Remember that trip to France that never was? I apparently get to have my money back. Air Transat is now offering refunds to everyone who is eligible for one. Yay!
When airlines started cancelling most of their flights last year, everyone who bought a non-refundable ticket was offered a flight credit in lieu of their cash back. Le Hubs wasn’t happy with the flight credit situation at all. He was right to feel that way. If one pays for a service, and the service isn’t rendered, then one should get one’s money back. But as a former travel agent, I already knew what became of unused economy tickets – the chances of getting your money back are slim. That is the price you pay for affordability; you either use it, or you lose it. I was happy enough to get flight credits with Air Transat that would last for all eternity – or until they got bought out by God knows who. In my view, it was the best possible outcome, everything considered. (Don’t you love lowered expectations?)
Could I have gone to my credit card company to get a chargeback? Maybe. Many people chose to. I didn’t see the need, because we like using Air Transat, and at the time, I thought we’d get to use my flight credits once COVID died down. I also don’t particularly enjoy being on the phone because of my hearing impairment, and with the volume of calls the airlines were getting last year, I would’ve been on hold forever. I figured I’d be able to use my flight credit around this time this year, but I was wrong on that count. No one could’ve predicted how long this pandemic would drag on. We were overconfident about living in a more enlightened, more advanced time, weren’t we? I don’t think we feel that way anymore. Nothing like a little virus to cut one down to size.
Anyway, It took Air Transat a year to finally give people back their money, and I’m sure people are going to grumble about why it took forever, but I’m happy. Better late than never is my ninja way, so good on them for coming through. And good on the Canadian government for providing the bailout, which, wait a minute, is really just my tax dollars in action, so… oh drat.
“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight – losing my religion, trying to keep up with you… oh no, I’ve said too much.”
– R.E.M., Losing My Religion
I’d been needing a break since the past year turned out to be nothing but a blur of work and not much else. I felt burned out, run down, angry, frustrated, trapped, all the negative emotions that come to the fore when change – especially unasked for change – happens too fast and too hard and way too suddenly. I found myself being unable to do anything but whine and whimper and complain, to family, friends and on here, hating myself for every second of it. Rightly or wrongly, I felt complaining would make me sound tone deaf at best, and ungrateful at worst. How could I complain about having to work when so many people had lost their means of livelihood? How could I complain about not being able to go anywhere when so many others were bound to their hospital beds? So I fought it. It’s not cute to keep bitching on here. You can delete whatever you want to delete and curate however you want to curate, but the internet is forever. One never knows what’ll come back to bite you in the arse; lord knows I’ve already put my share of bullshit on here. So I fought it as hard as I could. I wasn’t always successful, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Unable to do anything more beyond complain, feeling completely uninspired and being utterly *pause for dramatic effect* wretched, I decided if I couldn’t write anything nice, I may as well write nothing at all. Which is fine. It’s not like I have anyone to impress, so who really cares whether I have output on here or not? But while some use therapy, some use booze, and some use weed, I tend to vent. It’s difficult for me to keep things bottled up. Expressing myself is how I self-medicate. Still, there is only so much venting one can do before feeling like a broken record.
Moving away from Toronto was something we’d been discussing for the past couple of years. Le Hubs was slowly losing patience with living in the city, and I was open to going somewhere new. We’d been putting off making a decision, but all that changed last year. I may love Toronto, and I do miss living there, but it turned into a completely different city when COVID hit. There seemed to be no point in staying. If we were to be housebound, it made sense to have a larger space and more room to breathe. If we could do that and not have to pay more than we already were, then that was what we were going to do. And that is how we ended up in the “other” London.
