego, señor!", and head back to our warm beds.
Alhambra from Paseo del Tristes
Our last day in Grenada involved sleeping in and a much-needed leisurely morning. After checking out of the hostel, we set out to find free "wee-fee" (as they say it here) and breakfast.  At breakfast part I, Simone asked for a detailed description of the beverage options and enthusiastically chose the one the waiter couldn't explain in English.  She lucked out with melon nectar.  When I tried to do the same at a local bakery, I pointed to a pastry that looked like it was covered in cinnamon sugar and nuts.  "Coca de chicharrones...", simone muttered, "that sounds familiar but I can't remember what it is".  I decided I should order it and find out, "that's weird.  It has a salty, crunchy topping kind of like barely-cooked popcorn," I remarked, surprised after taking a bite.  Then she remembered,"pork rinds!!!", instant disgust on my face after eating a pastry of pork rinds.  She got a free meal out of it, though!
After some shopping, we met Jesse to take advantage of the free tour time for the royal chapel, where king fernidad and queen Isabella are buried (the famous founders of columbus' journey) then we headed up the "sacred mountain" to find some more "gipsys", walking by beautiful overlooks of the city as we made our way up.
Simone and Jesse in gypsy kitchen

Per request of Simone, we went to "el museo del cuevas" (museum of the caves) where they promised to enlighten us on the history of gypsies and flamenco.  Eventually, we learned something but not before reading posters on the geographical history of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the mating habits of frogs, history of cave living around the world, iron making, recipes of gazpacho soup, and other very random pieces of knowledge, that seems to be very loosely, if at all, linked to what we sought to see.  But it was pretty interesting because the displays were spread out in 11 different caves to showcase how they live, cook and house the horses.  After getting our fill of knowledge, we followed the river down El paseo de Tristes (sad street, misleadingly advertised as one of the most beautiful streets in the world), we adventured toward a new area of town for more tapa hopping.  We found a "good joint" where we joined locals, who brought their whole families, including napping babies, to enjoy the Granada versus Barcelona soccer game.  After a couple more stops, we bid goodbye to Jesse, after making him promise to let us join him on a future yacht adventure, if it works out.  I grabbed my bag and trudged to the train station, somehow getting swallowed by a nun, candle-lit Christmas procession, complete with caroling.  Then took the night train to Barcelona, which is not as romantic as Jason Aldean makes it sound in his country song.  Riding a fully illuminated car for 11 hours is definitely not as enjoying a picnic under the stars watching the trains go by. But it got me to Barcelona! Woot!
Here's the album link to Spain photos thus far, if you are interested.