Have you ever travelled to a new country but found a home instead? That fateful feeling of standing in a whole new location, surrounded by new language and people who are a whole lot of shades that is not your colour, yet somehow you feel ‘Tu casa es mi casa’?
I now call that the ‘Granada Moment’. When everything new seems like everything familiar and comfy. Like Punjabi music at an Indian wedding.
So what makes me say Granada could easily be a feisty Delhi neighborhood? Let’s begin at the beginning. At 6.30am on a Saturday, I took a bus from Seville to Granada.
I met with the amazing Casie Tennin of ‘A Wandering Casiedilla’ who traded her American life three years ago for a one-way ticket to Spain. Today you’re likely to find her trying Tapas and taking on crowds of Spaniards for una caña (small beer) at a local Granadino watering hole. It is a real sight to see her emerge from between twenty people at a bar, holding beer and fried fish. I can only imagine how well she’d do at a Delhi flea market.
We crawled our way through Granada’s free Tapa Bars. And to avail of free Tapas we had to drink. Correction, we had to DRINK. Check out the video to get a teaser of what we did.
Granada is a place where to you have to be very serious about taking it easy. And considering it’s more entertaining than Netflix, it may as well be called ‘Granada and Chill’. But what on earth could I possibly see in this little South Spanish town that reminds me of my city? Let me give you the lowdown.
Granada & Delhi LOVE to eat
Granada has Bacalao Frito, Delhi has Butter Chicken. Both cities place high importance on the culture of dining well and with heart. There’s no scrimping on the sauce or the cheese; food is big and it’s a bold indulgent expression.
We had soft Cod stewed in a sweet Tomato sauce (Bodega Castaneda), Prawns fried in a light batter and breads of all bits and bites.
But one Tapa at La Tana stands out the most for me – sliced bread topped with Andalusian Tomato + Sausage & olives on the side. While that sounds underwhelming, let me assure you that when you have ingredients of spectacular quality, all you need is smart pairing. The tomatoes were so juicy, it feels like biting into a mango. Combined with a hearty sausage and salty olives, this is the Alhambra of Tapas.
Speaking of ingredients, Casie took me to a local food market called Mercado San Augustin where we sampled slivers of the super premium Jamon Iberico. The acorn-fed pure breed Iberico ham is supposed to be one of the most expensive in the world. It’s earthy, floral and just a little nutty.
Never have I ever described ham like wine.
We also tried some delicious chocolates and olive oils. Yes, I used that adjective for olive oil. Cause after trying olive oils in Spain, life is not the same and colours have new meanings.
Whether you’re at a Bodega or at a produce market, Granadinos look at food the way Delhi looks at Dolma Aunty’s steamed Momos.
Of Barrios & Sarais
Walking around Granda I felt like an Indian Alice in Spanish Wonderland. There’s the Gypsy neighbourhood of Sacramonte which Casie says is known for its music, the old Jewish quarter of Realejo and ofcourse, the famous Arabic influenced barrio called Albaicín.
If I were to show you pictures of this place and ask you to guess, I can bet my doughnut fund, you’ll think its Old Delhi. Narrow streets? Check. Lingering aromas of Kebabs and Chai? Check. Some white but mostly brown people? Check. Ishita on a weekend? Check.
Casie takes me to a gorgeous little Moroccan cafe in the Albaicin for tea. This is where it gets better. Out comes a man with a pot of tea – not Moroccan Mint but spicy milk tea! My eyes light up as Casie fills my glass, just a little bigger than a conventional cutting chai glass. I swear I teared up a little when the server came up to me and started chatting in Hindi. Turns out he’s from Pakistan and hearts chai as much as I do.
In all of my trips to Europe, I’ve never felt so close to home.
Granada and Delhi have the LOUDEST People
For all those of you who complain that Delhites are loud and boorish, you really really need to visit Granada. An average bodega at lunch looks like Haldirams at Diwali. Every inch is occupied with patrons eating and talking their loudest.
If you want to place an order, you have to walk right into the thicket that is the bar counter and scream your order. Clearly, Casie is an expert but is a little worried about me, specially since am foreign and walking around with a camera on a monopod. I remind her that this is how we shop for groceries. Minus the haggling.
Here’s the clincher. Every place we went, people would welcome us like long lost friends. We shared tables, tapas, cultural jokes and Indian stereotypes with perfect strangers. At La Tana, a doctor and his wife treated us to some of Spain’s finest wines and at Los Diamantes a very enthusiastic old man took my monopod to film me, then dropped the camera on a plate of fried seafood. Granada feels like a constant party fuelled by Delhi’s mantra to live it large!
Needless to say, I missed visiting the Alhambra. *Gasp for reaction*
So if you’re planning on visiting Spain, I would seriously recommend dropping by Granada and experiencing a home away from home.
Getting there – I took a bus from Sevilla which cost me about €25 and three hours one way.
Where we ate – Bodega Castañeda at Travesia Almireceros, Taberna La Tana at Calle Virgen del Rosario, Los Diamantes at Calle Navas, Tajine Elvira at Calle Elvira. Local food market Mercado San Augustin
Must Try – Fried Seafood Tapa and CRIANZA 2014 by Pago de Carraovejas
Casie also conducts food tours in Granada, you can book them here