I thought once the move was behind us I could sit down and bang out a few things. I’d given myself at least a couple of months to focus on not working. A reset of sorts. One would think someone who had a lot of time on her hands would find a few minutes to sit down and write something. One would think. I told myself I’d get to be more productive. Instead, I found myself doing something I can only describe as… nesting. I spent February and most of March playing housewife, cleaning every week, puttering around in the kitchen, making our new place feel familiar, like a home. I now have two small house plants. Two! If you don’t know me, having so much as a plant is something because I can’t be trusted with anything that lives, so this is kind of a leap of faith. I have a sansevieria (the “snake” plant), and a dracaena. I chose them because they’re supposed to be hardy indoor house plants that “thrive on neglect.” Still, the hubs has had to remind me that “neglect” doesn’t literally mean “neglect,” (so why even use the word?) and they’re still going to need occasional watering. I took a couple of snake plant leaves to propagate, and they’re starting to root very nicely – I’m hoping they’ll produce pups in the weeks to come. I can only hope to do as well as they are so far. Did I just jinx them? Listen to me, talking about propagation. Knock on wood for me, will you?
For once the things that could be complained about (Ontario’s horrific mismanagement of the vaccination roll-out, the ridiculous lockdown hokey-pokey, outbreaks at Western U, etc.) don’t feel as heavy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re serious, but it feels a bit more of the same than a heavier load on already overburdened shoulders. Finally, sitting down to write this feels just a little like fun again too. And that’s always a good thing.
I spent the summer cooped up, trapped by a scorching summer that seemed to make it its goal to burn people alive, and a virus that wants to enter you every which way it can, like some horrible tentacle porn monster. I had already moved all the way up north to escape the heat, so having a summer that felt just about as bad as it can and does get in the Philippines was a new and frustrating one for me. Fall couldn’t come fast enough.
Fall is my favourite time of the year. The trees are aflame, the weather is mild and the sun is gentle. I didn’t have any specific place in mind, but I knew I needed to escape. Somewhere I was near water, could bury my face in a book, watch the leaves turn, have grilled meat, and avoid people. I found all that in spades in Bobcaygeon.
Bobcaygeon is the hub of the Kawarthas, about two and a half hours away from the GTA. It could be the timing of our visit, but it was refreshingly deserted; I assume it hums a lot more in the summer, when folk escape the city for the gleaming lakes and rivers Ontario is so blessed with.
I loved it up there. Le Hubs says he saw mostly older folks, and that’s okay with me. My zest for partying and clubbing has kind of petered out, anyway. I think I’m mentally psyching myself up for bingo halls and cribbage and whatever else it is that older people do for fun up in those parts. I’m kidding. I know what they do up in those parts. They fish. They fish a LOT. Everyone who’s anyone has a boat. And anyone who’s anyone who enjoys fishing knows that Bobcaygeon is the place to start.
I can’t say I fish, but I enjoy being by the water. It’s calming. Maybe there’s an intrinsic part of me, some basic building block that still remembers how good life was before deciding to crawl on dry land and adapt to oxygen. Maybe we all have it, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the nine months we spent swimming in amniotic soup. Whatever it is, when I’m feeling stressed I always feel the need to be around water.
It was only happy chance that led me to stumble upon Gordon’s River Bunkies. The selfish part of me doesn’t want to recommend it to anyone or even mention it, because I want it all for myself, but I don’t think it matters; whether or not I say anything about it, anyone else who’s been here is bound to share how beautiful the experience is. It’s just too pretty not to share.
Picture a one-bedroom floating home on the Bobcaygeon River, close to the oldest lock on the Trent-Severn waterway. Moored on the marina, the river is right at your doorstep; slide the living room doors open, and it’s a hop, skip and a jump away. Add an interior of pine and cedar, large windows that fill the little cabin with light, an electric fireplace for chilly nights, an upper bedroom with a roomy queen-size bed, one and a half bathrooms, a full-service kitchen with all the accoutrements, a small backyard with a grill, and you’ll get the river bunkie you never knew you wanted. It’s a fantastic engineering marvel, and I love it. It’s gorgeous. I spent all my time watching the water, reading, and getting in a little bit of the French Open – because it came with a flatscreen and satellite television, for those who might miss the world beyond Bobcaygeon. (Doubtful, but it’s always better to be prepared.)
