Day 62 & 63: A couple of days in the old "Kingdom of Granada" with Arabic palaces
10.04.2016 - 10.05.2016 70 °F
We enjoyed a final morning at the beach in La Herradura, and then headed north to Granada. It was a smooth 1-hour drive, and we parked in a free lot about a 10-minute walk from our airbnb in the Albaycin neighborhood. We'd corresponded with our friendly host beforehand to get tips on parking, arrival, etc., and she greeted us warmly. Her male counterpart could not be bothered to muster a greeting, and in the 2 days we were there we didn't see him move from the couch or seem particularly interested in us.
We set out to get some tapas before hustling up to the Alhambra. We had a 6:30pm entry to the very popular Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra, and wanted to explore the other areas of the complex. As context, today's Granada was brought under Moorish control in the 8th century and in the 11th century the Kingdom of Granada was established. The Alhambra was constructed under the Nasrid Dynasty from 1237-1391, and was occupied by Muslim sultans until 1492 when they officially surrended to the Catholic Monarchs of Spain - Ferdinand and Isabel. We started with the Generalife Palace, which was constructed to be the recreation area of the Kings of Granada could escape from official life.
On our way down from the Generalife, we popped into the old baths of the Mosque and entered the Palace of Carlos V, who was both ruler of the Spanish Empire AND the Holy Roman Empire in the 1500s. He moved into the Alhambra after the Spanish monarch, and did some remodeling to create a palace befitting of an emperor of his stature.
From there we went down to the Alcazaba, one of the oldest parts in the Alhabra and the miliatry area of the comples. The views from the Torre de la Vela (watch tower) were great, and served the obvious practice purpose of scoping out any oncoming threats in the distance.
Then we could queue up for our entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. The design of these palaces is stunning - intricate carves plaster, colorful tile, polylobed arches, lattice wood doors, fountains, and beautiful views.
We walked back over to the Albaycin neighborhood and caught the sunset from the San Nicolas lookout with about 200 other tourists, and then sauntered down into our barrio for some tapas. Granada has a pretty sweet tapas game. Basically everywhere in Granada, if you order a 2 euro beer it comes with a free tapa. The local spot we ended up had a curried couscous with veggies for the first round, then chicken kabobs with fried potatoes, and then fried eggs with potatoes. It was a lively scene and made for great people watching.
For our second day we wandered down to the cathedral, stopping for breakfast at a cafe along the way. Again, very much a locals-only scene and boisterous clientele. We toured around the Royal Chapel of the Ferdinand and Isabel - the Catholic Monarchs. The gothic vaults were especially beautiful, and the chapel is special because it houses the remains of the Catholic Monarchs. Strict no photo policy on the inside, but here are some shots from the outside:
We explored the tapas scene in the downtown area, first at a cafe in a wet market with everything from whole, skinned, head-on bleeding lambs to chirimoya. Then we walked toward one of the gardens adjacent to the Alhambra, and stopped at another spot for tapas with a nice view.
The park was still closed for nap time when we made it there at 4pm, so we walked in to the Alhambra area again to visit the Alhambra Museum. It was closed when we went the day before, so we enjoyed getting a second chance at it to see some of the original, well-preserved artifacts like tiles, engraved wooden lintels and doors, glassware and ceramics. We also visited the Fine Arts museum in the Carlos V palace, which also had a strict no photos policy.
By then the Carmen de los Martires park had woken up from its siesta. We were glad to have had such a productive time waiting for the park to open, because the park itself didn't have any elements particularly characteristic of Granada. It was a lovely park with a small pond and ducks, a small rose garden, some nice views of the city and a lovely building refurbished in the Alhambra style, but after already taking a lot of steps that day we found the park to be a bit of a bust.
We went back to the San Nicolas lookout for sunset, and even though we were early the square was already packed. We took in the view, and then cruised to our favorite little tapas joint near our apartment. We had a few more tapas, and then headed back home.
Tomorrow we have a BIG travel day! We have about a 4-hour drive to Madrid, where we'll touch back with the Brushes - good family friends of my folks that have been living in Madrid for a couple of years now. From there we'll continue on to the airport, and catch our 3-hour flight to Ireland to visit my cousin Jesse! He moved there about 6 months ago, and we'll be staying with him for about a week in Dublin!