a little tour of our little space

I’ve been meaning to provide a sneak peek into our home for a while now. Its special touches and local finds create a space so special and unique to us. we’ve been here for close to 6 years and my goodness how our lives, relationship and resting place have changed. I was 21 when we moved in! As you can imagine, the memories that have been made here make it such a sacred space.

Walk in through the front iron gate, past the mid-twentieth century mailboxes, and you arrive at our sweet trinity. Otherwise known as a bandbox house, these spaces catered to the working class or servants of properties nearby. At the time of build, there was no running water and communal “bath” and “kitchen” (now, it’s a communal courtyard). For the curious, there’s a wonderful overview here.

Inside, as is typical of this type of home, there are four floors of identical size. The first floor is the kitchen and pantry. L and his dad remodeled this shortly after we moved in-upgrading the counter tops, replacing the linoleum floor with wood, and the cabinets, as well. This is, not surprisingly, my favorite place to be. The entire wall facing the room is exposed brick. Despite the modest size (huge by city standards), we have ample cabinet space and a beautiful custom pantry (that was once a useless closet) with drawers on one side and shelves on the other. So much space, in fact, that the bottom shelves serve as shoe storage. Oh, and I  can’t forget our little spice cabinet that’s never even sort-of organized.

Watch your step and watch your head as you start up the windy “hail mary” staircase (also redone, as they were coated in brown paint when we moved in). The next floor is our central living space. It’s pure minimalist all the way here, but we have a perfect mid-century dresser that was hauled through the window after I snagged it up at Uhuru furniture in Center City. As for decor, a map of Paris and books (travel, cooking, health, finance, you name it…) stacked everywhere. Does that count?

Up, up, up again, as we enter the bed and bath. Another favorite as the exposed beams and brick wall do all the decorating for us. Off the bedroom is a small balcony that’s in the process of being remodeled. If you squint a bit you can spot downtown. Our bath is teeny-tiny but suits us for the time being. No getting ready together in this space, but we make it work.

And there you have it! Our perfect-to-us space with so much character and love that I don’t know how a someday house can compare.

note: Thanks to Urban Compass for reaching out and suggesting I write a little something about our first home. These records are special, especially when it comes time to move on and make new memories someplace else.

Day Trip from Granada: Monachil

I sort of think I should let the pictures do the talking, but I’ll provide a short narrative, too.

On our last day and night in Granada, I wanted to see the countryside just a bit more. We’d thought originally that we’d take a trip to Las Alpujarras-the traditional white washed mountain villages of the South- but a 4+ hour journey just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, we took a 25 minute local bus to Monachil; a town very known for it’s hiking trails and lack of tourist intrusion.

We boarded the bus and took it till the end and arrived in a sleepy town. We stopped in the TI but really there was no need as this town was place to just experience Spain. We wandered a bit, trying to find the trail head. One woman told us it was closed so we crossed the street and couldn’t find it there either. At a point we found ourselves in the middle of an olive grove then suddenly approached by a guard dog! We just kept walking. And I selected the largest walking stick I could find.

At last we found our way. We walked up a steep paved road, passing farms and modest houses spewing smoke from the warm fire within. At a point, we spotted a goat alone in a small pen and realized it had just given birth to the kid feeding from her. where are we?! Each property grew so much: olives, almonds, pomegranates, greens and more.

We reached the top of the road and the valley opened up before us. On the road beside us we spotted the owner of the aforementioned goat bringing the rest of the herd to pasture. Behind, cyclists climbed toward the trails ahead. It was like a dream! The picture of them above is my favorite of the lot, I think.

We rested for a bit and ate chocolate and figs and a small pomegranate L plucked from a tree earlier. We walked on following the trail, passing farm after farm, some equipped with loud guard dogs. We just kept moving and suggest you do the same!

Finally, we came to the hanging bridges and Los Cahorres. We spotted another couple but otherwise we were alone. We wandered a bit, over the bridges and alongside the rivers, and made a small loop since we hadn’t planned on a true hike.

We ended up at the lone restaurant along the road to the trails, Restaurante El Puntarron. It offered a 9E menu del dia and we selected it immediately. We settled at a table outside and sipped our wine while magic happened in that little kitchen. After a broth soup, we were served a platter overflowing with roast potatoes and stewed pork. we grabbed a bottle of local olive oil from the table nearby and drenched our bread in even more than the plate offered. We drained our wine and were served the most perfect apple cake…It was heaven. And easily the best meal of our trip.

