Thursday, October 4, 2018

Magical and Mysterious - The Alhambra

To finish up on my post of Granada, Spain and the visit to Alhambra and the Nasrid Palace, as our tickets for the palace weren't until 6:30 pm, we took a relaxing morning at the hotel. We had breakfast and then packed as we would be leaving for Brussels, Belgium through Madrid very early the next morning.

We walked up to the old historic center of town and had tapas and wine for lunch, then caught a bus up to the Alhambra.  Our visit started with the gardens, in an area called the "Generalife".

The word used for the area "Generalife" comes from the Muslim Jennar al Arifor or Garden of the Architect. As you can see it was an overcast day when we started and it did start to rain just after we arrived. The gardens were lovely all the same.

After touring the gardens and the villa, we headed to the Alcazaba or the citadel. By now the rain had stopped and it was quite hot and somewhat humid.  At the citadel, you have to climb up a tight winding staircase to get to the top of the fortress.  I'm not sure what was worse, going up or coming down.

There is also a large building, the Palace of Charles V,  that has a rotunda inside and a large chapel on site to explore.

Heading into the fortress, Alcazaba

Not at the top yet

At the top

Looking back down over the Alcazaba

Palace of Charles V

Inside the palace

Chapel inside the Alhambra

After we finished touring the grounds, we still had some time to go before the timed entrance to the Nasrid Palace.  We found a small hotel, called the American Hotel, that also had a very small restaurant and had some dinner. The restaurant was at the front of the hotel and so the waiter didn't have to go down the hall past the reception desk, there was a small hatch in the wall of the dining room connected to the kitchen. He just passed the orders to the kitchen that way and they would ring a bell when there was an order ready.

After eating we walked back the palace entrance area and waited for our time to enter.  The Nasrid palaces only have limited tickets available and some people at my workshop were disappointed not to be able to get tickets; they still were able to get entrance tickets to see all of the other areas.  We occupied ourselves while waiting watching the cats.

The palace was pretty amazing.  The tile work and the carved stone work must have taken a huge amount of  time and labour.

You are asked not to touch anything, I put my had on a plain column and was even asked to remove my hand from that.  They did have replicas of stone work and tile work that you could touch.

Yes, we could sit in the chair.

 The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and fountain was spectacular. It was too bad that we couldn't get closer or that the fountain had to be roped off. The fountain is a replica now, all of the original lion carvings are in museums. We were only allowed around the outside of the patio under all the arched areas.

Spectacular roof 

View of Granada
Some Christian paintings on the ceiling

Palace baths

Everywhere you looked there was something to see, it was really impossible to take it all in.  I can hardly imagine what it would have been like to have been someone of wealth who had lived there during the reign of the Nasrid dynasty.

After leaving the inside of palace, there are more royal garden areas to walk though with fountains, waterfalls and ponds.

It was a long day but certainly one that was well worth it and that I will remember for quite some time. The pictures just don't do it justice.  If you get a chance, you should visit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Magical and Mysterious

My work took me to a wondrous place last month, Granada, Spain.  I had never heard of it before, it is a  city at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains; in winter, it is quite a ski destination but that isn't what makes it so magical and mysterious. 

It is renowned for an Arab fortress and palace called the Alhambra.  While we studied European history in school, there was very little if any that I recall about the Arab Empire. This area of Spain was under Moorish control since 711 AD.; it was't until 1492 that Christians took over the area.  It was from Alhambra that Christopher Columbus  requested royal endorsement from Queen Isabella. Alhambra is a World UNESCO Heritage site. 

Two of my sisters joined me on this trip. We arrived on Saturday morning, my workshop didn't start until Monday morning so we had the rest of the weekend to look around.  We didn't actually go to Alhambra until the following Saturday as even though we booked a couple weeks in advance that was the only time we could get tickets to the palace at the same time. 

That first afternoon we just walked up to the tourist information office at city hall so my sisters could get their Welcome to Granada cards. Then on the advice of the agent we walked some of the small market streets.

The weather was quite unsettled with a few thunder storms rolling through so we decided to stop and have a meal and a drink to avoid the rain. We quickly learned to ask if they had tapas rather than to ask for the menu.  If they had tapas, all you had to do was order a drink and food would come with it.

The weather was a little better on Sunday and we spent the day walking around, this time up to the old Moorish area of the historical city centre. During our walk, we found some tourist apartments that invited you to come in and see the view of Alhambra from the terrace; which we did, the picture below is from that  terrace. Great advertising; we looked up those apartments online, they would make a perfect base for a visit to Granada. Since on Sunday it turned out that many attractions are free, we were able to visit a monastery and the archaeological Arab baths. 

View of Alhambra


Old Arab baths

Arab baths

River Darro
Monday morning, I had to head off to my workshop but my sisters enjoyed another day of strolling around as their cards didn't start until the Tuesday.  Tuesday evening, we had a workshop dinner.  It was held outdoors on a beautiful patio.  The weather that evening was very nice, even perhaps a tad warm.

Going up to dinner

The next day the workshop was only a half day for those of us that had decided not to do the tour of General Dynamics Land Systems. The previous evening had also been one of my sister's birthday, we had surprised her with a reservations at an actual hammam, an Arab bath so we enjoyed the baths and a massage that afternoon.

Side street location of the hammam

Entrance to the Hammam

It was quite an experience, warm, cold and hot pools, a sauna, mint tea, music, all followed by a massage. The whole place was beautifully tiled. It was my first massage. 

Our workshop ended on Friday at noon, so I was able to play tourist again with my sisters. They had kept a few places to go that were near by to our hotel.  We also planned to go to see Alhambra lit up at night. They say sunsets are spectacular but unfortunately for us unsettled weather and clouds had rolled in again.  

We visited another archaeological site and another monastery before heading up to find a place for dinner. We had planned to walk but a gentleman told us it was very steep and we had better take a bus. That was a good idea, it was steep. How those bus drivers manage those tiny streets I'll never know. 

Granada at night

Panoramic view

The restaurant  was rather expensive but it was better than sitting on the wall in Plaza San Nicolas for nearly two hours. We only ordered a bottle of white wine and a plate to share so it wasn't too bad. Had they come and asked us if we wanted anything else they probably would have made some other sales.

The next day, Saturday was our last day in Granada. Our tickets for the Nazrid Palaces were not until 6:30 pm so we had a little time to sleep in and pack before heading out for lunch and then up to Alhambra, first to see the gardens and the fortress.  

But you know this post is getting long, I'm going to leave our visit to Alhambra for another post.