Snow on a Saturday in Spain
Granada Travel Blog› entry 13 of 27 › view all entries
On Friday, we´d tried to buy tickets to THE big attraction in Granada, the Alhambra. Turns out, the pre-sale tickets were completely sold out. I guess we shouldn´t have been suprised that tickets for a Saturday in prime tourist season would go well in advance.
What to do? Turns out the Alhambra saves about 800 tickets to sell on the same day to walk-ups. We debated our options and thought "what the heck". We already had our train tickets.
We had to stand in line for 1.5 hours but we got tickets! It was an incredibly slow system and shouldn´t have taken that long but it did. I will resist the American urge to tell them how they should improve their operations. ;)
We got our tickets about noon. It´s timed entrance and we had 4:30.
We went back into town and had a lingering lunch on the main plaza. I had a bocadillo (sandwich on a baguette) and Jeff had "meat in sauce with potatoes". That was the English translation.
Hmmmm, well, OK, as long as we´re having a "go for it" kinda day.....
It was superb! It was beef chunks braised in some kind of salsa-like sauce and was delicious.
The plaza was a great people-watching location. Dogs, tourists, local people, local hippies (apparently there´s quite a community living in the caves above Granada). Saturday people-watching is the best. :)
We headed back up the hill.
Speaking of hills.....someone needs to let Rick Steves know that we don´t all have legs as long as his! His guidebook said you could walk to the Alhambra from the train station in about 30 minutes. Hah! Maybe, if it were flat and you can walk a 12-minute mile (I can barely run an 11-minute mile!). But it´s uphill all the way (Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains) and twisty and windy and you´ll probably get turned around at least once.
It would have taken Jeff and I more like 40-60 minutes. We took the bus.
Anyway, the Alhambra is a mostly intact Moorish palace complex. It sits high on a hillside overlooking Granada. The day could not have been more perfect for this kind of thing. Bright sunshine, light breezes, 70s.
We first went to the gardens and the summer palace. The gardens are magnificent. The kind of thing that immediately slows you down and lowers your blood pressure. Little courtyards set off by well-manicured hedges. Fountains and pools everywhere. Roses just past their bloom. Fabulous views of the snow-capped mountains and the valley.
One of the things that really impresses me is the use of water. In addition to fountains and pools everywhere, the irrigation system is pretty impressive.
The water was cold too. Way cold, on a warm day.
The Moors were big on the soothing qualities of water. The sound of it, the ability to cool the surroundings, the sight of it. So they had it everywhere. I could barely resist the urge to jump in many of those pools.
From the small summer palace, we headed to the main palace. Wow. The best thing is the decorations on the walls -- arabic script to make your eyes bug out -- and the ceiling decorations -- wood carvings to also make your eyes bug out.
Plus courtyards and more creative fountains.
I really appreciated the Rick Steves guidebook because he always includes a self-guided walking tour with lots of good commentary and explanation. We took tons of pictures and loved it.
The other thing that´s important about the Alhambra is two-fold and both things happened in 1492 (sound familiar?).
First, when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand defeated the Moorish ruler here, it was the last of the Moor rule in any part of Spain (the defeated ruler headed to north Africa). It was the final conquest in their move to completely remove any vestige of Moorish rule in Spain.
Second, shortly after they took Granada, Columbus met them in the Alhambra to pitch his proposal to sail west to get to the East.
We Americans know the rest.
The gardens, summer palace, and main palace are part of a large complex. In addition to these buildings, they are excavating quite a few other buildings. The whole complex was really a small town, holding about 2000 people. The gardens, in addition to being soothing and beautiful and all that, were the primary source of fruits and vegetables for the community.
After we were done in the palace, Jeff decided to check out the old fortress next door and I decided to sit and draw for a while. I really can´t draw much but I find it relaxing to try.
Hopped back on the bus down into town. Small streets again but with a bus driver going pell-mell. At one point, the bus forced three women to jump back and press themselves against a doorway. If their boobs had been any bigger, they wouldn´t have made it!
Yet, the bus doesn´t even have a scratch. Have no idea how!
It´s also an adventure as a passenger. The bus only has 8 seats but holds about 25. That means everyone else is standing and hanging on to something. With the bus driver whipping around corners and up and down steep streets. You´d better have good balance and a good grip unless you want to be sitting somewhat unexpectedly in a stranger´s lap.
Again, found a place to get some food. A tapas and cerveceria (beer hall) off a back street. Looks like it´s more frequented by the locals. They maintain the old (and vanishing) tradition of serving a free tapas with your beer, so it was a cheap dinner for us!
It was paseo hour when we were done -- that time of the evening when everyone gets a little dressed up and goes for a stroll. They really do. Little kids get dressed up (presumably against their will), women put on dresses, men put on clean shirts, and people go for a stroll.
We noticed everyone seemed to have ice cream cones. We found the shop that was the source. It was completely mobbed. I didn´t feel up to tackling that, so grabbed a cab back to the train station, arriving about 45 minutes before our train.
On the train ride home, we got to watch the sun set over the hills. It was sky-filling and stunning, blue and orange and pink going from horizon to horizon.
I thought "this is why I travel. I don´t take the time to notice the sunsets at home". I have to leave my usual life, my consuming schedule, to really appreciate the life I have. To see the world I don´t know and appreciate the world I do know. To draw the connections between places far away and my own home. Between other people and my people.
It was midnight when we got back to Sevilla. I was asleep within 10 minutes of getting back to the hotel.