11.12.2016 - 13.12.2016 17 °C
Granada is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Andalusia. We arrived on December 11 with the intention of touring the Alahambra.
Set high above the city and the River Doro, the Alahambra holds a strategic position. It started out as a fortress - an alcazaba, in the ninth century.
A palace - alcazar - was built by the Nazrid kings in the thirteenth century and became the court of the Moorish rulers.
The palaces and surrounding gardens are masterpieces of Arabic art and craftsmanship.
In 1492 the Christian monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, drove the last Muslim ruler out of Granada. The Moors had been in control for 800 years.
In the sixteenth century Charles 5 of Spain also built a palace within the Alahambra.
The fortress/castles/magnificent gardens complex is a World Heritage Site and one of the most visited monuments in Spain.
We booked tIckets online and we have a time slot of 1130 am to tour the Nazrid castles.
We are staying at ABS Granada a sister hotel to Monjas del Carmen, kind of the smaller, poorer relative.
We have a room with twin beds and a narrow balcony overlooking a quiet lane. Hotel Macia Condor.
There was a pleasant girl at the front desk who gave us a map and explained where to exchange the internet printed voucher for tickets to avoid waiting in line at the Alahambra.
She also marked two recommended two restaurants near by.
We set out to look at the town. Numerous small lanes branch off and the first information centre is closed. We assumed it will open at 430 as lots of shops close for siesta.
We stopped at a recommended bar for lunch.
In Granada, if you order a drink you get a free tapas. I ordered a beer and we got a small plate of breadcrumbs and sausage. Likely Migas which is typical to the area, filling.
Tapas in North America does not compare. First they aren't free. Second, they are cheaper to buy here.
I doubt you could get much for 2 euros fifty cents (3.75 C) back home. The beer here is cheaper also and we are smack in the middle of tourist central.
Granada is the epicentre of the free tapas with drink tradition. Bars in other cities and towns may do it, but it is not reliable.
It is 17 degrees C, sunny, we go back to the tourist office and it is still closed. The map is examined, we veer left down narrow lanes.
We paused by the church of Iglisia do Santo Domingo which has some historical significance. It was originally the chapel of the Convent of Santa Cruz. Building started in 1512:
There is interesting graffiti in Granada as well:
Having had no luck in our quest to pick up tickets to the Alahambra we made our way back to the hotel.
We will get our tickets in the morning. Our room is clean and the beds are comfortable, the sink is in the room, open a door and there is a toilet, open another door and there is the shower, pretty compact.
This was our smallest room and the cost was 65 dollars per night, no breakfast, good location, friendly staff, clean - a bit awkward getting showered and dressed but better than a shared bathroom!! Very compact but pleasant.
The street is quiet but when other guests go down the hall you can hear them talking which is annoying at 130 am. Depends on the manners of other guests, earplugs and eye mask recommended so you won't be bothered by the noise or hall light activated by movement.
12 December is a bright sunny day, we are up early as we want a coffee before the tourist office opens at 9. Turns out they open at 930. Also this is not the right place so we are redirected to another little lane and discover my ticket means handicapped (not senior) and I must go to the ticket office at the Alahambra and pay the difference which is another 6 Euros. So we basically wasted a lot of time to no avail.
We hopped on a red bus that is small enough to maneuver the narrow streets and were dropped off at the ticket office. The lineup was not too daunting as was before 10 am and it is low season.
It was a pleasant walk to the castle:
The evergreen hedge corridor with windows is so densely packed you cannot poke a finger into it.
Since we are early I quick toured the fortress. Lots of stairs to lookout points and views of Granada. I went to the bell tower last which seems the highest point. It took me a minute to recover from the climb up.
We joined the line forming up for the castle and as we entered we were overwhelmed by the opulence and detail.
Everything is intricately decorated, the ceilings are spectacular. Like other castles I have visited it is not very cozy.
The palace of the last Muslim ruler is an astounding example of delicately carved plaster, ceramic tiles (Azulejo) with geometric patterns, wood lattice, leafy courtyards, and formal gardens. Fountains and reflecting pools add beauty and harmony. It is mind-boggling when seen with a crush of other tourists from the four corners of the world. No touching!
You really must see it as pictures and words cannot do it justice.
The museum is in the sturdier, blockier castle of Charles V and it is closed on Mondays. Disappointing.
There was an art exhibit upstairs by the painter Fortuny. He was the father of the famous dress designer. We walked through the exhibit but picture taking was not allowed.
The most significant design element of the Henry V castle is the large central courtyard:
It has an dimpled, pillow-y looking exterior with benches and brass rings all around. The rings are set up quite high. Was the purpose functional or aesthetic? Did they stand on the bench to tie up their horses?
I was not aware persimmons grow in Spain. They hang from leafless branches:
We took the red bus back downtown. The ticket costs two dollars and is good for an hour so we had time to take another bus for a circuit to see a bit more of the city.
For a late lunch we went to a busy bar I spotted yesterday. The few tables were occupied but eventually we got one.
I ordered a beer and a tapas and got a free tapas as well, this time rice and ham. I ordered another beer and the free tapas was fish, pickled, very good. Total price for two beer and three tapas was eleven dollars.
Most people are standing at the bar.
A young man with a metal instrument case walked by. I asked what he had in his case. A violin. He was an American busker. He sat with us and counted his change, there was a lot of it, he is making at least a few hundred Euros a day. I did not realize it could be so lucrative.
We walked around, picked up some souvenirs, and the day was over.
Tomorrow, 13 December, we go to Seville.