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Irene's Adventures

Spain - Granada

SPAIN | Sunday, 17 September 2017 | Views [177]

We arrived in Granada and had a heck of a time finding a place to park, again. We ended up about a 10-minute walk from Hostel Lima. This had to be one of the nicest places we stayed on this entire trip. It was spacious and very decadent in its decor. We even had a chandelier.

Hostel Lima

We simply wandered around the first day. We were looking for a specific restaurant, which we did not find, but wound up finding a very nice place to eat very near the souq. That's right, there is a souq in Granada that has survived since Moorish times. It is squeezed into a labyrinth of streets and alleyways and sells a jumble of items, most predominantly stained-glass lamps.

 stained glass lamps

After lunch, we decided to head to a hill that was supposed to have a spectacular view. We strolled along a wide street where no one seemed to be in a hurry. We came upon a street market but didn't buy anything. We continued walking until we came to a wide park-like area along a creek. There was a group of fellows playing Swing music. They were incredible! I immediately bought a CD. Since there was an outdoor cafe directly in front of the musicians, we decided to have a beer while continuing to listen and watch them play. They looked like a bunch of fellows that found each other in the park and decided to play together – which, their skill, was highly unlikely. They played the flute, sax, 2 violins, 2 guitars, and a fellow used the box he sat on as a drum. They were just having so much fun. I was so enamoured with their music I bought a second CD. The same one, but I just wanted to give them more money. After about a half hour, they packed up and disappeared. I still have the CDs though!

 

We finally made it to the hilltop. There was a nice restaurant and we decided to have another beer. I must mention here that I typically do not drink beer, certainly not Canadian or American beer. In Europe, the beer is made in micro-breweries, is fresh, had no preservatives, has no carbon bubbles, and is refreshing as well as full of vitamins and minerals. It is like a shot of multi-vitamins. And it tastes SO much better. It was the perfect pick-me-up on hot days full of walking.

 

We took a few pictures of the Alhambra across the valley before making our way back down the hill to return to our guesthouse. We were not sure of where we were going, exactly. We only knew that we were near the Cathedral and we navigated by sight of the steeple. We went down steep steps in residential areas, spotted pretty cafes tucked in between buildings,

quiet cafe

walked along amazing cobble-stoned streets, and generally just enjoyed not knowing where we were. When we got to the commercial part of town we saw dozens of hams hanging over customers sitting at a bar,

hams hanging in a bar

street lights that mimicked the stained-glass lanterns in the souq,

street light

street posts that had pomegranate toppers,

pomegranate street post

cobble-stones designed to look like pomegranate,

a bronze sculpture of Queen Isabella the Catholic and Christopher Columbus at a round-about and a bronze strip inlaid in the sidewalk that said the name of the street.

bronze street name

In the grocery store, we saw 5-litre bottles of olive oil for the Canadian equivalent of $36. Considering Spain produces 44% of the world's olive oil, it was a damn good price.

 

Our host told me that unless I bought an advance ticket for Alhambra I would have to be in a queue for tickets by at least 6:00 am! He assured me he would arrange a taxi at that hour the next morning. Ed chose not to come.

 

True to his word, the host called a taxi for me at 5:30. The taxi driver spoke a bit of English while I spoke a bit of Spanish but the conversation was getting more detailed than either of us had the capability of carrying on. He pulled out his cell phone and brought up Google translate. It provided us to carry on a decent conversation, although a bit slow waiting for the translation. He agreed with me that traffic lights should be equipped with motion sensors so that when no one is coming (as at 5:30 in the morning) he would not have to stop and wait for a light. He also confirmed that being at the gates by 7:00 would be too late for a ticket.

 

There were already about 30 people in the queue. I was very glad I brought my jacket, scarf, and hat, as it was very chilly. Even by Canadian standards, sitting on a cement curb at 12 degrees Celsius can get cold. I was also glad I brought some bread, ham, and cheese. It was like the Camino, all over again. At 8:00 the gates opened but they would only let a few people in at one time, those with advance tickets took priority.

 

A bit of history: Alhambra is some of the best preserved Islamic architecture in Spain. It was palace and fortress originally constructed in 889 and rebuilt in 1333. Each ruler who lived in the complex extended on the previous owner but all kept the theme of “paradise on earth”. Moorish poets described it as a pearl set in emeralds, an allusion to the colour of the buildings and the woods around them.

 Alhambra

After the Christian conquest, it was the site of the Royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was here that Christopher Columbus received the royal endorsement for his expedition. Neglect allowed it to fall into disrepair for centuries. Napoleon damaged the side as an act of retaliation. Thankfully, it has persevered for us to enjoy today.

 

My tour began in the Generalife, a garden area attached to the Alhambra. Being a botanical lover, this was heaven to me. There were long slender pools flanked by square myrtle hedges. Towering walls of cyprus stood as erect as guards overlooking the pools. Benches along the cyprus welcomed one to sit, relax, meditate, and absorb the beauty.

Generalife

Arches cut through the cyprus allowed one to pass to yet another garden.

Generalife

Myrtle hedges cradled roses bushes of every colour.