It was everything I needed for a little bit of a breather, before heading back to the big bad city. I loved it so much, I actually felt like I could live there. Given the chance, I would (and Le Hubs agrees!). It feels like a nice retreat. And it’s perfect – not too many people, but still enough around for you not to feel like you’re on a deserted island.
I’ve never had a dream home before, but if you asked me now, I would tell you my dream home is a cozy floating cabin on the banks of the Bobcaygeon River, the river rushing by, never still, lights glimmering on it at night, like flickering candles. Oh Bobcaygeon. I miss it already!
Looking for the perfect used car on Kijiji is like trolling for true love on Tinder; your mind knows that whatever is out there is likely a dud, while your heart can’t help hoping for a happy ending anyway. The Awkward Yeti’s excellent Heart and Brain illustrates this weird, symbiotically screwed up relationship of the psyche better than I ever could (I recommend you head over there because the rest of this is just going to be me going on about finding the chariot of my dreams).
No matter how jaded I claim to be, I haven’t yet managed to kill that hopeful little girl in me that dreams of happy endings. Except this time I’m not looking for love. I’m looking for the perfect used car. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the same thing. It’s that old “what if I get lucky” conundrum that has people losing their minds on dating apps and throwing away their monthly social security check at the slots.
My brain is stating the facts simply, sitting in a chair having a cup of tea, looking at me with pity. It knows that real life doesn’t always have happy endings, and it also knows that buying a used car means inheriting someone else’s problems. But my heart hasn’t yet succumbed to reality, and is busy jumping up and down with giddy glee, mouthing what-ifs, sprinkling flower petals over everything, singing Disney songs of hope and forever after. And the blasted thing gets louder each time brain tries to remind me to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds. Everything is going to be okay! You’re gonna find the one! It’s this delusional, positive-thinking side of me that I usually tamp down with a lot more success, but it’s getting harder and harder to shut it up the more we search for our true auto soulmate.
Who loves trash receptacles? Just for today, and just for this moment, I do.
It took me a while to work up the nerve to submit to Detritus, which I have loved since I first stumbled upon it last year. I would’ve been fine just being a part of one issue, but having that little stamp of trashy approval is the cherry on top.
There are a lot of online indie lit magazines out there, and what I love most about this one is their unpretentiousness, and willingness to let the chosen pieces speak for themselves. And so supportive, too!
ps. look for me on page 10 pps. shameless plug over, back to looking for the perfect used car
I know, I know, I was supposed to learn how to drive a couple years ago, but that kind of fell by the wayside. Parking in Toronto is expensive, insurance even more so, and a subway stop is an easy block and a half away from us. It’s easy to just depend on public transportation if you live in the downtown core. Before this whole COVID-19 thing descended on us like the pale horseman of the apocalypse, it was pretty easy to get around.
But now, with homeless shelters being pushed to the limit, the mostly ignored underclass of humanity that generally skates on by unnoticed/ignored in normal times has started to take over the subway. And it’s April. In Toronto. Think April means winter has come and gone? We were at -10C windchill last week. So no, I can’t blame people who just want some shelter. We’re all just trying our best to survive and stay warm for a minute.
The downside is, well… they’re homeless. They have more issues to worry about than health, or hygiene. It’s more worrying about where to take a dump, how to get the next big high, where the free soup stands are. They’re now taking advantage of the subway system, nesting in a bajillion trash bags full of god knows what, sore-infested legs bared, smelling like urine, taking up three seats and sleeping their way from Kennedy to Kipling station.
The places the hubs and I work for were declared essential, which is both blessing and curse. On the one hand, something to take our minds off the current pandemic is always nice. On the other, the act of getting to work means exposure, which means risk, which means what used to feel like a harmless, non-eventful commute now feels like playing Russian Roulette.
So yes. We need a car. And so far, it’s been a trip.
