May 6th, 2011
What do you do if you find yourself in a Spanish city with so much to see and having neither the time nor the inclination to sit down for a long lunch?
Go on a bar crawl, that’s what! But in the best possible taste, through tasting the best possible tapas. There is no better place to do just that than in the city where the snacks that accompany your drink are delivered to you free of charge. The gastronomic city of Granada.
I would spend every day of the week there if I could. But i always try to get there for at least one Saturday per month. There’s something special about a Saturday in Granada.
Every time I come across some pale skinned tourists being served a plate of crisps or a dish of olives outside a bar, I want to take them by the hand, slap them on the wrists and take them into one of the more authentic tapas bars in the city.
Places where they will not be taken for a ride without the use of a mule! There are so many attractions to shout about in Granada. Some obvious, some less well known. But, come rain or shine, touring the best bars in the city has to be one of the best ways to spend a day.
I love strolling the back streets on a Saturday morning, sampling the remaining individualistic shops. Like every other Spanish city, Granada is seeing too many big chain stores opening. But there are many excellent one off shops in the cobbled streets away from the main drag.
I always say to people: “Don’t try to see all the city in one day. It’s impossible. Get out a map of the city and draw a circle around one barrio or district. Experience that area one day, and another neighbourhood the next time.”
Shop then drop – into a bar
There are some very distinctive parts of Granada. Barrio Realejo, the barrio that centuries ago formed the Jewish quarter of Moorish Granada. That was before the invading armies drove residents from the city.
At the other side of the town the area below Plaza Bib Rambla and close to Plaza Trinidad, is worth exploring in detail. Stroll along streets such as Calle Gracia and Calle Jardines. A labyrinth of narrow streets in which you will find many a good shop and some excellent tapas bars and restaurants.
And it is those bars that you will find me on many a Saturday around 2pm. Bars such as La Bodega De Antonio, Om Kalsum and Pacurri.
And I have a Scottish lady who has been living in the city a dozen years or more to thank for that. Gayle Mackie takes people on personalised tours of the tapas bars in Granada , a great city in which to spend a weekend or longer. She is also co-author of a book that helps people find the best bars in the city, in the mountain villages of La Alpujarra and the wider province of Granada, including the ever popular Costa Tropical.
Gayle says: “I escort visitors through the back streets of this marvellous city. A Saturday afternoon touring the bars is a relaxing way to wind down at the weekend.”
Of course the very act of moving from bar to bar can be seen by some as a macho way to pass the time. Something a nice girl from Scotland should not be doing. Gayle laughs at the idea that tapas touring in Spain should be for men only.
Gayle assures me: “Everyone is welcome. Some of the bars are used to seeing me but I can assure any female that they will be treated just as well in the city centre bars as their male counterparts. Regardless of age, sex or nationality – there is nothing to fear by going into a lively tapas bar anywhere in Spain, and least of all in Granada.”
And I think that is what I like most about my Saturday’s in Granada. Yes, it is a very conservative city. But it is also a friendly one. Yes, you see some people dressed very smartly for the weekend, but Granadinos are very down to earth people.
You cannot help but look like a foreigner when you walk in a Spanish bar. No matter how long you have been in the country. But I have never been stared at, or felt my presence is not welcome in the bars of Granada.
I did though once laugh at how a barman remembered which running tab of the many he was managing, was mine. He wrote the word ‘Guiri‘ on top of the bill. A derogatory word used by the Spanish to label us foreigners. After all, when tapas bars insist you pay only upon leaving their establishment; how else was the barman to mark me out from the crowd?
You are welcome
Far from taking offence, it appealed to my sense of humour and I have become a regular at that bar. Much to their amazement and amusement.
There are many reasons to visit Granada. Yes, by all means sit and soak up one of the best views in Spain. By all means see the most visited tourist attraction in all of Spain, the Alhambra Palace. Do experience the pleasures of the Sierra Nevada ski resort, regardless of the time of year. And be sure to spend some time leisurely walking around the historic streets of the Albaicin.
But please, I urge you, when you go to Granada be sure to taste and savour all it has to offer.
There truly can be such a thing as a free lunch – so go eat Granada!