Leaving Granada

The alarm woke us at an ungodly hour, but not before Karl's phone rang and received messages and emails throughout the night at a volume to suit his deafness on a building site. ie. the sound waves were so intense they pushed us out of our beds. This restlessness was further exacerbated by Karl rolling around all night, on our wooden plank and 44 gallon drum sounding bed. I kid you not, a really old spring mattress can deteriorate to such a point that rolling around sounds like a marching band.

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Karl had done some research and discovered it was a 40 minute drive to the airport. So. We left the apartment at 7am and walked through the silent streets, hopng to Dear God, there was a taxi at the rank. The buses hadn't started running yet. You can't book taxis in Granada, but in the absence of life on the streets, do they just sit around waiting for things to eventually happen? The answer is yes. But they are not your average driver. Ours stepped straight out of Fat Pizza. 

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Our drive to the airport revolved around some fully sick conversations on his mobile phone and a decent dose of Spanish techno. I was pumped for a 40 minute session of this, but we arrived at the airport in a swift 12 minutes. I don't think it was just his driving skills, I think Karl's research skills may have also had something to do with it. I was happy to have a leisurely breakfast whilst we waited, and watch Karl and Matisse pose for a series of Japanese tourist photographs. 

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We boarded the plane on the tarmac, with the Japanese tour group behind us. I tested out Mum and Imogen's favourite trick of taking a photo and watching everyone else copy. They usually photograph sticks or holes in the ground and watch people assume it must be something significant, but I wasn't that bold yet. Anyway, the following 10 people took this exact photo after we did. Note: I like to make Karl look into the sun, so he is wincing, but people think he is winking at me. So, all the other 'photographers' made their friends look into the sun too. Ha ha.

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We landed in Barcelona and traipsed through the airport to put our bags in storage and head into the city for one final day. Karl likes carrying Matisse on his shoulders, she likes it too, not just the view, but her constant meal of Karl's hair. Karl pretends that he doesn't like it, and tries to make her stop. BUT. I notice that everytime his hair is dirty, he puts her up there. Coincidence? I think not. 

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The airport signs are awkwardly close to Matisses head. Incidentally we happened to be standing right below one at the baggage carousel and when Karl lifted Matisse up, he almost decapitated her. It turns out the biggest "I told you so"  is actually achieved by not saying anything at all. Our last day in Barcelona was full of R&R, a supermercado feast and wandering the streets. 

A few days in Granada

After our first taste of Granada, not including the convolutedness of the Alhabrama, but including the beauty of it, Karl and I thought we could live here. It is 30 minutes from the Sierra Navada, and all our snowboarding dreams in winter, yet 40 minutes from the Mediterranean Coast for the summers. The culinary delights include all the best bits of Spain AND Morocco. The only flaw on the last point is that the Moroccan restaurants are too arrogant to serve Spanish bread and insist on serving this dry, crumbly, thick excuse for a pita bread. 

Knock knock. Bread delivery.

Knock knock. Bread delivery.

Plazas awash with family entertainment and life. 

Plazas awash with family entertainment and life. 

But after a few more days in the 40 degree sun, and more Moroccan pita bread, this idea had diminished to a biennial, partial year retirement plan. It's so hot in Granada, they actually have to water the streets. 

 

 

Another contributing factor was our adventure to the science museum. The museum was great, it was the sunstroke we endured to get there and back that was the issue, 30 minutes each way, out into the industrial area with nigh a tree in sight. The museum is designed to inspire children about science. The puppet show, dinosaurs, giant chess set, satellite dishes and rocket ships had Karl and I hyperventilating so we hid behind the  fact Matisse would love it and set off.

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If I was ten I would have been screaming around the place like all the other ten year olds. Instead, I kept my silent screaming inside. There were wings for everything; nutrition, pharmacy, chemistry, planets, military, dinosaurs, mind games. And strangely, Matisse was totally loving it.  She was shrieking and clapping so much during the puppet show, that the puppeteer presenter stopped and talked to her, in Spanish of course. All the other children thought she was hilarious. Her favourite was the giant tortoise.

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We went for a quick look in this break out room, but Matisse was having such a ball I ended up staying there for over hour whilst she tore around the room, playing with everything and chasing the other children. It was beautiful. I also gently encouraged Karl to take in the military wing on his own, for the sake of efficiency. I was understandably devastated to miss out on that section, but as a mother, I have to make compromises. 

