3:30 am, Granada, Spain. The twins are awake and running around eating digestives and begging to play outside. I’m totally depressed by the fact they are showing no signs of fatigue and the certainty they will be getting sleepy when it’s time time to get up to see this amazing town we rolled into after dark.Getting 4 kids here was a battle of wills, and I survived out of sheer determination knowing from experience that getting to our destination will be the test, but the experience will payoff. I walk miles around the small room it seems, hushing and singing, and finding my religion as I pray for a sleeping baby. Same shit, different country. As the roosters start crowing, we fade into sleep. My husband shakes me and I startle awake. He is frantically asking what time it is “maybe noon if I’m lucky?” No, guess again! He’s mumbling under his breath “this can’t be right–get your phone, I need to know the time!” WTF, I’m thinking, I don’t know where it but realize he is not letting this go, I groggily stumble around and fetch my phone, and suddenly understand. We’ve slept through our entire first day in Spain, it is 4 pm!!! We slept through siesta, a solid 9 hours of hardcore sleep! The irony of course being that we haven’t slept that many uninterrupted hours since the twins were born!
We race around getting ready to capture what is left of the day, thankfully the Spaniards are night owls who take to the streets after dark for Tapas, Flamenco dances and the quintessential Spanish stroll on the promenade.
Driving in Spain is easy, the roads are impeccable and the drivers obey traffic laws, there is a sense of order here unlike a driving tour of Italy. We park outside the old city walls of Grenada and begin our walk along the ancient walls of the Alhambra down into the central plaza. The sidewalk is cobble stone that has become smooth and slippery beneath the shuffle of millions of shoes over 800 some years. The path is lined with lush greenery and ancient, twisting olive trees. Lilac and lavender hit your nose while waterfalls and cascading creeks soothe the senses making you feel as if you are walking through the garden of eden. The steep walk ends as we cross a bridge over a deep river ravine and opens to the old city streets and the sudden bustle of Spanish nightlife.
Spain is a country for pedestrians and families. The streets close to car traffic in the main squares around 7 and fill with families linked arm and arm, stopping frequently for bites to eat. The streets lead to central plazas tiled in marble with ornate central fountains lined with restaurants and cafes all with outdoor seating. We park ourselves at one such venue beneath a pergola knarled with wisteria. We set the twins free and order a glass of wine as our senses relax and begin to soak in all the wonders and idiosyncrasies of this charming city.
Grenada is where modern meets ancient and east meets west. It was the capital and last stronghold of the moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula that flourished for nearly 800 years. The ancient city seamlessly unfurls and melts into the modern. 1000 year old churches peek out from the latest in metropolitan architecture. Dark and brooding gypsies come down from their caves in the hillside to play their guitars as art students sketch out scenes from their perches on the bridges and narrow doorways. This is a city for love affairs and poetry. It’s where the rich girl from Catalunya comes to study medicine, but decides to become a painter and to the horror of her family takes up with a passionate street musician. This is a city to get lost in only to find yourself years later, weathered and less structured but far more interesting than you might have been had you never strolled in.
Our street strolling is slowed and we are taken up in sudden crowds. It is the Holy Week before Easter and this is no minor event in a country that is 94% Roman Catholic. We realize we are stuck behind the nightly parade that goes on for miles. Preceded by women in black lace headdress,a half mile long chain of increasingly significant persons in the church hierarchy culminates with an ornate and somber platform topped with a larger than life Crucifixion scene being carried through town towards the cathedral. As the procession makes its way through the masses, the priests, cloaked in pointed, masked hoods of red velvet swing their incense burners and pause to relieve the devout anxiously awaiting a blessing. People reach up to touch the float as it passes and bow their head in a silent Hail Mary. There is band playing music as part of the procession, it plays a horn heavy tune that sounds like the soundtrack to Ben Hur, it is dramatic and over the top, a stark contrast to the haunting vocal chants of the Orthodox Easter parades of Greece and Eastern Europe. We eat gelato as we weave through meandering streets. We stop for more wine and let the twins splash in a fountain. The big girls are in awe and already in love with the relaxed pace of life in Europe. Shelley is considering college abroad and we dream out loud of alternative realities as we make our way back to our start. We enter the walled walkway and begin our climb out of the city. The scenery is now muted and dark, lit only from the full moon above and occasional street lamp. The cypress trees are black, jutting outlines against a starry backdrop, mimicking the rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. A perfect evening opener to our two week trek through Spain.