Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A taste of Granada

Nazrid Palace, The Alhambra
Rachel, Granada

Until recently I was able to count the number of days I've spent in Spain on the fingers of one hand. After this trip I think this number has just about moved on to the fingers of both hands. This will hopefully suffice as an excuse for the shocking state of my Spanish. We were in Spain to visit the Alhambra in Granada, an ancient moorish palace that is now a UNESCO world heritage site. My companions for this trip, my Mum and Nana, both speak French close to fluently but unfortunately were strong competition for me in the 'Who's Spanish is worst' contest. It's a wonder we got anything to eat at all. 

The fact that we ate very well was down to a combination of sheer luck, a lot of pointing, and the happy fact that we were in a touristy area and many people we encountered spoke English. I also got the distinct impression that it would be difficult to sit down at a cafe or bar in Spain and not be given something to eat. Even after four days we were still pleasantly surprised each time we received a complimentary tapa with our order of drinks.

We arrived in Malaga quite late in the evening and, after negotiating the tiny streets and extensive one-way system of Nerja to find our hotel, we were exceedingly lucky to find a Bodega around the corner that was still open. The waitress spoke no English but we pointed enthusiastically at the display on the counter and received a selection of substantial tapas with our drinks (tortilla, chicken kebabs, chicken and mushroom stew).  After another round of drinks, and more tapas, we were stunned when our bill came to only €10.80! 


Shrimp Fritters
We drove on to Granada the following day and noticed that the quality of the complimentary tapas diminished, and then vanished altogether, as we got closer to the central tourist spots. This worked out well for us though when we ordered shrimp fritters (I think they were called tortitas-we pointed at the picture) which were made with lots of teeny whole shrimp and packed full of flavour.

This being Spain there was always plenty of cerveza (one of the few words I do know) and sangria to wash it all down with. Indeed San Miguel make a lager locally to Granada called, appropriately, Alhambra, which we felt we should sample copiously seeing as we were there.

When I fancied a sweet nibble churros with a thick hot chocolate, that was more like chocolate sauce than a drink, were a great option. The waitress seemed very perplexed as to why I wanted this and a glass of red wine but we got there in the end with lots of hand gestures!  



It took us a while to get used to the 'family style' way that meals were served and we over ordered substantially for our first few meals.  Thinking we'd ordered the equivalent of a starter and a main each we often ended up with six platters of food on the table! I think we were thrown by the fact that everything was so cheap and we assumed the portion size would be much smaller. At lunch after seeing the Alhambra we all ordered Gazpacho with a plate of cheese and some calamari to share, thinking this would keep us going until dinner.  A kilo of cheese and a mountain of squid later, dinner was the furthest thing from our minds!

We decided to have a long leisurely lunch by the sea on our last day and we stopped at a likely looking place in Benamujer tempted by the sight of a man grilling fish over a wood fire.  We seemed to have finally gained control over the amounts of food we were ordering and enjoyed a succession of simply prepared, delicious seafood dishes. Clams in white wine with garlic and parsley, steamed mussels with lemon, a mix of crispy fried seafood and a simple tomato salad with lashings of garlic.  All enjoyed in the sunshine with a beer in hand, perfect! 



Due to our language barrier I was not expecting us to eat particularly well on our trip but I would be hard-pressed to think of anything we didn't particularly enjoy.  The Spanish emphasis on quality ingredients prepared simply was evident everywhere as some of the best dishes we ate were the most simple.  Incredible sliced jamon, a plate of friend aubergine slices drizzled with molasses, and a simple breakfast of bread topped with crushed tomato and more of that salty-sweet jamon are some of the things that really stick in my memory.

We stayed in a great, central hotel in Granada that, thankfully, had parking so that we could abandon our hire car for our stay.  I would not recommend driving in Granada as it has a complex one way system and narrow streets that you could get lost in for hours. The city is compact and easy to walk around and a taxi to the Alhambra only cost about €7 one way for all three of us. Make sure to book your tickets to the Alhambra online and as far in advance as possible as they only sell a limited number for each day and they sell out quickly.


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