Destination: Granada, Spain

¡Hola!

Once we wrapped up our one-night stay in the peaceful beach city of Marbella, we left the following morning over to Granada, a city located at the foothills of the mountainous Sierra Nevada and is a university town. It is, however, most famous for the Alhambra, which is a citadel and palace perched on top of the hill which has plenty of Islamic influence from back in the day (think 9th century) and is the highlight of the city.

We made the almost two-hour ride over, arriving in Granada around 10h00. The tour coach made its way up the hills to the Alhambra, where we would spend the next two, three hours touring the place, which actually consists of several palaces (Palace of Charles V, Palacios Nazaríes, and the Generalife), all of which kind of got blended in my mind, so I’m not really sure exactly the order of what we’d visited that day, although I know for sure that the Generalife was the last one of the day.

In any case, we got our tickets and as a group made our way to what I believe was the Palace of Charles V, which had been built for the eponymous Spanish king himself back in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, no one ever lived in there. Its interior is distinctive in that its courtyard is in a circular structure, with Doric colonnades filling the place up in its simple, but elegant wonder. We didn’t get to climb to the second floor mezzanine, but nevertheless took in the beauty and of course, took photos, too.

Courtyard inside of the Palace of Charles V.
Courtyard inside of the Palace of Charles V.

Next, we headed over to the Palacios Nazaríes, or the “Nasrid Palaces,” which was the only part of the Alhambra that had controlled times to visit, i.e. our tickets were timed for 12h00 so we could only enter as soon as it hit noon.

That goes to show that the Palacios Nazaríes is the highlight of the Alhambra, and I’m not kidding when I say that: the place was huge. And gorgeous. We spent the longest time in there, moving from room to room, first the king’s room, then the queen’s, then the concubines’ until they all sort of started to blend together with their intricate, delicately-designed Moorish/Islamic architecture, which was like nothing I’ve seen in Europe. Then again, the whole Andalusia region had once been under Islamic/Moorish rule, so it was evident in the places we’d been so far. Definitely a huge change from the usual Gothic or Renaissance stuff that I’ve seen in France, Germany, and Italy, so it was nice to explore something new and get more cultured like that. *snaps

Walls of the Palacios Nazaríes.
Walls of the Palacios Nazaríes.

In particular, what made the Palacios Nazaríes so distinctive was its “honeycomb work,” or “mocárabe,” as it’s called. It refers to the ornamental overhangs from the ceilings of the rooms and windows, having Islamic origins dating back to the 12th century. I found the look to be so cool, and appropriately named! Certainly one of the highlights inside the palace.

Honeycomb work, or "mocárabe," an ornamental Islamic architectural style from the 12th century.
Honeycomb work, or “mocárabe.”
More honeycomb work from the Palacios Nazaríes.
More honeycomb work from the Palacios Nazaríes.

We walked through the mezzanine and subsequently got a stunning view of the city of Granada. As I’ve written before in previous posts, I love city views, so taking plenty of photos it was!

Views of Granada from the Alhambra.
Views of Granada from the Alhambra.

Towards the end of our run in the Palacios Nazaríes, we came across the Partal in the Alta Alhambra complex, which was another highlight of the palace with its dark-golden walls, palm trees, and perfect, spitting-image reflection from the pond in front of it. Certainly helped that it was a sunny day that day, because the photos were just too good not to take!

The Partal in the Alta Alhambra.
The Partal in the Alta Alhambra.

Our final part of the visit in the Alhambra was at the Generalife (pronounced “heh-ner-ul-all-ee-fay,” not “general life,” as my family and I had believed it to be. Whoops). It was the summer palace and estate of the Islamic rulers back in the 13th century and it contains the lovely Court of la Acequia, with its small, spitting waterworks along the elongated fountain.

The Court of la Acequia.
The Court of la Acequia.

We pretty much left the Generalife after that, climbing up a small flight of stairs and walking under a row of shaded trees before exiting the Alhambra as a whole. In total, we spent nearly three hours in there, which actually surprised me in that there was so much to do in there. We pretty much saw the main sites, but I can imagine people staying an entire day in there, just taking in the architecture and everything- I’d do that.

…but by that time, it was nearing 14h00 and we were starving. Along our way down the hill to the city center of Granada, our tour guide said that the Arab quarter has some good eateries to try, so once we checked into our hotel, my family and I headed out again to get a late lunch, as well as explore the city center on our own for the afternoon.

Granada is definitely a bustling city, comparable with that of Seville and Madrid. As I’d mentioned, it’s also a university town, so there were plenty of young’uns hanging out with each other and otherwise being young’uns. Again, my family and I were starving, so we headed over to the Arab quarter where we popped into one of the restaurants that sold kebabs. 

Now, I’ve had tons of kebabs while in France, since the country has a lot of Arab immigrants and people. Personally, I think they’re delicious, even though they’re notorious for being cheap and made from “mystery meat.” It was funny that I basically introduced my family to kebabs, since they seemed to enjoy the ones that they got.

Afterwards, we wandered the city center, and eventually we popped into the Granada Cathedral. We actually had to pay to enter (around 5 euros, I believe), but it was huge. Plus, it came with an audio guide, so we listened to that as we wandered past the towering, golden nave (again, the Spanish with their gold and religion), the small, but refined Sacristy, and the two massive organs facing each other upon entering (usually, cathedrals come with one, but not this cathedral!).

The nave.
The nave.
The Sacristy.
The Sacristy.
The two organs.
The two organs.

We exited the cathedral and pretty much just headed back to the hotel. Essentially, the Granada cathedral was the only thing worth visiting in the city center, otherwise it was just eating and shopping. Had our complimentary dinner in the hotel restaurant that day and afterwards we turned in for the night.

Overall, Granada was pretty, even though the highlight was the Alhambra. Gorgeous place, but the city center didn’t have as much things to do. Nevertheless, it was a nice contrast with Ronda and Marbella the previous day, so I’m happy it turned out that way!

Stay tuned for the final destination in Spain this past winter break. Next up: Toledo, Spain!

— The Finicky Cynic

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