Jeff and I stood outside of Dana’s apartment; a three-story, slightly dilapidated structure where wide, stone-covered steps met a 10-square-meter open plaza that quickly narrowed and ascended deeper into the Albayazín.
As we looked up at the building, my insides were humming with excitement. Literally hours after being dropped off by the Nerja bus, we were finally outside our new home.
The only problem was that we couldn’t get in.
The large brown door was locked (it was worth a shot), our phones weren’t working, and no one responded when we buzzed room 3B from the old box to the left of the door.
Up a few more steps and kitty corner in the tight plaza was the Andalusia Hotel, an ancient-looking hostel which Jeff suggested we visit to either use their phone or to stay if worse came to worst. What a guy! We drudged up to the entrance, but taped to the door was a piece of paper saying they were closed until 5pm (it was currently shortly after 3). Siestas!!
We hadn’t eaten for hours (which might as well be dog-years as far as I’m concerned) and had been burning fuel roaming around the maze also known as the Albayazín. I suggested we find a small restaurant where we could sit on chairs (instead of the bulbous and rocky steps) and snack until the hostel reopened. Having exhausted all other immediate options, we agreed to head back down to Plaza Nueva.
As we stood to put on our backpacks once more, a husband and wife in their mid-60s walked down the path in front of the steps where we had been sitting. Everyone we encountered so far in Granada had only spoken Spanish, but we could catch this pair softly speaking glorious Australian-tinted English. We asked if we could use their cellphone and explained that we were standing in front of the apartment we needed. They agreed to call for us and while the man spoke into the phone telling Dana (who clearly couldn’t understand what he was saying) that we were outside, the door of Zafra 52 opened and Dana rushed out.
I could only guess that she was my age. She was slim and slightly taller than me with a mass of short dirty-blonde hair flying loose and wild around her face. As she popped out of the raised doorway with phone to ear, she hurriedly looked up the street before turning to the left and spotting us. This was the second time I recognized someone I’d never met, and was drenched with a wave of relief at another recognizable stranger.
She smiled brightly as she saw us, and I probably exclaimed something idiotic like “yay!” before Jeff and I quickly turned to thank the couple and hurry towards the apartment and our host. I’m sure the Australians thought we knew Dana by the way we all rushed to meet several steps from the apartment and were so happy to be united.
She hugged and kissed us on each cheek before ushering us inside, all the while speaking to us in the truncated Spanish we were trying to get used to here in Granada.
The front door opened to the stairwell. To the left lowered down into darkness, while in front of us and up a few steps was the lifted second floor. As we tilted our necks back, we watched the staircase spin to the third and final level, which was where we were to stay. The steps here were made of level orange bricks and the walls were a dusty-tan color. The stairs were wrapped with a thin, twisted iron handrail which Jeff and I used to hoist ourselves with every step as we followed behind Dana.
The door to our apartment required only two keys (oh my!), but like in Nerja, they each turned their own way in the locks. Dana demonstrated and then pushed open the large, beige door.
What I had loved so much about José’s apartment was nothing close to why I now worshipped Dana’s.
The cool, faded-tile floors; built-in bookshelves with old cameras and bent dictionaries; creaking french windows with rusted hinges and peeling paint… and that view.
When booking Airbnbs there is always the worry that the place won’t be what it looked like in the photos. So far we hadn’t experienced that; both José and Dana’s flats were a perfect match to what we had seen online. It was exciting but also a huge relief.
Dana showed us around, opening the pale cabinets in the humble kitchen and telling us to eat whatever we wanted (!!), showing us that we could close the windows, and introducing the bedroom where I’d be sleeping.
It had a DESK, guys.
If for some reason I wasn’t obsessed with this apartment before, I was now.
Probably seeing our relief at finally being in the apartment, Dana graciously left the two of us to get settled.
After quickly discussing, Jeff and I came to the conclusion that most restaurants probably wouldn’t be open for at least another hour, so instead of roaming the streets on a futile mission, we changed into fresh clothes and put our feet up for a bit.
One of the things we looked for when booking accommodations in Granada through Paris was a couch – three weeks of traveling together meant we would most likely need a little space. So while Jeff played on his phone in the main room, I recounted the happenings of the day in my little leather book in the bedroom I wished could be mine forever, instead of for just three short days.
After the ordeal to find this place, I almost didn’t want to leave this perfect little apartment. I was tired and a bit intimidated by the weaving alleys we would have to navigate when we ventured out again.
But the tricky ancient paths were as alluring as they were overwhelming. Plus the restaurants we had passed on our trek through the ancient corridors looked quaint, charming, and delightfully squeezed between flaking brick facades. So after a brief rest, out we went.
We wandered for some time, finally deciding on a small, quiet spot with a tiny door, corroded brick walls, and €9 plates. It was also where I happened to be served the best sangria(s) I’ve ever tasted. The only unfortunate thing was that we were so hungry by the time we chose this place that we didn’t take the time to translate the menu before we entered, so only once we were seated did we take a close enough look to see it was more of an English pub than authentic Spanish hole-in-the-wall. But the tapas were good, the main courses decent, and this was our first true meal in over 24 hours… so we scarfed.
The rest of our evening consisted of lurking through the Albayazín; taking photos, scaling dusty steps, and watching in amazement and appreciation as local children ran through the braided pathways with purpose, certainty, and ease.
As the daylight faded into a deepening navy, we returned to Zafra and climbed the stairs. Upon opening the door, we were greeted by the illuminated Alhambra and serenaded by the muffled post-mealtime sounds of our neighbors on the exposed patio downstairs.
The authenticity of Granada’s Albayazín sang through me at that moment. It was astounding, captivating, and filling – more than everything I had been hoping to feel here and all in an instant. I felt opened up, magnetized, and as greedy as a sponge. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow – we would ascend the Alhambra and look out on this invigorating and exalted place.