Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Granada Travel Guide: Our tales of the Alhambra

Buenos Dias Bloggy Friends,

Yesterday was one of those days when everything seemed to line up right. We awoke from a peaceful snooze, had a delicious desayuno (breakfast) in a Parisian-style cafe on Gran Via and spent the afternoon skimming markets for items to make a picnic at Alhambra — our planned full-day destination.

Alhambra, an expansive area of castles, fortresses and gardens, sits on a hill high above Granada. Moorish sultans built the complex in the fourteenth century and it's where they held court until defeated by the Christian forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel in the late 1400s. At that point, the victorious royal couple moved in, incorporating a few frills of their own.

To get there, most people take a bus from Granada's Old Town, but we thought we'd get more out of the experience by hiking up. Surprisingly, the trek — a path shaded by trees and flanked with shrubs — was quick and fairly simple to make. Once through the gates, we began our tour with a stroll through the lush gardens, an old Moorish bath and Alcazaba, a gutted fort with stunning lookout points. Running throughout most of the grounds is a complicated series of waterways that supply agua to Alhambra's numerous fountains. This constant sound of trickling water provides calming ambient noise as you wind your way through well-manicured hedges and lattices cloaked with fragrant flowers. It was dreamy.


Court of Myrtles in Palacios Nazaries
When it was time to rest our busy feet, we unpacked our picnic on a brick wall shielded by a row of bushes. Our humble feast included grapes, kumquats, a bocadillo (bread topped with tomato and cheese), a sampling of jamón ibérico (ham from a pig fed nothing but acorns) and, of course, a bottle of vino rioja. It was a welcome respite from a full afternoon of foot-on-pavement and the obnoxious horde of tour groups we had to keep dodging. And, by avoiding the over-priced Alhambra cafés, it saved us a few euros, too!

The final and best part of our Alhambra experience was Palacios Nazaries — the grand Moorish palace that was eventually occupied by Ferdinand and Isabel. While the latter definitely made structural changes to suit their fancy, the Islamic influence — evident in the arched entryways, ornate stucco ceilings and slick, colorfully-tiled walls — is undeniable. Here we wandered through the maze of airy rooms, passing by the spot where Columbus propositioned Isabel to fund his adventure across the Atlantic, and several outdoor gardens made up of reflective pools and abundant plant life. Alan, in particular, had a serious moment surrounded by a garden of shrubs shaped to create a maze of geometric patterns. It was sweet.

Feeling a little romantic after the experience, we strolled hand in hand down the hill back toward Granada, where we popped into a bar for wine and tapas. Today we catch a bus back to our starting point, Madrid, where we'll stay until Saturday. It's hard to believe we still have a whole other city to explore; it feels like we've been away forever. Like our previous trips, though, we really start to hit our stride during the second week. So mosey on back to see what Spain's capital city has in store for us!

Hasta luego,

Josh


2 comments:

Bill Fogle said...

What a delightful blog entry! I love architecture, and I love water, so reading what you wrote about Alhambra was very interesting for me. I love pools! I love lily ponds and shallow old cement ... you know, pool things.

I would have hiked up there, too! "Back in the day."

The picnic sounds fabulous! The description made my mouth water! Nothing better than someone who has good luck and lucky experiences and who understands how to enjoy them.

Why was Alan farklempt?

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