A couple of days in Granada and arriving in Northern Spain

We were half asleep on the bus-ride from Karen’s on Monday… it was siesta time after a lunch of beer and tapa and I did manage to sleep a lot of the way. The journey back to Granada was a lot quicker than it had been in the other direction, even though we stopped for ages in one town (pretty sure the bus driver went to get tapa). But we amused ourself by watching young love at the bus stop – how funny are the unnatural jerky head-movements of teenage kissing?!

We got in to Granada just before seven and it was still so hot. There were no seats left on the bus into town so we had to stand up with our huge rucksacks and then walk to our hostel… by the time we got there I was literally dripping with sweat. Nice. Our hostel (we were just staying there one night for ease of meeting up with my cousin Natalie, who happened to be in Granada too) was really cool and we got a free drinks voucher on arrival! We dumped our bags and I took a much needed shower before heading to the bar to spend our vouchers. We chatted with a few people in the hostel bar and then headed out to meet Natalie.

I hadn’t seen Natalie for years (she’s lived in Stockholm for the last eight!) so it was so lovely to catch up with her, and meet her friend Amy. They’re traveling around Southern Spain for a couple of weeks and had just come from Malaga, where poor Amy had had her bag stolen – they hadn’t had a very good twenty-four hours and were very excited by Granada’s chilled atmosphere and free tapas rule! We met up at a place called Babel someone at the hostel recommended to me, their free tapas was really good with loads of veggie options – the falafel in particular was very tasty. Then we met up with Sebastian at the cathedral, got some more drinks (and the free tapa kept coming- even after midnight at one place! I was full to the brim by the end of the night and hadn’t paid for any food. So awesome.) Sebastian took us up to Plaza Nueva, where there’s often stuff going on the evenings – street entertainment and such – but it was a Monday night so it was pretty quiet, but still really nice to see the Alhambra lit up at night, so beautiful.

It was a good idea to have a few drinks on Monday night, otherwise I don’t think I would have slept that easily in our hostel dorm. I went to sleep instantly, but woke up so hot. There was no air conditioning in the room, just a couple of fans which both happened to be at the opposite end of the room to mine and Matthew’s bunk. Poor Matt was on the top bunk too, so it was even hotter for him. After a cold shower, we went and got a bit of breakfast before checking out and handily we were able to leave our luggage there as long as we wanted which was good because we were planning on spending the day in town and going to Sebastian’s (our Romanian couch-surf host from the last time we were in Granada, between the Pyrenees and the Sierra) later – where we were staying that night.

So, after breakfast we headed to the train station to reserve our seats for the next day. We have inter-rail passes so didn’t need to get tickets but because we were doing a long journey (Granada – Madrid and then Madrid – Oviedo… basically from one side of Spain to the other), we had to reserve seats. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. After waiting for ages to see someone, we explained, through broken Spanish and pointing to the notes in my diary, the journey that we wanted to take. So, the dude took our inter-rail passes, looked at them intently and typed a load of stuff on his computer, before handing Matthew’s back with a pretty pissed off expression and saying “Nada!” with his finger pointing to the dates on Matt’s pass. Oops. It turned out that Matthew had somehow put the wrong start and end dates on his pass, meaning it was long expired and he would have to pay for the entire trip. We were a bit shocked and flustered by this realisation and in hindsight Matt probably should have checked bus prices or the liftshare website before handing over his debit card for the 120 euro train fare. But also, my inter-rail was fine and since I still had a day left to use I couldn’t afford to go by any other means… so if Matt couldn’t get the train, we’d have had to gone separately. The next blow to our plans was finding out that the connection at Madrid to take us to Oviedo was fully booked – meaning we’d have to get the next one and get in to Oviedo at 11.30pm, instead of 7.30pm… too late to get a bus to our next host, meaning we’d have to find somewhere to stay in Oviedo on Wednesday night. Again, in hindsight, we probably could have found out about trains the following day and just stayed another night in Granada… but we were pretty flustered by this point and just wanted to get out of there.

So, after the train station kerfuffle we headed back to the hostel to use their wifi and email our next host, James, to tell him we’d be a day later than expected… We reluctantly looked at hostel prices in Oviedo, but couldn’t bring ourself to book any so just wrote down a few names to check out if sleeping in the train station seemed too scary/ illegal. Then we tried not to sulk, because hey – that’s the only real thing that’s gone wrong on the whole trip – and went to get a beer (and free tapa! That’s never gonna stop being awesome) in the shade. We also realised that Matt had actually been really lucky, because technically his pass must have been expired for our Barcelona to Granada trip too, and they just hadn’t noticed. That probably would have been just as expensive, if not more than the one to the north.

Tuesday in Granada was super crazy hot, too hot be outside for most of the day – it got up to forty five degrees, no shit. We found a really cool bar called Mundo Manilla which had menu made up of vegetarian and vegan ecological homemade treats, really cool interior decorations including lots of posters of musicians and a huge map of the world showing light pollution, and wifi so we could contact Sebastian for free to meet up and keep an eye on incoming emails from James. Also, when we walked in they were playing The Black Keys, followed swiftly by Eels… we set up camp there for a while, had a drink (I got a delicious home-made lemon ice tea) and then ordered lunch (goats cheese and caramelized red onion bruschetta, yes please).

