Madrid to Granada (And everything in between) – Part 3

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Whoops! The ‘mañana mantra’ is way too easy to embrace. I thought I’d try it out, you know? And it worked! All this mañana-ing meant we never got to Benahavís or indeed the fancy hotel in the last post, and there was definitely more food. So I guess we’re on to a three-parter. Welcome! To Part 3. The final frontier.

We’ll start with the last shot from Mijas Pueblo (those killer views above!) and continue with more food and Spanish-y bits before we finally hit Granada. Despite how picture perfect the coast has looked so far with endless blue skies and perfect sunsets, we had one or two days where it absolutely PISSED rain. I choose not to take pictures because it was dull and dark and everything stayed wetter than wet for two days straight. No one wants to see that! Or pictures of soggy shoes.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-16-35-53(A rainy day purchase at Pull & Bear, La Cañada. LEAVE ME ALONE)

When it rains down in Marbella, it’s never just a light passing shower. It goes on all day long. During those two days I spent time at the resort, read my Kindle, did some work (I know, this sort of weather does funny things to me) and went to La Cañada, a huge shopping centre in Marbella that’s pretty darn fancy…and by total coincidence it’s sister mall just opened here in Granada during the week, called Nevada. When it’s lashing in the Costa del Sol there isn’t much to do during the day but shop, to keep that cabin fever at bay. It was amusing when we decided to go on a rainy day spree and found the rest of Marbella there. Natives, tourists…basically everyone and their madres were there, loaded down with shopping bags. I bet the folks at La Cañada pray for rain every day.

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On our next clear and beautiful day, we went to Puerto Banús for a walk along the marina and a pre-dinner drink near the pier to watch the sunset. Can I just point out that we don’t say to each other “Hey! Let’s go somewhere to watch the sunset!” all the time. We’re not that cheesy romantic. We just happen to always leave the apartment around then, and get lucky. Sunsets are great though, aren’t they? I’ve seen so many I’ve lost count. It’s the sunrise I struggle with. We’re barely acquaintances.

Anyway…marina…pier…ah yes, Puerto Banús. It’s another holiday ritual, a trip to Puerto Banús for a spell. We never tend to stay long…I’m not the biggest fan. It’s pretty and clean and it smells nice, but it can be flashy and a little too Keeping Up Appearances for me. Over the years we’ve had the odd dinner there, and my brother and I would always choose an ice cream at Häagen-Dazs (the same ice cream shop is still there!) after our meal. Memories involving ice cream are always so concrete.
So there we are, my Mother dearest and I at the pier. An image of actual people here on my blog! That’s rare, it’s usually food or other stuff. STOP THE PRESSES! No seriously, call the press. Point them to my blog, I’d like to do this full time and become famous.

playwrightAfter our time spent at Puerto Banús, rubbing shoulders with people with real designer bags and indeed fake ones, we went to one of my favourites in Elviria for dinner; The Playwright. I have my rituals there too. We begin at the bar at the back (which has a huge selection of whiskies, like serously, a lot) where I start with an espresso martini (they really are very good here…four years running and each one has been flawless) and I order the scallops to start and their fillet of Angus beef with cheddar mash for mains (because how could I not) and tend to just go with another espresso martini for dessert. This time I went slightly WILD and changed my starter and had dessert (I know Emma, calm down.)
The steak remained. The steak is non-negotiable.

Fun fact about The Playwright, by the way, folks. Actually, two. Two facts. The first is that I totally reviewed this place three years ago. Time flies! Fun fact number two – I once had dinner there at the same time as TV Queen herself, Anne Doyle. She looked super glam as always, and I’m pretty sure she was accompanied by her sister, who had one of the most hilarious laughs I’ve ever heard. I’d say the two of them are fierce craic.

The night we were there recently, The Playwright had a Frank Sinatra tribute act and he was amazing! I’m obsessed with that style of music, lounge, crooner…whatever you’d like to call it. Throw on a bit of Martin, Sinatra, Cole and Bennett on Spotify while you’re cooking…it makes any day better. Anyway, he was great. The impersonation was great and some people got up to dance, which always tugs one’s heart strings, don’t you think? It’s always the cute little old couples who get up first. If you’re thinking of a bit of The Playwright, reserve it on a live entertainment night for sure. I looked up the Spanish for ‘playwright,’ and English definitely wins. ‘Dramaturgo’ doesn’t have the same ring to it. “Hey guys, let’s get steak at the Dramaturgo?” Yeeesh. Ugly.

leaving-benahavisThe Playwright was our last Elviria meal of 2016. Farewell again, Elviria! We checked out of Alanda Club the next morning for another year, but we weren’t Granada-bound quite yet. We decided to spend some time in Benahavís. A sweet little village up in the mountains known for its seriously good restaurants. We go every year but for a flying visit, dinner in Los Abanicos (one of my favourite restaurants in the entire world!) and head back to Alanda in a flash. We decided this time to stay in the village, which would be more relaxing and a new experience for everyone – and I’m so glad we did.

