Wednesday, September 19, 2012


There is a lot to do at night in Granada. About 8-11pm is a popular time for tapas. Then, a botellón (like a pregame in the US) is standard procedure, before heading to a discoteca around one or two am, discotecas usually don't close until about 8 or 9 am. The Spanish like to party. Viva la fiesta! Also, it is acceptable to visit bars pretty much anytime of the day or night.

  • Camborio: Definitely the best discoteca in Granada. It is up near las cuevas, overlooking la Alhambra, which is lit up at night. The entire side of the club facing the Alhambra is glass, leading out to a patio. This amazing view makes up the the hike it takes to get here.
  • Kapital
  • Club 5 (part of Kapital)
  • Mae West: This discoteca is located in a centro commercial (mall). There is a dress code.

Irish pubs and shawarma

Our first night in Granada was not exactly the Spanish nightlife experience we expected. While setting out to the bar at one o'clock in the morning is not uncommon here, we happened to arrive during University finals. Granada has a large student population, making it a youthful city, full of energy. While most Spanish students have a very laid back attitude when it comes to school, ie they rarely attend class, the week of finals is their main study time.
So, there we were, four American girls wandering the streets of Granada in search of a bar for food and drinks. We just happened to stumble into the most Americanized bar in the whole city: Hannigans, an Irish pub. This was one of three Irish pubs in Granada, the others were Paddy's, and another Hannigans (which we refered to as Hannigans 2) These bars were popular hang outs for Americans, mostly study abroad students from our program, as well as other programs. One of the guys in our program even got a job working at Hannigan's 2 and hosting open mic night. Open mic night was a blast, especially listening to Esteban's hilarious rap songs, and karaoke was of course a lot of fun too (what else do drunk Americans do at the bar?). Anyways, on this first night, we drank wine and picked at a small dish of nuts, gummy candies, and other unidentifiable crunchy objects that was provided with our drinks--not exactly the tapas we were expecting. The bartender informed us that the only place open for food at this hour was shawarma vendors. So then commenced our first shawarma experience.
You know when you try something the first time to find in unimpressive, but then come to love it the more you have it? This phenomenon perfectly describes my relationship with shawarma. Now, I'm sure most people have tried shawarma at some point in their life, whether it's lamb or chicken, but what one has to understand about shawarma in Europe is that it is generally utilized as drunk food. I would compare it to pizza in the United States. So, Kebob King would soon become my new Backroom (Ann Arbor people know what I mean). Also, depending on where you are, the shawarma varies. In Spain, chicken schawarma is the most common. The chicken is shaved off the greasy, rotating stick of meat, placed into pita bread with garlic sauce, hummus, beets, pickles, lettuce, and aceitunas (olives), then rolled and grilled. It is the most delicious bundle of goodness you will ever devour. Based on her first shawarma experience, Brittany would disagree. Her first shawarma resulted in a sick Brittany; she didn't like the beets. However, in her defense, an entire shawarma is a lot of grease to consume, especially at 2 am. So, the first time I tried shawarma, I thought it was just alright. It was new to me, but that changed and my shawarma obsession quickly developed. Just ask our friends at Kebob King.
So, while you might think a post about shawarma is random and irrelevant, it is just one of the many many things that shaped my Granada experience.


Food in Granada is probably too broad of a topic to attempt to cover in one post. I am not a picky eater at all (besides my strange aversion to bacon), so I will try absolutely anything and usually like it. While I was here, I probably had some of the best, worst, and most interesting foods I have ever tried in my life.
Let's start with homemade food. I was lucky to have a Senora who cooked all my meals for me, and they were (almost) all delicious. In fact, one of Erin and my daily conversations was what our Senora's had made us for each meal. Some things I had absolutely no idea what they were, but I ate them anyway and loved them (it took me a while to realize the soggy objects floating atop soup were chunks of french bread).
For breakfast I always had french bread toast with butter (or peanut butter my mom had sent me from home), fruit, or breakfast cookies (which taste like animal crackers). For lunch, if I didn't have time to make the forty minute trek home during siesta, my Senora would pack me a bocadillo (sandwich on a french baguette), and fruit. My bocadillo was either ham and cheese, or atun con tomate (like tuna salad but with tomato sauce instead of mayo--sounds weird but its totally delicious). Erin and I would sometimes supplement our lunches with aceitunas (olives), Lay's campesino chips (taste like a combination of sour cream & onion, barbeque, and tomato basil), and principes. Bocodillo time was a highlight of our day, when we had our picnic lunches on benches in the plaza near Cegrí, visited by our nub-footed pigeon friend.