We strolled back into the town and hopped the bus back into town.

A simple, easy day trip I’d recommend to anyone. The perfect ending to our whirlwind Spanish adventure.

 

You should know:

Directions

Restaurante El Puntarron

a message for 2015

I’m excited! for you. love and marriage (May!) and continuing on this journey of loving and appreciating myself, too, and  embracing and pursuing all that makes me whole.that last part is part luxury-part survival, I think. my message for 2015: If you’ve been fortunate enough to identify the pieces that make you complete, it’s essential that you nurture them-passions, people, dreams-whatever they may be. and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

and tonight, we feast: I’m devouring  A Kitchen in Franceand making the richest menu of:

Roquefort and Walnut Gougeres
Roast Duck and Potatoes
Spring Mix Salad
Pear Flognarde

plus champagne, of course, and oysters if I can convince the restaurant nearby to accommodate take out, and bob dylan on the radio.

here’s to all of you in 2015. wishing you every happiness. xx

Spain: The Alhambra and the Beat of Flamenco

thursday morning we woke up early to arrive at the alhambra in time for our coveted early-morning reservation for the nasrid palaces. a word to the wise: bring a lunch or at the very least some snacks and things because it’s slim pickings at the top of the hill and you won’t come back down until after midday.we turned left towards the hill from the plaza nueva. the sun hadn’t yet risen and the air had that ski day chill to it so I ducked into a cafe for a cafe tomar and a crossante the size of my cabeza. We entered the alhambra grounds at the gate of justice and were completely alone save a few guards. the views were incredible and the sun rose as we stood, waiting for our turn to enter the palaces.we met a kind man from pamplona who told us of his travels through the united states and his love of spain. shortly thereafter we entered the palace and were just blown away. arriving early was a very good idea indeed as there were many moments that I found myself completely alone. we followed the tour suggested by the brochure we received at the entrance but also purchased a book beforehand that provided us (mostly L) with additional background information for each magnificent room.
the alhambra is the large complex and within rests multiple sites to visit. the nasrid palace is what you came to see-the unbelievably intricate designs and mathematical mastery creating an otherworldly experience. my camera was dead shortly after noon…It was that magnificent. after visiting the nasrid palaces we moved on to the remainder of the area around; including stunning overlooks that included the valley and sierra nevadas in the background that created a sort of Eden if you ask me. It was the most precious gift of an experience. In case you’re curious, check out the map here. we journeyed through the wood to the generalife gardens. but first we ducked into the open-to-the-public parador that serves as a beautifully historic hotel within the alhambra. what a ride it would be to stay here! If you don’t mind intruders like us, that is.
the flowers and fountains created such a sense of calm and we sashayed from site to site, soaking it all in. that and the blissful sun. in an effort not to backtrack, we cut across the wood to arrive in the sacromonte best known for the cave dwellings that are still inhabited by original inhabitants and, further out, hippies that you can’t help but envy.
we walked up camino del sacromonte gawking at the homes and searching for a special restaurant I was determined to find at #83. the owner and friends were seated outside, cigarette and drink in hand, and I was sure we had the wrong place until he asked para comer? and I nodded and up we went to the small restaurant upstairs. we had one of our favorite meals here- I a Plato del Alpujarra filled with blood sausage, chorizo, pork, eggs and potatoes drenched in local olive oil, and L something similar that I just can’t remember. when we ordered a coffee with our dessert we were told no coffee en el sacromonte and were promptly brought two complimentary glasses of  an anise flavored liquor instead. fine  by us.
we left and passed our apartment in search of the flamenco club that opened to the public on thursday nights. we arrived without problem but couldn’t find our way in. finally, a older gentleman with a very sweet face opened the door and greeted us. Basic spanish is required but all attempts are certainly welcomed so don’t let that deter you. I certainly didn’t, despite my confusion of nombre for number and only recognizing my error when the owner looked completely lost with my responses. regardless, I was determined.
reservation made, we continued back to the apartment and poured a couple of glasses of wine and relaxed for a while. the apartment is perfect, we think, and despite being even smaller than our current space, it’s plenty for us. we assembled a modest meal after our indulgence of a lunch before heading over to the flamenco club.
we arrived to a bustling bar filled with mostly friends and family of the performers as well as just enough tourists. we ordered a drink and before we could finish were ushered across the courtyard to the large performance hall. we were greeted, paid the 20E for the two of us, and were escorted to a table one away from the stage. I was in heaven.
there was a long table filled with the family mentioned earlier, who I followed for appropriate etiquette. they took a few pictures, hollered Vale! in support, and gave a shh! to guests who insisted on talking throughout the dramatic performance.I was stunned by how beautiful it all was- the guitarist, so purely talented and together with the cantor, bass and dancer, creating something so representative of all that Spain. I don’t know if it was the continuous stream of wine or the mood, but it was, again, simply magic.
god, what an amazing day…one of those days you think couldn’t possibly be real because it’s just  that rich. well after midnight we walked the silent streets of the albaycin back to our apartment and drifted into a deep sleep while the city kept on.
addresses you should know:
The Alhambra

