I couldn’t go back.
The last days of May 2012 were etched in my memory, playing on a loop every day since my return to the States. I dreamed of watching the sun turn the Sierra Nevada peaks pink once more, of jumping on the back of a moto and weaving through the old streets one last time, but everything was different and I couldn’t go back.
Granada became a sort of fairy tale for me. The cloudy, fabled type of fairy tale that makes real life seem sad in comparison. The city nestled between mountain and sea was a paradise that I wasn’t completely sure truly existed.
How could what I lived during those five months be real? How could a place like that go on existing when I was drowning in New York with two jobs and a full course load?
My first taste of Granada changed my life forever. It opened my eyes to the magic that’s possible each and every day when you seek it out, to a new rhythm of life, and left me with an insatiable hunger for Spanish language and culture. I worked like crazy to return to Spain and come August found myself in Madrid, four hours north of my precious oasis. With a trip planned south soon after my arrival, of course.
I was convinced that Madrid would never capture my heart. Poets didn’t write about Madrid, its history doesn’t do much for a romantic and madrileño Spanish is much too proper to be charming, I thought. Andaluz and the land of Falla and Lorca and the olive groves would always be the dueños de mi corazón.
But within ten days of arriving in Madrid, I cancelled my trip to Granada.
Against my internal protests, the capital was sucking me in. The diversity of the city, the vibrant nightlife and abundance of interesting souls I had encountered in a few short weeks told me I couldn’t go back just yet. I couldn’t give my heart back to the city of my dreams just yet, for fear that it might stay there forever. I needed to give this new place that was being so good to me a fighting chance.
So I spent five months falling head-over-heels for my new home, and one January evening I wrapped myself in a blanket, lit candles and sat down to reread my well-worn copy of Romancero gitano for the hundredth time. As soon as I reached the third ballad, I knew it was time. My heart cried out for the land that first called me to this country and I finally felt ready. Within an hour I had a flat booked, bus tickets set and stars in my eyes.
Within the past month I have spent a total of ten days in Granada, and it is even more heart-stoppingly dreamy than I remember. The city found little ways of showing me why it will always be the be-all, end-all in my eyes. From wandering the winding streets and spotting puppies peering over walls, to letting my thoughts escape me under the strong February sun as the enchanting cadence of my beloved Andaluz accent and Spanish guitars transported me to an alternate reality, Granada wasted no time in wrapping her beautiful hand around me, promising that this time she wouldn’t let go.
This time, I don’t want her to. In no time I forget about my past in Granada, about my constant desire to relive it, and decide to start a new romance with this beauty. Without trepidation I retrace my steps to my old haunts, but now with new friends and more life lived under my belt. We spend our days in the sun and our nights laughing with locals in crowded, hidden tapas bars then adventuring out to cause the best kind of trouble.
Granada makes me feel like I can do anything. She inspires me to chase my dreams, all the while making them even bigger than I thought possible.
I am more than content in Madrid, but as for the soul-stimulating, utterly captivating and mysterious jewel to the south….well, she’ll continue to be my mistress in this Spanish love affair until the day of my return to her inevitably arrives.
For me, Granada will always be the place.
I lived in Granada for a year and Madrid for 7 months and I feel EXACTLY the same. Granada changes you. I miss it everyday now I’m back in Sydney.
It really does. Such a magical place. Madrid ain’t so bad though 🙂
Another lovely post complete with gorgeous, dreamy photos, Julia. I’m not the biggest fan of Granada capital at all (although I die and am reborn each time I visit the Alhambra), so I appreciated seeing the city from a positive, insider’s perspective. 🙂
Hahaha that is the best description of the Alhambra experience. There’s a very good chance that a move back to Granada is in my near future, and if so I will make it my mission to get you to fall in love with the city!!
Stunning post, Julia! From the first sentence to the very last word and all the pictures in between, this was so lovely to read! I’m glad you are so happy there! Miss you!
