Spain wasn't on our original itinerary, and neither was Morocco. When we realized the cheapest way to get on to Europe was a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Madrid, we shrugged our shoulders, smiled and said, "Spain, here we come!" We are glad we got a short 10-day taste of Madrid and Granada and also the bonus that was to come-Morocco with Brian's parents!
We arrived in Madrid after a 12-hour flight and while we couldn't check into our hostel, we did the next best thing and headed to the famous San Gines Cafe for their Chocolate con Churros-a Spain staple.
Madrid is lovely and it's easy to get lost in the atmosphere of old buildings. We spent 4 days in Madrid, which is longer than most travelers, and we still felt like we could have stayed much longer.
We enjoyed all of the obligatory sites, including the Reina Sofia, the Prado, Buen Retiro Park and the many Mercados, including San Miguel.
We also splurged big time and went to a Real Madrid game, which was a once in a lifetime experience. Hala Madrid! We had such a great time watching an incredible match.
We enjoyed a great dinner from El Buey, where you cook your order of oxtail on a sizzling plate placed before you. Delicious. We were introduced to the Spain-favorite summer cocktail, tinto de verano, a mixture of red wine and lemon Fanta.
Our bus trip to Granada was like the Twilight Zone, with people just sitting in random seats and getting into arguments about it, a guy behind us whose phone rang as soon as he hung up from the last screaming conversation, and a boy behind us who kept asking for English breakfast in Spanish on repeat.
Granada is a great little city, full of streets with twists and turns and a great culture of true tapas. While Madrid serves tapas, they don't include them with a drink. In Granada, you order a drink and out comes a tapa. You could technically eat for free, but you'd be seriously hammered. Tapas also range from giant portions to just a sampling of olives, but most of them are pretty good.
We loved Granada's vibe, which is hipster and edgy and lively. We took in the obligatory flamenco show, which is so touristy and the gypsy-style of singing is just terrible. As terrible as this is to say, it sounded like dying cats accompanied by guitar. Others seemed to enjoy the show. Maybe we were a bit jaded by our tango experience in Buenos Aires.
One of our favorite experiences, was of course, a dining experience, at La Oliva. Francisco, the owner, takes you on an 18-course tasting experience, showcasing some of Spain and Granada's favorite dishes. It was a lovely evening. Make a reservation early as he only hosts a few tastings per week and seating is limited to under 15.
We also spent 2 days at the Alhambra, and it really does live up to the hype. The palaces and the grounds are simply incredible.
Alhambra Tip: Book tickets at least 4 weeks in advance to ensure you get the combination of visits you want. Take the C3 Bus from Plaza Isabel to the top where there is a kiosk across from the cafe. You can retrieve your tickets here with the credit card you used to purchase.
Spain is definitely a return trip place for us, especially the northern regions. We are so glad we headed south though for this trip and experienced Granada, an often-skipped city.