Monday, 26 June 2017

Whirlwind Tour

After a huge snack supper in the hotel bar, washed down with a bottle of cheap Rioja from a nearby gas station shop, we touched base with home, thanks to the excellent in house wi-fi network, with its rigorous security protocols (one device only per user). Then we turned in, coping with the heat of the night, rather than the noise and chill of the zealous air conditioning system. We were up at dawn and heading out into the rush hour traffic for the last 11km stretch into Granada, by 8.30am, making for the Alhambra's hillside car park. By 9.10am we were walking down the tree shaded path below the Palace walls, enjoying the cool mist from irrigation system sprinklers which bathe the trees with water during the day. A very special way to start and finish a walking tour around Granada, where summer temperatures of 35-40C are considered normal.

We followed the road up the side of the Darro river which flows through the valley below the walls of the Alhambra Palace, then climbed up through the Albayzin barrio for a beer and a tapa in the Plaza Larga, before visiting the Mirador San Nicolas to take a selfie or two to send to the family. Owain is the only one not to have been with us on various previous outings to Granada. I was so glad at last to put this right.

Work on San Nicholas church has progressed somewhat since I was here this time last year. The chancel rood has been removed entirely and reconstructive work on the top of the walls goes on before a new beams and tiling can be added. Before making our way down to the city through the back streets of the barrio, I took Owain to show him the new Granada mosque which is quite near the Mirador. It's not open to the public at the moment, only at the prescribed times for prayer for Eid el Fitr. 

Outside there was a young woman, plainly dressed, wearing a hijab, engaging three girls in English whom I think were American or maybe Spanish tourists, dressed down, as westerners do, for the heat, reliant on the mercy of sun-cream to compensate for their lack clothing. It was, apparently, a dialogue of the deaf, which left the young muslim woman with a look of exasperation on her face.

I wished her 'Eid Mubarak' and we chatted with her for a while. From her speech, she might have been an English speaking Swiss German or Austrian convert, in search of a new authentic way of life, and eager to give an account of her new lifestyle choices to anyone willing to take her on. It's one of those cases of learning by doing. She had a lot to say, overlaid with presumptions about the nature of others' faith, but wasn't too good at listening, yet. 

After a while we parted company, with a mutual blessing. I wondered about her journey of faith and who was helping her on her way. Owain and I spoke about spiritual struggle in Christian spirituality and jihad in Islam, as we wound our way down steep narrow streets to the main street. From there we made a brief excursion into the old town area where the Cathedral and Chapel Royal of Los Reyes Catolicos are situated, but as it was getting really hot we decided this was enough of a taster visit for Owain, and headed back up to the car park.

On the way there, I found an open door in a gateway which gave us access into the area in between the Alhambra Palace and the Alcazaba fortress known as the Patio de Machuca. I recognised where we were, but had forgotten this part was open to the public without the need for booking tickets. This enabled Owain to have a glimpse at the domain from the inside, which was most pleasing to be able to share. By 1.30pm we were on our way out of Granada, heading for the autovia that would take us back to Salobrenia on the coast, and on to Nerja. It's such a spectacular journey to share. We parked in the main surface car park in Nerja, walked about and saw something of the beaches and the Balcon de Europa, before lunching on beer and tapas at Biznaga in the Plaza El Salvador, which is a favourite place for Clare and I.

Suitably refreshed we headed back to Malaga, at a lazy pace alone the coast road all the way. We ended up hunting for petrol in rush hour traffic, having missed an opportunity to refuel on our way into town, and this took us all over the inner city, nearly on empty. It was gone six when we reached the apartment. Owain went for a swim while I did some Monday shopping, then later we ventured out in the cool of the evening to eat at the Cafeteria Flor across the street. The food was excellent. It was a little too noisy for eating out doors for my comfort. Owain was happy however, tucking into a generous portion of pez espada, one of our family favourites - swordfish. A nice memory to take with him back to Bristol. It's been lovely to have quality time together. More of the same would do us both good, I reckon.

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