Granada: Falling In Love Again

15 Feb

Even if you’ve never studied flamenco I am sure you can guess the greatest sin one can commit when beginning a brand new class. That’s right, show up late. And not just five or ten minutes but fifteen.

In my defence we’d only moved into our Granada apartment the day before, a Sunday, and had no food in the house. Supermarkets don’t open on Sundays in Spain (learned painfully on my first long stay in Spain) so we’d breakfasted on tea left over from the previous occupant and a few nuts from my handbag. We made our induction session at the school on time at 8:45am, then went directly to our two hour Spanish language class, Stuart to beginners and me to the next level. We both felt severely jet lagged but gave it our best effort.

After class we strolled downtown to eat lunch and shop for groceries. The walk back uphill to our apartment at the very top of Albaicin (just below Sacromonte) took longer than expected due to a couple of wrong turns and it was a mad dash to get to my 1:45pm intermediate flamenco dance technique class. Had we been staying anywhere else I would have been even later. It’s exactly ten steps from our door to the upper gate of the school, Escuela Carmen de las Cuevas.

Happily my professor, Pilar Fajardo, is incredibly kind and patient and just smiled and said welcome when I rushed into the studio apologising profusely. With only four people in the class there’s nowhere to hide and whilst Pilar says very little she doesn’t miss a thing. Corrections are done with a raised eyebrow or ‘hands on’ if you still don’t get it. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in the flesh and now I’ve seen her dance, at Le Chien Andalou, I have to admit her into my top ten favourite living female dancers. She is the complete flamenco package, feminine, intense, technically brilliant, sexy, awesome soniquete, and gorgeous!

We’re in Granada for two weeks and this first week has passed in a blur. Stuart is studying Spanish while I have that plus two ninety minute flamenco classes daily. I go back to the school at 5:15pm for intermediate Seguiriya with Maricarmen Guerrero. Again the class is tiny, just five students. Maricarmen appears to be in her early forties and has a wicked sense of humour but she is equally dedicated to teaching. This is my first Seguiriya and I’m struggling, but it’s satisfying when we can dance with guitar accompaniment and I can feel the rhythm. The guitarist, Marco, comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and unlike most schools we’re permitted to video the class for our own practice.

We’ve been impressed with how well run Carmen de las Cuevas is, but then it has been operating for thirty years, long enough to iron out the kinks! Both Alberto, Stuart’s language teacher and Rosa, mine, are excellent. Stuart has only three other classmates and I have just one, a young Canadian chef who is also studying flamenco guitar. Stuart has taken to his language lessons with gusto, he’s watching the Spanish broadcast of the Sochi Olympics while I’m in flamenco class and practices his Spanish when we go out to bars and restaurants.

We have access to the school from 9am to 10:30pm every day of the week and whilst you can’t reserve studios, given the low numbers of students for the winter term there is always a practice studio free.

The school rents us the apartment too and if we need anything we just ask Antonio who looks after maintenance at the school. Altogether a very satisfactory arrangement. If only the weather had cooperated it would have been a perfect introduction to Granada. Andalusia has had a long, hard winter and for the first four days temperatures were close to zero with sleet and rain. Our ski gear came in very handy. Thankfully the sun appeared on Friday, Valentine’s Day, and stayed with us today so we’ve finally seen Granada in all her glory.

The only cloud on the horizon is Stuart’s knee (post arthroscopy). It’s still sore and the hills are not helping. He’s started anti-inflammatory medication and we’re minimising the walking this weekend to see if it helps. He has to be ready to ski in three weeks time…..

A final note to say hello and thank you to Antonio who runs the lovely, boutique hotel, Solar Montes Claros. As usual Stuart and I travelled separately and I arrived in Granada a day earlier. I stayed in the hotel’s exquisite Sumeria room which has a panoramic view of Granada and the Alhambra (as does our apartment one street above). Antonio organised my airport transfer and carried my rather large and heavy suitcase up the Albaicin hill and the steps to my room and then back next morning. Above and beyond!

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My first view from Hotel Solar Montes Claros

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Sumeria: perfect for the weary traveller

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Panorama from our Albaicin apartment

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A favourite spot in the apartment

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Plaza Larga street market

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Fresh fruit and veg ridiculously cheap.

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Paco’s Bar

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Detail from bar wall.

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Drying shoes between classes.

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Here comes the sun!

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A favourite practice spot for guitarists.

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Pilar Fajardo at Le Chien Andalou

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Look who’s coming this summer!

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Our hood.

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No shortage of delicious Moroccan food.

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Washing day!

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Fin de semana.

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Albaicin view from our apartment

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