(Some context: there was an orientation for auxiliares de conversación in the autonomous community of Murcia at the start of October. During that orientation, I met a bunch of language assistants that were placed in Cartagena. I went to visit them for Halloween weekend. While I was there, the language assistant I was staying with [Hannah] invited me to go with her and her roommate/other friends to Granada. I decided to join them. This is that story.)
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (4:30 AM)
I was planning on meeting the girls from Cartagena in Granada at noon. First I had to get there.
Traveling from Águilas can be a bit of a hassle. The buses to Lorca and Murcia don’t run very frequently and the train route goes through Andalusia which adds another 30 minutes to the journey. I was meeting my ride in Lorca at 8:30 in the morning and unfortunately this meant that I had to go on the unnecessarily long train because the first bus to Lorca on Saturday departs from Águilas at 9:00. The train only train that would get me to Lorca in time left at 6:45. This meant I had to wake up a lot earlier than I would ever want to. I meant to wake up at 5:00, but the sleeping pill I took the night before to help me fall asleep at 8:30 PM wore off at 4:30 and made me ready to go.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (6:00 AM)
I live about 30 minutes walking time from the bus/train station. I also have a tendency to get lost, so I left my apartment at 6:00. Águilas is usually pretty quiet, but at 6:00 AM it’s unnaturally quiet.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (6:45 AM)
I got on the train, sat down and internally cried as my body begged me to go back to sleep. Not really an option though, because the cercanías trains in Murcia don’t really help you figure out which station you’re at. You just have to stare out the window until you see it’s the right stop and run off. I also decided to journal on the train. About a half hour in, a man started asking me questions about my journal (can’t you see I’m writing?). Then he asked me about the Spanish high school system. I’m sorry, I know I recently wrote a blog post about talking to an older lady on a train and being very happy that I did. This was not the same situation. Before 7:30 AM, no one should ever talk to anybody that’s commuting. I was not about to have a conversation in Spanish either. Especially about the Spanish high school system which I do not know anything about. I tried explaining that to the man, but he was clearly intoxicated and just did not get it. It was a relief when I finally got to the train station in Lorca.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (7:45 AM)
I got a coffee at the bus/train station cafe in Lorca and messaged the guy who was picking me up. I’m about to write about something that my mom will kill me about (Hi, Mommy. Read the WHOLE thing before you start freaking out, ok. I promise you I make smart choices). I decided to use blablacar.es to get to Granada. What’s blablacar? It’s a website where people post that they’re driving somewhere, how much room they have in their car and at what price they would be willing to drive someone. I had never used it before (because the idea of riding in a car with a total stranger really does freak me out a bit), but I had heard good things about it when I was in Valencia. It tends to be much cheaper and faster than riding a bus or a train. I figured why not give it a try.
I looked at the options for rides from Águilas to Granada on Saturday, but didn’t find any (should I really have been that surprised?). Then I looked for options from Lorca to Granada and found two for 8:30 AM. One was with a 35-year-old woman who had a 3.7 rating out of 5.0 (the comments about her were also atrocious). The only other one was of a 22-year-old guy with a 4.8 rating. I took the chance and booked the ride. Now this is when you’re going to learn a little secret about me, reader. I have a particular set of skills that come in very handy when it comes to meeting potential serial killers (I’m the Liam Neeson of the worldwide-web) . I can find ANYTHING or ANYONE online. I think it’s because I was a history major and research was my life for four years. Some people would say I’m a grade-A creeper. I just say I’m determined. I found the driver fairly easily after he confirmed my place in his car and received his number. I looked up his number on Whatsapp and found him. It also had his name. From there I found his facebook fan page for being a magician (I know. A magician! What?). The nice thing about Águilas and Lorca is that people tend to know each other so when I talked to the mothers of the kids I tutor about it, one of them actually knew the guy. She was also able to tell me that he most likely would not kill me, so I felt a little bit more comfortable about this whole riding in a car with a stranger thing. OK. I’m creepy. I admit it. But I would rather be creepy than killed by a serial blablacar killer, okay?