Thanks so much, Molly! Miss you lots and can’t wait to see you in June 🙂 xx
Hi Julia! I’ve missed your posts.:) I’m always so captivated by your writing and thanks to you, Granada is now on my to-experience list! Thanks for this beautiful, beautiful post. *sigh* You’ve got such a knack for storytelling and I was hooked from the very first sentence to the last. Breathtaking photographs as always! Cherish each moment you spend there.
This made my evening, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I hope to get lots more posts up soon (all the cherishing has gotten in the way of blogging! 😉 ) I’m so glad Granada is on your list…it’s life-changing! Lots of love to you xx
You’re welcome, Julia! I can’t wait for your next post.:) Where in the states are you from?
I’m originally from Pittsburgh, Pa, but the latter part of my life was spent in New York City! How bout you?
Oh nice!:) I’m from Jamaica but moved to Canada about 13 years ago for university.
I thought Granada would be the place for me, too, and was so disappointed when I found out I couldn’t study there. I went with the next best thing – Sevilla – and have Granada nearby.
Sevilla ain’t so bad herself! I still can’t believe I’ve barely spent any time there, but that’s going to change very soon!
Beautifully written post. I haven’t been to Garnada, but now I really do want to visit it!
Thanks so much! I hope you do 🙂 xx
I know exactly how you feel about Granada because she’s captured my heart in a similar way. I cannot wait to go back there again with, as you said, more life under my belt. Beautiful photographs as always too, Julia!
Thanks, Mike! I’m sure she can’t wait to have you there again 🙂
Wow, I love your pictures – you really captured the magic of Granada. This post is making me desperately want to go back. I’ve only spent a day in Granada, but that was enough time to get a feel for that pull it has.
Thanks so much, Jessica! Get your bum down there!! The beautiful weather is just starting about now 🙂
My first stay in Spain was a month spent studying in Granada at the age of 17. I’ve since never really been able to put into words how magical it was – and still is – to me, but your post captures that feeling. There’s just something about it and the hot summer nights I spent there on my first independent experience abroad.
I later returned and fell in love with Madrid and Sevilla while living there, but nothing will ever compare to my summer in Granada.
Oops, called myself “Kirstietie” in that comment 🙂
I always love hearing these stories 🙂 There are so many special places in Spain, but I don’t think any are quite as magical as Granada.
I love Madrid, but Granada is a truly magical place. It really does feel like a fairytale land where everything is a bit more enchanting. I don’t blame you for falling madly in love with it! This post made me want to go back desperately!
Let’s all go!!!! 🙂
I agree, there is something about it. While I was living in Malaga, we would road trip many of Sundays to hang with friends and just take it all in. It was so wonderful to see it from a local perspective and if I close my eyes, I can still see the sunsets. Thanks so much for the beautiful post.
Thank YOU for such kind words, Christine. It sounds like you were really living the life down in Malaga 🙂
I read this the other day on my phone but couldn’t comment. So true! It IS the place! I’m so glad you got accepted and get to return next year. It is such a magical and romantic place and this article and your photos totally show that. I also love the photo of just the window and a tint of yellow. Simple, beautiful and enchanting…like Granada!
Thanks so much, sweet gal! I really like that photo too, I love the little details there even more than the big sights. Can’t wait to have you for lots of visits 🙂
I really love your writing and photography-I also love Granada. 😉
Thanks so much, Melanie! xx
You write so beautifully Julia! & Once again, I am obsessed with your photography. You really give your posts life.
Granada is my favorite city to visit in Spain! While I absolutely adore living in Madrid & can’t imagine living anywhere else, Granada has captured my heart as well. I went last year during Semana Santa. I’m going back next weekend with my boyfriend. I’m excited to experience Granada without the crowds & with the man I love. 🙂 xx
You are so kind, Jennifer! Thank you!
Oh my, Granada is quite the sight during Semana Santa…I’m surprised you could even see anything with all the crowds haha. I’m sure you will fall even more in love when you go back. And being such an incredibly romantic place, it might just make you fall even more in love with your boyfriend too! 😉 Enjoy!!
Really enjoyed reading this post. I only arrived in Granada 2 months ago and love living here.