Lovely Cadiz

Lovely Cadiz
Cadiz - my favorite place so far in the trip to Southern Spain

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bloggo Andalusia Ocho: Granada, Days One and Two

How to begin a post on Granada? I'll readily confess is my favorite of the several fine cities I visited in Andalusia. I thought I'd go with the popular song called "Granada" (well, once it was popular, sung by Sinatra, Eydie Gorme, Frankie Lane, Connie Francis to name just a few). I rememer little more than introductory line and something to do with "snow-capped Sierra Nevada" but I couldn't get those words out of my head while I was there. So I WILL go with the song, just bear with me on it.

The version I know begins

"Granada, I'm falling under your spell,
And if you could speak what a fascinating tale you would tell."

But when I googled the song which was written in 1932 by Agostin Lara, I first read the Spanish language original. Now, while I have almost no Spanish I DO recognize the words for "blood," "bulls" and "beautiful women", none of which appear in the one I'm familiar with, the standard pop version, adapted (sanitized I'd say by) Australian musician Dorothy Dodd," whose words Sinatra et al use.

So I decided to look up English translations other than hers, and found them not just more literal and direct, but also much darker. I saw Jose Carreras of three tenors fame sing his heart out on Youtube - dramatic, operatic, passionate. I found three different versions (and also resorted to Google Translate), Placido Domingo's (another of the three tenors) one of them, and all VERY similar

First lines in Spanish (if you'd like to read the full song in Spanish, go to this link (

"Granada, tierra sonada por mi,
mi cantar se vuelve gitano
quando es para ti..."

Domingo translates it like this:

"Granada, land of dreams for me
My song becomes gypsy-like when it is for you..."

Not a lot of difference (so far), though Dodd is less specific and includes no gypsies.

But skip down three lines in the Spanish and we read:

"Granada, tierra ensangrentada
En tardes de toros
Mujer que conserva el amor embrujo
de los ojos moros..."

which Domingo translates,

"Granada, blood-stained soil
In bullfight afternoons,
Woman who preserves the enchantment
Of Moorish eyes..."

Followed immediately by:

"De sueno, rebelde, gitana
cubierta de flores
y beso tu boca de grana
jugos manzana
que me habla de amores"

Domingo renders these as:

"I dream of you, rebellious, a gypsy
Covered with flowers
And I kiss your scarlet mouth
Juicy apple
That speaks to me of love affairs..."

This heated passion continues and is reiterated in the last words of the song:

"Granada tu tierra esta llena
De lindas mujeres
De sangre e de sol"

Domingo again:

"Granada, your land is full
Of lovely women,
Of blood and sun."

Having searched for all those lines about gypsy women, bullfights, blood, kisses and sun, I can find NONE in Dodd's translation, though there is one mention of the word "sun."

Here is the full song in Dodd's versions (I repeat the first two lines that you've already read):

"Granada, I'm falling under your spell,
And if you could speak what a fascinating tale you would tell.
Of an age the world has long forgotten
Of an age that weaves a silent magic in Granada today"

(End of intro, now into the main melody)

The dawn in the sky greets the day with a sigh for Granada,
For she can remember the splendor that once was Granada.
It can still be found in the hills all around as I wander along
Entranced by the beauty before me
Entranced by a land of flowers and song.

When day is done and the sun touch the sea in Granada -
I envy the blush of the snow-clad Sierra Nevada.
Soon it will welcome the stars
While a thousand guitars play a soft habaniera
Then moonlit Granada will live again
The glory of yesterday, romantic and gay.

(Repeat the last four lines and the song is done.)

The melody is the same, but Dodd's lyrics rid the song of the passion and instead create a rose-colored Romanticism (seen I imagine through her rose-colored glasses) and a longing for the moonlit, romantic past.

Fine, I guess, but eviscerated. There's an old saying traduttore traditore, which means basically the translator is a traitor. In this case I'd have to agree!

Granada, historically, was the last of the Moorish kingdoms to fall, after a long siege, to the Christians, in January 1492. When the Moorish commander, Mohamad XII, aka Boabdil, walked forward to offer his sword to and kiss the hand of the conquering Ferdinand, the latter refused it, as he found Boabdil a man of honor and a worthy opponent. Or so the story goes. As he was leaving his kingdom, Boabdil wept,  but his mother scoffed at him: "You do well, my son, to cry like a woman for what you couldn't defend like a man!" ("Thanks mom," replied Boabdil, choking back a sob.)

Do you know who set up the Romantic glaze that Dodd used to cover up the original version of the song? The American writer Washington Irving, in his Tales of the Alhambra, based on his stay there when much of the
site was in ruins, in the late 1820s. I read it, and the first part of the book I found rather tedious, but then Irving starts telling tales, and he's good at it. Almost all the tales involve Moorish adventures and love affairs, enchantments that keep princesses and generals asleep in caves. In one tale the two young lovers escape...on a magic carpet.