After a bit, Natalie came to meet us and we had a couple of sangrias and heard about her morning at the Alhambra. She couldn’t stay long because her and Amy had tickets to go the baths (out of our budget unfortunately), so we said our goodbyes. Sebastian came to meet us too, and once the sun looked a bit more bearable we eventually left our new favourite bar and Sebas took us to some lovely gardens near the Alhambra. On the way, we finally saw some of the brilliant grafitti that Granada is famous for – lots of portraits and all really well done… it was like being in Berlin for a second!

After the gardens, we had some more drinks and tapa (noticing a theme to Granada?!) and then picked up our luggage from the hostel and got the bus back to Sebastian’s. It was so lovely to see Sebas, Nico and Mikey again and it’s really nice to have some real friends in Granada to go and visit! In September, Sebas and Mikey are going to Crete for a year to work and if I have any money ever again in the next year, I’d love to go and visit them. For dinner, Mikey and Nico had cooked us a classic Mid-West Romanian dish which was absolutely delicious. It was a white chicken stew (I can’t remember the Romanian translation, knew I should have written it down…) and was so creamy and flavoursome and we felt so honoured that they’d gone to the trouble of making it for us. It’s a dish that Mikey always used to have at one of his grandmothers houses and him and Nico have been perfecting their version for the last few years. Traditionally in the villages, the dish would be served with cornbread – which was yummy – but Mikey and Sebastian preferred it with crusty white bread (which would apparently get you laughed at and called the Romanian equivalent of a ‘townie’ if you asked for bread with it in the villages), so we had it with both.

After dinner, Sebastian told us some brilliant stories about living in dorms at medical school in Romania… including the human skull lamp he made and the various other bones that he and his room-mates collected… also, the period of time that him and his room-mates turned their dorm room in to a massage/ tattoo/ piercing parlour sounded hilarious. We got some wine from the shop, drank wine & cola cocktails and found some toothpicks to decorate and use as poker chips (we’re totally poker addicts since Karen’s!) and had a long ol’ night of poker playing, wine drinking and story telling… a lot of fun! In the early hours of the morning, Sebastian brought out some whiskey ice-cream which was AMAZING… and Matthew and I stumbled into bed around four.

On Wednesday morning, it was time to say bye to our super awesome Romanian friends (again) and to the amazing city that is Granada (again). We got on the train at nine, with bleary eyes and fuzzy heads and dozed our way to Madrid. Due to our flustered reservation booking, we had three and a half hours to kill in Madrid but didn’t feel like forking out for luggage lock-up and walking miles around a huge city (or just being in any city that wasn’t Granada), so we stayed in the station getting more and more hysterical and delirious as the hours passed by and desperately trying to find a vegetarian sandwich somewhere. We were in such a silly mood for those few hours and at one point I had a huge laughing fit because Matthew walked slap-bang in to the window of a shop. It was literally one of the funniest things I’d ever seen (I can’t think about it without laughing, I’m laughing right now…) because it looked like when somebody mistakes a glass door for an open doorway… Except, this was quite clearly a window and not a door, complete with a window-display and everything! Matthew claims he was trying to look through the window on a search for tobacco, but mid-judged how close it was to his face… Anyway, it was hilarious and our hysteria passed a lot of time.

Eventually it was time to get on our train to Oviedo, where we continued being ridiculous and absolutely the loudest people on the entire train. Watching the landscape change was pretty cool, after starting in hot, dry Granada, it just got greener and greener… they also had the temperature outside on a digital display on the train which was interesting to watch. Unfortunately, it was dark for the last part of the journey (because we had to get the later train, boo) so we missed all the amazing mountainous scenery… also, I completely slept through the sunset – which Matthew tells me was incredible. We’d already decided before arriving in Oviedo, that we seriously needed a bed that night because neither of us had enough energy left to do waking/sleeping shifts to keep an eye on the luggage. We walked in to the centre and found a few hostels but no luck… We decided that if there was nothing at the fourth place we went to, we would head back to the station. But we were in luck! The fourth place had a room for the night for forty euros… we definitely can’t really afford anything at this point in our trip, but we’re also definitely not thinking about that too much until we get back to the UK. Wha hey, denial! The hotel had wifi and the bed was bliss and we just wished we could have slept in later, but we’d told our James we’d be getting the first bus to Cangas de Onis in the morning.

So, on Thursday we had to get up pretty early to get the 8.30 bus to Cangas de Onis where our next host, James was picking us up. We’ve been here at Duruxa (or ‘The Farm’), a half hour drive from Cangas, for a couple of days now and it is so peaceful and relaxing here. Our hosts, the small community that is Duruxa, are James – a softly spoken British guy who moved to Spain after Uni and never went back and Jillie and Dane – a beautiful young Californian couple who moved here at the beginning of the year, looking for an alternative to their busy, working lives in the states.

When we arrived, Dane’s parents and sister were here visiting and we had a lot of fun chatting around the dinner table. Our first job on Thursday afternoon was picking cherries out of a huge cherry tree (Matthew climbed right to the top and was loving it) and then preparing them for jam. We also de-stoned a whole bunch to get ready to freeze in the freezer James has just bought which is going to make a huge difference to life here – it feels so nice to be a part of making it possible for them to enjoy fruit in the winter months! The jam Jillie’s made with some of the cherries is delicious and the perfect consistency, she’s going to make some more and add ginger and lemon I think… yum yum yum!

There’s lots more stories to tell already, but I’m going to post this now because we’re down at the internet cafe and I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to upload again. But yeah, we’re loving Duruxa so far, and waking up each morning to the lush green scenery of Northern Spain is amazing, and the cooler air was very welcome after the crazy heat in Granada. More stories coming soon……

 

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