El primer fin de semana

I currently live with five fascinating beings. I’ve mentioned the warmth and friendliness of my host parents, Verónica and Fernando, an Argentinean couple who have been living here in the relaxed Zaidín district for eleven years, and I did briefly allude to the cuteness of my host brother, my hermanito (little brother), but I think I failed to express just HOW CUTE he really is.

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Mi hermanito, Alejo. Que precioso es él.

We’re quite the buds, actually. Whenever I’m in my room, blogging or emailing or planning out bus routes and what not, if he’s not napping or otherwise occupied he comes to visit me. We play soccer with his big plastic orange ball, or the circular lid of his lego bin. He enjoys when I head the ball or toss it to him and it bonks him on the head. He also has this little stuffed bunny rabbit (or conejo, or what we all affectionately call the conejito) which, while seated in his high chair if he’s bored during/after a meal, he enjoys to pretend to strangle or squeeze, complete with a reddening of his face and pursed tight lips. It’s quite entertaining.

Additionally, he’s into Gangnam Style…I swear, that song pops up wherever I go. My favorite Latin club in Vancouver, a family friend’s house over Christmas break, and now my brother for the next little while is obsessed with it. My goal is to teach him the actual dance moves, if Verónica and Fernando are okay with it. We’ll see how that goes.

The other two beings I live with are Tomás and Sofía, a pair of cat siblings. Tomás is the social one; he paces under and around the dining room table when we’re eating, and often will sit before you and beg akin to a dog, or will even perch his front paws on your leg or leap suddenly into your lap if he catches you unawares. He also has taken to visiting my room, with a short and abrupt meow, more like a brusque chirp if anything. Sofía, on the other hand, beautiful grey that she is, is rather shy. She’s stopped darting away when I’ve walked past her sitting or lounging by the heaters, but whenever I try and approach her or pet her she manages to squirm away. I’ll get there, I hope. They are both such precious little animals.

Alejo y los gatos en el balcón

Alejo y los gatos en el balcón

So that sums up mi familia granadina, my (homestay) Granadian (but really Argentinean) family. I feel quite comfortable and at ease with them so far, and for that I am grateful.

After finishing my most recent post on Friday, it was pizza night in the Argentinean household. Verónica and Fernando told me it has been their tradition for a while now to have pizza and beer on Fridays, and based on how good this pizza was, I am most excited for future pizza nights. They buy pre-made frozen pizzas with just cheese and sauce, then they add meat, various vegetables, spices, and extra cheese. This Friday they added jamón (Spanish cured ham…salty, smooth deliciousness) to one of the pizzas, and to the other the added bacon. Why I have never had bacon on pizza before, is a complete and total mystery to me. I’m not sure if it was because I was extremely hungry by the time we finally ate around 9:30, but that pizza was incredible. The three of us polished off both medium-sized pizzas. Delicious.

Yesterday, after breakfast, the four of us (Verónica, Fernando, y Alejo), went for a paseo along the Río Darro. It’s a lovely area, and the same area I ran through on Friday and again today. In the mornings it is quite busy with people, older folks going for a stroll, families with their children in strollers like us, or people closer to my age and older running and biking. Verónica and Fernando told me when the weather’s as great as it has been since I’ve been here, Granadians take advantage and make a point of going for long paseos along the river and throughout the city.

Our paseo along el Río Darro

Our paseo along el Río Darro

We also stopped at a little park on the way back, where Alejo took more to collecting little leaves and bits and pieces off the ground than actually playing on the playground…we did get him to go down the slide though, after I demonstrated.

Alejo y su papá Fernando on the slide

Alejo y su papá Fernando on the slide

For lunch we had cerdo and what Verónica called a purée….and one of the other great food items I’ve had here so far. Again, not sure if any of it has been truly Spanish or Granadian cuisine, but I’ll get to all that when I start meeting people my own age and we start frequenting tapas bars…I’m excited, but not at all impatient. This purée was essentially mashed potatoes and yams, plus garlic, cheese, some olive oil and some milk. It was truly delicious. So simple yet so good. Don’t know why I haven’t thought to combine mashed potatoes with yams too. I love yams, and I love mashed potatoes, and mashed yams, come to think of it. Makes perfect sense to combine them.

In the afternoon Verónica and I walked down to the Estadio Nuevo los Cármenes, the stadium where Granada C.F. (the Granada Football Club) plays, in the southwestern edge of the city (here’s their website, http://www.granadacf.es). We made a loop out of this particular paseo, covering the whole southern portion of Granada, including the new and MASSIVE shopping mall on the southeastern side, complete with a third-floor, covered, patio-like food court, a giant playhouse similar to the McDonald’s play places, and an outside roller skating rink for kids and fancy tapas bar, with an outdoor patio and pool with seating facing the stunning Sierra Nevada. Every glance I get, I sigh. To have such a beautiful mountain range that close, and that often in plain sight, like the beauty of the Alhambra, is truly breathtaking.

Dinner last night was particularly awesome too (damn, I really ought to start taking pictures of all this delicious food I’ve been eating). It was Fernando’s version of tortilla española. The famed Spanish tortilla which is usually potato-based, he made with steamed carrots, zucchini, caramelized onions, cheese, and eggs, essentially (there were more ingredients I’m sure, but I forgot to ask). And then we had salchichas, sausages but really resembling hot dogs, on the side, with mustard. Awesome combo.

I started my day today with a run after breakfast, taking the same route along the Río Darro. I just can’t say enough about the beauty and calm of the river area, the peace I felt running along it again, and the warmth I felt every time I met eyes with a Granadian and they smiled back. One older man even greeted me as we passed each other on a narrow bridge. I haven’t met many Granadians, but all the ones I have exchanged even a few words with have been friendly.

This afternoon, after Verónica showed me some family pictures from trips to nearby cities and beaches (ALL of which I now want to visit that much more, from Sevilla to Córdoba to Cádiz to Mérida, Nerja, las Alpujarras, and Ronda), we took the 7 bus up to the Mirador de San Nicolás and then a subsequent mirador (outlook, viewpoint), up in the higher part of the Albayzín, from which we had incredible views of the Alhambra, thanks again to the gorgeous weather. Thereafter we walked the whole way down, through the steep, narrow streets and stairs of the Albayzín, through Realejo, and along the streets Calle Cervantes and Calle Sancho Panza (the author of El Quijote and one of his characters) back to our home in el Zaidín. Like true granadinas, we made the most of the gorgeous afternoon weather.

At the Mirador San Nicolás

At the Mirador San Nicolás

Walking down through the Albayzin to the next viewpoint

Walking down through the Albayzín to the next viewpoint

A view of the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra

A view of the Sierra Nevada and part of the Alhambra

My personal favorite shot of the day

My personal favorite shot of the day, one of the stereotypical Alhambra shots

Some pretty awesome Albayzín graffiti

Some pretty awesome Albayzín graffiti

And last but not least, el honrado hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, and his horse, Rocinante

And last but not least, el honrado hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, and his horse, Rocinante

But the most exciting part of the weekend for me was probably buying a ticket online for Granada CF’s match next Saturday…against Barcelona. I’ve only been a soccer fan in recent years, and those teams I’ve followed have been almost exclusively Spanish teams, my favorite being Barcelona…so while my overall knowledge of the sport and understanding of the best versus worst teams and whatnot is somewhat limited, getting to see a Primera División La Liga game was high on my list of things to do while in Spain, and while the ticket was pricey, I am already positive it will be worth it.

When in Spain, right? Till next time, folks.

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