A couple weeks ago, my friend Andy and I headed to the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains to explore the Moorish town of Granada. After our “welcome to the city” menu al dia lunch, in which we upgraded from a glass of wine to a bottle, we opted to take our hostel’s “cave and street art tour” to see an alternative side to the city.
We didn’t realize that the caves would actually be people’s homes. About 200 years ago, poor agricultural workers, who needed housing outside of the city’s crowded and expensive center, started carving shelters into the soft gypsum and limestone hillsides. The structures jut out of the hillside with windows on the facade, but the back rooms are dug into the mountains and let in little light. The result is a warm, cozy den that provides a perfect environment for a long winter’s nap.
Recently, richer folk have discovered the appeal of such a home and have begun upgrading the hillside abodes by putting in recessed lighting, forced-air systems for windowless rooms, Jacuzzis and rustic wood beams. They’re dry and whitewashed clean, and they have windows and all the modern conveniences: electricity, running water, telephone, cable and parking.
We visited the home of a local legend. The owner had been born and raised in India’s Sri Aurobindo ashram and had since moved to Granada to practice free love. He also had a red porsche in his driveway and he is known for driving around town with the top down and gold gloves on his hands.
On the second half of the tour, we discovered the city’s museum-worthy street art. As you walk the hills, you constantly pass murals that belong in cartoon books. The varied designs stretch across city walls, staircases up the mountain and even people’s homes. The constant eye candy makes for inspired strolls around the city.