Generalife

The sound of cascading water caressed the ears as sprays of water danced from delicate fountains.

Generalife

The sights, sounds, and smells of the gardens made one want to weep with joy. It was no wonder it became a place of rest for the Muslim Kings when they needed a break from the tedium of official life.

The Palace of the Generalife had a long reflecting pool with single spout fountains along the length. Myrtle hedges flanked the pool with flowers of every colour flanking the hedges. We walked along the path beside the open archways that held a view of the Alhambra across the ravine. Another garden at the Palace had islands of myrtles enclosing the rosebushes. Fountains danced on the water surrounding them.

Palace of the Generalife  Palace of the Generalife

The gently winding Waterfall Staircase took me down to yet another garden.

waterfall staircase

From there I walked under an archway of oleander to a path lined with towering cedars then along another path flanked with groomed cyprus. On the one side of these cyprus was a huge rose garden and an archaeological site. I finally reached the small village of Alhambra. It had a few tourist shops.

oleander archway  cyprus path

The original Mosque baths were across the street. It was here that the faithful would cleanse themselves prior to prayer. It was also used to socialize. The distinguishing feature was the star-shaped holes in the ceiling, to let heat escape. The building still held a dignity with its arches and pillars made of brick.

 mosque bath  mosque bath

I passed through the Puerto del Vino (Wine Gate)

Puerto del Vino

and made my way to the Alcazaba Tower – the Watch Tower. It is 16 meters square and 27 meters high. Considering it is built on a hill, the view was spectacular.

view of the Cathedral from the Tower

It also offered a good view of the original barracks below. There is still a bell that used to warn people of attack. It is said if a single woman strikes the bell she will be wed within the year.

 tower bell  

I took a different path down to the main plaza, near the Wine Gate. It had me walking along the fortress walls. It was like another garden. There were huge trees, flowers, and fountains. An old man was tending to some grape vines. It was shady and peaceful.

A part of the outside wall was built with a rounded top. It made me wonder if that was for looks or to keep someone from gaining a foothold should they try to climb up.

 rounded wall

Next, I went to Palacio de Carlos V. Built in 1526 by Charles V, who wished to have his residence close to the Alhambra palaces, this building has never been a home to a monarch and has stood roofless until 1957. It is a huge building (63 meters square and 17 metres high) with a pillowed stonework. It has large bronze rings affixed to the stones to tie horses.

rings to tie horses

Inside, it has contains an inner circular patio with two levels. Two grand staircases lead to the upper level. It was a vast empty space with the columns and sunshine creating their own beauty.

 Palacio de Carlos V

I had a 12:30 time slot to see Palacio Nazaries – the Royal Complex. This was the old Islamic palace and there is no messing around when it comes to security. A guard with a muzzled dog stood watch as people showed their tickets. A sign clearly indicated the rules: No touching. No smoking. No food or drinks. No flash photography. No selfie sticks. Kids must be supervised. No strollers. No rucksacks. No pets. And it is slippery. Between the dog and the sign, I think it was quite clear not to break any rules.

 

We were guided from one gorgeous room to another. Every room had intricate plastered walls

 

and outrageously detailed ceilings, floors, and doors.

 ceiling

Some rooms had fountains that served to cool the room, then drained into the reflecting pool in the courtyard.

 cooling pool

The most beautiful courtyard was the Court of the Myrtles. The pool acted as a perfect mirror for the delicate arches of the Arab Palace.

 Court of the Myrtles

These pools helped to cool the palace but were also a symbol of power as water was usually in short supply. To keep the pools filled was difficult and expensive. Speaking of water, this medieval palace also had a bathroom with running water (cold and hot) as well as pressurized water for showering. As with most of the rooms, they were open to the elements to allow light and air in.

 

The Court of the Lions is an oblong courtyard surrounded by 124 white marble columns. At the centre of the courtyard is an alabaster basin supported by 12 marble lions. Each hour one lion would spout water from its mouth, much to the amazement of those who saw it. This was ingenious for its time, as well as another show of power.

 Court of the Lions

While every room was elaborately detailed in its decoration, the rooms and gardens were actually open and airy. There were hundreds of people wandering through, but even still, it felt spacious. It must have been heavenly in its day.

 

I had been walking around for over 6 hours, but still had to go back to Generalife for one last sigh. I had a quick bite to eat at an on-site restaurant before heading back down into the city.

 

Initially, I was going to take a bus back down, but when I saw the lovely forested street leading downhill I decided to walk.

The street took me past the Gate of Justice with its huge fountain, then onto a path leading through a park. I came upon a statue of Washington Irving.

Washington Irving

Further on, I came to a huge archway that brought me to the same street that Ed and I had wandered down the day before.

 

I went back to the guesthouse where I found Ed and we went out for an early dinner/late lunch.

 

After eating, we decided to check out the Granada Cathedral. I was quite tired and we had been to so many cathedrals, we rather hurried through. The thing that did strike me was the sparkling white columns. The way the sun shone in made them absolutely dazzling. The checkered floor was also interesting.

 Granada Cathedral

 

The next day we headed for Gibraltar, with a stop in Malaga.

 

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