Wine, hikes, and Berenjenas Rellenas

As my third week here in Granada came round the bend, I had begun to feel more or less settled into my new surroundings and lifestyle in Spain. In fact, I was ready to venture out a bit on my own and experience more of what this wonderful country had to offer. CLM (my school) offers an array of tours and cultural excursions every month for students to learn more about Granada and Spanish culture. The trips are all reasonably priced, ranging from around 6 to 40 euros. After scouring the calendar event page, I decided to sign up for a wine tasting trip on Tuesday evening and a hike on Friday afternoon.   I have essentially no experience with wine tasting, other than the occasional sip or glass here and there, so I am very glad I did this excursion at the beginning of my Spain semester as it was a fantastic introduction into the vast word of wine and all things associated. It was really more of a “how-to-go-wine-tasting” class, which was perfect for my novice soul. We met at a bus stop near my apartment and because so many people had signed up for the trip (roughly 40 students) we were able to take a private bus to our destination. We drove to a local organic wine vineyard just outside of the Granada called Los Morenos. Our tour guide walked us through every step to making wine, from the different soils used for the grapes, to the harvesting, to the processing, to the aging, to the bottling, to the tasting.  She taught us about the differences between types of wine, the importance of the aging, pH levels, type of wood in the barrels, etc. There are an endless amount of factors that go into making a fine wine. It is very easy to see how wine tasting can be considered not so much a hobby as opposed to a whole culture. My favorite part, however (and of course), was the actual wine tasting. We tried a young white wine and an aged red wine. They also gave us tapas, or appetizers, with the wines and explained complimenting foods for the different flavors of wine. Our guide walked us through the entire wine tasting process – oh, because it is a process – and told us what to look for in quality wine, from color, scent, feel – a list of things to evaluate before you even get to taste the wine. And then, finally, we tasted the wine. Wine Tour 063I enjoyed the young white wine with a side of bread topped with tomato and a tuna spread. However, I did not like the red wine with a side of green olives and bread, which was expected as I held a previous suspicion that I was not a red wine fan from prior experience. I would not say that I did not like it, but more so that I prefer other types of wine given such an option. After receiving a gift of a bottle of red wine (great.) and purchasing a bottle of the white wine (YAY!), I boarded the bus content from a wonderful wine tasting excursion. The rest of the week of class was great, although just going over Spanish can get a little difficult at times. Nonetheless, I could still feel myself improving at great strides and that was motivation to put my nose to the grindstone and push through it. In addition, I had Friday’s hike to look forward to.

We met at CLM at 6:00 PM Friday evening to begin our hike through the Llano de La Perdiz, a trail system on the mountain right next to the Alhambra palace. I was feeling really good on that Friday afternoon, so on the way to CLM I stopped at an Heladería for some ice cream. [Sidenote: There are ice cream shops on almost *every* corner here in Granada. In fact, Granada is the home to the most famous ice cream shop in all of Spain, Los Italianos. To put it in perspective, Michelle Obama visited Granada last year and she only went to two places: The Alhambra Palace and Los Italianos. So if Los Italianos is good enough for the spokeswoman of American national fitness and health (“Let’s Move!”) to stop just for an ice cream cone, then you know it’s got to be good. I have yet to actually go to Los Italianos, but it closes the first week of October for the winter, so I have a deadline.] So I happily walked to CLM with a cone of Ferrero Rocher ice cream (that’s right, that’s a flavor) in one hand and a huge smile plastered on my face. It wouldn’t even be a stretch to say I pretty much skipped to the meeting point.:)

The hike ended up being absolutely amazing! We had a remarkable view of all of Granada as we hiked up the side of the mountain, and it was timed so that we could watch the breathtaking sunset at the top. The white houses of two barrios at the base of the mountain, Sacramonte and the Albaicin, reflected the warm orange and pink tones of the setting sun and the cool breeze whispered the mountain’s secrets against our ears as we admired the vastness of God’s creation before us. It was humbling and beautiful and just what I needed after a long week of school. I came home exhausted, but content. I can’t wait to return again before I leave Spain.

The following morning, I had to wake up early for yet another hike, this one organized by SOL to the Cahorros mountain trails in a nearby city. We met at the bus stop at the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM (I know, that’s not even bad – I’m just not a big morning person) and we rode the twenty minutes to Los Cahorros. We hiked until around 2PM. It was a chilly morning, and I felt very tired. I had not slept well the night before despite having been so exhausted from my previous hike. Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to the day’s adventure because I had heard about the Indiana Jones-style bridges and waterfalls, so I sucked it up and tried my best to take in as much as I could. Los Cahorros consist of a rocky trail tucked between a series of mountains. The trail required a lot of crouching, shuffling and hugging of walls to avoid falling into the creak that bordered the trail. There were, in fact, a few rope bridges that looked fresh out of Indiana Jones movies! They were extremely cool. After about an hour and a half, we made it to an open clearing between two mountains and I swear it looked JUST like Arizona. The color and type of rocks, the unrelenting sun, the dry plants and shrubs = all central Arizona. It was a nice taste of home. We had forty minutes to eat our snacks, relax, and meet again to begin the return trek. I pulled out my apple and continued on the trail on my own. I found a trail that led up to a mountain peak, so with a glance down at my watch, I decided to quickly scale/climb/jog up to the top for some prime photo opportunities. Forty minutes later, I arrived back at our meeting point breathless but happy. The view from the top was outstanding and I had had just enough time to snap some photographs before slipping, sliding and speed-walking back on time. After getting back home and devouring a delicious lunch of Berenjenas rellenas (eggplant baked with tomato sauce and meat and covered in cheese), I accepted my food coma and read and relaxed in my room for the rest of the evening. I followed that trend and just lounged around for the rest of the weekend. Overall, it was yet another wonderful week here in Spain.

With my Solmates at Los Cahorros!
With my Solmates at Los Cahorros!
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