Currently: Sipping Chai Latte and eating a Nutella croissant at Dulce de Leche in Valencia, Spain
It has officially been two and a half months in Spain. And it's been filled with cafe con leche, la playa, manchego, croissants, sangria, futbol, and lots and lots of musica! That's about the extent of my Spanish, just kidding. But to my surprise, not many people in Valencia speak English (or maybe they just don't want to, which often seems to be the case.) . I've gotten by though, and I've learned that the best way to learn a language is the sink or float method that I've been experiencing.
There's so much to write about, but I mostly decided to finally sit down and blog due to a crazy adventure I had last weekend on a trip to Granada ("crazy" meaning "exciting relative to everything else in my life," so take that with a grain of salt.) . But I will get to that later...
On August 15th, I boarded a plane to Madrid with a large suitcase, a hiking backpack, and a guitar case (occupied by my guitar of course, and various other small items that my Mom and I could manage to squeeze in there.) . Packing for the year was almost like the question, "Your house is on fire, what three things will you grab before running out?" Except, it was more like, "Your house is on fire, what 50 pounds of things will you grab before jumping on a plane and flying halfway across the world?" I may have grabbed a little too many things before embarking on this trip... When your suitcase is too heavy for you to load up on the shelf of a train and the only words you're limited to under pressure are "Hola" and "Gracias," traveling from Madrid to Valencia can be a bit of a stressful experience.
After hopping off the train in Valencia, I found my hostel (easier said than done considering the blazing heat, my heavy bags, and Google Maps' lack of cooperation.) . A few hours later, after checking in, I was walking into what would be my apartment for the year to meet my landlord, who by the way is the sweetest woman and has excellent English!
The apartment is perfect, with two bedrooms, two terraces overlooking the neighborhood street, a kitchen with a window peering into the inside of a collection of beautifully run down Spanish buildings, a small living room, and bathroom. It only took me about 3 minutes to say, "I'll take it!"
So the next day I hiked all my bags down the five flights of stairs at the hostel, across town, and up another five flights to my new place. (Pro tip: don't be stubborn like me... get yourself a taxi!)
Fast forward two weeks, David arrives and school begins! Fast forward another month and we're planning our first trip of the year for a long weekend: Granada.
Okay so this is where the story begins...
When looking for hostels, David had his heart set on a hostel in a small village outside of Granada in the Sierra Nevadas. I, typically going for the cheaper option in the heart of the city, was reluctant. However, once I read in the comments that there was a dog at the hostel, I agreed to give it a try... I am a dog deprived girl right now to say the least.
So Saturday morning we headed over to the train station to pick up our rental car. My first rental car ever. I was so excited I actually screamed it out the window... "I RENTED A CAR!" We got on the highway without any problems, and the trip was off to an auspicious start. But not for long.
I vaguely remembered an odd comment on the hostel's page from a woman writing about which directions to take. She was saying that if you come up to the town from a certain side, you will have to drive along a steep mountain road... Hm, interesting. But David was in charge of the directions and had done his research so I trusted that we were in good hands.
We were told to follow our navigation until we got to the town of Beas, which was when we were supposed to switch to the written directions given to us by the hostel owner. So after about 5 hours of driving through the Spanish desert and a lovely lunch at McDonalds, we reached Beas. This was when David gave me the first written direction, which was, "Drive through the town of Beas until you find a small road leading up to the mountain"...... Great.
This was when the day took a turn. Or shall I say many turns and reverses.
So here we are, driving the rental car through this quintessentially Southern Spanish town with white concrete buildings and roads probably made to fit wheelbarrows.. or something of the sort. We were driving up a windy and narrow one way "street" with motorcycles and cars whipping around corners, going the opposite direction! But we eventually reached what was CLEARLY the "small road leading up to the mountain."
And we took it.
While the road was narrow and steep, David and I laughed it off and more or less got a kick out of this crazy road that we were driving our first rental car on. After about a mile, we reached the "main road in Quentar." ("Main road" to be used lightly. It looked like another version of the same road we were just on, but a little flatter.) We finally made it to the town, and we were amazed. It was a tiny authentic Spanish town, smaller than Beas, that was situated in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. And it was beautiful.
So while we are marveling at the mountains, and the buildings, and the animals, I remembered that the next direction was a turn that was something like 50 meters from the left we took onto the "main road"... meaning that it was way behind us at this point.
David takes out his phone and tells me that he'll navigate us to the hostel. After all, the town is small, so how hard could it be to find our hostel? We start to maneuver ourselves off the main road and into the town, which is slightly farther down the mountainside. David's GPS is taking us deeper and deeper into this town to the point where I start to believe that a car may not be able to fit between some of these buildings, much less a rental car! (At this point, I'd like to mention that David's international insurance does not allow him to drive. So it was all up to me, a person who gets VERY nervous in situations like this and typically experiences what one may call a "freak out.")
One narrow passageway after another, we finally made it out to a wider street (my definition of "wide street" at this point is blurred) where the hostel was supposed to be. We pulled up aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand .... not the hostel.
The building said "colegio" which, by the instructions, was where we were supposed to park. But there was no sign of the hostel and no sign of a parking lot. We decided to check the other side, which, when you're on a mountain, means further up the mountainside. So we went up around the colegio on a road that met up with two other roads at the top. On the right was the main road of Quentar. On the left was an extremely steep incline that went back into the heart of town. David says, "Go left."
You've gotta be kidding me. I look David in the eye and say, "Are. You. Sure."
Halfway down this incline, we realize that not only is this not the right road, but that there would be no way for me to get around this car that was parked on one side of it. In desperation, I sit there. David says, "Alright, can you reverse?"
