Spain Part 4: Granada and Toledo

This is the last of my Spain vacation recaps but it’s the most exotic because it includes a palace, a labyrinth, gypsies, and piononos.

What’s a pionono, you ask? Why, it’s a dessert, of course. It’s a dessert that up until last month I thought was native to my mom’s hometown in the Philippines, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out that it was also a specialty in Granada. In the Philippines, it is spelled pianono but it is the same thing: little cake rolls soaked in syrup and filled with custard.

I did a little Googling and found out that piononos are also popular in South America, which immediately made me want to re-create a version with dulce de leche. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the pi0nonos I ate in Granada:

I initially thought that those were banana slices on top but upon biting into one, I recognized the familiar flavor of the pianono I used to eat back home: soft, spongey, and sweet, with cool, creamy custard. It was my favorite food at Granada.

I was looking forward to Granada ever since I booked my plane ticket to Spain; the piononos were just a nice bonus. I really wanted to visit the famed Alhambra, a magnificent castle and fortress that was the stronghold of the Moorish kings. It is located on the most strategic point of Granada, with a view of the whole city and the meadows.

The details on every inch (inch!) of the palace are astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Here the mirror on the floor reflects the intricate walls and mirrored glass on the ceiling. The whole place is breath-taking.

I also loved the Generalife, the summer palace that’s connected to the gardens. The perfectly manicured lawns and trees look like a labyrinth and reminded me of one of my favorite movies (Pan’s Labyrinth, NOT The Shining).

After spending a few hours at the Alhambra and Generalife, we checked into our very modern hotel, I soaked in the tub (ahh, the pleasures of vacation) then got ready for a night out in town. More specifically, a night out in one of the caves. A night out with… gypsies.

We went up to the gypsy quarters, an area lined with caves that have been carved and turned into a homes, bars, and restaurants. Our group went to a place called Cueva de la Rocio.

Now let me admit that when I am exhausted and after a few drinks, my mind starts thinking of foolish things. Like upon being ushered in and being given glasses of sangria, then having an onslaught of loud chatter, glowing lights, and feeling the electricity of energy pulsing through the room, it did cross my mind that maybe, just maybe, we were being stimulated and intoxicated on purpose so that gypsies can do some magic tricks on us or something. Maybe that’s what the tour guide meant by “a night out with gypsies.” Of course that was not the case. Silly me. I just did not read the fine print. We were being treated to a gypsy show.

The show was a combination of live theater and musical numbers. The performers were mesmerizing; the soulful strums of the guitars, the loud stomping of the dancers, and the rueful and passionate love songs of the singers made it such an entertaining evening.

To sustain our energy during our two days in Granada, we ate well there. Very well.

Paella, a plate of fried seafood (I loved the boquerones, fresh white anchovies), and more sangria (of course).

Then we went shopping and visited the many bazaar-type stalls selling lots of Moroccan items.

The glasses and teapots  reminded me of Tangierino. There were so many beautiful items and I wish I had enough room in my luggage for everything I wanted, like these pretty lamps:

I imagined myself in a souk, and pretended I was Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City 2, looking for trinkets and shoes. (Yes, I know that the movie was set in Abu Dhabi, but in reality they filmed in Morocco.) Fortunately, I did not bump into any of my Aidans in the souk.

The next morning, we headed to the very pretty town of Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We walked around, checked out the Gothic cathedral, and ducked into jewelry stores selling Damasquinado or Damascene ware.

Damascene is a jewelry art perfected by the Arabs and brought to Spain, and Toledo is the world’s largest center of production. We saw some men who were hand-crafting gorgeous plates and jewelry. I was very taken with the designs!

After leaving Toledo, we were back in Madrid in our luxurious hotel. I promptly started craving these again:

The rest of my Spain recaps are for Madrid, Cordoba and Sevilla, and Ronda and Costa del Sol. I’m happy I was able to share a little bit of Spain with you guys, and I hope you enjoyed reading about the cities we visited and all the glorious food. Salud!


31 Responses to “Spain Part 4: Granada and Toledo”

  1. #
    Meghan posted August 28, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Everything is so stunning! I’ve been dying to get to Granada.
    I love the surprise of the piononos; what a nice, unexpected treat from home! :)

  2. #
    Daisy posted August 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Granada is definitely on my list, for the same reason as you visited, that stunning palace.

