Across Andalucia: The Albayzin – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  

My travels have taken me from Venice to Florence, Genoa, and Istanbul. In 2012 it brought me to Andalucia, in search of the remnants of medieval Spain when it was under Moorish rule. I spend my final day in the Albayzin district in Granada.

My first breakfast in Granada was in the modern district, at a cafe that seems to attract every cop in the city for their morning coffee. My last breakfast will be in the historic district of Albayzin, followed by a day of leisurely walk-abouts as I savor my final day in Spain.

I hop the #31 Red Tour Bus to the old Moorish quarter of Albayzin, where I have breakfast of cafe de leche with no sugar, and ‘1/2 racion de churros’ – a sort of donut but very airy and not as sweet.  I watch the cook as she swirls the vat of oil before extruding a length of batter into it, using long chopsticks to catch the batter and guide it into a spiral, flipping it once in the oil before flipping it out onto a plate. The entire process took about 45 seconds. 

The Albayzin District is whitewashed like Cordoba was, a restful change from the more intense visuals of the past couple of days. I enter San Nicholas Square and start wandering down streets and alleyways.  

I find the Great Mosque but cannot enter.  Built in 2003, it’s a modern, compact building with a tiled three-station ablution area. There’s a fountain in the courtyard and a great view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. The view must be spectacular at night.

A farmers’ market is in full swing today. I find a shop window full of small doll-like religious figures. The white hooded figures at center look like KKK but are actually inquisitors, among other church themed figurines. It struck me as really odd, given how gruesome the Inquisition was in Granada.

There’s a path of blue plastic sheeting laid out on the cobblestones that seems to be an art installation, running from San Nicolas Square to some unrecognizable stopping point. I follow it and discover a chapel (lower left) built into a wall that is all that remains of the original Fortress of Granada that pre-dates the Alhambra. I find a synagogue which is also closed, with curious brass horseshoe-donkey motifs on the planters on each side of the door. I stop to photograph a couple of other doors, one that cracked me up with its ‘pizza and shawarma’ offering, the other with iron grillwork that is nearly identical to my front door at home.  It would inspire me to do a Spanish inspired make-over of my front porch later that summer.

I cannot find any books, but I do find some house numbers tiles for that porch makeover. I catch a bus to the Sacromente but I miss the stop and end up back downtown. By the time I arrive, it’s siesta, so the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel are closed.  I check out of my hotel and board a bus to Malaga, where I have booked a hotel close to the airport for my flight home in the morning.

I check into the Hotel Solymar, a non-descript but adequate hotel two blocks from the beach.  I walk by a granite marker inscribed with ‘Birthplace of Antonio Banderas” which cracks me up, especially when I start seeing the same reference in several shop windows.  I don’t see any monuments or signs dedicated to Pablo Picasso, who was also born here.  

I choose a fish restaurant on the beach and have the full attention of the staff since I’m the only one there. I look out the window towards an industrial area to the north, and note an absence of sea birds over the waves.

The tide is coming in. Dinner is done. The beach is dirty but I take my shoes off anyway, and venture out into the surf for a stroll as the sun sets on my last day in lovely Spain.  

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