A three hour bus ride last Thursday (October 9) brought us to Granada, home of the world-famous Alhambra. The Alhambra is to Spain what the Taj Mahal is to India. With its location at 738 metres above sea level, Granada is slightly cooler than Cadiz and Sevilla.

Settling in

After settling in our comfy AirBnB apartment, we found a small terrace 100 metres away where we crashed for lunch and a “tinto de verano”, a cousin to the better known sangria. One very pleasant feature of this city’s restaurants is the free tapa they bring you when you order a drink! I felt immediately more comfortable in Granada, without being able to explain exactly why.

For one thing, finding your way around is a lot easier, with many long streets, and right-angle intersections (instead of the jumble of small street segments we had to deal with previously). Granada also feels more multi-cultural with many Middle-Eastern restaurants and shops.

The first thing we did after lunch was pick-up our Alhambra tickets. We had booked them online back in August. It is essential to book your tickets as far in advance as possible. You will not get in if you wait until the day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering along the commercial street next to the river. My friend did a little gift shopping. I enjoyed the comfortable temperatures and took photos.

We had dinner in an alley full of restaurants near our apartment (Calle Navas). The food was a disappointment so we decided that most of these places were tourist traps and swore to do better the following night.

Visiting the Alhambra

On Friday we took the bus to the Alhambra around 9:00 AM in order to make our 9:30 AM time slot. We had to enter the Nazaries Palace between 9:30 and 10:00 and then had until 2:00 PM to visit the other parts of the site, such as the Alcazaba and the Generalife Gardens.

The Nazaries Palace, the central palace complex, is like a large version of the Alcazar in Sevilla. Paradoxically, my friend and I both agreed that we preferred the smaller Alcazar, perhaps because its more modest size made it easier to take in the intricate carvings and colourful tiles. What makes the Alhambra special however, are the views. Located on a hill, it affords sweeping views of the city and surrounding mountains, especially from the Alcazaba, the original citadel (fort). The rest of the site consists mostly of gardens, such as the Partal Gardens, and Generalife Gardens with its views back towards the Nazaries Palace.

We had a good tapas lunch late that afternoon and made it back home in the rain. We rested until dinner which we ate “early” in a small Moroccan restaurant called Tajine Elvira that looked like somebody’s living room. As I may have mentioned before, people take their evening meal late in Spain. Restaurants open for dinner at 8:00 PM and locals don’t start arriving until 10:00 or so. We had the place to ourselves during our entire meal. The couscous and tajine were tasty, the middle-eastern music relaxing, but we left without ordering dessert because the staff seemed to completely forget about us and never came back after serving us the main course!

More discoveries

On our last day in Granada we visited the Cathedral and Capilla Real (Royal Chapel housing the tombs of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I) in the morning. We were not allowed to take photos in either building unfortunately.

The evening was dedicated to the Albayzin, the old Arab Quarter, a tangle of narrow alleys climbing around whitewashed houses, like a medieval version of a white village. After some fortifying tapas and a tinto de verano, we made it to the Mirador de San Nicolas at dusk, to see the illuminated Alhambra from this elevated viewpoint. Then we walked down toward the river following random alleys in the falling darkness. The streets were well illuminated though, and every so often we caught views of the Alhambra looming above us on the other side of the river.

On Wednesday morning we bid farewell to Granada in the pouring rain, and took a taxi to the bus station. Next destination: Capileira, a white village in the Alpujarras mountains.

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