We never tired of looking out our windows to see the famous Alhambra to the east and the city of Granada to the south. Our flat was a climb, up stone-covered lanes through the old city and then two flights of stairs. Artists and musicians set up shop against the white walls along the way to give our walk a very pleasant feel. We got our exercise in each day just by going out and coming back home to the 400-year-old building. It was all worth it for the spectacular views and the evening music floating up to our balconies. The image above is our nightly view of the last Moorish-held palace in Europe, the Alhambra. This fortress houses beautiful gardens, fountains, and intricately designed windows and doorways, plus water everywhere, running along patios in marble channels. Gardens and water were symbolic of the good life for the original inhabitants. More on Alhambra in this post.
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Granada is a UNESCO protected city. This protection includes maintaining the streets and lanes with their challenging rock surfaces. You can always hear tourists noisily rolling their luggage back and forth. Our flat was uphill from the busy Plaza Nueva. Locals, tourists, and vagabonds enjoy this central location. Dogs, hippies, and street musicians give exuberant life to this public patio in the old city. Everything is within walking distance, although there is a plethora of hills to stumble up.
We were blessed with sun on our walks every day. Once again, weather does make a difference in how much one enjoys a place. Venturing out into the Old Town we appreciated the Royal Chapel where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are entombed. They were considered the Catholic Monarchs as the Reconquista pushed the Moors south. Interesting note: any structure that recognizes this royal couple has an F and Y, not F and I, inscribed on their building. The Y was used instead of the I for Isabel. Just didn’t want you to get confused. The royal tombs were carved in 1521 from Carrara marble and shipped to Spain. They are quite impressive to see.
Right next door is Granada’s main Cathedral. It is the 2nd largest church in Spain. We decided to forgo this one and wait to see Spain’s largest when we get to Seville. The images below show only about a third of its width from the street and its massiveness as seen from the tower of Alhambra.
As we walked the streets of Granada, we discovered a street merchant setting up his display of spices in a narrow street near the Royal Chapel. Further on there was the bronze statue of Queen Isabel giving her consent to Columbus to go find those valuable spices. We felt rather brave and entered a crumbling building that was once a children’s hospital. As we walked around we were not sure if it was still a functioning medical facility or not. We have always been fascinated with doorways. Who knows what is hidden behind these wooden guards. This great city did not disappoint us.
The helpful woman at the TI told us about the Royal Monastery de San Jeronimo. After Marsha checked out the great reviews, we decided to pay the €4 and go in. It was very impressive. The peaceful cloister walkway led us around to entryways into the lives of monks from years ago. The chapel was at the end of our visit … it was stunning! Frescos in all stages of deterioration covered the walls. The ceilings were beautifully painted and the altarpiece was the real grabber. These monks had a lot to look at while they considered their place in God’s kingdom.
We had one of our favorite lunch breaks in a long time. After exploring a section of the city, we decided to have lunch out. We found a sun-soaked table, surrounded by palm trees, at which to thoroughly enjoy a Margarita pizza and a couple of beers. It’s hard to overstate how wonderful it is to relax in the January sun.
Granada’s main attraction is the Alhambra. The image above was taken from the San Nicolas Plaza, above our flat and across the valley.
Marsha secured our entry tickets about a week before we arrived. Up to 7,000 people a day can visit this palace. Going in the off-season, and entering as soon as they open, reduces the crowds of those annoying tourists. On our scheduled day, we walked up the hill to explore this amazing piece of historical property that overlooks Granada. We started with our timed visit to the Palacios Nazaries, the royal Moorish palace. This included the Courtyard of the Myrtles (first two images below), Ship room, Grand Hall of the Ambassadors, Courtyard of the Lions (next images), Hall of the Abencerrajes, Hall of the Two Sisters, Washington Irving Room (Really, I am not lying. He wrote Tales of the Alhambra here, which rekindled interest in Granada and the Alhambra specifically. Old Washington is considered a national treasure.), and then the relaxing Partal Gardens.
We then walked uphill (again) for fifteen minutes to the Generalife Gardens, which were the sultan’s vegetable garden and fruit orchard as well as his summer palace retreat. The main fountain and flower beds must have been a welcome retreat during the stifling heat of summer.
There were many impressive sites at the Alhambra. It must have been even more impressive with all the rugs and tapestries. Here are a few additional images from our visit.
We enjoyed our week in Granada and would come again. We would even try to secure the same flat. The walk uphill was a small price to pay for our wonderful views and being a part of a vibrant neighborhood.
Next week our post will be on Gibraltar and Tarifa, a port city in Spain with ferries to Tangier, allowing us to step foot in Africa.
This week’s flat can be seen by clicking on the bed image below.
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Preston & Marsha
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