The blablacar driver picked me up at the train station and then picked up two other people before we headed onto the road. And the ride was fine. Maybe even a little fun. Definitely more pleasant than a crowded bus ride that makes stops every 30 minutes. It was a slightly rainy/very foggy day and the ride from Lorca to Granada passes through mountains (my ears were popping because of the change in altitude, but that is very typical for me) and at one point we saw a rainbow as ’80s pop music suddenly came onto the radio (apparently the magician’s dad made us a mixtape and it was pretty awesome). That would never happen on a bus. I will definitely be using blablacar again.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (10:45 AM)
We got to Granada after only 2 hours and 15 minutes of driving, which I think is amazing. I walked to the hostel I was staying at, left my stuff and then went to the cafe downstairs to meet up with one of the girls from Cartagena and wait for the other girls. I was tired. Really, really tired. Thankfully I essentially hibernate in Águilas during the week, so I have plenty of sleep reserves to cover me. I got a cafe con leche and waited and waited and waited. It was rainy and a little cold, but it was still exciting to be with Granada and I was excited to see my friends.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (11:30 AM)
Finally our whole group arrived. There was me (American…duh), Hannah (American), Christine (Belgian), Garance (French), Agnes (Swedish) and Laurie (Spanish). I’m personally of the opinion that every group of travelers should be cosmopolitan. It keeps things interesting. We all dropped off our stuff at the hostel (sidenote: the hostel we stayed at was pretty nice. We had a six person mixed dorm, but since we were a group of six it was just us. At night it still got that weird smell all hostels seem to develop…a musty…sleep smell, but in general it was comfortable and cheap and I would go again. Half of the people staying there are people who are actually teaching language classes there, so it definitely has a bit more of a homey feel. Here’s a link for the hostel if you’re really interested. If I go to Granada again [which I probably will be because 35 hours is certainly not enough time…], I’d stay there again! http://www.itinerehostel.com/).
Then we began sightseeing and eating tapas. Granada is one of those cities that is pretty from most angles. Like most places in southern Spain, it has been hugely influenced by its former Arabic rulers. At the same time it also has a lot of classic Spanish architecture. The two influences are a beautiful combination. It’s aging gracefully and you can feel the history of the place.
Wandering the streets of Granada
Granada is also a tapas city. One of the best ways to experience it is to go from one tapas place to the next ordering something new every time. The tapas are “free” (as in you buy a drink and the tapa comes with it…so not really free, but called “free”) and the types we had varied from ham and bagels, to veggie enchiladas, to bread with jam and cheese.
I wish I could tell you which places I went to, but I really decided to go with the flow this trip to Granada (I lied before when I said I MAY be coming back to Granada. Spoiler alert: I actually know I am because my family is traveling through Andalusia for Christmas! Next time I will take better note of where I’m going). When you’re traveling with such a big group, you’ve really got to give and take. I trusted the girls to make smart choices for things to do and they did. I had an excellent time!
Some of the girls from Cartagena are doing Erasmus and there was actually a planned trip to Granada that we were able to join a little bit. If you don’t know what Erasmus is, it’s basically the European version of study abroad and it is amazing. The students receive scholarships to help them study in other countries. When I was in Valencia, I hung out with Erasmus students and even got to be a member for the organization on my campus. If you’ve spoken to me in the past two years, you probably know how amazing of a time I had in Valencia (sorry I talk about it a ton…). Erasmus was a huge part of why it was so fun!
We went to more tapas places with them and had the choice to do a guided tour for two hours. My family has never been a tour kind of family. We are very much a discover things on your own family. I can also say that I’ve never been on a tour that I’ve though afterwards, Wow. I’m very glad I went on that tour. It was totally worth it. Hannah, Laurie and I opted out of the tour and decided to keep exploring with some of the other people from Cartagena. And it was great. And cold. I’m not used to the cold yet, because it’s still fairly warm in Aguilas.
