Tapeando in Granada

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During Semana Santa or “Holy Week” (the week before Easter) a friend of mine, Mitch and I traveled to Granada; a city both of us have been wanting to visit for a long time.  It’s funny because for many outside of Spain (mostly those from the US) Granada isn’t seen as a must visit; but among the Spanish it is considered to be one of Spain’s most beautiful cities and one that shouldn’t be missed; there you can also find Spain’s most visited tourist attraction, the magical and enchanting Alhambra.

If I had only five words to describe my trip to Granada they would be: tapear (the verb in Spanish meaning to have tapas), falafels, fun, Alhambra and soreness.

Granada is the last frontier of free tapas. You can of course find tapas in other cities, but you need to pay for them; you can even find free tapas places in Madrid, Seville and Malaga, but in Granada every place gives you them for free.  It’s part of the culture, something that has remained unchanged until now and hopefully never will.  Tapas can come in all shapes of sizes and range from pinchos, or finger food; cosas de picar, or things to nibble-olives or cheese; and lastly cazuelas, or little dishes.  Each tapas bar is different offering different tapas-each new drink ordered bringing something new.  It’s exciting, the anticipation of a new tapa; unless you are a vegetarian, like Mitch.  There aren’t many options for vegetarians in Spain, the Spanish have yet to consider that as a way of eating and even when you tell them you are vegetarian they may still give you fish.  It’s not their fault, they’re still behind on the times.

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The “Jesus Bar” El Tabernaculo

It’s difficult to convey the liveliness of a tapas bar because they’re not just about drinking, they are a place to meet your friends after work or before lunch, or make a quick stop on your way to doing something; a tapas bar is more of a window into the soul of Spanish lifestyle  and eating.  They are usually crowded with little room to move, and few places to sit with everyone standing against the bar or using overturned sherry barrels as tables. While there , Mitch and I took advantage of this opportunity to explore this unique and amazing aspect of Granada. After getting lunch the first day (falafels), it started raining and we did what any sane person would do, we found shelter in a tapas bar and ordered a drink. Our first taste of the tapa experience came in the shape of a montadito,  or little sandwich of ham and cheese with a side of chips.  After this Mitch would learn to tell the bartenders he was a vegetarian after receiving the drinks (they give you the drinks then serve the tapas), so this first time I was able to walk away with two, while they brought Mitch a vegetarian friendly one.

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We couldn’t stop with just one bar and being that it was our first hour in the city we decided to explore and find some more (which isn’t difficult at all). On our walk , Mitch was telling me how his favorite chief Anthony Bourdain had gone to Granada during Semana Santa (just like us) and visited some tapas places, but he didn’t remember which ones he had gone to.  We eventually found our way to a street full of bars and packed with people; while walking we get next to this bar and Mitch stops, saying Anthony Bourdain went there and he was sure of it.  How couldn’t he be; the bar was like no other and unforgettable.  In Bourdain’s words, “As best as I understand an Easter-Jesus-and-Mary-themed drinking establishment, where between drinks one can ponder the agony of the Christ. But with sausages!”  Adorned from wall to ceiling are pictures of Mary and Jesus, pictures of Semana Santa processions, medallions from the different hermandads “brotherhoods” and Semana Santa music playing in the background with the smell of incense in the air.  Who needs to go to church when you can find god in a bar? If anything, sitting there drinking wine, we were closer to him. After spending more time with God than I have in the past year we made our way to another tapas bar and indulged in more drinks accompanied by more free tapas. That would be the end of our tapas experience that day.

The following day started with no plans to coIMG_8833mmit to a full tapear session, but sometimes it finds you. After getting lunch (falafels again) we ran into a girl from the hostel we had met the night before. She was looking to get some tapas and asked us if we knew of any places, being the fine gentleman we are we
accompanied her and took her to the one and only place you can feel closer to God than church, the Jesus bar. We talked about the Jesus bar to everyone we met telling them they had to go if they hadn’t been. It is the perfect representation of Andalusia’s love for Semana Santa during Semana Santa and to be there felt right-as long as you didn’t mind being watched by hundreds of Jesus’s and Mary’s.  After feeling as if we were blessed by the pope we made our way to another tapas bar right across from the Jesus bar. It specialized in fried seafood so every tapas (minus Mitch’s) was seafood, really good seafood. The last place we adventured to was recommended by my friend Maria, who went to Delaware and is now living and teaching in Spain (we would spend the next day with her). The place she recommended was called Bodegas Castaneda because of a specific wine she loved there. The wine was a moscatel made from oranges and it was divine; it was similar to a sherry of Jerez, but accompanying each sip was a hint of an almost almond-like flavor; sweet but not too sweet, like drinking nectar from the gods.
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We continued our tapas tour the following day after visiting the Alhambra (more to come on that). We needed to recharge and there’s no better way for that than a tinto de verano and free tapas; so we found a little bar and sat for a while. After we met with my friend Maria and her friend who was also visiting. We started off where Mitch and I ended the day before, Bodegas IMG_8885 Castaneda. Maria showed us around and wanted to take us to this amazing Brazilian tapas place, but unfortunately it was closed so we settled for a bar next to it. We then hopped to a bar with the fattest Spanish tortillas I’d ever seen, ironically none of us got one. The last stop on the tour was a vegetarian tapas place; finally Mitch was able to get some variety! After all of that we ended it with piononos, a small pastry typical to Granada consisting of two parts: a thin layer of pastry rolled into a cylinder fermented with different kinds of syrup, crowned with toasted cream and Ice cream Michelle Obama tried when she visited, that we dubbed “the Michelle Obama ice cream”. It is found at Los Italianos, “the only real ice cream place in Granada”. I just found out that it’s only open 6 months of the year; we caught it just 3 days after it opened.

And that is the sum of my tapas experience, more will be coming about our other experiences in Granada , such as our visit to the Alhambra, making new friends! and everything else outside of tapaendo.

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