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In the blink of an eye, Matisse's had her first fisty cuffs. Luckily she was oblivious to what actually happened. Matissse had spotted Olivia across the room. She has become fascinated with little girls, so she crawl, hopped over to her for a closer look. This intrigue and exciement was not reciprocated. Olivia was prying Matisse's hands off the bars and yelling 'No. Mine. No. Mine.' Matisse thought it was a hilarious game and was squealing with excitement. This only served to aggrevate the little brat who turned around and shoved Matisse. Honest to God, I almost roared like Mufasa and pushed her through the wall. Karl pointed out it wasn't a fair battle because this child was about three times as big as Matisse. But then I got to thinking... I was a whole lot bigger than her, and her mother. The brawl could have really gotten wild. Karama style. I can't wait to take Matisse to a crèche. 

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I loved this map on the NT on a giant globe in the museum. Arnhem Land you sneaky devil. And fuck Noonamah, where the hell is Birdum.

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After we couldn't prolong the return trip anymore  we faced the scorching heat of the day and let our skin sizzle off our bones as we walked back to Moroccan Central for a tapas feast. Matisse loved these Moroccan restaurants. Everything on the table being so easy to pull off, parents sittings round waiting to get climbed all over, not to mention, groups of girls having inhaling competitions on the sheesha pipes... What's not to love?

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We spent three days roaming the streets, looking. We saw this procession. I think it was the residue of a royal family, Karl thinks it was a horse club playing dress ups. 

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We were staying next to a big elevated courtyard with views over the Alhabrama. So, naturally at dusk, people congregate, the marijuana aromas start to waft through and the hip hop/reggae karaoke begins. With the exception of the drugs, it sounded like a vibrant spot to check out, right? Wrong. The second you walk up there you know you have stepped foot into an episode of Spanish underbelly. All the weirdos from the neighbourhood are there staking out their real estate. The different skin colours marked different corners, competing with their music styles. I took one look then got the hell out. This was no place for a child. There was an abundance of other beautiful plazas with views over the Alhabrama that I wouldn't have to risk a stabbing to sit in. 

I noticed some highly entertaining graffiti there that said "fuck democracy. What role there was for free speech in the regime they preferred? Nonetheless, I was pleased to see the anti tourism graffiti give way for more typical teen angst.

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Everywhere we went Matisse love prevails, and I have become a better paparazzi. In this cafe, she was whisked into the kitchen and came back with a churro. We got out as soon as possible and I pried it from her filthy little hands. Luckily it wasn't dipped in chocolate sauce or my health ideologies would have been crushed in a heartbeat. 

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We stayed in an Airbnb apartment, the host spoke no English so we did the entire booking through google translate. I loved the departing message and chalk it up to a translation issue... But is it? 

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La Alhambra

After a day of torture for Matisse the backseat of the car, we felt bad putting her in a pram. Good thing she fit in my bag. Not. We actually put her back in the car and returned it to the rental place. I could have let Karl do this on his own, but the mystery of the 2hr, 3km round trip in Madrid still plagues me so I wasn't missing out again. It turns out it took us just 15 minutes, including getting fuel. Such a let down. 

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We walked home via La Alhambra. Unbeknownst to us, tickets to this place sell out. You can book online up to three months in advance, or get a limited number of tickets from the door on the day, apparently queuing by 7am is necessary to be guaranteed one. That's actually crazy time for Spain. We had looked online the night before and all the days we were in Granada were sold out. I was confident we could wing something and we did. 

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The climb up the mountain was gruelling. It involved hundreds of long cobble stones steps, Karl and I carrying the pram with Matisse in it and a steep incline. We were exhausted when we got to the top. But. The view was worth it. And. We got tickets. Our admission time was 4:30pm. It had just gone noon. We almost cried at the thought of climbing that mountain again so we opted to kill four and a half hours up there instead. Find a garden, have a menu del Dia and a coffee, easy. Plus, Lonely Planet had a list of the free spaces that are accessible without a ticket.

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Turns out, we can put away a Menu del Dia in under 50 minutes. The array of beautiful gardens were trapped behind entries granted at your admission time. The free spaces are essentially big open walkways, that verge on the concept of a courtyard. They are made from cement and stone, and receive the full brunt of the 40 degree sun. Coincidentally, we were wasting the four hottest hours of the day. I swear I could see steam coming off my skin. The token trees didn't really provide enough shade to relax in. We kept getting excited to find little pathways that would open into a magical garden, but they just led to locked gates. In other words, it was torture.

Everyone sitting around waiting for their entry time to arrive.

Everyone sitting around waiting for their entry time to arrive.

