For thirty seconds I let go of every inhibition and danced. Before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed the outstretched hand in front of me and I was pulled into the middle of the dance floor to flamenco in front of at least 50 people.

Flamenco is one of the most beautiful things I have ever watched. The passion and energy of those dancers is like nothing else. They tell a story with the music and their bodies. The woman singing has a voice that is deep and soulful, and the guitar and drums are perfectly improvised. They clap their hands and stomp their feet in a whirl of colored lights and dresses.

The flamenco shows in Granada are held in the old part of the city, which is made up of classic white washed Mediterranean buildings going into the side of the hills. The dancing takes place inside cave like rooms that are long and narrow with walls covered in authentic decorations and photographs from generations of dancers.

CAP. - Credit: Caroline Humphrey/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
CAP. – Credit: Caroline Humphrey/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

The audience sits along the whole perimeter of the dance floor, making it a more intimate experience, so close that you might get hit with a dress flying through the air as they dance. At each show, the final dancer choses someone from the audience to come and dance with her. This time I was the lucky one. And it was one of the greatest moments of my life.

If I could use one word to describe the city of Granada, it would be enchanting. It is in the region of Andalusia in the southern tip of Spain that lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which is the second highest in Europe. As you walk down the streets of Granada, you can see the snow capped peaks of the mountains, which is a strange contrast to the warm weather and the beach only 20 minutes away.

A combination of Moroccan, Spanish and Arabic culture, Granada is a unique and colorful place. The streets are lined with Moroccan style shops and vendors with sparkling mosaic lights with rainbows of tapestries and clothes. Everywhere you look there are flowers hanging from windows in the tiny streets. From the highest points, the Alhambra stands over the city, the crowned jewel of Granada.

Before Granada was taken over by the Christians, the Moors once ruled it, and the Sultan made the Alhambra his palace in the twelfth century. The grounds include elaborate gardens, and throughout water gently flow in streams and fountains. Water was the most important element to the Moors, as it represented life, so it is a continuing trend throughout the Alhambra.

The main area of the palace is the most stunning with elaborate pillars and wall carvings, colorful tiles, and the outdoor area with a pool of water stretching the length of the building. Against the bright blue sky the edifice of the palace was designed to reflect in the pool of water, looking like a watercolor painting.

One of the best parts of visiting the south of Spain is the tapas. Unfortunately in Barcelona, we don’t get those for free. But in the south when you buy any drink, you get a plate of a sampling of food, usually a Spanish tortilla, papas fritas, bread, or olives and tomato.

This is just part of the deep culture that runs through the city. Flamenco dancers perform in the street, and in the squares guitarists sit and play at almost every bench. The combination of pink, orange and white buildings glow at sunset, and there is such mystery and beauty behind it, as layers of the past come to life in the city of Granada.