Granada does not grab us. Happy to finally find our way out of the city’s seemingly endless traffic detours, we venture onto the winding, mountain roads of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. We prefer driving through the largest national park in Spain more so than the inner city. Once we escape the city, the disease of continuation invades our psyches, and we simply keep on moving. Hungry, thirsty, needing a bathroom, none of those things matter, as we are twisting around “S” curves during our climb with serious determination. We are lost. I am determined to find the town of Trevelez, which Ray and Allen (Friends we made in Tarifa) recommend to us. Visions of lamb stew dance in my head, remembering the meal that they had described.
On the road to Trevelez, the scenic views from mountaintops reveal whitewashed towns, dispersed throughout massive valleys and hillsides. We pass through numerous small villages, ask for directions, and pick up a few new Spanish words along the way. All of these towns smell like smoked ham, making our mouths water. It seems that each place produces a special ham, or at least one that wears the town’s patch on its side like a tattoo.
As the darkness descends, cold rain dots our windshield and snow remains a looming unspeakable. At a crossroads, neither turnoff indicates the way to Trevelez. We take a guess and turn right, only to enter another small town. A man speaks some broken English, and we think that he sets us on to the right direction.
“Izquierda! Izquierda!” he repeats.
“Okay, Buenos. Gracias,” I respond.
“Do you know what he said?” Mare asks, already thinking that I don’t.
Wella! An hour later we search for a motel in the darkness, but at least have found our town. Every shop looks closed. We walk in the cold and look into several lighted windows. All we see are hanging hams, their hoofs attached to hooks dangling from the ceiling.
The motel we seek is closed. Never fear, Pepe Alvarez lets us in to his hotel/restaurant! After a minute in the room, we have a cold drink at his bar, where he serves us tapas of sliced ham and cheese. Another round brings another serving of ham and cheese. Finally, we order dinner, and ask for the special of the house. We are excited, anticipating lamb stew, or something of that sort. Then, here comes a huge platter of…you guessed it…ham and cheese. The ham has Pepe’s name branded onto it. So do packets of sugar, salt, and ashtrays, as well as the tablecloth.
“Are you Pepe?” I ask, pointing at a pack of sugar with his name on it.
He smiles proudly and extends his hand. “Yes…Welcome!”
The next morning, we head for the southern coast. We need to get out of the mountains before the predicted snow storm hits; besides, we cannot recreate Ray and Allen’s experience in Travelez. A very long, twisty drive later, through dramatic mountain scenery, we find a special jewel.
We practically have the little beach town of San Jose to ourselves. Our one-bedroom apartment is only $75US per night, and we purchase supplies at the one grocery store in town that is open. That night, we finish the ham and cheese that we have been living on since re-entering Spain. The view from our living room brags a panoramic look over the beach and Mediterranean coastline. In the morning we hike around the mountains along the sea. Back at the casa we watch International CNN in English. Wow, what nice stories International CNN produces, not just bad news like the sister station in the States, but inspirational biographies about people around the world.
We feel as if getting back to normal. I am cooking and Mare is hiking. We are engaging in familiar activities. Surprisingly, this feeling satisfies us. We decide to stay here for several days for a welcome rest.