Granada is Grand!
Sunday 12 Feb 2012
We wake in Barcelona still a bit tired from the two very busy days of tourism. As I did not want to have an early start, I have booked a ticket for a 11:50 am flight to Granada. Bapi likes to be frustratingly early for flights so we catch the 9:10 Aerobus from Catalunya and are at the airport well in time. Its a lovely airport and I enjoy a little photography time.
Our flight takes just about an hour. From Granada airport, buses leave for the city after each arrival. For 3 Euros, we are dropped a couple of steps from our hotel, the NH Victoria at Porta Real. Its a 300 year old building and a hotel for about 6 years. We have a room in the 3rd floor overlooking the square. I am very happy with the position of the hotel. The street noise, especially the buses, may bother some but we slept deeply through it all.
We head out soon to explore the city. Bapi grabs a burger and I sit in a Tapas bar and have a grilled capsicum salad. We then walk around the old town, admiring the Cathedral from outside. There is a young man playing violin beside the cathedral; it is a pleasure to listen to the music under the warming sun.
We explore the little streets around the Cathedral, pausing to admire the Capilla Real, the Alcalceria and its little shops which look like Aladdin’s caves, the squares and interesting buildings marked out in my guidebook. It is aimless meandering, but it is a pleasant way to pass an afternoon.
We end up at Plaça Nueva and the town hall. Bapi has strained his back somehow. His back having caused some serious problems in the past, I feel that it may be better to abandon tourism for the day and rest his back before it gets worse. We head back to the hotel and have a little lie-in.
I have reserved dinner at 8pm at the Parador restaurant. We take a taxi (Eu 6.50) and ride up narrow roads to the looming Alhambra. Parador Hotel is housed within the Alhambra, in the building which used to house a monastery. I am thrilled that they have a vegetarian menu (Eu 25)! I have a bean soup to start (excellent) and gnocchi for the mains and a selection of desserts. Bapi also has a menu (Eu 34), choosing stewed mushrooms to start and then spiced goat as a main and ice cream for dessert. We share a nice bottle of rosé (Eu 18). We are both happy with our meal but stuffed to our gills, so to speak!
The reception calls a taxi for us and we peer at the lovely homes in narrow streets and we are back at the hotel in no time.
Monday 13 Feb 2012
We have a late start to our day today. We find a small coffee bar (SFCO near Plaça Nueva) for breakfast. Coffee, tea and huge tostadas are very satisfying (Eu 4.50 for two). We then set off walk in the Albayzin area, a World Heritage site. On a hill not far from the city, it is a warren of narrow, winding streets and Moorish style white-washed houses. I suggest to Bapi that we take a bus to the top and then walk down but his back seems better and he is happy to walk up.
My guidebook suggests walking north of Plaça Nueva along the ramparts, passing Santa Ana, the baths and then climbing up.
We walk up narrow streets till the top, admiring the beautiful white-washed houses and courtyards around every corner.
We walk for about an hour and a half. If you want to visit the churches, you’ll need more time. We finally reach this lovely little square from where we take a bus (No. 31, Eu 1.20 each) back to Plaça Nueva. We come back to the hotel and I relax and read for a while.
I have booked tickets online for Alhambra for the afternoon session starting at 2 pm, with entry to the Nasrid Palaces at 4:30 pm. This choice turns out to be perfect; it allows us a leisurely visit and we have enough time to enjoy everything. Setting off at 1 pm, we quickly grab a very light lunch and take a bus (No 30, Eu 1.20 each) from the front of the Cathedral. The bus is quite crowded. The Alhambra has four main areas to visit, the Generalife gardens and pavilion, the Alcazar fortress, the Carlos palace & museum and the Nasrid Palaces. Of these, the Nasrid Palaces are the most important.
We start our visit with the Genaralife garden and its pavilion.
The pavilion is beautiful with some lovely decorative features. We have taken the audio tour and it tells us the story of the kings and queens who spent their time here. I am reminded of the gardens and pavilions of Mughal palaces in India. We spend about 30 mins in Genaralife.
We then walk to Alcazar. It takes about 20 mins to reach. Alcazar is a fortress with battlements, towers and a great view. We spend about 45 mins here.
After resting a short while with Magnum bars to give us a sugar-kick, we pop into the Carlos palace just across the Alcazar. We cannot resist taking pictures of ourselves in the centre of the circular patio! There is an exhibition which we quickly check out. We do not visit the museum. About 30 mins.
We queue up to enter the Nasrid Palaces at our set time of 4:30 pm. It is an extraordinarily beautiful place and I will remember its beauty for a long time indeed. I do not wish to gush, but its definitely gush-worthy!
The Moorish architecture feels familiar to my Indian heritage, the intricate lacelike windows, the delicate columns, the lovely plasterwork, the muted colours, the beauty of the tiles..they all speak to me.
As we pass from room to room, I stop paying any attention to the audio guide. I don’t want to see it intellectually, but experience it in a sensory fashion. I take hundreds of pictures of rooms I cannot name, belonging to kings whom I have forgotten. But I have not forgotten the look and the delicacy of the arches or the beauty of white on white decorations in plaster. It takes is about 1 hr to see the Nasrid Palaces at a smart pace. Not to be missed.
On the way back to the entrance, we pass these beautiful pavilions. Then it is back to the bus to take us back to town.
We had spotted an Indian restaurant (Mughali) this morning which we find to be actually Pakistani. Bapi has Sheekh kababs as a starter and Lamb for mains, I have just Dal and a nan. We drink water (35 Eu).
This then is the end of our Granada visit. I am quite satisfied that we have seen all that I wanted to see. An extra day would have allowed me to visit a few more churches and a monastery I was interested in seeing, but we’ve done well.