Today dawned clear, cool and calm - a perfect day for our trip to Granada, about a 2 hour car ride northeast of our resort on the coast. We ate a light breakfast in the room and left around 9:00. Our destination in Granada is the Alhambra - one of the most important structures of the Middle Ages and the finest example of Islamic art left to us in the western world. The Alhambra, within the walled city of Granada, is comprised of many structures and gardens - the main sites are the Nasrid Palaces, the Charles V palace, the Alcazaba fort and the Generalife. Although this is the slow season, I purchased tickets well in advance as they often sell out. Some of the Alhambra grounds can be accessed free of charge, but to visit the Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife, you must have a ticket which contains a specific time in which you may enter the palaces. Our time slot was 14:00 (2pm). Since we arrived around 11:30, we decided to eat a light lunch before exploring.
Near the entrance to the Alhambra, we spotted a restaurant up on the hillside which required climbing a series of steps to reach the main eating area. I had another opportunity to practice my Spanish as the waiter spoke limited English. I managed to order onion soup for both Steve and I as well as a salad with tomatoes and cheese for me. Steve pointed to the picture of meatballs (his most favorite food in the world) and potatoes. I also ordered a large bottle of water. Then I kept my fingers crossed that I would actually receive what I ordered! Thankfully, I must have spoken fairly well as all the food came out as expected and it was very good!
Then we decided to begin our walk towards the entrance nearest the Nasrid Palaces, rather than starting at the entrance to the Generalife. (The Generalife, pronounced heh-neh-raw-LEE-fay, is a series of manicured gardens and contained the sultan's vegetable and fruit orchards.). Since it is early in the season, there were not a whole lot of flowers or trees blooming. Anyway, we entered through the Justice Gate, near the Alcazaba fort, and waited in the courtyard for a while. We tried to sneak in past the guard at the Palace around 1pm but were shooed away because it was not 2pm yet - geez. Soooo, we decided to tour Charles V's Palace while we waited as entrance to this site does not have a time restriction. This massive square building opens onto a round roofless courtyard surrounded and supported by massive columns. This palace was built by Spanish monarchs after the Nasrid Palaces, seemingly to erase the Muslim past. The design is rather stark and simple compared to the elaborate carvings in the Nasrid Palaces. The Charles V palace was completed in the 1500s.
Closer to 2pm, we returned to the queue to await our allotted time to visit the Nasrid Palaces. It was well worth the wait as the Palaces are breath-taking every where you look! The intricate tile work on the walls, wood carvings, gesso, stained glass, coffered ceilings, tiled floors, heavy intricate wooden and iron doors, carved columns, fountains, and amazing views were such a feast for the eyes! Every hallway brought a new delight and you had to look at the floors, walls and ceiling to take it all in! The pictures I have included do not do it justice - it is something that must be experienced in person - no wonder it it one of the most popular attractions in Europe!
After we made our way through the Nasrid Palaces, we walked towards the Generalife but did not tour all the gardens. We knew we wanted to be back in Malaga before dark so we just took the most direct path back to the car - but we still walked through beautifully manicured walkways lined with hedges and cypress trees. We could also see the snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains along the walk. The ride back to the coast was pleasant and I even nodded off a bit as the sun shined through my window. I awoke to Steve referring to me as "bobble-head". As I type this however, he is once again checking out the softness of the pillows - hehe. It is a bit early for dinner, but we think we will walk down the hill toward the coast and then look for dinner at some fantastically yummy spot! Stay tuned for "food porn" in a subsequent posting!