19 June 2017


May was a good month for this wanderer.

I spent half the month in Europe on a belated honeymoon with the hubs. Four cities, two countries. It was my first time visiting Europe in a decade and our longest trip in the nine years we’ve been together. My best friend (a Swiss resident) and one of my closest friends from college (a Dutch native) crashed our honeymoon, so I managed to get in some friendship time toward the end of the trip too.

Most of our travels center on nature/parks or art/architecture. This trip was largely focused on the latter. I love being immersed in the old. Feeling transported through time. Thinking about all the people who’ve tripped upstairs before me.

One of the places our travels took us was Granada, Spain. I booked an esthetically on-pointe and ridiculously reasonable Airbnb in the medieval Moorish district of Albayzín. The area is so old that a cab from the airport can only take you so far. Our driver turned off the main street, and soon we were bouncing down an ancient cobblestone road. He dropped us off in a courtyard and our host walked up a moment later. An innkeeper by day and DJ by night, which explained the turntable he carried with him. We walked the rest of the way to the house, enjoying the quiet night and our first moments in a neighborhood as old as time. We entered the house, a cluster of eight apartments with a lush, open courtyard at the center. The house had white plaster walls with exposed brick, red tiled roofs, vibrant tapestries, and colorful Spanish tiles. And then he led us upstairs. To the rooftop deck. With a midnight view of the Alhambra, illuminated against the darkness. My heart all but stopped.

Albayzín and the Alhambra are world heritage sites and here’s the skinny: The Moors were Muslims who inhabited north Africa, Malta, Sicily, Portugal, and Spain during the Middle Ages (700s-1400s). The Kingdom of Granada was established in 1230 which marks the start of the Muslim dynasty--the Nasrids--who constructed the dope af Alhambra palace. It was originally built as a fortress in 889 AD, later expanded by Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar, and then converted into a palace by Yusef I. For over 200 years, the area flourished artistically and economically until the fall of the Moors to Ferdinand and Isabella. The Alhambra then became their court (from which they sent their boy, Chris Columbus, on his misshapen search of India in 1492).

When we left the house the next morning, I half expected to see a crew setting up to film the next Indiana Jones. The Arab and Muslim influence is palpable and permeates throughout this part of Spain. We walked down winding cobblestone roads, surrounded by ancient white plaster buildings until we came to the town center. From there we continued our walk to the Alhambra, passing small shops and cafes along the way.

The Alhambra is comprised of multiple complexes with different aesthetics and histories. My main reason for visiting was to see the Nasrid Palaces and Generalife. The palaces were exquisite. Every surface appeared to be covered in some combination of cool white marble, wood inlay, tile, or plasterwork with the most detailed Islamic calligraphy. The gardens also didn’t disappoint--lush, diverse, and geometrically perfect. Plus, you've got to love a good ancient fountain. Or 87. It’s an oasis everywhere you turn.

We ended the afternoon across the street at a rooftop garden restaurant. Lunching on regional cuisine like creamy sliced potatoes, stuffed chicken, and saffron rice with nuts, honey, and golden raisins, I thought about how much this place has seen. From the cultural prosperity of the Moors to the extreme oppression of the Spanish Inquisition that followed, the city has been through it all. Changed, but still standing. It was a good reminder for me that, one way or another, life goes on.

Granada was really the only leg of the trip where I left feeling unfinished. Until next time.

Keep on keeping on,