Friday, January 27, 2017

Alhambra of Granada

Our second day in Granada, we had morning tickets to tour the Alhambra.  We took the bus up the hill to the complex. 

Alhambra was given that name for the colors of it's walls, for in Arabic it translates to "red castle" or "red one."  The original palace and fortress was built in 889 AD, and then actually ignored until the mid-13th century when a Moorish emir renovated and rebuilt it.  Over the centuries, different rulers and religious groups controlled Granada, and also Alhambra, making changes and updates along the way.  Today, it has been "respectfully and greatly restored" and has hundreds of visitors a day.  

The intricate carvings, tile work and scripts all over the buildings was just unbelievable.  The photos absolutely don't do it justice, but we'll try anyway... 

The Court of the Myrtles

"Muslims avoid making images of living creatures — that's God's work. But Arabic calligraphy, mostly poems and verses of praise from the Qur'an, is everywhere. One phrase — "only God is victorious" — is repeated 9,000 times throughout the Alhambra."

You wander from room to room, building to building, courtyard to courtyard.  The views out to the town of Granada are just beautiful. 

The Patio of the Lions

Don't let some of the photos without too many tourists fool was pretty crowded.  I can only imagine how full it gets in the afternoons, and in the summer.  There were lots of tour groups. 

Lovely back lit selfie! 

In the photo below, towards the bottom...the yellow and orange building across from what looks like a park...that's where the night photo from the previous Granada post was taken. 

As I mentioned, we were pretty lucky to dodge most of the tourists...but there certainly were a lot of them...and a lot of selfie sticks...

We also wandered over the Generalife area of the complex and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and views.  This is where the 'summer palace' is located...just a few steps away!

As we were walking around, we happened upon the Catholic cathedral that is in the middle of so many Muslim inspired buildings.  It is St. Mary Church, and was completed in the 17th century on the site of the Alhambra Great Mosque.  

The Palace of Charles V was never fully completed...

And is open in the center - totally unexpected! 

The last bit of the Alhambra that was visited was the barracks ruins and the Torre de la Vela, or watch tower of the Alhambra.  What a stunning view from the top!

We are so glad we decided (kinda last minute) to add Granada to the front of our trip, specifically for the Alhambra visit.  It's certainly something to see in this world, so if you get a chance, put it on your list. 

And I'll leave you with a final photo of just one of the photo-crazed Asian tour groups that we encountered... 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

First stop in Spain, Granada

Much like last November when we went to Australia, we took the 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and jetted off to Spain and Morocco for our most recent travel adventure.  We flew was a long trip.  M was all excited that we would be flying across the ocean on a new AA plane with a new Premium Economy section, but they did a last minute plane change on us... and we had the regular, "old" Premium Economy.  Still quite nice!  Because the new set up is only 2 seats, and this one was 3 across, we didn't have anyone in the middle - thank goodness! 

We finally arrived in Granada!  We grabbed THE one 'city bus' and it took is right into the heart of the city center at the cathedral.  We walked a few blocks, and up a pretty good hill and lots of stairs, and came right to our AirBnB - the little wooden door right there.  

It was lovely - 2 stories with a rooftop balcony.  Bedroom and bath on the first floor, then up a narrow set of stairs to the kitchen and living area.  

The view from the kitchen window was picturesque, even with the overcast weather.

Our lovely rooftop deck.

After we freshened up and found some lunch (pizza!), we started on our first Rick Steves' tour of the trip.  It was right at siesta time, so the town was pretty quiet.  

We walked around just a bit before deciding to head in to take our own siesta.  After a much needed little nap, we ventured back out...

And finished our tour.

We ducked into this bustling little spot for churros, chocolate and an espresso.

The beautiful Alhambra was all lit up way up on the hill.  That visit deserves it's own post, coming later. 

We were starving, and finally the tapas place we were going to, La Tana, opened at 9pm.  Thank goodness for the siesta and espresso!  We were there when she put the metal door up and opened for business.

We sat at the bar, and my 'first day Spanish' got us through a lovely evening!  You order a drink, you get a free tapa.  You order another drink, you get another!  We tried a few of her different wines, and tapas - everything was lovely.  And the place was mobbed just a few minutes after we walked in and grabbed our seats.

We had just decided on our final glass of wine - we were enjoying it too much to leave - and when the woman went to pour a taste for M, she accidentally knocked the glass over, spilling wine all over him, and the glass shattered everywhere, cutting his finger pretty good.  She was absolutely mortified, apologizing over and over.  She had M come behind the bar, got him all cleaned and bandaged up, and even comped our whole evening. 

The streets were so pretty and decorative.  As we were walking back to our AirBnB, we passed by  Rosario Varela, which was hoppin', so thought we'd check it out.  M had read about it, and they were known for their gin and tonics.  Gin and tonics are super popular in Spain - and we fell in love!  The server was really helpful with picking from all of the dozens of gins they have.  

Nordes was my favorite, and I hunted it down for the rest of the trip.

The next morning was beautiful and clear!

We found this cute little coffee shop at the bottom of our hill where we grabbed breakfast.  

That morning we had tickets for Alhambra.  It was just amazing - and really deserves it's own post, coming next. 

 That afternoon we met our bike tour for a quick tour of town.  Apparently, M had mixed up the dates and we had been scheduled for the day before!  Whoops!  Luckily they still had a tour going at the same time, and they had space for us to join. 

 We started in the gypsy quarter, where they've just literally built houses, or caves, into the hills.  

We went up some pretty good hills - it was nice to get some exercise, and the views were beautiful.  Luckily we had electric bikes - made those hills much easier!  You can see the Alhambra on the left of this valley.

Another beautiful view with the mountains in the background from the overlook point.  The tour guide for this tour was nice, but wasn't a great guide.  That's ok, we still covered a lot of ground and got to see parts of town we wouldn't have just being on foot.

Look closely and you can see the snow capped mountains in the background.

That evening we had reservations at this special, teeny restaurant, La Oliva.  According to their website, "we aren't a restaurant."  It's a tasting menu with wine parings, and there were only 4 tables total.  

They prepared everything right there, and on these tiny little burners in a second room.  

Delicious meal, and quite a special experience.  The next morning we had an early train to Sevilla, stop #2 on our trip.

For most of the trip to Sevilla, as far as the eye could see, were olive groves.  Most of the worlds olive oils are made from Spanish olives!