España. Thought it has been over 4 months, I can still feel the cobblestone under my toes, smell the ham, and feel the ease of the Spanish way of life. And I already yearn to return!
Before World Cup Finals last season we all got a little break from the snow. Most of the girls traveled back home to the states for the week, but since Allana (my older sister) was living in Spain, I decided to go and spend some time with her there. Allana and her boyfriend Austin lived in Granada during the school year, both teaching English to Spanish kids. They lived in a tiny apartment on a hill above the Gran Via—the main street that runs through the city. On my initial climb up the cobblestone paths to their apartment I was in awe of all the Moroccan street vendors and their colorful fabrics. The pathways and alleys were so tiny and indistinguishable and established quite the maze in between Allanas apartment and the rest of the city—I had a tough time finding my way back to her place the first few times I left.
Apart from all of the colors and mazes, I noticed one remarkable trait among the people surrounding me in Granada—a trait that is unique to the Spanish (as far as I have seen)—a calm, slow way of living. I have little understanding of the Spanish language, but from what I know this way of life can be explained with one word: tranquillo. Perhaps someone else has already explained this to me, or maybe I have made it up. I could be way off, but whatever the technical term for the Spanish mindset is, I like it. I was in awe of the pace at which people stroll to work, close up shop (no, of course they don’t mind if you step inside and look), and even converse (they want to know everything about you, it doesn’t matter that they’re 30 minutes late). It forced me to slow down myself—so that I didn’t look too out of place—and helped me to take my time, forget my worries, and leave behind the concept of measured time. I would leave my phone and watch in the house and go roam the streets of Granada with my camera. Without a schedule or a timeframe, I had the freedom to wander and return to my basic senses. I had the freedom to stop and look a while, to smell, taste, touch and be in touch with the things around me. I had freedom to just be…and that was something that I am yearning to return to Spain to feel again.
Though it may sound like I was just a mindless dawdler, curious and aloof, I actually embarked on some neat adventures during my time in Spain. The Alhambra is an incredible palace built in Granada by Arab rulers in the mid-14th century. I spent hours and hours pondering the artistic detail throughout the palace. The amount of work and time put into building that palace blows my mind!
Southern Spain is known for its music: Flamenco. It is a sound that I find very distinctive and impressive, and it is indeed very hard to accomplish on the guitar. You can find an example HERE. I went to a Flamenco bar with Allana one night—Le Chien Andalou --where they play, sing, and dance in a tiny little room (almost like a hallway with some chairs lining the sides)…so fun!
Allana and I decided to rent a car and drive to El Chorro to climb and adventure for a few days. So we took off one rainy morning, hoping that it would clear up so we could climb. When we arrived in El Chorro, it was still raining…so we set up camp at The Olive Branch (a bed and breakfast with campsites…very neat!) and planned our next few days. Before we left Granada, Allana and I had talked about doing the “Caminito Del Rey”—the king’s walkway. The Caminito Del Rey was built in 1905, with the original purpose of providing a platform to transport materials to and from the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro and Gaitanejo Falls. It was named “The King’s Walk” when King Alfonso XIII crossed it in 1921. The walkway is 3 feet wide, made of concrete resting on steel rails that are set in the cliff side over 350 feet above the ground and water. It winds through a narrow gorge near El Chorro, and was only a short drive from The Olive Branch. Allana had told be about how scary and splendid the hike was… and I’m always up for some insanity, so of course I was eager and hopeful that the weather would clear. And it did…
The view from the walkway is spectacular. Though I have ventured through many canyons within and viewed my fair share from above, never have I been able to witness the vast walls from a birds eye view. I must admit that standing on the middle of a cliff on an extremely worn-down walkway 400 feet above ground was a bit intimidating. But it was also breathtaking. Check out this video to see what I mean.
There is also great rock climbing in El Chorro, so we spent another day multi-pitching a route and got to see Andalucia from above. Most of the rock is made up of limestone—very different from what I’m used to in Oregon! But it was beautiful and peaceful, and I can’t wait to go back for some more climbing and exploring.
In fact, I have a feeling that I may go back to Spain for a longer period of time at some point in my life. I feel at ease there. Something wonderful happens to my brain while I’m in Spain…my shoulders slack and I forget to stress. Perhaps there is a little Spanish in my blood… Who knows, maybe I’ll follow in Allana’s footsteps and live there for a while. I think I’ll at least have to try.