GRANADA gets under your skin.
I’ve found a flat on the edge of old Albaicin, several streets up from the lovely Rio Darro which, if I have my windows open, I can hear from my living room. It gently scurries along amidst banks of lush greenery, at the foot of the Alhambra. I am on the ground floor of a 17th century building on a little cobbled street, the ankle-snapping terrain of which I don’t mind because every time I open my front door I can’t help smiling.
I live next door to an even older building which is abandoned; its roof is falling in, its windows are boarded up – it has a scuffed, run-down feel about it, but you can tell it was once loved and lived in.
The board that blocks what was once the front door, which bears the graffiti’d slogan ‘Stop Repression’, has a hole smashed in it, and a heavy chain keeps it locked. Hippies occupy it now and I spoke to one of the occupants last Friday at about 4am, when I was arriving home after a night out. He was impeccably polite and spoke excellent English. They’re not going to be there long because, as he told me, he’s ‘preparing somewhere else’. I sit and drink beer with them on the wall directly outside my flat, looking down on the river, listening to the happy sound of tourists discovering Granada.
They’re always smiling as they walk down the incomparable Carrera del Darro, lined as it with flamenco and tapas bars on one side and, on the other, the river, then a steep hill, overflowing with tumbling trees and a kaleidoscope of flowers, at the top of which sits the mighty Alhambra. I am jealous of them, because I’ll never forget walking down that street for the first time.
I feel I find it hard to believe that any authorities in Granada would even try and kick my neighbours out of their temporary home any time soon. This city is so laid back it makes me doubt that I’ll ever get any work done here. I say worry – I’m feeling too laid back to worry. I haven’t been to bed before 2am since I arrived here. Why move country, people have asked me? Why move, specifically, to Granada? Because I hoped that this is how I would start to feel. I had a feeling Granada and I would get on. The pressure and competition of London seems very far away now.
Granada goes to bed late and gets up late; even the birds don’t start singing until about nine in the morning. Their spring song comes in through my windows, accompanied by the gentle rush of the Darro.
There is a mystery about Granada, a soul and personality that has as much to do with its history as with the people who now choose to live here; the people who spend hours in the bars chatting, eating and drinking; the street performers who jump through hoops, blow bubbles, juggle, read poetry, play the banjo and guitar and sing all the hours there are; and the gypsy flamencas who bring duende to the light and space of Plaza Nueva. When I left London I thought it unlikely that I could ever love another city as much – but here I am after a few weeks, undone by and in love with Granada.