nub-foot pigeon
Bocadillo time

If I went home for lunch around 2 pm, my Señora would always prepare a large meal with french bread (served at every meal), usually soup, a main course, and fruit for dessert. My favorites were her lentil and potato stew, spinach and egg soup, chicken and papas fritas (french fries), fish, pasta with hard boiled eggs, and paella. Dinner is usually the smallest meal of the day, eaten around 9 or 10 pm. Sometimes my Señora would make ensalada (lettuce, tomatoes, and avacado), tortillas (omelettes) with cheese, or tortilla española (potato omelette), manchego cheese, tomato, chorizo, pasta, ensalada rusa (potatoes, tuna, olives, onions), a salad of cheese, apples, and a mayonaise-like sauce. Sometimes, if my host parents weren't eating dinner, Filo would make me refrigerated pizza (this is common, intead of frozen pizzas like in the US, microwavable pizza is refrigerated. It is usually thin crust pizza with ham, olives, or plain cheese). Yogurt was usually for dessert, and for some reason yogurt in Spain is the most delicious yogurt ever, especially their greek yogurt. I was always excited to have yogurt for dessert, even though it was pretty much everyday.

Another point to make about food is that the Spanish are OBSESSED with jamón (ham). It is common to see entire ham legs hanging from the ceiling of shops and restaurants, this is Jamon cerrano, which is the most popular meat in Granada. Lomo (a fatty cut of ham) is also very popular.
Chips are also interesting here because the brand Lay's has different flavors in Spain than in the US. For example Campesino and Queso are common flavors, I also found Mojito, and Cheeseburger.
Aceitunas (olives), specifically green olives are super popular in Spain, and I became even more obsessed with them than I already was.

For some reason, most of the food I ate in Spain tasted like the Best Food Ever. Foods that were unbelievably amazing in Spain. For example, all fruit was generally sweeter and better-tasting than in the US (especially pears and oranges). And this is wonderful since fruit is eaten quite frequently, including for dessert. As a chocolate addict, anytime fruit tastes like dessert to me, that is a great thing.

Speaking of dessert: pastries. It is impossible to walk down any street anywhere in Spain without passing a pastelería (pastry shop). In a country that considers cookies, magdelanas (breakfast muffins), and french bread common breakfast foods, you can imagine the abundance of pastries. Churros con chocolate, turrón, various chocolate filled pastries, doughnuts, bombas, tortas, chocolate croissants, and mucho más. My favorite place to get pastries was from the "bread lady," a local woman who set up a stand in a plaza near Cegrí every morning and sold fresh bread and pastries. They are hands down the most delicious pastries I have ever eaten. This became such a popular spot among our program that we referred to this plaza as "bread lady plaza." I had a pastry from here at least once a week. Another treat we indulged in quite often, especially once it got warmer was gelato. There were ice cream stores all over, usually displayed quite decoratively. Coconut and cookie flavor were my favorites, as well and the chocolate and nut covered cones.

Tapas are probably one of the most widely recognized Spanish foods. Tapas small, appetizer portioned snacks served with drinks. Granada is one of the only cities in Spain that still offers free tapas with beverage purchase (excluding tea and coffee). Some common types of tapas are jamón on bread, mini hamburguesas, papas fritas, piece of tortilla española, patatas bravas (french fries or potatoes with sauce), albóndigas (meatballs), olives. Some places even let you choose your tapa. Going out for tapas is a great social activity because you can eat and drink all for one low price!

There were only a few foods I tried that I did not like. I was not a fan of jamón cerrano or lomo because I don't like fatty meat. While I love fish, I did not like some of the fish my senora served me that had tiny bones in them (like bocal; these bones were impossible to pick out completely, so I felt like I was ingesting tiny plastic strings, which kind of grossed me out. Not completely horrible, just different. Which brings me to the strangest thing I have ever eaten. One day for lunch, my Señora served me chicken broth soup with a few noodles. She also gave me a small dish of pomegranate seeds, which are delicious on their own. However, she proceeded to insist that I dump the pomegranate seeds into my soup. Now, I love soup and I love pomegranate seeds, but together they made a very strange combination. The hot, salty liquid infused with fruity, crunchy little seeds was not something I would say I enjoyed. I'm not exactly sure if this is a common thing, or just something my senora was into. It was definitely interesting to try, but not something I would eat again.

