Granada’s Gran Via, the route the #33 bus takes from the train to the center of town, is an avenue full of relatively new buildings and smooth granite sidewalks. I’m staying in a historical section and welcome the sight of the old cathedral knowing I’m almost home. I don’t know if it’s because I have strong nesting instincts, or if it’s because I’ve moved so much in my life, that I think of every place where I stay as “home.”
With my red BU hoodie, I have tourist written all over me. On my back is my knapsack. With my right hand, I tug at my suitcase. It bumps behind me grudgingly through the now cobblestone path adding notes to the symphony of autos and voices.
Near the cathedral’s front entrance, four ladies stand with rosemary springs in their hands. The lady to the left extends her arm out and offers me a sprig. “It’s to bless you,” she tells me. “Un regalo,” a gift.
I’ve never heard of rosemary sprigs blessing people unless they were about to cook, and growing up a chica in Queens, NY, I have a strong b.s. radar. “No. Gracias,” I tell her, barely looking her way.
“Es un regalo. Una bendición,” she tells me and puts the sprig close to my face.
“No. Gracias,” I say sternly and veer away. At my new apartment, I do a little research. It seems rosemary sprigs are a gypsy trick to get money from tourists. I resolve to act less like a tourist in Granada.
I call this city Lorca Land. It’s Federico García Lorca’s former home, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. Of course, many things have changed since his death in 1936, but one thing that hasn’t is its heterogeneity and liveliness. The rosemary ladies are just part of this scene, as are the flamenco dancers in the plazas, and the musicians on the streets. Lorca was a voice for the gypsies, the moors, and the peasants. He was a danger to Fascism, and so he was killed.
My impression of the current Granada is that it resembles a silk shirt with antique lace accents. Much of the city has been modernized. Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca’s family’s former summer home, the place where the poet did most of his writing, now sits in the middle of a city park.
The world changes drastically in the city center off the main roads. Just a few feet away from the main streets, one steps back in time: historical buildings, cobblestone roads, narrow streets – many lined with Middle Eastern stores whose sellers set their wares out on tables and mats creating a colorful outdoor market to entice the tourist passersby.
Up a mountain road is the Alhambra with its vast gardens and Moorish architecture. With special permission, Washington Irving set up shop in one of the rooms of the main palace in 1828. There he wrote Tales of the Alhambra. He reportedly felt his writing unworthy of the place. How I understand the feeling! As I travel through Spain, I fear my musings and iPad pictures could never do it justice.
Further up the mountain, through steep cobblestone roads, some with steps for pedestrians, and at times for risk-taking or foolhardy bikers, is the white washed world of the Albacín.
At the top of the Albacín is the Mirador de San Nicolás, where gypsies, university students, and tourists gather for views of Alhambra and live music.
As I take in the beauty and energy of the city, I am fully aware that my time in Spain is coming to an end. Part of me turns to thoughts of home and responsibilities, my need for a job (I’ve been looking, but don’t have one yet), the work my car will need to pass inspection, my father’s health. Then in my head I hear a friend’s voice, communicated through email, saying “home will exert its forces soon enough. Let Lorca wrap you in his arms and give you these last two weeks of wonder!”