Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Granada and the Caves of Sacromonte

I finally joined a book club.  The book was too irresistible: The Flamenco Academy by Sara Bird.  It turned out to be just okay, but the description of flamenco was captivating.  I understood the heroine’s complete and total fascination with flamenco, and the sub-plot describing the gypsies of Granada was compelling.  Jerez de la Frontera, just down the road from Puerto, is called the cradle of flamenco, but Granada holds its own in these outrageous caves built into the hillside known as the Sacromonte (sacred mountain). 

Sacromonte Gypsies in 1908

Inside a cave for tourists

My friend Eddi Lynn just happened to be visiting, and just happened to want to take a week-long flamenco intensive course.  So I hopped on the internet and found Carmen de las Cuevas.  How perfect could something be?  Carmen offers intensive flamenco classes in the afternoon, with four hours of intensive Spanish in the mornings—all harbored in whitewashed caves cut into the hillside, with breathtaking views of Granada’s famous Alhambra from the dozen terraces.  So off Eddi and I went for a week-long intensive.

Eddi and daughter Lydia
Lydia and Steph out on the town

A terraza to study from at Carmen de las Cuevas

Noting that I was now an experienced flamenco dancer, having logged time on the stage, even!, I signed up for the intermediate flamenco classes.  Ha!  Ha!  After 20 minutes, I put myself right back with the principiantes, the beginner class, which looked like this.  I struggled to keep up, having never done any zapateo (footwork).

And so passed an exhilarating week.  I got up, zipped up the hill at 9 am for my intensive advanced Spanish classes until 1:30, and dipped right back in at 1:45 to start the three intensive flamenco classes:  técnica, coreographia, and compás.  The compás  class in particular was fascinating, providing me FINALLY with an overview of all of the palos (styles) of flamenco, and helping me crack the code of the complex bulerias rhythm I’ve been dancing since I got to Spain.  The técnica class was all about footwork, and I learned an entire tango in the choreography class.  Tango, by the way, is originally flamenco from Spain, NOT the Argentinian version! 

And we even had time to go out with new friends to the flamenco haunts of Granada, at Le Chien Andalou, La Peña Plateria, and hitting the discos in the Sacromonte. 

Don't ask me why its name is in French and English

One night in a cave called Le Chien Andalou...

Our last night was magical—we ended up in La Habichuela, a cave-bar run by the famous Habichuela family, and at 3 am out came a guitarist—it might have been Juan Habichuela himself—who played for while, followed by one of the younger guys.  I didn’t quite have the nerve to get up and dance!

Our mystery guitarist

Dancing with Rebecca at the disco

All in all, I highly recommend Carmen de las Cuevas, I’ve already talked Todd into going with me next summer.   Not only is it a fabulous school, but you get Granada as well—and who can resist the Alhambra?



  1. Ay, sister! You are a verdad bailador! That's bad Spanish for true dancer! Loved catching up on all the blogs. You look amazing--50 is truly the new 30. But the big question is---are you REALLY drinking gin and tonics??
    Love you. See you soon.

  2. I didn't realize Eddi was with you in Spain right after I met her! Very cool.


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