October 10, 2014
Granada is fabulous. The usual beautiful cathedral — we are cathedraled out by now — but the main event there is the Alhambra which is spectacular even after all the many sights we have been touring in the last 3 plus weeks. It was originally constructed in the 14th century by the Moorish sultans, then added on to by Spanish kings as they took over in the late 15th c. Queen Isabella gave Christopher Columbus the thumbs up here to set off for the New World, or wherever he thought he was going.
It is so popular you have to buy tickets on line in advance, then they have a great system for pick up. You go to a bank machine, put in the credit card you bought the tickets with, and presto out come your tickets! So handy, as the site is a bit far from the centre where we stayed beside the cathedral. And they give you a specific time at which you are permitted to enter, if you are late you can’t go in. I tell you crowd control is a serious business at these European sites. We booked for 8:30 am, so took a taxi from our guesthouse (the first place so far that has served breakfast before 9, they started at 7:30 to accommodate those with early Alhambra tickets) and it delivered us right to the Palacio Nasrid where we had to enter. Most inconveniently the ticket office for the site is 15 minutes walk to the place where we entered so we were glad to accomplish the whole proceedings so efficiently.
The Palacio Nasrid was built for one of the early sultans and embellished as time when on. Even for jaded over loaded sightseers such as ourselves, it is amazingly beautiful. The lovely Mujahid style is intricate but elegant. Pools abound as water is the elixir of life but also a source of great tranquillity. The gardens here were well tended, cypress hedges trimmed in formal style. Our audio guides explained the inscriptions, the architectural features etc etc as we walked along at our own pace, doing our best to dodge large tour groups.
Next up was the Alcazaba, their version of the castle/battlements, of which we have also seen our share on this trip. Most impressive, and since we were high above the city, remarkable views from the top most tower.
On to Generalife which were the original gardens supplying food to the thousands who lived in the castle, but also a source of aesthetic pleasure to the royal personages. Loved watching the gardeners trimming up the hedges with such precision, into shapes like mini turrets with arching doorways in the hedges. Interesting kind of magnolia here with large fruits in the fall. Totally enjoyed the morning and realized we had spent 5 hours there, so went back to town on foot for lunch. Lovely walking in the old Quarter and the Gypsy area where many houses are in caves, some still occupied, some squatted in by young African men with impressive dreadlocks.
We said a fond farewell to Manolo and Carmen at the Casa Leon who were such wonderful hosts. The guesthouse was extremely unusual, very ornate and rococo room décor with a dining room full of suits of armour and other such collectibles. They served the best breakfast of the trip, and Manolo’s mother cooked paella for us the first night we were there, which though they didn’t undercharge, was served with great flair and included champagne with dessert! Carmen spoke no English at all but managed to explain the steps required to manage the Alhambra expedition with great precision using the most dramatic body language I have ever seen.
She also provided directions out of Granada and on back to Malaga where we needed to return our car, and that was not nearly as successful. Marlene got in a tiz and we went round and round until we finally pulled up on the outskirts in front of a large hotel and I went in and asked the concierge where in the heck we were. Quite near the freeway as it turned out.
The journey back to Malaga along the coastal road was rather pretty but not nearly as impressive as I had expected. Very crowded with villas and depressing looking hotels with patios full of overweight expats ordering poor quality lunches. The rain and wind didn’t help the impression. Sad to say good-bye to the south, but on to Barcelona.