Roughly a year ago the idea began forming in my head that I should move to Spain, and almost on a whim I chose Granada as the destination for my relocation. While I had visited the town roughly ten years earlier, I had only spent a few days tasting its tapas and melting in its extreme summer sun. And, in reality, I didn’t actually know all that much about the place. In fact, my memory of Granada was rather boring. But the inexplicable siren that calls every globe-trotter from place to place had sung her enticing song, and to Granada I went.
At the moment of this writing I have been here for about four months, and I can happily report that whatever random inspiration drew me here turned out to be a good one.
When I first began pouring over a map of Spain, trying to pin down where I’d build my next home, I knew that I didn’t want to live someplace as huge and tourist infested as Barcelona, nor did I want to end up in one of the idyllic villages where nothing ever happens. Granada, it turns out, is a perfect middle ground between the two extremes.
On certain days Granada (located in south-central Spain) feels deserted, the only sound being the ringing of the church bells (although there are a lot of church bells). Suddenly it’s eleven o’clock at night and the streets are filled to capacity with singing, drinking, laughing Spaniards, many of whom will not go home until six or seven in the morning. Like most of Spain, Granada has a tendency to get wild at night.
Regardless of the hour, day or night, it has been my experience that the people of Granada rank among the most generous and friendly I have ever encountered. While these are traits common to the Spanish in general, there is a particularly amiable atmosphere to this place.
And then there is the castle, Alhambra, which sits on the hill above the city like something out of a dream. It never fails to impress me that I live in a place where I have a view of a castle.
Alhambra was where the last of the Moorish kings held out right up to the end of the Reconquest, and their influence is still felt. Granada represents a thick infusion of Spanish and North African tradition, and Muslim and Catholic rituals exist side by side. You walk through the colorful Arab markets then suddenly come upon some ceremony being held for the Virgin Mary. Here, you can smoke a hookah and enjoy some kebab, there you can drink sangria and eat pork ribs.
Which brings us to the tapas. Aside from the Alhambra, Granada’s claim to fame would have to be the prevalence of tapas, which are small plates of food that are served free of charge with every drink. It is widely misconceived that tapas are commonly found throughout Spain, but Granada is one of the only places where they are actually served for free, which is tradition. Even the local Irish pub provides an array of primarily potato-based tapas.
Tapas vary in their complexity and extravagance. At one establishment you may only receive a few olives and a slice of bread and cheese (when I say “only” I mean it loosely—they are, after all, still Spanish breads, cheeses, and olives, which are no joke). In others, however, they go out of their way to outdo the competition. Consequently, you may end up eating elaborate seafood dishes, rich pork stews, and any of an endless variety of other delicacies.
And, while traveling through many European cities it can sometimes be difficult to find a place to eat or drink; Granada is easy. Due to a combination of the amicability of the people along with the omnipresence of delicious tapas, you can rest assured that your search will be brief. Simply go to the first place you see, order a drink, and relax. Granada is a place where it is easy to find a bit of excitement, but it is even easier to find relaxation.
Written by Guest Contributor Nick Hilden for EuropeUpClose.com
Raised in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, travel and adventure writer Nick Hilden currently lives in Granada, Spain, where he contributes to a variety of publications and develops advertising campaigns on a freelance basis. Nomadic by nature, his wanderings have taken him far and wide, and his work has varied accordingly. You can find out more about him at www.NickHilden.com.