Thursday, August 21, 2008

i've forgotten vocabulary, but the warm feelings remain the same

Studying in Granada, Spain, was one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Unfortunately, when I got home and tried to describe just what it was that made it so amazing, I couldn't find the words. But one thing I couldn't stop talking about in my newly acquired Andalusian accent was The Alhambra. It's what the town is known for all over the world and, in my opinion, it lives up to the hype. (When you live somewhere for nearly half a year, it's hard not to feel a small sense of ownership.) So I'm a little biased.

Basically, way back in the day when the Islamic Moors ruled what is now southern Spain, they built the intricate and elaborate fortress/gardens to serve as their palatial home base. But as Chris Columbus' pals King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella started gaining ground, they attacked and took over—in 1492, of course—and proceeded to build over some of the original work in their own style. The result is an intricate mix of styles at the top of a hill overlooking the city. We went there numerous times during the semester I was there, and I still feel like there was stuff I didn't get to see.

So this year, for my big 3-0, my peeps took me to Alhambra Palace restaurant in Chicago's West Loop. It is HUGE, and the intricate details reminded me a lot of the real thing. Plus there were flamenco performances, and the group's leader called me out and wished me a happy birthday in that accent I hadn't heard in such a long time. I just wish I had enough wits about me to bust out my own accent and thank him properly, but I just smiled and then for some reason I sort of curtsied.

Afterward, we went to a wine bar called The Tasting Room, where I spent the night catching up with friends I haven't seen in a long time instead of sampling vintages. But High Contrast fixed all that, right at the end. But let's start at the beginning:

A poor shot of what you see when you walk into the main dining area of the Alhambra Palace. (There's some sort of bollywoodish music video on the screens.)

The fountain at the foot of the stairs. The blue thing is a mini waterway that follows down the length of the stairs. My non-expert guess is that it's a shout out to the Alhambra's acequias (water conduit technology system the Arabs brought, making a lush garden with fountains like the Generalife at the top of the hill possible).

This guy was tearing it up, heeled shoes and all.

And the ladies (in red) on the floor had some cool costume changes.

Detail of our table; some of the same motifs you see all around in the real Alhambra.

I had chicken and couscous cooked in a tagine. So tender!

H had kebabs. We switched halfway through because I wanted some, too. Also delicious.

Our V.I.P. area at The Tasting room.

I guess it's never too late for shots. These are the three I took to close out the bar.

Just as we were walking out before the bar closed, someone asked me how many drinks I'd had (one glass of red wine) because I didn't look drunk enough. I said, jokingly, "Let's do shots!" Highcon ordered a round, then a second round, and then a third one just for me. As you can see, those are more like double shots, so essentially I had six Lemon Drops in a row. Fortunately for me, my stomach was full of absorbent rice and couscous, and directly after The Tasting Room we went somewhere for a thick, cheesy slice of pizza. And when I got home, H made sure I drank plenty of water and took an Advil. So no hangover!

It was a good day.


Librarian Girl said...

That sounds like an awesome birthday evening! Happy bday again!

Anonymous said...

I think that I would like this Highcon person!!! And what a good brother I have. What a fun place that looks like. Glad you had such a fun Birthday!! Happy 3-0.

SupaCoo said...

My father-in-law says that is his favorite place on earth (the place in Spain, not the restaurant in Chicago) and we were thinking about going there in December! It's top 3 on our list right now :)

Glad you had a great, hangover-free birthday!

Toni Lea Andrews said...

My favorite new local restaurant is Spanish, although with more Barcelona and less Granada in the influence. Ah, well, we must make due in the wilds of Central Connecticut. Good wine list, though!

Jon said...

yeah, I don't drink, but even I know that those are not regulation shot glasses. If I didn't know better, I'd say your friends were trying to get you drunk.

willowtree said...

Wow that sounded like a great time! With my past hellish 5 years, Ive really fallen off with my friends, or else maybe I wouldve had a celebration too, nah probably not, but it sounds great! I guess I have one goal for my 35 - some new friends in addition to reacquainting myself with the old ones hehe.
Happy belated Birthday! Here's hoping that the 30's are fabulous!