You see, we’re in the market for a beater. The kind of car that can stop running and you can leave at the side of the road and never look back, hello-goodbye. But it can’t be any old beater. It has to at least run for a few months before giving up the ghost. I’m not just a beggar, I’m a chooser to boot and to top it all off, neither he nor I know shit about cars. I’m in hell.
The paranoia is draining. Cars on AutoTrader and Kijiji look so good, but then the doubts start tumbling in… will this certify? What’s wrong with this car? Why is it so cheap? Is it too cheap? Will we get mugged? Is it a bait and switch? Are there liens? Is the transmission off? Is that too much rust?
It’s so bad, we’ve contemplated just buying a new one and driving it off the car lot, warranty and all, everything in good working order, but along come the questions again. Is it worth the depreciation? How much will insurance be? Do we really want to spend the next seven years of our lives paying through the nose?
When will all this end? Will it even end?
It’s exhausting. I’m tired. I want to stop and get off the crazy train, but I can’t seem to help myself. So I just have to square my shoulders, take a deep breath, and summon the memory of what the immortal JZ always says when it comes to things like these: get a grip. Because what else is there to do?
Eat. Yes, eating sounds good.
I think I’ll go eat my feelings for a minute. If you’ll excuse me.
ps. And then you get the guys who have an ad put up but won’t answer. I mean, fine. If it’s sold, it’s sold, but DON’T LEAVE THE BLOODY AD UP.
Is it only April? This year feels like it’s dragged on forever, with all of us trudging through the stark dystopia that real life has become. Still, I’ll take the good times where I can get it, and I am thrilled to report that Silver Fox, a poem I wrote in a happier time, was published in Room Magazine‘s latest: the Hair Issue!
I’ve followed Room online for quite some time now and they always have interesting stories to tell. I tend to keep my poems to myself (no one really knows I write them… and now you do), so it is a nice ray of sunshine to have my first shared piece find a home in one of Canada’s finest, and longest running literary magazines.I’m usually not one to self-promote, but this latest issue has quite a number of wonderfully written pieces and I couldn’t be happier to even be in the same conversation as the women in these pages.
The bookstores are currently closed due to the pandemic, but they take orders online. The Hair Issue is definitely worth your while… and not just because I’m in it! (Okay, shameless plug over 😊)
I've been sitting on this like an increasingly twitchy hen on an egg, and it's finally here! My poem is part of @RoomMagazine's Hair Issue. It's an absolute honor to be in a #litmag chock full of hair-raising goodness. Grab yours now! pic.twitter.com/g7CpJGMrne
I have, apparently, become a Chihuahua with the appetite of a St. Bernard. Or so my family doctor tells me. I’m paraphrasing. Of course that wasn’t a direct quote, no doctor would be so blunt, especially not in today’s extremely sensitive (and litigious) atmosphere, but that was pretty much my takeaway. I had asked him to please, for the love of all that was holy, give me something – gastric bypass, lobotomy – anything, to take away my horrible lack of self control when it comes to food in the pursuit of the ideal BMI. But all he would recommend was just to eat less. That is what he said. “Eat less.” And then he made me step on the scale and, having dispensed with that particular slap in the face, reminded me once again by measuring my height that I stopped growing right before I hit five feet. Dear United American Tiki-Tiki: my mother would like her money back.
Annual physical exams are excruciating. The results are fine when you’re in your twenties, a nubile sylph made of Teflon. Otherwise, to paraphrase Samantha Irby (I am paraphrasing a lot today, aren’t I?) we are all sacks of meat that are slowly beginning to rot. Notice I say slowly; the bloodwork and the cholesterol results, the heart rate and lungs and all that, came back okay. Which is something to be glad about. But, to paraphrase Lady Gaga (here we go again) there could be a hundred good results on a lab report…
There isn’t a lot of wiggle room when you are short. “Small,” says my doctor, an adjective which, in any other circumstance, I would be fine with, but not in this instance because we are now talking about me growing vertically as opposed to horizontally. He went on to remind me that it’s just like overfeeding a pet – you can’t stuff your cat full of lasagna if you don’t want it to be Garfield, yes thank you, Captain Obvious, why did I have to go and pick such an implacable doctor – all I really wanted was some wonder drug or other, but the only drug being prescribed that day was common sense. I have no self control, goddamnit, but really who else do I have to blame? I should’ve just gotten pregnant. At least I could’ve blamed weight gain on the baby and coasted on into my forties overweight but with a lot less self-loathing. Maybe I should take up cigarettes? Hypnosis? A political cause like Gandhi?