http://www.alhambra-patronato.es/

Must reserve ahead on Ticketmaster ES

Casa Juanillo
http://www.casajuanillo.net
Camino del Sacromonte, 83

Peña Flamenca La Platería
Placeta de Toqueros, 7, tel. 958 210 650 (bar), 958 227 712 (office)
10E (including sangria) Thursday nights only.

 

Our Trip to Spain: First Sight of Granada

our last morning in seville we were in agreement that our time there was too short. even still, we were off to granada that morning to spend the last days of our travels in what turned out to be our favorite destination on this trip.

we walked from our hotel to the closer San Bernardo train station to purchase one-way tickets to granada. it saved us plenty of time being at least 25 minutes closer, plus it was in the center of suburban essentials like cafes and supermarkets. The train to Granada departs Santa Justa then, a few minutes later, arrives at San Bernardo. so if you’re close by, I’d highly recommend doing what we did and sticking to the smaller station.

after buying our tickets we ducked into a large supermarket a few blocks away. there was a cafeteria inside where we sat and enjoyed coffee in the midst of college students waiting in a line that snaked through the room to receive what looked like a damn fine sandwich…if only my Spanish was up to snuff, I might have tried… but I didn’t have the nerve. In the supermarket we grabbed the essentials-cheese, meat, olives, bread and chocolate- for the 3 hour journey to Granada.

once on the train, we relaxed. this train was a little older and slower than the AVE but not by much. it’s deliberate behavior allowed us to cut through mountains and whisked us down the valleys to cover the most beautiful countryside. L dozed as I frantically snapped photos, lucky to snag a few that would go on to represent the experience. the journey flew by and I almost found myself hoping that we had more time on the train. but we were there.

I’ll tell you, arriving in Granada is the stuff of dreams. as the train crept closer the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas were spotted, followed by the albaycin and Alhambra when we pulled in.

months earlier I’d booked the most charming AirBnB apartment for our stay. our host asked us to meet him at the fountain in the plaza nueva. apparently this is the meeting place as we meet fellow travelers-2 from california and one in the midst of a RTW (’round the world) trip. anyway, we found it without a problem-a 30 or so minute walk from the train- and he arrived shortly thereafter to show us the way.

god, Granada is beautiful. we walk up a cobblestone street and turn onto our road located in the lower-albaycin. our apartment is on the third floor and after a quick overview we’re left to soak it all in. the views are magnificent! out the living room window rests the mighty alhambra and before us sprawling clay-roofed houses. I was in heaven.

after picking up our previously reserved tickets for the alhambra at the bookstore nearby, (yes you must reserve ahead) we took the afternoon to aimlessly explore and ended up at the San Nicolas viewpoint moments before sunset. the crowds poured in, but it didn’t even matter. the views were like nothing i’d ever seen, something out of a fairy tale, truly.

we wandered down to find a Moroccan restaurant recommended in one of my many books. in between, we passed through one of many picturesque squares and enjoyed our first “free tapa” with a glass of wine. the restaurant was empty as it was way to early for tapas, but that didn’t bother us any- It was cold that night, we were tired and craving something hearty. the streets leading to the the Moroccan restaurant reminded me slightly of Istanbul-shops pouring out onto the street and carpets and trinkets everywhere. what we found was a simple and lovely eatery run by a very kind woman. the ambiance was so peaceful and we each ordered a variation of a lamb tagine and mint tea.

we headed back early to read and rest up for tomorrow, the Alhambra.