This weekend, I finally made it down to Granada!
It was a quick trip; we (Stacy, Annie, Annie’s cousin Debbie, and I) left Friday afternoon and came back on Saturday night. We ended up flying there because flying is cheaper than taking a bus, and takes only 55 minutes as opposed to 5-6 hours.
I was a little freaked out about the flying because in the past, I had a really bad experience with a European discount airline. It was probably the worst day of my life. A story too long to get into at this point, but let’s just say it involved them telling me my carry-on bag was too big and that I would have to check it, after I had just waited in line for 2 hours to check my other bags which were overweight and cost me 200 British pounds. I ended up throwing out a lot of things in my carry-on bag that weren’t necessary, and then putting on every item of clothing to make my bag fit in their stupid little carry-on bag size bin.
So this time, since we weren’t allowed to check any baggage, I packed light. Like, really light. As an example, I went through the trouble of tearing the Granada pages out of my guidebook so I wouldn’t have to take the whole book. As it turned out, I had some (a lot) of room to spare, but all the more reason to shop in Granada, right?
The reason our flight was so cheap was because, like I said, we couldn’t check bags, we had to print out our own boarding passes, we had to check in online before coming to the airport, and we had to sit through endless sales pitches while on the flight.
The important thing is that we made it to Granada safe and sound. I could tell from when we first drove in on the bus that it is a charming and cultured city. The first thing we did, of course, was eat. Spaniards told us that in Granada the only thing you have to buy are drinks, and then you feed off the free tapas that come with them. So we followed our noses to a place that smelled delicious, and ordered some drinks, and ate our free tapas (sandwiches, calamari, french fries, falafel, and vegetable fajitas.)
Then we continued on to find our darling little hostel, conveniently located pretty much in the center of everything (whoever booked that hostel sure had their stuff together…oh wait that was me.) Then Annie and her cousin went off to their appointment to get pampered at the Arab Baths, and Stacy and I went in search of some of Granada’s history and culture.
We wandered down the street to Granada’s cathedral and “capilla real”. The capilla is the tomb that the Catholic monarchs (Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II) built for themselves late in the 1400s. They funneled almost a quarter of their royal income into building themselves a proper burying-place. Photography was not allowed, but it was beautiful and elaborate, and of course decorated with religious paintings and scenes from the bible. We went down into the tomb where the bodies are kept. It was incredibly fascinating to me to be near the earthly remains of people who had such a strong influence on Spain’s history.
Then they started turning off the lights and locking the doors (I guess the workers were ready to go home) so we headed in to the Cathedral. We were allowed to take pictures in the Cathedral, so here is one of the organ just to give you a general idea:
Yes, Spaniards do not mess around with their cathedrals. It would have been amazing to have a chance to hear this organ.
After the Cathedral, we wandered into a pastry shop. I’ve been good and haven’t had any pastry since coming back from Christmas, but really, who can say no when the pastries look like this?
We tried the traditional pastry from Granada, called Piononos, (bottom left hand corner of the second photo) and bought a piece of chocolate cake. What?
Then we went into one of the “teterías” or Moroccan-type teahouses. I now love teahouses, FYI. Annie and Debbie rejoined us, and we made our way up to the neighborhood of Sacramonte for a Flamenco show. In a cave.
The neighborhood of Sacramonte is littered with Flamenco performances in caves. The caves date back to the Inquisition, when a gypsy community took refuge by building caves into the hillside. Apparently, it is still home to a gypsy community (but the caves have been updated with satellite TV.) It was a good show! Definitely worth seeing.
The next morning was our big date with the Alhambra. For those who might not know, the Alhambra is a palace/military base that was built by the Moors starting in the 1300s and over the years has been destroyed, rebuilt, and added on to by a variety of societies. It is known for its artistic skill and grandeur born of profound spirituality and skillful architecture.
Whoops. That’s a picture of me drinking the Alhambra beer. This is the Alhambra I was talking about:
The Alhambra is broken up into parts, some of which were living quarters for royalty, some were military bases, burial grounds, gardens, housing for the help, or meant to house the Spanish court. All of the construction, as I said, is incredibly intricate, and since it was built into the hillside (for military purposes) there are also some pretty great views. I’ll let the pictures (which can’t even capture it, sorry) speak for themselves.
Above is a photo of what it looks like to look up at the ceiling of some of the rooms in the Nasrid Palaces.
All of the writing carved into the walls is poetry.
A view from one of the Alhambra’s windows.
In the gardens.
After exploring the Alhambra for a few hours, we went into the Albaicin, the only Moorish neighborhood to escape the torches of the Reconquista. Today, there is still a strong Islamic influence with North African cuisine, outdoor bazaars (yes, even in January) and more teahouses.
We of course ate in a Moroccan restaurant, drank tea in another teahouse, and did some shopping.
I ended up buying:
- Arabic poetry
- A scarf
- A hat
So, I was glad there was a little extra room in my backpack.
After a full day of exploring the sights, we headed back to the tiny Granada airport and flew to Madrid.
I would say this was one of the best trips I’ve had thus far; full of fun, culture, and cuisine. I strongly recommend visiting Granada!