Whatever it takes, I acknowledge that my doctor is right about the only way to go about reversing the effect of the past few years. I do not want to enter my forties as a Hindenburg impersonation. I may not be the nubile Teflon sylph I used to be – and likely never will be again – but I took a little heart from noting the weight gain didn’t just happen overnight. In comparison it should be faster to erase it than it took to gain it. Your thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated, and see you in the produce section.
Spain is the countrified equivalent of the Power Rangers.
Like them, Spain is a collection of autonomous regions with their own personalities, strengths, abilities, cultural flavour, symbols, history and, in some cases, official language. The emphasis here is on the word “autonomy,” in that each autonomous region governs itself, having their own parliament and their own set of laws, called Statutes of Autonomy. Put all these autonomous regions together, and you get Spain. The regions are the Power Rangers and the combination of their Zords (Mastodon! Pterodactyl!) make Spain a MegaZord. Yes, my childhood was lovely, thank you.
In non-crazy, non-early ’90s teen-speak, if the European Union is an amalgamation of countries, Spain is its microcosm. It must be very like trying to control a team of wild horses, with each one straining at the bit to go whichever way they want to go. Imagine those unique, multi-faceted autonomous regions uniting to make one great nation and country under God. However convoluted it may sound, these crazy Spaniards make it work.
It’s true that each region has its own distinctive character and taste – even smell. Having spent days exploring the haughty grandeur of Madrid, and the graceful beauty of Granada, arriving in Barcelona was a splash of cold water. It was like stepping into a time machine and being thrown into a completely different era. If Madrid is the Red Ranger (leader, big brother, stoic and strong) and Granada the White Ranger (formerly bad, now good, always and forever the hottest), Barcelona would be the Pink Ranger.
I thought I knew what grand was, having seen the palaces and gardens of Madrid, and the imposing citadel of the Alhambra. Barcelona took the word grand, and shot it into the stratosphere. It’s huge. Its roads are wide and its buildings take up so much space, it makes Madrid seem almost cramped by comparison.
The jewel of the autonomous region of Catalonia, the city moves to the beat of its own drum. Barcelona is deceptively young. It was a Roman city in the Middle Ages, so it isn’t really young at all, it just seems to have drunk from the Fountain of Youth somehow. It’s colourful, and bright, and fast-paced, and weird, and eclectic and you can feel its sheer, unbridled joy and delight in just being different. It seems to be a city that hasn’t forgotten the glories of the past, but is busy making sure it stays relevant and on the cusp.
That modern feel is fitting, because its most famous son was at the forefront of Catalan Modernisme – a cultural revival of what it meant to be Catalan. Antoni Gaudi was the architect of much that would give Barcelona its new international identity. His most famous masterwork, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is, of all the truly wonderful landmarks of Barcelona, the one whose identity is irrevocably bound up in that of the city. Just as huge, just as grand, just as unbridled as the spirit of Barcelona itself, it’s an architectural marvel. And, like Barcelona, it’s not yet done (they broke ground in 1882!) . Some wonder if it ever will be. Blog Sagrada Familia, its official architecture blog, is a great source of information, and a way better resource than listening to a travel guide drone on and on!