  3. #
    Erica @ In and Around Town posted August 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Amazing photos! Glad you enjoyed Granada so much, the Alhambra is pretty spectacular! The gypsy evening is definitely something to remember :)

  4. #
    christina posted August 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

    the food looks so good! ahh! my gparents love granada, but i’ve never been!

  5. #
    Claire @ Live and Love to Eat posted August 28, 2012 at 9:44 am

    After traveling to France, Spain, Italy, and Poland, Toledo might be my favorite city. That view is just breath-taking!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      I know, I wish I took more pictures and that we stayed longer. But I’m glad I was able to visit it for a day!

  6. #
    Samantha Angela posted August 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I love reading your trip recaps! Spain sounds awesome.

    That gypsy party looks really fun. I love stuff like that with food and singing and dancing.

  7. #
    Megan posted August 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I remember the Alhambra. It’s so cool! What an amazing trip. I loved your recaps.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks Megan, I had a great time writing the recaps too :)

  8. #
    Jenny @ BAKE posted August 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

    gorgeous photos! looks like you had a great trip

  9. #
    OliePants posted August 28, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I absolutely adore your pictures. Beautiful and so colorful. And, I adore churros. :)

  10. #
    Kathryn posted August 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Gorgeous pictures!

  11. #
    Juliana posted August 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Beautiful pictures Bianca…love traveling through the pictures, especially that I never been to this part of the World…thank you so much.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week :)

  12. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted August 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I wish I had known about all of the desserts you discovered in Spain before my trip last year!

  13. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted August 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    It’s awesome to see the craftsmanship that seems to be put into every detail – whether it be a wall, a glass or a dessert! Looks like a fabulous trip.

  14. #
    Alaina posted August 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous! I would love to visit Europe again. I can’t say enough about how jealous I am of your travels. :-)

  15. #
    Kailey posted August 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    wow Toledo looks beautiful!! I am dying to go to Europe and this makes me want to go even more :)

  16. #
    Simply Life posted August 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I remember watching flamenco dancers in Spain (I even took a class while I was there!) – it was just beautiful!

  17. #
    Miriam posted August 29, 2012 at 9:19 am

    What a nice experience this must have been! :)

    Have a nice week and thanks for the lovely pictures!

  18. #
    Lea @ Healthy Coconut posted August 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Just catching up on blog post….woohoo, Spain trip? I’ve always wanted to go and it’s still in my dream places to explore.

    A lot of their food are similar to filipino food huh? I guess I’m not that surprise since we have a lot of influence from their culture.

    The last time I ate paella, was in Boracay last year :)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      I wanna go back to Boracay too! I hope you get to visit Spain one day :)

  19. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking posted August 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Looks like you had an amazing, unforgettable experience in Spain, Bianca! I spent a few days in Barcelona in June and already can’t wait to go back. It was magical! Thanks for sharing about your travels!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you! Hopefully I can go back and visit Barcelona soon :)

  20. #
    Shannon posted August 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    oh wow, gorgeous!! i really need to get a trip on my schedule soon… you’ve made me itch ;)

  21. #
    Amy @ Elephant Eats posted August 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Man, I’m SERIOUSLY jealous of your travels. Looks like such a great trip!

  22. #
    Joanne posted August 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I’m probably not going to be able to rest until I figure out how to make those pioninos! they look so delicious!

  23. #
    Elizabeth posted August 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I loved the Alhambra. I wish I could have been there during the summer. I went to Granada in December and it was COLD. Beautiful nonetheless.

  24. #
    Sacha posted August 31, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Your Spain posts went out with a bang. Everything is so remarkably beautiful. And those pianono’s sound delicious. I can’t wait till you recreate them!

  25. #
    Adri {FoodieBeFit} posted September 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I love churros con chocolate! Such beautiful pics.

  26. #
    Molly Galler posted September 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I would like to experience every single aspect of this post. You know how to vacation, Bianca!

  27. #
    Carmel posted September 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Your pictures and descriptions make me dream of being back in Spain. I spent 6 months studying abroad in Granada and got to experience so many wonderful new things. I’m glad you saw Toledo–such a great day trip from Madrid that too many people don’t take.

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