Here in Granada, home of the Alhambra and poet Federico García Lorca, people in January (as our host, Concha says) dress like onions, i.e., in layers. Everyone wears a winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. There is the very occasional man or woman with bare legs, but everyone else is wrapped up. Outdoor cafés encase themselves in plastic, with a few tables just beyond for the smokers. That’s right: no indoor smoking in Spain anymore. Tall torches warm up the outdoor seats.
We are in the Albayzin, an old neighborhood that was and still is the so-called Arab Quarter. The new Arabs tend to be from Morocco, but crumbling Moorish arches remind us of their ancestors. The Albayzin is a funky area of labyrinthine streets, artists and blue collar workers. It is eccentric. On our first morning here I watched a young woman go by, deep in conversation with a friend. She was carrying a grocery bag and wearing a large pair of angel wings. Under the ancient arch that leads downhill to bustling Granada, a busker singing Todo Cambia, a Latin American anthem completely at odds—or maybe not–with the flamenco duo in the bar across the street
I sip a shot glass of cafe solo, maybe the best espresso I’ve ever had while LeRoy dives into what will become a guilty pleasure for both of us: deep-fried strips of eggplant, drizzled with dark honey. On the little street that is also a plaza, named Plaza Larga, are a bakery, a pharmacy, several bar/restaurants, a minuscule supermarket, a fish store, a newspaper stand, and an open air farmers market that opens early each morning and closes by 2:00 PM. We are staying in a small apartment a winding block away. If we wanted to, we could fill all our needs here. But Granada is a fast walk down the hill, and the Alhambra is perched on the opposite hill over the city. We have much to see, and we are grateful to be seeing it with our own layers, including sturdy Minnesota long underwear.