Our first stop was Macià Basilios, our hotel located within a monastery of the same name. From there we set out to explore Granada's Old Town. Right off the bat, we could feel the city's vibrant energy. The streets were bustling with carousers, and the cafés and public plazas were alive with squatters, street performers and waiters rushing plates of tapas from one crowded table to the next. Coming from lazy Caravaca, we were practically drooling over the excitement.
|Isabel's crown and scepter|
Later, we set out on an exhaustive tour of what lies beyond Granada's main hub. First, we strolled through the Albaicín neighborhood, a bohemian district that's characterized by hilly cobblestone streets, hippie-run cafés and stellar views of downtown Granada and the Alhambra (we'll get to that later). Even further beyond that, Sacromonte is a still-thriving gypsy community with narrow alleys of sometimes-tattered, pueblo-style housing and restaurants run by feisty women who would do anything short of wrestling you to make you come in for dinner. High above the city, Sacromonte is known for the caves that can be seen dotting the surrounding hillside. For centuries, these little holes-in-the-hills have played home to homeless gypsies, wayfaring travelers and lots of feral cats. Meow.
Though it definitely encapsulates some European characteristics (think a mish-mash of Paris and the Haight-Ashbury), we feel like we've ventured into a magical little world that can't be found anywhere else on the continent. Dark-skinned Africans walking alongside pale-but-black-footed hippies; square, urban families sauntering past hecklers manning the fragrant Moroccan markets; and traditionally-draped Muslim men chatting with exasperated gypsy ladies who can't seem to pawn off that last handful of rosemary: These are the characteristics that make Granada my favorite stop so far — and we haven't even stepped foot on the Alhambra yet ... Stay tuned!