More than seeing the Alhambra and more than visiting our Madrid-inhabiting pal, Bryan*, I was most excited for the eating and drinking that was going to happen in Spain.
Colin and I flew into Madrid and navigated three changes on the wonderfully user-friendly subway system there. Our first meal was, regrettably, at VIPS, the Spanish answer to McDonald’s (with beer and a more sophisticated menu, clientele, everything. On second thought, maybe McDonald’s isn’t the appropriate comparison.).
Things got vastly better from there, though. Bryan had a bottle of Spanish red and a leg of ham waiting for us at his apartment, and one of his roommates offered a walking tour of their neighborhood—the heart of touristy Madrid. When Bryan got home from work, we had our first, second, and third of many tapas y cañas at a quiet, locals-only bar: smoked salmon sandwiches, brie on toast, pork two different ways.
The next morning we bused south to Granada, home of the Alhambra, a fortified complex built in 889 for the Sultan of Granada, Yusuf I, later coopted by Carlos V of Habsburg fame, and one of the most beautiful sites in the world. This trip was 100 percent my idea, my enthusiasm: Islamic architecture, I just can’t quit you. We even stayed in the Arabic city (I guess if it were on this side of the Strait, I’d call it the medina), complete with a man leaning out his window to give the call to prayer.
We had our first bites of paella; I enjoyed so much Spanish wine; there were churros dipped in chocolate for breakfast (twice!). Colin was in pork heaven. The paella was one of the few things we ate that wasn’t deep-fried, but as Bryan noted, there’s nearly as much oil in it.
The morning of our trip to the Alhambra dawned beautifully—we broke our fast on the roof and then, shortly after, went out to find lunch on an outdoor patio. That’s when the clouds rolled in. We could not will them away, and the drizzle started within five minutes of our passing through the Gate of Justice. I can say with a certainty that the Alhambra would be absolutely stunning on a sunny late spring day, because even on a drizzly late winter day, it was pretty amazing. I loved some of it so much that it inspired this special bonus guest post on Colin’s blog. Given the opportunity and better weather, I would absolutely go back.
Another bummer, the real tragedy of which was diminished by all of the wonderfulness of being in Spain, was that I carelessly walked off without my camera the afternoon before we visited the Alhambra. We continued on our walking tour of Granada and not five minutes later, I looked for it to capture some graffiti, noticed it was missing, and dashed back to the bench we’d been sitting at. Alas, my trusty point-and-shoot, five years old and with its two failing buttons, was gone. We were left with only Colin’s camera to capture the Alhambra, Granada, Spain, and now the rest of our time in Morocco.
We spent the weekend back in Madrid, eating, drinking, and walking. Although we had nice weather on Saturday for exploring the Buen Retiro Park, Spain was sorry to see us leave the next day and rained on us on our way to the airport.
*Sorry, Bryan, it was a tough bracket.