R&R Goes Global
SPAIN 2 - Albunelas, near Granada. July 5-12 We took John to the airport in Valencia on Friday. It was so good to meet up again, after all those years and just re-continue our friendship. We all had a great laugh together. We'll be joining up again in London in a couple of weeks and again in NZ, next year, so we will be definitely seeing more of each other. Another Saturday and another road trip, this time to a little village, near Granada, called Albunelas. The drive took us through some great scenery, over really desert-like mountains all along really good roads. Roads in Spain are of a very high standard and this 550 km leg only took 8 Euro in tolls. Apparently, Spain gets a big hand out from the European Union for its roading as so many Northern European holidaymakers drive to Spain for their holidays. As everyone going to Spain has to drive through France, the French take their cut with high tolls going in to Spain. Ces't la vie! We stopped at a small town for brunch, called Velez Rubio which turned out to be a really pretty little town with, of course, a Saturday market. After feeding we toured the market and Ros got an obligatory T-shirt as well as fruit we got on the road again. Mary, our GPS, as usual after a stop, refused to function. We have come to the conclusion that the heat affects it, especially with the discs I pirated. Ros decided to give Mary a hat by putting some white paper over the top of it, to keep the heat off (we are getting to the mid 30's now). After a bit of coaxing and reloading our disc, she fired up again and we got to Granada safely for a shopping stop. Forgot to mention that we also stopped at a place that had all sorts of cave dwellings, some really old, Troglodyte old, and some new houses set into the hills. Extremely unusual and very interesting. That over, we drove the 30 minutes to our village, made our rendezvous with the owners and started carrying our gear to the house. Now this is a typical Euro-medieval style village with tiny streets and almost un-negotiable corners, the like of which I have experienced on several occasions. Reversing out of tiny, twisty alleyways is a memory I will long remember. This village is strictly on foot as we left the car some hundred metres away and we (us and the owners) went down a steep hill. Going back will be fun as gravity won't be on our side. The house is on 3 storeys and is providing much-needed exercise. It's upside down, like in Italy, with the bedroom on the ground floor and the kitchen and lounge on the top, with the beautiful view over the valley. I still haven't figured why but Saturday night after a drive, even a relatively short, stress-free drive like yesterday, makes us absolutely whacked. We have booked Sunday lunch in a nearby town (well, the owners phoned for us). We have had more difficulties with communication in Spanish than in other places. Ros's 6 evenings of Spanish lessons, 5 years ago, has not been as useful as we'd hoped. Even our Lonely Planet Spanish phrasebook hasn't been too helpful, either. It does have some really useful phrases, dealing with sex, like; harder, faster, slower, touch me here, that was amazing and don't bother, I'll finish off myself!! Unfortunately, we haven't found too many situations to sprinkle them into our every-day meetings with the local Spanish folk. There's always hope. I booked tickets to the Alhambra a couple of weeks ago and we go on Tuesday morning. The owners gave us some good tips for this and we are looking forward to the visit. Apparently, it's the 2nd most visited place in Europe, after the Eiffel Tower (or some other prominent place in Paris, which we'll be visiting in a month). We booked the Alhambra for the morning session and were lucky to get tickets as the afternoon would just bake you! Had a great Sunday lunch today but, and this applies to every country we have been to so far, we have been dreadfully short-changed on the veggie front. When you get a main course, here in Spain, you just get your meat and chips. Ros ordered shoulder of lamb and she got a whole fore leg and shoulder. Admittedly it was a smallish lamb but it was still a huge serving of meat. (we asked for a doggie bag). That's it - no vegetables at all. Even the supermarkets have way less veggies than you'd see in NZ. We asked the owners of our house about this and they said you get your veggies from the salad dish. Asked about sweet corn - they feed the donkeys with that. We told them about honey and pearl being so delicious and they will look into getting some seeds as they grow veggies for the market. Also never seen any pumpkin as it's never grown here. The Spanish are very traditional about their food. I can sort of see why some of the big resort towns have English breakfasts and the like. Fruit here is very plentiful with the oranges the best I've ever eaten and the owner brought some lovely yellow plums. They also have a peach that looks flattened so it's more like a doughnut shaped. The stone is very small and it's so easy to eat. They call it a Paraguyas - NZ should grow these as they taste good. One major plus of Spanish food is that they like Black Pudding. It's really hard to get a good black pudding in NZ but the supermarkets sell heaps of types from cheap regular sausages to premium, aged salami types, tied in moldy little sausages tied with string. Can I bring some back to NZ? Tuesday 8th July Big day out today and one full of interest.... Got up early and got to the Alhambra in good time. After a bit of confusion about which line to stand in and shuffling to several other places, finally aided by a French guy who spoke English who was having the same problems we got in. The Alhambra is very well managed and you have to have your scanned at several locations and at the Nasrid Palaces you are only allowed 1 hour to tour it. Plenty of time, really, but in order to cope with the huge numbers of tourists, they have to be drip fed through the system. It was so well worth it as we spent 6 hours touring around all the palaces, castles and gardens. We didn't rush nor did we dawdle. The tickets cost 13 Euro each and are a bargain. The parking was another 13E but, oh well, the Alhambra was awesome - totally recommend a visit but do the early morning session as it was about 32C and rising when we finished. Considering it was a tad chilly at the start, well 18C, the morning session was very a pleasant temperature. We got a bus into town and hunted for a tapas bar for a snack. After a long trek, deciding which one, we eventually picked an ok looking place. A selection of tapas was ordered, costing 12E (NZ$25 ) and a plate arrived with 4 things that resembled 4 mini spring rolls and a couple of slices of baguette. That was it! We asked the waiter for the rest and he said we'd had it , then we told him he must be joking and we put a 5E bill on the table and left. All hell broke loose with them threatening to call the police so we said go ahead as they'll charge you with fraud. As we walked along the street, a big guy followed us, talking into his cell phone - said he was calling the police. He got hold of my back-pack and I told him to let go as he was the thief by trying to steal from me. He let go and gave up. Bet they don't have to deal with angry old people too often. Cafe Centrale - so if your ever in Granada, give them a try. Yesterday we stopped in a bar in a small town and had 2 beers each with 2 servings of tapas for 6E but today they wanted 18E for way less - must have was us as a couple of mugs. The village of Albunelas is a typically Andalusian, with narrow streets and tallish buildings in the Arab style. The Moors left here in the mid 1400's but you can still see their irrigation canals and walkways. A path near our house ends up in Istanbul, part of the spice/silk route. The owners of our house live close by and have garden plots where they grow veggies and fruit as well as grapes and olives. They send their olives to a collective and get them turned into oil. It's truly delicious along with the best tasting oranges I've ever eaten. Everyone with a plot has access to water and get told which day of the week, what time and for how long, still using the Moors irrigation channels, mostly. There is great birdlife in the area with swallows, house martins and swifts constantly circling and diving. I'm told there are 2 types of swift and martins. Down the valley we have also seen golden oriels, bee catchers (iridescent blue backs) and even an eagle circling around.