the road (somewhat) less traveled

the road (somewhat) less traveled

I don’t remember learning how to read a map, but it was part of every road trip our family took when I was a child. It was nothing short of a miracle to be able tell what town was coming up next, how far we’d been, how far we still had to go. Map apps are not the same as the real thing! In Spain, I find it helps to spread out the map to get the big picture, as all roads lead to/from Madrid: Spanish highways radiate out from Madrid like spokes – sort of.

National highways, called “interurban motorways” are named with an A plus numbers. The six radial roads coming from Madrid are A-1 through A-6. Other highways have 2-digit numbers.

Regional highways are labeled with the first letter (or 2 letters) of the region. So, traveling through Andalusia, the regional roadways are labeled with an A, just like the national highways. But the regional signs are green or orange. Color matters!

On our way to Granada, we stopped in Lorca for lunch. We’ve added Lorca to the spend-a-day-there list: a great castle and an archaeological dig that you can apparently visit by appointment.

Back on the road through the Sierras in the rain. Passing rolling seas of olive groves, with each bend of the road revealing an even more stunning scene.

first-view-of-sierra-nevada

Our first view of the Sierra Nevada.

We covered 350 kilometers (160 miles) on that leg.

Driving in Granada itself (and in Cordoba) is not for sissies! Snug streets that shouldn’t have cars on them at all, let alone cars trying to go in both directions with pedestrians who have nowhere to get out of the way except to duck into the door of a nearby business.

And as we left the corkscrew parking garage in Granada, Todd had to park on an incline while I got out to pay at the window. Really odd – with cars stopped on the incline behind us and ahead of us, coming into the garage.

Leaving Granada, we cut across smaller roadways just for the experience. After our rainy drive from Alicante to Granada, we were glad for the brief sunshine on the way to Jaen.

lunch-with-gnocchi

We stopped in Moclin for lunch. The locals looked at us suspiciously – until Gnocchi discovered us. Once she had accepted us, we were met with smiles from all.

As we were loading up in Cordoba to head home, Todd realized that he had left the car keys in the hotel safe. I stayed with our bags while he trudged back to the hotel to retrieve the keys. And we were off…

Just outside Albacete on our way home, we were stopped by the Guardia in a random stop-and-search. Todd got breathalyzed. We were told that since we had residency cards, we were in violation by driving with a Texas driver’s license – we should have an EU license. Much conferring between the guardia, then we were told there would be a 500-euro fine – only 250 if we paid within 20 days. More conferring, then a call from headquarters let them know that we had 6 months from the date of the residency to change the driver’s license. Us: Muchas gracias, senor. Him: Please drive safely.

Vale!

bath day – of the Arab variety

bath day – of the Arab variety

One of our favorite experiences when we went through Central Europe in 2011 was our visit to the Szechenyi baths in Budapest. We decided bath visits should be a permanent part of our retirement.

baths.JPG

Then – a visit to Granada and a chance to visit authentic Arab baths at Hammam al Andaluz. For 60 Euros each, we got the full bath experience – 4 baths of varying temperatures, hot stones, sauna – plus 30 minutes of aromatic massage. An affordable splurge. A unique and unforgettable experience.

Cathedral of the Incarnation – Granada

Cathedral of the Incarnation – Granada

cathedral-spiresJust. Wow. I’m not Catholic, but it’s enough to make me believe maybe God indeed is. Of course, Charles V had to do something to show up the Moors’ Alhambra. Amazing that it’s not baroque. Many of the paintings have been cleaned recently, so the colors are vibrant and the images, clear. You just have to see it to believe it. So this blog post is all about the pictures…

 

dining – Granada

Our most fun meal was a true tapas experience at Casa Fernando (an appropriate name). The restaurant had one bar table, which we occupied, and 4 seats at the bar itself. There was room for 4-6 people to stand at the bar. By the time we left, there were easily a dozen people in that small space. With each round of 2-euro drinks, we got a plate of tapas of the proprietor’s choosing. He poured drinks, cooked, and served up plates behind the bar. The whole time we were there, I never saw the same plate repeated. Our first plate was tomatoes with olive oil and oregano and sliced grilled chicken breasts. Our second plate was sliced boiled egg and grilled mushroom caps.  Both plates had a buttery cracker kind of bread. We had 2 drinks each and lunch for 9 Euros. What’s not to love?

Breakfast was macchiato and churros with hot chocolate – perfection on a cold morning before sight-seeing!

Lunch Thursday: on the paseo under the Alhambra: gazpacho, 4-cheese risotto, and fried dog fish. Sitting in the sun, looking up at the Alhambra, watching the locals walk their dogs. We then took the C1 bus into the Albayzin up to the Saint Nicholas mirador for more exquisite views of the Alhambra and Generalife.