Photo taken at the Alhambra at the Patio of Lions

2nd Stop (of 2017): Spain Part II

Once in Granada, we, again, were greeted by a lovely host who lived a short 15 min walk away from the Alhambra, another fortified palace that dates back to 889 AD. The structure that stands now was built in the mid to late-13th century and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1984. By the time we were in Granada, our longing for Morocco had worn off a bit and we were happy with our decision to stay in Spain.

Our time in Granada

The diversity of food options in Granada was a surprise to me. You could get paella, tacos, sushi, pad thai, pizza, and almost anything else you might be craving, but seafood is always a winner in Andalusian Spain. Much like in Malaga, we spent a lot of time just exploring the winding streets and alleys of Granada. I found the alleys and vibe of Granada to remind me more of the medinas of Morocco. Lastly we, of course, we spent a day at the Alhambra. The Alhambra was so beautiful that it deserves its own post which you can check out here!

Photo of a street with a bike in Fuente Vaqueros, SpainThe Lorca House

The day we were leaving for Madrid, Natalie wanted to go to the home of Frederico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet born in a tiny village called Fuente Vaqueros, about a 40 min drive from the Granada bus station. I was not as interested but part of travelling with a friend is compromising. Just the fact that Natalie really wanted to go made me think that it didn’t matter how long it would take or how much it would cost to get there.

We lucked out with a really great cab driver who drove us to Fuente Vaqueros and offered to stay there and wait for us while we toured the Lorca House since it would have been near impossible to get back to Granada in time for our bus. We shared a cup of coffee with him and he even joined us on the tour!

The Lorca House was beautiful. It was quite large for standards in the early 1900’s, complete with a little courtyard in the centre where they would tend a garden and keep animals. I’ve never read his poetry, I’m not sure how well it translates, but what I can say is that he seemed like the kind of person who was always happy and very passionate about what he was doing–be it poetry or putting together one of his plays.

On the way to Madrid

Our next and last stop of our trip was Madrid. It was about a 4-hour bus ride up to the city, and then about 30 mins to our host. Our host, Wim, was so friendly and accommodating. We spent our evenings just talking to him on his beautiful patio about life and travelling both past and future. During the day we just about the same thing that we had been doing. Just relaxing and exploring this beautiful foreign city that we were in. 

We were tired from the constant moving and travelling by time we got to Madrid. That was something we learned about during this trip, to spend more time in places and enjoy. By the end of the trip, we realised that we did rush through to see a bunch of different cities and were just so exhausted. 

Photo of Toledo, Spain

Toledo

We took a day trip to Toledo since it is only about an hour or two away from Madrid. I haven’t decided if I would like to write a full post on this ancient city. It was gorgeous, especially the view we got from a tour bus. You heard me, we took a tour bus into the city.

But in all honesty, we were kind of bored. I can’t tell if it was just because we had higher expectations, it was this place that multiple friends and family recommended as a “MUST GO” destination. It felt very touristy to us and honestly, that has to be why we didn’t like it as much. Souvenir stores lined the streets of Toledo with suspicious looking shopkeepers keep track of your every move. The architecture was breathtaking, but we still felt like we could have skipped the day in Toledo. There are many other places that we could have spent our time in An-Andalus. 

Valle de Los Caídos

Wim also took us (by request of Natalie) to the Valle de Los Caídos, the resting place of Franco, the Spanish dictator. I was super reluctant to go. I didn’t want to see where this man was buried. Not to make this too political, but I personally don’t agree with the things he did and didn’t care to “visit” him. Despite sharing my views on Franco’s legacy, Natalie really wanted to go because she felt it was an important piece of Spain’s history. In the end, I’m happy I went since it was an experience for sure.

The drive up was beautiful. You can see the gorgeous Basilica of Valle de Los Caídos from the road and the views from the burial grounds were breathtaking. Still, something felt strange, almost sinister, as I walked the hall to the main concession area where they still hold daily mass. There were six tapestries depicting images from the Book of Revelations including the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Statues lined the walls, mostly of hooded figures. I felt like I was in a Doctor Who episode and the statues were moving behind my gaze. Checking my political views at the door, Valle de Los Caídos was eerily beautiful yet a part of a history that I just don’t understand.

Spain is rich with history and that was one of my favourite things about being able to visit. Natalie really wanted to go because of her own personal heritage. For me, it was a subject that I hadn’t really explored prior to our travels. In preparation, I read a few books about the Spanish Civil War since we were planning to spend a large amount of our time in Andalucia Spain.

Malaga Burning, was my favourite of the books that I read because it told the story from a different perspective. Gamel Woolsey was an American poet and novelist who lived just outside Malaga at the time of the War. Her book highlights the blatant differences amongst the classes and beliefs of the Spanish citizens during Franco’s ruling. Every city has its own story and reflects the different influences of the people that came before them. The Romans, the Muslims, Catholics and Christians, even the Jewish, all have a hand in crafting this Iberian Country.

Photo at Parque del Retiro of statue of Alfonso XII of SpainParque del Retiro

I really enjoyed the day that we spent at Parque del Retiro; you can rent rowboats and paddle around the pond while gazing at the Monument to Alfonso XII of Spain.

That night, we enjoyed our favourite thing that we did in Madrid. We got to see an authentic flamenco show performed by local gypsies. They invoked emotion with every single movement they made. The show was put on at La Quimera; an intimate little restaurant and bar. The menu was nothing less than what you would expect from a traditional Spanish restaurant; a vast amount of flavourful dishes and your ticket even includes a drink (I recommend the Sangria). Like I mentioned, the intimate atmosphere and the powerful dancers lulled me into a vivid dream for the rest of the night. 

It was a wonderful way to spend our last day in Spain.

Back home we go

Photo of coloured panels in Madrid airportAnd just like that, it was over. We flew back home to Canada through London but didn’t even leave our hotel room. I learned so much about myself in such a short amount of time. I’m so grateful that my best friend was there to share that with me. I feel like that trip really prepared me for my upcoming adventures in the sense that I learned to trust my instincts and go with the flow.

It taught me to take time to enjoy the experience, as opposed to rushing around to try and see everything as fast as possible. I was able to cope with some situations that we came across without panicking, too much, and felt really strong mentally after looking back on all that we had done. Lastly, I grew an even deeper appreciation for and connection to Natalie that I didn’t think was possible. I already loved her so much before our trip and I look forward to the next time we travel together.


After we got home, I craved adventure. So I decided to get packing and head to my next stop: Japan!

Thanks
–Candice

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