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We stayed at this picture-perfect dreamy little spot with beautiful classic furniture (I didn’t take nearly enough photos) beautiful bedrooms and a courtyard filled with orange trees, lots of cheerful flowers and a babbling fountain. You could totally stay here and write a novel! The place has some serious atmosphere between the gorgeous lobby, poolside bar with catchy music and the fact that the hotel is nestled in between mountains makes it even more ridiculously postcard worthy. Not to mention it has a spa, it’s close to the golf courses (and football training camps) and would be ideal for a wedding. The hotel is called Gran Hotel Benahavís. Above are some images from the lobby, courtyard, and the pool area. There are two pools! Which one to lounge at was my most difficult decision that day. The answer was both, obviously.
I also had some tinto de verano by the pool while I read my book and ordered some halloumi. What an excellent day! I didn’t want to order too much…I was saving myself for Los Abanicos that night.

los-abanicosA tip if you’re in Benahavís. Walk! I would normally walk anyway but with hills etc. my parents thought we should get a taxi. For 30 seconds in the taxi, we were charged €6, which is insane. We asked another taxi driver in the village how much it would cost to get back, and he quoted the same. Perhaps there isn’t much demand so they can get away with prices that high. So walking is the way to go!
We started in my Dad’s favourite bar, La Bodeguita El Chico. He was delighted with himself. A tiny little bar that barely has room for more than 15 people. Small on space, big on character. The owners are great people too, which always helps. La Bodeguita is run by a husband and wife team (husband on the bar, wife cooks delicious croquetas and other morsels like that!) and their son works there too. You can get a fishbowl of gin in there for €5. I’d only recommend the one, though, if you plan on staying relatively sober. Definitely worth a visit for a pre or post dinner drink, and it’s open 6 days a week, closed on Tuesdays.

los-abanicos-2Los Abanicos hasn’t changed one bit, either have any of the lovely friendly staff. They’re always up for a bit of banter and seem so happy to be working there. They brought the usual to the table, warm bread with olive oil and tomato, and we ordered my absolute favourite red wine, Carmelo Rodero. (It used to be La Planta but I’m over that now!) If you’re in Spain, you have to try it. I buy it the odd time in El Corté Ingles. They stock it and they’re all over the country, so you have no excuse if you’re in España. It’s worth a try, honestly. It retails for about €18.80 for the Ribera del Duero Crianza, and about €12 for the 9 meses which is really good too. It’s wine heaven if you’re partial to a heavy, dark and more intense wine. I don’t like to be able to see through my wine, basically.

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We shared chorizo and morcilla to start (the morcilla from this region is really good) and Mother dearest had some sort of scallop au gratin served in a shell. Neat! Main courses were venison (how could you not) and my usual, John Dory in a cream tarragon sauce. I order it every time because John Dory is my favourite fish and it can be hard enough to find. Everything comes with big plates of vegetables, rice and chips. The portions in Los Abanicos are insanely huge and I rarely have room for dessert, which is such a shame as they do the best tiramisu ever. It’s as tall as a skyscraper and as light as a cloud.
I even had to deny myself the mini-magnum ice creams they always give you at the end! However, I most definitely had the apple liqueur in the hopes that it would help my food go down. It was a particularly nice one and I asked the waiter for the name. It’s a brand called Reguera. You never know, you might have enjoyed it too, visited Los Abanicos and now you’re searching for the brand online and I’ve answered your liqueur loving prayers. Stranger things have happened.

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What a meal! What a place! And what a way to mark the end of our time in Marbella for another year. The next morning, we were finally on our way to Granada. There’s the motorway for proof. And a very nice mountain up ahead there.

Since this is a long one, I’ll leave you with some images of Granada. When we arrived I had the keys to my new apartment, and I started getting the place in order. There’s nothing like extra pairs of hands to help out with setting up in a new place. My parents stayed for a couple of nights before heading home to Dublin where I’ll soon see them for Christmas.
And so concludes our journey from Madrid to Granada. Which feels recent, yet centuries ago…because so much has happened. Thinking back to the night in La Capilla de la Bolsa in Madrid makes my head spin. It feels like last year! I guess that’s what happens when you move cities. Again!

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Fuentes de las Granadas, or Pomegranate fountain. Granada means Pomegranate in English, and in the middle of the fountain you can see a cluster of them. This is on Paseo del Salon, next to the Genil river. 
granada1Top left, clockwise: 1. One of Granada’s seemingly endless and narrow little streets. 2. Deep fried brie tapas at Pinot Noir. Every. single. drink. in Granada comes with a free tapa. Each one is different. Amazing and cheap! 3. The city is just as beautiful at night. 4. Shiny tiles, everywhere! Beautiful to look at and make the city super chic…but absolute deathtraps when it’s raining. Nearly snapped my wrist twice. A rookie mistake.

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Carrera de la Virgen

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Top left, clockwise: 1. tuna tataki for my last lunch with my parents. 2. Prawns pil-pil the night before accompanied by my favourite wine! 3. Amazing pizza at Tarabela, drowned in chili oil. 4. Plaza de Santa Domingo. Beautiful, quiet and not too far from my apartment. 

♥ ♥ ♥

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