Bongo loved Granada. Andalucia is a taste of the Arab lands beyond the Levante, without leaving a more conventional environment, and with delightful hills just like in Springfield, Vermont. The Pension San Joaquin, housed in an old home behind thick walls and tall ancient doors hung with bronze hands that allow the caller to announce his or her presence by striking their delicately purchased bronze apples, located on Calle Mano de Hierro, was our base camp in Granada, just a few blocks from where Isabel and Ferdinand rest, and a short walk from La Puerta de Elvira. The rooms were emminently adequate, priced nicely, they came with exotic balconies and silly european fittings, the interior patios were fun to encounter, and the owners were always on hand to help with advice or directions.
In Granada, some of the hilly stairstepped streets shelter treats from fairy tales.
The same streets offer impromptu venues for enterprising musicians and their fans of all ages, Granada loves the guitar after all.
Back in Valencia once again, Bongo was stunned by the wonderful work of the restorers in revitalizing the exquisite Art Nouveau central market building, the Mercat Central, nestled in beside La Lonja (the 15th century Silk Exchange), sittin in about the same place where buyers and sellers have met since Roman times.
Bongo was also stunned by the variety and beauty of the offerings presented by the many shopkeepers who have held spots here for many years, sometimes passing them from parent to child, provisioning generations of Valencianos and curious tourists - but he preferred to meander about the vegetable aisles, for obvious reasons.
Wandering then further up into the Gothic Quarter, to hunt for the Plaça del Negret and the perfect café con leche or caña, depending on just how long the hunt took, Bongo got sidetracked, and just outside of the Plaza Redonda he came upon a trendily outfitted wedding party lolling about in front of the church of Santa Caterina.
In Valencia, when one has the luxury of time, upon coming across a wedding in progress, one always waits on the wedding party in order to enjoy the free fireworks that always welcome the new couple as they leave the church for the first time, yes Gladys, in Spain they set off real life, heavy-duty, black powder firecrackers, great ropes of them, a vast and stormy concatenation of explosions that wake the pagan gods and amuse children and goats, who then explode themselves in shrieks of delight.
The hats were a parade in themselves, and the lady dressed a la Manola was hypnotic even in the loud sunshine of a late-summer day. Indeed, all were smart enough to watch for the while it might take before the fuse was lit, but our little table called us to come and sit under the orange trees and beside the curling water of the Negrete´s quiet fountain, and we moved on without waiting to see the young men dancing in the black smoke of the firecrackers.