Conveniently, there are lots of souvenir shops and cafés in the free areas. We visited three restaurants; had four coffees, lunch and afternoon tea. Matisse crawled around stone courtyard after restaurant floor, progressively getting so dirty she looked homeless. It was that or the pram.

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Karl decided it was also a good time to take off his thongs and let his bush pig dirty feet air out. The waitstaff in the Parador were mortified to see him running around their establishment. It was all pretty amusing in a deliriously exhausted and bored way. 

The queue, no getting out of it,

The queue, no getting out of it,

Finally our entry time arrived. The queue for the main section was pretty extreme, so we opted to bypass if and return when it subsided. We went to section two, but our ticket was refused by the guard who gave us a perfectly reasonable explanation in Spanish. A passing tour guide explained that we needed to go to the first section before it would allow us through. He also casually mentioned prams were forbidden from the ticketed areas, and told us where to store it. Thanks for the heads up, assholes.

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We swapped the pram for a baby bjorn and went to join the queue. It was a total of one hour before we were through the gate and into the palace.  Once we were in, backpacks were then confiscated or had to be carried. What a system. A defining moment for the word 'convoluted.' Even just writing it brings tears of pain to my eyes. I'm not a pom and I have to whinge, that's how crazy it is.

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Carlos Palace was truly magnificent in every way. The walls were intricately carved stone masterpieces. Well they were in the day, thesedays the restoration is done with plaster. This doesn't detract from the extravagence and splendour. The building was so elaborate, without signage you would have surely gotten lost, Karl wanted to move in. 

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Karl was really angry at these people who jumped about 20 people in the queue. I paparazzied them. They ended up tailgating us around the whole self guided tour, so their constant presence fuelled his fire. It became quite a passion. 

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This is one of the famous photo angles of the place. I was annoyed at sun, that decided to vanish behind clouds and take the nice blue sky with it the second we entered the courtyard. After we had spent four hours trying to avoid it too. Such a baddie. 

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The lion statues were high on my to photograph list. So I was stoked to have this ignorant man standing in the way, playing with his children for a good five minutes. When he finally moved, this massive tourist group moved in behind the statues for a group photo. I gave up and took the photo with them in it. They got their picture and kept standing there. Even after I had trawled through, I mean been herded like cows through another section of the courtyard, they were still standing there. As I passed them, I heard a lady laughing saying how many photos they had ruined. I seriously nearly decked her. If only I wasn't so exhausted from our four hour marathon in the sun.

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There were signs everywhere threatening us not to touch the plants, so it blew my mind to see Karl walk over, tear off a flower, smell it, then unsatisfied, throw it into the garden. What on earth possessed him? He doesn't. He denies it happened. 

Poor innocent flowers

Poor innocent flowers

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This is Matisses new signature pose. One finger waving... 

This is Matisses new signature pose. One finger waving... 

After a full explore of the palace, castle and grounds, I can confidently say this is one of the most spectacular places in Spain. But it has culminated in a resolution to take a long hiatus from tourist attractions. 

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The PDA

The Public Display of Affection (PDA)is alive and well in Spain. Everywhere you look, people are passionately kissing, dry humping, grabbing each other, tearing each other's clothes off... . Ok I have only seen that last thing once....

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It's hard to take pictures without feeling really creepy so I have only taken these three. Elaine thought these two below us were actually dead, but their gyrating  gave it away.

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Yesterday we were in the plaza when I made a joke to Karl, a funny one no less, so I slapped him on the ass to demonstrate it was a joke, but mostly because I felt like it. He got all righteous, saying it was unfair for me to deny his PDA's then do one to him in front of a large group of people. He secretly liked it but he was revelling in the opportunity to prove me a hipocrite. He threatened that he was going to bust a move when I least expected it. And he did. He fully groped me in front of some oldies at La Alhambra. I was so furious and embarrassed. Breasts are well outside the boundaries. Something bad is coming Karl's way.. Watch this space. 

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El Torcal

As we were leaving Ronda, with heaviness in our hearts, Karl mentioned his burning desire to go and explore the valleys below the cliffs. So we drove along the outskirts of town looking for a road that would mirsculously take us there. Our GPS, 'Ken' was no help, but probably better than our sense of direction which led us down a winding dirt road to an old abandoned church, and no where else. We shouldn't have really been taking the Audi off road, so maturity prevailed and we returned to the bitumen. 

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Soon we were on the highway. Malaga had been wiped from the itinery with our extension of the stay in Ronda, and adding more time to Granada. I found a nice little detour to take in some natural beauty. I know it sounds conceited, but I get a bit bored of mindblowly awesome buildings after a while so it becomes harder to appreciate their magnificence. So in fairness to the buildings, We need to have our space from time to time. "It's not you, it's me."

