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Tuesday, November 2nd "Casa Rural en La Zubia; Granada"

Rural tourism has always had a certain pull for me. This past weekend I was finally able to stay in a casa rural just outside of Granada in a town called La Zubia. The setting was an old farm, or cortijo, calle Cortijo Balzain, situated in a natural park just outside the town. Comprised of an old farming complex the cortijo was renovated about 4 years ago and they did an excellent job of preserving the character of the original farm. Materials from the land itself were used in the renovations and the old farming tools and implements were kept to use as decoration around and througout the buildings. It was nice to see nothing new and modern except for some of the conveniences within the house we rented. You get a choice of 7 apartments which are attached to the main complex and aligned in a row on the lower terraza. There is another one semi-detached just above this complex and finally the house which we rented, called La Roca. This is more private and just above the complex in its own freestanding building. The house itself used to be where they raised chickens and pigs, but thankfully the remnants of that are long gone. Inside we had a simple kitchen (no oven), plus a small fridge, central heat and ceiling fans in all of the rooms. We also had a small television and a fireplace which was no longer in use. Due to a fire a few years back which destroyed one of the main buildings they have decommissioned all fireplaces, which is tough in the winter months, but the heat works very well.

You can walk anywhere around the farm and following a few paths we managed to get a pretty nice view of Granada and the Sierra Nevadas. We could even see the Alhambra. If you want a meal you just need to let them know in advance, with a normal breakfast or toast plus butter, tomato or mermelada plus coffee going for 2 Euros. A heartier breakfast with some of the best eggs I have ever had goes for 4 Euros, including several slices of bacon and orange juice. We ate lunch once for 7 Euros per person plus the cost of drinks. First dish was a large salad, and the second was a big pot of rice (arroz) which had pork and crawfish (or congrejos) .

We spent most of the day time heading up to the Sierra Nevadas to play in the snow or hanging around Granada. One day we went tapeando, and yes, the tapas are free in most places in Granada! That is if you stand around the bar. Some places don’t offer much aside from olives or chips (like Sevilla) if you take a seat at a table. And while the tapas are free I did notice the beers were often pretty small and a little more expensive unless you specifically asked for something larger. The tapas are dished out according to the number of people, or rather number of drinks, that you order. And they are in most cases smaller than what you receive in Sevilla. Even with the smaller, more expensive beer plus smaller, free tapas and I think you come out ahead comparing it to Sevilla. I still say Sevilla has better tapas, but you have to pay!

Much of the rest of the day we wandered around the center of the city, from Granada’s version of Las Ramblas to Reyes Católicos up to calle Elvira and the Albaicin, or older Arab quarter. In the ten or so years I have been making trips to Granada I think they have embraced the Arab past a little more than before. One of the main streets leading up to through the albaicin has now been transformed into a small medina similar to those in Moroccan cities. Granted, it’s nothing compared to the size in Morocco, but there are some 20 stores, plus tea houses, a restaurant or two and a bakery all selling what you might see in a Moroccan market: rugs, clothing, ceramics, lamps, tea sets, spices, teas, incense, pastries and a lot of other items I am probably forgetting to mention. This is a great place to browse around, although it can get crowded on the narrow street. Heading through the albaicin means going uphill for 15-20 minutes, but frequest stops can be made to check out the view of the Alhambra. The final “resting place” should be the Mirador de San Nicolas, where you get an excellent view of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevadas behind it. Do make this trip later in the day, as the sun earlier in the day is behind the Alhambra, which makes for bad photos in most cases. If you can spend a little time wait for nightfall and see the Alhambra with all the lights. I’ll soon be adding more information to the Side Trips section on Granada, including a lot of photos and some specifics.