Starbird Travelogue, Part 2

by Kate Starbird
Special to the Fever Website

Fever guard Kate Starbird tells of her winter break journey through the south of Spain over the recent holidays. Playing overseas this offseason alongside Fever teammate Jenni Benningfield in Madrid, Starbird ventured for a week through Sevilla, Malaga, Granada and Cordoba. A former Academic All-American at Stanford and the daughter of an accomplished author, Margaret Starbird, Kate agreed to share her travelogue with the Fever website. This is the second of three parts of her journey.

Book in hand, Kate relaxes outside the Cathedral in Sevilla prior to arriving in Malaga and Granada.
From Malaga we headed on, this time in a crowded autobus, to Granada, a city nestled into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. How I failed to notice this overwhelming feature of Spanish geography when I planned my trip, I cannot say. As we pulled in to the city, the snow-capped peaks sent a chill of both cold and fear up my spine. Neither Alex nor I had brought anything resembling a coat.

It was Christmas Eve, mid-afternoon. The streets were deserted, except for a wind that blew through them like ice and a few clusters of Arab merchants selling hookahs and ceramics to last minute shoppers and idle tourists. We had a dinner of hummus and cous-cous at a middle eastern place, eating greedily while we watched the host-waiter-cook turn other patrons away. By 9 o'clock, long before the typical Spanish dinner, he had run out of food. His was the only restaurant open in the area.

After the meal we walked back to our hostal to regroup. According to rumor, the bars would all reopen after midnight and the people would flood the streets, all fat and happy from their family feasts. We never found out if the rumor was true. The two of us were knocked out by 11:30, before most Spaniards had even finished their first course tapas (appetizers).

At 10:30, when I went out for my morning run, the revelers were long gone. Again, only the Arab venders and the horrific cold were out in force. And I, clad in basketball shorts and doubled-up, long-sleeved t-shirts, was in no state to deal with either. It certainly wasn't the 20 degrees (Celsius) I'd researched on Or maybe 20 degrees isn't quite as warm as I calculated it to be. Either way, I was cold. The electric sign above the pharmacy actually read -2. My little legs turned pink. Tears welled up in my eyes and occasionally broke free to trail a line of near ice down my cheeks. I used the sleeves of my (unwashable) t-shirts to wipe my cheeks, and my nose, too, when its time came. Oh the sacrifices I make for this job. Okay, for this life.

After the blue skies and bright sun of Sevilla and Malaga, Granada pressed down on us, heavy with its Moorish history, the sky low and thick with menacing clouds, the mountains looming like giants just beyond the foreground.

We spent Christmas day lost in the Albayzin, the old Muslim quarter composed of white houses, and tangled, tiny streets that climb a mini-mountain across from the Alhambra. We trekked up past the larger, well-manicured dwellings, and into areas where shacks and hovels were built directly into the mountain-side. Again, I felt like a child exploring a strange and fanciful world, peeking through open doorways at lives so foreign to me.

Architectural detail of the Alhambra.
The Alhambra, another Mudejar fortress only slightly marred by its later Christian occupants, re-opened on the 26th. Though reservations are normally required for a visit, the post-Christmas rush wasn't too hard to navigate. The cold and the SNOW chased off a large portion of the other tourists. We only had to wait an hour and a half for entry. In the cold. In the snow. Wearing, well, everything.

The gardens, patios, and palaces of Granada's Alhambra are absolutely breath-taking. I've enjoyed them immensely while reviewing all of the pictures we managed to take. My favorite photos are the ones of the two of us standing in the Palace of Carlos V, shivering, with snow falling in the background between the columns.

Actually, we were able to ignore the low temperatures. The architecture of the Alhambra has the power to make one forget just about everything. Mosaic patterns, etched in stone or painted colorfully on ceramic tiles, spun through my dreams later that night, along with the images of crumbling red-brick buildings, patios full of flowers and greenery, chiseled molding, and orange trees. In the background, the sounds of water flowing from the many fountains hummed over my sleep.

Part 3 of Starbird's travelogue appears on January 20.