We arrived in Granada a month ago with our family of five and just like a blind date, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had never been here myself and neither had my husband, I had only read it’s “profile” online, and been told by several people how wonderful and “magical” it was. I knew it was a city with deep history, tapas and an area where people spoke only Spanish. But with any new relationship, I was excited but wary about what may lie ahead.
We had been warned by several folks not to come to Granada in August because of the heat and due to the fact that most businesses are shut down. But, because I wanted time to get my family set up before school started, we arrived in mid-August. Well, surprise, surprise it’s freaking hot in August. Like really, really hot. It was up to 108 degrees (I recently learned that’s 42 Celcius)! I now realize why the siesta may have been invented!
We were all pleasantly surprised with the house or “carmen” we rented. It looked just like the pictures online and works well for our family. It’s fully furnished and much bigger than our house in L.A. – the kids were thrilled that each of them had their own room! The house has three floors (I’m getting used to climbing the stairs), a fantastic view of the historic Alhambra, and a pool. The downside is that it does not have air conditioning. It’s been so hot, that we’ve gone and stayed in two different Marriott’s on the coast since we’ve been here. During the week we’ve been in the pool every single day and made some friends who were ready to jump in with us. At night we each lay in front of a fan and had a lot of trouble sleeping. For weeks the only relief from the heat was the pool and taking siestas each day!
Suffice it to say it wasn’t love at first sight. It was difficult to see that “magical” quality of Granada, it was rather “mysterious” to me. Like, how the heck do you walk up the cobblestone streets with all of your groceries? Or where do you buy shampoo for dried out hair? Where can I get that big fat cup of coffee I need? Who sells meat besides jamon? In the heat of summer most things were shut down and we worked really hard to find the things we needed. Even if a store was technically “open”, you have to avoid siesta time – about 2-5 pm (give or take a few hours). Most of the stores had been shut down for summer with steel doors and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s behind them!
We live in the Moorish quarter called the Albayzin that is steeped in history and small alleys that are too small to drive a car through and provide lots of mystery and intrigue to the neighborhood. The kids love running up and down the alleyways and finding new nooks and crannies and ways to travel but there’s quite a bit of walking.
Summer in Granada seems to bring an eclectic crowd. The heat of Spain sent many locals to the beach and brought some interesting people into the area. Summer in Granada reminds me a bit of Venice Beach, California with a lot of musicians, tarot card readers and hippies. Many of the hippies have dogs and aren’t really into picking up their caca – and that’s my biggest gripe right now. I thought hippies liked to save the environment! But there is also an intellectual crowd who are enthralled with the very rich history of this region. I’m interested myself but I have to wait until it cools down so I can appreciate the tours.
What I’ve enjoyed the most so far is our language school – Castila. It’s a family owned business and we learned so much from all of the teachers. Our whole family took classes for four hours in the morning. Each afternoon they had set up an excursion or event. We took a bus to the beach, went horseback riding, we had a paella party, and a tapas party. We met quite a few families and students who wanted to become bilingual as well, which provided us with an instant group of friends!
There have been bumps in the road and a few of us have had meltdowns and felt homesick from time to time but as we’ve moved into September we all see the potential of living here. I see the pros and cons of this experience and there are pitfalls of living in any city. On a positive note, the kids are able to walk to the local shops where the owners know their names, and they are becoming more independent and confident. It’s a walking city so I’m hopeful that I’ll strengthen my body as well as my mind with the language and history. I’m ready to open myself up and explore all the things Granada has to offer – to find the best restaurants, learn about the rich culture, and establish new friendships. I’m taking it day by day and opening up to a relationship with this very intriguing city!