I first saw The Sagrada Familia at night. There was no rhyme or reason to the timing; the bestie and I had met up for an ultimately underwhelming dinner in the Gothic Quarter, walked to the Arc de Triomf, and, not ready for the night to end, realized the church was in the general direction of wherever we were headed (nowhere – sometimes, being aimless is fun), and decided to go and see it for ourselves.
The Sagrada, as envisioned by Gaudi, has three facades: Passion, Nativity, and Glory. Of the three, it’s only Glory that’s still in the beginning stages of construction; the Nativity was the first to be completed, while the Passion was completed in 2018 (it took 64 years). I knew none of this when we first saw it that evening; I expected a convoluted construction site and got slapped in the face with the sheer ambition and scale of Gaudi’s genius instead. I just knew I had to see it in the full light of day.
Day or night, the Sagrada is a marvel. Not everyone is fortunate to be gifted with the ability to bring the fruits of a fertile imagination to life. We spent a good half an hour staring up at the Passion facade, completely flabbergasted. Bowled over. Thrown for a loop. Gobsmacked. Words fail. The attention to detail is ridiculous. It’s stark and forbidding, a message of suffering and pain, as Gaudi intended it to memorialize the suffering of Christ in his last days. It is said that he decided to completed the Nativity facade first because he thought the Passion might render anyone who viewed it averse to continuing construction.
I don’t think I took as much photos as I thought I had. A lot of what I did get to take doesn’t come close to what it actually does look like in real life, which made it a bit frustrating. To be fair, there’s only so much the camera on one’s smartphone can do, and I admittedly am not the best at finding great angles (I am also generally #nofilter because I am lazy), but mostly it was because I was too busy gawking. Sometimes trying to capture a moment ruins it, and it’s best to just stand there and take it in. And that’s not just true for the Sagrada, it’s true for the rest of the city, and for the whole of this last great adventure of the year.
There is more to Barcelona of course, than Gaudi. I had a lot of fun hopping on and off public transportation, feeling like a local. The most affordable way to see a city in the shortest amount of time is to take public transit, and Barcelona has a lot to be proud of when it comes to that. I respect cities with efficient transit (if only because mine can be oh so frustrating sometimes), and it’s very easy to get around in Barcelona. The food was quite good, too. It’s a very metropolitan city, and at first I didn’t feel quite as attached to it as one would like, but that was because I had left my heart in Granada.
Just like the Power Rangers, we all had a favourite, and Granada (the White Ranger) was mine. There was so much of it I didn’t get to see, and so much more to explore. If I ever do manage to go back to Spain, it will be to Granada – and Andalusia – I will return. This time, Le Hubs has said he’ll come along, so that’ll be a wholly different experience!
There was crying in Granada when the sun was going down
Some calling on the Trinity, some calling on Mahoun;
Here passed away the Koran – therein, the cross was borne
And here was heard the Christian bell, and there, the Moorish horn.
Te Deum laudamus! was up the Alcala sung
Down from the Alhambra’s minarets were all the crescents flung
The arms thereon of Aragon, they with Castile’s display;
One king comes in in triumph, one, weeping, goes away.
So goes Catalina, a young infanta of Spain, who is recounting the events of her parent’s triumph to her new husband, an enraptured Arthur, Prince of Wales. They are in a drafty castle in Ludlow in the dead of winter, and Arthur has requested that she tell him a story.
It’s one of many dreamy, arresting passages in The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory’s fictional re-imagining of the early life of Katherine of Aragon – as Catalina would eventually come to be known – the first and most accomplished of all the six wives of Henry VIII. The fall of Granada is a story worth telling, made all the more dramatic because it’s true. In the last days of the Spanish Reconquista, the Catholic monarchs Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon pushed out the last of the ruling Moors in the south of Spain, unifying the entire peninsula and establishing Granada as the seat of their power, taking up residence in the great citadel of the Alhambra. The palaces within the fortress of the Alhambra is where Catalina spent her childhood, and the book became the main inspiration for this trip, so much so that I brought it with me!
