Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Great Granada Escapade

Granada, Spain

After seeing the Alhambra, we found the hotel we had booked and then went strait back out again to explore the old Muslim quarter of Granada. Foolishly, I had forgotten the handy paper map that had been given to us, leaving us with a rather vague one on the Lonely Planet guide. That was the first mistake.
We wandered through the streets, the night making everything look charming and glowing. The streets were narrow and we constantly had to dodge bicycles and taxis navigating them.
Hearing the clamour of many voices, we found the famed lookout point for a stunning view of the Alhambra lit up. 
After that, we found a cool looking church and tried to walk around it. To see it from all angles but we somehow got lost and ended up back at the lookout. From there, we decided to head back to the hotel to get some sleep. 
Rounding a corner, we saw a Spanish man and a small dog standing under a streetlight. There were two ways we could go: down the left street which looked like a narrower road but one that descended quickly and might be a kind of shortcut, or the right road which was wider. We had no idea if either of the roads actually connected with the street we wanted, but as we were discussing the options, the man spoke up. When we said that we didn't understand, he said "Oh, you want to speak English? Okay, we speak English." 
It turned out that he was a teacher, and said that all the people who taught English in Spain weren't very good at it and he was trying to improve so he could teach it himself. I'm not sure if the little dog was his, but it did hang around looking at us. He explained that the left road was a pain to try to find your way from, as there were many ways it turned. The right road did take longer but was better for people unfamiliar with the streets. He asked where we wanted to go, and I said that our hotel was near a huge fountain. Immediately, he said "Ah, the Plaza Nueva!" and gave us detailed instructions on how to get back. 
His English was excellent. 
We took the right road and tried to follow his instructions accurately. The walk back to the centre of town was also very interesting, with some very old architecture. 

I had to get a picture of this graffiti. The way back took us down some back roads and there was lots of graffiti to look at along our way. At one point we thought we needed to go more to the right, so we took the next road across. But then we took another road, still going in that right hand direction, and another. At this point we were too far down but didn't know it. 
When we hadn't recognised anything for a while, we had to stop and ask for directions. We found a couple running a cafeteria and I said in my limited Spanish that I was lost, and did they know the way to the Plaza Nueva? They were very helpful and showed us which way to go on a map hanging on their wall. 
After following these directions, we thought we were definitely in the wrong part of the city, so we stopped in a dairy and once again said that I was lost. However, the owners of the dairy didn't understand what I was saying and thought I wanted food. We tried Spanish, French and English but they still didn't understand, so we left. 
We found a bar and asked the waitresses, who said that it was down a certain street. She looked confident in her direction, so I felt a little relieved. However, after some walking it still didn't look like the area we were trying to get to. Unfortunately I had recently bought a new pair of jandals and they squeaked when they got even a little damp. It was at this point that the squeaking in my left shoe was driving me mad. I remedied this by sticking my foot into a bit of dirt that was around the base of a street side tree. That solved it. 
But we were still helplessly lost. It was nearly midnight by this point, but we found two elderly ladies chatting and walking down the street. I told them I was lost, and they laughed (I later learned that it was because I had been saying 'Estoy perdido', which is the masculine form of the word, so I had been saying that not only was I lost but I was also a man). When I asked where Plaza Nueva was, she said that it was back the way we had come and in a diagonal direction. We sighed. Either we had been given bad directions to begin with or we were desperately bad at following them. 
The ladies spotted one of their friends and asked if she knew any English. She said no, but she did speak a little French, which was heartening because Yannick spoke better French than I did Spanish. While she was trying to give directions, another of their friends came out of a building and he spoke fluent French. He gave Yannick detailed directions that he said were the easiest to follow rather than the fastest. He said it would take about half an hour. How had we become so off track?
We thanked them all copiously and traipsed along hoping that we could finally find our hotel. After ten minutes, we found the commercial centre he had described and turned down a road to the left. This street was much busier which seemed like a good sign. 
It was at this point that Yannick mentioned he had a bad feeling the Plaza Nueva wasn't the plaza we were looking for. I hadn't even thought of that. My heart sank but I kept a small seed of hope. 
And that was when we got arrested for J-walking. Just kidding. 
We found the plaza. It was the wrong plaza. The fountain was not as large as the one I knew the hotel was near. We gave up and got into one of the taxis parked along the street. I pulled out a business card from a hotel that was near ours (for some reason our car was parked at a hotel that was not the one we were actually staying at, but one nearby) and asked if he could take us there. He also spoke very good English and told us at length how business for taxi drivers wasn't so good in Granada and basically said that he wished uni students went out to drink more so they would gave to get taxis home. He often said "is not so good...but you enjoy." We did enjoy the ride, our feet having a much needed reprieve. 
When we told him we had only caught a cab because we were lost, he laughed good-humouredly. 
He dropped us off at the hotel where our car was and we walked to the one we were staying at. It was nearly one in the morning at this stage, and the doors to the hotel were barred. My heartbeat quickened as we tested out a button on what we thought might be an intercom. A voice answered, and asked if we had a reservation. We were saved! We told him our room number and explained we were out later than intended and he buzzed us straight through. 
In our room, we collapsed but I ran the bath to put my feet into. They weren't only dirty from the dirt I had intentionally put on them, but also from walking around the streets for hours on end. Even though we were so tired, we couldn't get to sleep because we were buzzing with enthusiasm, recalling all details of the night. 
When we did sleep, we slept deeply.