Granada, Spain’s Top 5 Hidden Treasures

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By Shafer Higgins

Granada is a city located at the base of the famed Sierra Nevada mountain range in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Founded in the 8th century by the Moors, Granada’s history and culture were shaped by both Muslim and Christian influences which are still palpable today. It contains a dizzying array of medieval architecture and monuments, none more famous than the Alhambra, the behemoth palace of the emirs for centuries and perhaps the best surviving example of Moorish architecture. Walking through many of its neighborhoods can feel like stepping back in time. Very much a student city, in addition to its Old World charm Granada boasts a bustling nightlife and animated culinary culture centered on tapas and the Spanish penchant for staying out until the sun comes up. The saying goes that there are more bars than people in Spain, and choosing the right tapas place or discoteca that line Granada’s meandering cobblestone streets can seem a daunting task. The following, at least, shouldn’t be missed.

  1. ‘El Camborio’

Situated in the steep hills of Granada’s fabled Sacromonte district, nightclub El Camborio’s terrace offers an unbelievable view of the Alhambra. Inconspicuous during the daytime, El Camborio’s facade comes to life around midnight, along with most of Granada’s denizens. Offering reasonably priced drinks and no shortage of Reggaeton music, this nightclub offers an intimate yet lively atmosphere that is a favorite among locals and the myriad international students alike. Word to the wise: walking there can be a treacherous hike from even the nearby Plaza Nueva, built as it is into the steep foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. No cause for concern however; cabs in Granada are cheap, and on certain nights presenting your taxi receipt can gain you free entry. This kills two birds with one stone, and you’ll feel like Studio 54 royalty as you waltz past that winding line out front and up those whitewashed stairs (which should also be treated cautiously; they’ve claimed many casualties coming down).

  1. ‘La Chupiteria’

Referred to affectionately as “Chupi” by its loyal patrons, ‘La Chupiteria’ offers a wide and varied selection of, well, shots. Shots, shots and more shots. Which makes sense, seeing as “chupiteria” translates roughly to “place where shots are sold in nearly unfathomable quantities”. It would be hard to find a more aptly named location, or a more economical one; shots at ‘La Chupiteria’ cost a mere 1 euro, and each comes with “chupi” point which can be collected and redeemed for anything from a shot glass to the much-coveted sweatshirt. It’s gamified drinking, reasonable prices, vibrant atmosphere and seemingly tireless staff have made it a veritable establishment of the Granada nightlife, especially among broke college students (of which Granada has no shortage). But here’s a life hack: should you wish to visit ‘La Chupiteria’, be sure to start your night there, rather than end it there. You may find the reasonable prices too enticing…

  1. ‘Babel’

The word “tapas” may be one of the most difficult Spanish words to translate into English, given its variety of meanings. Sure, the concept is simple enough: a small free snack served alongside every beverage, with the word “free” being used very liberally depending on the location. Expect less and less generosity every kilometer you get away from Granada. It is one of the few cities in Spain to still include the price of the tapa with the drink. Whether or not it’s included, the size and quality will vary. It can be anything from an elaborately cooked paella to a handful of broken potato chips served on a plate. At Babel, you find no such problem. Located on storied Calle Elvira, Babel serves an incredible variety of internationally inspired tapas alongside a decent selection of local microbrews (a rare enough thing to find in Granada). Two drinks will get you the equivalent of a full meal, artfully presented and all. Three may leave you feeling stuffed, but quite satisfied all the same. But be forewarned: it’s typically packed on any given night and you may need to take a few laps before you can get a spot inside. Don’t be put off by having to stand, it’s well worth it.

  1. ‘Sala Vogue’

For those needing a break from the Reggaeton beats (or beat, singular, seemingly identical as all the songs seem after a while), they’d do well to find their respite at Sala Vogue, a subterranean nightclub located in the center of old town. Its set lists cater to those whose tastes tend more towards the indie rock, with a few retro tracks peppered in. Its disco ball, strobe lights and wooden-paneled interiors lend it a casually kitschy vibe well appreciated after a few drink tickets are redeemed and few Franz Ferdinand tracks are played. But it’s not for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise types: it doesn’t open until 1 AM and won’t typically get hopping until around 3. So take your time getting ready and maybe sip a double espresso while you’re at it.

