Archive for April, 2009

22 Apr 2009

Semana Santa

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Let the processions begin!

The Granadinos go a little mad around Semana Santa and in the eight days from Sunday 5th to Easter Sunday thousands of people flock to Granada, the hotels are all booked out, the church bells clangour constantly and twenty-two processions take to the streets of Granada, Sacromonte and Albaicin to recount “The Passion”. It’s all a little surreal with some of the processions continuing on until 6.00am.

On the Thursday (someone’s birthday – see posting) we found ourselves back at Rafa’s apartment, along with the usual suspects, hanging out over the balconies and watching the procession pass slowly by. The streets were “chocka” and at 2.30am the coast was clear and we, tired and weary after the long journey back from the Alpujarras earlier in the day and the “Birthday Dinner” celebrations, finally trudged our way home again.

A taste of Semana Santa – click here.

22 Apr 2009

Birthday boy

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Paul wondered if it would be possible to have another birthday and not make a big song and dance about it, post it all over the internet, that sort of thing. I don’t think so!

22 Apr 2009

The Aussie Invasion

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Chris and Sheina tackle Lanjaron

April was always going to be a busy month – with a birthday, two groups of visitors from Australia and Semana Santa (Easter holy week). Chris and Sheina were first up; arriving tanned and healthy after another hot aussie summer. Bar the odd Perthite we bump into – usually in Granada’s seedier quarters – C&S are the first Perthies to grace our shores.

Granada turned on her charm for them. Sheina arrived wearing a large puffer jacket, complaining of the cold and looking a lot like Michelin woman, but my mid-morning she had relented and gradually began peeling back the layers.

The first few days in Granada are always fun – the maze that is the Albaicin, gets everyone confused and you can see people fumbling with maps, asking for directions and generally baffled. Chris was no exception, heading off on his long walks and eventually returning home. One night he dragged us, along with Sheina, Alex and Katrin, out on a mission to show us some “amazing” graffiti he had found on one of his walks. Let’s just say we humoured him and walked and walked, until we were no longer in the Albaicin … and then when we had had enough we mutinied and dragged him back to a nice little courtyard bar to console himself.

Semana Santa was always going to be a little crazy, so we formed a plan to get out of town for a few days. We found ourselves back in the Alpujarras again, at a rural B&B, a beautifully restored 200 year old farm-house with metre-thick walls, high in the mountains above Berchules. It was a good choice. A Spanish farmhouse, run by a Dutch couple is always a good thing. The rooms were clean and nicely furnished, the food was excellent – healthy even – and everything worked.

The B&B was nicely stocked with libraries of books on walking, Andalucia and the Alpujarras. Walter had even gone to the trouble of painstakingly compiling, mapping with a GPS and describing, dozens of walks of varying durations in an around the region. Pick a walk, a degree of difficulty … and Walter is your man – whisking out a colourful map and a set of instructions and generally pointing us in the right direction.

We set out for Berchules for provisions and then continued on walking mainly on small dirt tracks, frequented by friendly smiling shepherds, past terraced plots; the smell of dung, and the sounds of cow bells never far away. Rather than describe it all – we have compiled a gallery of photos here. Check them out.

On our return to Granada we caught the local bus up the steep hill that leads to our house only to find the route closed half-way up. The driver instructed us all to disembark and walk the remainder of the way, bags dragging along. We reached the top of the hill and arrived smack bang in the middle of a Semana Santa procession (see Semana Santa posting) and spent some time trying to work our way through the throng.

It seemed like C&S’s stay lasted forever (and that is meant as a compliment). In their absence, we reflected back the days, recollecting the familiar empty clinking of wine bottles as we kept the recycling man in business and hope they enjoy the rest of their journey.

13 Apr 2009

Right, what’s all this music, song and dance about then?

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The Albaicin (and neighbouring Sacromonte) is a magnet to all sorts of interesting individuals. As well as being Flamenco heartland, there is something about the mountains, the Moorish history and perhaps the prevalent waft of marijuana in the narrow passages that draws bohemian types from the around the world to Granada.

While some of them have never heard of the terms “bath” or “hairbrush”; have taken body piercing to new levels, and can seemingly happily while away the hours at the Mirador St Nicholas (viewing point) drinking beer, smoking joints (and pissing in our alley); others bring to Granada music, song and dance from world over.

On any given night it is possible to step into any one of dozens of bars, theatres, back rooms etc for a taste of Flamenco, Transcendental, Classical, Rock, Tango … you name it; didgeridoo even! Some of it is excellent, while some of it is fairly average – it is the access to such a diversity of music in such a small city that constantly impresses me.

During the day you will always find buskers out in the streets, in front of restaurants, under arches, crouched in doorways – many of them are regular fixtures, others blow-ins and just occasionally you will find a busker with a repertoire of more than three songs and worthy of your tip – all good fun and highly entertaining!

Click here to view a small gallery of photographs from a couple of performances we have seen recently.

11 Apr 2009

The Gorier Side Of Spain

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>I only went along because I was resting safely zipped in his top pocket and by the time I realised where we were it was too late. I was sleeping soundly, deep into my mid-afternoon siesta, when the muffled sounds of a distant roaring crowd, dragged me awake. What’s this all about then? I thought and carefully worked open the zipper for a quick peek.

That was my first mistake. The bull charged out of the gate, like a “bull out of a gate”. Some silly men clutching blush pink capes were hanging around the other end of the ring, nervously, waving their capes, when all of a sudden the bull made for one. Ooh goody, chasey!

The little man, with his tight suit and blush pink cape, suddenly panicked and made for the tiny ringside escape hatch, only making it by the skin of his teeth. This angered the bull somewhat and with his horns he proceeded to ram the escape hatch aggressively. Large chunks of wooden gate landed in the arena. The crowd roared even louder. Another man on the far side of the ring motioned to the bull with his pink cape, and the bull was off and charging again. I thought to myself, interesting game.

And then it all started going pear-shaped. In came a man on a horse brandishing a long spear … and you don’t want to know what happened next. I watched for a minute or two in a dreamlike daze and then quickly slid back into the safe confines of his pocket and carefully slid the zipper back into place. What cruelty – I am a bit of an animal myself (hehehe) and with each prod of that spear, I winced with pain at the thought of it. I questioned, what sort of sport is this? Give me footy, cricket or rugby any day – and throw the odd streaker in the ring, then you’ll have a game.

No amount of cajoling from Paul, Chris, Alan, Anita, Heiner, Lisa, Carol or Luke, but not Sarah (who sensibly had to leave at the sight of that first spear) could get me out of that pocket – not even the free Spanish pastries that were being passed around, nor the syrupy sweet Sherry/Red Wine mix that the Spaniards seem to be so fond of.

And afterwards when it was all over and we were sitting in some smoky bar listening to Alan and Anita – who both have encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Spanish – wax on about the art of the fight, I shed a few tears at the thought of it all.