Jun 10 11

Grand Granada and the Awesome Alhambra

by Emily Benjamin

After 2 nights in Madrid and another night in Toledo, we packed up the car and headed south to Granada, about 5 hours south of Madrid. It’s only about 70kms from the coast, but still has a backdrop of snow capped mountains even now in June. We settled in to Hotel Carlos V and when the sun finally set, we were out to dinner for some quesadillas and enchiladas. Om nom!

On the first full day here, we set off for a walking tour of the city. There is heaps to see – cathedrals, markets, colourful buildings – but a lot of the fun stuff required us to make our way up steep hills with hundreds of stairs. The last time I saw so many stairs was in Jordan, and there I had a donkey to take me up the hill. Here I had no such luck, and we slowly made our way up the hills on Wednesday afternoon to Plaza San Nicolas, where we were assured the best view of the Alhambra was.

We stayed up in the plaza for a while, listening to the guitarists playing spanish music, and absorbing the fresh air and beautiful views of the Alhambra. By then we’d seen a lot of the city and were keen to come back to this spot for dinner, so we headed back down the hill for a rest before catching a bus up in the early evening for dinner and drinks. We must have been just before the crowds because we got prime position in a restaurant on the cliff, overlooking the Alhambra at sunset. It was a gorgeous night, with clear skies revealing the snow left on the mountains behind the castle. Just stunning.

The next day we were up early to hike up the hill (again) for our 8.30am visit to the Alhambra, Nazarid Palace and Generalife, all a part of the fortress/castle grounds. They restrict the number of tickets sold each day, and split it into morning, afternoon and night sessions. Even a week in advance, we could only get the opening time, with nothing else available. But there was a huge advantage to this – although the photos don’t capture it, the air was so fresh, the sun was making the buildings glow, and builds were filling the open plazas within the complex. We tried to keep just ahead of the tour groups and fortunately got heaps of photos with no one in them – success! Although the average visit to the Alhambra is about 3 hours, we were there for five. But we had a packed picnic lunch and the place was just stunning, so we stayed until almost one before heading back down the hill for a rest before more quesadillas for dinner.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect of the Alhambra, and because I didn’t get an audio guide when we visited, I still don’t know what it’s there for. All I know is that construction began in the 12th century and continued for many more, and was used as a fortress, castle and palace. I should do some more research, but for now I will make do with the 200+ photos I took while we were there, a selection of which are on my Portfolio page if you’re interested. The photos below are of Jamie and I around the town, enjoying the tapas and sangria. Must stop drinking sangria though – too much sugar!

Today we leave Granada and drive to Valencia, another 5 hours away. Again I’m not sure what to expect of Valencia, although we’re told they’ll have the best paella and orange juice in Spain. Ole!

Cheers, Em :)

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