Dec 18 Granada

We had planned to visit Granada in February once the weather improved, but we had to leave and go home sooner than expected.  That meant that it went back on our “to do” list.  As we are not in a hurry to leave the Costa Blanca area, we made the decision to spend a few days at Granada then head back to the coast for a warm break before our flights home for Christmas.

I was certain that the campsite close to Granada with a bus service close by would be really busy so, I actually booked us in for four nights.  When we arrived, there were three other vans and by the time we left, there was just us!  However, it was a very pleasant site, the tickets for the Alhambra could be booked for us, and the bus stop was a short walk from the site.  Apart from a damp Friday, the weather was bright and sunny and only very cold once the sun went down.

Something we said?!
View across to the snow topped mountains of the Sierra Nevada

On the friday we went into Granada for the first time and spent the day trying to get an important legal document printed and posted to our solicitor.  I had saved it from our e.mail onto our tablet and into Dropbox.  All we needed to do was find somewhere to get it printed.  Not so easy!  The young lady on the campsite had given us the name of a company that students use for such things and all we had to do was find them.  We went into the Tourist Information to see if they could point us in the right direction and struck lucky.  The young man upon whom I bestowed the pleasure of my custom was more than happy to help.  It was certainly not easy to get the document to the printer but we managed eventually by sending it from Dropbox to his e.mail address.  It then took rather a lot of paper, and his colleagues laughed at him and said he would lose his job.  At last we had the document, I kissed him soundly on both cheeks, much to his chums amusement, and we set off to the post office for an envelope and to post it.

The Correos (Post Office) was close by and we trotted up the steps, to be turned away by a guard!  Deciding it must be lunch time, we went to a large department store to buy an envelope, for Clyde to read and sign the document, and have a bite to eat.  Having achieved that, we returned to the Correos, it was now locked and barred!!  Back to Tourist Info, shut until tomorrow – grrrrr.  We found another Tourist Info and the helpful lady made enquiries regarding the Correos, which revealed that they were on strike.  Honestly, just our luck, so we would have to wait until Saturday to post the letter and get to the Alhambra for our 1330 timeslot.

Granada is a vibrant, university city with many fine buildings to enjoy.  We could have easily spent a few days just exploring the city but as usual, we had allocated a weekend and our main purpose was to visit the Alhambra.  I did get to visit the cathedral, which is quite splendid.

Elegant building typical of Granada
Lovely view across the road from Starbucks
Busy back streets
Royal Chapel commissioned in 1504 by the Catholic Church. It was later united with the Cathedral

Cathedral views

The Cathedral is opulent, as the Catholic buildings tend to be.  The exterior is quite severe but the interior, which was largely completed in the 1800s, is light and bright.  It does not have a long nave but is more squat and square with numerous side chapels.

White and gold decor makes for a light and airy interior
Beautiful domed ceiling
Behind the main altar is this theatrical wall with balconies
One of many striking paintings
Monstrance behind the altar. A riot of gold and silver
Looking toward the main altar
Fabulous organ
Seriously ornate chapel

The Cathedral is surrounded by buildings and therefore impossible to get a complete picture

Looking up to the tower
Side view

On Saturday we returned to the city to get the important letter posted, and to make our visit to the Alhambra Palace.  This time we were lucky with the Correos and we managed to get the letter sent via tracked delivery.  In spite of all negative comments about the Spanish postal system, it was with the solicitor before the end of the week.

We walked up to the Alhambra and managed to find our way to the entrance.  As we already had tickets we did not need to queue.  We decided to pay a bit extra for two audio guides(on i phones) but wished we hadn’t bothered as we then had to juggle the i phones with our own phones and the camera.  The commentary was a bit too much to really take in and my i phone ran out of battery half way around the Palacios Nazaries.  They both got stuffed into our pockets.

When you buy your tickets it is strongly emphasised that you MUST attend at the allotted time.  Entry to the Palacios Nazaries(Nasrid Palace) is on a timed basis for good reason in the busy season.  The rest of the Alhambra complex can be visited around the Nazaries timeslot.  We found that we did not have time to see the entire complex so we focussed on the Palace and the gardens of the Generalife.  We did manage a visit to the Alcazaba as it is close to the Nasrid Palace.

A bit of history

The Alhambra is one of Spain’s architectural wonders and it’s most visited monument.  The construction of the palatial city began in 1238 within the walls of the Alcazaba.  The 11th century Alcazaba was rebuilt by Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, and he added the huge circuit of walls and towers that are visible from afar. The Palacios comprises three palaces that were each identified with the sultan who ordered its construction.  The resulting complex is an amazing mixture of styles but with a strong Moorish flavour.

Generalife

This is a recreational building of the Nasrid sultans with landscaped gardens and agriculture.  From the yew hedged terrace there are commanding views across the valley to the palace and Alcazaba.  We did not have time to go beyond the gardens but we enjoyed the views fromthe terrace.  The gardens are dormant at this time of year but must be a riot of colour in the summer.

Water garden
Yew terrace
View across from the terrace

Palacios Nazaries

We joined the queue at the palace in plenty of time only to be turned away.  It is a very inexact science as there is nothing to advise which entry time is currently queuing.  After a suitable gap, we tried again and munched our sandwich standing in the queue.  This time we were in luck and at the appointed time we were in.  You do have to shuffle through rather and it is difficult to take photos of some of the main features due to posing Chinese tourists.  Here are some of  the highlights:

Tiles – so many lovely old tiles

Tiles and plaster mouldings

Plasterwork

The intricacy of the plasterwork is fabulous.  It has been beautifully restored throughout the palace.  The inscriptions are Arabic.  Some are poetic eulogies to the builders and buildings, others to various sultans and the majority are from the Koran.  The phrase Wa-la ghaliba illa-Llah (there is no Conqueror but God) is repeated throughout.

Intricately decorated cloister around the Harem
One of many plaster ceilings
Close up of plaster text
Part of ornate archway

The Serallo – where important guests were received

Beautiful painted ceilings

The Harem – Patio de los Leones

This has become the archetypal image of Granada and constitutes the heart of the harem.

Romantic garden patio

Patio garden

Jardines del Partal

Elegant portico overlooking a tranquil pool and a pavilion that is a remaining part of a four winged structure that surrounded the pool.

Once we had exhausted the palace we paid a visit to the Alcazaba.  This housed the military residential area and was here first.  It is the earliest and most ruined part of the fortress.  At its summit is the Torre de la Vela, named after a huge bell on its turret, which until recent years was rung to mark the irrigation hours for workers in the vega, Granada’s vast and fertile plain.  I don’t like heights or spiral staircases but I did go up the tower as the views were bound to be amazing.  I was not disappointed.

First level of the Alcazaba
Looking down on Granada
Looking down from the top of the tower
Alcazaba walls
View across to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada

It was a really full day at the Alhambra and met our expectations completely.  We did not get to visit the Albaicin so, maybe we will return one day.  We would certainly enjoy staying in Granada for a few days, possibly in a hotel, as the evenings would be different again.  It was a lovely trip back on the bus in the dark as we were able to enjoy the Christmas lights.

 

 

 

 

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