After not getting home until after midnight it was a sad moment when our alarm went off at 6.45am. After a bit of groaning however, we gave ourselves a shake and got ready for skiing. Surprisingly for some, the Sierra Nevada is Europe’s most southerly ski resort and is located an hour from Granada by bus. Since it was February and prime ski season we had decided before the trip to spend a day checking out the mountains and doing some skiing. We met downstairs at 7.20 and called a cab which at just €8 wasn’t much more than us each paying for the bus and worked out a lot cheaper! We headed off to the bus station passing many revellers on their way home, only in Spain. We had pre-purchased the tickets and so when we arrived managed to grab some coffee and of course a green tea for me before our getting on the bus.
From the glimpses I caught the view looked beautiful but I was asleep for pretty much the whole journey. We arrived into Sierra Nevada to snow-capped peaks and the usual mountain feel of ski resorts, it was beautiful. Robyn doesn’t ski and Maeve and Ruairidh had a lesson booked for 12 so in true European style we decided to have a chilled morning before hitting the slopes. We headed first to check in with the British Ski School which were situated inside Intersport and then pick up passes and get our rentals sorted. By this point we were starving and so chose to hang out in Pans Bakery for a bit where we had some amazing huge sandwiches, I opted for the chicken supreme, which came with chips and an icetea. We were completely stuffed after our huge breakfast and after a walk around the small ski town it was time to hit the slopes.
In order to get to the skiing section of the mountain there are 2 main gondolas to ferry people up. There had been a huge queue for this all morning but as we were heading up at 11.45 the queues had waned a lot meaning we didn’t have to waste a lot of time in queues. The gondola ride itself was a packed in affair that I wouldn’t describe as enjoyable but it was quick enough and we were on the top. Maeve and Ruairidh headed off for their lesson and I spent the next 2 hours checking out the greens and a couple of nice blue runs. The sun was shining and so I was really hot in all of my ski gear. It was a nice change to the days in Colorado where we had been skiing in the midst of a snowstorm though. The one downside of the resort is the lift set-up. When you arrive off the gondola at the top mountain station you are greeted with 3 green run lifts. In order to get to a lot of the nicer more challenging runs you still have to wait in the queue for the green lifts up to the top of that section which means the queues for the green runs were enormous. I waited in one for 35 minutes and in terms of queueing it is the usual Spanish way of no organisation or order but everyone just pushing into a tight mash of people. I had wanted to stay close by to meet Maeve and Ruairidh after their lesson but after catching up with them after a great lesson I managed to convince them to take some lifts to the opposite side of the mountain where I was assured that there were much less people and some nicer runs.
We headed up right to the top of the left hand-side where there was an iconic round communications mast right at the top of the run where we stood to admire the amazing views before heading down and merging onto montebajo, a nice blue which looked like it would take us right back to the main gondola point so we could meet Robyn for a drink. Maeve and Ruairidh were beginners so we had a lovely chilled run down the first part of the blue where we were waiting for the montebajo sign to appear. We got to the edge of a particularly steep looking dip where we stopped for a rest and to check out the beautiful views once more. Unfortunately, it was at this point we realised the salomon boots we had rented were getting snow crammed into the small holes on the bottom which was preventing the skis from going back on. There are easier places to put skis on than on the edge of a steep mountain but after some excellent team work we were skied up and ready to go. Just as a massive cloud rolled in completely taking out any visibility we had had. Ruairidh took the sensible decision to walk down while I tried and failed to ski at first heading onto a completely different run and then having to come back. In hindsight this was probably the run we had wanted to take.
We finally got to the bottom of the hill and realised quite abruptly that this was probably not where we wanted to be. We could see the main resort on the other side of where we were with a huge valley in between. How on earth were we getting back to that? We skied along to a promising chairlift before realising this just brought people up from the valley below. Given and Maeve and Ruairidh were novices skiing the whole way down from here was a daunting prospect and so we decided instead to ski into the valley and assess our options from here. It was an off-piste route but not very steep and actually quite a nice ski. It was at this point that we realised our options were to go down or hike. While hiking is definitely the least attractive option time was ticking, we were due to meet Robyn and everyone was exhausted. The first part was not so steep and so we managed fairly well on skis. However, this became ever more challenging as the steepness increased and eventually the three of us collapsed at the side of the run in the snow. There was no way we could go any further. Then we realised we would definitely have been better going down rather than hiking a snowy mountain with skis and boots. You live and learn. After a 20 minute wait or so we managed to summon the energy for the last and steepest section. I have to say I have never quite experiences joy like that before in the moment we reached the gondola and sat down. We had missed meeting Robyn at the top for drinks but drinks we were in dire need of so we quickly dropped the rental gear of and made out way for gin and wine! Whenever you are faced with a challenging experience gin fixes everything!
We managed to down our gin bowls before making our way back to the bus for Granada. I was so tired after our epic ski adventure but I watched the lights of the Sierra Nevada mountain turn on for night skiing and wished a little we had had more time for apres ski. The journey back was a lot longer with the traffic all leaving the resort at the same time but we finally arrived back into Granada and grabbed a cab to take us to a tapas bar – we needed food and alcohol! First stop was la vinoteca. We managed to get a table and seat here and so enjoyed 2 lovely tapa – a lovely slice of grilled pork and a classic ham and cheese with some red wine. We got chatting to some American exchange students sitting across from us which was nice discussing European travel and our favourite cities. Our next stop was Bernina 1930 just across the road with gorgeous chandeliers and a more modern look to the usual Granada style. Here our tapa was salmon and cream cheese with a pickle on a stick with of course some more of the delicious local red wine. We had come to the area trying to find a bar off Maeve’s list and after asking the staff they recommended to us to head a little up the street where we found Bodegas Castaneda where me and Robyn had come for lunch the day before. As usual the place was bustling and we had a fantastic tapa of Spanish omelette with a stew and of course some lovely red wine. This bar has lots of hanging hams and tapa on display and is probably the most aesthetically pleasing traditional bar we visited. Next up was Saint Germain – the place we had first tried to go to but it hadn’t been open yet. This place was sort of like a little club with lots of cool atmosphere however, the worst tapa of the night with a raw onion topping on bread – I ate it because by this point I was in need of any food I had on offer but it was not an enjoyable experience. We decided at this point to head back to close where we were staying and choose Café Shambala for our final stop of the night. Here we definitely saved the best tapa until last with an amazing spicy lentil patty – a bit like veggie haggis – with fried potatoes and bread. What an amazing night. We had completed a phenomenal tapa tour of Granada sampling the local wine and loads of free tapa. Unfortunately, it was at this point we made our worst mistake yet – we ordered a bottle of wine to take back to the hotel! Of course this made for an excellent end to our evening all chatting and having a room wine party but the memory of how I felt the next day is still a sore one for me even a week after the event.