Granada: Free Tapas with Every Drink

Trip Start May 15, 2008
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Trip End Jul 24, 2008


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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Andalusia,
Saturday, June 14, 2008

We arrived in Granada around 12:30, ate lunch at the hotel around 1, and then headed to the Alhambra, within walking distance of our hotel.  It was nice to stay so close to the Alhambra, however this meant our hotel was a good walk from the center of the city, as the Alhambra is on a high hill overlooking the city.
The Alhambra was the palace of the Muslim rulers of Granada when it was the capital of Al-Andalus.  It contains great examples of Muslim architecture as well as a partial coliseum-type round structure built by Charles V, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella and first king of a united Spain.  The complex is surrounded by a fortress wall.
The Alhambra is the most visited sight in Spain - even more popular than the Prado or the Palace in Madrid or Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona.  That fact was obvious as soon as I arrived, for there were lines everywhere - tourist groups form all over the world as well as a ton of groups of Spanish schoolchildren.  When you visit, you get a ticket marked with a specific time for your tour (you have to buy it days in advance), and you are only let in within that 30 minute window.
We arrived slightly early, so we went to the Citadel first.  It had incredible views of El Albacin, the old Muslim quarter, below, and the rest of the complex.  Then our tour began with the Palace that Charles V began but never finished.  Afterwards, we toured the extensive Moorish part of the palace, which had incredible architecture, fountains, and decorations.  Then, we walked through the gardens until we reached the Generalife (the Architect's Garden), which is also worth a visit.
After our tour of the Alhambra, we walked down the hilly walkways to the downtown area of the city, an eclectic mix of old (i.e. Muslim roots) and newer (i.e.1500-1800 time frame).  We went to a quirky area full of street vendors selling jewelry, tea, hookahs, and other random products.  It was quaint and we shopped around for a while before stopping at a tea bar, Teteria Alfaguara.  We eventually caught a bus up the hill towards the Alhambra and our hotel, where we ate dinner and took a short nap before going out in the trendy downtown area.  It was a fun night, as there was a good range of pubs, bars, and clubs all within a short distance - and all promising better deals than the one before.  And, the best part was that at many of the traditional bars, you got a free tapas plate with every beer you ordered.  After a couple drinks there we had to leave, as we were too stuffed to eat any more!
The next morning, we went on a tour of El Albacin, the old Jewish and Muslim district of the city.  We started out high on the mountain, and then walked down through the neighborhood, stopping by a couple of Miradores (look out points) on the way down.  We had great views of the Alhambra across the way and the nearby mountains.  It was nice to walk through a quiet neighborhood where we could actually see more traditional Spanish culture.  I'd highly recommend exploring this area of Granada to any visitor.
After our tour, we ended up downtown, where we walked along the historic district.  We visited the Capilla Real de Granada, the chapel where the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, are buried.  The inside was magnificent.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel, where we hung out at the pool until it was time to head back to Sevilla.
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