Oh, the month of January. It always leads to be one of the most unpredictable months of the year for me, if not the most unpredictable.
This time last year, I began my post-grad traveling with a bang: by furiously attempting to obtain a visa to visit India for a month to switching to living in Los Angeles for a while. What, at the time, seemed like a major bust in my plans ended up being one of the best months of my life – certainly of my adult life. That fateful change in plans had me reassessing my desires and solidified my love for Southern California, which I still long to go back to and eventually settle into.
This January, things have been just as odd. I still find myself living in Madrid, which at times feels completely normal. Yet, at other times, such as now, I can’t believe that I actually live here. The city itself is so simultaneously foreign and similar to home that it confuses me day after day, but in a way I sometimes forget to appreciate. The last few weeks have been an adjustment from being at home with my loved ones to returning to a city wherein my ties are relatively shallow. A few days of reassessing here or there, of complaining about my post-holiday exhaustion, and my disgruntled attitude at having to return to work, and I’m there. I’m at that point where the excitement of seeing new things, places, and people is back on my mind. An afternoon conversation with a friend from Granada leads to my proclamation that it’s time that I travel again; that I need to see more of Spain. Spain was, after all, my first foreign love – something that still eludes me. It amazes me that the place I currently live in is also the place that I, for some reason, seemed to think of, feel attached to, and even look the part of as a child. Now I may not share those previous sentiments, but I thought, surely I owe it to 10 year old me to do everything I wanted to do now that I’m of age?
But then I think, there is much to be grateful for. Forget the relatively warm weather, the stable job, the amazing area I live in: this is quite possibly the first country that sucked me into my lifelong need to study other cultures. This is the country that, while I later wasn’t nearly as enamoured with, prompted my love for foreign languages. And despite my foreign status, my difference in ethnicity, religion, and mother tongue, I feel an odd sense of being used to things here. Unlike many other foreigners visiting the country, the general assumption – made by Spaniards – is that I’m from here, just like them. The obvious hair, skin, and eye similarities aside, even the (widely renowned) style of fashion hasn’t thrown me off, nor the two-kiss familiar gesture that I too grew up with even in Canada (though it was and is three kisses for me). There were things that took getting used to, but after a mere 4-5 months in Spain, I feel settled.
There is something about Spain that has always made me gravitate towards it. Though I’ve mentioned that my interest in Spain has declined for the past 4-5 years, for the majority of my life, Spain had something about it that interested me. I may have been ignorant about many aspects of Spanish life – particularly life in Madrid – but I definitely romanticized it.
As odd as it sounds, being a resident in Spain now, I feel an odd pull towards the city of Granada in specific. And so the story begins:
My first visit to Spain was nearly 4 years ago, in 2009. Still being a university student, I visited Spain with my family after hours of convincing them Spain would be a better place to visit than any of their other options. I was still in love with the idea of Spain at the time, and fortunately, it worked out. My family had been very interested in traveling throughout Andalusia, which of course meant a visit to (arguably) Spain’s most internationally known cultural hub. I pictured this: bullfighting, flamenco, sun, beaches, old towns, and football. Some of it was right, though I wouldn’t find out until later that much of this only applied to specific regions.
To get back to the city of Granada – it was during this visit that I travelled to several Andalusian towns, from Malaga to Cordoba to several other smaller villages throughout the beautiful landscape of the southern province. However, one day, I decided to opt out of a day trip to Granada. Silly, young me who studied Spain for years didn’t realize one important thing about Spain: that Granada was and remains to be one of Spain’s greatest and most visited cities. Regardless, I didn’t go, and when my family returned from the short trip, they proclaimed that it was the best part of Spain and that I had completely missed out. They even went on to say, and still say to this day, that they would return to Spain just for Granada.
Now, my first week here in Madrid, I mentioned this lapse in judgment (on my part) to a man from Granada. His response, albeit incomprehensible to me at the time, was one of shock. Then, the second man I met from Granada expressed the same response. All things considered, I decided to visit the city in December – a little under two months ago. I knew I had to finally see the place many people – Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike – kept urging me to go to, and if only to finally let my parents know that I visited their favourite Spanish city.
Now, while I actually like road trips quite a bit, Granada was the type of city that I later realized I would sit through an even longer bus ride to visit again. Words can’t describe how magical the town felt, how romantic it was, and how grateful I was to see it. The food was spectacular (not to mention cheap), the people were friendly, the architecture was both historical and beautiful, and the inner town was surrounded by mountains. The best and most obvious sight of all, The Alhambra, also happened to be in the town of Granada. Knowing its history, how renowned it is worldwide, and my own love for architecture, I set my sights on it from the moment I knew I would visit Granada.
The funniest, best, and maybe also worst part of all? I never actually set foot in the Alhambra.
That’s right – I went to Granada and I didn’t go into the Alhambra. At the time, it was nearly impossible given the timing and my (at the time) laissez-faire attitude about the trip – not realizing tickets needed to be purchased so far in advance due to it being a Spain-wide holiday – thus resulting in a massive disappointment. To this day, a part of me kicks myself for letting myself miss out on such a beautiful sight. Yet, another part of me kind of thanks me.
Because now I get to go back to Granada. Now I have a reason to go back, a specific purpose to revisit the beautiful Spanish town I used to imagine in my head without being actually well aware of. From missing out on Granada the first time to now living with someone from Granada to somehow hitting it off with (what seems like) more people from Granada (living in Madrid) than Madrid itself, the city has been calling me, and continues to do so. There’s no real way to explain any of it, no right way of putting it, but the truth is that there is something about Granada.