Archives for April 2012

A Sensory Carnival in Granada’s Albaicin Neighborhood

Buzzing mopeds, the exotic scent of incense and hookahs, fierce color, and leathered gypsies offering sprigs of rosemary… We’ve finally arrived in Granada.  And it’s incrediblel!  Our family who is travel weary and coming off of a nasty stomach bug,  immediately snaps back to life. We’re so grateful to enter this vibrant, boisterous place of mixed culture and wild history – both of which play leading roles in shaping the electrifying city known as the “Moorish Jewel”. Gritty and provocative, brilliant and benevolent, Granada is as unapologetic as it is welcoming.

After we get settled in our cozy apartment near the Plaza Nueva  we venture up to the Albaicin area and the eye-candy souk that serves as this neighborhood’s entryway.  Although it’s a gray and dreary day in Spain, color beams from every corner of the Albaicin!  For our family, the souk of the Albaicin embodies the city and keeps the tempo at a family friendly vibe (*see side note at the bottom of this post).  The colors, cultures, sounds and scents melt into a seductive, heady concoction. Our kids’ walk the streets, wide-eyed, only stopping to ask questions (or eat gelato).

Our first stop in the souk (Calle de la Caldereria Nueva) was a small, Turkish lamp shop operated by a kind man, who was happy to let a foreign family browse and take pictures.  The lights were heavenly.

Luscious color sparkled from every globe, and as our Turkish friend flicked different plugs in and out to show-off the light’s brilliance, our kids’ stood silent; fascinated by the light show. Wishing we could own the 900 Euro glowing blue chandelier, we opted for a much smaller and much more affordable table top lamp.  It’s our favorite souvenir.

Making our way up through the souk, we played the “Game of Senses”.  How many different things could we smell?  (Coffee, incense, perfume, smoke, spices/cooking) What catches your eye? (big, baggie & bright “hippie” pants, colorful tea cups, scarves, hookahs, colorful bags, leather) What do you hear? (laughter, guitar music, singing, different languages, dogs). It was a fun way to get our kids’ to connect with their new surroundings. Everything they saw, smelled or heard, was familiar to them and because of this, the city became familiar, or at least more comforting.  It was a fun way for them to connect with Granada and make the city theirs to enjoy. 

We continued to stroll the streets finding small alleyways and courtyards tucked into the Albaicin’s labyrinth.  Color and moorish influence was found at every stop. Street art abound.

Eventually we wound our way up to a (kind of seedy) playground.  We found out later (on an incredible, kid-friendly segway tour – post to follow!) that this playground once housed a secret passageway for Mohammed XII  (aka Bobadil), the last Moorish ruler of Granada. He used his underground passage to sneak from the Alhambra to the Albaicin neighborhood to visit his mother who was living in a nearby palace.  Bobadil was not very popular with his family let alone his enemies, so the secret protected passageway was necessary to his survival. The entry to the tunnel is still there but encased in an rub-el-hisb, or eight-point Islamic star made of marble. The eight point star symbolizes the end of passages. A poignant fit for Bobadil.

As our feet and our kids became weary, we stopped for a drink and tapas at the top of the Caldereria Nueva.  We were dazzled by street performers, and enjoyed a free tapas while sipping sangria. A perfect end to a great beginning in Granada.

The vibrance and soul of the Albaicin and Granada embraced us.  Even though we were surrounded by fellow tourists while walking the streets, we weren’t bombarded by tacky, airport souvenir shops or the artificial properness and antiseptic feel that’s typical in some tourist towns. Granada proudly wears her scrapes and bruises.  This city begs you to experience it.  Through that mantra, we fell in love with this provocative Moorish Jewel. We can’t wait to go back.

*…ON A SIDE NOTE

For a more in depth look into the city’s culture, a nighttime jaunt into the Sacromonte district (Gypsy neighborhood) to see a Flamenco show would have been eye-opening.  We were warned that this was not a good idea with young children, however if we had a few more nights in Granada we may have tried a taxi ride up to see the clubs and neighborhood after dark.  (We did visit the mysterious Sacromonte during the day.  Incredible! More to come in a future post!)

Pools… Beach style! #FriFotos

When I saw that today’s #FriFotos segment was focusing on pools, I thought – TIDAL POOLS! Being raised in coastal New England and now living here again with my Texan husband and kids, this type of “pool” has become an integral part of our family’s summer fun and a symbol for our lives.  They grow life, foster curiosity and change with every tide.

When I was a kid we spent every summer soaking up the sun (harvesting our winter supply of Vitamin D!) on the granite sand beaches of New Hampshire.  Tidal pools offered us an opportunity to find star fish, crabs, and krill during the day and a quiet place to reflect in the early evening.

Kind of like nature’s infinity pool!

 

Quiet and peaceful

searching for crabs

 

You never know what you’ll find at the beach.