Thursday, February 12, 2015

Welcome to Granada

After spending two days in Madrid we grabbed another train to my favorite destination of our honeymoon, Granada!  The train from Madrid to Granada is a little over 4 1/2 hours, so get comfortable and it's a great time to catch up on some sleep.  They will show movies on the train with English subtitles in case you need a little more action.  Also, the other train members are a good source of entertainment.  Granada is a prime destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties, so if you are heading there on a Friday expect a rowdy train crowd.

A typical Granada Bachelor Party with matching T-Shirts via
What makes Granada so great for young people (be you Spanish or traveler)?  This is the birth place of free tapas, so with ever beer or glass of wine you order, you're going to get increasingly interesting little side dishes.  The first dish is almost always olives, and with the acres of olive trees surrounding Granada's countryside you can be sure they are fresh.  From there the chef can surprise you with various intricate dishes that range from little slider-like sandwiches to potato concoctions. And the beer and wine is so well priced here, plan on camping out in a little street bar and spending most of your night at that spot.

A typical Granada Bachelorette Party with great costumes via
Watching the bachelor and bachelorette parties are entertaining in and of themselves.  They do things a little differently in Granada: the bachelor parties typically wear a group t-shirt.  Think family reunion groups at the airport.  But for the bachelorette parties it's almost like Halloween.  Where American bride to be groups are known for the girls in black dresses and the bride in white with a sash or fake veil or some other trinkets announcing her upcoming nuptials, the Spanish bachelorette group takes costumes much more
seriously.  We saw groups where the girlfriends were mice and the bachelorette was a cat, or the girls were cowboys and the bachelorette was an Indian.  Whenever these groups of bachelor party and bachelorette party cross paths, well there is a lot of noise and excitement.  Don't visit Granada on a weekend if you don't like a loud scene.

What to See

Despite the first few paragraphs, there's a lot more to do and see in Granada than get a drink with free tapas.  The old city streets are full of incredible architecture, and there are several fantastic cathedrals to explore.  The Alhambra is getting a post to itself.  One of the best parts of Granada is just roaming the winding city streets.  Homes are decorated in classic blue and white tiled ceramics and plenty of flowers with open air courtyards.  Just take a walk and see where it takes you.

Where to Stay
Because Granada is so youth friendly, you'll find some great deals on hotels and hostels.  This was the only city in Spain where we stayed at a hostel, and I highly recommend the White Nest Granada.  We had our on room and bathroom, and while it was a little noisy I can't imagine many places on the busy main stretch not being noisy due to the activity on the streets below.

Where to Eat
The food.  My God, the food.  Granada was by far the best we ate in Spain, and there are a few musts if you happen to head that way:

Tajine Elvira
This place is a little tough to find, but don't give up.  Just keep walking on Elvira until you get there (it's a little further up than you think it should be based on the address).  Definitely order the mint lemonade -- they went across the street and bought lemons fresh at the little market next door when we ordered it since as American travelers we were always the first people wanting to eat dinner everywhere we went.  The owners are welcoming and don't mind serving people with poor Spanish.  I got chicken with cous cous and carmelized onions.  Definitely worth going back for.

Tajine Elvira chicken with cous cous via
Cafe 4 Gatos
This is the place to be for breakfast -- the serving sizes are huge, the food is fresh, and you'll be hard pressed to find a place to sit down.  The coffee in Spain is so good in general, but this place was my best cup.  Pair that with a giant slice of carrot cake and I had a true breakfast of champions that day.

One other thing to remember -- in Granada more so than any other Spanish city we visited, you need to have cash.  These restaurants and pretty much every place we ate would not accept credit cards.  Luckily there are ample ATMs in town, just make sure you use an international one so that you don't incur extra surcharges.  I carried a crossbody bag the entire trip and had no issues, but I would definitely recommend a crossbody versus a backpack or purse.  We did see one couple whose backpack had been robbed in Madrid, and it is really hard to feel someone unzipping your backpack zippers.  A smaller bag closer to your body is a lot less appealing to any would be pick pockets if you are worried about carrying the cash you will definitely be needing.

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