Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
After one long day in Sevilla, our hotel desk manager helped us to hire a car (very cheaply). While waiting for the car, we took a wander through the delightful streets of the old town centre of Sevilla. We enjoyed watching the slow start to Saturday that those living near the Mediterranean are so good at savouring. We laughed to see a drunk sitting upright and unsupported with crossed legs outside a bodega while sound asleep at 8:30 in the morning.
We set off full of enthusiasm for adventure in our comfortable, new Seat Ibiza. Thanks to Google Maps we navigated with ease onto the A-92 and the kilometres of neat farms fell away. We saw paddocks of sunflowers, olive groves and cereal grains, with not a hint of undisturbed landscape in sight.
We stopped in Osuna and were delighted to explore a charming old Andalusian town with immaculately white-washed walls. Apparently some scenes from Series 5 of the American TV drama series Game of Thrones were filmed there, so perhaps that’s why it’s so well kept!
We climbed up the hill to the cathedral (the 16th century Colegiata de Santa Maria de la Asuncion) and watched with interest the children playing outside, dressed in their best clothes. After admiring the view over the surrounding farmland we entered the cathedral and were amazed to find it packed with people. It seemed that confirmation ceremonies were under way and proud families stood watching the children walk towards the clergymen. I liked the controlled mayhem that is typical of the southern Mediterranean.
Google Maps once again aided our way through Granada to our hotel near Alhambra. After checking in we walked down the hill into the old town in search of lunch. We failed to find an authentic bodega and hunger led us to settle for a touristic tapas bar where more than half of the patrons were Spanish but the waitress insisted on giving us menus in English and only speaking to us in English. The tapas was lamentable but served it’s purpose of fuelling us for a long afternoon of adventure.
We wandered over to the Cathedral and had a look inside. It took 181 years for the cathedral to be built atop the site of the city’s main mosque. The cathedral is nice but not particularly exciting.
I didn’t have a good feeling about Granada. There were a lot of drunken, cross-dressing Spaniards on bucks parties, feral Australian drug addicts busking, Romany begging and throngs of American tourists. The old town felt like a museum that is kept alive purely for tourism and I felt nostalgic for Sevilla which feels so lived in.
We headed off to find the Monastery of Saint Jerome, which is a is a Roman Catholic church and Hieronymite monastery. We couldn’t see any signs of the hermit monks in the main part of the monastery but we could hear chanting inside one wing that is closed to the public.
After leaving the monastery we were caught up in a religious procession near the cathedral. We were surrounded by people dressed in their very best and somewhat conservative clothes. I remember thinking that the clothes were not fashionable but classic and lovely. I was amazed to see women walking along wearing beautiful long black lace mantillas in their hair. I didn’t expect to see those in use any longer.
Everywhere that we went in Andalusia we were offered vouchers, by touts, to attend flamenco dance performances. We were not even a little bit tempted, partly because our days were already full of walking but also because it didn’t feel authentic but instead seemed to be contrived purely to make money from tourists. We passed a street flamenco performance and I felt my body responding to the rhythm and half-remembered moves from flamenco dance classes flashed through my mind.
After a lot of walking we didn’t feel like walking up the hill to the viewpoint to see Alhambra. Instead we waited for a public bus and for just 1 Euro we were taken up the hill. The majority of the passengers on the bus were tourists and some groups alighted too early and then begged to be let back on again. Eventually the driver took pity on them and told all of us when to get off.
We went to the view point and I instantly had a bad feeling. It was crowded with tourists but also vendors trying to sell trinkets, buskers trying to make money and Romany begging. There were also the crusty hangers on that had made my skin crawl in the town centre. We waited and hoped for the sun to find a gap in the clouds and shine on Alhambra but it was too oppressive at that site. We wandered further along and found that the tranquil gardens of the Grand Mosque of Granada offered just as impressive views and none of the hustle of the other spot.
After about 10 minutes we headed down the hill, enchanted by the old neighbourhoods and winding alleyways of Albazin before climbing up the next hill, passing Alhambra again and returning to our hotel.
Each day on our trip, Patrice would draw my eye to another stunning young Spanish woman with slender figure, small stature, long, thick wavy hair and pretty face. These young women were so eye catching that it was difficult to look away from then. He would then point to their bland partners who didn’t warrant a second glance and shrug his shoulders in exasperation, wondering how such lovely creatures could settle for plain partners. I didn’t see a single man in Andalusia that was particularly attractive and I wonder why such a disparity exists.
Other posts from 4 days in Andalusia