Granada is such a cool city. Because of its proximity to north Africa and its Muslim history (it was a Muslim stronghold from the 700s to the 1400s), it has a really different look and feel than the other cities we visited. Even the hotel room had a sort of Moroccan feel.
(It’s funny how we kept getting doubles with two beds we had to push together. So romantic!)
When we arrived at the train station we got a cab to our hotel in the Albayzin, the old Muslim quarter. Our driver took us on the ride of our lives through these tiny, twisting streets. At one point he had to fold in the side mirrors so they wouldn’t scrape the walls.
We had to laugh over the fact that this little walkway was an actual street.
After our harrowing ride we got into our beautiful hotel, which used to be someone’s mansion. Then we headed out to a cool restaurant, with all kinds of funky objects and hanging hams for decor.
So I might have had a little too much to drink. Spanish wine is definitely stronger!
The next day my stomach wasn’t too happy with me, but we headed out anyway so we could stand in line to get tickets to the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a HUGE tourist attraction there. It’s a massive fortress and palace that belonged to Muslim sultans then Christian rulers before being abandoned and then restored.
Here’s the view during the day,
and at night.
Our book told us that we should buy advanced tickets, but we were so rushed the day before that we just didn’t. So after standing in line for a good half an hour we heard that there were no more tickets left for that entire day. Gah!
You also couldn’t buy tickets there for the next day. So we tried buying them from a cash machine – no tickets. Then we went to an internet cafe to get them online – no tickets. In desperation (because we definitely wanted to see the Alhambra), we ended up buying pricier tickets from a tour company.
We had also bought our train tickets to Ronda in advance, thinking we were finally getting smart with that, only to realize that the tour would make us miss the train. But oh well. We had to see the Alhambra!
Since we had a whole day to kill, we went to Granada’s cathedral. This is another photo that will always make me think of our trip.
Once again, the cathedral was spectacular in size and decor.
If you looked closely you could see the pomegranate details.
Granada is the pomegranate city. That’s where the word “grenade” comes from, because some grenades are shaped like pomegranates.
Sometimes you even saw them growing fresh.
And everywhere you looked you saw animals.
These dogs sunning themselves looked so happy.
This man was painting the cathedral.
I kept thinking as we saw all of these great works of art and architecture how cool it would be to attend art school here when you can actually go and see these things in the flesh. Amazing.
We had a really nice lunch that day at an outdoor cafe. I had gazpacho,
and a really good pizza. I hate to say it but some of my favorite meals were pizza and pasta!
Mike had what they call a Russian salad. To me it was a salade Nicoise, but who’s counting?
On a side note, I would have enjoyed many of these pleasant lunches more if there weren’t so many smokers in Spain. It was bad! Someone even smoked on our plane to Barcelona. I admire Europeans for a lot of things they do, but they seriously need cut back on the blowing smoke in beautiful public places.
OK, back to focus.
The next morning, we finally got to visit the Alhambra. One of my favorite parts was walking up the long hill to the entrance. It’s very woodsy back there. It would be a great place to sit with a book all afternoon.
I’m not sure what was happening with this fountain, though.
Inside, the Generalife gardens are also beautiful, in a more manicured way. And the views of the city are spectacular.
I wish we could have seen it all sans crowd, but it was the crowd that helped us figure out why we had so much trouble getting tickets. There was a national strike the following day! Yes, in addition to Obamas’ Philadelphia visit holding up our plane and a U2 concert making it hard to get a hotel in Seville, there was a national labor strike during our vacation. Crazy!
So everyone wanted to visit the touristy places the day before, when they were sure they would be open. In the end, we didn’t experience any troubles, as most of the hospitality industry didn’t participate in the strike. But we heard some others say their plane and bus trips had been canceled.
Anyway, once we got inside to the palace, we saw the most beautiful parts of the Alhambra. We were even inside the room where Queen Isabella signed off on Christopher Columbus’ fateful trip.
I will just let the photos do the talking.
At the end of our tour, this man explained how artisans make beautiful inlaid wood boxes.
Apparently for some of the more intricate parts, they roll up bars of different materials a la a sushi roll and cut them into slices, revealing the geometric patterns.
This is the one I got for myself.
We also toured the remains of an Arab bath. Some of the original tile work was still there.
All in all, Granada was just a feast for the senses. And like Valencia, even if it’s not the most famous city in Spain, it’s a must-do if you travel there.