EuroStory 4: Granada & Me


“I’m going to Granada tomorrow, and I’ll join you guys in Seville day after.”
The response was just silent nodding, and nothing else. There were no explanations sought, which frankly was a relief.
Next morning, we headed to the Madrid railway station to buy our respective tickets. One thing you should know about Spain, France and Italy, is that in these countries the Eurail pass doesn’t entitle you to hop on any train like the swing in your playground. You need a reservation for almost every train, and we were hoping to get them at the last minute. Unfortunately, we couldn’t; and after a few drowsy minutes of walking and talking around, we realized that buses are still an option.
After confirming that bus tickets were readily available to both Seville and Granada, it was time for us to part ways. Up till that moment I was excited; finally some freedom! But when my one of my friends hugged me goodbye, I honestly felt a little scared, like I was a soldier going to war, with misery lying ahead. One might argue it isn’t a big deal, as I was joining them back in a couple of days, but it was. My day out in Malmo was just a day out – I always knew that I was going back to my friends by evening. This was me venturing out into a new city, making my own hostel reservation, and sleeping in a dorm full of people I don’t know. I was by no means a seasoned traveler – this was just the second week in Europe for me – and this took some courage I admit.
It was around 7.35 am, and the bus was scheduled to depart at 8 am. There was a restaurant at the bus station, and I could only groan at the menu again. There was no time to lose, and the boccadilo came to mind. To my surprise and dismay, it took me ten minutes to get the waiter’s attention. He was absorbed in catering to the ladies sitting to my either sides. I paid and waited for my sandwich, and the clock ticked faster. At 7.50, I made attempts at telling him that my bus leaves in 10 mins, give me my goddamn sandwich. But as Murphy’s Law would have it, he didn’t understand English – and my sign language wasn’t effective enough. This time I didn’t wait for anyone to come forth and take pity – I asked one of the ladies. And by 7.58 I grabbed my sandwich and ran like the wind, because it’s not India, and 8 am means 8 am. Huffing and panting, but more importantly with my sandwich – I boarded.
The entrance to the tour
There was no liquid courage, and I kept to myself for the whole journey. The first thing I saw once I got off the bus at the Granada station, was a tourism counter with bright Apple monitors. In my quest for randomness, I had done close to zero research before setting out.  The Alhambra, a palace and a fortress, was the most popular point in the city. The guy at the counter was good at what he did, and I found out the fortress was off limits but there was a tour close to the palace. Panoramic colorful shots of this tour were on display on the screens. When I asked if I could go on my own, he went – “You could, but see these roads?” A series of insanely fast clicking and zooming later, he continues – “How they twist and turn? It’s very easy to get lost in there.” Two minutes later he was taking down my reservation for a cycling tour worth 30 euros, because tourist and gullibility equal cha-ching.
After checking into my hostel and taking a nap, I left for my grandiose cycling tour. I missed the right stop and was already getting late, so I ran the last half mile or so, enthused and excited. But the cycling tour had only one applicant, so I was forced to switch to the walking tour.  And to my shock, they didn’t return any euros: it cost the same. Walking tours all over Europe are mostly free. But time was running out, and the sun was beginning to set, so in the earnestness to make my trip to Granada worthwhile, I took it.

 

There was only one English speaking person in my group, a French woman whose English speaking pace could give the Sloths from Zootopia a run for their money. The guide smiled more than the average Air hostess, as she droned on about the origin of the city, relation to pomegranates, and how the architecture of the city culminated from the Arab-Christian animosity. It was interesting to a certain extent – about 20 minutes, maybe. The roads weren’t as labyrinthine as I was led to believe. But the walk is definitely one of a kind, and the sunset view of the Alhambra was beautiful.
Before starting the descent back to the city, I saw another tour guide, just standing in her blue-outlined shades, short blonde hair with pinkish streaks – just lost in herself. My tour guide came to her with the slow French woman and made a joke on Italy (which meant the cool guide was Italian), to which she continued giving her impassive, indifferent look. So obviously I ditched my original guide, introduced myself to the other, and walked back with her. We conveniently put the history of Granada aside and talked about ourselves.
Later I walked around the city, which turned out to be more posh than I imagined. The Italian guide had given me directions to a value-for-money tapas bar. Tapas, simply put – is chakhna in Spanish – i.e. food you eat while drinking. The food and wine were delicious, but I can’t say it didn’t feel odd to be the only guy sitting alone at a table. It was time to call it a day, and I went back to my hostel. The room was twin-sharing, unlike most dorms throughout Europe which have 8 to 10 beds on average. The other bed remained vacant, and so did most of the rooms in my corridor. There was no sound or sign of life. That night I missed my friends. If you want to travel alone, there is a way to go about it, as I discovered later with practice.
There is nothing of note from Seville I want to write about, where I spent my next couple of days, back with my friends. But I’ll remember it for introducing me to the best pizza I’ve ever had. (Italy couldn’t compete since I couldn’t visit)
We headed back to Barcelona to board our much awaited flight to Ibiza. I didn’t think the biggest party place on the planet would have much in store for someone who doesn’t like parties, but my friend sold it to me by showing pictures of the beaches during the day. So we reached Barcelona airport before midnight, waiting for our early morning flight, and planned to sleep in the airport itself.
After dozing off somehow in the uncomfortable seats, with dreams of sunshine and beaches in our heads, it was finally time to fly! People were clad in beachwear already, at the airport itself. Goodbye grogginess, hello excitement!
Only while getting in line for boarding, I discovered that my wallet was gone. Goodbye wallet.

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