No real surprise, as the early 19th century was the heyday of the Romantic movement that swept all the arts. But Irving really put the city and the great site on the touristic map, and there it has stayed ever since

Those of you who have been reading my posts regularly may recall that I noted a memorial to Irving in Seville. Well, there are more in Granada, including this statue (on the left) along the huff-and-puff uphill walk to the Alhambra.

I've taken us slightly off track, though it's a way of saying that I was very inclined towards the romantic version of the city. While I saw a darker, rougher side as well I think I retained a good bit of the romance right up to this moment of writing - and I hope it stays.

As a pictorial example of the romance of the place (not as in capitalized Romanticism, but in the affectionate feeling the place seems to exude. One of the very first photos I took of the area near my hotel was intended to show you the atmosphere of bars, of people enjoying themselves, of laid back cameraderie:

Looks like fun, right? But when I was tinkering with the pic I spotted the couple on the far right of the pic:

To quote the immortal Austin Powers, "Yeah baby yeah!" That part of the photo perhaps captures the romance of the Dodd translation, but also and maybe more so of the passion ("I kiss your scarlet mouth, juicy apple!)

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the diversion. BUT must start at the very beginning - a very good place to start!

My hotel was placed in the old town, at the bottom of what I think is called the Albaicin, the old Moorish quarter that climbs upward via tiny streets packed with tourists, Moroccan style restaurants, and sellers of primarily Arabic souvenirs. Great fun!

This pic from my hotel window shows the beginning of the upward climb - on the right you can just see the first of many souvenir shops on that climb.

In the other direction within just a few minutes' walk is the cathedral - and if you can believe the song "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" this building signifies it.

Built over an old mosque to remind all who saw it - and who could miss it? - that the Christians had triumphed over the Moors. It looks less like a cathedral than like a literal fortress, and that's the intent. I find it forbidding, and never went inside. Unusual for me as I love cathedrals.

To soften the tone considerably just a block away there is a very inviting square:

An attractive young woman was belting out some jazz while a sax man backed her up, there was a free table at one of the cafes, so I took a seat

The above is the view from my table at a place called Tortuga Bob's, where they offered a beer and tapas for 2 Euros 50. I had one, relaxed...and had another. My first:

And my second:

I must admit I was thinking of a third, but instead I began walking in hopes of finding the Mirador San Nicolas, the place high above the city with a great view of the Alhambra and the "snow-capped Sierra Nevada."

I headed up the street that is shown in the photo of my hotel view. It's a bit of a challenge, and not just the climb.

But the view was worth the climb and the crowd.

Another look at the Alhambra, with palm trees to boot!

As I headed back down, I was tired and tipsy, and tripped more than once on the cobblestones, but also took time to notice the foliage on places that I knew I could never afford:

Then, at the cafe called 4 gatos

I was reminded of the famous Els Quatro Gats in Barcelona, where young Picasso and other starving artists hung out. I wondered if this was named after that, but decided that I'd better keep going.

Just past 4 Gatos I returned to the busy commercial zone

And found a place to eat just around the corner from my hotel

La Bella y La Bestia - Beauty and the Beast. There were more beasts than beauties present, but I was served a delicious Rioja (maybe the single best glass of wine I had during my entire three weeks in Spain)

which as usual came with tapas

The waiter then brought my main dish, a paella

But to get through that I needed another glass of Rioja, so the waiter brought one...

which came with still another tapas! I finished, barely, stuffed but very content - and slept very, very well that night.

The next day was free for me to continue wandering. My guided tour of the Alhambra was booked for the third and last day in Granada, so I kept my second day very low key, and can dispose of it briefly:


The Plaza Nueva, pretty, slick (literally) and a place where our guide the next day advised us never to eat.

Another viewing point for the Alhambra, but not nearly as good as San Nicolas - three or four restaurants along this plaza - and another three or four our guide next day begged us to avoid.

One tourist attraction - the Royal Chapel, where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried. Unfortunately no photos allowed inside:

More strolling, in the newer part of town - this is the Gran Via, and "gran it is!

and at one end of the Gran Via, a statsue of Isabella and Columbus


The shops are literally EVERYwhere

But I DID make one purchase. I'm considering calling myself Morocco Jack

And last but not least, eating! I chose the Plaza Bib-Ramblas, lovely urban space with plenty of restaurants.

And instead of Spanish cuisine, I ate Italian. My tasty local vino tinto:

My gigantic salad:

and my pizza - quattro stagione with especially good mushrooms and artichokes - it doesn't look all that special, but it was really tasty:

and the view from my table - the bubble-blower was impressive

After dinner, one of the coolest, most unique street bands I've ever heard

So! A day with no spectacular sights, but laid back and very pleasant, in just about every way I can imagine.

I had originally planned to pack the Alhambra in with days one and two in Granada, but have decided against. Saving the very best for the very last. Enjoy this one in the meanwhile.

"Granada, I've fallen under your spell..."

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