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El Torcal is a geographic masterpiece. The rock has deteriorated in such a way that the mountain top has become a sprawling landscape of giant tea plate stacks, or cow pats, depending on how you view the world. I failed to take a picture that captures the expansiveness of the place, but it was strikingly beautiful, and I felt like it was a grey, Spanish Bungle Bungles.

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After taking on this first section of the track, we opted out of the 7km walk, in the heat of the middle of the day, carrying a child. There was also a more feasible 3km loop, but details, details. Our excuses hold up better against the longer route. 

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Matisse got a nappy change and feed in the backseat of the car in the carpark. This kind of classiness has hung around us like a bad smell this trip. 

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The detour to El Torcal had left us in the middle of nowhere. So rather than backtracking to Antiquera, we reprogrammed Ken to find the best route to Granada. He picked some 'roads' that took us on a valley adventure to satisfy Karl's deepest desire. Soon the roads became nothing more than intermittent bitument between potholes. Karl's rally driving skills got a workout. It was dead set gorgeous. However, the scenery was just an unwelcome distraction from my self assigned task of watching for pot holes and oncoming traffic, specifically speeding locals ripping around the bends.,daring tourists to consider getting in their way. Our car got a good shaking, I'm surprised a wheel didn't fall off. They dont make Audi's like they used to.

These perfect roads were three lane motorways in comparison . 

These perfect roads were three lane motorways in comparison . 

The motorway led to a truck stop restaurant where we enjoyed a lazy three course Menu del Dia. It was the hand of destiny that put us back on the motorway just I n time to drive by a gypsy convoy, which was only travelling two exits. I was hyperventilating with excitement, all these amazing caravans being towed by tractors. It was a sight to behold. We had begun overtaking them by the time I realised what was going on, so I got Karl to illegally pull over on the side of the motorway so I could get out and grab some photos. The first tractor honked so loudly. I anticipated abuse for dangerously parking on the side of the highway, taking up some of their lane, but more so for taking pictures without their permission. Instead I got a big wave. All the tractors started honking and waving, making a big noisy procession down the highway. Some of the caravans had people sitting in their déckchairs out the back. They were even waving... I was trying to take pictures in between waving, so my photos are pretty dodgy. This was a definite highlight of the trip.

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We learnt early on that one and half hours in the car is about the limit for little Matisse. Beyond that, boredom sets in and she becomes a nightmare. She isn't tricked by a prolonged stop either. There is only so much being strapped to a harness she can handle in a 24hr period. So we time our drives for when she is tired and will sleep the first hour. With our detour to El Torcal, and the back alley route to the motorway, we had hit this threshold with still an hour to go. She was hating us, and making it known, so I jumped in the backseat to entertain her from there.

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Thirty minutes later, all the usual tricks, songs and distractions were wearing thin. Desperate times called for desperate measures. First on the scene was Bertie the magic squirting bottle, squirting Matisse in the face with water. This was both alarming and entertaining for Matisse. Eventually, tears were flowing again. Sally the stripey sock snake slithered in to see what was going on. Eating body parts, making lots of ssss noises and generally acting creepy helped pass another 3 and a half minutes,then it was game over. What to do, what to do.... Sally the snake wound down the window and began talking to the passing cars. Hysterical laughter prevailed. Of course. The most embarrassing thing for me, would be the only thing to keep her happy. The startled looks from the people in the cars is hilarious in hindsight. 

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It's fair to say that Matisse was beside herself when we arrived in Granada. This was exacerbated by our attempts to find the apartment. It took 15 minutes to drive 1km through the most tangled and narrow streets we have yet encountered. The picture below captures the moment when we scratched both our side mirrors, even though they were pulled in, as we edged our way between these two buildings. The apartment promoted the free on street parking out front, but naturally, it was all taken. So we squeezed past the man on the curb and committed to a 15 minute loop back.

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I phoned our host Lydia to find out where she was. She couldn't make it and had sent Fernando to do the check in. All this with full decimal screaming from Matisse who wanted to escape more than life itself. She had even started fake choking to prove her point. We found a parking spot nearby and walked to the apartment where the same man was still standing... "Fernando?"... "Si." For fucks sake. I could have minimised the ordeal had I just army rolled out the first time round. We checked into our apartment and went to the terrace to take in the glorious views of La Alhambra, a Muslim palace, castle and fortress. 

La Alhambra from the square beside our apartment. 

La Alhambra from the square beside our apartment.