We may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but Granada is a city bursting with culture. During the summer, there is something to do almost every day and it can be overwhelming.
Never ones to be deterred, Andrew and I are always prepared to be overwhelmed, so when a friend, Sophie, came to stay last weekend we rifled through the Granada websites to see what was on and, sure enough, we found a little treasure. Throughout August and September, there is a Guitar festival running in Los Jardines de Falla, the gardens that lead down to the foyer of the Manuel de Falla concert hall. Since we arrived here, we have been keen to get inside the auditorium for a concert, and this autumn we will do everything to ensure we book something. The Auditorio Manuel de Falla was opened in 1978 and houses the Granada City Orchestra. Although Falla was born in Cádiz, he spent many years in, and was very much inspired by, Granada. It was only the end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Franco regime that lead the composer to leave Spain for Argentina. Manuel de Falla, along with Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados, is considered to be one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century.
It seems fitting, therefore, for a concert hall to be built in his name, adjacent to the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens looking out across the Realejo area that was home to the composer.
Sophie arrived from London on another glorious summer’s day. Clear blue skies, hot sunshine and a mature summer feel - the landscapes are taking on the scorched look and the poor reservoirs are looking dreadfully bereft. Even though high summer lasts a mere 3 months, these months can, I am sure, seem interminable to many people. Life takes on a very different pace, and we have found it relatively easy to adapt, taking advantage of the very long days, and hiding from the heat that prevails from 2pm - 5pm, when very little life can be seen in the villages. Granada’s population holidays en masse, it seems, and the city takes on a quiet, languid air with only visitors milling around the shaded streets. The upside is that it is easy to drive in and out, as rush-hour has all but disappeared. Parking spaces are aplenty and bars in the early evening are unusually quiet - many don’t even bother to open until at least 9pm.
We found a bar in the Campo del Principe, one of the main squares in the Realejo quarter of Granada, and built on the site of an old Muslim cemetery. The Realejo is the old Jewish quarter of the city, nestled into the south side of the hill below the Alhambra. Under Arab rule, this part of the city was known as Garnata al-Yahud (Graada of the Jews) but it was renamed once the Christians took occupation of the city.
Campo del Principe is an attractive triangle; one side is lined with bars, the terraces of which sit under mature trees. It was outside one of these bars that we sat, with Sophie, for a pre-concert drink and tapas before taking the steep climb up the hill (and getting slightly lost on the way).
Los Jardines de Falla are charming. Wrought iron gates open onto steps that lead down to the garden terrace, and an avenue of trees lead to the entrance to the auditorium. It was in these gardens that the concert was held, and the audience was small and appreciative. The seats we not the most comfortable, and I think we’d take cushions next time. The type of wooden seat brought to mind the moment when, at a dinner some years ago with friends in their home in another part of Andalucia, my wooden chair decided that it had had enough of my weight and disintegrated beneath me, leaving me in a heap in the floor. Fortunately, I have now lost some weight, and this time the chair held firm.
The concert was given by the young classical guitarist Andrea González Caballero who, since her graduation from the Robert Schumann Conservatoire in Düsseldorf in 2014, has played in Mexico, Cuba and all around Spain. The programme included works by Albéniz, J S Bach, Rodrigo and a technically very challenging piece for both player and audience by Benjamin Britten. The concert ended with two pieces by Manuel de Falla.
The sound of guitar in the hands of a very talented musician, the warmth of the evening and the setting on a terrace overlooking the twinkling Granada lights below were all enchanting, and one of the many reasons why we love this place! As with many of our visitors, it wasn’t long before Sophie was telling us how completely she understood why we were here.
The festival, Guitarra en Los Jardines de Falla, continues every Thursday evening until 7th September and is highly recommended.
For more information: www.guitarraenlosjardinesdefalla.com