Not only am I reversing this Eco-friendly rental car up a steep road in the Sierra Nevada but there is, essentially, a CLIFF at the top of this ramp. I am reversing at a jerky snails pace, frantically looking left and right and right and left while David is trying to offer directional suggestions. It kind of reminded me of that time at Bonnaroo when my Mom was trying to park an SUV, trailer, and Grumman truck in a small rectangular camping lot with help from a few college girls and a couple of hippie's from the lot next door. Only, she had done meticulous planning, and I, on the other hand, was not expecting anything of the sort. And that's when the rental car decides it's going to go forward when set in reverse, hence... the freak out.
At this point, David decides he better take over. Probably a good idea. He gets in the drivers seat, takes a few calm breaths, turns the car off and back on.. and problem solved. Turns out the car decided that it wanted to be in manual. I didn't know I had rented a car with a brain, but okay that's that.
He manages to get the car back up the incline and onto the main road where I hopped in and immediately called the hostel. As David drove, I spoke to a hostel worker who essentially told me to go back to the colegio and park with the other cars. Not that I knew where those other cars were, but we headed back down the mountainside anyway. As we approached the colegio, we saw no parking lot. The only thing we saw was a steep incline (arguably steeper than the one we had just narrowly escaped) so naturally we assumed that the parking lot must be up that incline and around the corner.
David pushes on the gas and we speed up the incline only to get to top where there was a small lot which read "NO PARKING." But, we had found the hostel! So I decide to go in and ask a real living breathing person to tell us where to park. As I walk up to the tall fence where the door is, I am greeted by this sign.....
Alright this place better be heaven on Earth because at this point I am hating myself for agreeing to this. And, it was. After ringing the doorbell, the door unlocks and a woman yells for me to come in. When I open the door, I am greeted by a stone garden with beautiful hanging plants, the sound of trickling water, statues of Siddhartha, and a magnificent view of the Sierra Nevada. What.. is this place???
The hostel worker tells me to park the car down along the main road in front of the colegio. Apparently parking lots aren't a thing in the small towns of Southern Spain. So back down the ramp we go..
Not so quickly though. The small lot that we had managed to get ourselves in already had another car in it and a gate that made it quite difficult to simply turn around. So we came up with a plan to get out by backing up and driving into this corner to wiggle our way back to face the ramp. Again came the right and left and left and right and "cut the wheel!" and "slower, slower!" and "move the gate!" Luckily this time David was the one doing the driving.
We had just about gotten half way turned around when the car started to dip into an uneven part of the pavement that led out to the ramp. I walked around the car to watch the back of the car while David reversed. That’s when I saw it. The front of the car had leaned into the dip in the pavement and had lifted off of the back right tire..
Never in my 22 years of life experience had I ever seen a car on three wheels. My eyes widened and my stomach dropped and I was faced with a choice. Tell David what was happening back here or preserve any ounce of sanity he had left and quickly direct him to reverse, turn, and move forward in order to get the car onto flat land again.
I walked up to the passenger’s side where the window was open and said, “David.. uh the car is on three wheels so I really need you to reverse slowly and cut the wheel.” I said all this while nervously gripping onto the passenger’s side door as if I would be able to hold down the car and prevent it from flipping over, or whatever it was about to do.
David, seemingly unphased by this, calmly executed my directions and finally we were back on all fours. I let out a huge breath of relief. But we weren’t parked yet. I hopped back into the car and we creeped slowly back down the incline to the main road where we saw other cars parallel parked along the side. We rolled up into an open spot and turned off the car. I got out and frantically checked every side of the car.
Not a scratch.
We then mutually agreed that this car would NOT be turned on again until we had to leave Quentar on Monday morning.
Regardless of this crazy adventure, our stay at Fundaluscia Hostel was amazing. The view was absolutely breathtaking and the vibe was so serene. It was simply not enough time to only be there for two nights.
The host was incredibly friendly and suggested many things for us to do in Granada as well as around the hostel in Quentar. The next day we took advantage of these suggestions and went on a hike to the reservoir. Along our walk we saw dogs, donkeys, horses, observed the small mountain houses, and marveled at the views.
Transportation from Quentar to Granada was very easy by bus, which only took about 20 minutes and cost less than 2 euros each way. On Sunday, however, the bus comes less frequently. So, our hike was cut short in order for us to make the bus into Granada by 2pm.
Although we had a great time touring the cathedral, enjoying free tapas, and exploring the garden of the Alhambra, the most fun we had was just walking around the quiet parts of the city. Many areas of Granada are quite touristy; however, if you allow yourself to wander, you’ll find yourself in what feels like a movie set, with cobblestone alleyways and beautiful white buildings.
That night we took advantage of another suggestion made by the hostel owner and went to the Sacromonte Caves to watch flamenco. The Sacromonte Caves are where the Roma people (the preferred term for "gypsies") created a community when they migrated from India.
The excursion began with a short tour before we boarded up a bus that drove us up to caves. To be totally honest, the tour was a little lackluster, but, the flamenco show made up for it. Once the bus dropped us off at the caves, we walked into the restaurant where the show was and filed into the wooden chairs they had lined up for us. We were also given a complementary drink! My choice being sangria, of course.
I had seen flamenco before, but not like this. For some reason, being in the caves made it feel so much more authentic, and the dancers at this particular show were on fire. Everything about flamenco amazes me; the footwork, the passionate singing, the rhythms of the claps, the costumes. You can see on the dancer’s faces that this is something they are incredibly passionate about and that they are giving it their all, despite how many shows the have to do every night.
The show ended and the bus dropped us back off in the center of town around midnight where the hostel owner was waiting to drive us back to the hostel! (He does this for everyone who goes to the caves for flamenco due to the fact that the buses stop running before the show ends.)
The next morning we were headed back to Valencia. A short and hectic but well needed getaway to the south of Spain.
Next stop, Scotland!