Grocery Shopping

Shopping for groceries is not a necessity while living with a host family, since they provide all the food and meals for you. However, supermercados are a convenient place to purchase random snacks and alcohol that your host parents usually do not provide. Mercadona was one grocery store chain. Supersol, another smaller scale grocery store chain was located across the street from my apartment building, making it a frequent stop on my route to/from school to purchase all the essentials, like principe cookies (chocolate cream sandwhich cookies), chocolate, and boxed wine (55 cents for a liter, intended to be used for cooking purposes, probably caused stomach ulcers).
The larger grocery store chain is Corte Inglés, which I would describe as a combination of Meijer, Target, and every department in Sears. You can literally get ANYTHING here. I bought groceries, had a key made, and shopped for books all in the same place. There is a Corte Inglés a couple blocks from Cegrí, where we attended classes. During breaks, my friend Erin (food fanatic) and I would browse the Corte Ingles grocery store section. We would usually end up buying junkfood and olives, but it was fun to explore all the different varieties of food and drink that Corte Inglés had to offer. Below is a picture from one of our grocery shopping adventures, exploring the "Foreign Food" section.

"American cookies" a.k.a. chocolate chip cookies


A.k.a.: stores owned by Chinese people. Political correctness is not really a concern of Spanish people. So, these chinos are similar to convenience/liquor stores, and dollar stores. Basically, you can find all the random shit you could ever want or need at a chino, conveniently located at every corner. Mostly, we stopped by chinos to grab some ron y fanta (rum and Fanta--which is the most popular form of carbonated beverage in Spain), or vino on our way to botellón. On the other hand, there are the chinos, such as the one located right next to my apartment building, that are like dollar stores. Like I said, you can find just about anything in this store. Clothes, shoes, underwear, costumes, hats, gloves, jewelery, makeup, school/office/craft supplies, toys, shampoo, suitcases, bags, alarm clocks, ceramic figurines of any animal or Catholic symbol. . the list goes on. As you can imagine, this chino next to my apartment came in very handy for basically anything I ever needed to buy. Here is a list of some items I bought there during my time in Granada:
  • nail polish
  • notebook
  • markers
  • glitter
  • ski hat
  • sunglasses
  • metallic leggings
  • giant sequin bow headband
  • strapless sticky gel bra thing
  • travel shampoo bottle
  • tennis shoes
  • pink alarm clock
  • ribbon

Host padres

A lot of study abroad programs place students in a host family, where you are provided food and a place to stay. All host family situations differ. I will never forget my host parents, or my experience living with them. Filo and Diego were the cutest 4'6", sixty year old Spanish couple I had ever met. Diego worked in an olive farm (olive cultivation is a prominent industry in Granada), and Filo was a housewife. They were very kind and hospitable, and they smiled as I struggled to understand their thick andalucian accents, often having to repeat themselves several times. "¿Qué?" became a common response of mine. Even though it took a solid few days before they semi-comprehended my name, I eventually became fond of their pronunciation (May-gaa). I had to assure them that there was no Spanish version of my name; the name "Megan" doesn't really exist in the Spanish language, hence the confusion everytime I introduced myself to a Spaniard. But we eventually settled into a routine and a comfortable relationship. Filo cooked delicious meals and did all of my laundry, they were very helpful when I had questions about Granada, and they allowed me to be independent. "Voy a salir," (pretty much every night), to which Filo responded "Bueno. .Lo que quiere'. .te pasa bien," always seeming to encourage my busy social life. She also complemented me often on my appearance and clothing choices. "Ah, te pone' muy guapa. ." Honestly, I couldn't ask for kinder host padres; I will always remember the generosity that Filo and Diego showed me while living in their apartment on Camino de Rhonda.

Tea and Hookah

Because of Granada's past, a lot of Muslim influences remain. In the stroll through tea street you will find jewelry, garments, scarves, tea sets, leather goods, assorted tea, and more. Also, you will pass several teterías. These quaint little shops are a relaxing place to hang out on low, cushioned benches, while smoking hookah, and drinking tea or a botado (milkshake). This tea is not like the lipton earl grey you would order at a diner in the US. Drinking tea at a teteria is worth the experience alone. Tea, in flavors like jasmine, lavander, chai, orange, peach. . way more than I can remember. . are served in ornate silver teapots. You pour the tea into small glasses painted with arabic designs (a little bigger than a double shot glass).