I didn’t mean to end up as a camarera (waitress) when I headed off to Granada, but that’s how my day ended.
It had started in the more usual way. I drove to Loja and hopped on the train to Granada as I wasn’t sure how easy parking would be in the city. Granada station is surprisingly small and nondescript, totally lacking in maps or tourist information. In town I was leapt upon by a member of the Unidad de Policía Turística (Tourist Police Unit) and leaflets and maps thrust into my hand. We had one of those useful but frustrating conversations, in which I wanted to speak Spanish and he wanted to speak English. Though my refusal to reply in English led to him trying French and a bit of German on me too, which was impressive!
He pointed me towards the Ayuntamiento (town hall) where I wanted to view the belén (nativity scene). The belenes in Málaga had been varied and beautiful, but in Granada they take things even more seriously, with several competition categories, over a hundred entries, and prizes awarded. Overall first prize went to the Archivo Museo de San Juan de Dios.
As planned, my tour of the belenes ended at the start of the river walk along Carrero del Darro, a beautiful walk at the foot of both the Alhambra and the Albaicín area. Lunch was at the very good Ruta del Azafrán restaurant with views across the river up to the Alhambra. If there were prizes for having really chic loos, this would be the winner!
From there the climb up through the winding lanes of the Albaicín was straightforward, insofar as any walk through this barrio can be. One guidebook had said it was best to abandon the map and just head upwards, turning left and right as the mood takes you – and this worked well, leading me into corners I might not otherwise have found (the tourist office suggested the route around the edge – far duller!).
I found a wonderful market-place with a great coffee shop, went up to the famous viewpoint at Plaza San Nicolas, listened to excellent street musicians, photographed the Alhambra and the snow-covered Sierra Nevada, and felt thoroughly touristy!
Feeling the need for an evening drink and tapas while waiting for the sun to go down, I headed back into the alleyways. Among the countless tapas bars, some touristy, some studenty, I’d earlier spotted Restaurante Manuel Torcuato, and had planned to return. It took a bit of finding again but was well worth it. Friendly, and serving delicious tapas from a good chalkboard list at good prices.
After a delicious plate of boquerones plus a tapas bowl of the house special stew I tried to catch the waiter’s attention for my bill. He was tied up explaining to a Japanese family with two young children that the dancing didn’t start for another hour, by pointing at a clock and counting minutes. They wanted to eat, but though I suspect the waiter understood quite a lot of English, the family spoke only limited and heavily-accented English and the conversation was going nowhere. With several Spanish customers at the bar beginning to look uncharacteristically impatient, I offered my services as a translator. Delighted, the waiter thrust his pen and order-book at me and rushed off to complete the bar orders.
“My” customers understood nothing of the menu, and found it hard to explain what sort of food they liked. In the end I cobbled together a menu it seemed both adults would like, with the children picking at the three dishes we had eventually chosen. The waiter still tied up at the bar, I took the order to the kitchen hatch and called it through, asking that the family would get all their dishes at the same time, even though one was a tapas, one a starter, and one a main meal. I also asked for two small plates for the children.
The family then insisted on buying me a drink. They also tried to pay for my meal but the waiter said there was no charge. Hmmm …. this waitressing lark could be quite beneficial!
Finally I got away and climbed back to San Nicolas for the night-time views across to the Alhambra. Stunning. The walk back to the station was pleasant under the city’s Christmas lights. A truly memorable start to 2013, and definitely a city to return to, again and again.
© Tamara Essex 2013