Travels in Granada and Almeria, Spain – Part 8
By Nancy Hartman of What’s Cooking America
Destino – Granada, Spain:
Your Mission, If You Chose to Accept It: Several years ago, I acquired an etching at a garage sale by an artist named Vincent P. Rascon. I liked the etching because it was of a cathedral in Spain. I had planned to re-frame it and give it to my daughter, since she loves Spain. The proprietor of the garage sale added it to my pile of spoils as a freebee because I liked it so much. The artist, Vincent P. Rascon had spent time studying in Spain in the 1970’s and while there he did the etching of the Cathedral de Granada. I had acquired this etching with no thought of ever going to Spain, and here I was peering in at the doorstep of his work.
Our Mission: To find the Cathedral de Granada and recreate the etching in a photo.
We found parking in a parking garage, and as all other garages we have found so far, it was very small, or maybe we had just rented a car that was too big? We worked our spotted Spanish to get a general direction of the Cathedral and began our walk through the streets following the signs pointing the way. The signs led us along streets that zigzagged parallel to one another but kept promising the cathedral at the end.
The day was sunny, the streets were full of people, and we enjoyed our stroll through the city peering into many shops and trying to pick a place to return to for lunch after our mission. After 45 minutes of walking, we turned a corner and there it was, the Cathedral de Granada. We circled the cathedral looking for the identical vantage point and began to take our photos. It was fun to arrive at the image in the etching and stand in the very place where the artist stood some 40 years before, probably on a sunny afternoon, casually drawing on his paper with no thought of me standing here in the future.
1970s etching of the Cathedral de Granada 2014 photo of the Cathedral de Granada
Zac Efron – Sounds Like Zafran: Granada was also the city where we found a spice shop where Mom set her sights to find some saffron. Saffron is the stigma of the crocus flower, which originally came from Asia Minor. Saffron is called “zafran” in Spanish. I remember through word association with Zac Efron! Today almost three-quarters of the world’s production of saffron are grown in Spain, specifically in the region of Castilla-La Mancha. Spanish saffron is prized for its high quality, and is worth twice the price of saffron produced in Iran.
Pure saffron is made up of tiny, bright-red threads. The redder the saffron, the higher the quality. The tips of the threads should be a slightly lighter orange-red color. This will show that it is not cheap saffron that has been tinted red to look expensive. Spanish saffron is divided into grades. When buying saffron, names to look for are coupe, superior, La Mancha, or Rio. Coupe is the top of the line and it has the least flavorless yellow stem and the highest amount of crocin, one of the key essential oils in saffron.
Learn more about Saffron and its many uses.
Where Mountains Meet The Sea: After our adventure in Granada, we returned to the Autovista and took the route around the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the highest point of continental Spain, to Almería. Almeria is located at the foot of a mountain range which is crowned by the magnificent Alcazaba, an Arab fortress built by the Caliph of Cordoba, Abd-erRahman with three huge walled enclosures. It is also Andalucía’s most eastern capital along the Mediterranean Sea
Almeria also boasts the Cable Ingles, a mineral loading platform, constructed by the Gustave Eiffel architecture school (also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris) at the beginning of the 20th century.
Another popular sight in Almeria is a stature of John Lennon in the Plaza de las Flores. The statue of John Lennon, by Spanish artist Carmen Mudarra, was unveiled in 2006 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Beatles extended trip to the region. The statue has become a proud memento for the city of Almeria, where Lennon wrote one of the band’s biggest hits, Strawberry Fields Forever. He got inspiration for the song in 1966, during the six weeks he spent filming How I won the war.” It is said that his stay in Almeria also marked a change in his physical appearance, adopting the famous wire rimmed Gandhi-style glasses he was to wear for the rest of his life.
Comida – Crudo, Again? After we settled in to our hotel in the city, my daughter arrived and we went out to find some lunch. We walked through the streets and sat at a lovely cafe to order some tapas and bocadillos (sandwich). I chose a couscous tapa and my husband had the hamburgesa. The cous cous tapa was wonderful, with spicy cous cous and an avocado topping.
The hamburgesa was raw! Is it common to get a raw hamburgesa? We were not sure but sent it back to the kitchen to slow the cow down a bit, as it was definitely still running through Spain. When it came back it had a nice char on the outside, but the inside was still raw. We never really figured that one out any ideas?
Free Tapas! La Cuenta Por Favor: We made plans to eat dinner with my daughter and her friend Juan Antonio. They walked us to the paseo maritime to a bustling tapas bar where we ordered wine and water. Not knowing what to order for traditional tapas, Juan Antonio took the liberty for ordering for the table and soon we had full plates of eggs, sausage, and shoestring potatoes in front of us. Voilà, breakfast!! Finally we found our breakfast hidden in a tapas bar. We were delighted to revel in our eggs and sausage and drink our wine and share in great conversation.
The bill came and to our surprise, we had dinner and drinks for six for under 17 euros. Why? It was the tapas. Tapas are usually a taste of food that you receive when you order a drink. While most bars and restaurants serve tapas, free tapas are more common in the Andalusian provinces of Jaen, Granada, and Almeria. We are not just talking about a free plate of olives or peanuts, but more like, meatballs, croquetas, hamburgers, prawns, jamon serrano, little sandwiches, etc. It is traditional in these regions to order a wine or beer in a bar and receive free tapas. Other regions in Spain, you will have to pay for a tapa. Finding free tapas is not so easy if you do not know where to look. Plan to travel in one of the traditional tapa regions, frequent bars, and plan to order a beer or wine. Remember, a restaurant is not likely to serve free tapas.
A SweetWater Adios: We had a wonderful 2 days in Almeria. We then made a visit to the suburb called AguaDulce, where my daughter teaches English to grade school children. It is a very small beach town just west of Almeria. It is a beautiful port with trendy restaurants along the dock and with a long expanse of beach and a boardwalk.
This is where we said our farewells to Tabitha. It was great to see her in her new home, see where she teaches, and know that she is happy safe and sound. It should hold me over for a few months before I will have to plan another trip to Spain to visit . We dropped her back in Almeria and then hit the Autovista again, heading west along the coastline.
Categories:Food Travels in Spain