Have you ever had a fleeting dream, where you think to yourself that someday, given the chance, you’ll go and do something, or see something, or accomplish something, all the while telling yourself it’s probably never going to happen? The Alhambra was one of those dreams for me. At the time I didn’t quite know how that dream could possibly come true, if it ever even would, and so I tucked it away and out of sight like we do so many of our private aspirations.
Walking up the road on the hill that leads to the citadel (I would’ve bused, but something was going down with Granada’s buses that morning, and I really really couldn’t afford to be late – they only let you visit the Nasrid Palaces within the complex at a particular time), each time I paused for a minute to try and catch my breath – it is a very high hill – I felt like pinching myself, because it almost didn’t feel real. I was finally, finally going to see a place I had only read about, a place that lived in my imagination, filtered through the lens of a Philippa Gregory novel. Was it real? Was it going to be as gorgeous as Catalina had described? Or would I be disappointed? Would it turn out to be less than what my fevered brain had conjured?
It’s forbidding, isn’t it? The Gate of the Pomegranates is a high stone gateway that looms over the original road into the fortress (it now has about two other access points), invoking visions of horses clattering through its arches, medieval knights astride, pennants blowing proudly in the breeze. The sound of water begins almost immediately, two streams flow on either side of the path, and the air is fresh and clean, the sunlight filtered by the leaves of the many trees within the complex, all leading up to the Door of Justice, the original entrance to the Alhambra.
In retrospect, it was a good thing busing didn’t work out, because getting into the Alhambra by the Door of Justice is the fastest way to skip the queue (do not do this if you do not have a pre-purchased ticket with a QR code). The road starts at the foot of the hill, at the Plaza de Santa Ana. A bus would’ve taken me to the new, contemporary entrance, and I would’ve missed the walk through a picturesque, tree-lined pathway.
The pomegranate is the heraldic symbol of Granada, and the origin of its name (Spanish: granita). It symbolizes many things, chief of them prosperity and fertility. When Catalina went to England, she adopted the pomegranate as her symbol too. It’s a fitting symbol for the Alhambra as well. Alhambra means “the red one”, and like the fruit, it is red on the outside and deceivingly plain. Crack a pomegranate open and a wealth of jewel-like seeds is revealed; similarly, enter the Alhambra and a priceless work of art reveals itself to the eye.
Nowhere is this beauty more prevalent than in the Nasrid Palaces, the residential part of the complex, where the Sultans and Sultanas of the Nasrid Dynasty lived.
The palace is absolutely breathtaking, made even more so because all of its interior is made by hand. Carved and shaped by master masons of the era, lines of Arabic inscriptions decorate walls of stucco, interspersed with flowers and botanical motifs. Water plays a large role in the palace. There are fountains and reflecting pools all throughout and the sound of running water is like music in the background. Trees heavy with oranges and pomegranates abound, and I really really wish the photos I took could do justice to it all, because they don’t come close to showing how stunning the palace is at all.
The Moors added to the complex as they went, and the summer palace of the Generalife (pr. He-ne-ra-‘li-fe) was one such addition. It was where they went to escape the heat during the hot summers, and is a pleasure garden that in its own way is as breathtaking as the Nasrid palace. There is the same intricate plasterwork, although not at the same dizzying scale, and reflecting pools and fountains abound. It’s easy to forget your cares in the Generalife, and who could blame you?
When Boabdil, the last Muslim ruler in Spain, left the Alhambra for the last time after surrendering it to Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, he wept. His mother, who was with him at the time, was said to say “You weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.” Imagine his pain (and her rage) at being forced to leave a home designed to be utter paradise on earth.
For myself, I didn’t quite weep when I left it, but I understood the urge to. I did sigh, happy to have enjoyed it for a day (you can easily spend the better part of a day there – I didn’t even include photos of the Alcazaba and the palace of Charles V), and regret at having to leave. Then I began the walk downhill, back to the city centre, pausing every now and then – it is a very steep incline, and if the walk up is hell on your thighs, the walk down is hell on your knees!