When Daniel and I made the decision to move to Spain, I pretty much let him choose the locale. I was just happy to try something new and live as an expat in a city and country that I didn’t know as well as Italy. So when he chose Granada, I only really knew about the history and how it was a stronghold for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.
As we soon were to discover, Granada was a lot more than that. History was an essential part of truly understanding the region. We also managed to choose an apartment right in the old city center, so there was no way to avoid the feeling of being transplanted back in time. Between the cobbled streets, the nearby markets, and the museums hidden in random corners, it didn’t take us long to find that Granada seemed somewhat stuck in the 1500s.
Granada is a very walkable city, so we would spend a lot of our time wandering the streets, looking for delicious restaurants (seriously—amazing food), and walking into random churches. The truth is that, as a traveler, you could probably visit Granada within a few days. However, to fully appreciate it, spending six months felt almost too short.
There was always something new to discover, whether it was touring the Alhambra again or visiting the cave houses nestled into the nearby mountains. One of the reasons we chose it was because Daniel had googled “best places to retire in Spain,” which it was. It was simultaneously laidback and provided a lot to see and do.
Of course, one of the main draws of Granada is the Alhambra, which was the palace of the Islamic leaders in Spain for several hundred years. I had heard vaguely of it when taking Western Civ years ago, but nothing could prepare me for the stunning gardens, the gorgeous views, and the beautiful carvings that had been created centuries ago. I could see why people traveled from every corner of the world to see it, and knowing it was a ten-minute walk from our apartment further blended history and the current day. (Blog post about touring the Alhambra coming soon!)
Every day was a bit of surprise. Whether it was finding a new type of food we liked, stumbling upon a flamenco show, or hearing a concert going on from the main square from our apartment, Granada reminded me of why living in a location can be such an eye-opening experience. I love to travel and see new places, but I also love getting to know a spot fairly intimately. I will never be Spanish, but I have a new understanding of the Spanish people.
It’s hard to sum up a length of time (I’ve had the same trouble writing about living in Italy), and while guidebooks are helpful, they don’t necessarily talk about the mood you feel when you’re entrenched in a new culture—how a place can start to feel like home even if it is so far away from anything you have ever known. Daniel and I often look back on our six months in Granada with mixed emotions. We weren’t seeing something new every day because we were there for so long and we were sometimes bored, but we kind of miss the slow pace, the opportunity to walk down to our local bar and grab a cheap beer, the view from our place up on the hill.
There are places that you visit for a few days, weeks, and months. But then there are places that after a while start to feel like home. Granada was this place for me—and I think about when we might have a chance to return someday.
Do you have a place abroad that has made an impression on you?