Granada – la Alhambra y mucho mas
My journey to Granada went without a hitch (not that I would have noticed, since I spent the whole journey asleep and trying not to drool on my neighbour´s shoulder) and I met Elvira at the bus station. We immediately got on well which was great, and caught the bus back to her flat where her family were waiting to meet me. After some introductions we settled down to watch some television, relax and eat her Mum´s delicious cooking… I have a feeling I may have piled on the pounds here! The food has been incredible! It was an early night as the next day was to be very busy with an 8:30am start… yikes. As Elvira had class, her parents were taking me out to show me the sights of Granada. We had to leave early as the heat of the day creeps up on you so quickly, and we were going to be doing lots of walking.
We began our sightseeing the next day by catching a bus up to one of the most beautiful and traditional “barrios” (neighbourhoods) in Granada, Albayzin. This neighbourhood is one of the old Muslim quarters, with cobblestone streets, gorgeous “carmenes” – mansions with walled gardens – and terraces and balconies full of flowers. We visited several plazas that had beautiful views over the city and the Alhambra, before making our way back down through the narrow winding streets, to the historical centre of Granada.
Our next stop was the cathedral, and we were in for a surprise. The cathedral was closed due to a concert and a mystery guest, which turned out to be… the Queen of Spain!! ¡Que suerte! We had seen her disappear inside a nearby building, so waited for her to re-emerge, hoping to snap a few photos. We had to wait a long time, but it paid off! Whilst my photos won´t win any prizes, they do confirm that we were there! Not bad for my first day out in Granada.
We were then joined by Elvira, and together we strolled through a beautiful craft market and down some winding streets for another view of the Alhambra, this time from below. The path we took was a lovely one, lined with trees and small bridges. We then explored some of the nearby plazas, walking through nearly all the centre of Granada, including the more modern areas. By this time it was past midday and the sun was getting stronger and stronger, so we decided it was time to have a drink and eat some tapas. Thanks to the Queen´s visit the main road was closed, so instead of getting the bus, it was a long walk back to Elvira´s neighbourhood. The walk was worth it when we arrived at the tapas bar, which was so much more authentic than the touristic places filling the main plazas. Elvira, Santa and Paco ordered cervezas, whilst I opted for the (now classic) Tinto de Verano. With our first drinks came delicious soft bread with the most incredible hot salty ham. SO GOOD. It was then another round of drinks, and another round of tapas – this time, bread with a spicy red fish, similar to salmon. Again, incredible. The fact that we had been walking the whole morning only made the food and cold drinks more delicious.
We returned to the flat for a siesta, in traditional Spanish fashion. But not before eating yet more food, fish cooked in a creamy sauce followed by fresh melon and an ice cream. And there was I, thinking that the tapas had been lunch…! I then passed an extremely relaxed afternoon of sleeping and not really doing anything. Well deserved after such a busy morning I think. In the evening we all gathered in the living room to watch Spain play France in the Euros (and win!) whilst munching on delicious Spanish tortilla, bread, cheese, ham and alioli.
The next day, Elvira, Sonia and myself were going to visit La Alhambra, the highlight of any visit to Granada. First referenced as the “red castle” in the 9th centuary, it was converted into a fortress-palace complex by the founder of the Islamic Nasrid dynasty, Muhammad I, who fled to Granada threatened by Christian armies and build the Alcazaba, a defensive fort. The construction of the Palacio Nazaries was iniated by Yusaf I in the 14th centuary and is still considered to be the highpoint of Islamic culture in Europe. After the Christian conquest in the 16th centuary the mosque was replaced with a church, and a wing of the Palacio Nazaries was destroyed to be replaced by a huge Renaissance palace (the Palacio de Carlos V). In the 18th centuary la Alhambra was abandoned and forgotten, but was “rediscovered” by American writer Washington Irving who wrote the Tales of the Alhambra. Now the Alhambra has been heavily restored and is a Unesco world heritage site. We began by viewing the beautiful gardens of the Generalife, the Palacio de Carlos V and the Alcazaba, before finally heading to the Palacio Nazaries.
By the time we caught the bus back it was the afternoon, and we ate a delicious lunch before having another siesta. Elvira´s mum, dad and Robbie the dog were heading home to Jaen, so we said our goodbyes. That evening we gathered in the salon to watch England vs Italy… I had a bad feeling as soon as it went to penalities, and sure enough, England are in the Euros no more. Disappointing, but hardly suprising. Now supporting Spain all the way! The next couple of days in Granada will be slightly more tranquilo, as Elvira´s brother Paco will be showing me some of the more local sights, including a trip to the huge science park.