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (07:00 PM)
We headed back to our hostels to decompress, check in, and get ready for the night ahead. Napping was not an option because if I took a nap, I would never be able to wake up again. We tried to figure out how to do the whole layering for cold and rain, but still looking half decent thing. We also decided where to go for dinner…
Saturday, 08 November 2014 (09:30 PM)
We decided on a sushi place that Christine’s friend who is studying in Granada suggested. Sushi in Granada? Spanish food is delicious so don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s very repetitive. It is essentially different combinations of tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, ham, pepper, onions and cheese. Those combinations are always delicious, but they’re never spicy and they often don’t stray from those ingredients. Getting Mexican or Chinese food in Spain is always a bust though, so it’s usually best (and delicious) to just eat the potatoes, tomatoes, etc.
We ended up going to the place and it was delicious. I ate my words and I are lots of sushi. Again I don’t remember the name of the place (I’m the worst…), but I’m almost certain there’s not a ton of sushi places in Granada.
After the sushi, we decided to go to a chupeteria (chupitos=shots; chupeteria=shot bar) where they had 150 different shots. I thought we were going to go somewhere else afterwards, but we actually ended up spending 4 hours at the chupeteria (which is honestly 3 and a half hours more than anyone should ever spend in a chupeteria…I still had fun though!) For the record, they had other beverages at the bar. It’s not like I did four hours of shots (I probably wouldn’t be alive to write this were that the case). I loved being surrounded by so many people and spending time with my new friends. It can get lonely in Águilas sometimes, so it’s nice to travel to a city with so much life!
Hannah and I had noticed some men clearly trying to rob people while we were at the bar. They were getting very, very close to people and trying to reach into their purses. Later that night we went to the bathroom and as we walked back to our friends, Hannah suddenly did a 45 degree turn towards me, reached for the floor for her wallet and looked at the man who had essentially been standing on top of her a moment before. The man was clearly trying to rob her and Hannah caught him and basically shamed him into running out of the bar. It was amazing! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never felt safer walking down a street than I do in Spain. No one will ever run up to you with a gun to try to rob you. On the other hand, you have to be constantly aware of your wallet and cellphone because there are pickpockets everywhere. So many of my friends got robbed when we were in Valencia that it was refreshing and exciting to see Hannah catch the sicko who was trying to rob her! Successful night, as far as I’m concerned.
Sunday, 09 November 2014 (09:00 AM)
In typical Alessandra-drinking form, I woke up ridiculously early the next morning compared to when I went to bed. As I sat up in my bed, I noticed four other pairs of eyes looking at me. Oh hey, six person dormitory. Then I took a shower, tried to get the energy to function enough to put on mascara, and went to the cafe downstairs to get some much need coffee and a tomato tostada. While going downstairs we ran into a Canadian guy who was also staying at our hostel. I invited him to join us and he told us about how he was traveling Europe alone for a couple of months before starting work. I have traveled plenty, but I’ve never traveled alone. It’s something I have to do while I’m here, but it honestly scares the crap out of me. Hopefully by the time I leave Spain, I will no longer have that fear! We shall see!
Sunday, 09 November 2014 (11:00 AM)
After becoming heavily caffeinated (we went to another place and had cokes and pinchos), we decided to make the trek to the Mirador San Nicolás. It is a lookout point with a lovely view of the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra (which I plan on going to soon, hopefully). It was gorgeous and in general the day was a lovely. I don’t think I need to describe Granada’s beauty ad nauseam. Unfortunately I didn’t take enough pictures (I’m the worst a taking photos/the worst photographer ever), but do a google image search and you’ll see some of the beauty for yourself.
The day was cold, fun and full of tons of walking and eating. Basically a perfect day (minus the cold part).
Sunday, 09 November 2014 (8:00 PM)
By nighttime it had gotten painfully cold. I need to remember to pack for all types of weather when I travel. I got a ride back to Águilas with a teacher that lives there, but is from Granada. I was exhausted, but the car was full and I had a newly-met seventeen-year-old sleeping on my shoulder. When I finally made it home around 10:45, I went straight to bed. It was a great 35-hours and I hope to spend more time in Granada soon!
Up next: Valencia! I’m going back to where my love of Spain began. Look forward to writing about it soon!