Chris and I have a little bit of time before dinner tonight, so we thought we'd catch up on the blog. Right now we're in Cartajima (near Ronda), but since we've last blogged, we've been to Granada and Nerja.
We arrived in Granada the morning of May 19th after taking the overnight train (Trenhotel) from Valencia. The name 'Trenhotel' is misleading as we did not get the beds that we expected, but rather we slept in regular seats. We really did not have a problem with that as we were so tired we could have slept in the aisle--but it was the guy next to us who was coughing the entire night. We still got enough sleep to feel refreshed and not waste any of our precious time in Granada.
When we got off of the train, we literally wandered around the town looking for our hotel. We found it after a short walk, and our host was kind enough to let us check in at 9am (many hours early). Since we had been wearing the same clothes for over 24hours, we decided to quickly clean up and then head out to see the sights. The 'cleaning up' part was slightly difficult without ANY hot water.
We left the hostel, got a quick bite to eat and headed for the main square. Our first order of business was to take a walk through the Albayzin neighborhood, and old Moorish (Muslim) area with white washed homes, zig zagging roads and flower boxes on every window. We let ourselves get lost for awhile and then decided to follow our guide book to a look out point on the Saint Nicholas Plaza. This point had the greatest view in town, included a spectacular shot of the Alhambra.
After taking in the site for a good half-hour, we decided to walk back down to the main area of town. We eventually found ourselves on a street filled with dozens of shops selling many products from North Africa and India. We ate lunch at a Moroccan restaurant and then decided to continue on home for a little siesta ('when in Rome,' right? or should I say 'when in Granada?').
Later on that night, we took a walk down Las Avenidas de Tristes, or 'The Sad Avenues.' This was a street that used to be used for funeral processions, and it is now commonly a tourist site that leads up to a Gypsy/Roma neighborhood. We did not walk all the way up the street as we had heard stories (and advice from the gospel of Rick Steves) warning about theft further up the street. We then decided to end the night at a tapas bar where we met a great couple from Australia.
The next morning was devoted to the Alhambra. Since we did not book tickets in advance (because they sell out months in advance), we took a bus up first thing in the morning to get tickets. We eventually got tickets after a two hour wait, but the time slot we were scheduled for started at 4pm. Because of that, we hiked back down the mountain with our Australian friends (who also got tickets for the afternoon). Chris and I bid them farewell near their hotel and headed to our hostel for a little R&R before our big afternoon.
Before we headed to the Alhambra that afternoon, we stopped for a quick lunch (quick in Spanish culture--long for Americans). We found a little restaurant on a hidden plaza and ordered our lunches. Chris had squid. No, not the squid rings, but a full-blown puffed up squid.
After we paid the bill, we hiked back up to the Alhambra and began our tour. The Alhambra was essentially a Muslim fortress where over 2000 Muslims lived with Sultan Boabdil before the Catholic Reconquest in 1492. We started off in the Nazaries Palace, the original palace of the Moorish sultan Boabdil, who had originally ruled the Muslims in the area. The palace was a sensory overloading experience with it's size, intricacies and embedded history.
After the palace, we walked to Alcazaba, the original fortress. It included a prison and numerous watchtowers used to defend the citizens of the medina (the city). It was not nearly in as good shape as the palace since Napoleon eventually took it over and let his military destroy it. One of the greatest parts was that when we stood on any of the watchtowers, we could see all of Granada (including the Saint Nicholas Plaza we stood on the day before), the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and some of the little villages dotting the mountains.
After the Alcazaba, we walked briefly through Charles V's palace. Charles V chose not live in the palace of Boabdil but rather to build a home of his own. The outside of the structure is a square, and the inside is circular-much like a colliseum. The palace was originally intended to have a dome, but it never was built.
Finally, we walked up hill to the Generalife, the gardens of the Alhambra. This was really not like any garden we had seen before (surely not like our weed-infested gardens at home!). The bushes, trees, and flowers were manicured to remain authentic to their original likeness. The greatest part was that nearly everything was in bloom! The gardens were punctuated by the Sultan's summer palace, a three bedroom home with another garden in the middle. It was a stunning experience!
After a three hour awe-inspiring experience, we walked back down the hill and down to the grocery store for picnic supplies. We were a little tired of restaurants, so we stocked up on a baguette, jamon, an array of cheeses (yes Mom, they were pasteurized!), pears, and a mini-bottle of wine. We spread out an old map on the bed and enjoyed our feast.
That pretty much sums up our experience in Granada. The next morning we took the bus to the airport to pick up our rental car. We ended up with a Kia Picanta, or a Kia Piquena (little in Spanish) as I like to call it. We then took off on our Spanish road trip--more on that to come! Also, be on the lookout for a future post regarding mullets in Spain!