Friday 17th October – the Spanish version of Chinese sticky rice

This is the Andalusia region in Southern Spain and it is here where Flamenco dancing is thought to have originated amongst the Roma people in the late 18th century. They are supposed to have settled here in the caves and in fact many still do with a thriving community. The road frontage looks like a normal Spanish house with the house going way back into the hill in a cave. This is just a five to ten minute walk from where we are staying in the bnb and quite a neat little area which overlooks the Alhambra across the river. We wandered up here in the morning to be greeted with song and hawkers and people just enjoying company, coffee and the view. I wandered over to where a young man was selling small hand painted watercolours mostly of the scenes around where we were sitting. When he finished something he dated and signed it. He was gentle and quietly spoken and I bought a piece off him for 20 euro. Ha told me after looking at it that it was a bit steep! I laughed and told her I knew that but it was nice to support someone who was doing something to earn money rather than just sitting on their bum with their hands out. She agreed.

This is him. Just after I paid him and walked away there was a scurry and all the sellers grabbed the corners of their ‘rucksacks’ threw them over their shoulder or stashed them under the chair or threw a box over it and carried on nonchalantly smoking and chatting. I watched interested and sure enough within about a minute the police drove up, had a wander around and left. Nobody set up again and I walked over to this boy and asked him how did they know the police were coming. He said they have a code word which someone calls out. He said the police will return so they won’t set up now for a while. He said work was almost impossible to get in Spain and if you got a job you will often be working huge hours for pitiful pay and can be sacked at a moments notice. He can make enough to live on doing this and it’s better for him. If the police catch them what happens? I knew you would want to know so I asked.

They are charged around 300 euros and whatever you have to sell is confiscated. He said things have calmed down now but four or five years ago the police were raiding all the time and were going around in big groups and being very violent. Poor kids I said to Gilbert. Imagine having that adrenaline rushing all the time but then other side is if we had a shop paying tax, rent etc, we might think differently if some buggar set up down the road selling same thing as us for cheaper as no overheads. We wandered into town making our way down the hill and came across what I will call the Arab quarter. Felt a bit like we had wandered into Morocco. Surveyed what we might buy there, including the most delicious dates pressed into a shortcake outer and then headed on into town.

We got back early enough to get ready for the Flamenco Dinner and Show we had booked. Walking around town we were seeing heaps of advertisements for shows and most were cheaper than what we had paid so was feeling a bit ripped off actually. Most were 10-12 euros for the show and 25-30 for the dinner pp. We paid 60pp so about 20 more. You just have to shake that off and roll with it cause there’s nothing you can do about it. However we are now quite happy because it’s probably not comparing apples with apples.

We were picked up from the hotel we had to walk to and taken to the Sacromonté area where the Caves were. In this show there is no more than 100 guests, so intimate as opposed to some shows where you’re packed in and can barely see. Our dinner was supposed to be traditional for the area and it was superb. We certainly weren’t looking for more and were serenaded by a classical guitarist while we ate.

Then a guitarist and three others who sang and /or beat time came on the small stage with three women and and a man who were dancers. We were treated to a two and a half hour show with them all taking turns together and then individually for at least 20 minutes each. The dancing and singing was pretty strenuous and raw, and seemed to be more spontaneous rather than choreographed as the guitarist and singer watched carefully and worked the strum to the dancers rhythm. I have seen flamenco dancing on TV before and today on the street, but this was quite different. Perhaps the environment or the intimacy or maybe the acoustics of the cave made it different, but the undulating singing and handclaps and beating of their feet were spine chilling at times. The bus driver took us after the show to see some of Granada at night and then we were returned to our hotel and we caught a taxi home. No way I was walking that hill again and a bargain at seven euro.

Just got in the door and behind us was three new guests at the BnB so Gilbert held the door open for them. Turned out they were three young women. Two from Wanganui and one from Taranaki so had a quick chat and we gave them tickets we had for museums in Barcelona where they will be soon. Awesome! Not sure if we will see them again as we leave around 6am tomorrow.

Another of the pictures from the wall where we watched the Flamenco dancing.

Today we heard the girls head out at about 7am so assumed they are going to Alhambra. We slept in and made a lazy start to the day wandering down to town and had nuts and a fig shortcake from the same store and then seafood Paella for a late lunch. I waited until here to have this and it was very yummy. Like a Spanish version of Chinese sticky rice. I WILL try this at home. After this we went to visit the Cathedral de Granada and it is quite beautiful inside. It seemed to me quite different from a normal Catholic Church and had the hallmarks of a mosque so I assumed it had been a mosque first but just googled it to see. It was built with five naves instead of three and the round centre with cupola in a new style by the architect. It felt like a cross between the blue mosque in Istanbul and St Paolo’s in Rome especially with the paint work and delicate stained glass windows. It is absolutely huge but no, it is to show the success of the new King and Queen who were pushing Catholicism, so I guess the bigger and more impressive, the better was the rule of the day in those times.

Full up on Churches and Spanish food and plenty of warnings about Morocco, we caught the bus home. Time to pack up and have an early night ready for our train trip to Algerciras, bus to Tarifa and ferry to Tangiers where we will spend our first night in Morocco. Big day ahead…

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