  1. ‘Cafe 4 Gatos’

Speaking of espresso, one thing Granada lacks is a strong coffee culture. Sure, café con leche is pretty ubiquitous (one assumes because of the largely nocturnal hours kept there), but the cult of the coffeehouse so prevalent elsewhere does not appear to be observed in this part of the world. A notable and pleasant exception to this is ‘Café 4 Gatos’. Located in the Albayzin, Granada’s oldest neighborhood which dates back to its Moorish origins, it is well situated among the winding stone alleys. Like much in Granada, getting there is a bit of a climb (a trip to Granada can give new meaning to the phrase “uphill both ways”). But once you’ve taken that first sip of sweet espresso, you’ll have forgotten all about it. The salmon and caper tostada also comes highly recommended. “Cuatro Gatos”, which literally translates to “four cats”, is also a Spanish idiom referring to a small quantity of people. Indeed, the interior contains precious little square footage, but no one will complain about being seated on the terrace, containing as it does a nearly improbable view of the Alhambra palace.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For a mid-sized city it boasts a seemingly endless supply of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and everything in between. Use of the word “enchanting” would not be overdramatic when describing Granada and the best way to experience these and other hidden gems is to stumble upon them wandering aimlessly through the cities maze-like streets

 

Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor

Your Complete Instagram Guide to Missoula, MT

In  today’s day in age, any experience (for the most part) is accompanied by sharing that experience on social media. Missoula, Montana is known for it’s beautiful rivers and mountain ranges, however, it is also considered the cultural center of Montana. With an eclectic downtown scene, distinctive dining and strong sense of community, Missoula has a lot to offer as far as experience, both on and offline.

As an Instagram enthusiast myself, and a believer in the #DoItForTheGram mentality, I am all about curating an aesthetic and a strong social media presence. So I present to you your complete Instagram Guide to Missoula, MT to help you navigate the most aesthetically pleasing AND high quality hot spots around town.

Coffee: Black Coffee Roasting Co. 

img_2902img_2903The winner as far as aesthetics and quality coffee in Missoula goes, is definitely Black Coffee Roasting Co. Not only do they provide organic, craft roasted coffee while operating with sustainability, but they’re ambience is seriously on point. With a hipster-chic vibe and insanely good lighting, this is definitely the spot to go if you want some good latte art on your feed.

Walk in the Park: Greenough Park

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Greenough is a true gem, nestled just up the Rattlesnake and covering 42 acres, it is a peaceful place to go on a bike ride, run or, of course, go take photos. In the fall, Greenough is a paradise of colorful trees and crisp autumn air and a complete winter wonderland once the first snow occurs. It’s also just generally beautiful all year round, so if you want to go on a nice walk while taking amazing photos along the way, Greenough is the park for you.

Eats: Caffe Dolce

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As you may be able to tell, I love a good #FoodPorn flatlay. Caffe Dolce is by far the best spot across the board for breakfast, brunch, lunch AND dinner. Not only taste-wise, but to get a gorgeous food pic with minimal effort. Since Caffe Dolce’s establishment is made up of mainly windows, the lighting will always be perfection. Not to mention their tables are the ideal background color and texture, which is essential for any successful flatlay. Oh yeah, and the food looks pretty good too.

On the Town: Plonk

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As a grandma at heart, I’m no expert on the Missoula going out scene. However, I have to say that Plonk scores major points as far as experience, quality and Instagram-ability goes. The classy, big city atmosphere and gorgeous drink presentation are sure to elevate your feed into #InstagramGoals status.

Shopping: The Hip Strip + NOBO 

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Missoula has an awesome local shopping scene. With an array of unique and high quality boutiques, it’s definitely worth exploring when you get the chance, specifically downtown on The Hip Strip and NOBO (aka North of Broadway.) These areas are abundant with quirky shops, gorgeous boutiques, great places to eat and lots of Insta-worthy alleys tucked away perfect for that #ootd!

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Something Sweet: Sweet Peaks Ice Cream

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I know, I’m a true Big Dipper fan at heart too, however, there is no denying that Sweet Peaks brings it in the aesthetics department as well as well as their super unique ice cream flavors that make you go “huh, that sounds weird but also kind of good so I’ll try it.” If you want to capture a cool cone, venture over to Sweet Peaks. Don’t worry, it’s totally okay to cheat on Big Dipper every once in a while, especially if you get a good gram out of it.

Outside: The “M” Trail

img_2993img_2992 Now, I’ll admit I’ve only ever hiked the “M” in high school gym class, and once on a first date when a boy made me, and I was still in the “pretend to not be high maintenance phase” of the relationship. Needless to say, I don’t hike very much. But Missoula is the place for hikes, hiking and hikers so I had to include some kind of hike in this guide, to prevent getting Birkenstocks chucked at my head. All jokes aside the “M” trail is a beautiful hike, which is accessible to all levels of hiking ability and it takes a pretty damn good picture too, I must say.

 

I hope you enjoyed this Instagram Guide. Now you’re all set to go snap some #goals worthy IGs! But don’t forget to put down your phone to really appreciate the wonderful place that is Missoula, Montana. #Blessed, indeed (hate me yet?)

 

Do you have any favorite spots around Montana that didn’t make this list? Leave me a comment to let me know!

 

Photography by Michelle Dufflocq Williams, Aline Dufflocq Williams, McKenna Munden, Cloth & Crown, Betty’s Divine, Our Life Experiments and the University of Montana.