Everyday we walked through the Albayzin along the Barranco de las Naranjas and Barranco de los Negros – romantic names which conjured up images of the Moors, their legends and history – on cobblestone paths, past white-washed cave houses, cactus plants, scrubland, and at every turn there was one glorious view of the Alhambra after another. Past an ad-hoc cafe that made use of the natural shade of a couple of trees. It was nothing more than two small tables, a bench and a home-made sign listing beer and bocadillos for sale. There was no coffee; otherwise we’d have stopped for a cup. The entrance to the cafe, a red- painted, white-spotted door which sprouted like a fairytale mushroom, was guarded by a bull-terrier who did his job well, and barked furiously as we passed. We looked down over tan roof tiles to postage-stamp sized backyards. In one an Alsatian sat on the steps. A cat walked the wall above him, high-stepping daintily towards tourist hands which stroked and caressed. The Alsatian let rip. On another roof-top a cat napped while her kitten swiped at her tail, and another watched from the cover of a chimney pot. A woman’s voice soared behind a flower-festooned railing. She sounded angry. But it was probably just Spanish excitement.
There were no cars. Just scooters – boy racers. The dog shit was more hazardous. No-one picked up after their dog. We continued past a flamenco/Spanish school, and steps inching up the hillside, past narrow lanes radiating haphazardly, past twists and turns, high walls and barred gates. It was inscrutable; even with a map, Jim got lost. ‘The map is wrong’, he said. ‘Google Earth is wrong’. But that was the charm of the Albayzin.
Little by little she revealed herself and her treasures. The facade of a mosque embedded in a wall. Ancient water-tanks. The new mosque and the St. Nicolas mirador. Secret gardens behind Carmen* walls. Tiny plazas and restaurants. The strumming of a flamenco guitar. A little ice-cream parlour cum bakery. Churches and remnants of an old city wall. A place for aimless wandering of which I never tired.
*Only in Granada – large mansions with walled gardens. Plain on the outside, sumptious on the inside.